Friday, April 30, 2010

Getting Into Character: The ISTJ (Introvert, Sensor, Thinker, Judger)

Today we continue our specific look at the sixteen types in the MBTI line-up. This is going to be so fun, because even if this is not your particular label, more than likely you will recognize someone you know and love revealed on the page. I need to let you know that this is NOT a professional opinion or blog--I am just teaching you what I've learned over more than ten years of studying personality.

I’m not going to repeat my description of the dominant preferences and such, but if you haven’t been following along, go back and read the beginning of the first week’s post (The ESTP). I’ve highlighted it in green, so you can easily catch up.

Last week we looked at the ENFP, which is an outward energized character who excels at using a sixth-sense, emotions, and perceptions. This week we will completely turn the tables ad look at the label-opposite ISTJ. ISTJs are inward-energized analytical, logical, fact-based approach to life. This is my personality type and also that of my sister. I believe Justice is probably an ISTJ too.

Living Life with an ISTJ: ISTJs are organizer-extraordinaires. Their inward focus and logic, detail, and duty-based personality makes them the turtles in this race of life—they are the steady plodders (or for writers—the steady plotters!). Everyone needs an ISTJ in their life because they are the ones who know (and follow) the rules, they read the directions, and they keep their word. ISTJs are finishers who usually love to-do lists. They are hard-working and will insist upon work before play, unless the play involves a sense of duty they see as greater than the job left undone. This also means that if you give them a job to do, you can be assured it will be done on time and to specifications. ISTJs value commitment and it is that sense of duty that often keeps them from totally withdrawing into themselves. ISTJs are often “word” people and they clearly express thoughts and judgments.

Career/Service Area Choices for an ISTJ: ISTJs are get ‘er done people which makes them great assets in business and service. They are hard workers and value production rather than fun. ISTJs may be “behind the scenes” types since they don’t usually require attention for their work. They often receive affirmation through concrete accomplishments or a tangible output rather than for their effort. They often enjoy hands-on tasks or work/service where they can see the results. In work and service, they enjoy completing a task uninterrupted or on their own. If they are going to work with others, they do best with partners that will pull their own weight. Otherwise, the ISTJ will just do the work themselves. Some occupations that might appeal to ISTJs are administration, finances, record-keeping, management/supervisor, marketing, sales, scientist/chemist/physicist, librarian, entrepreneur, technical specialist, researcher, military forces, teacher-especially in science/math, or dentist/doctor/nurse.

Free Time for an ISTJ: ISTJs might appear not to have as much free time as some other types since they usually insist on completing their work before engaging in entertainment. Their sense of duty may allow them to put work aside for play, but they often go at free time with a set purpose or end result. They prefer to have a set beginning and end and often schedule their play time with careful planning. Their Introversion leads them to seek leisure activities that they can do on their own—reading, solitary games, models, or individual sports such as rock climbing or scuba diving. Tradition is extremely important to most ISTJs, so they often entertain out of a need to keep and pass on family traditions or out of a sense of duty (it’s their turn to host the Sunday school potluck).

Warnings for the ISTJ: Too much of any good thing can be a bad thing, so here are some things ISTJs need to beware of: Since ISTJs love details and facts, they need to be careful to avoid immersing themselves in details and boring others or missing out by not looking at the bigger picture. Their drive to finish their to-do list can lead to ignoring people or social dictates in place of completing a job. Since ISTJs enjoy routine, they may over-look long range consequences or implications of decisions because they are so focused on the here and now. ISTJs are not usually big-picture people or visionaries, so they should team up with others who are when working on big projects. Their attention to rules can come across as rigid, inflexible, or emotionally cold. They tend to be more legalistic rather than rely on grace, if they are not careful. Allowing for exceptions and striving for flexibility will go a long way in getting along with people. Because of their ability to see all the details, ISTJS may have a tendency to be too aware of the faults in their life and in those of those closest to them. Self-improvement is a valid goal, but should not be the total focus.

Spiritual Helps for the ISTJ: ISTJs value tradition, so the traditions of religion appeal to them as well as the symbols of faith. They will enjoy structured approaches to their faith journey and flourish in traditional Bible studies or classes. They are problem-solvers and resource people who do well as mentors because of their ability to follow through, model responsibility, and commit to long-range endeavors. They will likely enjoy routine spiritual disciplines such as Bible reading and prayer. They enjoy serving the church body in practical ways.

What Others Say about the ISTJ: People quickly learn they can count on the ISTJ for their commitment and responsibility. They are systematic, painstaking, and thorough in their completion of tasks. Delegate to them and you usually won’t regret it. They are stable and persistent and able to stick with something long after others have given up. Their careful attention to detail and ability in handling facts make them assets in a variety of social, business, and service arenas. Their cautious, sensible approach to life makes them calm and collected in a crises or problem.

Okay, who do you know that is an ISTJ? Let me hear from you if you are!

Next week, join us as we change just one letter and look at the ISTP. What difference does one little letter make? Come back and see. It's not too late to send me your personality type if you want to see it here.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Why, you dirty rotten...

Jewel's room would make Oscar the Grouch proud. He loves messes and apparently so does she. We just spent the last week in another round of purge-the-room and once again I found myself explaining the whys of cleaning, organization, and taking good care of our things. Lest you think me a housecleaning perfectionist, I'm not talking sparkling clean surfaces or bare-minimum furnishings. I'm talking about cleaning so you can wear something besides your Walmart crocs instead of one of every pair of shoes is in the bottom of your toy box. She used to tell me, "When I'm big and you're little, I'm just gonna throw my trash on the floor!"

April is National Tackle Your Clutter Month and I think with good reason. I mean who among us, when digging out all the junk for taxes, doesn't think "I really need to get rid of some stuff." Or who when warm spring days coax us from hibernation doesn't wonder, "Why do I have so much stuff? Where did all this come from?" Spring is a great time to "tackle your clutter".

My kids have taught me about another kind of mess--the clutter that often fills our hearts. I once read an article about praying for our kids in three areas--the good, the bad, and the ugly. As I've seen my kids grow and as I've learned more about personality, I think the author had a good point. But I don't think it applies just to our kids. I think we all have a little good, bad, and ugly within us. We all can see the good in ourselves or in our kids. Let's celebrate that. You know, the stuff that you put in your Facebook status updates that gets all the thumbs-up "likes". Thinking of your house, these are the areas that are looking good. The rooms that are cleaned up, smelling fine and company-ready.

But what about the bad? I think these usually are personality strengths taken too far. Leadership that becomes control. Justice that never allows for grace. Playfulness that morphs into biting sarcasm. In our kids it comes across the same, we just use different names--bossy, inflexible, sassy. That is why it is so important to understand all the facets of your personality and the personalities of those under your care. You need to know your strengths to know your weaknesses. Clean out the clutter by recognizing any tendencies you have to take an aspect of your personality to the extreme. In your home, these are those areas that tend to get cluttered because of day-to-day use. The coffee table, the kitchen counter, the family room. Usually all it takes is a quick straightening of things and you are ready to entertain in a moment's notice.

Now let's talk ugly. You probably don't need me to tell you what your "uglies" are. And it seems as though uglies get passed down just blue eyes and Grandma's china. They are those areas of your life that would make any grouch proud. Maybe it is your attitude that you are just a little bit better than everyone else. Maybe it's a secret sin that you know doesn't please God, but you're just not willing to give up. Maybe it is the way you talk; or gossip; or hold a grudge. Maybe it is an anger problem; or lust; or an addiction. You know what it is--the stuff you hide from your pastor, your friends, your spouse. The ugly things no one knows about except maybe your family when you let something slip. In our kids, they look just the same, but they usually aren't as adept at hiding it. This goes beyond clutter to ground-in, rot-producing dirt. In your home these might be behind the toilet during little boy potty training. Or the far recesses of the coat closet in summer. Maybe your unfinished, prone-to-flooding basement. Or the dusty top of the refrigerator.

In honor of the Tackle Your Clutter Month, why don't you get alone with God and ask Him to show you the good, the bad, and the ugly about yourself. Then jump in and de-clutter your soul. Then you can start over with your kids.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Tell Your Story

Jewel loves to tell stories. She dreams of writing a book someday. Her teacher, who is nearing retirement age, says she is the most imaginative writer she's ever had in class. She is also prolific. Her journal entries span page after page, while other students ask that age-old question: How much do we have to write?

As a preschooler, Jewel learned that she could compete with her loud brothers for talk-time at the dinner table if her story captivated their attention. What would begin as a mundane tale of playgroup antics would spin into epic proportions. The more her brothers wiggled and tried to edge into the conversation, the bigger the story would spin.

Justice, ever the stickler for truth and the American way, would begin to yell, "You're lying! That didn't happen! She's lying!" Not wanting to squelch her budding dramatic strain, but in an effort to keep her word as truth, I began asking a few questions that let her tell her story and save face at the same time. "Did that really happen or is that something you would like to happen?"  Or, in the case of a comedy, "Did that really happen or would that be something funny if it happened?" Usually she would admit that the story was more fantasy than reality.

Tomorrow, April 27, is Tell a Story Day. Everyone has a story. Did you know that? You are a unique creation with God-given gifts and talents. You've been presented with your own personality upon birth. Throughout your life you've developed your own passions and values. And you possess specific experiences that are unique to you--the good, the bad, and the ugly. All of that adds up to the Story of You. You've heard the saying, "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger"? I think there's good truth in that. But I don't think it stops there. The hardest lessons to learn are those learned through struggle and trial. But the easiest lessons to learn are from watching someone else's struggle or trial. When we share our story with others, we can save them the pain and heartache of making the mistakes we made, experiencing the sharp learning curve of poor choices, and reaping the consequences of our sin. They get to learn the lesson but are free from the baggage that accompanied it.

In honor of Tell a Story Day, I encourage you to share a good book with the people in your life. But I'd also prompt you to share a story--YOUR story--with people around you. Your kids need to know the lessons you've learned in life. Your friends need to hear that you aren't perfect, but that you are working on it. Your spouse needs to know that little kid you once were and how it affects the big person you are today.

I know people who are afraid of sharing their failings with their kids. They think their kids will think less of them. They think it gives their kids permission to go out and do the very same things. Here me loud and clear: Those are lies from Satan. When we share our trials with others, it brings freedom. The power in a secret disappears when it is no longer a secret.

I've worked with youth long enough to have heard a couple hundreds times, "My parents just don't get it." When you share your story with your kids, they realize you do get it. Let them learn from your experiences and escape the consequences. You can't control if they choose to go ahead and make the mistake for themselves, but wouldn't you rather them make their decisions with as much information as possible? But I think rather than think that they have permission, your kids are going to respect you more for being real with them and for caring enough to humble yourself. Or they see that you struggled with some of the same things, but you overcame.

Don't fool yourself into thinking your kids will never know--these things have a way of coming out eventually. Let them hear the story from your mouth. Let them hear of your successes and your failures. Let them hear your story. After all, you are the only one qualified to tell it. But these stories don't have to be saved for only our children. There are lots of people who will benefit from hearing your story.

Here are a couple of hints in sharing your story:

1. Make it interesting. Capture their attention and they'll stick around longer.
2. Let them know upfront whether the story is a time when you failed or when you prospered. You need to share a mix of both.
3. Tell your story.
4. Point out the consequences of your bad decisions, actions, or attitudes in the stories of failure. Point out the decisions, actions, or attitudes that lead to a good outcome.
5. If you are sharing the story with your child, plainly express your expectations for them. Don't leave them guessing at the lesson.

You have a story to tell and a great big world waiting. You better get started.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Getting Into Character: The ENFP (Extravert, Intuitive, Feeler, Perceiver)

Today we continue our specific look at the sixteen types in the MBTI line-up. This is going to be so fun, because even if this is not your particular label, more than likely you will recognize someone you know and love revealed on the page. I need to let you know that this is NOT a professional opinion or blog--I am just teaching you what I've learned over more than ten years of studying personality.

I’m not going to repeat my description of the dominant preferences and such, but if you haven’t been following along, go back and read the beginning of the first week’s post (The ESTP). I’ve highlighted it in green, so you can easily catch up.

Again this week, we will change just one of the letters—the Thinker to Feeler—but look at the difference this makes in the personality of these two individuals!

My cousin tells me this is her label, so here I am waving--let's get started.

Living Life with an ENFP: ENFPs are people-oriented by their Extraversion type and the other three letters deal in feelings, hunches, and sensing things not seen on the surface. You will notice the ENFPs in your life as being extremely others-centered. They are those who know everyone and everything going on. If they don't know it, it probably hasn't happened yet. They are warm and appreciative and excel in understanding the needs of others so they draw friends like kids to the ice cream truck. They inspire those around them and have a zest for life. ENFPs enjoy variety, flexibility, and newness and will probably be much more excited to start projects than to see them through to completion. They are spontaneous, charismatic, and can easily change directions. They are curious and enthusiastic which makes them often restless.
Career/Service Area Choices for an ENFP:  ENFPs are often seen as free spirits and their love for people make them suitable for jobs and ministry or volunteer positions that give them stimulating and challenging opportunities, while keeping rules to a minimum. They are sensitive to work relationships and work to promote harmony in their relationships. They like to be included in decision-making and would rather focus on ideas. ENFPs often look for jobs in the service industry, especially those that allow them to help humanity in some way. They will thrive in situations where they have flexibility and novelty. Some careers or ministries that often appeal to ENFPs are: artist/entertainer, public speaker/evangelism, clergy/counselor, consultant, journalist, social scientist, nurse, writer/editor, teacher/trainer, youth worker, missions, public relations, social worker, advocate for the less fortunate.

Free Time for an ENFP: Whatever ENFPs do in their free time, it usually includes other people. They join activities that include others or they will invite them to attend with them. Often they explore new hobbies, sports, or places. They sometimes like to include their play in their work and may have more flexible boundaries here than other types. ENFPs also like to read and travel as this gives them opportunities to see, learn, and do new things. ENFPs can be dreamers so their free time might include thinking up new schemes and plans. Many ENFPs enjoy sports.
Warnings for the ENFP: Too much of any good thing can be a bad thing, so here are some things ENFPs need to beware of: Since they love new and changing opportunities, they often only stick with things for a short period of time. ENFPs also have a tendency to over commit in their quest for the next best thing. Be careful to commit to things you really have a passion to do and finish what you started before moving on. ENFPs had a wide variety of knowledge but sometimes come across as just knowing enough about everything to be dangerous (or annoying). ENFPs are such people-persons that they can often get caught up in the lives of their friends and family. ENFPs need to learn their limits so they don't neglect taking care of themselves. On the flip-side of that, ENFPs often do things big--they overextend to the point of saturating themselves with the good things in life. As a result, they may completely wear themselves out or develop an unhealthy lifestyle.
Spiritual Helps for the ENFP: ENFPs might enjoy worship arts--singing, dancing, artist expression, drama. They also may enjoy worship in the natural world. Time for self-reflection will benefit the ENFP in allowing them to explore their own feelings. Because they enjoy being with people, they often relish study, discussion, and prayer in small group settings. But ENFPs may also enjoy methodical spiritual disciplines, often switching their focus between prayer, meditation, worship, and study, among others.
What Others Say about the ENFP: People enjoy the encouragement and inspiration they get from spending time with ENFPs. If you have one in your life, you will likely admire their quest to help those less-fortunate. They will be a steady source of insight and ingenious ideas. You will notice their tendency to dream about the future and to enjoy a changing and fluid existence.

Okay, who do you know that is an ENFP? Let me hear from you if you are!

Next week, join us as we change it up and switch ALL four letters. We will look at the personality opposite of the ENFP and see if they truly are completely different. And it's not too late to send me your personality type if you want to see it here.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Hubba Bubba...Bubblicious...Dubble Bubble: Celebrate National Bubblegum Week

Have you ever wondered where bubblegum got its start? Well, Justice posed that very question this weekend.

Not satisfied with where his basketball goal sat in the driveway (he couldn't make an appropriate 3-point line), he set out to move it himself. While he struggled with his task, the propane guy came to check the tank. He asked Justice if he wanted help. I watched the exchange out the kitchen window and saw that when Brady-the-propane-guy left, he handed Justice a piece of Bazooka gum.

Later the evening as we rode in the car and Justice continued his hours-long munch on the gum (did you do that when you were a kid?), he said, "I wonder who thought up bubblegum?"

"Well, that sounds like a good thing to research on the computer," I said, glancing over to see if he'd bite. "But I do know that the third week in April is National Bubblegum Week."

He looked at me astonished that I knew that little nugget of pop (get it? pop?) culture trivia. See, what he doesn't know is that if I continue with this blog, I have 156 posts to do in a year and I need material. I've got to look at every holiday, baby.

Anyway that made me think of gum. You know how some people just always seem to have a wad of gum in their mouth and for some reason, you just can't help but see it the whole time you talk to them? I had a friend in high school who just couldn't stand gum for that reason--it just grossed him out. So, he never chewed it. Sometimes just for fun, I'd get him to chew a piece, just because he was so awkward at it that it was hilarious to watch! Can you imagine someone not knowing how to chew gum?

Bubblegum has been around since 1926 and it was originally the color pink because that was the only color the inventor had. But chewing gum dates as far back as 5,000 years ago (so they tell us). Used as an antiseptic and mouth freshener, people made it out of natural things like sap, bark, and wax, and in the case of the Eskimos, blubber.

That reminded my of something I've been told before about scripture. We need to meditate on scripture just like that cow in the field chewing her cud; or like your 12-year old chomping away on the hunk of Hubba Bubba. When you think of "meditating" on scripture, it is much less a clearing of your mind and more of a relaxed action.

Animals that chew their cud do so while resting. If I understand chewing of cud, an animal takes in the meal, thus extracting some of the nutrients. However, they are not able to get all of the good stuff on the first pass-through. So, later, they bring it back up for another go-around. They continue to do this, getting small amounts of good stuff over a long period of time. Now that makes sense to me when I apply it to scripture.

Sometimes I read something and it is good. Sometimes I read something and it seems like it is in another language--it just doesn't click with me. And there are other times that I get part of it on the first read-through, but if I think about it more later (chew it over) I get more and more. That is why the Bible is called "living and active"--it continually teaches us what we need to know in any situation or circumstance.

So, why don't you pick a verse today and read it not once, not twice, but throughout the day? Chew it up and see what new insights you can glean from it each time through. Don't stop with once--you might miss the good stuff. And besides, everybody knows that you only get the best bubbles after you've really worked that gum for awhile.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Scene in the Barnyard, Take 2

This is a continuation, or maybe an off-shoot of last week's lesson, Take 1. To recap, on a warm, sunny April Saturday, we ended up with an assortment of volunteer firemen, a fire truck, a first responder vehicle, and at least three sheriff's cars in our barnyard.

Apparently, my hubby neglected to crank down the nozzle on an anhydrous ammonia tank while the weather was cool, and when it warmed up, the vapors expanded and leaked out. This cloud of vapor caught the attention of a passing motorist who put in a call to 911. A quick turn of the spigot was all that was required to spot the flow, but when emergency services are dispatched, apparently they can't be called back--at least that is what they told hubby when he called to tell them it wasn't necessary for them to come out.

I told you that God reminded me that there is a battle taking place around us, and our children, every day. We must protect our kids from the things they can't see--both in the physical and the spiritual realms. One of my jobs as their momma is to protect them from the evil that they don't see. You can become pretty jaded when you look around you in this culture, but you also have to remember to be smart. Get used to saying "No".

So, all of this brings me to the second lesson God reminded me of during this interesting afternoon. While we are called to protect our kids from the evil that surrounds them, mommas and daddies also have to prepare our kids to live in the midst of not-so-healthy influences.  I can only shield my kids from so much, but unless I want to join a commune or move to a third world country, it is also my job to teach my kids how to live in this tainted world. You see, I can warn my kids to stay by the house when they semi or combines pull into the drive. I don't allow them to climb on the grain bins. I refuse to let them play outside while the fumes from the chemicals hang in the air. But, I also need to prepare them for the inevitable times of emergency or unexpected situations. God tells us in His word that it is not His desire for us to hide from every potential source of temptation or trial, but to be prepared to deal with it. Jesus says in John 17:15, My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. Do you see it? He says, don't remove your kids from any potential evil, but protect them from the damages that could come.

How do we leave our kids in the world but protect them from it at the same time? First of all--PRAY. Pray for their protection. Plead for them to make wise choices. Petition God for them to remember what they've been taught. And that is the second way--TEACH. If I want my kids to make wise choices and make good decisions, I've got to teach them. My kids know not to play on an ammonia wagon, but I've got to take it a step further. I need to teach them what to do if an emergency situation or an unlikely event takes place. Is a tank ever supposed to be leaking all over the barnyard? Nope. Did it happen? Yep. Where they prepared? I hope so.

We do this when we ask our kids questions like, "If you got separated from me in a store/at the fair, what would you do?" Or when we quiz, "What should you do if a stranger (or even someone you know, but you don't feel comfortable) tries to get you in their car?" Or maybe, "If someone calls and I'm not home, what should you tell them?"

We need to make sure we are also asking our kids things like, "If a group of your friends were making fun of another student, what would you do?" Or "If you and your friends were playing Truth or Dare and something went wrong on a dare, what would you do?" Or maybe, "If you are on a date with a guy and he is doing things to you or asking you to do things to him that make you uncomfortable, what would you do."

Another important aspect of teaching our kids to be safe is to teach them how to pray. They need to learn to pray for their own protection, for their own wisdom, and for themselves and the battle that rages around them every day.

Don't wait until you have a smoking anhydrous tank in your barnyard to see if your kids know how to protect themselves. Protect them when you can, and teach them how to be safe when you can't. Just like Matthew 10:16 says, I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. THAT'S what I want my kids to be!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Getting Into Character: The ENTP (Extrovert, Intuitive, Thinker, Perceiver)

Today we continue our specific look at the sixteen types in the MBTI line-up. This is going to be so fun, because even if this is not your particular label, more than likely you will recognize someone you know and love revealed on the page. I need to let you know that this is NOT a professional opinion or blog--I am just teaching you what I've learned over more than ten years of studying personality.

I’m not going to repeat my description of the dominant preferences and such, but if you haven’t been following along, go back and read the beginning of last week’s post (The ESTP). I’ve highlighted it in green, so you can easily catch up.

We will change just one of the letters this week—the Sensor goes to the Intuitive—but look at the difference this makes in the personality of these two individuals!

So, because my lovely ENTP friend let me know her type way back at the beginning of this study, that is where we will go for week two.

Living Life with an ENTP: ENTPs possess confidence in themselves and their abilities. You might recognize them as the people who willingly lead others into the unknown. In a nutshell, they are leaders. ENTPs enjoy taking risks, challenges, and developing strategies for getting things done. ENTPs are highly independent and will resist routine and rules that don’t make sense or that are simply for the sake of rules. They push against boundaries and boundary-makers. Many ENTPs are entrepreneurs and they enjoy change and opportunities to try out their ideas.

Career/Service Area Choices for an ENTP: ENTPs enjoy areas of work or service that are not stagnant. They excel at projects or endeavors that employ change, flexibility and challenge. Given their Extroversion, they will want to be around people. Given their tendency for leadership, they will want to be out front. ENTPs prefer to brainstorm and envision a project rather than stick around to see it through the maintenance and up-keep of it. They tolerate only enough structure to keep things moving, but relish freedom to be creative in their problem-solving and planning. Some occupations that interest ENTPs include: actor/artist, chemical engineer, computer analyst, credit investigator, journalist, public relations/human resources, marketing, sales, photographer, psychiatrist, teacher, management, designer, clergy, and counselor.

Free Time for an ENTP: ENTPs enjoy leisure activities that allow for taking risks or give them new avenues for their energy. They often enjoy traveling, competitive sports, and activities that allow them to test themselves in body or in mind. However, they also enjoy reading. ENTPs usually make their plans as they go and prefer to not have all the details set in stone from the beginning of any adventure.

Warnings for the ENTP: Too much of any good thing can be a bad thing, so here are some things ENTPs need to beware of: Because of their highly competitive nature, ENTPs can alienate people with their need to win and be right. ENTPs can also be so focused on their own ideas and concepts that they refuse to see the faults that are clear to others. Competitiveness also rears its head when someone questions their plans or ideas. They feel they have a “corner on the truth”. Strive for cooperation, not competition. ENTPs may not take deadlines seriously because of their ability to plan and brainstorm. Often they underestimate how long something will take in reality, because it was so simple for them to think it through in their head. Sometimes this leads to over-commitment. ENTPs need to learn to work within the boundaries of systems and procedures. They often view them as guidelines and really struggle when they must follow exactly.

Spiritual Helps for the ENTP: ENTPs will likely enjoy corporate worship and in-depth Bible study. They will relish opportunities to debate and discuss spiritual matters and questions with teachers and classmates that can meet their challenges. Travelling to (or extensive study of) the Holy Land will likely have a profound effect on their personal spiritual relationship. ENTPs are busy and so they may need to focus on solitude and rest to connect with God.

What Others Say about the ENTP: If you have family or friends that are ENTPs, they help you enjoy life by leading you to places unknown. They are risk-takers, game-players, and rule-breakers. They are spontaneous, energetic, and fun-loving. Get ready to have an adventure when you are with an ENTP.

Okay, who do you know that is an ENTP? Let me hear from you if you are!

Next week, join us as we tweak just one other letter, and see what a difference it makes when we explore the ENFP. Let me know your label and I’ll fit it in the schedule here at the beginning.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Scene in the Barnyard, Take 1

What did you do this weekend? Us? Oh, we hosted a congregation of the county's volunteer fire department and a handful of police officers in our barnyard. Yes, mix a half dozen pick-up trucks with flashing blue lights, a fire truck, a first responder vehicle, and an anhydrous tank spewing potentially deadly ammonia and you are talking good times. See, I'm not joking when I tell you it is like a zoo at my house. Or, in the case of this weekend, a haz-mat training exercise.

A light breeze blew, puffy clouds drifted across the sky, and warm sunshine drew the cats from the barn on Saturday. The kids played, finished chores, and practiced flag football. I worked around the house, trying to get ahead of the constant clutter that seems to sprout behind them whenever they are home. A knock sounded at the kitchen door and I opened it to find a strange man standing there. (He was strange in the sense that he was not known to me, not that he was odd--I didn't talk to him long enough to know that.)

He motions behind him toward the barn. "Your anhydrous tank has a leak."

I peer around his shoulder. "Oh, so it does. That's odd. It's been there for two days with no trouble."

"My wife just called 911. If the wind changes direction, you better get out of the house."

Oh, no. That's not good. "Umm...okay. Thanks. I'll call my husband."

Anhydrous ammonia can be fatal if inhaled and there have been farmers killed in our area by it. However, this situation was not really that dire. The leak was small; not a full-blown eruption like would happen in an accident or a roll-over. It could have been taken care of by my hubby without involving half the county. But I'm glad the man stopped to let me know. It might have turned out differently if it had been the kids that noticed it.

So, within about five minutes of the 911 call, vehicles lined the road in front of our house. A fire truck sat in my driveway and helmeted firemen swarmed the barnyard. I chatted with the sheriff's deputies parked in the driveway, upwind from the fumes rolling from the front of the tank. It took two volunteer firefighters in their work clothes, a few cranks bare-handed and the leak was fixed. Needless to say, the firemen who took the time to suit up were disappointed that all the action happened so fast.

I invited the officers to stay and eat something since they made the call just to be turned back without any action, but they said they'd just eaten lunch. My husband's pick-up truck carted the ammonia tankers away later that day, leaving no evidence of the ordeal except some really green grass.

A few hours later, I mentioned something to Jot and finished by saying, "...when the fire truck was here."

"What? There was a fire truck here today? When?"

All that excitement and Jot missed it. While he played a video game, an entire scene from an action adventure movie played out just outside the window. That got me to thinking about the danger that surrounds our kids daily and what my role is as their protector.

Life is difficult and there are a lot of scary things out there. It is a delicate balancing act trying to protect our kids without scary the Gee-Willackers out of them. Our kids are immersed in a culture that would steal them from us in a heartbeat, if we are not careful to protect them. From video games with suspect themes, to neighborhood bullies, to bio-terrorism, to H1N1, to cyber-predators, our kids need for us to stand between them and the world that would do them harm.

The Bible tells us a world that is unseen to our eyes exists. Wars are waged; battles are fought, all without our knowledge. Forces battle to steal, kill, and destroy our faith and our very lives. What sights we would behold if our human eyes could only see the scene playing out just above our heads! Just like Jot played comfortably in his safe home with his mama looking out for him, when we stay within the protection of God's care, battles are fought around us that we can't even fathom.

Aren't you glad you have a Protector who will keep you safe from harm too?

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Devil Made Me Do It!

"I didn't do it!"

"It wasn't me!"

"He made me do it!"

"It's not my fault!"

"The devil made me do it!"

Each of these statements has rung from the rooftops around our house at one time or another. My kids just don't like to accept blame for anything. They argue, they cry, they blame--anything to avoid owning up to something they've done.

They might blame the teacher, their friends, the weather, the referee, their siblings, and on occasion might even blame the devil himself. "Mom, Satan told me to do it and I just didn't tell him no." And, apparently, they are not alone. April 13th is Blame Someone Else Day.

Why is it so hard to take the blame for something we've done wrong? Why do we go to so much trouble to concoct credible stories, search out scapegoats, and cast blame on anyone or anything else? I think, along with everything else, it started in the Garden.

You remember the story, don't you? First guy Adam, his blushing bride Eve, and a clandestine meeting with a smarmy serpent. A forbidden piece of fruit passes the lips of not one, but both sin-free-up-to-that-time humans. Adam and Eve take a gander at each other and realize they are naked as a pair of jay-birds and unlike every day before, they are quite ashamed. And so the hiding begins.

 A short time later, God shows up for their evening walk and "can’t" find them. (Uh, in case you are a little slow, He knew right where they were. He just gave them a chance to come clean on their own.) Once the partially-clothed pair revealed that they had, indeed, tasted the fruit, the blaming begins.

“The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit and I ate it.”  (She made me do it!)

“The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” (The devil made me do it!)

God’s first kids had an ownership problem when it came to possessing their blame. How can I expect my own kids to act any better? I’ve learned a couple things while watching my kids play the Blame Game. We all have a natural tendency to cast blame somewhere—anywhere—else. The trouble comes when we do what is natural versus doing what is right. I can help my kids take responsibility for their wrongs with a few well-chosen words. Here are the things I’ve learned to do:

1. Don’t assign blame myself. This means set a good example of owning my own sins and making them right and doing it in front of my kids, when appropriate. This also means not accusing them, even when I’m certain (as God was) who did it and what they did. This works for big people too.

2. Ask the right questions. Look at what God does when He meets up with the disobedient duo. He doesn’t start yelling, “You’re naked! Why are you running around sporting a fig leaf, for crying out loud?” Instead He calls them to Him and they spill the beans about the apple right away. Listen instead of accusing and your kids will tell you much more. Ask good questions and you do less work squeezing it out of them. Again, this works well with adults too.

3. God listens until each of them admits (in a round about, blame-filled way) their own part in the mess. Get your kids to admit what they did wrong. Don’t allow them to focus on blaming anyone else. Often I will say, when they begin to cast blame like a sprinkler squirting water, “Tell me only about your part.” And when it is our turn, let's remember to focus only on what part we played in the problem. Have you ever heard (or said!), "I'm sorry I yelled at you, but you just made me so mad."? That is blaming in a creative way, not an apology.

4. The last thing God does is to assign punishment. We want our kids to accept the responsibility for their part in any wrong-doing. I will say to my kids, “You embraced your choice, now embrace your consequence.” We all make mistakes, wrong choices, and bad decisions, but don’t let them go to waste. Accept the consequences, and when you can, learn any lessons so you are better prepared the next time to choose wisely. (Now so you will not think I have this all figured out or that my munchkins willing accept these lessons, let me tell you that in the middle of doling out consequences, I’ve had a child look at me and say, “This is not teaching me anything—it’s just making me mad!”)

Tomorrow, April 13, is Blame Someone Else Day, but I suggest you don’t allow your kids (or yourself) to celebrate it. Raise your cup of apple juice in a toast. Here’s to taking responsibility for our own choices and what the world would look like if we all did. Here, here!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Getting Into Character: The ESTP (Extravert, Sensor, Thinker, Perceiver)

Today we start of specific look at the sixteen types in the MBTI line-up. This is going to be so fun, because even if this is not your particular label, more than likely you will recognize someone you know and love revealed on the page. I need to let you know that this is NOT a professional opinion or blog--I am not certified to administer the MBTI. The cost is high when I don't have an employer willing to send me for training. (We're talking like $2000!) I am just teaching you what I've learned over more than ten years of studying personality.

Each of us has a label of four preferences and among those four, we have a "favorite"--one that we've perfected. Let's take pizza for example. For the sake of our discussion, everyone has been given a slice of pizza. Everyone's piece of pizza consists of four parts--the cheese, the toppings, the sauce, and the crust. Some of you will prefer the cheese. Others eat it for the toppings. Still others relish the sauce. And some of you carb-lovers, live for the crust. You all have all the parts, but you also have a favorite--one you return to again and again and if you could only have one part, that's the one you'd choose. It's the same with personality. You have one area that you fall back on time and again--one area you've perfected.

For the sake of this study, we are not going to go into all the logistics of the dominant and other functions. What you need to know is that your dominant function is one of these four: Sensing, Intuition, Thinking, or Feeling. That is why you can have the same four-part label as someone and still not be personality-clones. There are nuances even among people that share a label.

So, because my lovely ESTP friend (who shall remain nameless, Hi!) was the first to send me her type, that is where we will start. We will look at six specific areas.

Living Life with an ESTP:  ESTPs are known for their love of life. They like to have a good time and thanks to their Extravert tendency, they invite others to come along. They are FUN, with a capital F. They like to "do" rather than "be" and are always moving. They are rational thinkers that stay calm in a crisis and have an eye for the practical tasks that need completing. They don't pull any punches--they tell it like they see it, employing the truth in a straightforward manner.  They are practical, out-going, realistic. They see what needs doing and are resourceful and efficient.

Career/Service Area Choices for an ESTP:  ESTPs don't back away from a crisis and will enjoy work or service opportunities that keep them moving and on their toes and using their hands. They enjoy problem-solving and can handle factual information. They require flexibility in their jobs and of course, being Extraverted, they will want contact with the public. Some occupations an ESTP might enjoy and find success in would be: auditor, carpenter/craft worker, farmer, laborer, law enforcement officer, service worker, transportation operator, sales/marketer, administrators, doctor/health care, librarian, entrepreneurs, among others.

Free Time for an ESTP: ESTPs enjoy being active and will probably be interested in sports and other activities. They like to participate in sports as players and spectators. They also may enjoy a variety of outdoor activities and pastimes that involve taking risks. They are also often collectors--especially of things related to their other pursuits.

Warnings for the ESTP: Too much of any good thing can be a bad thing, so here are some things ESTPs need to beware of: Weighing their words before they speak. If they use tact, they will find their foot is less often in their mouth. They will need to pull in the reins and plan before starting out on a new adventure or project. Just because they work well under pressure doesn't mean that they should keep themselves in a constant state of upheaval. They must remember to balance play with work. ESTPs need to be careful that they don't spend too much time "doing" and being busy that they don't spend time reflecting or focusing on other important people/matters.

Spiritual Helps for the ESTP: ESTPs might feel closest to God when they are in nature. Because of their ease with facts, they may enjoy in-depth Bible study, specifically with a group of others. They will likely focus on the practical  or logical aspects of their faith and often enjoy more charismatic churches or expressions of faith. They are the movers and shakers of the church.
What Others Say about the ESTP: If you have an ESTP family member or friends, they keep things lively. They help you have a good time. They are generally easy to be around and keep things fun and interesting, helping other focus on the joy found in life.

Okay, who do you know that is an ESTP? Let me hear from you if you are!

Next week, join us as we tweak just one letter and see what a difference it makes when we explore the ENTP.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Fight for Freedom

There's a war going on at my house. Well, actually just when the kids are here. I'm not talking about sibling rivalry; I'm talking about actual war. Well, at least in their minds.

You see my kids love to play war. They arrange bunkers and hide-outs and go at it with the Nerf guns. Or they assign themselves an animal character and hunt each other down with bow and arrows (Nerf again). Or they act out wars from history they've read about (they read a lot of Mary Pope Osborn).

But something I've noticed is that no matter what game they play, someone is always trying to capture, kill, or destroy and someone else is always trying to gain their freedom. They aren't satisfied to be a prisoner; they want freedom. Don't we all.

Friday, April 9 is National Former POW Recognition Day. I don't know any former POW's, but if I did I'd for sure say thanks. Maybe you do--be sure to thank them for their sacrifice. But that got me to thinking about prisoners.

I cannot imagine the torture on your body, soul, and mind in being held captive by an enemy. I cannot begin to fathom the depths of pain and the extent of the scars that would haunt you for the rest of your life. But God can.

Just like my kids long for freedom in their "war games", we all struggle to find freedom. Our search for freedom begins as tiny toddlers when we pull against the tethers of carseats, high chairs, and our parents' hand in parking lots. It follows us through the growing up years as we fight for independence, all the while keeping a close eye on our parents out of the corners of our eyes. We look for freedom from guilt, from addiction, from past mistakes, from pain. We long to be free of hurtful relationships, of stereotypes, of consequences. There are countless things that hold us captive. But there is a rescuer.

In Colossians 2:8, we hear these words: See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ. That tells me there are things in this world that are preached, taught, and believed that are not true--they are snares that will hold us prisoner if we believe them. These things find their basis in rules, laws, and teaching that people think up on their own, when they forget or refuse to seek God's thoughts on a matter.

Is there something that is holding you captive? A fear? A sin? A relationship? An untruth you've believed too long about yourself? An attitude? A past mistake? What is it that seeks to capture, kill, or destroy you? What is that holds you in a bunker of indecision or failure? Listen to these words from Psalm 146:6-8:

the Maker of heaven and earth,
the sea, and everything in them—
the LORD, who remains faithful forever.

He upholds the cause of the oppressed
and gives food to the hungry.
The LORD sets prisoners free,

the LORD gives sight to the blind,
the LORD lifts up those who are bowed down,
the LORD loves the righteous.

Do you see the promises in there for us? The God who made every single thing is faithful--forever! If you are oppressed, hungry, or a prisoner--He has everything you need! And if you can't see your way straight, if your back is bent with burden--He has a way out for you! He is waiting for you to ask Him, then before the breath leaves your mouth, He'll be there to set you free. And He doesn't even need a Nerf gun.

*I've pasted Isaiah 61 below for you, if you'd like to read it today. God not only frees the captive, but then He blesses him (or her) beyond measure. Read on to hear it for yourself.

Isaiah 61

1 The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,
because the LORD has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,

 2 to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,

3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the LORD
for the display of his splendor.

4 They will rebuild the ancient ruins
and restore the places long devastated;
they will renew the ruined cities
that have been devastated for generations.

5 Aliens will shepherd your flocks;
foreigners will work your fields and vineyards.

6 And you will be called priests of the LORD,
you will be named ministers of our God.
You will feed on the wealth of nations,
and in their riches you will boast.

7 Instead of their shame
my people will receive a double portion,
and instead of disgrace
they will rejoice in their inheritance;
and so they will inherit a double portion in their land,
and everlasting joy will be theirs.

8 "For I, the LORD, love justice;
I hate robbery and iniquity.
In my faithfulness I will reward them
and make an everlasting covenant with them.

9 Their descendants will be known among the nations
and their offspring among the peoples.
All who see them will acknowledge
that they are a people the LORD has blessed."

10 I delight greatly in the LORD;
my soul rejoices in my God.
For he has clothed me with garments of salvation
and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness,
as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest,
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

11 For as the soil makes the sprout come up
and a garden causes seeds to grow,
so the Sovereign LORD will make righteousness and praise
spring up before all nations.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Treasure Seekers

Did you know the April 2 was Reconciliation Day? I don't think it is a coincidence that it falls the day after April Fool's Day when sometimes pranks can get out of hand. But, more than seeking forgiveness for pranks gone wrong; Reconciliation Day began when advice columnist Ann Landers saw the hurt caused by broken relationships. So every year, on April 2, the world celebrates Reconciliation Day--or does it? I'd never heard of this holiday and I'd venture many of you haven't either. Since we missed it this year, being that it fell on the holiday weekend, I'm giving us all permission to celebrate it a few days late.

When Jewel arrived on the scene, Justice couldn't wait to play with her and teach her new things. He didn't understand that she would spend the first sixth months not being able to sit alone, another few months not being able to walk, and longer than that without the gift of speech. (She's long since made up for those quiet months!) He didn't realize how good he had it until she started to get around, get into his stuff, and get mad when he didn't fulfill her wishes on demand.

He constructed elaborate fencing systems to keep his plastic animals enclosed (perhaps an early indicator of his desire to be an architect?) and she would knock them down. He would leave a book on the floor to get a drink of water, only to come back and find a sad, soggy, corner-chewed mess. And stuffed animals bore the brunt of her days of teething, grossing him out to no end. He'd take only so much and then loose his cool. He would push, yell, or yank objects out of her sticky little hands. And, of course, she would wail.

Over and over I explained to him that people are more important than things and that God wanted him to love, protect, and care for his sister--even when she made him mad. I told him that she would be his best friend and would still be there when all of his friends were grown and gone. I said that God thinks people are the greatest treasures and that we should think so too. Without coaching on my part, he took to apologizing by saying, "Jewel, I'm sorry I didn't treat you like a treasure. Will you forgive me?"

Even in his four-year-old brain, he understood that people are treasures. What do you do with treasures? You keep them safe, you protect them, you look for them when they are lost.

Is there a treasure in your life that you've lost? Maybe due to a mistake--or let's face it--a total screw-up--of yours? Maybe time and busy-ness squeezed out the friendship that was once there. Maybe it is a brother or sister or other relative that you've allowed hurt, anger, or bitterness to make you forget the treasure they once were to you. Or maybe it is someone that hurt you, but you miss the relationship that you once had. What can you do to reconcile with that person today?

Will it be easy? I doubt it. Will it require things of you that you might not want to give? I'd bet on it. Will it be worth it? I hope so. Will you feel so much better because you tried? I'm sure of it. Romans 12:18 says, If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. That means that all God requires of us it to try. He doesn't guarantee the outcome, because He gives us free will. But if we have a say in it, always choose peace.

It is interesting to me that this year Reconciliation Day fell on Good Friday--the very day the Jesus took our place on the cross to bring reconciliation between us and God. Maybe that is the relationship that you need to reconcile today. If so, don't wait. Remember, He thinks you are a treasure too.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Getting Into Character: The Overview of the MBTI

Alright, folks. We've explored all sixteen choices in the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. Hopefully you easily assessed yourself and your loved ones. We've learned that we have a preference for how we are energized--either through others (Extraversion) or within ourselves (Introversion). Our preference for how we perceive our world comes either through the five senses (Sensing) or through a sixth-sense type of (Intuition). We make decisions based on a default of logical, impartial criteria (Thinking) or based on how our decisions affect other people (Feeling). And finally we have a preference for how we steer our life. We choose to live an ordered, planned out life (Judging) or to let life happen around us, then react to it (Perceiving).

If you are still undecided between Judger and Perceiver, let me give you a couple scenarios to help you out. One way is to think about how you approach a team project. Do you come to the initial meeting with a notebook, pencil, and folder with notes you've already made to yourself? Do you already have an idea of how the whole process will play out and what the outcome will/should look like? If so, you are probably a Judger. But what if you show up at the meeting empty-handed, even though you may have already done a lot of thinking about the project? Do you balk at the idea of following a strict schedule or of completing tasks in a systematic order? Do you prefer to let everyone bounce ideas off one another and see where the planning takes you? Do you hope to keep all the options open to the deadline and then bring them all together at the last moment? If so, you are most likely a Perceiver.

One more test is to look at how you order when you eat in a restaurant. If you decide quickly and then are happy with your choice, you may be a Judger. This doesn't mean that you always get the same thing; it just means you decide and put it behind you. However, if you can't decide until you've talked to the waiter, surveyed other diner's plates, heard what everyone else at your table is ordering, and changed your mind several times, you probably can give yourself a "P" for Perceiver. Oh, and you may still wish you had ordered something else.

In the general population about 60% are Judgers and 40% are Perceivers, with an equal distribution between men and women.

Okay, there you have it--you should be able to give yourself a label. I am an ISTJ. What are you? I'd love for you to share it with me. Next week we will start to look at the sixteen types, starting with the ESTP. If you let me know your type, I'll do yours sooner rather than later. We will look at possible careers, spiritual disciplines, descriptions, and other interesting stuff. And if any of you are still stuck trying to decide between two letters, when you hear the descriptions, it will all clear up.

I wanted to give you a little background on how the MBTI came about. Carl Jung, a Swiss psychiatrist, noticed that people had patterns to behavior and that these patterns, while different from some others, were remarkably similar to other people. The son of a minister, he was a deeply spiritual man and thought if we could figure out these patterns, they could help us strengthen our faith and develop this part of ourselves. These patterns are not random. Today we know them as personality. Knowing your personality helps you better understand yourself and those people you are in contact with every day.

Jung wasn't the first guy to think about these patterns. Many other cultures in the world devised ways to classify people. Think of the twelve signs of Astrology. American Indians used the four directions of the compass to describe behavior type. The Greeks based their four-part system on bodily fluids. You can find a multitude of systems, but the MBTI is the most widely used.

Interestingly enough, while Jung studied to understand personality, a mother-daughter team from the United States also studied and came up with eerily similar results. Katherine Cook Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers were not scholarly women, they were homemakers. But when young Isabel brought her fiance to meet her parents for the first time, the Briggs' were so astonished at how different he was then they, that the women wanted to find out why. They compared notes with Jung, expanded it and devised an inventory in the 1920's.

People have definite preferences for which hand to write with, which ear they use more often, which foot they lead off with when taking a step, and even a dominant eye. Think about writing your name with your preferred hand (the one you normally use). Describe it. It comes easily, almost naturally, without thinking, quickly, good out-put. Now think about writing with your non-preferred hand. Describe how that feels. Difficult, not natural, hard, really have to think about it, slow, doesn't look as nice. It's the same thing when you are working out of your personality preference--it feels more natural, it is easier, it is less stressful, and hopefully the outcome will be better.

Okay, that's our little overview. Come back next Friday when we start digging in to the specific types. Don't forget--let me know yours. I can't wait to hear from you!