Tuesday, June 29, 2010

I Got You, Babe

Jack Sprat could eat no fat.
His wife could eat no lean.
And so, between them both, you see
They licked the platter clean.

Every time we eat bacon and eggs at the Barcus house, that nursery rhyme bears out true in all it's splendor. Although Jack and his wife don't sit at my kitchen table, Justice, Jewel, and Jot do. You see, Justice only likes the meaty part of bacon; Jewel only the fat. So, they tear apart the crispy strips and trade for the part they like best.

And when I make hard-boiled eggs, Jewel only likes the whites and Jot goes for the yellow yolks. So, once again, the low-stakes bartering begins. "I'll give you my whites for your yellows," says Jot. And happily they go about downing their favorite part of the egg.

And when Jewel made the jump to ordering adult meals at McD's but still wanted the apple slices, it worked nicely to order Jot's Happy Meal with apples and then switch them out for the fries that came with Jewel's number 10 combo.

Lest you think they only do this with food (or that all we do is eat!), they also divvy up chores. Jot loves to feed the dogs; Jewel the cats. So they trade if assigned otherwise. They do it with notes for school, calling grandparents, driving the Gator. They've taught me a big lesson about strengths and weaknesses and being there to fill the gap for someone else.

You've heard that opposites attract--and it is often true. But, through my kids, God has shown me that He places people in families so that the strengths of one will bolster another and vice versa. Justice's penchant for caution have served Jewel and Jot well on several occasions. Likewise, their tendency to never see a stranger helps him break the ice when meeting new people.

I believe this lesson is not just applicable to personality, but also to spiritual gifts, talents, and abilities. When you find a talent, ability, or gift you possess, the very first place you need to use it is with your own family. Can you sing like an angel? Then bless your family at holidays or send your kids off to dreamland hearing your sweet voice. Do you have the gift of encouragement? The top of your list of targets needs to be your parents, spouse, and children. Can you teach a three-point lesson at the drop of a hat? Then bless others in your job, the community, or at church--but after you've worked your magic on those in your very own home.The possibilities are as endless as the gifts and abilities we possess.

So, take a look at yourself. What are you good at? How can you use your abilities with and for the people the closest to you? If you don't see how, just ask God. I promise He'll show you. It may be as simple as sharing a plate of bacon and eggs.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Getting Into Character: The ESFJ (Extrovert, Sensor, Feeler, 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’m 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, which you will find under the April archives (The ESTP). I’ve highlighted the part you need to read in green, so you can easily catch up.

Last week we looked at the INTP's; those one-man or one-woman truth finders. This week we will change it up once more and look at the letter-opposite, the ESFJ.  Read on to hear about those ESFJs and their Welcome Wagon approach to life.

Living Life with an ESFJ: If you live with or work with an ESFJ, you already know how they make you, and everyone else they encounter, feel welcome. ESFJs work toward harmony in every facet of their influence. They are known for being thorough and loyal. If an ESFJ tells you s/he will do something, you can consider it done. They follow through on promises and projects and they keep their word, or die trying. ESFJs are also proactive servers. They not only see needs that others sometimes miss, but they also respond, always helping out. They are also keenly aware of the needs of people and can be found working toward harmony on all fronts by taking into account how their decisions will affect those around them. ESFJs make people feel welcome, help keep people organized, and set priorities for bot people and organizations. Proponents of tradition, ESFJs have been called "faith preservers" for the rest of the personalities. Unlike some of the other types, ESFJs will accept the structure imposed by the culture--unless it goes against compassion or kindness.

Career/Service Area Choices for an ESFJ: Because of their organizational skills, ESFJs excel in jobs or volunteer positions where they are called on to develop a plan to get things done. They also tend to know the priorities of the organization, company, and people involved and can work to meet them. ESFJs make people feel welcomed so they will enjoy and find success at jobs/ministries dealing with hospitality or working with people facing life issues such as sickness, infirmity, incarceration, advanced age, and new circumstances such as a move or a new baby. ESFJs enjoy working in environments where people are conscientious, sensitive, and appreciative. They are warm and caring servers, able to make the people around them feel valued and welcomed. ESFJs enjoy passing traditions from one generation to the next, so often they are drawn to working with youth ministries or social organizations. Some occupations that often appeal to ESFJs include secretary/assistant, researcher, teacher, homemaker, career/occupational therapist, nurse, trainer, lawyer, or owning their own business.

Free Time for an ESFJ: ESFJs like to play only after work is completed. Often they enjoy activities that include other people. However, they will steal away to recharge and renew after many days of meeting the needs of others. Typically they don't enjoy doing things alone, so once they recharge, they will try to connect the activity to someone else. ESFJs enjoy the value-oriented aspects of living life and frequently get with others to discuss movies, books, community or family needs. ESFJs tend to participate in events, sports, or hobbies that are regularly scheduled. ESFJs enjoy spending their free time helping to keep tradition alive. They may host the family holiday dinners or plan the annual egg hunt, the visit to the Christmas light display, or the Fourth of July horseshoe match. ESFJs participate in community or church volunteer opportunities when they can.

Warnings for the ESFJ: Too much of any good thing can be a bad thing, so here are some things ESFJs need to beware of: One of the favorite phrases in the ESFJs vocabulary is "You should/ought to do...". ESFJs need to learn to let others talk and only give their opinion when asked for it. The constant giving of ESFJs can wear them out. They need to learn to recognize and take care of their own needs before they burn themselves out. This same tendency also affects their ability to get things done. Often ESFJs spend so much time focused on people that they fail to accomplish necessary tasks in their own life. ESFJs need to be careful not to caretaker so much that the other person becomes dependent on them. ESFJs are people-oriented, but sometimes have a tendency to share too much. Learn to keep some things to yourself. And ESFJs need to give themselves permission to question traditions and to let them go when they no longer meet a need of fulfill a purpose.

Spiritual Helps for the ESFJ: For ESFJs, tradition is king, so they often enjoy very traditional spiritual lives. But their desire to keep harmony and meet the needs of those around them can cause problems. ESFJs tend to ignore conflicts and to pour themselves out to the point of exhaustion. ESFJs sometimes have a skewed vision of God as judge and forget His other qualities. This can lead to feelings of shame and guilt. Their people-pleasing nature also opens them up to spiritual manipulation. However, often when they have been the victim of this, they learn to recognize it and won't let it happen again to themselves or others. ESFJs generally enjoy traditional Bible studies with a focus on practical applications. Their people-focus lends itself to ministries of evangelism and outreach. ESFJs typically enjoy retreats, especially those with a strong fellowship component and love ministries that allow them to infuse grace into the lives of others.

What Others Say about the ESFJ: If you are seeing a person emerge from this description, you know that they are warm, caring, and oriented toward people. ESFJs are adept at recalling facts and details. ESFJs are known to be sociable, sympathetic, tactful, and responsive to the needs of others. They can be described as harmonious and cooperative. They are deeply involved in the day-to-day struggles and triumphs of the people in their life. They are at their best in dealing with people in structured and organized ways, getting things done and doing it in a way that keeps the peace keeps tradition alive.
Okay, who do you know that is an ESFJ? Let me hear from you if you are!

Next week, we will change just the last letter and take a look at our friend the ESFP.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Bombs Away: Saturday is National Bomb Pop Day

Maybe you got yours at the ballpark during the seventh inning stretch. Or possibly you chased down the ice cream truck and shouted your order above the high-pitched clamor of music and other children. Or maybe your mom pulled a box from the garage deep freeze on long, sweltering summer nights. However you procured one, I imagine just about everyone of you has had a Bomb Pop. You remember--the cherry, lemon/lime, blue raspberry ice pop creation on a stick vaguely resembling a rocket. Yum. Makes me want one right now.

This time of year I get the opportunity to take all three kids with me to the grocery store most weeks. It is also the time of year that an assortment of items end up in my cart that have not been sanctioned. Popsicles top the list. My kids absolutely love Popsicles and ask for them every time we walk the frozen tundra otherwise known as the Frozen Foods section. You should hear them beg! They give me every sob story and proposition known to motherhood. God used their desire for Popsicles to remind me of an important lesson. We often don't realize what blessings we have until they are no longer there. The flip side is that we don't appreciate something until we've longed for it and had to do without it. You know the saying "Absence makes the heart grow fonder"? Or the one that says, "You don't know what you've got until it's gone"? Popsicles are a perfect example of that.

Think about the hottest summer day you can remember. No breeze in the air, no shade to be found, and no central air. Maybe you have a fan, but it just shifts the hot, humid air across your dripping wet face. Now imagine a Bomb Pop. It cools your throat as the icy goodness melts its way down to cool you from the inside out. Your breath swirls around when you exhale, cooling your face. Ahhh...heaven. You appreciate the Popsicle all the more because of the heat you've experienced. It would not be nearly as welcome if it were a sub-zero winter's day.

Now apply that to most anything in life. Don't you appreciate clean sheets and your comfy bed after spending the night away from home? After hearing someone vent about their uncaring husband, aren't you just a little more thankful for the one you have waiting for you at home? When the baseball game gets rained out and you get an unusual free night with the whole family at home, don't you just relish the unscheduled time to watch a movie and eat a leisurely meal? There are so many other things that could fill in the blank. It is because of the difficulties ( not in spite of them) that we can truly appreciate and be grateful for the blessings that surround us.

What are you thankful for today that you might not appreciate if you didn't have the pain or the frustration or the inconvenience that preceded it? Peace, marriage, children, career, material comforts, friends, home, health--a Bomb Pop?  Why not celebrate today by thanking God for all the good things He's given us. Then buy a box of Bomb Pops and share a few with the kids.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Shut That Door!

Happy Summer Solstice! In celebration of the longest "day" of the year, I sent the kids to bed early. They are so worn out from all we've already packed into summer even before summer arrived. So, we had an "at home" day and are calling it quits early tonight.

With all this warm weather, the air condition is getting quite a workout. The other thing getting a lot of use are the hinges on our doors. The kids go in and out about 5 ga-zillion times a day. The first thing Jewel does every morning when she gets up is to head to the barn and grab a kitten. She hauls the poor thing inside where she keeps it captive, wrapped in a blanket on the living room couch.

All three kids love to eat outside. Occasionally I'll get a glimpse of one of them high-tailing it out the door with an unsanctioned snack. And more often than not, when given the choice of eating at the table or taking it outside, they head for the great outdoors.

With all that running in and out, I find myself yelling, "Shut the door, the air's on!" more times than I can count. You know that saying, "If I had a nickel ..." well, yep, I'd be able to hire a professional doorman to stand there if someone would pay me for every time I had to utter that sentence.

Have you ever heard that Bible school ditty that goes, "Shut the door, keep out the devil. Shut the door, keep the devil in the night. Shut the door, keep out the devil. Shut the door, every thing's all right"? Every time I shout to the kids to shut the door, that song goes through my mind. But there is a strong lesson in that funny little song and God uses every slam of the kitchen door to remind me of it.

The first lesson is to be on our guard against the devil. He is a very real and present danger; and enemy not to be taken lightly. He needs to be shut out of our hearts, our lives, and our minds. He would like nothing more than to destroy our kids while they are young or to sneak in and gain a place of favor in their hearts and ruin their future. We must keep him on the outside, in the night, as the song says.

The other lesson God reminds me of using this song is that we are not powerless in the face of evil. Look at that phrase, "Shut the door". We can stand against the devil and his schemes. We are not sitting ducks--far from it. We have the ability to be proactive and intentional in keeping the devil away from us and our kids. How do you shut the door to the devil? Well, think about it this way: If Hitler showed up on your doorstep one evening during dinner, would you invite him in? Ask him to spend the night and bunk in your kids' room? Would you play his speeches on your iPod or run him propaganda films on your TV screen? I hope not!

I pray it's the same for you in keeping the devil out of your home and out of the reach of your children. Shut the door in his face when he comes ringing your doorbell. Don't allow his songs on your iPod. Turn the channel when shows that glorify him and his evil deeds come on the TV screen. Shutting the door on the devil may mean not allowing certain books, magazines, or video games. It may even come down to monitoring their friends.

I know there are some people who say that by keeping these things from our kids, that I am sheltering them too much; that I'm not preparing them for the real world. I guarantee they will have plenty of opportunities to learn life in the real world, but while they are young, it is my job to protect them. I keep the door shut to the other things I don't want infesting my home--scorching and humid air, bugs, bats, stray animals--and the devil.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Getting Into Character: The INTP (Introvert, 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’m 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, which you will find under the April archives (The ESTP). I’ve highlighted the part you need to read in green, so you can easily catch up.

Last week we looked at the INTJ's, those visionaries who devise a better way. This week we will change the last letter and how a preference for Perceiving rather than Judging can change a personality. Read on to hear about those INTPs and their contribution in helping the rest of us see truth.

Living Life with an INTP: If you live or work with an INTP you know they are on a one-person quest for truth. INTPs observe the world, looking for the flaws and pointing out errors in the things they see and hear, and in their search for truth can drive others crazy with their endless questions of "why" and "why not". Remember that they are not necessarily challenging you or being difficult--they want to know the answers and won't settle for less than the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Much of the INTPs processing goes on inside and may not be apparent to those on the outside looking in. They are reserved, detached, analytical, and skeptical. INTPs are quick thinkers who can readily point out the long-term consequences in a plan or idea, even when others can't see it. All this internal processing allows them to formulate systems, schedules, models, and frameworks concerning the world around them.
Career/Service Area Choices for an INTPINTPs enjoy studying and coming up with solutions for complex problems, reviewing past programs and procedures to make them work efficiently and timely, and creating new programs after researching and developing them. INTPs will enjoy career and service environments that allow the to work alone, guard their privacy, and have the flexibility they need to work things out to their own satisfaction. INTPs enjoy setting goals and designing rewards for meeting them. INTPs will excel at conceptualizing new outreaches, ministries, projects, and programs, but don't expect them to show up voluntarily for meetings--they tend to avoid them if at all possible. Orderly and intellectual, INTPs enjoy working and serving in environments and with people who are like-minded. Some jobs or volunteer positions that appeal to INTPs include: scientists such as chemists and biologists, engineer, artist, consultant, writer, computers--specifically programming and systems analyst, lawyer, photographer, psychologist, researcher, and surveyor.

Free Time for an INTP: INTPs enjoy spending their free time in solitary activities like reading, watching television, thinking, or playing computer games. In fact, INTPs are often very computer savvy, so many of their leisure activities may revolve around a computer. INTPs also enjoy word plays and puns. When INTPs play or engage in free-time activities with others, they may not talk a lot or pay attention to details they don't deem necessary. They enjoy games of risk and strategy like Monopoly, poker, and bridge or sports like golf. They take their risk-taking penchant to new levels in some of their pursuits such as rock climbing where they can combine taking risks with the technical aspects of the sport.Often INTPs have a depth of interest that goes beyond many of the other types.

Warnings for the INTP: Too much of any good thing can be a bad thing, so here are some things INTPs need to beware of: INTPs easily see the flaws in a theory, program, or concept. However, they need to learn how to point these out and challenge co-workers, family, and friends in a positive way. Others often see the INTP as negative, a critic, and a skeptic and frequently the INTP is unaware of how they are truly perceived by other people. INTPs need to keep in mind that not everyone wants or accepts their critiques. Lighten up and learn to keep some of your opinions to yourself. Their strong leaning toward intellectualism can make them look down on people who show their in intelligence in ways other than "book smarts". Happy to remain alone in their thought world, INTPs need to be conscious of spending too much time alone and make an effort to connect to others in their life. Making the effort to "put yourself out there", particularly with friends and family will help stop small problems from becoming bigger.
Spiritual Helps for the INTP: For INTPs who want to deepen their spiritual life, they will enjoy the more intellectual aspects of their faith. Intellectually demanding Bible studies and time for reflection, prayer, and meditation will help the INTP grow and remain engaged in the nurturing of their faith. INTPs enjoy "working out their faith" in service and worship that allows them logical demonstrations and applications for what they believe. INTPs also enjoy and benefit from spiritual mentor relationship that includes accountability.
What Others Say about the INTP: If you know an INTP, likely you use words like logical, private, original, speculative, and precise to describe them. They often exude a low-key, laid-back personality, but if you challenge what they believe as truth, you will see their "hard as nails" side come out. INTPs enjoy mastering the complex and all their intuition, thinking, and perceiving will turn outward as they seek to apply the ideas and insights they've developed. INTPs are truth-seekers of the best kind--they share their findings with the rest of the world!
Okay, who do you know that is an INTP? Let me hear from you if you are!

Next week, let's change it up by switching every letter and take a look at the ESFJ!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Have a Salad and Wash the Windows--It's Vinegar Day!

Did you know that today is Vinegar Day? Maybe it is because spring gardens are full of greens in June and someone thought you should celebrate with a big salad topped with vinegar and oil dressing. Or perhaps revelers raise a toast as they scramble to use up these last few days of spring and it's requisite cleaning by mixing a little vinegar with water and adding it to a squirt bottle as a cheap and environmental-friendly window cleaner. Whatever the reason, June 16 is deemed Vinegar Day.

Have you ever heard the saying "You can catch more flies with honey than vinegar"? It is a cute way of saying if you want more friends (or suitors) you do it best by being sweet rather than acidic. This cute cliche reminded me of a time a few years ago when I asked the kids how to get a boyfriend or girlfriend and then recorded their answers. Jot didn't take part in the conversation, being too little, so I'm guessing Justice was probably about 6 and Jewel about 4.

Jewel lumped all her responses into a generic formula for both sexes:

*Always wear underwear.
*Use manners.
*Get someone like Jesus.
*Make sure they are funny, strong, and nice.
*If he is a boy, make sure he's handsome.

Here is what Justice said you needed to do if a girl wanted to snag a boyfriend:
*If you pick your nose--stop.
*Don't do very many burps.
*Do everything he says.

Here was his answer when I inquired about how to land a girlfriend:
*Use your manners.
*Chew with your mouth closed.
*Don't tell girls they are stupid.
*No sneaking food and no eating veggies right out of the refrigerator.
*No picking at your butt when she's right near.

They knew the concept of the old adage even though they'd never heard it. God taught me a lesson from their observations. God reminded me that even when it seems like it is going in one ear and out the other, my kids are listening to what I say. For the most part, the things they pointed out were really just parroting back the things I say over and over each and every day: "Chew with your mouth closed." "Wash your carrot before you eat it." "Make sure you put underwear on before you leave the house." "Choose to date and marry someone who loves Jesus." Even though they were years away from dating, they were listening and learning to what I said and what I thought was important.

Even though peers and the culture largely affect our children, studies still show that the number one influence on children and teenagers remains their parents. So, my friend, through the apparent selective hearing, the eye rolling, the sighing, the constant repeating--keep talking. Keep telling your kids what you value. Keep setting boundaries for them. Keep a standard of behavior that you expect from them. And remember to flavor it with a little honey every chance you get. Vinegar is good for salads, but as the proverb writer once said, "Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones."

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

ABC Gum and Other Sweet Lessons

Considering Justice's love affair with sports, we've spent a lot of time in gyms, bleachers, and open fields. Jot knows them all like the back of his hand. Spending hour after hour waiting for your brother to finish his last free throw, running play, or hat trick sends a little guy scouting for stuff to do. That's how Jot discovered that under every bleacher rests the discarded pink, green, or white glob of some one's gum. (Why people find it necessary to dispose of their gum in this way, I have no idea, but that is for another post.)

The joke in the parent/sibling cheering section we spend a lot of time with is that Jot has cleared nearly every bleacher of gum in a three county radius by the time he turned four. He saw nothing disgusting or wrong about finding ABC gum--you know, Already Been Chewed--and claiming it as his own. Actually he was not partial to bleachers. One night he found a barely-chewed piece in the trash can at church. When I realized what he'd done, I told him in no uncertain terms to get rid of the nasty piece of garbage N-O-W, Mister. Imagine my surprise ten minutes later when I observed from my seat across the dining room of the local McDonald's, his little 4-year old jaws chomping away on that pilfered piece of refuse . Since no one else sat in the area, I said to him from my chair, "I told you to throw that gum away."

"I did throw it away. Then I got it back out."

At this I got up from my chair to enforce the edict when I watched him wage a mental tug-of-war between obeying his momma or making a run for it. The devil on the left shoulder won, apparently, because as I came around the yellow plastic swivel chair, he made a break for the front of the restaurant. Unfortunately, the floors were slick with a combination of the grease that permeates everything in a restaurant and the snow that had melted from our shoes. Down he went, sprawled eagle on his belly, just as two elderly ladies rounded the corner. The force of the blow to his tummy shot the gum from his mouth, launching it to land just inches from the feet of the women who had stopped at the sight of the pint-sized man on the run. Jot army-crawled the remaining two feet that separated him from the escaped gum and scooped in unceremoniously back into his mouth.

"Oh, honey, yucky. Don't eat that now--it's dirty," said one woman.  Oh, Granny, you have no idea.

So, when Jot turns his nose up at my tuna casserole or balks at choosing something green (besides the Jello) on the Chinese buffet, or complains that there is (one of our very own) dog's hair on his plate, I remind him of this story. If he can enjoy a piece of gum snatched from, not one but two trash cans, and a filthy fast food floor, he should be able to talk himself into eating anything.

June is National Candy Month and that got me thinking about some things in relation to Jot's fondness for all things sweet. Jot, just like his momma, is pretty good at justifying events or circumstances to fit his own wants, desires, and agendas. He calls a yucky piece of trash a treasure, but refuses to eat the good food I put in front of him. In Acts 10: 15, God tells Peter, "Do not call anything impure that God has made clean." If God says something is clean--it is. And if God says something is impure--it is. It isn't up to me to judge or even weigh in on the matter. God's the one who gets to decide.

But how many times do I look at a person and judge them to be clean or impure based solely on what I can see on the outside. Surely that cute gal in the full cotton skirt and flats is clean and the guy in the checkout in front of me with the leather and tattoos is impure, right? Or that older lady sitting in the sanctuary twenty minutes before service starts, she's clean, certainly. But that guy hanging around talking to the rough-looking lady at the gas station? Probably nothing but trouble. How often I look at the situation and size up in my own mind whether someone is clean or impure by my perception of a person or of events.

Or maybe it is something I want or something I want to do. I know in my heart that God says it is impure, but do I still, like Jot, buckle to the temptation and call it "clean"? Or how about the flip-side of that--when God asks me to do something, making it "clean" by default, and I run the other way, screaming "Unclean! Unclean!" (Remember Jonah's problem with God's calling him to those nasty Ninevites?)

In life and in all things that matter, God is the One who gets to perform the white glove test. He is the only Judge worth ruling whether something is clean or impure. What looks to us like gum from a trash can might be the sweetest reward if given the chance. And what we think is the tastiest candy this side of Willie Wonka's factory might just end up being ABC gum on the bottom of a wooden bleacher.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Getting Into Character: The INTJ (Introvert, iNtuitive, 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’m 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, which you will find under the April archives (The ESTP). I’ve highlighted the part you need to read in green, so you can easily catch up.

Last week we looked at the INFP's deep thoughts and strong feelings. This week we will change the last two letters and see what difference that makes between the INFPs and their INTJ friends.

Living Life with an INTJ: INTJs tend to be independent, solitary, insightful, planners and thinkers. In fact, some say the INTJ are the most independent of all sixteen types. Don't let their quiet and sometimes reserved manner fool you into thinking they are shallow. While they sit quietly on the outside, their quick minds are spinning, thinking up strategies and visions for making things better. INTJs want to make the world a better place by coming up with systems that challenge the way things are done, the way people think, and the status quo in general. Boundaries, and rules are important to INTJs, but they will establish them in their own way and with their own style. Visionaries, INTJs formulate possibilities for the future that often meet long-term goals, but don't always do so in traditional means. INTJs come up with novel ideas, new angles, and creative systems for getting things done in what they deem a better way. INTJs are their own person--they value individualism and they are confident in who they are as a person.

Career/Service Area Choices for an INTJ: Intellectual pursuit is important to the INTJ, so they will enjoy working in environments where people value knowledge and make informed decisions and develop strategies for the future. They will also enjoy serving in ministry or volunteer positions that allow them to plan long-range or develop new approaches. They are private people, tending to keep to themselves, so INTJs like to work alone in environments where they can think deeply and work on the big picture. The will likely balk at working with a team unless the team is coming up with a new and novel approach to a problem, situation, or long-held tradition. Outcomes are important to the INTJ, so they will need to keep that in mind when choosing careers or service opportunities. INTJ enjoy projects that involve extensive research and they may enjoy serving by developing spiritual education materials or curriculum for service organizations. Some careers that appeal to INTJs include: project managers, general managers, armed forces, clergy, counselor/spiritual coaching, designer, consultant, human resources, professor/lecturer/teacher/coach, computer systems analyst, judge/lawyer, photographer, researcher.

Free Time for an INTJ: Often INTJs choose their leisure activities by their long-term goals for themselves and what they think they should be doing. INTJs are often disciplined and organized in their pursuit of hobbies and free time activities. INTJs don't typical choose sports or hobbies that are fads. Rather, they often choose something and then stick with it for years. Frequently combining work with play, INTJs will often seek out pursuits that allow them both enjoy free time and further their long-range goals and aspirations.

Warnings for the INTJ: Too much of any good thing can be a bad thing, so here are some things INFPs need to beware of: INTJs like to keep their ideas to themselves, but they will gain the commitment and confidence of others when they open up. They are often seen by co-workers and family members as too harsh or cold. They need to consider how they are viewed by others and foster good relationships. Being quick thinkers causes INTJs to discount other's ideas if they reach them too slowly. Learn to be patient with people and really listen to their ideas. Let others help you instead of plugging away all on your own. Open up and share your thoughts, feelings, and personality with others. People will enjoy your fast thinking and innovative approach but you've got to show it to them. Remember that not all the other types see the future as you do, but that doesn't mean they are wrong. Learn to listen to people who may see things differently and admit when your view of the future is in accurate or out-dated. Share your vision, but cut them some slack if it doesn't excite them and be willing to take a fresh look rather than insist on your way. INTJs tend to view themselves as not being competent. Do your best and let go of what you can't change.

Spiritual Helps for the INTJ: As we've noted, the INTJ is very private and enjoys spending time alone. Therefore, they may benefit from periods of solitude for retreat. They typically enjoy time away in the outdoors or in sanctified settings. For this same reason, INTJs often grow spiritually through prayer, meditation, study, and reflection. Most INTJs will enjoy philosophical pursuits and seeking out their individual purpose in life. You will see the INTJ interact with other believers when they are given the opportunity to dialogue and debate their convictions and possibilities for the future.

What Others Say about the INTJ: Since the INTJ often keeps to themselves, others are often surprised by their deep thoughts and novel ideas when they are shared. They are quick thinkers and delight others when they choose to fore go their typical introversion and share their observations aloud. Logical, original, long-reaching visions, global thinking, demanding, critical, and determined are all words used by others to describe the INTJ.

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

Next week, let's change it up by switching the last letter. INTP's--you're up!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

All Pain, No Gain

I panted for breath, but I couldn't seem to pull enough air into my lungs. I pulled my fists into my chest, inhaling, then they rocketed forth on my exhale. I lost momentum and my opponent beat me around my face, my chest, my gut. No matter how hard I worked, I only landed an occasional punch. Hesitating a fraction of a second too long, my breath coming hard, she landed a full-on right swing to my mouth and I fell backward, eyes rolling back, and the referee counted off 1-2-3. A knockout. I guess I just wasn't cut out for Wii boxing.

I don't know if you've ever Wii boxed, but I did and I woke up with the sore muscles to prove it. How in the world could my body feel like it did when I hadn't even boxed a real match? How could pummeling something with no resistance but the air make me feel every sinew in my entire upper body? I had all the pain, but with no gain. I got knocked out. The only people who witnessed the match were a bunch of wobbly-headed Mii characters who didn't even have two hands to clap together. My boxing match, hard as it was, was pointless--a total beating of the air.

The lesson God reminded me in the aftermath of my Wii boxing experience was to work with all my might for lasting things--not just a pointless beating the air. In 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, Paul says, "Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified."

What is it today that has you beaten down? What are battling that has you knocked so low that you merely thrash at it with feeble arms? Maybe it is a relationship. Maybe it is a job. Maybe your role as mother, father, daughter, son, husband, or wife? Maybe it is a goal you've been working toward for far too long. Maybe a habit you want to start or one you wish to break. I don't know what your "race" is today, but I encourage you to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, take a deep breath, and run in such a way that you may win--not simply finish, dragging yourself across the finish line after they've rolled up the tape, but to win.

The scripture also tells us the trick to finishing strong--discipline. Fight the real fight. Run the real race. Box the real match.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Dodge Ball Litmus Test

Each spring at the kids' school the parent-teacher organization hosts a Family Fun Night. The highlight is the Dodge ball Tournament. Now, if you are like me, you still have nightmares of Junior High Physical Education class and violent games of dodge ball. The two P.E. teachers, one male and one female, would divide us into two teams, blow the whistle and then proceed to scale to the top of the bleachers where they would immerse themselves in conversation with the high school cadet teachers and leave the struggle of natural selection to play out on the hardwood floor below. I know anyone who ever wore glasses in middle school can still feel the pain of a rubber ball smashing your frames into the bony projections across the bridge of your nose. Ouch!

Well, this spring we settled into the bleachers in the gym along with a couple hundred other people to cheer on our favorite grade in the annual dodge ball contest. The rules were simple, if you were hit--you were out. If someone caught your ball in the air--you were out. You were to make your way to the sidelines and when the referee called "time" the team with the most players still standing won.

The children lined up, the whistle blew, and colorful balls filled the air, whizzing back and forth. We hooped, we hollered, and we clapped for every well-placed hit or expertly-timed catch. Several adults and high school students watched from carefully chosen vantage points, but they didn't catch every play. In amazement I watched as children who were clearly hit glanced around to make sure no one motioned for them to exit the floor and then just kept right on playing. If you've ever been hit by a dodge ball you know it is a "for sure"--you don't wonder if maybe it missed you. They knew they had been hit and yet they continued to stay in the game. The judges didn't see, but what these kids seemed oblivious too was the fact that about 200 other people did see.Their integrity played out in front of a live audience.

I must tell you that, even though my own kids were disappointed, each one left the game, abiding by the rules. I was proud of their ability to stick to the rules and Justice's team even came out on top as the SW Dodge ball Champs for the second year in a row.

The lesson wasn't lost on me. Every day we are in a contest. We dodge the rubber dodge balls of the Enemy of our souls. While the projectiles might differ, the contest is the same for both us and our children. The amazing thing is that there is a heavenly audience watching our fight take place too. A host of angels and demons observe whether we stick to the rules, whether we show integrity, whether we get out there and fight or just hover in the back trying not to get hit.

And in real life, the roles are reversed. While we fight the contest, our kids sit in the bleachers of life and watch. Even when we forget they are watching, they're there, observing, learning, and filing it all away.

So the next time you think something isn't a big deal...The next time you think nobody's watching... The next time you think it just isn't worth the effort to set it right...remember the people in the bleachers--watching.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Getting Into Character: The INFP (Introvert, 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’m 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, which you will find under the April archives (The ESTP). I’ve highlighted the part you need to read in green, so you can easily catch up.

Last week we looked at the ESTJ's take-charge attitude. This week we will change every letter and see if INFPs are really that different from their ESTJ friends.
Living Life with an INFP: Take a look in the title at the descriptors used for this personality: introvert, intuitive, feeler, perceiver. It should come as no surprise to anyone that INFPs are people who experience strong feelings, deep thoughts, and are extremely self-aware. INFPs in your life may often seem lost in thought. Their personality is deep waters. They are understanding, compassionate, caring people who focus on the personal. They hold deep convictions and very developed values.They seek to help others understand their values and ideals as well. INFPs are open to spirituality and are not put off by the mysteries of religion.INFPs are visionaries who see the future as full of possibilities and wonder.

Career/Service Area Choices for an INFP: In their careers and service choices, INFPs will be most happy in environments that are close to home, support a positive vision for the future, and are free of red tape, bureaucracy and competition. INFPs don't dwell on the details, but prefer to work and serve in areas where they can make the world a better place through fun and meaningful activities. They will find success in environments where they are allowed to be private and keep to themselves, where there is a spirit of harmony, and that have a personal focus. As workers or volunteers, INFPs are known to be calm, quiet, cooperative, flexible, and often artistic. Some occupations that frequently appeal to INFPs include: counselor, editor, consultant, teacher/trainer (especially English, fine arts), social scientist, writer/journalist, social worker, nurse, artist/actor, psychologist, designer, assistant, account/banker/economist, or clergy.

Free Time for an INFP: The leisure pursuits for an INFP may be difficult to distinguish from their work. They have a tendency to spend a lot of time researching their activities and spend a long time slowly building them, often returning to past hobbies rather than exchanging them for new ones. Their free time is often spent alone in things such as reading, gardening, and music. However, INFPs can be charming and outgoing when they want to be and their flexibility, humor, and gentleness make them popular to be around.

Warnings for the INFP: Too much of any good thing can be a bad thing, so here are some things INFPs need to beware of: focusing so much on the possibilities of the future that they fail to take into account other people's point of view or they get stuck in an idealized view of reality. INFPs shy away from criticizing others and sometimes tell people what they want to hear rather than what they need to hear. Their valuable insights go to waste when INFPs fail to share them with their friends, family, and co-workers. Leaning toward perfection may make INFPs procrastinate. They need to let go of the idea of getting it right and opt for getting it done. The tendency for INFPs to be so self-aware can cause them to be overly critical with the people around them. This criticism turns ugly especially when they feel their values are not being taken into account and can come out as illogical fault-finding in everyone around them.

Spiritual Helps for the INFP: INFPs will likely enjoy spiritual pursuits that allow them to process alone through prayer, meditation, reflection, and journaling. Often their worship will be embodied in an artistic fashion--music, writing, works of art. INFPs often enjoy spending time in worship, study, or praise with only one other trusted person or a small group. INFPs may be "giants of the faith" and are admired for their consistency in living out their values. They may work out their faith in helping others meet their spiritual or practical needs.

What Others Say about the INFP: INFPs are wonderful friends. They are harmonious, inquisitive, creative, have genuine concern for people, enjoy bringing people together, and are committed, devoted friends. Known as empathetic and loyal, they help the rest of us focus on what is important and lasting.

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

Next week, let's change it up by switching the last two letters. INTJ's--you're up!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Rescue Me

"Remember when I drownded?" asks Jot anytime we are near a pond. His grammar is a little off and obviously, he didn't really drown--but he easily could have.

A few years ago, my extended family gathered at my uncle's house on a hot, July afternoon. We laughed, we ate, we talked, we ate, the kids swam and the adults, well, yes, we ate. A large sandy beach covered one end of the pond and Jot and Jewel played there all afternoon, building castles and wading out just far enough to scoop a bucket of water or to wash off the sand. Justice splashed and dove in the water with some of the older boys. My husband and I took turns sitting near the sand with the other adults who watched the fun.

The long afternoon wore on and soon it came time to go. I gathered up the dishes while my husband packed the folding chairs and blankets. A few people left and the last of the adults finished swimming and changed into dry clothes.

"Get him! Get him! He's going under!" My aunt's scream pierced the air and for a moment silence reigned. Then action and chaos everywhere. We all looked toward the pond and several people shed shoes and shirts on their way toward the water. In the middle of the dark water a small head bobbed up and then disappeared again. Jot!

The first to the water, my cousin's husband, made it to Jot just ahead of my husband. Matt passed Jot off to his daddy and climbed from the water--fully clothed. You see, Matt had just changed back into his clothes after spending the day in the pond with his children. While Jot sputtered and cried, Matt pulled his sopping billfold from his back pocket and spread the contents on the rocks to dry. The most surprising thing about Jot's rescuer is that he doesn't swim. We had discussed it earlier in the day that he never really learned to swim and didn't really like water. But, forgetting all that, he reached Jot and was able to shove Jot into the waiting arms of his daddy who stood at the edge of the sandy drop-off.

Later, the story came out: Jot, Justice, and a few other kids floated on a raft in the shallow end. But the breeze apparently blew the raft past the drop-off into deeper water. Someone bumped Jot off into water that was over his head. He told me, "I tried to keep my head out of the water, but I just couldn't do it."

Today, when my kids retell this story, they always end with "The guy who jumped in the water didn't even know how to swim!" We are all intrigued by people who act in heroic ways. We stand amazed when non-professionals go into a burning building, dive into dark waters, or risk personal safety to help another person.

But the truth God reminded me from that scary experience is that everyone of us can be a non-professional rescuer. Now, I hear you--Who, me? Yes, I'm talking to you. We each come with pre-programmed abilities and talents. Things we are good at that not everyone else can do well.

What do you have in your ability arsenal that could rescue someone today? Can you cook or bake or even call for pizza from memory? Then think about who's life you could bless today with a meal. Maybe a new mom, a family struggling with unemployment, or your neighbor whose husband takes chemotherapy this week?

Maybe you have a knack for organizing or decorating. Who is drowning around you that could benefit from a few hours of your help? The single mom down the street who is trying to decorate her new apartment on a budget after her husband left her with three small children? The young newlywed couple in your Sunday school class who just bought their first house and their parents live out-of-state?  Your friend who just started a small business and is struggling with all the tasks that need to be done each day?

Maybe you excel in managing your finances. Take a look around. Many people don't have the time or money to see a personal advisor, but just a few helpful tips from you could get them on a budget or started on investing or tackling a debt.

The possibilities are endless and they don't have to be connected with your "day job". But ask yourself what you have to offer and look around and see who needs a helping hand. You don't have to be a professional at it, but just dive in today and see who you can rescue.

I guarantee that not only will they be so thankful and encouraged by your help, but they will be even more pleased because you are willing to take a chance and wade into unknown waters to reach someone in need.