Friday, July 30, 2010

Getting Into Character: The ENFJ (Extravert, iNtuitive, Feeler, Judger)

Today we finish our detailed look at all sixteen Myers-Briggs labels. 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. You can look in each month, starting in February, and read all the posts titled Getting Into Character to get a view of the entire study.

Last week we looked at the INFJs, our friends and family members who help us focus on the future. Today we will change just one letter and see what a difference it makes when we go from the Introverted INFJ to the people-charged ENFJ, those awesome people who see our future potential and help us live up to it.

Living Life with an ENFJ: ENFJs are cheerleaders for living up to your own potential. They are leaders, organizers, supporters, and encouragers. They see what could be and they believe people can live up to their ideals and aspirations. They are insightful and often take others' feelings into consideration when making decisions. They are people of integrity and watch to see that the people around them live that way too. They believe the best about people and use warmth and encouragement to both support and prod people in their life. ENFJs are creative, coming up with new and innovative ideas.

Career/Service Area Choices for an ENFJ: ENFJs are people-oriented and up-front people and this is reflected in their choices of careers and service opportunities. ENFJs enjoy organizing fellowship and creating atmospheres that make people feel welcome. They promote change and meet large scale needs of people in their life and produce changes for the better. Some careers or volunteer positions that often appeal to ENFJs include: actor, counselor/therapist, clergy, trainer/teacher, designer, marketing, accountant, auditor, writer, attorney, assistant, and economist.
Free Time for an ENFJ: Before an ENFJ will spend time on personal hobbies or free time, all responsibilities to others will be complete. They also put relationships ahead of their own desires. ENFJs are avid readers and movie-goers and they enjoy watching how characters live and deal with real-to-life difficulties. Because they also enjoy talking about what they've read, they frequently participate in book clubs or reading groups. They are people-watchers, so you may find them doing that with characters or flesh-and-blood people. ENFJs enjoy helping people, so their free time might include aspects of that.  They don't like conflict and so they generally will stay away from highly competitive sports and activities or ones where people could get hurt.

Warnings for the ENFJ: Too much of any good thing can be a bad thing, so here are some things ENFJs need to beware. ENFJs can easily get their feelings hurt. They need to learn to not take things so personally and to listen to what people are really saying. Since they are people-focused, it is easy for ENFJs to forget the mundane tasks of day-to-day living and focus too much on relationships. They need to remember what needs done at home, at work, or in other areas of their life. ENFJs can come across as bossy to others. Be careful that you don't run people over and allow others to have less-than-perfect outcomes. Life is not about always being perfect, so give people a break.
Spiritual Helps for the ENFJ: Since ENFJs spend so much time and energy directed toward others, they may wish to focus inward for their worship and study times. They can combine this with corporate worship and study, but they need time alone so they can really focus on themselves without the temptation to turn their energy toward others. Their ability to clearly see into the future can aid people and organizations in prophetic-type ways. ENFJs enjoy being "out front", so they will need to balance this with time in quiet, personal study and reflection. ENFJs are organized and scheduled, so this will likely come out in their spiritual life. ENFJs may need to focus less on those around them for a time and go deeper into their own spiritual formation.

What Others Say About the ENFJ: Are you beginning to see yourself of someone you love on this page? If so, you know that they (or you) are people who are verbal, diplomatic, loyal and idealistic. ENFJs are enthusiastic and energetic and expressive. They also support those around them and are loyal to the people in their life.
Okay, who do you know that is an ENFJ? If you are an ENFJ, let me hear from you. I would love to know who out there can help lead me to the future!

That's it, folks! We've studied all eight pairings and now all sixteen options for the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. You may want to go back now and fill in any blanks. I'm going to take the month of August off from Getting Into Character and I'm planning to take a look at learning styles in September. Until then, we'll continue with lessons two days each week. This has been a great time studying this aspect of personality with you.

Check back in on Monday when we talk camping. See you then!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Happy Birthday, Jewel!

Friday my only little girl enters the world of double-digits. Happy 10th birthday, Jewel! Ten years ago today, my belly already wracked with contractions, I waited to see if my daughter would enter the world completely healthy, or die in my arms soon after her birth. I've told you the story of my pregnancy and her birth before, but if you missed it, you can read it in the post titled Special Delivery.

She's changed so much since the first time I got a look at her tiny round face, button nose, and auburn hair. Her face is still round, her nose still pug, but her auburn locks were replaced with honey-colored hair that is stick straight all except at the nape of her neck where it curls. She's developed into a word-girl, full of stories and songs, jokes and facts, words and more words, enough to make your head spin. You can read more about Jewel by clicking on the page "Meet the Cast of Characters" or by clicking here.

She loves Jesus and trusts God to protect her and rescue her since, as she says, "He's already saved my life once." Not only has God spared her from the chromosomal disorder that could have taken her life before it barely got started, but he healed her from small cysts on her eyes while she was still a pre-schooler. God has been good to her and to us and surely has a plan that he's already working out in her life.

A fanatic about the Titanic, she can spout facts you never even thought to ask and is a veritable well of information. If she hears it, she remembers it, so the year she watched a Disney promo-DVD, all we had to do when we had a question was to ask Jewel and she'd regurgitate the answer verbatim. Not bad when you're debating the good points of Epcot versus Animal Kingdom! If we can get her to memorize a map, it'll be like having our own personal GPS/tour guide along on every trip.

She isn't afraid to stand out or stand up for what she believes. My friend Zella hits the nail on the head when she shakes her head, smiles, and says, "Jewel is her own person!" She frequently asks her dad for Gideon Student Bibles to give to children at school that she's told about Jesus and led  in a prayer for salvation.

Imaginative and creative, vibrant and talkative, gregarious yet solitary, Jewel, just as her name implies, is comprised of many facets. She is a rare find; one to be held dear, yet shared with the world. A colorful bit of fire that reflects all that's good about her Creator.

I recently reviewed a children's book by Diana Symons. You can read my thoughts on the book (and a little of Jewel's) below, but one sentence stands out, spoken by the wise King to his daughter. "If such a jewel is to be had, it will be worth the journey." The past ten years have been quite a journey with our Jewel. I can honestly say, it's been worth it. Happy Birthday, Jewel!

Review of "Where the Jewels Are" by Diana Symons

WHERE THE JEWELS ARE--Book 1 Tales from the Throne
by Diana Symons
Gold Pen Press, ISBN 978-1-934995-02-0, Paperback, 45 pages, $5.99.

There once was a Princess who had it all--looks, material possessions, and a wise and kind father, the King. The Princess wanted more, specifically a jewel that would shine as bright as a star in the night sky. Her father, being both wise and good, sends her on journey that will test her body and melt her heart. The lessons she learns along the way change her attitudes about what she holds dear and her beliefs about everything she thought she knew.

A small book with big lessons for young ladies, aged 8-12.

Jewel says, "A good story about friends who set out to find a jewel and it ends up being each other."

You can visit Diana Symons at her website,

Monday, July 26, 2010

Make a Wish

How appropriate that today is Candles on a Cake Day! Tomorrow we finish up our crazy, birthday month with party number four out of four. Jot and Jewel's birthdays are just ten days apart. Justice's birthday is New Year's Day and I can honestly say none of my kids have ever felt slighted by the birthday bashes I throw. While it would be easier for me to combine Justice's with Christmas or to have the family come once to celebrate for both Jot and Jewel, I don't do it. I want them each to have one day a year devoted totally to them.

So, in the past week and a half, we've hosted the family for both kids, Jot's friends for him, and tomorrow Jewel has six 10-year old girls coming for swimming and overnighter. Needless to say, my frig is packed with a kaleidoscope of colorful remnants of birthday cake. This is definitely the time of year for candles on a cake, at least at our house.

My kids have made many requests for presents through the years, but some stand out. This year, Jot's favorite gift was the 2-pack of ShamWows I purchased for him in the "As Seen on TV" section of the store. Once he asked for a live chicken. One year, Justice, in a strep-throat induced stupor requested a Native American hidden picture 1000 piece puzzle that's never been out of the box. Jewel asked for (and got) a drum set--as a three year old. And this year, she is immersed in the tragedy and mysteries surrounding the Titanic sinking, so along with her sock monkey flip flops, requested a Titanic game for the Wii.

As they grow older and the number of candles increase on the cake, we begin to look more toward the future. Along with What do you want for dinner? and What do you want for your birthday? we guide them toward thinking about what they want to be when they grow up. My kids, at one time or another, have expressed interest in being an NFL player, a tax man, a marine biologist, a popcorn farmer, a race car driver, a teacher, an architect, and a vet. The best one yet was a few years ago when I asked Jot what he wanted to be when he grew up. "A teenager", he answered.

God reminds me often of a more important question regarding my kids. Life sometimes interferes with our plans and dreams for the future. But there is one aspect we can always control--"Who do you want to be when you grow up?" I ask them to think of the type of person they want to be. I ask them to imagine what they would like others to say and think about them. Do you want to be a champion of the misfortunate? Do you want to be known as wise? Do you want people to see you as kind? or strong? or giving?

The follow-up question is "How are you going to accomplish that?" The nice thing about deciding who you will be rather that what you will be, is that you don't have to wait to grow up to be kind or strong or wise. You can do that right now, today.

I'm a writer, a teacher, a mom, a wife, a friend. But it is who I am, rather than what I am that people will remember long after I'm gone. Who do you want to be today?

Friday, July 23, 2010

Getting Into Character: The INFJ (Introverted, iNtuitive, Feeler, Judger)

Today we continue our look at the sixteen specific types, finishing up next week.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 ISFJs, those people who serve those around them with joy and are good through and through. Today we will change just one letter and see what a difference the Sensor/iNtuitive choice makes in personality. Everyone needs an INFJ or two in their life, since this personality helps us see the future.

Living Life with an INFJ: If you could use one word to describe the INFJ, it would be "visionary". They look toward the future and help others to do the same. They are planners and developers, always looking ahead. INFJs are insightful. When making decisions, INFJs take into consideration how their choices will affect the lives and feelings of others and choose accordingly. INFJs also have a keen sense of the feelings and motivations of other people. They are creative and imaginative and use these gifts to accomplish tasks and to make the journey enjoyable for themselves and the people around them. And if you want something done, ask an INFJ. They are consistent, organized workers who follow through and keep their word.
Career/Service Area Choices for an INFJ:  INFJs are often "word" people. They use spoken or written words to introduce new ideas and to stimulate change in their environments. In work and service, INFJs prefer places where they are allowed to be creative and original and where people are cooperative, organized, and focused on the same things the INFJs is. They enjoy ministries or careers that allow them to focus on the big-picture future and develop plans to get there. INFJs generally enjoy teaching or leading, but prefer smaller groups of people. Some careers that appeal to INFJs include: designer, counselor/psychiatrist/psychologist, human resources, marketing, teacher/trainer, homemaker, writer/editor, attorney, clergy, librarian, social worker, and scientist.
Free Time for an INFJ: Leisure activities for the INFJ may be solitary or involve people who mean a lot to them. They don't join group sports or hobbies to be around people. Often INFJs enjoy hobbies they can complete parallel to a special friend, such as carpentry, scrap booking, or sewing. INFJs usually make and keep friends for a long time rather than frequently make new ones. INFJs may meet regularly to share and catch up with their friends. Yet, they are also comfortable in friendships where they go long periods of time without seeing the other person, but can pick up their friendship right where they left off when they are together.
Warnings for the INFJ: Too much of any good thing can be a bad thing, so here are some things INFJs need to beware. INFJs may keep their thoughts to themselves more than they should, especially in the interest of keeping the peace. Let others know your thoughts. Often humble to a fault, INFJs need to let others know their gifts and strengths. You've been blessed with things you can do well, but if others don't know that, things might go undone that you could easily accomplish. Listen to the suggestions and thoughts of others. Other people have good ideas too. Learn to let go of unimportant or irrelevant details. INFJs can become so obsessed with one facet that they get totally off track. Prioritize.
Spiritual Helps for the INFJ: Spiritual growth for the INFJ often takes place or at least starts with solitude. INFJ enjoy time to write or journal their thoughts, feelings, prayers, or poetry. INFJs may use artistic avenues to express their spiritual sides. They might paint, sculpt, sing, play and instrument, compose stories, poems, plays, or teaching material. INFJs often enjoy digging deep into a topic of interest to them. They may read and research for long periods of time if some aspect or topic in their spiritual life intrigues them. INFJs may also help and encourage others, especially in finding unique solutions to spiritual problems.
What Others Say About the INFJ: Are you beginning to see yourself of someone you love on this page? If so, you know that they (or you) are people of integrity, quietly influential, compassionate, and harmonious. They are idea people; conceptual, idealistic, and holistic. Intense and determined, they are committed, deep people who continually keep an eye on the future and point others there too.

Okay, who do you know that is an INFJ? If you are an INFJ, let me hear from you. I would love to know who out there can help me see the future!

Well, we've come down the very last label. Drum roll, please...let's hear it for the ENFJ! Next week is your turn and you certainly are last, but not least. See you then.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

National Junk Food Day

Jolly Ranchers, Twizzlers, Jaw Breakers. Beef Jerky, Cheetos, Slim Jims. Oreos, Pop-Tarts, Nutty Bars.

If my kids planned the menu, that's what we'd eat--junk. For the children in my house, there are only five major food groups. They include pizza, salty snacks, sweet snacks, pop, and candy.

As I type this, there are seven soon-to-be-8-year olds camped out on my living room floor for Jot's birthday celebration. So far tonight, they've gobbled up corn dogs, chips, putrid green-colored punch, cake, and ice cream. I also served green beans, but half the boys refused with a polite "No, thank you." I tried a little positive reinforcement saying, "Nobody has to have green beans, but I imagine your moms would be so happy if you ate a few." Several took them, but only a couple finished the meager piles of bean upon their plate.

Why is it that junk food is so appealing? It makes us feel sluggish, fills our bellies so there is no room for the good stuff, causes cavities and mouth sores, adds unwanted weight, among other not-so-good things. Today is National Junk Food Day. I'm all for treating yourself to a snack or some candy in moderation. (I think a day is at it's best if popcorn is involved.) But, if all we ever put into our belly consisted of sugary sweets and salty snacks, we would end up fat, lazy, totally unhealthy people unable to live our lives or fulfill our purposes.

The Bible speaks of junk food, and not too flatteringly. Isaiah asked the people a profound question: Why do you waste your money on Twinkies and Twizzlers when you could have filet Mignon and chicken cordon bleu--and have it for free! (Well, that's not exactly what he said. But if you read it in The Message, you get his drift. )

"Hey there! All who are thirsty,

come to the water!
Are you penniless?
Come anyway—buy and eat!
Come, buy your drinks, buy wine and milk.
Buy without money—everything's free!
Why do you spend your money on junk food,
your hard-earned cash on cotton candy?
Listen to me, listen well: Eat only the best,
fill yourself with only the finest.
Pay attention, come close now,
listen carefully to my life-giving, life-nourishing words." Isaiah 55:1-3

That's a question I'd like to ask my kids and a lesson God has used my kids to teach me about my own desires and habits. Why settle for sugar and air when I can have something so much better?

It could be in a variety of areas. Why do I toil and wear myself out cleaning up after my family rather than enjoying the few precious years I have them in my home? Why spend so much money on my appearance or my stuff, yet hold tight-fisted to my money when I hear of someone else with a need? Why do I waste time watching pointless TV programs or whittling away time on the computer rather than developing my interests, reading God's word, praying for someone in need, or countless other things that would serve an eternal purpose? You fill in the blank for yourself: Why do I spend __________ on __________ when I could fill myself with __________?

God offers us the choicest of fare and He's already paid the price. He's offered us nourishment for our bodies, souls, and spirits. Who are we to settle for less?

Monday, July 19, 2010

Happy Birthday, Jot

Tomorrow my littlest character turns 8. A lot has changed over those years. He's grown more than three feet and gained sixty pounds. His reddish peach-fuzz hair has turned blond and grown longer, revealing several interesting (and maddening) cowlicks. He still has blue eyes, but they have brightened to a startling rich shade.

Some things remain the same. He laughs easily and often. He still wakens at the crack of dawn, ready to tackle the day. He still falls asleep as soon as his head hits the pillow. He continues to happily tag along to all his brother's activities and to join in his sister's crazy schemes. You can read more about him on the page titled, "Meet the Cast of Characters" or by clicking here.

God uses Jot to teach me lessons everyday. He reminds me to believe in the impossible. He teaches me to wonder at nature and all the creepy-crawly, slithering, hopping, "awesome" stuff it holds. He reminds me that every new experience holds mysteries to be revealed. He teaches me to look for the person who has no one else and be their friend. He reminds me that it is a good thing to laugh so hard that you cannot breathe.

Jot's addition to our home was eagerly anticipated and it's just gotten better from there. We will celebrate tonight by having seven of his friends come for a sleepover and then a trip to the swimming pool tomorrow. Will it be loud? Yes. Will it be messy? Yep. Will it be filled with "bathroom humor"? Surely. Will I get much sleep? Doubtfully. Will it be worth it? Most definitely.

Happy Birthday, Jot! May God continue to use you in mighty ways, develop your heart for the underdog, and infuse the world with silliness and laughter.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Getting Into Character: The ISFJ (Introvert, Sensor, Feeler, Judger)

Today we continue our look at the sixteen specific types. We'll finish up this month.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 ESFPs, those people we love to be around because they are fun and friendly. Let's change the first and last letters this week and take a look at the ISFJ. Hopefully you have at least one of these special people in your life. They serve those around them with joy and are good through and through.

Living Life with an ISFJ: ISFJs are just all around good guys and gals. They keep things running smoothly, are dependable and responsible. They keep their word and do what they say they'll do. They prefer to avoid being the center of attention, but serve faithfully and joyfully behind the scenes. Empathetic, they often take into account the feelings of others when making decisions. They are loyal friends, often keeping relationships for a lifetime. However, they usually only have a few close friends. They reliable handlers of facts. ISFJs are sacrificers (I know that's not a word) for the people they care about and for people they see in need.
Career/Service Area Choices for an ISFJ: ISFJs are good workers because they do what is expected of them and often go beyond expectations. They are organized and responsible and enjoy work or service environments that reflect these values as well. ISFJs will prefer a work environment that both allows them to accomplish tasks and meet the needs of people. They flourish in places that have clear-cut rules and procedures and that allow them time alone to work and concentrate. ISFJs can succeed at many occupations or volunteer positions, but many are drawn to these: bookkeeper, assistant/secretary, librarian, medical technologist/nurse, teacher/trainer, attorney, marketing, researcher, homemaker, entrepreneur.
Free Time for an ISFJ: ISFJs finish their work before they play, but because they see so much that needs done, they often neglect free time or combine it with other items on their list of things to do. Usually reserved, ISFJs can let their hair down if they feel secure in their environment. ISFJs may find joy and relaxation in having their things and those of others, look nice and remain clean and neat. They may spend their free time working on their yard, their home, their own appearance.
Warnings for the ISFJ: Too much of any good thing can be a bad thing, so here are some things ISFJs need to beware. ISFJs easily see the details, but it is often difficult for them to see the whole picture. This may make it hard for them to prioritize and instead complete tasks as they arise rather than in order of importance. Not wanting to be in the spotlight, ISFJs may fail to take their due credit. Don't be afraid to acknowledge your contribution. ISFJs have a tendency to allow their own needs to go unmet, instead taking care of everyone else around them. They must care for themselves too or risk burn-out, fatigue, and apathy or even bitterness.
Spiritual Helps for the ISFJ: ISFJs enjoy both tradition and organization, so they will likely enjoy daily, traditional Bible study and prayer. They also enjoy and see God at work when they are in nature or in Bible verses that connect nature with the senses. Serving others allows ISFJs to work out their faith in the expression of meeting needs and "being the hands and feet of God". ISFJs benefit from concentrated time alone and will likely enjoy retreats for renewal and rest.
What Others Say About the ISFJ: Are you beginning to see yourself of someone you love on this page? If so, you know that they (or you) are considerate and conscientious, detailed and devoted, patient, organized, traditional, sympathetic, accurate, stable, and efficient. No wonder we love these people so much!
Okay, who do you know that is an ISFJ? If you are an ISFJ, let me hear from you--seriously, this isn't bragging--you didn't create you--God did!

Can you believe we are winding down this study? Next week we look at the next to last personality type--the INFJ. What can one little letter do? Tune in to find out.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Thumb Wars--A Devotion

This week, a devotion I wrote for kids is running on DevoKids. DevoKids says it is a site for "Christian Devotions for KIDS", but it is so much more. You can find fun facts, interesting stories, recipes just for kids, puzzles, games, author interviews, words to the wise about money, and lots of other stuff.

It is such a fun, engaging site, I decided to let you click the link below and go straight to the website to read it (and see it!) for yourself.

If you click on Devotion, you can read about a lesson you can learn from that fun finger game Thumb Wars. And if you click on Food Fixin's you can get the recipe for a yummy snack mix that adults AND kids can make!

Devo Kids Christian Devotions for KIDS

Hope you enjoy this little change of pace here in the middle of July. On Friday, it's back to looking at personality with Getting Into Character.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Say What?!

"Mom, Dakota called and he can't come to the swim party tonight. His brother got shocked and still isn't feeling very good," Jot yelled down the basement steps to me.

"Say what?!"

"He said his brother got shocked and doesn't feel good, so they can't come."

I admit my heart stopped for a moment when I heard this. Dakota's brother just turned a year old and my mind flew with possibilities. Did he bite into a cord? Stick something in an outlet? Get too near a window during a thunderstorm?

Then my logical brain took over. I guessed if Dakota's mom had the presence of mind to remember to call us, she would have explained herself that her baby was nearly electrocuted rather than have her 7-year old deliver the news. So, he just turned a year old about two weeks ago...babies go to the doctor a lot...shocked...shots? Shots! That's it! He must have gotten shots and wasn't feeling well. Whew!

I sent Dakota's mom a message and checked on the health and welfare of her baby and, sure enough, the immunizations were the problem. But imagine the havoc I could have caused had I reported Jot's misinformed news.

Today is Town Crier's Day and that got me to thinking about messages. If it's one thing kids will teach you, it's to watch what you say, when you say it, and how you say it, because you can be certain you (or worse yet, someone else) will hear your words again. And sometimes they come back to bite you in the rear!

I used to teach the 2-year old Sunday school class at church and nothing made my heart beat faster or my skin crawl than to have a child ask me, "You wanna know what my mom/dad said?" Oh, honey, please don't tell me. I scrapbook with your mom. I have to see you dad during offering. You have no idea the things I learned that year!

Apparently this is not a new problem. Writing to the early church, Luke commended the Bereans for their noble character, saying, "they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true." The Bereans had learned a valuable lesson--always check your facts.

We need to check the facts when we hear something about someone that simply goes outside everything you've ever known. If you hear gossip about someone and you think "That's not like him/her"--chances are you're right. I don't know how many times I've heard a bit of gossip about someone only to learn later the "reporter" had it all wrong.

We need to check our facts when it comes to our kids. Make it difficult for your kids to pull one over on you. Check with other parents. Check dates and times of events. Check that they end up where they say they are going. I know of several kids whose parents thought they spent every Sunday morning in church. The reality is they put in an appearance, snuck out, and spend a few hours drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana.

We need to check our facts when someone in authority tells us something. Reliable pastors, teachers, news sources, and bosses support their facts with sources and citations. If your pastor doesn't tell you the reference for a Biblical quote, ask for it and look it up yourself. If a teacher cites a study, ask for the data or the link to a website. Question not to be annoying or difficult, but to be informed and to show yourself responsible for your own knowledge. Just always remember to be respectful when you question authority. A man or woman of integrity will welcome your desire to verify. Mistakes happen. But let it stop with you.

There is a lesson in this for us as adults too. If you are a parent, a teacher, a minister, a boss, any type of authority figure, you must be humble enough to allow those under you to question. It requires us to be more diligent, more thorough, more honest in our dealings with others and in what we say. It requires us to be on our toes, to be willing to say "I don't know", or to maybe even say "I was wrong." It allows us to grow. And isn't that what we all want anyway?

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

You Light Up My Life

My favorite kitten is missing. A soft orange tiger kitty with white feet and chest, Georgia Peach is only about two months old. This week she wandered into the corn field and never came out. Chances are, she got turned around and walked deeper into the corn that towers over my head. Maybe a coyote or an owl ate her. Or maybe she'll wander far enough to make it out into the backyard of one of our neighbors. Whatever the case, it doesn't look good for seeing her again. It's a sad thing.

Every night when we come in for the last time, I count the kittens and shut them up in the barn. On Monday night, the count came up two short--eight instead of ten--kittens. I sent Jot to the house for a flashlight and we walked the perimeter of the yard, surrounded half by corn and half by soybean plants. I don't need the flashlight to see my way around. The security light mounted on the barn throws off enough light to see what I need to see. I needed the light to keep track of the other eight kittens that romped and frolicked while we searched. It also let me keep an eye on the kids who wandered a short ways into the corn. When the corn is that high, it is easy to get in to a place where you are surrounded and then lose your way. Roaming around in a hundred acres of seven-foot tall corn after dark would be disastrous.

I shined the light into the corn and we called, "Here, kitty-kitty."A moment later, a glowing set of eyes peered from the field. Out into the light stepped Peach Melba. One cat down, one to go. We called some more, checked the garage, the barn, and the woodshed. Nothing. Back to the field we went where we had last seen Georgia and the calling commenced. For a few minutes, nothing; then another set of glowing eyes flashed in the beam of the flashlight. I turned the ring around the clear disk, focusing the light to a bright dot. And there at the edge of the field, eating the scrapes of food Jewel had thrown out after dinner was....a skunk!

Yep, in all his black-and-white smelly glory stood a skunk, not ten feet from me. I quick told the kids to stay put and we called to the other cats, hoping they wouldn't get too close to set off a stinky warning shot. Already I sniffed his musky scent and could just imagine my isolation if he spooked and sprayed me. I know skunks can spray multiple times and hit something up to fifteen feet away. I was in the "splash zone" and I needed to keep him happy until I could back up.

Mr. Smelly didn't really seem to mind that I witnessed his late-night snack and I had no trouble getting out of Dodge before he decided to challenge me to a draw. But God did use the experience to teach me a lesson: Light is good for showing the way, illuminating dangers, and keeping others safe.

Psalm 119:105 says, "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path." When I keep God's words before my eyes and in my heart, it lights my path. It keeps me from stumbling, it guides my path, and it prevents me from running head-long in to skunks of all sorts. Light keeps us from going places we don't want to go and from doing things we don't want to do.

God illuminates dangers and sin when I use His word to shine the light of truth upon it. How can I know what God expects if I never compare my actions to what He says in His word? Psalm 18:28 says, "You, O LORD, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light." When I'm in the darkness of sin, God shines His light, shows me my error and gives me the opportunity to correct it. When I change the course of my direction, the darkness turns to light.

God's word used correctly can also keep others safe. If I had kept the flashlight to myself and sent the kids out to look on their own, I might still be giving tomato juice baths. But because I used the light to expose the danger and then keep the kids from it, we all came away from the incident smelling like roses. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." Notice what God's word is good for: teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training. Not one of those words means "to beat over the head until unconscious". God says His word is eternal and it has specific, good uses. He calls His word a light, but He also calls it a sword. Swords need to be handled with care or else what we had meant for the good of the other person ends up cutting off their left arm.

We never did find sweet Georgia Peach, but the light kept us from coming face-to-face with a noxious nightmare.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Getting Into Character: The ESFP (Extravert, Sensor, Feeler, Perceiver)

Today we continue our look at the sixteen specific types and we are down to the last four. Can you believe it? 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 ESFJ's, our lovely friends, family, and neighbors that make us all feel welcome. This week we will change it up by switching the last letter and meet the ESFPs. You probably have one or two friends with this label because they are known for being fun and friendly.

Living Life with an ESFP: Friendly to everyone, ESFPs usually have a wealth of friends and acquaintances. They give of their time and talents willingly and add a zest and enthusiasm to everything they involve themselves in doing. Truly people-focused, ESFPs understand themselves and their beliefs and values and want to understand those things about the people in their life. They are optimistic, energetic, and choose to look past the flaws and focus instead on the positive qualities in people. ESFPs generally like life, live it exuberantly, and they bring joy to the people they encounter.
Career/Service Area Choices for an ESFP: ESFPs will enjoy work or service opportunities that allow them to assist others with tangible acts. Adept at using their own time and talents, they also succeed in helping others to work in their own areas of expertise. ESFPs enjoy planning and helping with socials and they will gravitate to jobs and volunteer positions that allow them to express this in their daily activities. Often you will find ESFPs working and serving with youth, young adults, or in sports/action-oriented jobs and ministries. Because of the same desire to plan, help, and socialize, you might find them working with the sick or the elderly. Some careers and occupations ESFPs might gravitate toward are: childcare, coaching, supervisor roles, religious educator, receptionist/assistant, respiratory therapist, recreation worker, researcher, homemaker, or entrepreneur.
Free Time for an ESFP: ESFPs love being active and and social and you will find them involved in things such as sports, crafts, or just hanging out with friends. Whatever they are doing, chances are it will include other people. If they participate in solitary activities like TV watching or reading, they often get extremely involved with the characters almost as if they were real people, and they like to discuss the episode or book with others. Friends are important the them and they have many because people are drawn to their fun-loving and friendly ways. ESFPs are known to be practical jokers, so watch out or they will try to pull one over on you!
Warnings for the ESFP: Too much of any good thing can be a bad thing, so here are some things ESFPs need to beware of: While they are natural people-pleasers, ESFPs run the risk of trying to please everyone, all the time, and never making anyone truly happy, including themselves. They need to determine their own needs and not try so hard to keep the peace that they let them go unattended. ESFPs often wear many hats and balance can become a problem for them. Their tendency to be spontaneous and their lack of planning for the future can be a problem when they prioritize by what comes to mind first rather than what is most important or most pressing. ESFPs enjoy people so much that this can get them in trouble. They often don't act if it means they must do it alone. They need to learn to have confidence in their ability to do things well and alone if necessary. They also spend so much time socializing that they don't take of things at work or home that need to be done.
Spiritual Helps for the ESFP: ESFPs looking to engage more in their spiritual journey will likely enjoy engaging directly with people also on the journey. ESFPs like to discuss and process what they are learning with other people. That said, ESFPs will also enjoy personal or group retreats for relaxation, rejuvenation, and fellowship. ESFPs prefer group devotions and study time to going it alone. They also seek to see the tangible examples of God in their daily life. ESFPs prefer to consider both the positive and negative sides of a spiritual life and need to focus on building their faith. Often growth in faith can get neglected in their pursuit of spontaneity. ESFPs also like to use all their senses to appreciate and discover God.

What Others Say about the ESFP: Are you beginning to see yourself of someone you love on this page? If so, you know that they (or you) are playful, easy-going, enthusiastic, and friendly. Relationship-oriented, ESFPs are cooperative, vivacious, talkative, warm, and fun. They bring enjoyment to everyone they meet, are informal and comfortable to be around. Everyone needs (and probably has) at least one ESFP in their life!
Okay, who do you know that is an ESFP? Let me hear from you if you are!

Next week, we change a couple of the letters and look at our friend the ISFJ. See you then!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Take Time to Breathe

Swimming. Overnighters. Bowling. Library. Friends. Chores. Boating. Picnics. Reading. Camp. Teaching. Family. Church. Fireworks. Zoo. Camping. Road trips. Cleaning. Movies. Organizing. Serving. Playdates.

All of the above list are things that we have crammed into our summer days and nights. These are all good things. Some of them are necessary, but many are not. Some of them are initiated by us, but often they are someone else's idea. But the truth is, when I look at this list, it just makes me tired.

See, I require a lot out of my kids in their time off from school. They help out at home, they have chores, they read, write, and review their schoolwork to stay current, and they learn to be responsible for themselves. We have so much to accomplish and when the work is done, we play. But sometimes, what they crave is just rest. Time to be a kid. Time to get bored enough to get creative. Time to think and to listen and to learn.

Cloud-watching. Catching lightning bugs. Building forts. Holding kittens. Reading. Baking. Learning Morse code. Friends. Swimming. Family. Exploring the woods. Sending smoke signals. Mud pies. Spying. Naps.

All of these things are things I hope my kids do at some time over the summer. Some things appear on both lists and neither list is exhaustive, but it is up to me to see that my kids have enough down-time from the things on the first list to find the things on the second list.

Why is it that we think we need to keep our kids so busy? I know part of the reason is because we need to spend so much more time with them compared to moms and dads of the past. When I was the age that Justice is now, I rode my bike all over town with my two friends, checking in at mealtimes. Everyone else did too. It was safer then and our parents didn't think a thing about it. I still don't like it when my kids backtrack an aisle at Wal-mart to retrieve a forgotten item. But, I think somewhere along the line, most of us give our kids too much. Too much fun, too much money, too much stuff. They need to want and save and rest to learn to be the people God wants them to be.

God knew we needed rest. He gave us one day a week to rest, recharge, and renew. He gave us permission to celebrate holidays and holy days when we take a break from the routine and the "must do" and relax and experience the "get to". When we don't take it, we get just like our kids do when they've run too much--cranky, uncooperative, and depressed.

I know there are so many tempting things to cram into summer. But do yourself and your kids a favor and say no to a couple things here and there and do just nothing. See where your imaginations (and your uninterrupted free time) take you. Give yourself permission to accomplish nothing except to feed your soul, relax your muscles, and take a deep breath. We'll all be better for it. And who knows you may end up with a killer fort in your backyard, a great idea for a story, or a kid able to send smoke signals to the neighbor in the event that you run out of sugar in the middle of your chocolate chip cookie recipe.