BETWEEN TWO MASTERS Encouraging Teens to Live Authentically in a Celebrity-Obsessed World

KIMBERLY DAVIDSON Tate Pu bl ishing & E nte r pr is e s

Table of Contents Torn Between Two Masters Copyright © 2011 by Kimberly Davidson. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any way by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording or otherwise without the prior permission of the author except as provided by USA copyright law. Scripture quotations marked (kjv) are taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version, Cambridge, 1769. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Scripture marked (gw) is taken from GOD’S WORD®. Copyright 1995 God’s Word to the Nations. Used by permission of Baker Publishing Group. All rights reserved. Scripture quotations marked (msg) are taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group. Scripture quotations marked (nasb) are taken from the New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. Scripture quotations marked (niv) are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, niv®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com Scripture quotations marked (tlb) are taken from The Living Bible / Kenneth N. Taylor: Tyndale House, © Copyright 1997, 1971 by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. The opinions expressed by the author are not necessarily those of Tate Publishing, LLC.

Published by Tate Publishing & Enterprises, LLC 127 E. Trade Center Terrace | Mustang, Oklahoma 73064 USA 1.888.361.9473 | www.tatepublishing.com Tate Publishing is committed to excellence in the publishing industry. The company reflects the philosophy established by the founders, based on Psalm 68:11, “ The Lord gave the word and great was the company of those who published it.” Book design copyright © 2011 by Tate Publishing, LLC. All rights reserved. Cover design by Amber Gulilat Interior design by Christina Hicks Published in the United States of America ISBN: 978-1-61777-348-8 1. Family & Relationships / Parenting / Teens 2. Social Science / Popular Culture 11.06.21

Star-struck Teens 7 To Live Authentically and Extraordinarily


Part One The Gospel of Celebrity: Voices of Influence 21 The Age of Celebrity and Pop Culture


The Most Vulnerable Audience


Voices of Influence 51 America’s Next Top Model? 63 The Many Causes of Eating Disorders


Mirroring Celebrity Casual Sex


Part Two Celebrities: Why They Have Such Power


Why Are We (Christians) Living Like the Rest of the World? 123 Uncovering Blind Spots 141 Which Master Meets Your Deepest Needs?


Where Have All the Grownups Gone?


Part Three Obsessed with the Master: Experiencing Jesus Christ 189 Jesus Christ Super Star


Obsessed with Jesus 209 The Mission 217 Freedom from the Beast


Part Four Born an Original: Living Authentically 241 No One Can Serve Two Masters


Maximum Self-Worth 255 Designed to Make a Difference

Star-struck Teens


Bibliography 291 Endnotes 295

Teens often think, I wanna be like Lady Gaga … I wanna look like Katy Perry … I wanna be like LeBron James … I wanna rap like Jay-Z … I wanna be Selena Gomez … I just wanna be famous! Why do so many kids want to be sports, music, runway, or Hollywood stars instead of teachers, nurses, pastors, or carpenters? This pop culture, via the media, has made it quite clear: celebrities (or “celebs”) matter—and our teenagers are star-struck by them. Why is the gospel of celebrity so powerful in their lives and can we reduce its impact? This book will answer those questions. It is a fact. We live in the age of celebrity. Celebs are a very big part of our everyday lives. Whether we like it or not, they are role models for our children. A celeb’s power of persuasion begins as soon as a child starts watching television. Think about it, how many of the trick-or-treaters who came to your door last Halloween were dressed up as a celebrity? Celebs become heroes and heartthrobs. “I’m crying because I love Justin Bieber … I love him because I know he loves me back,” bawled three-year-old Cody on YouTube.1 Cody became an Internet sensation when her sister posted a video of her crying over the teen heartthrob. The media even arranged for Bieber to meet the toddler. Will little Cody catch fame-fever or “celebrity worship syndrome”? That will depend on how her parents handle the issue of celebrity. Bitten by the “celebrity bug” teens want to live their favorite celebrity’s life. They go to great lengths to emulate them. Today’s teen identity formation has crossed the line. Far too many over-identify with a particular celeb. That is, they attach too strongly to a particular icon. This often happens when a teen is feeling lonely, inseTorn Between Two Masters


cure, or inferior. Anyone who craves value, identity, and love can get addictively involved in searching for it in another human being. Psychologists say following the lives of teen idols is normal and part of the maturation process—a natural part of human development. As teens transfer their attachment from parents to friends, the celebrity personality provides a type of mentor or hero role. Young people mirror what they see through the media and the Internet. A celebrity fits with their human desire to be approved, applauded, and considered special. Many teenagers truly believe emulating the lifestyle of their favorite celebrity is the only way to form an identity. Some think if they don’t reach the same level of stardom, they will live and die a nobody. An alarming number of teens find themselves in unsafe situations because they fear authentic self-expression in a culture where they are pressured to conform and fit in. Adolescents today live in a more dangerous, sexualized, oppressive, and media-saturated world. They face more pressures and are coerced into starving themselves, undergoing unnecessary plastic surgery procedures, hooking up, and using substances, issues we will address in this book. Research shows that celebrity obsession is having far-reaching psychological effects. Sherry Gaba, best known from her role as the psychotherapist on the hit-show Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew, wrote, Our society is in the midst of raising a generation of narcissists whose only sense of self is around entitlement and becoming famous.Healthy relationships will be replaced with illusory celebrity relationships that lack intimacy and real connections to others and teens will continue to seek temporary relief from substance abuse and celebrity worship to ward off the pain that normal adolescence brings.2


Kimberly Davidson

We know that the greater an adolescent’s insecurity, the greater the slave-like obedience to doing all the things sanctioned by this culture.3 However, if a teen’s self-worth is high, the chance of idolizing and living vicariously through the celebrity culture is minimized. It is critical to help teens build a sense of significance and purpose, thereby minimizing celebrity obsession. This book addresses the ways parents and mentors can do that: •

Point them toward the Master, Jesus Christ.

Model authenticity and integrity.

Strengthen them to resist.

Support and guide them.

Celebrities influence what we do, buy, and say from fashion trends to music to clichés to destructive behaviors. They are trendsetters. They teach teens to be cool and how to succeed. They have the very things most teens want: power, money, freedom, sex, clothes, toys, and a whole lot of (perceived) fun! The question is, do today’s celebrities serve as a more positive or negative role model? If a teenager learns behaviors enabling him or her to make productive and positive choices more easily and more often, that’s a good role model. Most parents agree, however, positive role models are hard to find in the entertainment, sports, music, and political industries. Adolescents are very impressionable, and young adults often leave the strongest impressions on them. Celebrities who are perceived as rebels, breakers of rules, or outcasts that made it are alluring. Those types of celebs can easily become an object of affection. Take Lady Gaga—she is an idol for kids who feel like they’re on the fringe. She appears to not care what anybody thinks, and that’s an important message for her fans who most likely care what everybody thinks about them. In fact, on Facebook, as of July 2010, she surpassed the ten million mark, the highest number of fans for a living person. The president, Barack Obama, was running second, and Oprah Winfrey third.4 Torn Between Two Masters


Many celebrities are wonderful, gracious people and make a positive impact in our world with their desire to make things better. Unfortunately, and unbeknownst to the stargazer, there are far too many awful celebrity role models being emulated with disastrous consequences. It is this type of celebrity modeling we—parents, youth leaders, mentors, and teachers—need be concerned with. Like co*ckroaches, the bad role model celebrities find their way into the hidden crevices of life: the computer monitor, children’s schools, college campuses, doctor’s offices, the gym, and the workplace. From print media to radio to television to Twitter, their message is always the same, “It’s all about me.” Not only are celebrities and the pop culture feeding our teens narcissistic messages, but their contemporary brains are massively remodeled by such technological exposure.5 Adolescence (from the Latin adolescere meaning “to grow up”) is a time of soul searching for identity and acceptance.Compared to the generations before, there has been a dramatic shift in the way teenagers perceive success. For many, being famous is an elusive goal.Pew Research finds 81 percent of young adults say getting rich is their most important life goal; 51 percent say the same about being famous.6 The voices of influence tell them fame is a cure for all of life’s challenges. Searching, they are vulnerable and easily influenced; exposed to unattainable beauty standards, sexual temptations, alcohol abuse, violence, illegal drugs—a variety of toxic influences that threaten to undo all we teach them. There is hope! Mom and Dad, you have the greatest influence over your children. When asked what influences adolescents the most, more teens answered, “my home,” rather than celebrities, school, friends, religion, music, television, movies, or magazines.7 Our challenge is to model how we want our teens to behave. They learn not from how we tell them to act but how we act in their presence.


Kimberly Davidson

Clearly, studies confirm that parents play an extremely important role in the lives of teenagers.8 A Pew Research Center study on adolescents reports that 52 percent say being a good parent is one of the most important things in their life.9 But sadly, with the separation and divorce rates so high in the home, children today are being parented by the media and celebrities. It’s been said this generation of parents are largely unavailable to their kids. The term “latch-key kids” was coined in reference to the fact we are raising a generation of lonely children. God did not create us to impersonate or obsess after other flawed human beings. The purpose of life is to live a life of purpose, which is to model to the world a truthful reflection of who Jesus Christ is and what he is like. Every Christian should be shouting, I wanna be like Jesus! Author John L. Mason says, “People are born originals, but most die copies.”10 Before you, and each of your children, were even conceived, God designed a great plan for each life.11 Regrettably, most people will never live their destiny or their dream. They will die an imitation. Do you want your children to die copies—never fulfilling their divine purpose in life? No! There are different areas of authentic change I will be discussing in greater detail to help parents and mentors. My passion and ministry has been directed toward mentoring young girls. I wrote this book because my desire is that no young person—male or female, should ever fall into the same destructive pits and deceptive traps I fell into. As a teen I dreamed I’d catch my star. I too believed the destructive messages celebs presented to the millions who become captivated with their lives: binge drinking is okay, sexting and hypersexuality make you cool, wardrobe malfunctions are humorous, an eating disorder and cosmetic surgery are the answers to perfect beauty, marriage doesn’t have to be forever, in fact, don’t get married at all because you don’t need to be married to have sex or professional success or even children. And while you’re at it, act out in a narcissistic way for the attention you deserve.

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All I got was a life full of torture, shame, and fear, which I will share in more detail. Identifying and learning to be with Jesus, the true Master, set me free. It is a privilege and honor precisely because of who we are being called to identify with. That is every person’s calling. Jesus came so we “may have life, and have it abundantly” ( John 10:10, nas). You don’t have to be a celebrity or “special.” Jesus invites us to partake in the abundant life he offers which is for the ordinary person (see Acts 4:13). He knows we are hungry and want to feel fully alive. As he feeds and nurtures us, and we spend time in his presence, we are able to model and lead our teens to the fulfilling life Jesus promised.

Crossing the Line A worried mother of a fourteen-year-old girl told her pastor that her daughter quit the dancing squad. She no longer dreamed of going to college and becoming a nurse practitioner. Worst, her longtime friends had been replaced with a new cadre of acquaintances Mom had never met, and her language turned offensive. She isolated herself, dressed more provocatively, and became clearly more rebellious at home. When Mom checked her computer, she found all the latest celebrity gossip websites marked as favorites. Mom was visibly distressed. “My daughter is pulling away. What has happened?” For many parents, changes in their teen’s behaviors are troublesome and should not be laughed off or ignored. How do you know if your teen has crossed the line from normal celebrity admiration into unhealthy obsession? Most psychologists will tell you this kind of behavior could be a sign of addiction, depression, or an adolescent merely trying to form an identity. Regrettably, too many teenagers today are naively falling into a new kind of addiction called celebrity worship. One third of Americans have been hit by this bullet, which is linked to depression, anxiety, body image problems, and other forms of addiction.12 The rest of us have probably been grazed by that bullet.


Kimberly Davidson

Teenagers who regularly surf the Internet, watch celebrity TV, or read celebrity-focused magazines are more likely to believe that they themselves will someday become famous.13 If you watch the reality talent television program American Idol, you have seen for yourself an epidemic of teenagers and young adults who believe they are entitled to fame and will actually become famous during their lifetime. I enjoy American Idol, but it has certainly magnified a culture preoccupied with transitory fame and image overload. Sadly, we are raising a generation of adolescents who would rather become a famous actress, singer, or celebutante (a celebrity socialite) rather than a physician or a presidential hopeful. Surveys that Jake Halpern, author of Fame Junkies, cites indicate that younger Americans would rather be a Hollywood celebrity or a celebrity personal assistant than president of a major corporation or a high elected official.14 When given the choice of becoming stronger, smarter, famous, or more beautiful, boys chose fame almost as often as they chose intelligence. Girls chose fame more often.15 We need to remind ourselves, and our children, that this kind of behavior is not only wrong but abnormal. Those who know kids best agree they need structure and stability more than ever because their lives are more erratic, confusing, and rapidly changing, more than in any previous generation. “Their land is full of idols” (Isaiah 2:8, niv). Parents must be an anchor that holds steadfastly against these powerful countercurrents. Second Peter 1:3 promises: “His [ Jesus’s] divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him” (niv). We have available to us the kind of power it takes to avert ourselves from idolizing tragic figures of fantasy, and thereby, reducing the chance of substance abuse, promiscuous behavior and eating disorders. We are all weak. But there is Jesus, who is powerful enough to make us strong. We must rely everyday on God’s dynamic presence. Rejoice! Children want a real family. Sadly, too many Christian parents are committed to their own well-being, which they inadver-

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tently pass on to their children. Therefore, you too must look into your own mirror. As you examine yourself and assess your time on earth, what do you see? What does your own personal hunger for celebrity coverage tell you about yourself? Are you an “in-between parent,” meaning, do you squeeze in a bit of time for your teen between your own hurried schedule? Is your life worth imitating or is it a series of train wrecks? What kind of legacy will you leave your children? This is your journey too. One of the best ways to reach this culture of adolescents is by living an authentic, compelling life. This book is also a tool to set you free to love, enjoy, and serve God. My desire is that by reading Torn Between Two Masters, whether you are an adult or a teen, you learn to surrender yourselves completely to God’s purposes. I pray you desire “more Jesus.” There are far too many beautiful, bright, loving, and priceless teens out there who have no idea of their value, their goodness, or their potential. We can make a difference in these youth’s lives. Author Danny Holland wrote, “Relationship is the roadway into this generation. We need to first spend time preparing who we are and then prepare the roadway on which we will carry our values to the next generation.”16 Will you be one of many people challenged to change a teen’s destiny? Choose to push your teens, and yourselves, outside the comfort zone of this pop culture. Choose today: a life of authenticity over a life of conformity.


Kimberly Davidson

To Live Authentically and Extraordinarily As a culture, we are fascinated with celebrities because they appear to live extraordinary lives. The word extraordinary literally means extra ordinary, as in, way more than average, exceptional. Based on what we read, hear, and see, we believe celebrities live amazingly full lives and get to do extraordinary things—things we’d really like to do. But we must ask ourselves, is that to live authentically, which is to live as your real self, the person God created you to be? There is nothing wrong with seeking to live extraordinarily. God put that desire in each of us. He has called us to live an authentic life, to shine and rise above the ordinary. The problem is celebrity obsession provokes us to focus solely on them and ourselves. The word obsession means to think about someone or something unceasingly or persistently. That person dominates or preoccupies our thoughts, feelings, or desires. The result is often an abnormal haunting.17 Countless teens, and adults alike, seek authenticity and the extraordinary. Yet they spend too much time aimlessly looking for value in the wrong places while it is right in front of their face. Obsession keeps us from living an authentic, fulfilling life—unless that obsession is on God. He is much more concerned about what is happening on the inside of us. He wants our passion to be directed toward himself and his Son, Jesus Christ, not a celebrity. As our inner life grows and prospers in him, our outward life follows. God wants to make us living letters to the world that shows everyone what he can do with human life. Everyday authentic people, young and old, are doing extraordinary things powered by God.

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In the Bible, God tells us we were created to: This world desperately needs authenticity. What our souls really desire is not mere imitation but radical identification. That is, becoming one with Christ as his life becomes enmeshed with ours. Becoming aware of the influence of celebrity within your family’s lives and then recognizing the need for change equals redemption. The Bible says that God, “In kindness he takes us firmly by the hand and leads us into a radical life-change” (Romans 2:4, msg). The trademark of a Christian is the transformation into a new and far more authentic person. Many adolescents say they don’t want “religion” because it’s too binding and controlling. They’d be right; many religions and practices are. Bob Dylan sang, “You’re gonna have to serve somebody.” God even said, “Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve” ( Joshua 24:15, niv). Every person has a choice between serving two masters: an icon or Jesus Christ. Consider the words of the Shorter Westminster Catechism: “The chief end of man is to serve God and enjoy him forever.” In fact, empirical evidence now shows that human beings may be born with a desire for a relationship with a “Transcendent Other,” and that longing begins to reveal itself in children as young as three years old.18 In first chapter of A Purpose-Driven Life, Pastor Rick Warren writes, It’s not about you. The purpose of your life is far greater than your own personal fulfillment, your peace of mind, or even your happiness. It’s far greater than your family, your career, or even your wildest dreams and ambitions. If you want to know why you were placed on this planet, you must begin with God. You were born by his purpose and for his purpose.19


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Love and know intimately the only true God, and his Son, Jesus Christ, finding life in that knowledge. Living a life of authenticity is not about religion but rather about developing a compassionate relationship with God. The psalmist said, “It is good for me to draw near to God” (Psalm 73:28, kjv). Enjoy healthy relationships in an intimate environment. As a society we have become withdrawn which is detrimental to our personal and spiritual growth. It is in relating to others we grow the most. When we find a person or group committed to authentic relationships, we find God and something very beautiful. Leave our mark on the world. First Corinthians 12:7 says, “Each person is given something to do that shows who God is” (msg). Our greatest mark is to love others and be Christlike to every person we come in contact with.

God tells us, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart” ( Jeremiah 1:5, niv). Our purpose is not to copy or out do the next person or to become famous and accumulate wealth. Every person has been set apart to do something no one else can do. Young people need to know that a YouTube moment may only equal five minutes of fame. There is always someone else standing in the wings waiting to step up to the limelight. There is only one Person who can guarantee us real success—day after day, year after year. Knowing and following Jesus means freedom from the culture’s opinions, deliverance from our egos, and liberation from the hold of sin. The starting point is realizing that developing an authentic relationship with him takes time, intention, risking trust, and may involve traveling on some tough roads—just like any other important relationship. As we come to know Jesus on a personal level and fix our thoughts on him we become difference makers. The best coaches will tell you that their job is to push each person on the team do what they don’t want to do so they can Torn Between Two Masters


reach the goals they’ve dreamed about. These people don’t have to do what the coach tells them—they choose to. Basketball Hall of Fame player and coach John Wooden said, “There is a choice you have to make in everything you do. So keep in mind that in the end, the choice you make, makes you.”20

Will You Be There for Them? Can you imagine what this country would be like if this generation were to practice what Christ taught? There are young people in America who desire to live extraordinary and authentic lives. They want to make an impact but just can’t seem to find the proper role models. Are you there for me? is their cry. When I think of a young person who models authenticity, nineteen-year-old Heidi Friesen comes to my mind. This gifted teenager found her purpose and has blossomed into an incredible missionary for Christ. Desiring to know her secret, and without prompting her, I asked who her greatest role models were. She replied,


to go against the current by taking a stand for God. I choose to show those around me the truth of who God is.

Kenda Creasy Dean states, in her book Practicing Passion, young people want a God “who is big enough, holy enough, awesome enough to reach out to them while at the same time, being intimate enough to reach in.”21 Youth want to talk to Jesus. We need to not only teach but model to teens that success is defined by being faithful to the Master’s plan for their individual lives—that real winners submit to Jesus’s transforming work and serve him with a grateful heart. Then purpose, meaning, and joy fall into place.

Navigating this Book for Maximum Impact By relying on Jesus and his divine power and grace, we can learn to resist the pop culture’s messages. The life and teachings of Jesus contain powerful spiritual, psychological, and relational insights. No matter our age, we profit from his wisdom. I will be sharing my personal experiences; yet God gave me the ability, and grace, to look at this issue from the outside in, untainted by personal biases. I pastor females of all ages in emotional and transitional pain and am a researcher who mines information. I interviewed parents, youth pastors, professionals, and teens. When presenting sections of this book to groups of parents and teens, I observed the groups really enjoyed talking about this subject among themselves. For that reason, I suggest using this book in a small group or Bible study setting. This book is written for parents and anyone else who loves and mentors teenagers (and children of any age). There are certain sections and chapters that are written to be read with the adolescent.

My mom and dad are my role models. They taught me how to persevere and trust God through the hard times. My parents are very wise. I grew up watching them love the Lord and serving people using their gifts for God. I wanted to grow up the same way. Without them and some of my great youth pastors, the results of my high school life would have been different. I know this sounds so cliché, but obviously Jesus Christ is my role model. Without Him I wouldn’t know how to live my life, have any joy, and wouldn’t feel fulfilled. The pressures of being a teen are not easy, and it seems to be getting worse. Drinking, drugs, premarital sex, eating disorders, and having to be attractive are shoved into teens’ faces more than anything else. It is so easy to go with the flow when you don’t have anyone showing you the way to the truth. I decided

Jentezen Franklin said, “Everything big starts with something small. All God needs is something to start with.”22 There are no

Kimberly Davidson

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You will notice a change in font styles. When you come across material in this font, read those sections together and then talk about the content.


easy answers, shortcuts, or quick fixes that will ensure your teen will immediately trust what you have to offer. Before you can even do that effectively, you will need to ensure your own relationship with God is strong. If you choose not to proceed and take charge, by default you are choosing to allow your kids to be led by others. Let me forewarn you, you will likely experience resistance. Generational mindsets and habits, although not cemented, are hard to change. It’s frustrating—our teens will listen to a celebrity but not us. Most teens today say they don’t want the life their parents lead. They fear irrelevance. In this culture celebrities are winners— successful and significant, at least in their estimation. And we have an enemy who wants to keep them enslaved. We can still work together as a church family to change the culture one person at a time. The Bible says, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4, niv). Eugene Peterson’s translation in The Message instructs fathers to “take them by the hand and lead them in the way of the Master.” God challenges us to live in ways that attract children to God and models for them Christlikeness and how faith and obedience work in the family. God desires to save families. He is willing to do something great if you are willing to make a commitment to invest your time, energy, and love in him.

My Commitment I, ______________________________ commit to read this book in its entirety; to follow through on the suggested resolutions; and more importantly, I will pray first and invite God to lead and guide me through the entire process.


Kimberly Davidson

Part One The Gospel of Celebrity Voices of Influence For neither you nor anyone else can serve two masters. You will hate one and show loyalty to the other, or else the other way around—you will be enthusiastic about one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. —Jesus, Luke 16:13 (tlb) Man’s need of self-esteem is inherent in his nature. But he is not born with the knowledge of what will satisfy that need, or of the standard by which selfesteem is to be gauged; he must discover it. —Nathaniel Branden23 Men, why are you doing this? We too are only men, human like you. We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made heaven and earth and sea and everything in them. —The Apostle Paul, Acts 14:15 (niv) There is no greater influence in the lives of children than parents. You can use your position as a parent to strategically limit negative influences and maximize positive influences. —Danny Holland24

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The Age of Celebrity and Pop Culture Following days of intoxicating and excruciating media attention, approximately 20,000 people gathered inside the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Tuesday, July 7, 2009. As millions more around the world watched, a most public of memorial services celebrated Michael Jackson, a man whose enormous talents tragically sunk beneath the exhibition of life and fame. The King of Pop died a drug-induced death at age fifty. Michael Jackson was one of the world’s most accomplished performers. He symbolized everything our culture worships. Traffic across the Internet spiked to virtually unprecedented levels as the news of his death spread. Google’s search engine slowed to a crawl. Yahoo reported “one of the biggest things” in its history. Social networks Twitter and Facebook nearly collapsed under the weight of traffic. Jackson became in death the most beloved media figure since Elvis Presley and President John F. Kennedy. A radio talk show host recounted that at the memorial service a reporter took an informal poll: “Who was more influential: Michael Jackson or Jesus Christ?” The fans were split 50/50. On a blog, one young woman asked, “Can we use Michael as a new Christ of America as we did Jesus Christ? Can we use his life as inspiration on what to do and not to do, even if he wasn’t perfect?” Someone responded, “How could you compare Christ to Michael Jackson? Are you out of your mind?” Are we out of our minds? When headlines about the death of Michael Jackson or Anna Nicole Smith streamed across the TV, newspapers, and websites, while news about our fighting soldiers

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overseas, child abuse in our own country, and impoverished nations got pushed to the bottom of the page, we have a problem. Each year, thousands dream they too will reach the pinnacle of celebrity. Today ordinary people can become celebrities: from their profession, or their physical appearance or talent, to appearances in the media, through YouTube, or by complete accident. Driven by a yearning to not be plain, poor, and ordinary, the Internet offers anyone a chance to create a new self-image (or pseudo-self ) to project to the world. In no time a person may be basking in attention. In my community, some consider me a celebrity. After all, I’ve had four books and dozens of articles published and was on the radio and television. I can see how desiring fame becomes addictive. The attention gives you a rush. When ordinary people attain celebrity status, it gives the average Joe, or Jolene, hope. Why? Because every person needs to feel accepted, significant, competent, and loved. Far too many youth today feel unloved. They see themselves as insignificant or feel their future is hopeless. They’ve come to believe the lie that God does make junk. Looking through a distorted mirror, they don’t see themselves as God’s workmanship, created to do good things, which he already has prepared for them to do (Ephesians 2:10). Despondent, they carry their feeling of unimportance into adulthood. Some don’t even make it to adulthood. Teen suicide rates remain elevated.

An American Religion Sociologist Rodney Stark said that, “typically people do not seek a faith; they encounter one through their ties to other people who already accept this faith.”25 It’s been said that fame is a religion and celebrities are the gods. In America, we have come to put our faith in actors, musicians, athletes, politicians, news anchors, models and pastors. We see them as larger-than-life figures to be praised and emulated. More


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disturbing, we see our own lives as somehow inferior. Psychological research by John Maltby and his colleagues found that as the level of religious devotion decreases, which is the trend today, the degree of celebrity worship increases.26 In an article about celebrity obsession in Psychology Today, the celebrity culture craze was compared with religious worship. Psychologist James Houran is a relationship expert and co-author of Celebrity Worshippers: Inside the Minds of Stargazers. He said, “Nonreligious people tend to be more interested in celebrity culture.”27 The more a person subscribes to a formal religion, the less likely they are to worship a celebrity. God designed us to worship. Worship we will—whether it’s a celebrity or a pastor or a political leader. Unbeknownst to the worshipper, they will become what they worship. We see this principle clearly lived out in the Bible. The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life released a survey called “Religion Among the Millennials.” According to Pew, Millennials attend religious services less often, pray less, and are less likely to say that “religion is very important in their lives.” 28 The result: they are invested in the celebrity culture and their worldviews are skewed. The American public treats celebs like gods and goddesses by deeming them perfect, regardless of their actions. We’ve become willing to stuff our minds with false gods and fragmented identities. Naively, we become their slaves. Instead of contributing to our spiritual development, they rob us of our time, energy, and devotion toward God. In her book, The Cult of Celebrity, fame expert Cooper Lawrence points out that celebrities today believe they are divine beings, equivalent to deity.29 She has a point: •

God is omnipresent—present everywhere, all around us, at all times. Celebrity has soaked into every part of our culture.

God is omnipotent—all powerful. For example, Madonna has the power to command that her dressing room be supplied Torn Between Two Masters


with 144 boxes of strawberries, eight full-length mirrors, and a whole lot of other stuff. •

God is omniscient—all knowing. Our favorite celebs may not have all the answers, but it doesn’t stop them from volunteering their opinions on every conceivable topic.

Dr. Houran theorizes that celebrity culture plays the same role for fans as a church does for a believer, including “the desire to admire the powerful and the drive to fit into a community of people with shared values.” 30 There is a big difference: Celebrity worship offers something surface while religious worship offers something lasting. Celebrity worshipers need to be able to recognize who is really lasting. Believers know that person is Jesus Christ.

Cultlike Obsession Children today are more fully immersed in the media than we ever were at their ages. You can thank the massive scope and scale of the media industries, enabling celebrities to be viewed more often and in more places. Consequently, children are at risk of internalizing such behaviors at a developmental stage when it could permanently affect their emotional well-being.31 They are growing up with daily access to more technology than any generation before, enabling them to develop a more intense fantasy of a real relationship. By the time a kid is five, he or she has already logged thousands of hours of television watching—and thousands of hours of studying celebrity behavior. The average teenager spends nearly four hours a day watching TV,32 while the average Christian in this country spends ten minutes a day with God.33 Studies consistently indicate the negative impact TV has on children’s behavior, correlating it with brain problems.34 Over a decade ago, scientists from Harvard Medical School visited Fiji to evaluate the effect of the introduction of television on body satisfaction and disordered eating in adolescent girls. After viewing television for three years, the percentage of girls demonstrating body dissatisfaction rose from 12.7 percent to 29.2 percent.


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Dieting increased dramatically to 66 percent, and the rate of selfinduced vomiting (bulimia) leapt from zero to 11.3 percent.35 Consider this: According to a University of Maryland study that analyzed thirty-four years of data from more than 45,000 Americans, the happiest people spend 30 percent less time watching television. They’re most likely spending their time socializing, reading, or attending religious services—habits that are linked to better moods and health.36 A saying goes, “How we live our day is how we live our lives.” The more hours of idol ingestion, the more our kids want what they have to offer, the more they become mastered by them. Yet no matter how much television your child watches, he is most likely watching you first to decide how he wants to lead his life. A mom of eight blogged, “Keeping this fact at the forefront of my mind has motivated me to be hypervigilant about what I watch and talk about, combined with simply being present in their lives.” I find it interesting that superstar Madonna mentioned on The Late Show that she allows no television programming in her house. She also said that her child can watch just one age-appropriate movie per week and cartoons only if they are on a DVD.37 Why would Madonna and other celebrities protect their kids from the media? Because they love them and know firsthand the negative influence the media has. What is disconcerting is the level of cultlike obsession. Joanne Barron, national outreach director for Insight Treatment Center for Adolescents, said, Ever since television and movies became mainstream in America, teens have tried to emulate the speech, dress and behavior of their favorite celebrities. Unfortunately, too often what we see or hear about celebrities has to do with a lifestyle of excess—smoking, drinking or drug use, constant parties and sexually acting out.38

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Invariably, our superstars turn out to be flawed human beings. Former NBA star Charles Barkley once declared, “I’m a basketball player. I don’t want to be your role model.” Charles doesn’t get it; he is a role model whether he wants to be or not. We need to help our children find real role models from within our own communities, not from the celebrity A-list. Some celebrities can provide indirect inspiration, but the best role models for teens are those who commit to interact directly and on a regular basis. Unlike a celebrity, a real-life role model can talk about the teen’s hopes, values, and the specifics required to help them reach their goals. More than 75 percent of America’s children say that, in addition to family, friends, teachers, coaches, and community leaders are role models.39 Every town has a group of real heroes who would like nothing more than to mentor a teen. Our challenge is to seek out people of character to come alongside our teens, to encourage and guide them, helping them become who God created them to be. These mentors are out there and have a passion to reach this generation. Regrettably, they don’t wear a cap or t-shirt that says “Christlike Role Model.” Where do you find them? They are in faith communities, schools, civic groups, businesses, town government, law enforcement and youth organizations. These groups and organizations can put teens in contact with adult role models who can interrelate with them and provide guidance.

Chaos and Dysfunction Celebrity worship has gone in utero! No longer is it enough to name your baby after your favorite star. With the help of the California Cryobank fertility clinic in Los Angeles, your child might actually look like that star. Called the Donor Look-A-Like program, sperm donors are cataloged by the celebrity they most closely resemble. As of 2010, actor Ben Affleck, quarterback Brett Favre, and L. A. Lakers basketball player Luke Walton were the most popular


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choices.40 The cryobank also allows women and couples to choose a Hollywood hybrid: a donor whose features combine likenesses to real celebrities. Can’t you just hear cute little Hallie telling her peer group she’s a Hollywood hybrid of so and so! What does this say to a child when he or she is old enough to understand? This isn’t an entirely new idea. The early 1980s saw the birth of the Nobel sperm bank whose aim was to collect and disperse sperm samples from actual Nobel Prize winners in order to multiply society’s “best”genes. It didn’t work out very well. Women seeking sperm weren’t excited about getting it from “old” geniuses. But imagine the run on the bank that might occur if a broker offered actual sperm from Oscar winners or sports celebrities! [Font change: I suggest reading and then discussing this material with the teen.] Today’s teens are up against even more media bombardment than in the past with everyone on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other social media outlets. The media projects celebrities as privileged, powerful, gorgeous, wealthy, and captivating. The problem is, we only see the surface—the so-called beautiful surface. Elbert Hubbard said, “If men could only know each other, they would neither idolize nor hate.”41 I used to regularly watch celebrity autobiographical programs. It didn’t take me long to realize I really didn’t want their lives after all. Many led tortured, painful existences. We don’t often hear those stories. But if you look behind the scenes into the lives of these people, a troubling picture is painted. Just log on to PerezHilton. com a couple times a day to find out what kind of messes our favorite stars have gotten themselves into. It is no secret many celebrities come from highly dysfunctional families and are prone to mental health crises. Self-destructive behavior is a learned coping mechanism for difficult and intense emotions. Actor William H. Macy put it, “Nobody became an actor because he had a happy childhood.”42 Some teens were once Disney royalty. Today they’re a royal mess. Life is so chaotic that the only solution is to put an actor’s mask on. Unable to create real inti-

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macy, many celebs are driven to perform by a need to be accepted and to feel worthy and competent. It’s not just Hollywood. In 2009, sports celeb Tiger Woods, a man who had been a public figure since his teens, took a tumble off the billion-dollar golden pedestal as stories of his infidelity surfaced. Reality celebrity and father of eight, Jon Gosselin, left his wife and kids to “recapture his youth.” One of two reactions occur: One, fans lose faith in their icon because he broke a major element of our belief system—thou shall not cheat on thy spouse. Or two, he reinforces to his fan base that it is acceptable to cheat on your spouse with multiple partners. Powerful and famous men tend to be presented with more “occasions of sin” than, say, carpenters and teachers. For young boys, that’s an attractive proposition, especially if you are called dork or loser by your peers. “If you’re famous, even if you look like a beluga whale in a suit, you’re going to be far more attractive [and popular with the girls],” said Keith Campbell, a University of Georgia psychologist.43 What most youth don’t see is the behind-the-scenes pictures. Far too many celebs coast into bizarre behavior, substance abuse, eating disorders, breakdowns, or choose death as a way to numb the pain. Even after achieving celebrity, many cannot alleviate feelings of emptiness and pain. They have a hard time finding stability in relationships. Jesus said, “What good will it be for a man [or woman] if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?” (Matthew 16:26, niv). I remember the late Princess Diana as beautiful, young, rich, powerful, and idolized by millions. Yet she was not a happy person. She admitted struggling with bulimia. One thing you can do as a family is pray for the celebrities who are lost. God loves and is involved in every life because each person contains the image of him within them—even those who ignore him. Dr. Drew Pinsky, author of The Mirror Effect: How Celebrity Narcissism is Seducing America, believes that if the suffering and unattractive outcomes of bad celebrity behavior were reported on more frequently, it would offer an opportunity for valuable social learning, with potentially positive impact. 44


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Yet, a disturbing survey revealed that some teens are faking serious conditions such as bipolar disorder, depression and selfharming in an attempt to look cool and copy celebrity sufferers. The teens said that stars who have spoken about their problems have been an [negative] influence. An alarming 34 percent admitted lying about having a mental illness in the past, according to online therapy service Mentaline.com. The website’s founder Jesper Buch said, “It’s shocking that so many young people think mental health problems are fashionable.”45

The Fall from Grace Christians are not untouched by the power of celebrity. We’ve got our televangelists, worship groups, mega-church pastors, and highpowered platform speakers. It is not unusual for Christian actors, athletes, and other well-known Christian personalities to be seen dominating media attention. The church in this country loves to turn its saints into celebrities. I’ll admit, in some of my more pridefilled moments, I’ve dreamed of crowds coming to hear me speak, comforting my insecurity. There can be tragic consequences to this. Christian celebrities are not immune to scandal either. Compared to non-Christian celebs, our spirits are far more crushed when they do fall. Celebrities, Christian or not, fall because they are human beings. The privilege of leadership can cause leaders either to sacrifice for their people or sacrifice their people for their own greed. Many fall for the adulation and begin to believe they are special. I remember a time when a well-known pastor finished speaking. Someone from the audience raised their hand and began praising him. He stopped that person midsentence and said something like, “Thank you, but please stop. I have a big problem with pride.” Scripture presents Jesus Christ as quite the celebrity. He was a hugely popular teacher despite his humble nature and ordinary looks. Large crowds traveled with him; they followed and pressed around him.46 The places he taught could hardly hold the packed multitudes that mobbed him everywhere he went. Unlike our icons, he never caved into ego or public opinion. In fact, for him, large crowds were cause for concern. He seems to have distrusted a

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large following, aware that for many of them it was more a popular movement rather than a deep commitment.

The Youngest Targets Years ago a Gatorade advertisem*nt featured Michael Jordan doing what he does best—soaring all over the basketball court, dunking ball after ball. The voices in the commercial where children repeatedly singing, “I want to be like Mike.” As parents, we have the best intentions of spending time with our families. The real tragedy is, study after study finds that on average, parents who work spendless time with their family today than decades earlier. If our kids are not spending much time with family, who is influencing them, and what is the effect? The answer: the media machine is. Today’s young people are targets because they want it all. They want fame because it is a moneymaking business. Money buys stuff—and lots of it. It will be interesting to hear the teens of today tell their children what they had to do without when they were kids! Images, in general, have become much more important. Just look at social networking; everyone profiled on Facebook is encouraged to put up a picture they believe represents them. Think back to when you were a kid. Who did you tend to mirror? For me it was Barbie. Today we call it “Barbiemania.” These dolls subtly influence children’s views on body image. Dr. Helga Dittmar of the University of Sussex studied the impact of perfect beauty ideals in the media on body image. Her studies show that girls as young as five to seven-years-old report body dissatisfaction after seeing ultra-thin Barbie dolls.47 The manufacturer, Mattel, isn’t listening to concerned parents. Designer Christian Louboutin believed the already unrealistically thin Barbie doll’s legs were too heavy and her ankles too fat. In 2009 he redesigned a thinnerversion.48 Children as young as five already want to change something about their body.49 Anorexia is now reported in children as young as four. 50 There is no doubt adolescents are particularly vulnerable 32

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to imitation. One teen said, “I see what people are saying about how [actress’s] exposed ribs make her look disgusting. But she’s about to be cast as a mega-hot bombshell in a major action movie.” Christian teens today say they feel conflicted by the challenges the world presents. The American dream radically differs from the call of Jesus and the heart of the gospel. They feel pulled in many different directions. The media hooks them with tempting promises: Could you be the America’s Next Top Model? Which celebrity are you most like? Take Seventeen’s fun tests and quizzes to find out!51 Friends say, Do this. Parents say, Do that. Teachers say, Do it by tomorrow. Coaches say, Just do it! Celebrities say, Do as I do. Teens who lack a basic biblical system are more likely to fall prey to the lies and deception. Best selling author Josh McDowell wrote, “Even teens from solid Christian homes and churches have distorted beliefs about God and the Bible that can have a devastating rippling effect into every aspect of their lives.”52 About 70 percent do not believe the Bible is even accurate.53

Determined to Be Famous Sadly, lyrics from songs such as “Rockstar” fuel an insecure teen’s desire to be famous: “I’m gonna trade this life for fortune and fame, ‘Cause we all just wanna be big rockstars.” To many teens, this rock star or celebrity persona is the cure to divert the pain that normal adolescence brings. When American Idol announced they were lowering the audition age limit to fifteen, parenting watchdogs voiced their concern about the glare of the global spotlight at too young an age. Former child star Paul Petersen, founder of the child advocacy group A Minor Consideration, asked, “Have we completely lost sight of the difference between children and adults?” 54 He suggests that as a culture we need to take a step back. He points out that adults have a hard enough time handling rejection and criticism. Children are not prepared for it, especially on today’s fast-paced and global stage.

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He also said the self-consciousness and unrealistic expectations that come with early fame can lead to self-destructive behaviors later on, which are “devastating and much more pronounced with children.” 55 His advice for parents of young prodigies: graduate from high school—at a minimum—and college, if possible. Let’s say your teen genuinely desires a career as a performer and declares, “I’ve got talent! I’m determined be a star.” Instead of berating, laying down the law, or laughing at her or him, get strategic. Dig up some stories on the Internet that back up the fact that a long-term career in the entertainment industry is hard work and requires thick skin to handle ongoing rejection. They need to know the people who succeed must deeply love their craft. Ask these questions:

So You Want To Be a Famous Star! • •


What talent do you have that will sustain you over the long haul? How many hours a day will you be dedicating to your craft? The best actors, singers, and athletes put in a minimum of four hours a day.

Where will you be taking acting or singing classes that can help you be the best competitive performer?

How will you be paying for those classes?

What skills can you develop to get a job to pay not only for the associated costs, but housing, food, clothing, while you are waiting to be discovered?

How are your networking skills? How will you find an agent?

Which of your contacts are going to help you break into this industry? A stint on a reality TV show or YouTube only lasts a moment.

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The moment you choose to be in the spotlight, you not only give up your right to privacy, you also give up your right to live however you want. You will be held to a higher standard than “regular people.” As a celebrity, you must realize you will be a role model to kids of all ages, which means you must choose to set a good, wholesome, godly example. Are you up to that task?

Your child may truly be talented. God raises up many talented Christian people who eventually gain celebrity status. Relationship and developmental psychology expert, Cooper Lawrence, advices parents: •

Get other professional opinions beside your own family’s and friends.

Do your best to help your child develop genuine self-esteem based on substantial personal qualities, skills and talents.

Make sure your child is represented by a real professional who knows the industry, rather than relying on the untried opinions of the people who love them. 56

Parents, encourage decision-making, and choose your battles. Even if your teen is making a bad choice, as long as his or her health or safety is not at risk, let him or her follow through, suggest parenting experts, Dr. Foster Cline and Jim Fay.57 The kid may struggle in the process but after a while they accomplish what they first set out to do. They get the opportunity to reflect on their accomplishment and can say, “Look at what I did!” Kids need to know they can fail and they won’t lose your respect. Give them increasing responsibility. If they muck it up, give them another chance. Think back; how many times did you fail? Consistency, integrity, maintaining a standard of right and wrong—these bring positive results.

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The Most Vulnerable Audience As a preteen I found myself mesmerized with Marlo Thomas, star of That Girl. She was an aspiring but only sporadically employed actress, who had moved to New York City to make it big. She had a hunky, cool boyfriend, Donald. I would have given anything to have traded places with That Girl! In the 1970s, this teen girl found other “that girls” to imitate. These idols came packaged primarily in magazines. As Maxine, the comic character says, “Fashion magazines are society’s way of saying ‘If you don’t feel inadequate already, read one of these!’”58 A study in the 1990s of over 4,000 television commercials found that one in every 3.8 commercials includes some kind of “attractiveness message,” defining attractiveness in a subjective way. The results of this study implied that the average adolescent sees more than 5,000 “attractiveness messages” each year. These types of publications can affect a young girl’s body image through their articles on appearance and advertisem*nts for beauty, which feature ultra-thin women with perfect, porcelain skin. Let us not forget, these photos are usually altered so that wrinkles, fat, and large pores are no longer visible. Caving into the media pressure of compulsive dieting and daily exercise, I began to worship the goddesses of beauty and thinness. I bought into the cultural messages and lies that came packaged in 16 and Tiger Beat magazines. To be like models Cybil Shepherd, Cheryl Teigs, or Susan Dey, or to be seen holding hands with Davy Jones would have been a life dream come true! Living in London in the late ’60s, I was there for the unveiling of the first superstar teenage model: Twiggy. The public loved Twiggy. Weighing in at ninety pounds, she became an idol for millions of American girls. Girls (and women) began starving them-

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selves to approximate the Twiggy look. Her body had no curves and no noticeable fat; she truly earned the name Twiggy. That was just the beginning. Since then, fashion models have become increasingly thinner, with body weights nearly 25 percent less than the average American woman. Supermodel Kate Moss, considered a top role model for teens, outraged eating disorder campaigners after revealing her mantra: “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.”59 It should cause outrage. The fashion industry’s statistics for the average woman say she is five feet four inches tall and wears a size fourteen.60 Today’s models average a size zero. Being a size zero is very seductive and hard for young girls to resist. For them it is about idealized beauty and perfection. The word zero says it all. Zero means nothing—no fat, no muscle tone, no feminine curves— nothing that is attractive. And size zero is very dangerous. A person of that body weight and size is susceptible to physical and psychological illness, even death. For seventeen years I was held captive by the same monster that holds many of the supermodels, celebs, beauty pageant queens, and wannabe celebs imprisoned—a clinical eating disorder, bulimia. Eating disorders are one of the unspoken secrets that permeate many families. They are a growing problem in a nation that places undue value on thinness—even as overeating and obesity are epidemic. Public attitudes about weight have never been more judgmental. Pop culture crafts a message of discontent: if you are not good looking and thin, you’re a loser and cannot possibly be happy. Listen up! Studies have determined that eating disorder symptomatology and a drop in self-image and self-worth in females is related to model images in fashion magazines.61 Teen magazines say, “Don’t worry about being smart or decent; worry about looking good and being socially accepted!” This disorients and depresses many girls because they feel the pressure to imitate someone they cannot be. Minister George MacDonald said, “Half of the misery of the world comes from trying to look, instead of trying to be, what one


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is not. Jesus called this hypocrisy which simply means ‘wearing a mask, playing an actor.’”62 Hypocrisy is deliberate deception—trying make ourselves look smarter, more beautiful, more spiritual, more popular, more whatever, than we really are. A hypocrite lays aside their true identity and assumes a false one. This is not reality but play-acting, because it is impersonating someone else. The hypocrite prefers human spectators over the audience of God. Commentator John R.W. Stott wrote, “Some people weave round themselves such a tissue of lies that they can no longer tell which part of them is real and which is make believe.”63 Far too many girls today create a false self, a mask. They are taught beauty is the path to being accepted, to success, and to being loved. It is all about the outside. Boys too appear to be increasingly affected by the unspoken messages about how they should look. Our culture takes pains to sculpt the ideal male body into a form that perfectly balances masculinity and thinness. Dr. Gregory Jantz, well-known author and director of The Center in Edmonds, Washington, asked, “If the only way to be happy is to be young and thin, why is it I see so many young and thin people at The Center who are anything but happy?”64

The Youngest Wannabes A video of five eight and nine-year-olds dressed in skimpy outfits, provocatively dancing to Beyonce’s hit song “Single Ladies” surfaced on the Internet in May 2010. The public outcry was so great that the girls’ parents appeared on ABC’s Good Morning America to defend the dance routine. Two of the parents insisted the video was taken out of context. One said the video “was completely normal for dancing,” while the other stated, “And we’re very proud of our daughters and their accomplishments.”65 Inappropriate dancing doesn’t really surprise us in an era when girls are exposed to less than ideal role models and bombarded with sexualized messages in the media. These are issues being wrestled with today. Body image is one of the greatest pressures on the minds

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of teenagers. They are extremely susceptible to celebrity diet stories and websites. They persistently see celebs improving their body images. Sadly, in the search for acceptance and the body beautiful, many come to replace personal relationships with this obsession. Ironically, America seems to have a split personality when it comes to body image. On the one hand, we are in the midst of an obesity epidemic. Sixty-six percent of American adults are obese or overweight, according to the Centers for Disease Control. And the rates of severely obese children have doubled in the last twenty-five years.66 Many teens, and their parents, fear obesity and the stigma that comes with it. Look at the harmful trend:


Surveys of eight-year-old girls conclude 60 percent are worried about their weight and over a third are dieting.67

According to the National Eating Disorders Association, 51 percent of nine and ten-year-old girls feel better about themselves when they are dieting.

By the age of thirteen, 53 percent of girls are unhappy with their body image.

By the age of seventeen, this figure jumps up to 78 percent.68

In the 2000 Harvard Study Fat Talk, researchers found 86 percent of teenage girls were on a diet.

Plastic surgery in teens more than tripled between 1997 and 2007.69

Nearly 210,000 cosmetic plastic surgery procedures were performed on thirteen to nineteen-year-olds in 2009 (American Society of Plastic Surgeons).70

The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, who christened the craze, the “teen toxing trend,” reported that almost 4000 more Botox procedures were performed on teens eighteen and under in 2009 than in 2008.71

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Experts warn if we don’t do something about the demands, the consequences will be devastating. Stephen Hinshaw, psychologist and professor at University of California Berkeley says young girls face expectations almost impossible to meet. Not only do girls have to be smart and athletic, they also have to be thin and beautiful, which is leading to a mental health crisis. “One girl in four by the age of nineteen will have developed a major depression, made a suicide attempt, been involved in cutting or self mutilation, or been involved in binge eating or other eating disorders,” says Dr. Hinshaw.72 Sexual abuse is a large cause of these symptoms. According to sociologist David Finkelhor who has conducted a massive study on child sexual abuse, one in three females is sexually abused by the age of eighteen, and one in four before the age of fourteen. One in six boys are abused.73 These statistics are quite shocking. Many survivors of sexual abuse will suffer in silence. The impact is devastating on their self-worth and future relationships. Girls react to the cultural pressures and abandon their real selves. As a result, many withdraw, get angry, or depressed, and “fat talk” flourishes. Dr. Catherine Hart-Weber, author of Is Your Teen Stressed or Depressed, wrote: Hurting teens’ outward facades don’t match their inner reality … Because they don’t always feel safe turning to adults for help, they take matters into their own hands, turning to negative influences for ways of numbing, escaping, soothing, or self-medicating. Alcohol, smoking, cutting, eating disorders, p*rnography, sexual promiscuity, problems at school, sadness, irritability, and loss of interest in activities are all early indicators that a teen is masking a deeper issue.74

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don’t know what to do with the pain. When a soul is empty, the behaviors of good kids sometimes turn bad. Don’t treat the symptom; identify the cause. Talk to your teen. Probe deeper to find out what’s really going on in her heart and mind. Where is she spending her time and with who? Adolescents face many difficulties living in this culture. They must have the support of their parents even when they are distancing themselves from their parents. While we need to give them room to grow and express independence, we also need to stay more involved and closer to them than we’re perhaps used to.

Good Girls Don’t Get Fat “I wish I had your thighs. Mine are so saggy.” “Do you think I have a big bootie? I think it’s like a whale’s!” “I’d do anything to have that model’s body.” “If I had three wishes I’d only choose one—to be thin.” Something mysterious happens to girls in adolescence—they sell their bodies and souls for popularity. There is more pressure on teen girls to be beautiful than there is on teen boys. Sadly, only around ten percent of girls believe they are “pretty enough.”75 The problem is that the world has defined beauty by certain parameters that can only be met by a miniscule percentage of the population. Let me tell you, once indoctrinated into the world of celebrity worship and obsessive exercise or dieting or beauty regimens, it’s hard to get out and back into the free, flexible, and fun relationship you once had with food and your body. Setting my sights on being a supermodel, I made that announcement in my sixth grade class. Some boys laughed, “Yeah, you’ll be a supermodel … for MAD Magazine.” Translation, You’re ugly. Give it up! I didn’t give it up. I’d do anything to be a beautiful supermodel and or celebrity. Why not? In this culture celebrity and beauty have great rewards. The purpose of a model is to advertise, display, or promote fashion clothing or other products. Yet millions of people look beyond what they are selling and fixate on the model herself (or himself), particularly fashion and fitness models. This was the beginning of what I call the cover girl masquerade. Like other girls my age, I didn’t think, Who am I? What do I want?


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What was I created to do on this earth? I thought, What must I do to please others and be accepted? My spiral began innocently enough with a diet my senior year in high school. After being called fat and internalizing those feelings, I lost fifteen pounds and looked great. I received compliments and praise from my parents and friends … and I wanted more. I felt accepted and loved. I belong! Now I’ll be popular! The disordered eating thought process began in high school but exploded when I entered college and joined a sorority. Interestingly, a DePauw University study determined young women who rush sororities are more likely to have an eating disorder than those who don’t.76 Sorority girls are more likely to be burdened with negative body image and disordered eating.77 Dieting and chaotic eating behaviors have a contagious nature. It’s like a virus that spreads through groups of adolescent women. Researchers found patterns of bingeing, fasting, diet pill use, and other eating disorder symptoms particularly strong among groups of female students.78 Before I knew it, I was a full-blown bulimic, a disease that took over my life. I eventually reached my goal weight of ninety-nine pounds. In hindsight, I wish someone had said to me, “Great, you’re a size four. There are a million other size fours out there. What’s different about you? What is it about you, Kimberly the person, that shines?” That would have stung a little but hopefully would have pointed me toward working on my inside. Cleaning up the outside of the cup while leaving the inside a mess, full of self-indulgence, is not what Jesus recommended (see Luke 11:39–41). He said the way to change our behavior permanently on the outside is to change what we believe on the inside. His views were clear: paying too much attention to how we appear and not enough attention to who we are is like trying to make a smelly old outhouse pleasing by painting it with a fresh coat of brightly colored paint.

Skinny or Else! American celebrities—with far too many of our teens following right behind them—are wasting away in the life-draining pursuit of extreme thinness. One teen blogged, “Selena Gomez is my idol.

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She’s very skinny. I have a big picture of her in my room and aspire to be as thin as her in a few months.” Another responded, “I am a size 6 right now and I really wanna be a size 2. I know its not right but I see Miley and Selena Gomez and I wanna be like them.” A Discovery Girls survey found that 36 percent of girls who worry they’re not the “right size” said that comparing themselves to celebrities and models contributed to their feelings of inadequacy.79 We need to send the message: don’t get trapped! We must consciously work to help teens build up their self-worth. Comments like, “Look how big you’re getting,” “You shouldn’t eat that—you’ll get fat,” or “Why are you so much bigger than your friends?” only intensifies guilt and shame. Encourage and compliment teenagers when they are showing effort in any area. One boy said, “I think it’s important for a parent to encourage us. I don’t mind being nagged sometimes but I also need encouragement. It’s rough when you get all of one and none of the other.”80 Often, just a few words of praise, a compliment, a big smile, or hug will be enough nourishment to help a kid overcome a challenging situation and instill self-worth and respect. Praise opens the door to communication. But we must also be careful how we praise them. To say, “I am so proud of you for losing fifteen pounds. Now you don’t have to worry about being called fat. All the boys will want to date you,” is really saying, “You are your weight.” The better compliment might be, “I am so proud of you for losing fifteen pounds. I know that was very hard for you. It took a lot of self-discipline and control and patience. Those are great qualities that will get you through other challenges in life.” Now I’m praising her character and personhood. We all agree this culture needs more healthy role models— young people who represent God’s model of health, both physically and emotionally. There is growing evidence that the cult of the thin plastic celebrity is being rejected. Amen!

I Want a Famous Face! I love the comedic comic character Maxine because she’s got a pulse on this culture and tells it like it is: “What’s new with you? Your boobs, your tush or your face?”81 We laugh yet reports indicate that the widespread availability of plastic surgery and the pervasive influence of reality shows focused on surgical makeovers are having a profound effect on the self-worth of young people, especially girls. Plastic surgeon Dr. Tony Youn, who writes the Celebrity Cosmetic Surgery Blog and has been featured on the TV series Dr. 90210, said the pressure is high to look perfect. “What we’re seeing is that a lot of teens are undergoing plastic surgery.”82 In her quest for a better body image, twenty-three-year-old reality star Heidi Montag unveiled on MTV’s The Hills’ sixth season premiere the effect of plastic surgery addiction. Obsessed with perfect, Heidi had ten procedures done on one day, all in an effort to convert herself into a real, live Barbie doll. In the Huffington Post, Heidi said, “I was made fun of when I was younger, and so I had insecurities.”83 This story crowded the Obamas off the cover of People Magazine. No doubt this type of programming encourages teen viewers to pursue cosmetic surgery since thousands of ultra-selfconscious teens consider it each year. More young people are considering cosmetic procedures to fulfill their dreams because most media coverage about plastic surgery is very flattering. According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, the most common procedure performed on people eighteen and younger was rhinoplasty (a nose job), but liposuction procedures and breast augmentations have greatly increased.84 A research study performed by GoodSurgeonGuide.co.uk said that 41 percent of girls between the ages of thirteen and sixteen-yearsold are already considering a cosmetic procedure. That’s more than two in every five girls. The study asked 1,012 girls in this age group about their views on cosmetic procedures: •


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62 percent said they wanted bigger breasts.

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55 percent wanted to change their teeth.

49 percent wanted some form of weight loss surgery, such as liposuction.

33 percent wanted rhinoplasty.

49 percent wanted to have the procedure now; while 7 percent had already had some plastic surgery done.

11 percent said the decision to consider a cosmetic procedure was based on the fact that their celebrity role model had some plastic surgery done. 85

Males are not immune. Twenty-year-olds Mike and Matt believed the only thing holding them back from Hollywood were their faces. They thought if they looked like Brad Pitt, they’d be able to make it big and women would desire them. On an episode of the 2005 reality television program I Want a Famous Face (MTV) they both got rhinoplasties, chin implants, and porcelain veneers. Mike got cheek implants. The show featured young adults who underwent plastic surgery with the goal of looking like a famous person … and teens all over America are following in their footsteps. The Bible says, “It’s your life that must change, not your skin … W hat counts is your life” (Luke 3:8–9, msg).

An Epidemic of Insecurity Why do teens seek plastic surgery? Unlike adults who undergo plastic surgery to turn back the clock, many teens desire it in order to fit in. They believe it will make them popular. When asked about what issues are compelling young girls to consider plastic surgery, they overwhelmingly answered, as Heidi Montag eluded to, “being picked on at school about a physical appearance attribute.” One in four indicated they would change their appearance so they would no longer be bullied about their defect.86 Kids can be cruel! They don’t think about how their comments hurt someone else. “Hey, baseball nose!” “Check out pancake chest!” A constant barrage of cruel remarks often drives teens to take surgi-


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cal action. The pressure to conform and live in a pre-programmed box gives youth the message it is not okay to truly look like or express their real selves. Many teens report that their self-image and confidence improves when their perceived physical shortcomings are corrected. What they do not realize is that despite cutting-edge cosmetic procedures, there is no guarantee of a perfect result or happiness. The definition of the word cosmetic tells us so: “a superficial measure to make something appear better, more attractive, or more impressive.” Superficial means “lacking depth or significance.” Unrealistic expectations about plastic surgery and its effects on their life can set a teen up for major disappointment. One year after Heidi Montag’s drastic plastic surgeries, the former reality star came forward to show the world her battle wounds and to express her deep regrets. “Parts of my body definitely look worse than they did presurgery … This is not what I signed up for,” twenty-four year-old Heidi told Life & Style. Inside the magazine she revealed the gruesome scars, lumps and bald spots her ten plastic surgery procedures left behind.87 Many psychologists say it’s a myth that how you feel about yourself is related to how you actually look. Often counseling, encouragement and some lessons in makeup and beauty is all they need. Many teens still carry “baby fat’ so exercise is the preferred choice over liposuction. The important thing is to work with a teen if she or he is consistently unhappy. While it is generally not necessary for a teenager to undergo plastic surgery or acquire expensive cosmetic treatments, there may be cases when it is justified. While each case should be judged individually, perceived flaws like crooked teeth, bad skin, a bigger than normal nose or ears, overly large breasts, can be devastating to a teen causing emotional pain. Doctors say some cosmetic surgery procedures may be appropriate for teens. Others, such as breast enlargement, may not be. Different parts of the body mature at different ages. For example,

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rhinoplasty should be considered only after the nose has finished developing. Typically this occurs by age fourteen in females and sixteen in males.88 The breasts are still developing so breast augmentation should not be performed until they reach twenty-one years of age. A teenager, like anybody else, needs to be fully aware of the risks and knowledgeable about the procedure and recovery before thinking of any surgery. How do you respond when a healthy child insists she needs liposuction because she’s too fat? “It’s important to realize that you can’t argue with an adolescent’s reality,” says Dr. David Elkind, author of The Hurried Child. He advises, Present your position in a nonconfrontational way. “You may be right, but that’s not the way I see it. What makes you think that? Tell me more about your thoughts on the issue.” Help them think through their reality and in the process, help them gain a more objective perspective.89

Appearance is important, especially to teenagers who are building their identity and confidence. I believe the amount of emotion and energy poured into desiring plastic surgery is a way that person is tempting to fill that “something” which can only be filled by God. I speak from experience. In grade school my nickname was Bozo. As a kid my nose was always too big for my face. I hated my nose. Instead I chose to focus on something I could control—my weight, until one night …  

What They Don’t Tell You One evening a friend asked, “If you could change anything about your mate, what would it be?” Knowing full well I despised my nose, my fiancé responded, “Her nose.” I didn’t get upset or feel betrayed. This remark simply confirmed what I had felt since I was a kid—I had a big Bozo nose. All those old negative thoughts and feelings resurfaced. Time to take action!


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I worked at a hospital and knew which plastic surgeon to consult. The nurses considered him “the best.” He said something like, “I guess you’re here because you don’t want to live with a golf ball nose any longer.” Who wouldn’t sign up for rhinoplasty after hearing that? I had one of those noses that had excess cartilage around the tip. I guess you could have balanced a golf ball on it. I had the surgery. At a follow-up appointment, I pointed out that not all of the excess cartilage had been removed. And there was a small bone fragment lodged, which calcified on the nose bridge. I subjected myself to another rhinoplasty (at no cost) to fix the flaw. More pain, more swelling, and again, the black and blue raccoon eyes. After the swelling subsided, I looked into that wretched reflective frame, Mirror, mirror, on the wall, do you deceive me? The same flaws were back! Here we go again … rhinoplasty number three! To make matters worst, I was allergic to the tape I wore over my nose. Each time it was removed, my skin was raw and bloody. My nose never did turn out as I desired. I accepted it … and it certainly doesn’t look fake. Actress Jennifer Grey, best known for receiving a first place title in ABC’s Dancing With the Stars and for her role as Baby in Dirty Dancing (1987), chose rhinoplasty. What many people don’t know is she needed a second surgery to correct the first one. She commented in an interview that having rhinoplasty was the worst mistake she ever made. Some would agree her bridge was a bit long and had a hump, but it was “her.” It cost her her career. Other stars who received the same type of negative comments after having plastic surgery call it the “Jennifer Grey” syndrome.90 Today I have a new kind of beauty—a new self—beauty that radiates from within. I received an exclusive life-changing beauty treatment and it didn’t cost me a penny! The Apostle Paul said, “Put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator” (Colossians 3:10). God wants to re-make us into the image of his Son. How does that renewal come about? It comes only through knowledge of him. I now realize that most elective plastic surgery is our way of saying to God, “I don’t like what you’ve created. I’ll take over.” Each line and wrinkle tells my story. If I erase them, I erase my story. I

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think of myself like a red-hot coal, fired up from within by the power of the Holy Spirit. If I choose to leave the Spirit out of my life, I become my old self—a cold, black coal devoid of any warmth. I’m ugly! Our value does not rest in looking a particular way or like a celebrity. Celebrate every scar, every birthmark, and every flaw because each of them tells a piece of the story of who you are. I realize that as long as I live on earth in this fleshly body, I will probably always struggle with my appearance and need for approval. Thankfully, God’s grace and mercy and love continue to fill my spirit and soul. Yet I still consider this my area of vulnerability. This is not lack of faith but wisdom—a healthy awareness of my weakness. Temptation is always lurking. Praise God I’m not as vulnerable as I used to be.

Is Plastic Surgery a Sin? Many Christians struggle with this question. When the Bible was written, there were no plastic surgery or cosmetology centers. We need to answer that question based on what we know about God. I would say it is a sin if these procedures take your focus off God and are put solely on yourself. The issue isn’t whether we have plastic surgery or wear makeup or go on a rampage of diets. The issue to God is whether we are in bondage to it. There are many Christian women who have had facelifts and Botox injections and breast implants but have not fallen captive to its eternal lure. God remains number one in their lives. I can tell you firsthand, an eating disorder and the desire for unending cosmetology procedures will sneak up on you. When you get caught in these webs you enter a different sphere of reality … and it can become extremely addictive. That’s when our relationship with God is in danger of becoming jeopardized. Take a stand as three young men in the Book of Daniel did, “ … O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up” (Daniel 3:18, niv). As you look into your mirror, what does “the image of gold” represent? What gods are living in your home?


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Voices of Influence Teens today love to read about their favorite stars. They feel an unmistakable pull toward celebrity gossip sites presenting the latest scoops. All they have to do is log on to the Internet and check realtime updates on all their favorites. One study found that teens who keep up to date on celebrity gossip are popular with strong social networks. The interest in pop culture indicates a healthy drive for independence from parents.91 Adolescents begin to select role models to emulate. A good role model helps the teen establish a sense of identity and purpose and gain the skills and outlook needed to succeed in life. They can define the qualities he or she hopes to emulate and demonstrate the steps required to reach those qualities. For instance, a fictitious role model may show courage in the face of danger, while a successful businessperson may demonstrate how to flourish in a competitive environment. Teens can incorporate those qualities into their own sense of self, providing them with improved confidence and viable goals. Celebrity gossip sites attract teens for two reasons. One, they update them about their favorite icons. Many teens look at the content as an actual learning experience, particularly when it comes to fashion. Fashion trends are wrapped into entertainment news. They check out what the celebs are wearing and emulate them. There is nothing wrong in being fashion conscious unless it becomes an idol and controls your life. Most teens generally know where to strike the balance. Two, celebrity gossip writers maintain these sites can have a positive inspirational influence. Many of those who are elevated and tagged teen icons are achievers. Forbes.com’s “11 Most Successful Teen Celebrity Entrepreneurs” drew attention to some teen celebs

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who were able to balance careers while also finding time for charity work.92 Admiring someone for their accomplishments and service and then pushing yourself to excel in the same way can be positive. Many critics contend celebrity gossip sites actually do more harm than good. Every teen has free will. They will choose what they will view and what they won’t. Unfortunately, the part of the brain that controls the ability to make mature judgment decisions basically shuts down for remodeling between the ages of twelve to twenty-five. Love it or hate it, you cannot ignore celebrity gossip. It is like mold that has spread its spores through the strata of society. It is another voice of influence.

The Boy Code I want to be like Mike. Today, male icons are successful, cool, good looking, score the hot chicks, are masculine, but also have a bit of the bad boy image. The images of men and masculinity have changed over the last fifty years. Some say boys are innately wired to live out their primitive instincts as warriors. Others say males today are extremely insecure as a result of being dominated by strong women. More studies confirm men today are more physical and aggressive. There’s a big difference in the physiques and aggressive acts of Superman, Batman, and GI Joe compared to Lou Feriggno, Sly Stallone, and Arnold. They have bigger bodies and bigger guns. Violence has become normalized. There is a growing connection in this society between being a man and being violent. Boys learn toughness via role models in movies, music videos, and games that present violent masculinity as the cultural norm. If my son is drawn to certain male celebrities as role models and these men play violent roles, my son may likely believe the lie that this behavior is acceptable. Viewing media violence has been proven to provoke aggression in children and adolescents.93 Since 1982, television violence has increased by 780 percent. During that time teachers have observed a nearly 800 percent increase in violence on the school playground.94


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Today (and in my day too) it is not uncommon for a grade school boy to hit a girl and her reaction be, “He likes me!” In the 1999 documentary movie Tough Guise, Jackson Katz examines the relationship between images and media messages in popular culture and the creation of male identities. Katz asked young men what it meant to be male. Replies such as strong, physical, independent, in control, powerful, athletic, tough, and stud were common. If a guy doesn’t fit into this box, they are called whimp, girly-girl, emotional, and fa*g.95 Boys learn the “boy code.” They must be big and strong and must stand on their own two feet fearing they will be called these names. If they are in pain, they dare not show it. When they are in need of direction, they dare not ask for it. Boys typically have a hard time showing vulnerability in a relationship. They are prone to action rather than talk. If they feel frustrated or angry, it is not unusual for it to grow into rage. It was love at first sight for Sara when she met Joe her sophom*ore year. She never dreamed she’d become a statistic—one of thousands of teen girls caught in an abusive relationship. Dating violence today is a major adolescent health issue. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that more than 30 percent of adolescent girls have been a victim of physical, emotional, or verbal abuse from a dating partner. Up to 10 percent of high school students have been physically hurt by their dating partner.96 What is clear is that boy abusers, without intervention, are likely to repeat this behavior as an adult. Some teens feel that having a boyfriend or girlfriend proves their worth. Teens are highly susceptible to a common belief that not having a romantic relationship means there is something wrong with them. They may feel so strongly about having a relationship that a bad or violent relationship is better than no relationship at all.

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Positive role models in healthy relationships are important for teens to learn the necessary skills in dating relationships. Without positive role models, teens may not realize their behaviors in dating relationships are abusive or that they are in an abusive dating relationship. When talking, focus on what healthy relationships are. Look into your own mirror. Parents who behave aggressively are more likely to have children who behave aggressively. On the other hand, if a parent controls their temper, children learn that yelling and acting out are unacceptable responses to frustration. Model self-control for your children by remaining calm and talking through a problem or by removing yourself from a potentially explosive situation until you have a better handle on your emotions. Talk to and about people respectfully. Stay away from derogatory or hateful comments. Be kind. This will not only make the people around you happier, but teaches your child respect for others. Most teenage boys will not become abusers. Boys on the edge— those with biological proclivity, who live in a home with domestic violence or are being bombarded by video games and media that equate control and power with being a real man—these boys can fall into abusive teen dating behavior.97 It is important teens get education (through workshops, churches, and schools) about the warning signs of controlling partnerships and dating violence. Find them mentors and safe places to go. Boys must also be taught that women want to feel protected and secure, and they admire vulnerability. Most women appreciate a reciprocal relationship where each person can be “weak,” melancholy at times, fearful, but yet able to provide strength and courage.

Getting Your Teen Help Does your son get into fights at school? Does he punch walls or destroy property when he’s angry? Teens in trouble often lose their tempers or use violence to try to solve conflicts. If he’s ever been violent toward you, a girlfriend, or anyone else, he is in trouble and needs professional help.


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The first step is to talk. This may be a challenge, especially if your family fights a lot or doesn’t communicate well. Start solution talking instead of problem talking … and keep talking. Say, “I want to understand what’s important to you.” As mentioned before, probe deeper to find out what’s really going on in his heart and mind. In the interim: •

Allow him to express anger—punch a pillow, run and exercise. It’s hard to be mad when you are exhausted.

Encourage him to write an angry letter then throw it away.

Work out a “hitting” contract. If you hit your sister or the pet or anyone else, you are grounded for one week.

Find help through: •

School support. Teachers and guidance counselors specialize in these issues. They know how to talk to teens and often pave the way for professional psychological help.

Minister. Clergy are trained to listen and provide support. Youth pastors are particularly effective and too can pave the way for professional help.

Family doctor. If health problems are affecting your teen a physician can diagnose as well as give you a list of other community support and resources.

Trusted adult. Sometimes teens need to hear from a nonbiased parental model. A friend or relative may also be able to persuade your teen to get professional help.

Education and change must start in the home with parents. Seek out support for yourself. You can’t help your teen if you’re not healthy. Consider joining a church small group or support group. You need others who will come alongside of you during this difficult season. Soren Kierkegaard said, “A road well begun is the battle half won. The important thing is to make a beginning and get under

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way.” 98 Let’s agree to work together to break the current mindset to include more stories about God fearing, sensitive, men!

Disobedience, Deceit, and Discipline The problem with mimicking celebrity behavior is the viewer usually only sees the side the media or the celebrity’s manager wants them to see—the glamour and fun, the fans, and the benefits of having a lot of money. In reality, the picture we see can be highly deceptive. Pretending, denying, hiding, or twisting the facts to create a particular impression are forms of lying. Unlike what the celebrity and pop culture presents, the Bible always tells the truth. God intends for us to learn from these people. Read 2 Samuel 11 and 12. David, considered a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22), committed adultery and then murdered a man in a last-ditch effort to cover his own sin. For at least nine months, David refused to admit what he had done. Then God sent in the prophet Nathan to speak to the guilty King David. Not an easy task, Nathan had to confront David about his actions. At this point in time, Bathsheba and David’s baby was about to be born. By telling a story about someone else’s crime, Nathan prepared David for dealing with his own sins. God helped Nathan carefully craft the exact words he’d say to David so he’d clearly see what he had done. David’s adultery with Bathsheba was a sin of passion, a sin of the moment that overtook him. But having Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah, killed was premeditated, deliberate, and a disgrace against God. Scripture says the, “Lord considered David’s actions evil” (2 Samuel 11:27, gw). Other versions say the thing David had done displeased God. Notice God is disgruntled with David’s actions, not David the person he created. God being true to his nature judged David’s sins and he paid dearly for his deceit. God said, “Because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own …  Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity upon you” (2 Samuel 11:10–11, niv). David finally sees his sin and confesses. David paid for the rest of his lifetime. These verses came true: their first baby died, his daughter was raped by his son, murder was a constant threat in his family, his


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household rebelled against him, his wives were given to another in public view, and he missed out on building the Lord’s temple. He experienced tragedy after tragedy, either in his family or kingdom. What a price to pay for a few minutes of passion and desire! It is important to recognize that these tragedies were a result, or the consequence of, David’s sin. This is not the same as punishment. David confessed and repented but God’s judgment prevailed. The consequences of David’s offenses were irreversible. God forgave David’s sin and restored their relationship, but he did not wipe out the consequences. You are free to choose between two masters, but you are not free to adjust the consquences of your choice. We must never take on the attitude that, “I can do this—get drunk, try marijuana, have premarital sex—because if I tell God I’m sorry, he’ll forgive me.” If we choose to live this way we must remember that we may set into motion events with irreversible consequences—a DUI charge and jail time, a teen pregnancy or a sexually transmitted disease (STD), or the loss of a college scholarship and good friends. Sin that has been forgiven and forgotten by God may still leave human scars. This is the clincher—despite David’s actions, God still used David, and his royal line never ended. His descedents were allowed to continue to rule over Israel—as long as they followed God. In fact, his virtues were found worthy enough to generate from his seed the forthcoming Messiah. David was truly repentant. We know he was because he wrote Psalm 51 during this event. He gives us valuable insight into his character, offering hope for us as well. We will all, at one time or other, fall into this culture’s den of temptation. We are human beings with a sin nature. David assures us there is forgiveness when we fall short of God’s expectations for us. We can pour our heart out to God. David also wrote Psalm 32 to express the joy he felt after God forgave him. Think about what he is saying in these first five verses and how they apply to your life:

What happiness for those whose guilt has been forgiven! What joys when sins are covered over! What relief for those who have confessed their sins and God has cleared their record. There was

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a time when I wouldn’t admit what a sinner I was. But my dishonesty made me miserable and filled my days with frustration. All day and all night your hand was heavy on me. My strength evaporated like water on a sunny dayuntil I finally admitted all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide them. I said to myself, “I will confess them to the Lord.” And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone. Psalm 32:1–5, tlb

boys in order to create an “image.” Talk about negative versus positive images. •

Watch TV with your child. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, TV programs should be a springboard that spurs curiosity, discussion, and learning. Ask questions about what they learned from the program; what they like or didn’t like about the content and the characters.100 Tell them what you like and don’t like and why. The key is to talk with them, not at them, about the programming.

Interact. When viewing a particular celeb or magazine advertisem*nt, ask, “What do the images and words you see tell you?” “What do they make you think?” Start this process early so that your children know how media can be used in negative and positive ways.

Set boundaries and clear limits. Talk about what they’re allowed to watch or listen to, and what they’re not—and why. Then listen and let them talk. Validate their feelings even if they don’t get what they want. That tells them they matter.

Regulate versus abolish their involvement of entertainment news. If you decide to eliminate certain media, be ready for push back. It’s not easy to keep the world of fame and glamour away from teens. They’ll find it.

Take the TV set and computer with Internet access out of their bedroom and put it in a common area. Period.

Teaching Teens to Navigate Mass Media “There’s a stranger in your house.” That is what nationally acclaimed child advocate James P. Steyer said. He agrees with other researchers that every day our children are bombarded by images of sex, commercialism, and violence—right from our own homes. Steyer, author of The Other Parent: The Inside Story of the Media’s Effect on Our Children, said, “So you tell me who’s the parent in this picture? … This is the new media reality, and it is not one that most parents or children are prepared for.”99 Kids learn about the adult world long before they’re ready. They are vulnerable and need help navigating mass media. It is a parent or guardian’s job to protect their children from poisonous role models. The key is education in media literacy. Experts recommend that parents:

Use Celebrity Stories for Productive Conversation

Limit and Regulate All Media Consumption


Be involved. Know what media your children are watching and listening to.

Help them learn how to consume the media. Teach them the purpose of the media, which is either to present news or entertain or educate or sell products. Show them how some media is used inappropriately to sexualize girls or over-masculinize

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Many icons, like Miley Cyrus and Britney Spears, fall off their pedestals for one reason or another. Ask your teen what she thinks of what she sees. Open-ended questions generate discussion: “How does Miley’s new image compare to what you used to love about Hannah Montana?” Refrain from making judgment statements, such as, “She dresses so trashy now!”

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Many celebrities’ stories are tragic. They are a golden opportunity to talk to your teen because you have a captive audience. 1980s teen idol Cory Haim battled substance abuse and consequently died of it in 2010. His story is sadly familiar.

Use celebrity scandals to reinforce family values and truth. Every teen was exposed to Tiger Wood’s transgressions. Talk about it—highlight the cost and consequences of marital infidelity (rent a copy of Fatal Attraction).

Turn a questionable or negative story into something good and positive. “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28, niv).

the Almighty. It isn’t passive; it’s active. It is two-way communication—a partnership: we speak; he listens. He speaks; we listen. Pray that God would take up the slack between what you can give your teen and what they really need. Barna Research Group reports that 80 percent of those who receive Christ do so by age eighteen.101 We must pray for the souls of our children—that they revere the sovereignty of God and would come to know and follow Jesus.

Do not fear talking about your own fears and concerns, and listen to what your teen has to say. The key is to communicate positively. Remind your teen she or he can always change role models. They might be better able to relate to someone who shares their values and interests—someone who is promoted and viewed differently in the media. If they shy or push away, don’t press on. Leave the door open so they can come to you later on when they feel more comfortable. Let them know that you realize that growing up in today’s world can be tough, and you want to be someone they can talk to. Parents, never forget you have the final say over what your kids watch … at least at home. Prayer is essential. In a comic, Grandma is talking to her teenage granddaughter who is proudly holding up her cell phone. Grandma then says, “Wireless communication is nothing new. I’ve been praying for seventy-five years!” Prayer is simply talking to God. It is the means by which we develop a personal, intimate relationship with


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America’s Next Top Model? The lyrics to Jill Sobule’s song “Supermodel” go, “I’m not gonna eat tomorrow … Cause I’m gonna be a supermodel!” Many teens learn quickly that the way to be a celebrity is through the sculpting of their body. For fourteen years I lived in the capital of celebrity, Los Angeles, a breeding ground for body image sculpting and eating issues. My only concern was my own personal image management. As a young adult—searching to find herself in the city of glitz and glamour, suntans, buffed-out movie stars, and beaches—my self-worth only deteriorated. I’d give anything to have a celebrity life instead of this drab existence! In addition to bingeing and purging food I found enormous pleasure in binge drinking because my self-consciousness and insecurities vanished. It is not uncommon for individuals with bulimia or binge eating disorder to also have problems with drug and alcohol abuse. The tragedy is I was sexually assaulted numerous times. Sexual assault is usually associated with rape, but is by definition any nonconsensual sexual act or forced sex through the use of physical power, manipulation, coercion, threats, or intimidation. Psychologically, I tucked away the distress. Obsessed, I also poured my money into all the industries that promised to help me look “perfect,” like a celebrity—cosmetics, fashion, nutrition, plastic surgery, and weight loss. If I could get that money back, I think I’d be a millionaire. I’d certainly be comfortable in my retirement. If you’re seeking the perfect look, the choices are endless … if you want to pay the price—financially, emotionally, physically and spiritually. Nobody discovered me! In a culture that defines thinness, I got stuck in the cycle of weight loss and emotional eating. The problem wasn’t really what I was eating, but what was eating me. My thinking was unmistakably twisted. I didn’t believe my Creator, who told me in his Word, “All beautiful you are, my darling;there is no flaw in you” (Song of Songs 4:7, niv). All I saw were flaws because I compared myself to every famous female this culture put on a pedestal. I didn’t have

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any fulfilling relationships or hobbies. I couldn’t even answer the question, “Who am I?” The dictionary defines culture as the behaviors and beliefs characteristic of a particular social, ethnic, or age group,102 such as the youth culture or celebrity culture or the drug and sexual culture. Those beliefs fill the vacuum left if God’s truth isn’t filling it. We all hold beliefs in our unconscious and are usually not aware of them. These beliefs guide our behavior automatically. When they are negative or self-condemning then our behavior is often selfdestructive. We are not okay. Jesus’s beliefs and view of life—called a biblical worldview— means understanding and living life from God’s perspective. This is what the Bible does—it gives us the truth about life and happiness. It is God’s way of preparing us in every way to do great things that God wants us to do (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Authentic change happens as we become aware of our wrongful beliefs and replace them with truth based, godly worldviews. A better way to put is to say that being in a relationship with Jesus realigns our faulty beliefs.

A Walk down Freedom Lane It was beginning to look like a life or death situation. I needed someone to point me to Jesus Christ. I accepted him as my Savior, and he walked into my messed-up life. A couple months later, I was freed and saved—born again (see Romans 10:9). God miraculously released me physically from the bondage of an eating disorder and a self-destructive lifestyle. He was at work all along in my life—in the pain, in all the blunders. No matter in what condition we arrive at his feet, he is always working out his perfect purpose in us. Henri Nouwen, a well-known Catholic priest and author, said, “When you admit Jesus into your heart, nothing is predictable but everything becomes possible.”103 As a Christian, Jesus dwells within me. He wants to give me an internal makeover—to renew my mind and change my heart from myself to him and others. He knows I’ll never find wholeness by imitating models and celebrities. He spoke to me clearly through his Word: “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other” (Matthew 6:24, niv).


Kimberly Davidson

The problem was I still held onto make believe and the same beliefs. Healing from an eating disorder, and other destructive behaviors, requires a shift in thinking. We can change our eating habits and behavior. But if we do not examine what we say to ourselves, those automatic negative thoughts and the destructive behavior will continue to wreak havoc in our lives. If I didn’t learn the truth, I’d continue to be influenced by deception, the past, and celebrity mirroring. God began showing me the errors of my thinking enabling me to replace cultural lies, such as “you must be thin to be accepted” with the truth—the Word of God. Through Jesus Christ, we have the power to transform ourselves—not by mirroring celebrities. Jesus is real; celebrities and images aren’t. Following Jesus is how we find out who we really are. As a woman who has emerged victorious from a seventeen-year battle with an eating disorder, a twenty-year struggle with alcohol abuse, and over thirty years of idolizing celebrities, I can tell you it was, and continues to be, my commitment to nurturing a relationship with the triune God, connecting with “real” people, and serving others that kept me, and keeps me, from wooing a selfcentered celebrity-obsessed lifestyle. Too many of us feel “something” is missing. Many Christians call it a soul-hole. Psychologists Tim Clinton and Joshua Straub, authors of God Attachment, stated that neurobiological research says that “at some point in your life, whether you think seriously about it now or not, you will face your need for something more— your need for a relationship with God … But the bottom line is this: You will have to make a choice—a choice that will lead you in only one of two ways, either toward God or away from him.”104 The way we think and act are built on years of thought patterns and experiences. God showed me lies I believed, bad memories, all the things that filled my soul-hole. Once I faced deception head on, he began unraveling the junk and started knitting me into the likeness of his Son, Jesus. When we ask Jesus to become our Lord, we become complete in him (Colossians 2:9), and our soul-hole starts to fill up. Following Jesus is how we find out who we really are. I’ll be honest—I haven’t “arrived.” I find it’s easy to get caught up with the culture. And my struggle with materialism becomes even more difficult as God blesses me more and more. We have to

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work hard to stay humble, be generous, take pleasure in a simpler life, and, particularly, fix our hearts on our Master instead of on pleasing people, money and stuff. Every person on earth is designed by God to make a difference. It is hard to imagine God forgiving us for our sin, let alone helping us clean up our mess and then using the ruins to further his kingdom—but he does (Isaiah 51:3). We all have our own unique gifts to be used for the Kingdom. Our lives must reflect God’s priorities rather than our own. Rather than seek to bless ourselves, we learn to look for ways to bless others. That is what an authentic, extraordinary person does.

The Skinny on Being Trapped Sara slipped her tiny body into her beautiful, pink leotard, anticipating another ballet class. After putting on her matching ballet slippers she imagined she was a princess … until she looked at herself in the mirror. Sara first heard “the voice,” the one that told her she was fat— much bigger than the other girls—the one that said she’d never be a real ballerina, at the tender age of five. She didn’t know how to discern this voice. As she grew into a teen, the voice became louder and stronger and she eventually developed an eating disorder. “Being a princess isn’t all it’s cracked up to be,” stated the late Princess Diana.105 Bulimia was revealed as Diana’s “secret disease” in Andrew Morton’s book, Diana: Her True Story. She admitted she began to follow a strict diet after people made comments about her “pudgy” appearance. Once she started dieting, she couldn’t stop. Food became the answer to the hurt and emptiness she felt. In this culture, an obsession with food and dieting can often be mistaken for a healthy lifestyle choice. We’re often praised for working out three hours a day or having the willpower to eat teenytiny meals. We can download applications to help us count each calorie we ingest. These are deceptive traps disguised as a potentially deadly eating disorder—and they are ready to take over your child’s life.


Kimberly Davidson

Eating disorders are often taken too lightly. The symptoms are brushed off as an attention-seeking device or a fad that the person will eventually grow out of. This is usually not the case. Let me tell you personally, no one chooses to have an eating disorder, nor is it a “lifestyle” choice or a case of vanity. Eating disorders are serious with severe medical, nutritional, and psychological consequences. In December, 2010 the French model and actress Isabelle Caro died at the age of twenty-eight after battling anorexia for years. At one stage she weighed just fifty-five pounds.106 The fact is, troubling reports confirm to a greater extent teens are being held captive to this dreadful disorder. One high school boy complained, “Why do all the girls I like end up having eating disorders?” They want to be thin, because it represents success and love and power—which, of course, is a lie. The personal history is usually associated with low self-worth and self-esteem. For Stacey Prussman, her eating disorders were born on Broadway at age ten. With her parents at her side, she auditioned for the part of Orphan Annie. In front of judges, she climbed onstage and belted out a pitch-perfect “Tomorrow.” One judge responded, “You know, kid, you have a really good voice, but there are no fat Annie’s [on Broadway].”107 In her mind, the only solution was to diet. And once she started dieting she couldn’t stop because of the pressure to be thin. Dieting is the most common behavior that leads to an eating disorder. Dr. John Whyte, Chief Medical Expert and Vice President, Health and Medical Education at Discovery Channel, stated more than a third of normal dieters develop an eating disorder.108 Most disturbing is in 2009, the government published data showing that children under twelve-years-old were the fastestgrowing population of patients hospitalized for eating disorders.109 The Alliance for Eating Disorders Awareness website states, “Eating disorders affect up to 24 million Americans and 70 million individuals worldwide.” Eating disorder patients have the highest

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mortality rate of any mental illness. Twenty percent of people will die prematurely from complications related to their disease.110 According to statistics compiled by The Renfrew Center, a network of residential facilities for the treatment of women with eating disorders:111 •

Approximately half (40 to 60 percent) of high school girls are on a diet.

13 percent of high school girls binge and purge (bulimia).

30 to 40 percent of junior high girls worry about their weight.

Otherwise healthy teenage girls who diet regularly show worrying signs of malnutrition, researchers have found. Dieting can cause teenagers serious harm, potentially preventing them from developing properly. Calcium deficiency is a large concern. Data compiled by other organizations indicate:


90 percent of people with anorexia or bulimia are females between the ages of twelve and twenty-five.112

It is estimated that 11 percent of high school students have been diagnosed with an eating disorder.113

TIME magazine reported that 80 percent of all children have been on a diet by the time they reach the fourth grade.114

Almost half of nine to eleven-year-olds are “sometimes” or “very often” on diets. Over 80 percent of their family members are “sometimes” or “very often” on diets.115 Note the connection!

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality stated hospitalizations for eating disorders jumped by 119 percent between 1999 and 2006 for children under the age of twelve. About 10 percent of teens with an eating disorder are boys, and the number is growing.116

The 2009–2010 Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service Report states that adolescent girls accounted for 90 percent of all admissions with eating disorders.117

Kimberly Davidson

In most junior and senior high schools, students are dieting even though, on average, they are not overweight. “I always wanted to be the good girl. Good girls are skinny and happy. The bad girls are the fat ones,” answered an eleven-year-old when asked why she starved herself to the point of hospitalization. Though statistics vary, most clinicians and dietitians agree that eating disorders are on the rise. They are a growing problem among children and the typical at-risk profile no longer fits. Given the increases in incidence and prevalence over the past decade the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) stated that all adolescents and preteens should be screened. In a report published online in the December, 2010 issue of Pediatrics, the AAP urges pediatricians to consider and evaluate for anorexia, bulimia, and other eating disorders during regular check-ups, and to be familiar with resources for treating eating disorders in their community.118 Hospitalizations for eating disorders increased most among children under twelve years from 1999 to 2006, according to a federal analysis provided in the AAP report. Those particularly at risk include athletes and performers who participate in activities where being thin is rewarded. The good news from the report is, despite the potentially more critical consequences, adolescents typically have better outcomes than adults and recover fully. 119 Eating disorders are pervasive among athletes. A ballerina must have more than grace and flawless technique to be successful. She must also be abnormally thin. It is a dangerous obsession for many dancers. Others have learned the image of a lean long-distance runner can be as damaging to emulate as that of a swimsuit model. Figure skating and gymnastics also seem to endorse eating disorder behaviors. Monica Seles, famed tennis athlete, tells her story in her book, Getting a Grip: On My Body, My Mind, My Self. Female athletes are three to six times more likely to exhibit disordered eating than their non-athletic peers.120 Consequently, they may suffer lifelong physi-

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cal and psychiatric complications. Not surprising, studies reveal that cheerleaders may be at higher risk for eating disorders.121

Types of Eating Disorders Because of the characteristic secrecy and denial of eating disorders, it is difficult to assess the prevalence and trends. An eating disorder is a complex psychological illness characterized by a distorted body image, an intense fear of gaining weight, and an obsession with food. Let’s look at the various faces of this monster. Today there are three core eating disorders identified by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV (DSM -IV), the psychiatric reference source used by professionals to diagnose and treat mental disorders. Anorexia nervosa is a serious, potentially life-threatening disorder characterized by self-starvation and excessive weight loss. Individuals with anorexia have a relentless preoccupation with dieting and an irrational fear of weight gain even when emaciated, as well as a distorted self-image of body weight and shape. At sixteen, Terrie embarked on a harmless post-Christmas diet to shed a few pounds but was soon caught in the grip of anorexia. Months later her major organs failed and she died of a heart attack.


Anorexia affects an estimated nine in 1000 women in the United States.

Women are affected ten times more frequently than men, with the disorder nearly always beginning during adolescence.

Anorexia has the highest mortality rate of all psychiatric disorders and it increases a child’s risk of premature death by more than 12 times the expected rate.122

It is chronic in 20 to 30 percent of cases.

Predisposing factors, such as anxiety, perfectionism, and obsessive-compulsive tendencies may precede the onset of anorexia. These are characteristics often seen among adolescents and young adults who are making their transition into adulthood.

Kimberly Davidson

Successful treatment is challenging because anorexia is brutal. One teen admitted, “I started to just eat less and less, then I started to feel fat for eating an apple a day. I wanted to be beautiful and I wanted people to notice how thin I was and I wanted to be somebody, but in the end I ended up wrecking my future.” One aspiring model’s body is so starved that she physically smells because her body literally is eating itself alive.12 One teen blogged, I’m at 150 calories today. I’m exercising as soon as I get home. I plan to skip dinner. I need to reach my next goal weight by Monday, or else. Today my heart rate was 53 before lunch, about 56 now. My fingernail beds are not blue, exactly, but they’re not pink any more. And the sad thing is these symptoms thrill me. Like many of us, I have romantic ideals. I want to be the Poetic Waif, the starving artist, a princess, a fairy, something ethereal. I want to be Shakespeare’s Ophelia, a nostalgic, tragic figure, living in a world of air and dreams. Instead, I have always felt the opposite. I am logical, earthy, contained, responsible, boring. Ana [anorexia] is how I deal with my failures, Ana is how I achieve my dreams. I am choosing to live in a dream world, because I cannot live in the real one. I’m slipping slowly away.

Bulimia nervosa is also serious and potentially life-threatening. It is characterized by a cycle of bingeing and purging. Purging may be self-induced vomiting or ingesting large amounts of laxatives designed to eliminate the effects of binge eating. Exercise bulimics instead of vomiting, purge on exercise after eating in a desperate attempt to burn off calories and lose weight. According to the National Eating Disorders Association, about 80 percent of patients who are diagnosed with bulimia use exces-

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sive exercise to control their weight. The majority are women, aged between fifteen and thirty-five. 124 Studies note higher than normal rates of bulimia in families of substance abuse, especially alcohol abuse. Rates of obesity, depression, and mood disorders are also higher.125 Bulimia is used as a distraction from pain, to control emotions, to ease the stress of major life transitions, or to reduce image pressure, including the pressure to succeed. Increasingly, teens are experiencing anxiety and depressive disorders, key indicators of stress. Many young females think they will just “outgrow” bulimia; they don’t. I had no idea this monster would consume and destroy my life for seventeen years. For others, the torment of this bondage is severe, and many truly desire to die. Binge Eating Disorder (BED) is the most widely occurring eating disorder. It is characterized by eating an unusually large amount of food at one sitting, even when the person is not hungry—but without the counteracting use of purging. BED is more than just occasionally overeating. Many eat in secret due to shame. This disorder appears to be linked to very specific histories of childhood sexual or emotional abuse, which in turn lead to self-criticism.126 One celebrity confessed she’d get up to eat in the middle of the night and eat and eat. She realized she was stuffing her emotions down with food.127 EDNOS: Approximately 70 percent of patients diagnosed with eating disorders do not have bulimia or anorexia or BED, according to criteria from the current DSM-IV. Instead they suffer from what are known as eating disorders not otherwise specified—illnesses defined by what they aren’t. The term disordered eating falls into the EDNOS category. It is a term used by some to describe a wide variety of irregularities in a person’s eating behavior. A person’s focus is on their body and diet, but they do not meet the medical criteria for bulimia, anorexia, or binge eating. They too eat, or don’t eat, for emotional reasons.


Kimberly Davidson

EDNOS includes diet addiction which describes people who jump from one fad diet to another without ever stabilizing their weight or learning healthy eating habits.128 Another category is exercise addiction. It is not unusual for a girl to get up at 3 or 4 a.m. to exercise for three hours before school. They feel extremely guilty for missing a workout. Injuries, anxiety, amenorrhea (loss of menstrual cycle), bone loss, or a drop in protein levels are common due to the intensity and frequency of exercise, and refusal to allow the body time to rest and recover.129 Theresa Sage, R.D., a nutritionist at Kingley Health in Newtown, Pennsylvania said, Many of my patients began their eating disorder after initially losing weight on purpose. When they realize that their new weight has not protected them from their problems or negative feelings, they have the mistaken belief that more weight loss was needed. This will continue until they seek help and address the underlining issues that need to be resolved.130

This is the key—the eating disorder, the disordered eating behavior, is only a symptom to cover and mask inner feelings—the hole in the soul. Think about this: if food really did make you better, then you’d be better. The underlying cause must be addressed and resolved. And showing unconditional love and forgiveness is significant.

Other Eating Disorder Terms The following terms are pop-psychology terms, not considered to be official medical diagnoses but may still be used as a diagnosis by some practitioners who have documented the damaging results of the condition seen in their practices. Drunkorexia is a combination of alcoholism, bulimia, and anorexia. It is particularly prevalent on college campuses and mostly affects women. To counter the high choleric intake accompanying binge drinking, young women starve themselves before going out Torn Between Two Masters


partying. After drinking large amounts of alcohol, they often overeat and then purge. Heavy drinking on an empty stomach makes throwing up easier. Most adolescents don’t realize howdangerous this condition can be. They need to be treated for both alcoholism and an eating disorder. Manorexia: According to the American Journal of Psychiatry, the number of males suffering from eating disorders and negative body image is increasing. Societal pressures to obtain the “ideal” body image are no longer gender specific. Consider these statistics: •

Estimates suggest one out of every four young males will struggle with an eating disorder.131

Males account for an estimated 10 to 15 percent of people diagnosed with anorexia or bulimia. 132

Experts estimate that over one million American boys and men suffer from anorexia alone. The actual rates may be higher. 133

Craig, after years of being called the “fat kid,” decided to change his image in high school. He took control and started shedding the weight and developed anorexia.134 Wyatt dreamed of a career as a professional football player. At sixteen, his goal was to get into prime physical condition. “I took it too far. I started cycling thirty miles a day and skipping meals.”135 He too developed anorexia. If you are a male teen struggling with body image and weight, it is important to know that you are not alone! Several male celebrities have battled an eating disorder. Rock star Daniel Johns battled anorexia and came very close to committing suicide. Singer and composer Elton John was bulimic for fourteen years. Actor Dennis Quaid spoke out about his battle with anorexia which he developed because he had to lose weight for a movie role. Actors Billy Bob Thornton and Matthew Perry also struggled with anorexia, as did musicians Richey James and John Lennon. Elvis Presley and Alfred Hitchco*ck fought with compulsive eating. David Beckermert, CEO and president of a billion-dollar company, openly talked about his battle with bulimia.136 74

Kimberly Davidson

Boys set on bodybuilding need to know eating disorders are harmful to muscle growth. In that quest for the perfect body, it has been estimated that more than 10 percent of middle school boys have used steroids. Data from a five-year, longitudinal study, ProjectEAT: Eating Among Teens, indicated that younger boys were almost three times more likely to report steroid use than boys that were in high school. The use of steroids decreased significantly as the participants got older.137 These are boys who don’t understand why they should brush their teeth every night; how can they possibly understand the repercussions of starving or using steroids? Orthorexia nervosa is characterized by an excessive focus on eating healthy foods. In rare cases, this may turn into a fixation so extreme it leads to severe malnutrition or even death. Experts say orthorexia affects equal numbers of men and women, and makes up a significant proportion of the EDNOS group. Selective Eating Disorder (SED) is defined as eating a very narrow range of foods for a number of years. According to the University College at London’s Institute of Child Health, up to 20 percent of children below the age of five years are picky eaters and some grow up to be SED adults who restrict, avoid, and even fear certain foods. Not a lot is known yet about SED. Some psychologists say SED is a combination eating disorder, phobia and addiction problem. SED will be included in the eating disorders category of the forthcoming 2013 DSM. 138 The vegan-vegetarianism trend has gained ground and could be considered a SED. Shirley, age eighteen, said, “A lot of girls at school say they’re vegetarians to cover up their eating disorders.” The most common reasons teens give for choosing a veggie diet are weight loss and maintenance. One teen said, “I seized veganism to justify my desire to restrict. It was a convenient way to eliminate fat and calories.” According to Dr. Angela Guarda, director of the Johns Hopkins Eating Disorders Program, Many vegans (and vegetarians) who enter her treatment center confess that their efforts to avoid animal Torn Between Two Masters


products were really an effort to avoid food in general. A 2009 study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association revealed that young adults ages fifteen to twenty-three who reported being vegetarian were, at some point, more likely to have also engaged in unhealthy weight-loss behaviors like bingeing, purging, and using diet pills or laxatives. Surveys show that the prevalence of vegetarianism among eating-disorder patients is higher than in the general population.139 Twenty percent of vegetarian teens engage in extreme weight-control behaviors like calorie restriction or bingeing and purging.140 For Christians, fasting can be an excellent way to connect with God. Again, a person may hide their eating disorder under this spiritual discipline. I would caution anyone against fasting until they have completely healed from any disordered eating.

Their Mind—Our Challenge One teen on the high road to recovery from anorexia admits to missing her eating disorder. As adults we need to recognize the type of cultural and peer pressure adolescents continue to collide with. This young woman wrote, Here are some things people said to me when I was eating 600 calories a day: “You’re my thinspiration!” “I’m so jealous of your body.” “Are you a model?” “You have such great discipline.” “Look at your tiny little waist! I would kill for your waist.” “Your body is perfect. All clothing looks good on you.” Intellectually, I know there are a lot of benefits to allowing myself to eat a normal diet again. I don’t faint anymore. I don’t sleep 12 hours a night. I don’t feel irritable and distracted all the time. But do I get as much validation as I did when I had an eating disorder? No. And while it might be nice to go out and eat a sandwich, it’s not as nice as having everyone tell you how great you look. I really miss that.141


Kimberly Davidson

How do we compete with these kinds of reinforced messages? It’s incredibly tough. We can tell teens about the physical and psychological advantages of maintaining a normal weight—more energy, increased performance, less depressed. Sadly, they don’t seem to care about those things. A young woman who had the potential of being a successful model said, “I begin to think about opportunities lost in the modeling industry. But then I remind myself that being celebrated for representing an ideal that requires a constant near-death commitment isn’t the kind of life I want.” Every teen, and the community in which they live, is unique and different. For some the scaredstraight tactic may work. For others it won’t. In addition to intensive prayer, I believe we must start talking and building up traits in young people that don’t evolve around thinness or personal appearance. But if the focus is going to be on the body, start pointing out role models with athletic, muscular, and healthy builds. The community as a whole must be part of the solution so each teen repeatedly gets the same message that they are not their body. What one thing can you do that has the potential to start a community revolution? Eating disorders are a serious medical condition. Nearly every aspect of an eating disorder is surrounded in secrecy, making it, at least within the early stages, very difficult to detect. Due to the shame, the person typically hides the disorder. Intervention by family and friends is usually necessary. Eating disorders impact not only the child’s health and personal relationships, but also family finances due to insurance challenges. Even people with good insurance coverage may face enormous financial struggles. If you notice these signs in yourself, your child, or someone you know, get help quickly. Recovery is a long-term process, not a quick fix. To be truly effective, it is important that any treatment address

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the whole person—the physical, psychological, relational, and spiritual . The goal of treatment is to address medical and nutritional needs, promote a healthy relationship with food and God, and teach constructive ways to cope. Residential treatment or hospitalization may be necessary for some. God must be at the center. Dr. Harold Koenig, founding Co-Director of Duke University’s Center for Spirituality, Theology and Health, states, based on research, that religious involvement is linked to a faster and more likely recovery from mental illnesses and substance abuse/dependence.142 I grew to know Jesus Christ as the healer of my soul and took back my life after receiving nourishment from the Bible. The healing Word provides the answers to cope with life and its challenges.

The Many Causes of Eating Disorders An eating disorder? Impossible! Not my daughter! Disbelief is usually the reaction to news your child is showing symptoms of an eating disorder. It’s been said that eating disorders are the greatest mental health challenge for youth today. Where is this pressure—this monster coming from? Some say changes in hormones triggered by puberty may promote these tendencies.143 Dr. James Lock, director of the Eating Disorder Program at Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford University, pointed out that the onset of puberty has been occurring earlier over time. Add to this the amplified interest in appearance, clothing, social behavior, and sexualization, girls today at age twelve are experiencing what girls at fourteen experienced just a decade ago and what girls at sixteen experienced two decades ago. Dr. Lock also said the personality traits seen in older eating disorder patients are now seen in children: anxiety, perfectionism, and obsessive tendencies.144 Other pressures originate from boys, peer groups, coaches, and media images. Copper Lawrence says, In many teenage circles the boys have all the power. They decide who is popular and who they are attracted to and who they aren’t. These are important years for sexual-identity development and if being sexy and looking sexy is what they value, there’s trouble brewing. Images of sexy and provocative young female celebrities have the potential to reinforce that value system. 145


Kimberly Davidson

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According to the National Eating Disorders Association, there are many causes which consist of: cultural and social (which includes the media), genetic, environmental, psychological, and biological factors.146

Media-Based Factors Actress Jennifer Love Hewitt said she has been called fat in magazines, even though she has never been larger than a size two. In an interview she said, “All they [teen girls] know is that they’re sitting at home, maybe four or five sizes bigger than me, and their role model is called a ‘big house.’ What does that do to them?”147 Clare Boothe Luce, author and diplomat, said, “Advertising has done more to cause the social unrest of the twentieth century than any other single factors.”148 The American Psychological Association stated, “The proliferation of sexualized images of girls and young women in advertising, merchandising, and media is harming girls’ self-image and healthy development.”149 Society worships the physical body more than the soul. Scripture says, “A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies.” (Proverbs 31:10, niv). There is a link between exposure to oversexualized images with mental health problems in girls: eating disorders, depression and low self-esteem and low self-worth.150 Eating disorder specialist Dr. Gregory Jantz believes mass media messages and the body images set by the modeling and movie industries have affected the increase of eating disorders. Most American teenage girls say they feel pressured by the fashion and media industries to be skinny. They struggle when they look at themselves in the mirror. “The fashion industry remains a powerful influence on girls and the way they view themselves and their bodies,” said Kimberlee Salmond of the Girl Scout Research Institute.151 In junior high school, I created collages of models from magazines and hung them all over my bedroom. Although my intention


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was merely to express myself and my aspirations, all these images did were create emotions of discontent and dissatisfaction with my own body and self-image. Research is beginning to show that teen boys are also affected by the images they see in the media. A survey of high school and college students revealed that both genders generally felt worse about their own bodies after reading fashion, sports, health, and fitness magazines.152 Once these idolized perceptions are accepted as truth, such as “only thin people are successful,” self-destructive behaviors such as eating disorders, self-abuse, excessive exercising and other harmful behaviors may develop.153 Described as “heroin for the eating disordered,” the media serves up misleading diet and body image information, along with airbrushed photos of impossible physical ideals. Speaking about Victoria Secret’s annual runway show, Harvard pediatrician Dr. Michael Rich called it “eating disorder p*rn.” Dr. Rich studies how kids are affected by images in movies, television, and the Internet. He and other health professionals worry that ultra-thin models like those who appear on the Victoria’s Secret and America’s Next Top Model shows are pushing young women into unrealistic ideals and, in some cases, eating disorders. 154 Dr. Rich reiterated that for most women, being tall, skinny, with big breasts and tight abs is just not doable. In his opinion it creates a feeling of “I am inadequate and anything I can do will fall short. That doesn’t mean I won’t stop trying, by not eating and vomiting up what I do. But I’ll never reach my goal.” That, he says, can “lead to anxiety, depression, and a dangerously high level of active and passive suicide in self-harming because it sets up a self loathing.” 155 Dr. White, of Cardiff University, said, “There should be a greater awareness of the potential impact that exposure to the kind of images of celebrities and models in gossip sites and magazines can have on adolescents’ eating habits.” His studies suggest that

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exposure to gossip magazines increases the risk in adolescent boys and girls of using unhealthy eating behaviors, without their awareness of being influenced.156 PhysOrg.com also reported that teenagers who read celebrity gossip magazines are more likely to engage in eating disorder behaviors.157 Bullied at thirteen for being fat, Marielle believes she’d be accepted into “the circle” if she were thin. She believes she was singled out and attacked about her size because “that’s all you see in magazines—thin women.” Many professionals agree that when girls are constantly presented with perfect bodies that receive admiration for their beauty and success, there is a risk they will start to believe that having that perfect body is the only way to get all those highly desirable things. This is a virus that is spreading through our culture causing great harm. We need to help young people understand that success, acceptance, lovability, and power does not depend on what body shape or size you are. It depends on other qualities such as the state of your heart, your mind and your character. As a parent, create ongoing and positive dialogue. Show empathy—talk about your challenges with body image and what you went through as a teen. Help your daughters feel good about themselves by encouraging them in areas they do well in. And, above all, love them unconditionally.

A Deadly House of Mirrors If you look at the latest research it seems we, females, already have a strike against us. Researchers claim females are hardwired to worry about their weight. If you’ve been through a house of mirrors, you know each mirror is distorted and gives the person an unusual and confusing reflection of herself. We hate them because all they do is reinforce our already distorted view of ourselves. There is a reason. Hiroshima University found that when you show a woman her body on a screen and adjust the width (like in a house of mirrors), brain areas involved in emotional reactions such as fear and anxi-


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ety were significantly activated, making them susceptible to eating disorders.158 Research suggests repetitive exposure to images of thin women alters brain function and increases the likeliness to develop eating disorders. Scientists have identified sudden, unexpected changes in the brain function of healthy, body confident women when they view certain female figures. Mark Allen, a neuroscientist, told Fox News, “Female brains react in a negative way when they view photos of overweight individuals, even when they’re of a normal weight themselves. Even though they claim they don’t care about body issues … [women’s] brains are showing that it really bugs them to think about the prospect of being overweight.” 159 In a 2010 study at Brigham Young University, healthy women looked at images of models in scanty bikinis. Some of the models were overweight, some thin. On viewing each image, the women were told to imagine that the model looked like her. When they were presented with the overweight images, the prefrontal cortex—the front part of the brain linked with strong emotions such as discontent and misery—showed increased activation in all of the women. Merely imagining they may be overweight led some women to question their sense of self. “Many women learn that bodily appearance and thinness constitute what is important about them, and their brain responding reflects that,”160 concluded the authors, noting that this notion may put certain individuals at greater risk for eating and or mood disorders. These studies explain why such a large percent of women are disordered eaters. This news is not good. What can we do about it? The answer is found when we look up and not around. I think C.S. Lewis expressed it best when he said, Until you have given up your self to Him [ Jesus Christ] you will not have a real self. Sameness is to be found most among the most ‘natural’ men [women],

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not among those who surrender to Christ … You will never make a good impression on other people until you stop thinking about what sort of impression you are making … The more we get what we now call ‘ourselves’ out of the way and let Him take us over, the more truly ourselves we become.”161

The Genetic and Biological Factors Sharon Hersh, counselor and author of The Last Addiction, wrote, “I have known many women who find some freedom from the behaviors of an eating disorder only to continue to struggle with depression and other addictions. I have discovered that the “wiring” of these women sets them up for a life-time of compulsive behavior.”162 No doubt, our cultural ideals and celebrity icons are a breeding ground for negative body image and eating disorders. But blaming an eating disorder solely on the media may minimize the seriousness of the illness. Consider that countless people go on a diet but only some spiral out of control. The reason may be genetics (still a complicated field being researched). A 2006 study in the Archives of General Psychiatry stated genetics accounts for approximately half of all eating disorders.163 Some studies have shown that if a relative has an eating disorder, a person is more likely to develop one.164 Scientists at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia have identified both common and rare gene variants associated with the eating disorder anorexia nervosa. In the largest genetic study of this psychiatric disorder, the researchers found intriguing clues to genes they are subjecting to further investigation.165 “We know that there are multiple genes and they are closely related to anxiety, depression, and obsessive-compulsive disorders,” said Dr. Ken Weiner, medical director for Eating Recovery Center. This genetic link means eating disorders, along with their associated brain diseases, can be inherited. “If your mother or your sister have [or had] anorexia and you are a young woman, you are twelve


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times more likely to have anorexia nervosa in your lifetime and four times more likely to have bulimia nervosa,” said Dr. Weiner.166 Other studies suggest that faulty wiring in the brains of people with anorexia causes them to fail to recognize when they are hungry. They feel anxious and depressed when they do eat.167 Brainimaging work suggests bulimia and anorexia show different activity in the frontal, cingulate, and parietal cortical regions of the brain. When bulimics are shown scrumptious foods, there is more activity in the nucleus accumbens—a prime site of action for addictive drugs. For many bulimics, there is a definite “high” that comes with bingeing and purging.168 Lastly, hormonal abnormalities are common in eating disorders and include chemical abnormalities in the thyroid, the reproductive regions, and areas related to stress, well-being, and appetite. Many of these chemical changes are certainly a result of malnutrition or other aspects of eating disorders, but they also may play a role in perpetuating or even creating susceptibility to the disorders.169

Learned Behavior Conscious of our weight, my friend Julie and I felt miserable— physically and emotionally, after gorging on left-overs from her parent’s dinner party. She said, “I know how we can feel better and not gain any weight.” I thought, Utopia! It was not. It was bulimia. I learned how to purge. Many professionals believe eating disorders are a learned response. Some researchers state the desire to be thin is learned, perpetuated by media images. One mom blogged, “You can’t blame the media for the purging child in the high school bathroom. Blame means not taking responsibility. You can only curb the magazines and TV shows that your child watches in the home. Role modeling is key!” No doubt, friends hold a lot of power when it comes to persuasion, but Mom’s influence is even greater.170 The British teen magazine Sugar surveyed 2,500 adolescent girls and found they are

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inclined to create their self-image from observing their mothers. They are twice as likely to diet frequently and be aware of weight loss methods if their mothers are excessively concerned about their bodies. 171 According to experts, teenage girls whose moms are obsessed with physical appearance and regularly try to lose weight pass on their exercise and dieting rituals, and negative self and body image talk. While parental behavior does not cause eating disorders, they may unintentionally set off their child’s genetic susceptibility to develop one with negative body image modeling or critical remarks. Dr. Susan Albers in a Psychology Today blog wrote, Words like “chubby” don’t cause eating disorders but they are often a trigger to disordered eating behavior. Most eating disorder professionals would strongly caution parents from using labels or prerogative words to describe their child’s weight as this may have a lasting impact on a child’s self-esteem.172

One mom gave her fifteen-year-old daughter a pack of cigarettes and told her to smoke them because they would suppress her appetite and enable her to lose weight. “Kids are seeing various behaviors in moms [with eating disorders] and absolutely they pick it up,” says Dr. Brooke Hailey, clinical director at New Directions Eating Disorders Center in Sherman Oaks, California. She said, I hear from kids who are older and come in for treatment: “My mom never ate dinner with the family;” “My mom would always eat a special meal and cook separately for herself;” “My mom never eats carbohydrates, why do I have to?” They’re much more influenced by what they’ve seen their mom do than by what they hear their mom say they should do.173


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There’s a bumper sticker that says, Friends don’t let friends “Fat Talk.” Cut out any “fat talk” about your own body and celebrities’ bodies.

Fatal Dieting Thin is in! This is why people diet. Female teenagers are especially eager to achieve those kinds of bodies. But the influencer may not just be Mom—often it is Dad. “I don’t want a fat child,” is a common cry of many parents. Protein shakes, cabbage soup and diet pills are just some of the things parents are forcing their “chubby” children to ingest in order that their child fit into this society. A survey of the eating habits of American children, conducted by CouponCodes4U, revealed that a quarter of children under the age of twelve are dieting. The site surveyed 6,523 parents to track family eating habits. They found 26 percent put their kids on diets. Only 6 percent of those parents said a pediatrician advised it. Another 11 percent were carefully watching what their kids ate. Despite the fact that 26 percent of the respondents said their child was on a diet, only 11 percent said they made sure their child was exercising regularly.174 One dietician was called in by a school principle who was alarmed by a mother’s dangerous attempts to reduce her twelveyear-old daughter’s weight. The child was being teased at school so Mom started giving her slimming protein shakes which the child was forced to drink three times a day without any other food. When the child did not lose weight, Mom bought a diet supplement. The child became more withdrawn and at one point was trembling from swallowing diet pills clearly not intended for children. Though not pleased with the intervention, Mom accepted help.175 The Bible says, “Children are an inheritance from the Lord. They are a reward from him. Don’t be concerned only about your own interests, but also be concerned about the interests of others” (Psalm 127:3, gw). According to ABC’s Good Morning America, parents are putting their wee ones on extreme diets. While childhood obesity is

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unquestionably a public-health concern, it seems that in many cases parents’ worry is rooted in their own personal struggles with obesity, not with their child’s. In an especially outrageous case, a couple in Washington State was found guilty of starving their baby by putting laxatives in her bottle to keep her from gaining weight.176 One mom said, “I don’t want a fat child. Getting an eating disorder like anorexia would be preferable.” 177 The story was about an obese mom who made sure her eight-year-old daughter followed a very strict diet which began when she was two years old. No doubt mom’s emotional scars fueled her doctrine. Apparently she began comfort eating when she was a child after moving to a new school where she was bullied relentlessly about her weight and appearance. Her self-worth and esteem plummeted, while comfort eating and her weight climbed. Her daughter eats less than half of the recommended intake for a child her age and is allowed one cookie a week. Her ribs protrude and she complains of hunger. Despite being told by a nurse Mom was putting her daughter at risk of developing a chronic eating disorder and suggesting she eat more, Mom insists she will not adjust the diet.178 Certainly, parents should take responsibility for their children’s body weight and good health, but the fact that parents are putting babies on diets is a frightening reflection of America’s obsession with being thin. The Apostle James said, “Whoever knows what is right but doesn’t do it is sinning” ( James 4:17, gw). Focus on healthy eating behaviors, not weight. Putting a child on a diet instead of focusing on healthy eating and exercise can be a trigger for disordered eating behaviors. Puberty is a critical phase in a child’s physical, mental and sexual growth. Abusing food and their body can lead to a complicated set of problems. They need to be on a healthy, balanced diet.


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Judith Matz and Ellen Frankel, authors of The Diet Survivor’s Handbook, wrote, “Dieting to lose weight is anything but normal. Depriving your body of food it craves, ignoring physical signals of hunger, and defining yourself as good or bad depending on whether you’ve stayed on your diet or broken your diet are all unhealthy behaviors.”179 Parents, examine your own beliefs and prejudices about weight gain and appearance. These scenarios are extremely dangerous for any child as well as the dynamics of the family. The parent who wants to put their child on a diet must ask themselves, •

Is my child’s weight a real problem or simply an issue for other people, including me?

Is my child healthy, happy with good friends?

Is she doing well in school and extracurricular activities?

Is he embarrassed about his weight? Is he being teased or bullied?

Does she complain about being fat?

The answers will determine whose issue this really is—the parent’s or the child’s. Words have power. Avoid comments like, “You’re eating too much. You’re gaining weight.” These are triggers. Instead, use “I” statements. “I’m concerned about your eating habits. It makes me think you have some pressures you’re unable to handle. Let’s talk.” If you feel your child should not have two scoops of ice-cream instead of saying, “Go ahead—have another helping and get fat!” You can say, “It’s fun to treat ourselves once in awhile. I love icecream too. Unfortunately, having more than one scoop isn’t healthy for our bodies. If you like, you can have another, single scoop later on in the week.” We need to teach kids that they are in control of what they eat and that we have faith in their judgment about their bodies. Therefore, it is important that we are informed on the subjects of

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food and nutrition and exercise ourselves. We don’t want them to think, “What would Mom or Dad say if I ate this.” Rather, “Do I think this is a healthy and good choice for me?”

Be Aware: Pro-Eating Disorder Websites Abound There’s a growing trend online where people are actually promoting eating disorders. They call it “thinspiration,” and experts say there may be no way to stop them. Most parents can’t imagine it: web sites that teach and promote eating disorders. Termed pro-ana (anorexia) and pro-mia (bulimia), they proliferate the Internet. These websites offer success tips and methods of hiding rapid weight loss from parents and doctors, and airbrushed photos or videos of very thin models and actresses. These diet predators are even blogging and sending Twitter updates right to your child’s mobile phone. Health professionals note an increase in the number of cases and have come to consider the Internet, or “pro-eating disorder” sites, to be a source of this increase. Sondra Kronberg, MS, RD, CEDRD, a spokesperson for the National Eating Disorders Association, told Medscape Psychiatry the images and claims from these pro-eating disorder websites are very dangerous because the viewers are getting reinforcement for their obsessive, anxious, and disordered thoughts.180 She said, “For women with low self-esteem, poor body image and a certain genetic predisposition toward an eating disorder, the messages promoted on pro-eating disorder web sites can be similar to someone considering suicide finding a loaded gun on her pillow.”181 What can you do?


Gain insight and control of your child’s online life.

If your child is talking about their weight negatively, do some digging. A variety of tools exist to find out what sites your kids are frequenting.

Contact the host of the website and ask them to take it down. Explain why.

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Nothing takes the place of an honest and open discussion about their body image or weight concerns.182

Trauma Traumatic issues such as divorce, abuse or the loss of a loved one, often play a major role in enabling eating disorders. One bulimic teen who had been sexually abused said she wanted to get rid of all those bad memories and toxic feelings by flushing them down the toilet. An abused child learns that she or he is powerless. A way to cope is to find some way to take back power and control, and managing your weight can do that. Some girls will overeat in order to appear less attractive. Others will starve themselves until they look repulsive or like a small child. Talking about the abuse often marks a significant turning point in treatment. All secrets and pent-up emotions do is give the devil a place to unpack his bags. Various events can be a trigger such as the trauma of a friend’s death or rape. Or a major life transition, such as going from high school to college or moving to another city or state. I’ve heard it said that moving to a new school for many kids is the equivalent to dealing with a death in the family. We moved numerous times when I was a kid. My brother and I have talked about how traumatic a move can be. In these types of situations the child has no control over what is happening. She can, however, control what she eats and doesn’t eat.

Family Influences Remember how the grownups were portrayed in the old Charlie Brown seasonal shows. We never saw their faces. All we heard was a streaming faded-out horn, Wah—wah—wah—wah. They lectured. The kids didn’t listen. If your message isn’t being received, it usually means there is a relationship problem. During adolescence most moms and daughters go through stormy seasons. Often Mom believes “the measure of a perfect mother is a perfect daughter.” Therefore, her daughter must be a

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perfect reflection of herself. When she makes choices contrary to Mom’s the result is often a deep wounding or separation in relationship. Mom tries to set things right, but the daughter pulls further away in order to establish her own identity. Teens from overly restrictive homes may choose to “break away” through this subtle form of unconscious rebellion. They are in effect saying, “I am in control of what I put into my mouth and body, and you can’t do anything about it!” Parents feel totally helpless. The behavior may actually be a cry from the teen seeking to establish a different kind of relationship with the parents.183 They are saying, “We want control in order to get our deep needs met.” Teens express that they want parents to be parents. They want to be spoken to in a language they can understand and relate to. They want to be asked relevant questions versus getting smacked with accusatory remarks. They want parents who are dependable and honest, and who don’t lie. They want to feel significant, validated and listened to even if you don’t agree with the way they express themselves. They want you to discern the difference between a real problem and a drama queen production. They want you to relate a time when you felt the same thing or were in a similar situation. How did you handle it? How did you feel? Your chances of being heard are upped by about 70 percent.184 This is transparency. Start praying, “Lord, what obstacles are standing in the way of my relationship with my teen?” Begin to break down the obstacles. The good news is that families can positively impact treatment and be a great support in many cases.

The Smoking Gun For vulnerable girls, believing the lie that looking like a skinny celebrity or supermodel will make them happy is what often sets off the cycle of disordered eating and body hatred. In the clinical field, some say, the gun was already loaded. The loaded gun theory usually refers to the person’s genetic and biochemical predisposition. It


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may be the culture, such as fixation on model images, or a trauma in the family, or repetitive distorted thoughts which pulls the trigger. Eating disorders are a maladaptive solution to real-life problems. It is not uncommon for a multiple of issues, or triggers, to show up at once. A teen may be dealing with negative or conflicting messages from others, plus condemning self-talk about how she should look; plus coping with a major life change. What can parents or caregivers do? •

A parent’s responsibility is to minimize the influences that have the potential to co*ck the gun and pull the trigger.

Armed with the right information, parents can put protective factors in place. We must provide the appropriate medical, psychological, and spiritual support if the child shows symptoms.

We must point her or him to Jesus. Colossians 2:10 says, “So you have everything when you have Christ, and you are filled with God through your union with Christ” (tlb, my emphasis). The nasb version reads, “in Him you have been made complete.” There is nothing else we can add or change about ourselves—we are already perfect because Jesus fills every crevice of our soul.

Thinking Distortions There is one thing each person with an eating disorder has in common—they share distortions in thinking. I can’t be fat or I won’t find a boyfriend. If I don’t exercise relentlessly I’ll get fat. All dorm food is fattening so I have to purge any food I eat. I can’t express my emotions because people will reject me. The good news is you have the ability to train your mind and actually change your brain. Science is now proving what the Bible has said all along. God designed us with the ability to change our own brains. With the proper counsel, we actually can “rewire” our minds. This is called plasticity or neuroplasticity (also known as cor-

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tical re-mapping). It refers to the ability of the human brain to change as a result of one’s experience because the brain is plastic and malleable. The brain can remember and learn stuff, so it’s not surprising that it changes with use. But plasticity is different than memory. It refers to the actual rewiring of the structure of the brain for a new type of use. Brain plasticity has two primary functions: developmental and damage repair. So when God says we are to renew our minds (Romans 12:2), he gives us the ability, to some extent, to do that. From his first contact with Adam and Eve, Satan has been lying to us, persuading us to live in falsehood rather than truth. A person with an eating disorder is not content with their body or with life. They believe the lie that being thin is the only answer. God sent Jesus into the world to reveal the truth. Focusing on the truth is the key to mind renewal and it incapacitates our enemy. Dr. Norman Doidge, in his book The Brain the Changes Itself, wrote, “By refocusing, the patient is learning not to get sucked in by the content of an obsession but to work around it.”185 Jesus said if we follow him we will know the truth, and the truth will set us free ( John 8:30–32). First we pursue Jesus, coming to know him more intimately, and then we start to follow his will. Truth begins to infuse our minds and hearts … then we are set free from pursuits and obsessions that only hurt us in the long run. It is God’s Word that changes brain plasticity and sets our minds free. One thing you can do is show girls untouched celebrity photos compared to airbrushed versions. On the Dove for Real Beauty website, there are several videos that highlight the deception of advertisem*nts.

Red Flag Alert! Take Action! Trapped in a world of self-loathing, Lilly starved herself until her weight plummeted dangerously low. Like thousands of teens, Lilly was consumed by a crippling obsession with her weight that began


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as a need for control when she was twelve. Gripped by this monster, she spent her days surfing pro-anorexia websites, hiding the truth from her family and friends. The eating disorder took over every aspect of her life until, at sixteen, she was hospitalized. Doctors warned her parents she might die. Lilly’s parents said they never saw it coming. The signs were there, but like many parents they had no reason to look for the red flags. The most obvious warning signs of eating disorders involve drastic change in eating habits and body image. The less obvious signs may be disguised. Red flags that indicate a child might have an eating disorder are: changes in eating, weight loss, growth retardation, and in girls old enough to be menstruating, loss of periods. Dr. David S. Rosen, professor of adolescent medicine, pediatrics and internal medicine at the University of Michigan Health System, is an expert on eating disorders in kids. He said, I would argue that we ought to recognize eating disorders before we see these symptoms. We should start to be concerned when children express weight concerns, when they talk about or start diets, or if their activity level suddenly rises outside of usual recreational or athletic activities.186

Dr. James Lock said the mean age seems to be going down for the onset of eating disorders. He stressed that “early referral is essential” to keep cases from becoming chronic.187 If your child exhibits signs start talking, be concerned and take action. Getting good information is an important first step. But don’t ambush her or him with well-meant but overly direct or critical questioning. Hang in there and have hope. Eating disorders are tough but beatable. “The Lord is the Spirit who gives them life, and where he is there is freedom” (2 Corinthians 3:17, tlb).

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Additional Strategies Avoid engaging in power struggles over food. Individual foods should not be labeled “good” or “bad.” All foods are neutral. And teach your children to eat when they are hungry and stop when they are full. If you are concerned about negative eating behaviors, talk. Pick a time when your teen can focus on the conversation. Minimize distractions, like TV and cell phone. Ask their view on the issue. You might say, “How does the pressure to be thin or to diet play out in your school?” Let your teen know you are concerned about the numbers of adolescents with eating disorders. Put the focus on teens in general, instead of on your child. Explain genetics to your daughters. If Mom and Grandma have pear-shaped bodies, most likely daughter will too. She’ll never physically look like Kate Moss. Don’t compare siblings. Many kids are sensitive to the competitive aspects of their brothers and sisters. Sibling rivalry has the potential to increase behaviors such as perfectionism. If your teen is involved with sports or exercise activities, emphasize fun and fitness rather than competition and slimness. Be concerned if their activity level increases suddenly. Educate. Teens need to know that some body fat is normal and necessary to store energy, keep skin and nerves functioning, and for females, make menstruation and pregnancy possible. Also essential are strong muscles, which too often are mistaken for fat. They must learn that dieting will often do more harm than good. Body image is only a small piece of who we are. Teens must understand that their bodies are much more than “eye candy.” Eating disorders specialists say toss the scale. The number is meaningless. For years, I gave that number the power to set my mood for each day. We don’t want our teens emulating this habit. Repeatedly being told that you’re beautiful no matter what you look like or do can make a difference! Psalm 139:13–14 says, “For you [God] created my inmost being; you knit me together in my


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mother’s womb.I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful” (niv). That sounds good, but what does fearfully made mean? It means there is awesomeness in the way I am made. To fear the Lord means we hold him in up reverence and with respect. We are stamped in God’s image; therefore, we too are to hold ourselves up in reverence and with great respect.

Eat Dinner as a Family Eating dinner together has been shown to prevent or reduce the risk of eating disorders, depression, and drug and alcohol use. It doesn’t have to be a home-cooked meal. The idea is to bring the family together. “Making family meals a priority, in spite of scheduling difficulties, emerged as the most consistent protective factor for disordered eating,” the authors wrote in the Journal of Adolescent Health. Researchers suggest that parents keep conversations light and positive at the dinner table, especially if their children have issues surrounding food.188 The Council of Economic Advisers confirms family dinner time influences decisions kids make. Over 50 percent of teens who do not have dinner with their parents have sex by age fifteen or sixteen. By contrast, only 32 percent of teens who eat dinner with parents have ever had sex. Teens aged fifteen and sixteen who don’t eat dinner with their parents regularly are twice as likely to attempt suicide.189 For a list of more red flags, dos and don’ts, and other valuable information on eating disorders, visit www.OliveBranchOutreach.com. If you want to know if you or your teen (thirteen years or older) has an eating disorder, you can take a free survey at Caring Online: http://www.aplaceofhope.com/evaluations.html. After submitting the confidential survey, you will be given a score that indicates the likelihood that an eating disorder is present, or not, based on the answers provided in the survey.

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Mirroring Celebrity Casual Sex “I have a broken man-picker,” announced twenty-year-old Kayla. Kayla clearly felt there was something wrong with her ability to choose a man friend. As a kid her parents divorced, and she lived with her mother. Mom worked two jobs, and Dad never looked back. Kayla turned to other children at school for the attention she so desperately thirsted for. By the time she was in high school, her relationships with boys turned sexual. She confided she saw nothing wrong with her behavior “because that’s what women did in the movies and on television.” Why is it so easy for teens to yield to sexual temptations? How does sex gain such a foothold in so many of their lives? The media is often the nectar that entices. The viewing of sexual content has been shown to hasten the onset of sexual activity in teens. Typical programming contains heavy doses of graphic material, ranging from conversations about sexual activity to touching, kissing, jokes, to portrayals of intercourse. In 2008 Pediatrics magazine published the first study to demonstrate a probable link between exposure to sexual content on television and the experience of a pregnancy before the age of twenty.190 In 2004 they reported that youths who viewed the greatest amounts of sexual content were two times more likely to initiate sexual intercourse during the year, or progress to more advanced levels of sexual activity, versus those who viewed the smallest amount of sexual content.191 Look at the explosion of p*rnography and sexual content over the Internet and, consequently, over cell phones. It is estimated to be a $2.1 billion business.192 Not only are young people viewing more graphic material, they are acting it out. How aware are you of the sexually explicit nature of advertising in the media? As you

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become more aware, begin to think about what you can do to counteract this morally destructive environment. Kayla’s situation points to the reason: she is hungry for connection. She was never able to attach or connect with her parents. They haven’t shown her much affection. We each have a need for love and significance, which prompts us to look for ways to be affirmed. Teens have a great yearning for connection that overlooks the long term consequences, emphasizing instead immediate gains. Adolescents today are more likely to have suffered childhood traumas than at any other time in history. A key person in that child’s life who should have been a source of love and comfort for that child was, rather, a source of distress. These kids tend to be more intensely drawn to celebrities in unhealthy ways in order to find comfort because they don’t know any other way to deal with their feelings and relationships. One study found girls with low self-worth at ages twelve and thirteen were more likely to have sex by the age of fourteen or fifteen, versus a girl with high self-worth. The opposite was true for boys. Early sexual activity tends to erode self-worth.193 Kayla mimicked celebrity sexual intimacy as the prize for a feeling of closeness and significance she desperately craved. Deep down, she didn’t know if she could receive love for who she really was. For today’s teens, sex is commonplace, something to be experimented with—no big deal. They often use sex to try to feel loved. Sadly, they are left feeling used and empty, regretting the choices they made.

The Damaged Gift Sex is one of God’s greatest gifts.Christian sex therapist, Dr. Doug Rosenau, believes God’s major purpose in creating sex was to provide a picture into God himself and his desire for intimate connection.194 Sadly, the message the celebs sell is “don’t wait.” The more adolescents have sex, the more they feel attached because of the powerful hormones. The false sense of intimacy ends up wounding


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instead of blessing, as God designed sex to be. It is no wonder that an enemy would pick this gift to corrupt and trap those who God loves most. As human beings, created by the intelligent Designer, we are so much more than sex machines. As a young person myself, sex would usually happen on the first or second date. Because I abused alcohol, which usually leads to improper sexual behavior, I found I couldn’t stop the cycle. Repeatedly, I justified my actions. Just watch the soap operas! Everyone else is doing it. It was a way to fill my deepest unmet needs. But it only deepened the wounds of shame, humiliation, and abandonment. Emotional and spiritual scars are created by having premarital sex. I eventually got pregnant and chose to have an abortion. Then I had another demon to deal with. When you are promiscuous, you feel used and abused. Users and abusers are attracted to passive females who won’t set boundaries or put up a fight. That was me! It is trauma to the soul. Whether you enter into it willingly or have it forced upon you (as in coercion or assault), sexual sin causes severe wounds that require supernatural healing. When sex is experienced in healthy ways, it adds great value and satisfaction to life. But when experienced in unhealthy ways, at the wrong time, it can damage vital aspects of who we are as human beings. As the media’s standards decline, the most vulnerable are willing to propel themselves into multiple sexual relationships ignoring the risks of STDs or pregnancy or HIV. God created human beings with decision-making abilities which come from the highest centers of the brain. This can guide a person to the most rewarding sexual behavior—unless sexual behavior during adolescence occurs, causing healthy decision making to be damaged.195

The Adolescent Brain For certain teens, already predisposed toward attention-seeking behavior, mirroring celebrity sexual behavior is very alluring. I’ve met numerous teen girls who for one reason or another do not have Torn Between Two Masters


a father figure in their life. They feel abandoned and are desperately seeking connection. Others are continually smacked down by a parent. In an effort to fill that need to be affirmed and loved, they begin to have grandiose fantasies of being taken care of by a character they see on screen. If a child has been exposed to trauma such as abuse, divorce, or an addicted parent and their self-worth is low, they will be most vulnerable to imitating reckless sexual behavior, extreme dieting or drug and alcohol use. When you add childhood trauma to the fact that biologically, a teen’s brain is not fully developed until their early twenties, you have an extremely susceptible child. We need to understand the intricacies of the adolescent brain. Every parent can confirm: the teenage brain is a very complicated and not easily understood. While it’s true that dynamics like peer pressure and raging hormones are all factors that contribute to bad decision-making during adolescence, research provides another logical explanation for the often illogical choices our teens make. Dr. Frances Jensen, a neurologist at Harvard Medical School and Children’s Hospital Boston, has a sobering message for us: smart kids do dumb things. It’s the teen brain paradox. Quick to learn and able to reach fluency in abstract thought, teens still make stupid decisions. That’s because they’re operating with brains that are a work in progress. Using high-powered brain imaging and state-of-the art brain mapping tools, scientists have demonstrated that the adolescent brain, while fully grown in size, is not fully developed. Hang in there with me if your are not scientifically minded. We’re going to cover some amazing stuff! Of all the organs in our bodies, the brain takes the longest to develop. The frontal lobes are the last pieces to be fully connected to the parts of the brain that sense danger or solve calculus problems. The frontal lobe governs decision-making, problem solving and planning and is not completed in the teen years. This explains their impulsiveness and unpredictable behavior, despite the fact they are

getting high SAT scores and can memorize at a more impressive rate than we adults.196 Part of what is still under development is the ability to assess emotions. They see anger or hostility when it doesn’t exist. They mistake fear or concern for anger or irritation. A growing body of neuroscientific research places full brain maturity at about age twenty-five, way past the point when a young person starts to drive, drink, babysit, vote, work, or go off to war. The very qualities that make learning easier in youth also make habits like smoking or drinking more deeply embedded. Research suggests drinking alcohol during these years may damage vulnerable areas in the brain responsible for memory and learning.197 Neuroscientists believe drinking and drugs act potently on the teenage brain because addiction itself is a form of learning that banks on better memory formation. “Teenagers get more robustly addicted and for a longer time. Things like pot have a longer effect on these teen brains because they have more machinery for those molecules to be connected,” Dr. Jensen said. 198 When Dr. Jensen speaks to high school students, she gets their attention when she tells them the marijuana they smoked over the weekend will still impair them on a test they take the following Thursday. She firmly believes in appealing to the intellectual side of her young audiences, so she presents annotated slides and crosssectional views of the brain, just as she would for a scientific meeting. I too believe once a teen understands this, the information can be used to build their self-esteem and self-worth. They can think, I made a bad choice—not because I’m stupid or a loser, but because biologically I wasn’t able to choose the best option. Julie Fenn, a health teacher and the prevention specialist for the Lexington, Massachusetts public schools, cites national surveys of youth risk behavior showing that parents are the biggest influence on the decisions young people make. She said, I really want parents to understand they are all good kids. It’s not about being good or bad. It’s about rec-


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ognizing what the limitations are and looking at the physiological piece in terms of brain development and knowing that they are going to have to supervise and monitor kids and instill their values.199

Many Christian parents have instilled godly values and disciplines in their children. Proverbs 22:6 instructs parents, “Train up a child in the way he [she] should go, Even when he [she] is old he [she] will not depart from it” (niv). Don’t beat yourself up and wonder where you went wrong. Parents of teens are not on a level playing field. They need to exercise patience and understanding and give themselves grace. Hang on to the promise that when he is “old”— and his brain has matured—he will get back onto the God path (lots of prayer helps too). Clearly the adolescent brain is not capable of making mature decisions with respect to risky behavior. Drugs and alcohol just impair judgment even more, making them more prone to risktaking. You may not be popular, but it is important to insist on a drug and alcohol-free standard for your teens. Scripture says, “We are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts” (1 Thessalonians 2:4–5, niv). Knowing the limitations of the adolescent brain shouldn’t excuse bad behavior, but it reinforces the need to stay connected and involved, as well as helping them stay safe.200 We need to listen as well as talk. Make a date with your teen weekly for a meal or coffee or a walk. Do whatever will make your child feel they are valued. Truly listen to them. Both of you—turn off the cell phone and computers. Turn off the music and talk while you’re driving.

Heavenly Bodies Hooked One young man said, “I wear a condom. Why not have sex? I’m not a kid!” This culture has successfully injected the lie into millions of young minds that they may become sexually active when they feel like it as long as they use proper precautions. If they don’t become


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part of the sex scene, they are led to believe they will be somewhat of an outcast—sexually naive and repressed. Hooking up (when someone starts having sex with minimal or no commitment) is rampant in this country among young people. A similar relationship is referred to as friends with benefits in which a couple decides to fondle one another or have sex whenever one or the other wants it. In this type of superficial relationship, feelings are discouraged and couples share the understanding that there are no strings. Either one can walk away at any time. This does not come without cost. In her book Unhooked, Laura Sessions Stepp said the result of hooking up is a generation of women who feel distrustful of men and unimpressed with sex. She wrote that cynical, dishonest, and selfish were some adjectives the girls used to describe how hooking up made them feel. One college girl said, “Bad breakups are bad enough to harm your ability to trust, but hookups really leave people wary of others.”201 Teens also believe oral sex is not “doing intercourse.” In fact many think oral sex is something “owed.” When you talk about the dangers and seriousness of oral sex, you need to add that it is never owed. Many teen girls say they feel they can say no to sex, but have to “at least” give their partner something, which is usually oral sex. With these kinds of experiences becoming more the norm, we have a generation of young people who have no clue what an authentic relationship is about. Rather, they will search for the person who is willing to become a sexual object for the sole purpose of personal ‘prettification.’ Love and honor and respect are not in their vocabulary. We must teach them that an intimate relationship is not sexual, but one in which both persons know one another completely and love one another without any fear of rejection. Neither person feels they need to hold onto secrets, pretend or defend, because they feel safe and free to be themselves. A wise woman once said, “I am never afraid of what I know.” Knowledge changes everything! If you understand something, you

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can control it instead of letting it control you. Science has established that more happens during sex than the transfer of fluids and physical activity. In the brain there are hundreds of neurochemicals that bathe and support and move messages through each brain cell.

Dopamine One of those messenger chemicals (called a neurotransmitter) is dopamine. This chemical fires up the brain triggering feelings of pleasure, passion, adventure, motivation, and reward. As you can imagine, it plays a big role in human behavior. When we do something exciting or rewarding, it produces a feeling of exhilaration or happiness—a “high,” the “I’ve got to have it.” For some, following celebrities becomes an addictive behavior because of increased dopamine levels in their brains.202 When people have sex, it triggers the release of dopamine and rewards them for engaging in such an exciting and pleasurable act.203 This is why infatuation is said to be similar to cocaine addiction—it impacts the same pleasure centers and reward circuitry. It’s why some people seem “addicted to love,” constantly seeking their next relationship fix.204 Other examples of excitement this neurotransmitter rewards includes the use of prescriptive or non-prescriptive drugs, drinking, shopping, exercise (the runner’s high), shoplifting, and thrillseeking. Aggression may also stimulate the release of dopamine.205 The danger becomes greater when a person feels compelled to increase that behavior in order to achieve the same good feeling.206 Cravings require the pleasure seeker find new and different ways to increase the brain’s production levels of dopamine. For the drinker, that may mean switching from wine coolers to beer then to hard liquor. For the teen hooking up, that may mean switching from kissing and petting to oral sex and then to intercourse. Dr. James K. Childerston and Debra Taylor said, “To make matters worse, while all this activity is firing up our limbic system, the prefrontal cortex begins to disengage, leaving us at great risk for impaired judgment and poor choices.”207 The prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain involved in judgment, rational thinking, impulse control, organization, planning, forethought, and learning from mistakes.


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That’s not all. Other than being the primary motivator behind the drive for exhilaration, researchers have alluded to dopamine as a core chemical involved in the longing and search for a higher meaning. Research is increasingly making the connection between the dopamine system and one’s experience of God.208 God created dopamine for good, but it has as much potential for bad. The Bible says, “You’re addicted to thrills? What an empty life! The pursuit of pleasure is never satisfied” (Proverbs 21:17, msg).

Oxytocin Another neurochemical that is important to healthy sex and bonding is oxytocin—the superglue hormone. It is powerful. Neuropsychiatrist Dr. Louann Brizendine stresses that if a young woman becomes physically close and hugs a man, oxytocin will trigger the bonding process, creating a greater desire to be near him and, most significantly, trust him. If he then wants to escalate the relationship, it will become harder for her to say no because oxytocin extends the feelings of pleasure.209 This explains why manipulating men often get their way. Every time a person has sex or intimate physical contact, bonding takes place. Whenever a breakup takes place there is often disappointment, confusion or pain in the brain because the bond has been broken.210 Rejection is one of our most powerful and destructive emotions and feels like pain to the brain. It may cause as much distress in the pain center of the brain as an actual physical injury, according to research.211 One thing about oxytocin is it is a lot like dopamine in that it is an involuntary process that cannot distinguish between a hook up or a one-night stand or a committed relationship. Sara said, “I’m an adult now—twenty-nine years old. I’ve never had a relationship with a partner last very long. They always seem to end once the honeymoon—sex—is over. And now that I’m married, I don’t get why people think sex is so great.” There is a reason Sara feels this way: the inability to bond after multiple liaisons is very much like tape that loses its stickiness after being applied and removed multiple times.212 Human bonding is like an adhesive glue-like connection. When we bond with another human being, the unbonding process often causes great emotional

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damage and pain. There are many causes for poor bonding, which may be medical, relational, or psychological. Theologian John Darby said, “If we wait upon God, there is no danger. If we rush on, He must let us see the consequences of it.”213

stick. After they dry, tear the two pieces apart. Each object is damaged—representing that person’s heart, mind and soul. •

The Consequences The Center for Data Analysis states sexually active teenagers are more likely to be depressed and to attempt suicide: •

Sexually active teen girls were shown to be three times as likely to be depressed or to attempt suicide as compared to girls who remain abstinent. 214

Sexually active boys are more than twice as likely to be depressed, and seven times as likely to attempt suicide, compared to boys who are abstinent.215

Teenagers who have sexual relations with a number of partners are less likely to have stable, committed relationships in their thirties.216

Modern neuroscience research has revealed that sex can literally change a person’s brain, influencing the thought process and affecting future decisions. Science clearly demonstrates that not everyone who has sex will experience these problems. Some undoubtedly will. The problem is a person cannot know if they will be affected or not. The wise thing to do is avoid behavior that can have such a significant impact on one’s future. If your teen is sexually active and having sex with multiple partners or is showing symptoms of a sexually transmitted disease, be worried. Take action and talk. As mentioned in the previous chapter, avoid “you” comments. Instead, use “I” statements such as, “I’m concerned about … Let’s talk about that.” Here are some hands-on illustrations you can use to demonstrate that tragic consequences are imminent: •


Take two pieces of construction paper (for effect cut them out in the shape of a heart) which symbolize the guy and the girl. Glue the pieces together with construction glue, not a glue

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Get two slices of cheese—one Swiss, and any other kind that doesn’t have holes. The whole piece of cheese represents the giving of your whole self to your future spouse. The Swiss cheese represents what you offer your future spouse after years of hooking up and engaging in premarital sex—a bunch of holes in your heart and soul.

Take two pieces of Scotch tape and stick them together. Then pull them apart. Do this several times. Point out that the loss of stickiness represents an inability to bond to your partner long-term, which commonly leads to disaffection in marriage. Thomas Acquinas pointed out that, “Those who find no joy in spiritual pleasures turn to the pleasures of the body.”217 The Bible says the person who lives for pleasure is dead even while she lives (1 Timothy 5:6). Too many wounded people find as they move from one sexual partner to another, they are not only not finding pleasure but finding they feel worse about themselves and their partners, compared to married couples who speak of the deepest level of love and communication. Then they wonder why they feel this way.

Healing the Invisible Bonds We’ve all heard the stories about the young woman who really didn’t want to have sex, however, she wanted intimacy and connection. She traded her virginity and never got what she desired in the first place. She felt used and degraded. Her longing for a secure relationship was a long way off from the sexual encounter actually experienced. Teenage girls with poor parental relationships are more likely to engage in risky behavior. When girls are touched or hugged by a guy, they naturally want more. It gives them a feeling of belonging and worth. The desire to have sex may not be purely physical. He or she may be seeking a deep desire for love and intimacy, which

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becomes a blind spot. It has been said that kids need eleven touches a day. One expert says that a hundred touches a day would be better.218 Sadly, too many kids get zero. There are many more chemicals involved in relational chemistry that this book cannot address. What we can conclude based on what we have learned here is, sex is so powerful that it can bind two people into one flesh (Genesis 2:24). Sex must be used respectfully and with great caution because sexual sin always hurts someone. It always hurts God because it is saying we prefer following our own desires rather than his. It hurts others because it violates commitment, which is so necessary in relationship. God wants us to be sexually whole, and maintaining our virginity is that means.The fact is, sexual sin wounds and produces scars that require healing. Healing of any sin requires breaking the invisible bonds of deception, shame and fear. The Bible says,

God wants you to live a pure life. Keep yourselves from sexual promiscuity. Learn to appreciate and give dignity to your body, not abusing it, as is so common among those who know nothing of God … God hasn’t invited us into a disorderly, unkempt life but into something holy and beautiful—as beautiful on the inside as the outside. 1 Thessalonians 4:3–5, 7 (msg) Paul told the Thessalonians our sexual desires must be placed under Christ’s control and limited to the marriage relationship (read 1 Thessalonians 4:3–8). Because God is love (1 John 4:8) I believe he has wired into each one of us a yearning to deeply and genuinely love someone and have someone love us—deeply enough to want to explore who we really are. Relationships that are lasting and most meaningful are those in which we know the other person intimately—and allow that person to know us equally. Kayla learned it was possible for a guy to be interested in her for some other reason than sex. She eventually found her true self, the woman God created. Instead of looking for a fictitious hero to rescue her from persistent emptiness, she ran to Jesus as he held


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his arms wide open. Today she is in love with him more than any other guy. I tell young women today I wished I had it to do over again. I wish I had been strong enough to say no because I had no idea that having multiple partners would change my life in such a negative way. I found God’s amazing grace and forgiveness, and who I really was. With one arm, God hugs; with the other, he leads us toward healing.

Take Action! Satan surely camps out in the pleasure center of our brains. He dangles the bait; you want more! We bite. The hook paralyzes us because our brain’s pleasure center is all about “more.” In all areas of our lives, we’ve come to believe the lie that “more is better.” Our dependence on technology is one way the enemy takes something that is meant for good and uses it for evil. With the emergence of social-networking sites, millions of users are up and downloading sexual digital images and messages. Scripture says, “Death has climbed in through our windows and has entered our fortresses” ( Jeremiah 9:21, niv). What can we do? Counselor, author, and speaker, Marilyn Meberg, in her book When the Roof Caves In, says we need to be more “over the top” in our reactions to the soul pollution occurring in this society which is encroaching upon our homes.219 In speaking about the time her five-year-old son hid a poster of Raquel Welch under his bed, Marilyn said, “I became a snoop. I kept tabs not only on who might be under the bed but on who might be in the dresser drawers or closets. I believe parents need to snoop … the information you reluctantly discover may save your child from serious trouble.” When her son was nine, she was shocked to discover he had written to Playboy magazine for the bunny of the month’s address. When they talked to their son about sexual issues, it was not to shame him but educate him. His dad told him how normal it was to look at pretty women, but that looking at pretty women can lead to

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impure thoughts. He explained that once the brain sends messages to the body, the body is all too happy to act upon them. Today adolescents have access to p*rnographic material from any mobile device. Once those images are downloaded and viewed, they cannot be deleted from their memory. Children need to be taught the difference between looking and lusting. According to Jesus, looking lustfully at a woman is equal to committing adultery with her (Matthew 5:27–28). Bible commentator John Stott wrote, Deeds of shame are preceded by fantasies of shame, and the inflaming of the imagination by the indiscipline of the eyes. Our vivid imagination is a precious gift of God … Imagination enriches the quality of life. But all God’s gifts need to be used responsibly; they can be readily degraded and abused.220

The good news is if parent-child relations are good, those raging hormone levels don’t seem to matter regarding risky sexual behavior.221 A kid can have lots of friends and attend youth group, but they can’t take the place of Mom and Dad. Every child needs focused time. The greatest damage we do to our children is fail to spend time together and get to know them intimately. An absent parent says, “Other things are more important than you.” It is no surprise those kids seek intimacy elsewhere.

Avoiding Teen Pregnancy A celebrity culture that seems to make being pregnant glamorous may have contributed in part to the thought process that led several high school students in 2008 to make a pact to try to get pregnant together, said one psychologist.222 In 2007, pregnant Jamie Lynn Spears chose to keep her baby. Most teens said, “She is not doing anything wrong at all. I am glad she is just ignoring everyone and remembering the only thing that matters is her and that baby.” 223


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MTV’s “16 and Pregnant,” and its spin off “Teen Mom,” have been extremely popular among the adolescent audience. The teens who appeared on “Teen Mom” became household names and were pictured in celebrity magazines. Apparently, the Teen Mom stars earn up to $65,000 per season.224 The message: Get pregnant, get famous, and get rich. Between 2002 and 2008, the percentage of kids who agreed or strongly agreed with the statement, “It is okay for an unmarried female to have a child” jumped from 50 to 64 percent. Prior to 2005, teen pregnancy rates declined. But since then, they’ve been rising gradually. The CEO of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy said, “Progress in reducing teen pregnancy has stalled.”225 Worse, many of those pregnant teens will have abortions. We may have little or no control over the sexual education in schools (whose efforts to prevent teen pregnancy are restricted), but parents and leaders can help through open communication and by providing education about sexuality. Since the culture has removed the stigma, the only effective restraint left against premarital sex and pregnancy is a teen’s belief and value system—education alone is not the solution. The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy asked teens from all over the country: “If you could give your parents or other important adults advice about how to help you and your friends avoid pregnancy, what would it be?” Here are the most common responses. After each response I have added commentary. 1. Show us why teen pregnancy is such a bad idea. Let us hear from teen mothers and fathers about how hard it has been for them. One organization, MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) International is dedicated to meeting the needs of every mother, including teens moms. Consider contacting

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MOPS [www.mops.org] to locate a speaker from a local Teen MOPS group or attend one of their groups. 2. Talk to us honestly about sex, love and relationships. Just because we’re young doesn’t mean that we can’t fall in love deeply or be deeply interested in sex. Help us to handle the feelings in a safe way. Teens want to be able to talk about these issues in the context of an open and loving environment where they are not afraid or ashamed to speak their heart. Pray for wisdom, an open mind free of judgment, and a loving heart before coming to the table. 3. Telling us not to have sex is not enough. Explain why you feel that way and ask us what we think. Listen to us and take our opinions seriously. Explain that God has set boundaries around the good things he has given us, and sex is one of those things. Emphasize it is the behavior that is inappropriate, not the person. Be gentle but firm. 4. Whether we’re having sex or not, we need to be prepared. We need to know how to avoid pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. If we ask you about sex or birth control, don’t assume we’re already having sex. And, don’t think that giving us information about sex and birth control will encourage us to have sex. You can find this information in most communities such as the Pregnancy Resource Center, and online from a variety of medical sources. 5. Pay attention to us before we get into trouble. We all need encouragement, attention and support. Reward us for doing the right thing, even when it seems like no big thing. Psychologists agree that teens who are disengaged from their parents have a higher chance of getting pregnant. The 114

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pregnancy becomes a fantasy, creating someone who will love them. Mike Goss, President and founder of Abstinence America, is challenging parents to recognize the power they have to influence their children.Goss says, “If we are going to change these numbers,—900,000 teen pregnancies and six million cases of sexually transmitted diseases (STD’s)— parents must be equipped, motivated and ready to engage kids in meaningful dialogue about sex.”226 Our goal is to become and provide a safe place for teens while helping them build communities of connection. Again, time is the best gift you can give a teen. If finding quality time is a challenge think about what other role models might be available—grandparents, older siblings, youth leaders. Experts say it can be easier for grandparents who are not caught up in the daily stresses of teens’ lives, and whose opinions teens may respect more than those of other adults, to step in and bolster their grandchildren’s self-esteem and even talk them out of making destructive choices and plans.227 6. Sometimes, all it takes not to have sex is not to have the opportunity. If you can’t be home with us after school, make sure we have something to do that we really like, where there are other kids and some adults who are comfortable with kids our age. Often, we have sex because there’s not much else to do. Don’t leave us alone so much. As some volunteers from the Pregnancy Resource Center said, “This [point] is huge!” Scripture says, “The Lord had told me, “Put a watchman on the city wall to shout out what he sees” (Isaiah 21:6–7, tlb). Brainstorm with other parents, teachers, and youth leaders to come up with a list of activities for teens when they have down time.

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7. We really care what you think, even if we don’t always act like it. When we don’t end up doing exactly what you tell us to, don’t think that you’ve failed to reach us. [Well said!] 8. Show us what good, responsible relationships look like. We’re as influenced by what you do as by what you say. We will cover this in the chapter “No One Can Serve Two Masters.” 9. Help us avoid unhealthy relationships and better understand some of the early warning signs. It wouldn’t hurt to remind us not to give in to something that makes us uncomfortable, whether in real life or in cyberspace. Discuss and share with your teen the material from this chapter and what is meant by sexual acting out versus a genuine relationship. 10. We hate “the talk” as much as you do. Instead, start talking with us about sex and responsibility when we’re young, and keep the conversation going as we grow older. 228 It’s funny—we start preparing our kids for college and a career as soon as they start school, but then we wait for that one magic day to have “the talk.” The best solution is to start discussing the subjects of sexuality and pregnancy when they start asking questions … and keep the conversation going. If you don’t, the alternative is they will get that advice from other preteens. Parents are often seeking clues for when it’s time to have “the talk” about sex. Dr. Megan Moreno, University of WisconsinMadison, says if sexual content is found on a teen’s social-networking site profile, it’s time! Her team found that 54 percent of MySpace profiles contained high-risk behavior information, with 24 percent referencing sexual behavior. Researchers found a strong association between the display of sexual references on Facebook and self-reported intention to initiate sexual intercourse.229


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Research demonstrates that when it comes to sex, kids still rely most heavily on the advice of their parents, but unfortunately many parents don’t know where to start, what to say or how to communicate effectively with their kids. Dr. Judy Kuriansky, a licensed clinical psychologist specializing in relationship and sex advice, said on CNN, “Don’t take the ostrich approach. Kids will be talking about this in school and with other kids, so ask them what they have heard and what they already know.”230 It is important to create the time to talk. But before talking, do your homework. Get ready—don’t be afraid to talk about your own discomfort. Cushion your beliefs and responses with humor and flexibility. You will get a lot further if you demonstrate acceptance and respect. •

Encourage them to talk. Try to discern their level of knowledge.

Ask questions. If you don’t know the answer, find out together.

Use words they can understand and don’t make them feel awkward.

Relate sex to love, intimacy, care, and respect for one another.

Based on research and conversations I have had with teens and professionals I would add an eleventh response: “Constantly remind me of the advantages of remaining sexually pure; such as the freedom to pursue my future goals, the freedom to freely love my future spouse without bringing painful sexual memories into our bed, and the freedom from an unwanted pregnancy and STD’s.” If your teen is sexually active, or having sex with multiple partners, or is showing symptoms of a STD, take action and teach God’s forgiveness of all sins. “The Lord is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion” (Numbers 14:18, niv). In the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11–32), Jesus said that salvation from sin (sexual sin) is to come home where we belong. “For this son [or daughter] of mine was dead and is alive again; he [she] was lost and is found. So they began to celebrate” (Luke 15:24, niv). No judgment or condemnation. Just celebration! Torn Between Two Masters


Teens need to know everyone, including Mom and Dad, blows it. With God, forgiveness means more than a second chance; it means a fresh start. It’s like getting an F on a test and the F gets erased as if it never happened. We don’t have to be embarrassed or worry about payback or be afraid of what God thinks about us. We are fully forgiven and totally loved! Lastly—pray, pray, pray!

The entire community joined together to give their young people one message—sexual activity and pregnancy were not positive, healthy choices. “The community has to be involved in a relentless effort to put a safety net around kids,” said John Myers, executive director of a Connecticut YMCA.234 How might you be instrumental in starting a community mentor program?

A Commitment to Communication and Community Purity is not just about avoiding sex and signing covenants. Our bodies, minds, and spirits are meant to be in step with God’s plan and design for each one of our lives. When we are following him and living a life he has called us to, incredible things happen! Teen abstinence is the only option for healthy hardwiring. Students receiving abstinence education are about one-half as likely to initiate sexual activity as students who do not receive it.231 Young people will not have all the guidance and support they need if their parents are the only ones providing real guidance. Parents are the first and most important voices for young people, but they benefit most when all of the community provides guidance toward healthy choices.232 As they say, it takes a village. One of the most effective programs for reducing teen sexual activity and pregnancy came out of a community oriented approach. The rural town of Denmark, South Carolina was the setting. The program enlisted all the influential groups in the town to advise and guide their young people to avoid sexual activity. The groups included schools, churches, businesses, physicians, newspapers and parents groups. The results were phenomenal. Pregnancy rates declined by more than 50 percent. In contrast, the pregnancy rates for the surrounding communities rose by almost 20 percent over the same period. Just three years later when the program was discontinued, the pregnancy rate jumped back up, sadly exceeding the pre-program levels.233


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Part Two Celebrities Why They Have Such Power When you enter the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not learn to imitate the detestable ways of the nations there. —Moses, Deuteronomy 18:9 (niv) God bears with imperfect beings even when they resist His goodness. —Francois de Fenelon235 The sorrows of those will increase who run after other gods … Test me, O Lord, and try me, examine my heart and my mind; for your love is ever before me. —David, Psalm 16:4; 26:2–3 (niv) Man was made for God, and he’ll never find rest until he finds it in the One who made him. —Saint Augustine

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Why Are We (Christians) Living Like the Rest of the World? On October 19, 2009, officials said criminal charges would be filed against Richard and Mayumi Heene, the parents of a six-year-old boy thought to have been swept away in a homemade helium balloon, after determining the entire incident a hoax. “We have evidence to indicate the Heenes were marketing themselves for a reality television show in the future.”236 This drama captured most of the world’s attention. Are reality TV, soap operas, YouTube, gossip blogs, and tabloids really entertainment? If not, why do we keep watching? Most people will say they don’t know why or why they are drawn to celebrities. I knew deep down inside I’d never be a supermodel and probably would never marry some rich and famous dude. So why did I compulsively mirror my life and obsess after these people? Ever wonder why you care about the personal lives of people you’ve never met? Why are we more interested in their problems then in their redemption? Social psychologists agree the reasons why are many and complex. First, we need to look at the historical background to understand how we have gotten to where we are today. The theme of the entire Bible is that God’s purpose was to call out a people for himself; that these people would be holy and set apart from the world; that they would belong to him and obey him; that they would be ‘different’ in their outlook and behavior. Listen to what God said: I am the Lord your God. You must not do as they do in Egypt, where you used to live …  Do not follow

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their practices. You must obey my laws and be careful to follow my decrees. Leviticus 18:2–4 (niv)

God was their covenant God. And because they were his special people he appealed to them to be different from everybody else. They were to follow his commandments and not take orders from the world around them. Throughout the centuries that followed, God’s special children, the people of Israel, kept forgetting their uniqueness. They assimilated to the practices and people around them. The worst was their idolatry. God kept sending prophets to remind them who they were and to plead with them to follow him and his ways, yet they rebelled against God. They refused to listen to him (Ezekiel 20:8). Then Jesus came and delivered The Sermon on the Mount— the New Testament version of counter-culture. He too emphasized that his true flowerers, the people of God, were to be entirely different from everybody else. They were not to take their cue from the people around them but from him. “Do not be like them” Jesus instructed (Matthew 6:8, niv). That call still applies to us today. As R. V. G. Tasker put it, Christians are “to be a moral disinfectant in a world where moral standards are low, constantly changing, or non-existent.”237 I, like many others, believe the greatest tragedy of the church has been its historical and unvarying tendency to conform to the prevailing culture instead of developing a Christian counter-culture. The result: we are no different than “them.”

Why Do We Want to be Like ‘Them’? In this country there is intense pressure to keep up with and assimilate into the pop culture, which includes seeking after what the rich and famous have. In that quest, we morph into different roles and paste on to ourselves different identities. We are a patchwork self!


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I look at this phenomenon like an onion—there are different layers of different explanations we need to expose. Peeling off the first layer reveals some surface reasons: There is a need! NPR (National Public Radio) commentator Jake Halpern said, One reason people are encouraged to chase the chimera of fame is that with the rise of the celebrityobsessed media, the need for celebrities has increased exponentially and apparently will continue to do so. All those talk shows and feature writers need a steady supply of telegenic actors, singers, cooks, talk-show hosts, and meteorologists to fill the increasing number of celebrity slots.238

It’s a social event! Celebrity gossip plays an important role in cementing social bonds and improving an individual’s status within a group, especially with adolescents. Gossip about celebrities today is the equivalent of sitting around the campfire telling stories like in the old days. 239 It’s a diversion! Many people find it enjoyable and diversionary to fixate on images of attractive and well-known stars, breaking their day-to-day routine activities. Entertainment celebrity news can help discouraged and depressed people focus on something else, breaking their fixation with themselves. They’re family! Magazines such as People and Us Weekly demystify famous actors. Intermingled within sports events, viewers get to know superstar players through mini autobiographies. Celebrities have turned to Twitter in great numbers where they reveal a lot of personal information. These people become familiar, like family, so we make a family-like connection.240 That enables fans to connect and view them as equals and friends. It’s in our genes! Dr. Stuart Fischoff of the University of California at Los Angeles states celebrity worship is entrenched

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in our genes, prompted by a primal instinct to follow a dominant leader.241 Anthropologist Francisco Gil-White from the University of Pennsylvania explains, “Humans, unlike other species, obtain most of their information about the world from other humans. We were selected not only to rank successful individuals highly and to prefer them as models, but also to kiss up to them in order to make them prefer us as interactional partners.”242 They’re royalty! American celebrities, in particular actors, have become the equivalent to having an American royal family to worship. We’re psychologically damaged! Drs. Pinsky and Young say deeprooted psychological constructs predispose us to accept scandalous gossip and disturbing behavior as entertainment.243 The Bible calls it our depraved nature (Romans 1:28). It can be difficult to gauge the actual influence celebrities have on us since we’re not always aware of the forces that drive our choices and behaviors. You may be thinking, What’s the big deal? The big deal is the more we watch them, the more we’re unconsciously motivated to imitate their behavior. When celebrities are recorded indulging in high-risk behavior such as binge drinking, having sex in public, drug abuse, or losing too much weight, they are doing what psychological professionals call “modeling” behavior. They broadcast an image that serves as a model for viewers.244 We’ve just scratched the surface. We need to peel back another layer and look at some modeling behavior theories.

Modeling Behavior Theories To understand why media images cause us to change our behavior, it’s important to grasp four different but related explanations, or theories, as to why we seek to model and obsess about celebrities. They are: • 126

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The Innate Desire to Mimic



Social Learning Human beings learn by observing behavior. We learn either positive or negative lessons. Social learning can be jeopardized when consequences of actions are distorted, which is what happens in most media coverage of negative celebrity behavior. Instead of, Don’t do what this celeb did because you will lose a privilege or it will hurt you (implies a negative consequence), they say, Do what this celeb did and happiness and popularity will be yours (implies a positive consequence). This is deception, pure and simple. When someone has something we desire, we believe we can have the same thing if we imitate that person’s behavior. If a person desires power, fame, beauty, wealth, or status, they will model their behavior on that of the people they most identify with. Take actor Charlie Sheen who has been in high demand despite ongoing personal problems. He has received a lot of media attention surrounding excess drinking, drugs, p*rn stars, and trashing hotel rooms. Yet in 2010 he was the highest paid actor on television for his role on the hit comedy “Two and a Half Men.”245 If I am a teen and I desire to be a high paid actor, I will model his behavior, even if that behavior is reckless and has nothing to do with acting. Someone once said, “I am not what I think I am. I am not what you think I am. I am what I think you think I am.” There are two paths to every person’s identity. The first is termed differentiation which is becoming aware of one’s own individuality and then integrating into a unique, unified whole. The other is called the undifferentiated or patchwork self, which is to construct one’s identity by accepting, in pieces, parts of identities from diverse others. If I asked you, “Who you are?” would you automatically say, “I am a child of Almighty God and a servant of Jesus Christ”? No? Without realizing it, our patchwork self becomes who we are. This

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path tends to lead to low self-worth, a distorted self-image, and is problematic.246 We’ll go into more detail about differentiation in part four. The Innate Desire to Mimic French philosopher of social science, Dr. Rene Girard, takes social learning a step further. He developed the idea of mimesis or mimetic desires. According to Dr. Girard, the mimetic desire is motivated by an inner sense that “something” is missing. Scripture says, “You want something but don’t get it” ( James 4:2, niv). That something, or soul-hole, lures many into a web of celebrity identification. His theory is that our desires never come purely from ourselves; rather, they are inspired by the desires of another.247 The word mimesis means identifying with the original and involves some sort of participation. It is not the same as imitation, which suggests simulation or copying. Today, many adolescents believe they can actually be that famous person. One ten-year- old Hannah Montana fan told a Washington Post reporter, “I really like her show because the way she acts is kind of like how I act sometimes … W hen I sing her songs, I feel like her … I really think I’ve actually become a singer.”248 No doubt, in five years, she’ll be auditioning for American Idol because she believes in her heart she is a professional singer like Miley Cyrus. The mimetic desire describes our ravenous hunger for wholeness. Deep inside we feel “something” is missing. It lures many into a web of dangerous dieting and body sculpting. This hole in the adolescent soul makes them a voracious consumer of false gods and images. It is so strong that they willingly stuff themselves with fragmented identities. Dr. Girard wrote, “As soon as we pattern our desires on our neighbors’ desires, we all desire the same objects and we become entangled in mimetic rivalries.”249 The culture and media machine have done a superb job of getting us to believe “something” is miss-


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ing and only “more” of what they offer will satisfy … and we devour the bait. Why? Because we are spiritually hungry. Here is the key to understanding these problems today. Mankind has notoriously been victimized, lied to, defrauded, and blinded to the Scriptures which began in the garden of Eden (read Genesis 3). I think this is what happened to Eve. Satan, disguised as a serpent, suggests that Eve eat the forbidden fruit (we’ll talk more about Satan in part three). The motive or bait: to become “like God.” But we know God created man in his own image (Genesis 1:27) so Eve was already like God. What would have tempted her to disobey when she already had great significance and God’s vast love? I have to believe she was unaware of her divine likeness, somehow already hypnotized by Satan. She had been deceived to feel that “something” was missing. Christians everyday buy into Satan’s favorite lie: There’s more! You deserve to have every desire fulfilled! Go after what your flesh craves! He knows this lie is hard for us to resist. How have you been taken in by this lie? Adam and Eve disobeyed and ate the fruit. Their perfect relationship with God was marred which affected us all. Mankind left God’s paths to follow his own (Isaiah 53:6). Scripture says, “Their lives became full of every kind of wickedness and sin, of greed and hate, envy, murder, fighting, lying, bitterness, and gossip” (Romans 1:29, tlb). Jesus knew man would deny God as his Creator and seek to remake himself in his own image. This is why he had to come and die. Normalization Social learning can also be jeopardized by normalization. As we increase our exposure to celebrities disconcerting behaviors a disturbing phenomenon occurs—our perception of what is normal begins to change. It’s similar to the boiling frog story. If a frog is placed in boiling water it will jump out. But if it is placed in cold water that is slowly heated, it will not perceive the danger and will

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be cooked to death. It is a metaphor for the inability of people to react to significant changes that occur gradually. Today perky and pony-tailed teenage cheerleaders rev up the fans at high school football games. They are drawing attention for shaking more than their pom-poms. Considered age-appropriate for a professional cheerleader, shaking your booty at hormonal teenage guys has many parents upset. One cheerleader’s mom said, “I’m not shocked. It’s just society today.” This is an example of normalizing questionable or extreme behavior. Drs. Drew Pinsky and S. Mark Young developed the idea of the Mirror Effect. It is the process by which provocative, shocking or otherwise troubling behavior—which has become normalized, expected and tolerated in our media culture—is increasingly reflected in our own behaviors. They say, in part, it’s because the media glamorizes celebrities’ behavior.250 Today, navigating through adolescence is made more difficult by the menu of self-gratifying options our culture serves them: drugs, alcohol, sex, antisocial behavior, and dangerous acting out. When a teen mimics a celebrity our response shouldn’t be, “He’s just being a teenager!” This is normalization. As any medical and mental health professional can attest, when our lives are void, especially of love, we eventually break down and become dysfunctional. Christ warned that toward the end of this age the love of most will grow cold. Consider already the desensitization of our emotions through uncensored media news coverage and entertainment. The more violence and suffering we see, the less moved we are because we consider it normal. In the end we succumb to the hardening of the heart.251 On the other hand, when we think of following God’s laws we often think of rules designed to keep us from really enjoying life. That’s a lie we’ve come to believe. The Apostle John said that if you are a child of God, obeying his commandments isn’t difficult (1 John 5:3). Psalm 19:7 says, “The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul” (niv). God’s ways fill our soul-hole—period! Verses 8–11


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tells us his law makes us wise, gives joy to the heart, gives light to the eyes, warns and rewards us. Who doesn’t want this? God’s commands are guidelines and light for our paths, not chains on our feet or hands. He points out danger but then points us toward safety and success. What we fail to realize are these socalled celebrity gods and masters are merely deceiving idols—a substitute for our one and only Master, Jesus Christ. He is the “something” that is missing. Scripture says that God has put a sense of eternity in people’s minds. “Yet, mortals still cannot grasp what God is doing from the beginning to the end of time” (Ecclesiastes 3:11, gw). God created us in such a way that only those who seek Jesus will be filled. We will never be filled by following celebs or pop culture. Gods and Goddesses (Idolatry) Edgar Moran said, “Made into heroes and divine beings, stars are not simply objects to be admired; they are objects of worship. Around them the beginnings of a religion are born …  ” 252 Celebrities have a certain aura that surrounds them, something mere mortals don’t have. Stars are set apart from the rest of us. We build our own tabernacle and perform rituals to show how devoted we are to them: •

Buy the latest tabloids.

Invest hundreds of hours in online celebrity gossip chatting and twittering.

Watch entertainment television.

Spend hard-earned dollars at the box offices and Netflix.

Collect all sorts of iconic memorabilia.

The mirror effect, fulfilling irreverent mimetic desires, and satisfying our soul with temporal pleasures is what God calls idolatry. The definition of idolatry, according to Webster, is “the excessive devotion to, or reverence for some person or thing.” An idol is anything or anyone that replaces the one, true God.

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There is nothing wrong with reading magazines or watching movies that spotlight our favorite celebs or shopping for a new pair of shoes—as long as they do not occupy first place in our hearts. They are gifts from God, not replacements for God. When the Apostle Paul preached and healed a crippled man the people thought he and his companion, Barnabas, were gods disguised as men (Acts 14:14–19). They wanted to worship these two men. Paul said that in our fallen state we are tempted to worship the created rather the Creator (Romans 1:25). Scripture tells us that those who make idols will be like them and trust in them (Psalm 135:18). God describes the idolater: “They know nothing, they understand nothing; their eyes are plastered over so they cannot see, and their minds closed so they cannot understand” (Isaiah 44:18, niv). In the Old Testament, those who worshiped idols were blind and insensitive. They couldn’t see or hear what God had to say. Nothing has changed today. In subtle, undetectable ways we become like the idols we worship. This is typically how the process goes: 1. The idol begins as an appreciation. The person consumes a consistent diet of celebrity images that “appear” entertaining and attractive and harmless. 2. It soon becomes a fascination. The person develops a preoccupation with these images to the point that the celebrity behavior begins to seem normal and desirable. 3. Then it becomes an obsession. The person worships that celebrity. Consciously or unconsciously, that person begins to adopt the behavior, often with detrimental or dangerous consequences, finding them self in a place of powerlessness. Searching to fill a void, we will worship something or someone that we value, love or are profoundly impressed with. If we connect with someone or something else besides God, life will get out of kilter. Idols cannot give us love or significance or a sense of belonging.


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God said apart from him there is no savior (Isaiah 43:11). Any connection with another person that is more important than your relationship with God is idolatry, which is why we are told to keep away from anyting that takes God’s place in our hearts (1 John 5:21). Repeated bowing to ourselves or anybody else leads to slavery (Romans 6:16). The things we worship eventually own us. In the Old Testament, when God’s people turned from loving him to loving their idols, God said they were committing spiritual adultery (Isaiah 57:7–8). In indiscernible ways, we begin to exhibit behaviors termed the seven deadly sins: greed, anger, pride, lust, envy, gluttony, and sloth.253 In Paul’s time, Athens was a center for Greek culture and many gods. Deeply distressed upon seeing these people spiritually trapped by a pagan culture and ignorant of the one true God, he made it clear to them, The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. For in him we live and move and have our being. Acts 17:24–28 (niv, my emphasis)

God is great—greater than all gods (Psalm 135:5). The bottom line is: we were created for God—for his pleasure (Colossians 1:6). Our great temptation is to shape God into our liking. We act like he was

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created for us. We ask, “Why did you make me to look like this?” Or we ask, “Why is my family so messed up?” He is God Almighty and he has more of a right to ask us, “Why is your family so messed up? Look at the choices they made!” or “Why are you so focused on your appearance and accumulating wealth when it is I that needs your attention?” The danger of celebrity worship is that it usually goes undetected. Satan will always offer us god substitutes to distract us from our true need for God. The lure is extremely subtle. Paul and Barnabas could have accepted the people’s worship and used the honor to suit their own purposes. God’s people don’t do this. These men opposed what the people were doing and told them their gods were vanities (Acts 14:15). God cannot work in us when we elevate anyone or anything above him (Exodus 32:1–10). Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21, niv). Those obsessed with a passion for God alone put him before every other person or thing. If God is our true God, we will become more like him as we worship him. This is what we want! Who has your heart today? Your children’s? What false gods are preventing the true God from living and working within you?

A Narcissist Epidemic Years ago I read a cartoon picturing a smiling woman jabbering on and on to a glum-faced woman. The smiling woman finally said, “Well enough about me. Now let’s talk about you … W hat do you think about me?” Look at the progression of magazines over that last several decades. In the 1960s, Life magazine became hugely popular as the first all-photographic American news magazine. The mid-70s saw the dawn of an increase in coverage of celebrities. People hit the newsstands, and readers got more intimate details of their favorite celebs. Us magazine emerged, followed by Self magazine. It’s all


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about them subtly morphed into, it’s all about me! Enter the narcissist generation. What Jesus criticized as self-righteousness is today called narcissism. The word narcissist means excessive admiration of or fascination with oneself. It is derived from the Greek mythology of Narcissus and describes the trait of extreme self-love. Who can forget Snow White’s wicked stepmother. She loved to gaze into her mirror and hear it tell her she was the fairest person in the land. When the mirror began to say Snow White was the fairest, the stepmother wanted her eliminated! Researchers such as John Maltby have found that celebrity worshipers are more likely to suffer from narcissism.254 They believe they have a “sense of entitlement.” This sense of self-love is considered to be a false self because below the layer of superiority lies a deeply rooted sense of worthlessness and hidden shame. They fear having their weaknesses and inadequacies exposed. Dr. Pinsky points out that the dysfunctional and dangerously narcissistic behavior we see in celebrities is becoming normalized throughout our society. 255 Drs. Pinsky and Young surveyed two hundred celebrities and concluded that celebrity narcissists aren’t egomaniacs with high self-esteem. “Rather, they are traumatized individuals who are unable to connect in any real way with other people. They are driven to attain fame, with its constant stream of attention, flattery, and empowerment, because they need the steady trickle of adoring recognition.”256 The narcissist has no true self. His or her life is a spectacle, with free access to all, constantly on display. Some are extremely poisonous and dangerous. Self-deceived, they believe they can see clearly. They will twist or distort God’s Word to prove they are right and get their own way. They envy other’s successes. The result is chaos. “For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder” ( James 3:16, niv).

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Lindsay complained to Almighty God about a fellow coworker, saying, “O Lord, take away this vain, self-absorbed person from my workplace.” God replied, “Which one?” Many psychologists and pastoral leaders assert we are all born narcissists. Since we began to crawl we’ve been demanding our way: me, my, and mine! However, classic narcissists generally crave attention, are charismatic, and tend to fantasize about fame, fortune, and power, manipulating others to achieve their own ends. If they make a person feel important it is for one reason only: to meet their feld needs. In the narcissist’s mind, he or she is brilliant, perfect, omnipotent, omniscient, and unique. In one comic a patient told his psychotherapist, “I never realized how narcissistic I was until ten online dating services matched me with myself.” In the Bible, King Solomon was a narcissist (1 Chronicles 29:1). He followed the legendary success of his father, King David. Because of his father’s legacy, Solomon always looked over his shoulder. His mission would be to make a name for himself, which required doing something grand. So he hatched plans on a scale never heard of in Israel’s history (read Ecclesiastes 2:4–9). With a constant refrain of me, mine, and myself, King Solomon reveals he is obsessed with himself and with creating an image that would outshine the star of his revered father. Like Humpy Dumpy, this powerful man had a great fall. God says, “Your wisdom and knowledge mislead you when you say to yourself, ‘I am, and there is none besides me’” (Isaiah 47:10, niv). Solomon admitted, Anything I wanted I took and did not restrain myself from any joy. I even found great pleasure in hard work. This pleasure was, indeed, my only reward for all my labors. But as I looked at everything I had tried, it was all so useless, a chasing of the wind, and there was nothing really worthwhile anywhere. Ecclesiastes 2:10–11 (tlb) 136

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Most teenagers today score high on the narcissism scale. That’s what it means to be an adolescent. Drs. Pinsky and Young say parents (or anyone who spends time with teenagers) need to: Remember that you are dealing with an individual who seeks out idealized role models, nurtures grandiose fantasies, and often behaves as if he or she is omnipotent. An individual with this mindset can be demanding, capricious, and frustrating. Nevertheless, as powerful as a toddler or a teenager feels, or feels he’s entitled to be, your job as a parent is to appropriately frustrate, not enable, their grandiose posturings. Remember, a grandiose sense of self is normal for a young child; it should be neither crushed nor overly supported. As a parent, your job is merely to be present, to show that you appreciate your child’s experience as he struggles to manage reality on reality’s terms.257

Teaching Teens to Be Critical of the Media PARADE magazine’s cover, June 5, 2010, featured actor Matthew McConaughey and two teens. The caption: “Parade’s All-America Service Team is about Making a Connection … You Have to Get Out and Help Others.” PARADE chose to honor high school athletes who were changing communities through service. This is the type of media content we want teens to draw attention to. We want to build up positive role models. We want them to not only love God, but love like God. Yet negative celebrity stories still seem to outweigh the positive. As they surface use them as a starting place for discussion to reinforce your core beliefs. Dr. Michele Borba, author of The Big Book of Parenting Solutions advises, “Teach your child to be media literate and to resist the ways television, movies, and magazines portray underweight women as glamorous and muscle-bound men as all-powerful. While you’re at

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it, put down those celebrity and fashion magazines yourself. Your child is taking notes.”258 Quietly observe your teen’s likes and dislikes, noting their favorite TV shows, celebrities, and music. Ask them who their favorite stars are and why they admire them. “What is it about this particular person’s life that matters to you? What attracts you to these people? Do you like the way they dress? The way they look? Why?” For example, Mom and daughter, Dad and son, watch a popularized program together. Then discuss the unhealthy versus the healthy features. •

What does the producer of this message want me to think or do?

How might others who are different from me (i.e., nonbelievers) see this differently?

What values and points of view are explored or promoted?

Who or what message is omitted and why? What are we not being told?

Where can I go to get more reliable information about this topic?

Talk about reality. The fact is less than one percent of boys or girls will ever become a famous athlete or rock star or supermodel or actress. Discuss what it means to be a famous role model today. Talk about the difference between positive and negative attention. Many teen celebrities are transitioning right in front of your eyes, but it doesn’t mean your teen needs to follow in their footsteps. While their role models may be admired, they need to realize they are human and will make mistakes. Help your teen to understand that a person can think highly of someone without having to copy everything he or she does. Lastly, engage your kids in dialogue about what they think the culture and the church should be doing about this issue of media misinformation and celebrity identification. This is a good discussion topic for youth groups.

To view media critically is to ask questions and begin talking: •

Tell her or him what you like and what you don’t, and why you think that way.

Don’t laugh at or criticize their choices and reasoning.

Go for open dialogue without judgment. Build on their response.

Talk about how you were affected by celebrities at their age.

Talk about your heroes and why they were heroes.

I don’t have to tell you that the more you push back and verbalize your disgust, the more your child may gravitate toward it. That’s what a teenager does! Psychologist Jean Twenge, author of Generation Me, said, “Many kids today grow up thinking that they will eventually be movie stars, sports figures, or at least rich … a lot of young people also assume that success will come quickly.”259 138

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Uncovering Blind Spots No doubt, at one time you bought something that was an imitation, perhaps a “knock-off ” purse. It looked like the real thing but in reality lacked the quality of the original brand. My Coach knockoff wasn’t soft and pliable. The zipper repeatedly got stuck. Chances are your imitation wore out or broke or became tarnished before too long. Nothing quite meets our expectations except the real thing. We want to model ourselves after the real, authentic thing— Jesus. We don’t expect to be as good or perfect as him, but we are willing to try our best. Part of that process is eliminating or minimizing personal blind spots where we’ve unknowingly shut our eyes. We all have blind spots. These areas need to be identified so we can see correctly and adjust our lives accordingly, because they can be deadly. Daniel Goldman said, “A blind spot is an appropriate metaphor for our failure to see things as they are in actuality. We fail to see what it is we do not see. And, it’s those very things we do not see that cause intelligent people to do stupid things.” 260 In the Gospels, the Pharisees were called blind because they were concerned with their outward behavior rather than matters of the heart (see Luke 11:39–41). You may have good intentions—go to church regularly and study the Bible. Sadly, these disciplines do not prevent blindness in us. Part of our sinful nature instinctively chooses to see what we want to see and ignores what we want to ignore. Jesus said, “I have come into the world to give sight to those who are spiritually blind and to show those who think they see that they are blind” ( John 9:39, tlb). Clearer perception and sensitivity are gifts we receive when we are united with Jesus.

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Peeling back another layer will help us detect blind spots and pinpoint some deeper reasons why we are so eager to get a front row seat into our favorite stars lives. I content there are five common blind spots: 1. We live a culture that breeds self-deception and personal rationalization. 2. We are searching for our identity. 3. We use escapism and disassociation to cope. 4. We are alone or lonely. 5. We thirst for intimacy.

Live in a Culture of Self-Deception and Personal Rationalization The wise Greek scholar Erasmus said, “Man’s mind is so formed that it is far more susceptible to falsehood than to truth.”261 Another Christian thinker, Pascal, added, “We like to be deceived.”262 God said, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure” ( Jeremiah 17:9, niv). Does a deceived man know he is deceived? If the answer is no, there are serious implications. Because we are all born with a sin nature, we must acknowledge that we are not beyond deceiving and lying to ourselves. Psychologist Stephen Diamond claims that selfdeception is much more pervasive than most imagine.263 Humans have emotional attachments to beliefs, or biased truths, which in many cases are culture based, and subsequently, flatly false and irrational. Every person has his or her own perception of truth. It is an individual’s reality as he or she experiences it. This explains how we become entrapped in heated disagreements and inflamed blame games. And the further we distance ourselves from God, the greater our self-deception. How many times have you had a heated argument with someone, then after the fact, that person has a completely contradictory version of what happened? Self-deception enables someone to 142

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believe or rationalize their distortions. It’s a mode of self-protection. This is why Jesus warns us, “Watch out that no one deceives you … Be on your guard” (Mark 13:5, niv). The fact that Christians are warned repeatedly about being deceived means it happens to us. Rationalization is a core component of self-deception. We distort or rationalize facts to support our particular point of view. When I smoked I convinced myself my habit wasn’t that unhealthy. After all, I still exercised and ate well. Eugene Peterson’s translation in The Message of Isaiah 44:20 says, “This lover of emptiness, of nothing, is so out of touch with reality, so far gone, that he can’t even look at what he’s doing, can’t even look at the no-god stick of wood in his hand and say, ‘This is crazy.’” Dr. Diamond says, We twist the truth. And we become convinced of the veracity of this twisted truth. And we do all this unconsciously. We don’t even know we’re doing it … In truth, we deceive ourselves about a great many matters, from bad behavior, to how we feel, to the ever present existential fact of death.264

We see self-deception played out in one of the seven deadly sins—envy. In this society large breasts are desirable. Because I am extremely disenchanted with my small breasts, I find myself envying models with large breasts. Soon I’m buying push-up bras and considering breast augmentation. I rationalize or deceive myself into thinking I must do this in order to be accepted socially and attractive to men. Envy also works the other way. Because we envy what a celeb may have, we revel in joy when she falls off her star-studded pedestal. The Germans call this schadenfreude: pleasure derived from someone else’s misfortune. We yearn for beauty, money, toys, clothes, mansions, and arm candy. We envy the celebs who have it all. So when we hear they lost it, or could lose it, we schadenfreud.

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God tells us this is not only wrong but brings great displeasure to him (Proverbs 24:17–18). We also believe we are better than average—the deadly sin of pride. The worse we are at something, the better we often think we are, as reality TV models. But it’s bigger than that. Today’s young Americans believe they are entitled to the best in life: the best clothes, homes, cars, and fame because they are “special.” They won’t settle for second place. We all need to realize that if we are citizen of this country we are already rich—filthy rich. Simply by buying this book you spent what a majority of people in the world will make in one week. Having a fatter bank account won’t make us special—only used. The truth is, as children of God, we are already special! Being rich puts us at a spiritual disadvantage because it often hardens the heart and we are more apt to give God our leftovers. The person who receives fewer gifts should not be sad or impatient or envious of the richer person. Instead she should turn her mind to Jesus and give him praise for the gifts she does have. Thomas À Kempis wrote, “You [ Jesus] are the truth which does not deceive and cannot be deceived. Every man, on the other hand, is a liar, weak, unstable and likely to err, especially in words, so that one ought not to be too quick to believe even that which seems, on the face of it, to sound true.”265 “‘Seek me in vain.’ I, the Lord, speak the truth;I declare what is right.”266 Ask God to pour his wisdom and perspective into your perceptions: “How does this look to you, Lord?”

Our Search for Identity Donna grew up in a Christian home. She went to church beginning in nursery school and eventually taught the Bible to young people from fifty churches. In her later college years, Donna says her priorities began to shift. She entered a beauty contest with the motivation of winning a free trip to New York hoping to begin a


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career in modeling and acting. She stopped attending church and reading her Bible. Life would never be the same for Donna Rice when magazines and newspapers around the world published pictures of her sitting on a Democratic presidential candidate’s lap. She was on her way to achieving her dreams when the scandal broke. She resigned from her jobs due to the negative publicity and then worried about paying the rent. She refused offers to sell her story for a movie of the week and even her own television series. Instead of going public, Donna sought out the friendship of Christian friends and family and began to seek the Lord again. Donna said, “I realized that to die to self was all that really mattered. My identity was really in Christ. Even though I had made a big mistake with my lifestyle, God used the trials to conform me to His image.”267 Throughout our history we’ve always idolized people more successful and beautiful than ourselves. Multiply this ten-fold when we talk about adolescents and their search for identity. We already know parenting a teen can be an extremely stressful stage. Parents often feel overwhelmed and sucked into the wild roller coaster ride of adolescence. Teri Claassen, MSW, LCSW, explains: Developmentally they [teens] are attempting to find their sense of self and where they fit in with friends, family, and in the world. They are shifting their identity from what mom and dad think, to what their peers think. Their minds are crazily trying to answer the question, “Who am I?” As they shift like a chameleon in and out of identity options, they question everything. They are collecting all the experiences they have had and are attempting to form their own belief system, likes, and dislikes.

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It is vital to remember that as a parent of a teen you are helping them connect their childhood to their adulthood. This is a time where they are not as dependent as they once were; however, they are also not too independent yet. As a teen is exploring this path to adulthood, they will often seek to be understood as they undergo many changes.268

This may be the time to differentiate yourself and define your own identity so you can help your teen connect his or her childhood to their upcoming adulthood.

Escapism and Disassociation One young woman in my church admitted, “Ialways watch and read the latest gossip on the stars. Sometimes I wonder why this is such a big attraction to me. I think it’s an escape of real life.” As it turns out, we all have tendencies to escape and isolate. Many of us just don’t believe the words, “happily ever after” apply to us. Since we long for a joyful existence we create a “place” to try and find it. Journeys into a dream world are protective if we do not feel worthy or competent enough to come out into the real world. The idea of relating to others may be frightening. If we fear rejection or criticism, it’s easy to escape into a fantasy world seeking safety for the moment. There is one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve— the fear of failure. Personal voids and fear of failure often play out as “escapism.” Interestingly, studies show that 95 percent of what we fear is baseless.269 In times of stress and crisis, people gravitate to what provides comfort. That’s escapism. And we won’t be able to come out until we get those obstacles out of the way. When shows like The Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, Dallas, Entertainment Tonight, and Access Hollywood aired, I had a front row seat. For those few hours, I anaesthetized myself, escaping anxiety, fear, loneliness, responsibility, and disappointment. I found a perfect world, surrendering to idols. It was only temporary. Today I know


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a perfect world won’t come until I meet Jesus in heaven. Whenever we choose the entertainment media’s offer of escapism cloaked as “news,” we do so at the cost of connecting with real people. One common blind spot is preferring fantasy over the pain of reality. Human beings have an amazing ability to tune out anything that hurts. It’s called dissociation. Many survivors of trauma deal with their pain through dissociation. They slip into a fantasy world in order to avoid dealing with difficulties. If you have been abused or emotionally wounded, please get help from a qualified professional. Far too many people cope with painful feelings of rejection by clinging to some belief or ideal, often a celebrity image. They are trying to find the sense of security or worth that is lacking in their relationships. We were created by God to enjoy healthy relationships in an intimate and personal environment. Connecting with a celebrity, or anyone, via Twitter or a movie screen is not considered an intimate relationship. For example, if you find a real relationship too difficult to manage, it will be much easier to handle a one-sided relationship with an artificial celebrity. If you tend to be shy, or feel you are fat and ugly, all you have to do is pop in a DVD movie and dream you’re the beautiful one Matt Damon is speaking to. This relationship doesn’t require you to leave home and engage socially. Withdrawing is detrimental to our personal growth because it is in relating to others that we grow most. Even positive rituals like studies, work, and sports, can replace our need for relationship. Moving out of isolation begins with our relationship with God. We must learn to trust him first—only then can we venture out to trust people. Healthy relationships exist where both people work to give and receive.

Alone or Lonely? If I asked you what your teen is doing right now, you might not know. But the New York Times and the Kaiser Family Foundation

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have a pretty good idea. According to a Kaiser study, if your teenager is awake and isn’t in school, he or she is staring at a cell phone, a computer, or watching television—alone.270 The average amount of time spent online, in one week, back in 1999 was seven hours. That number about doubled to thirteen hours in 2009.271 There is a difference between being alone and lonely. To be alone is to choose to separate, be apart, or isolate from others; as in “I want to be alone.” We may choose to pull in because we don’t feel safe. Conversely, we are lonely when we feel dejected or rejected because of others. Loneliness causes a depressed feeling. In either case, whether we are alone or lonely, we do not function well. It has been said that despite this country’s great wealth and resources, we are a nation of lonely, isolated people——a society of intimate strangers. Jake Halpern argues the need to bond with celebs is part of a general trend toward loneliness in American society. Followers get a sense of belonging, security, and importance, which counteracts feelings of loneliness.272 Have you noticed adolescent’s t-shirts and hats and backpacks? Every day teens send out messages. They wear the name of their favorite band or celebrity. They do so, not because they’re necessarily crazy about that group or person, or want to advertise for them, but because the ideals and image surrounding that band or person enables them to connect with their community, avoiding loneliness. Many messages are pretty daring, such as Grow a Pothead and Got Herb? Why would a kid put a sign on his body alerting adults to his use of marijuana? I’d be afraid of getting caught and permanently grounded. This generation doesn’t think this way. Their choices are based on their perceived values. They know, as we do, behavior has consequences. Smoking dope has a negative consequence. But a t-shirt that yells “Got Herb?” is a desperate cry to connect. It really should read, “I’m cool! Be my friend. I don’t have any because I don’t fit in anywhere. I’ll give you drugs if you will just hang with me. Please


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pretend to like me.” The pain of being alone is much greater than the pain of getting caught. This culture relentlessly communicates through text messaging and email and Facebook. As impersonal as these are, it demonstrates humans seek connection. Tom Hanks effectively depicted this in the movie Cast Away. Stranded on a deserted island, he had ongoing personal conversations with a volleyball named Wilson. In a report to the nation from the Commission on Children at Risk, The University of Dartmouth Medical School reported that all scientific research now shows that from the time a baby is born, a baby’s brain is biologically already formed to connect in relationships. In large measure, what’s causing the crisis of American childhood is a lack of connectedness. We mean two kinds of connectedness—close connections to other people, and deep connections to moral and spiritual meaning …  . the human child is ‘hardwired to connect.’273

God did not create us to be isolated. He said, “It is not good for the man to be alone (Genesis 2:18, niv). The Bible also says, “God sets the lonely in families” (Psalm 68:6, niv). Each person has a choice to go one of two ways. We can either deny the problems at hand; continue to alienate, isolate and follow the questionable lives of celebrities—becoming easy prey for the enemy. Or we can return to what provides an anchor for the soul— God and the church. If you and your kids don’t have a relationship with God, then you are missing out on life. Knowing God is to never be alone or lonely (Psalm 139:5–12). Whether we are literally alone or feel lonely in the midst of a crowd, the fact is he is always near—only a prayer away. Spending time with God and other people is the cure for loneliness. Everyone needs at least one close friend with whom she or he can count on and relate to freely and honestly. Torn Between Two Masters


Our Thirst for Connection and Intimacy While driving back to his Beverly Hills hotel, millionaire corporate raider Edward Lewis takes a wrong turn and ends up on Hollywood Boulevard where he meets prostitute Vivian Ward. She guides him back to his hotel, and he decides to hire her for the rest of the night. In the morning he offers her a proposition she can’t refuse—a week in his service for $3,000. Edwards sends Vivian on a shopping spree on Rodeo Drive that most women would die for. During the week he teaches and exposes her to the finer things in life. What starts out as a business proposition develops into a love relationship. There was no sequel to this movie, Pretty Woman, so we never learn if the Cinderella prostitute actually lived happily ever with her mega-rich prince. Both Edward and Vivian had deep holes in their soul. Edward tried to fix his with money; Vivian with men. We all have a deep thirst for intimacy and relationship, which is a two-way street. When two people greet one another, they usually touch with either a hug or a handshake or a high five. They tell stories, listen, ask questions and respond to one another. They share intimate details. They read one another’s body language, voice inflections, and facial expressions and respond accordingly. They touch again when they say good-bye. Celebrities, on the other hand, are the ones doing all the talking and acting. They speak or sing to the viewer from a screen or the radio or from the pages of a magazine. To the viewer it seems like they are talking or singing directly to them. There is no touch. A person can have an emotional affair with a celebrity without actually touching their flesh. They see nothing wrong with this, which is personal rationalization. All the same, it is still called lust—a deadly sin. A so-called relationship with a celebrity is one-way. The viewer has bought into the illusion of intimacy. Researcher J. I. Caughey coined a term for this in 1978: artificial social relations. He states the viewer doesn’t simply watch a program but actually becomes


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part of the character’s life and actually engages in these relationships long after they’re done watching the show or reading the book. One woman admitted, while driving in her car one day she asked the person on the radio if [celebrity] had gotten married yet. She felt she should have heard something about it. Caughey asserts these artificial relationships fill gaps in our social worlds. I say they fill our soul-hole. He goes on to say, “It is the fantasy that helps make these relationships superior to actual social interactions.” He concludes by saying that these attachments are not simple and may have both positive and negative consequences and undoubtedly are part of our American society.274 Today, more than ever, a spirit of hopelessness presses down on young people who don’t like themselves or feel like they can’t do anything right. They lack a feeling of significance deep inside, which is crucial to emotional, spiritual, and relational stability. Many meet those needs through escapism into the celebrity world. There is a direct correlation between celebrity obsession and low self-worth. Jesus said a relationship with him is the solution because it brings rest to our souls (Matthew 11:28–29). Within each person lies a huge God-shaped hole that can be filled only by God. Saint Augustine wrote, “You awaken and stir us so that only in praising you can we be content. You have made us for yourself and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you.”275 Today teens seem to be more proud of the number of friends they have on Facebook rather than the quality of their closest friends. Because we are made in God’s likeness, relationship, or bonding, is our most fundamental need. Teaching teens to value quality, such as character over quantity, is essential for building a system of support as they grow up. God created each one of us for an intimate relationship with him first, and then with others—parents, spouses, children, friends

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and church family. Without bonding to God first, and then others, we can never be our real selves. God does use other people to meet many of our needs. But no one person can meet all our needs. When we believe we only need one particular person, we put them in a position to determine our self-worth. We make that person God, which is idolatry. Teens want relationship. They may not grasp it but they want your time. That is what God-like role models do—they invest their time into people. My husband, Dennis, has invested years into the lives of teens through our church’s youth ministry and as a basketball coach. He is usually attracted to the underdog. One such teen addressed him each week as “old man.” That nickname stung, and he felt he wasn’t making much progress with this teen. But he hung in there. One evening the teens were asked to write appreciation notes to the youth leaders. Dennis was flabbergasted when this kid spoke so highly of this “old man’s” influence on him. God was working positively in both their lives. God gave us the ability and freedom to direct our own lives. Escapism, perfectionism, fantasy relationships, searching for our identity, loneliness, the desire for intimacy—each of these can be reversed by investing and engaging in healthy, vital relationships that ultimately shape us all into strong, functional people. Parents, limit activities that sanction being alone, such as the Internet and television. Encourage your teen to connect with real people—grown-ups and peers. This can facilitate open communication and give them a place to talk about their issues and daily stresses.

Celebrity Worship Syndrome Do you believe you could become obsessed with or addicted to your favorite celebrity, perhaps even a stalker? No way! Often, the image of a celebrity stalker is one of a mentally ill loner whose life is devoted to their favorite star. Nonetheless, some experts believe a celebrity stalker may be someone just like you or your teenager.


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Experts say today it is pretty easy for fans to penetrate into the lives of celebrities and become stalkers. As a noted authority on celebrity worship, Dr. James Houran and his research team found that: Celebrity worship forms a continuum that starts off with very benign forms, but then it gradually takes on more dysfunctional behaviors … That means that stalkers probably don’t start off that way … given the right set of circ*mstances, virtually anybody can be pushed to be a celebrity stalker, or at least someone that obsesses about celebrities to the point that it interferes with our daily life.276

Celebrity worship syndrome (CWS) was coined in 2003 to describe an obsessive-addictive disorder displayed by individuals who follow the day-to-day lives of people in the public eye. CWS is an unhealthy interest in the lives of the rich and fabulous—and it’s on the rise! The reason: we have access to their information via the Internet. Nowadays celebrities communicate in real time to their fans through Twitter. I remember the days when you sent a selfaddressed envelope to a fan club, and they sent autographed photographs of the stars by mail. Dr. Houran said, “Celebrity worship has probably existed as long as there have been famous people. But it has probably only become as intense as it is given the technological advances that allow us to create societies, market them to a worldwide audience, and share information about them.”277 In 2003, the New Scientist magazine reported that 30 percent of Americans suffer from CWS, indicating the phenomena was on the rise.278 One commentator referred to CWS as “emotional voyeurism.” We want to know everything about our favorite celebs, but in return, we don’t have to reveal anything about ourselves. It’s a win-win situation.

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In discussing CWS, Dr. Houran is careful to add that a certain degree of star admiration is normal, “Celebrities can inspire people of all ages to be better than they are.” CWS is only a concern if it disrupts normal daily functioning. Collecting every picture possible of your favorite celeb provides many kids with a creative outlet. Almost everyone has had a fan crush on some kind of artist growing up. Dr. Houran points out three different types or aspects to celebrity worship.279 Entertainment-Social This is the largest category. For most of us, celebrity adoration is merely about fun and entertainment. We do it for social reasons because it is a societal common denominator we can talk about. Regular Americans unfettered by dysfunctional childhoods or chronic loneliness, talk, read, and think about celebrities. These people typically think, “I like to talk with others who admire my favorite celebrity,” and “I like watching and hearing about my favorite celebrity when I am with a group of people.” Teens who view celebrities as sources of entertainment and talk frequently about celebrity news are considered normal. They are displaying healthy emotional independence. Intense-Personal The intense personal aspect of celebrity worship reflects intensive and compulsive feelings about the celebrity. These people think, “I share with my favorite celebrity a special bond that cannot be described in words,” and “When something bad happens to my favorite celebrity, I feel like it happened to me.” In the romantic comedy movie Notting Hill, when Anna, a famous Hollywood actress (played by Julia Roberts), meets Honey, the sister of William (played by Hugh Grant), Honey gushes over Anna and says to her, “I genuinely believe and have believed for some time now that we can be best friends.”


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According to Psychology Today, the constant viewing of celebrity images and news tricks our brain into believing these famous figures are actually our friends in real life. “The brain simply doesn’t realize that it’s being fooled by TV and movies,” said sociologist and lecturer Satoshi Kanazawa.280 Teenagers who fall into this category are often seeking a personal connection to the celebrity and can develop an unhealthy obsession. These teens, while trying to go through the normal maturity cycle, seem to suffer from lower self-esteem and confidence than their peers. Their relationships with family and friends are usually poor.281 Evidence indicates that poor mental health may be correlated with celebrity worship.282 Borderline-Pathological The most extreme descriptions of celebrity worship exhibit borderline pathological behavior and traits of psychoticism. These people have uncontrollable behaviors and fantasies regarding scenarios involving their celebrities, such as “I have frequent thoughts about my favorite celebrity, even when I don’t want to,” “I dream about my favorite celebrity,” and “I know my favorite celebrity would come to my rescue if I needed help.” This type of CWS may involve empathy with a celebrity’s failures and successes, obsessions with the details of a celebrity’s life, and over-identification with the celeb.283 They are clearly out of touch with reality. Researchers reported in the British Journal of Social Psychology that intense personal attitudes toward celebrities reflect traits of neuroticism.284 Celebrity stalking falls into this category. One sixteen-year-old blogged about her friend, That dude from star trek. My friend is OBSESSED with him and it’s worrying me and creeping me out. She literally spent hours staring at his twitter page one night, without sleep, waiting for updates. Everything he says ends up as a facebook update and everything

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he does she tries to do too. I’m worried about her but I don’t know if I should be, maybe it’s just a passing thing? She bounces from obsession to obsession.

This young woman needs to be worried about her friend. Her parents need to be equally as concerned. The life of mirroring celebrities can be spelled a-d-d-i-c-t-i-o-n. An addiction is a repeated form of behavior that has some kind of result that meets our internal need. It absorbs all of our thinking and time. We become addicted because of what our attachment to the celebrity does for us. CWS is relationship addiction. According to Dr. Gregory L. Jantz, it “occurs when a person enmeshes self-identity with an unhealthy need for connection and relationship.” 285 When we are addicted, we need a particular person to meet the hole in our soul. I contend many are addicted to Facebook relationships. Our addictions distract, comfort, gratify, relieve, and stroke us. We need them most when we’re feeling insecure about ourselves. But sadly, when we are addicted, we can’t love because that requires we pay attention to others. Dr. Peter C. Scales is widely recognized as one of the nation’s foremost authorities on children, youth, and families. He agrees that parents are ultimately responsible for teaching children values, beliefs, social competencies, and how to use their time constructively. He said,

it just may have a lot to do with the difficulties we face in our own relationships. One question we all must ask ourselves is: Whom or what do I turn to and give my heart to in times of stress and disappointment? When our lives are centered on anyone but God, that person has the potential to become an enslaving addiction and idol because she or he becomes that which we perceive makes us happy. It’s been said that an addict will never change unless something in his or her heart can hope apart from the addiction. Hope is found in Christ alone. Christians are not immune to adversity. But we have a failsafe solution: a relationship with Jesus Christ.

If kids are trying to imitate people whose lives are not about authenticity, where all we know about them is superficiality and appearances, where they are playing a role for the camera, there is no humility or giving to others there. Celebrity worship, in its worst manifestations, is counterproductive. 286

Dr. Scales adds that for the most part parents need not worry their kids are copying trashy young celebrities. Yet far too many Christians are caught up in illusory relationships with celebs, and 156

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Which Master Meets Your Deepest Needs? In the movie Precious we meet the obese, illiterate, black sixteenyear-old Claireece Precious Jones who lives in Harlem with her dysfunctional, unemployed mother. She has been impregnated twice by her father and suffers from long-term physical, mental, and sexual abuse from her mother. Her first child, known only as “Mongo” (short for “Mongoloid”), has Down Sydrome and is being cared for by Precious’s grandmother. Following the discovery of Precious’s second pregnancy, she is suspended from school. Her junior high school principal arranges to have her attend an alternative school, which she hopes helps Precious change her life’s direction. Precious finds a way out of her traumatic daily existence through imagination and fantasy. While she is being raped by her father, she looks at the ceiling and imagines herself in a music video shoot in which she is the superstar and the focus of attention. While looking in photograph albums, she imagines the pictures talking to her. When she looks in the mirror, she sees a pretty, white, thin, blonde girl. In her mind there is another world where she is loved and appreciated. The film ends with Precious resolving to improve her life for herself and her children. It is a story that rises from the depths of despair to a place of genuine hope, a place where all too many teens reside today. This precious young girl had a soul-hole so deep that her only way to self-protect was to turn to fantasies this pop culture offered. According to a 2004 study published in the North American Journal of Psychology, people turn to celebrities to satisfy needs that are not being met in conventional ways.287

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We’ve looked at some modeling theories and blind spots. All of these explanations are important to investigate; however, they are not the chief reasons we seek to identify with or obsess after celebrities. We need to peel the onion down to the core and expose the real reasons for celebrity fascination. The Apostle James exposes the reason: “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it” ( James 4:1–2, niv, my emphasis). Each of these modeling behaviors have an origin in some unfulfilled need or perceived desire. In his book Search for Significance, Dr. Robert McGee states we all have compelling, God-given needs for love, acceptance, and purpose. He said most of us will go to virtually any lengths to meet those needs. He points out that we, more often than not, neglect God to meet our own deep needs.288

Exposing Deep Needs Fiona was a childhood friend of mine. I’d describe her parents as eccentric. She’d boldly tell them not to take her or pick her up from school because their appearance embarrassed her. She reluctantly brought anyone home because of their constant fighting. On one rare occasion, I spent the night at her home. I remember vividly her father threatening to throw her mom out the window. To escape, Fiona would retreat to her small bedroom and spend hours fantasizing about living a superstar life. What Fiona never realized was her fantasies were hiding feelings of pain—bitterness, rejection, and shame. By escaping, she felt she was protecting herself. Fiona also needed to feel loved, accepted, and safe. These were the deep needs her soul thirsted for. Think carefully. Can you honestly identify your unmet needs? Probably not. If you can’t, certainly your teen cannot. You probably do not even realize that you have deep unmet needs—needs that today affect your relationship with others and with God.


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Ask yourself, “What do I want, need, hope for, crave or passionately desire?” If you say to me, “I’d really like to be less angry,” I might state your deep need is to feel validated, loved, and not threatened. If you say, “I’d like to have more friends,” your real need may be to be accepted just the way you are. If you say, “I want to quarrel less with my partner,” you likely feel a deep need for connection and love. We can often tie the root of our issues, such as anger or unresolved grief, back to our childhood, for example, if our parents divorced. Researchers have documented that when a child does not receive the care that is needed due to neglect, abuse, or any other family disruption, then establishing secure relationships or attachments becomes difficult. If a child develops insecure attachments with primary caregivers, then the trend is that he or she will continue to develop insecure relational bonds throughout life, leaving the door wide open to CWS.289 Like Fiona, many of us, unknowingly, are trying to cope with prolonged and unresolved feelings. Those feelings may have started as a child because a parent or caregiver was absent for any number of reasons. Or it may be a spouse who is uninvolved in family life. It may be a divorce or a death. Or perhaps the heartbreak of a shattered love relationship. A family may be dealing with addiction or a long-term life-threatening illness. Or it may be the effects of abuse. Domestic violence today is chronic. Many of us deal with these kinds of losses by detaching. We disguise our deep soul needs with a mask of independence and self-sufficiency. In this detached state, it is not uncommon to turn inward and find comfort in a fantasy life. (Or we may turn to drugs, alcohol, the Internet, shopping, gambling.) Remember, Dr. Girard said the mimetic desire is motivated by an inner sense that “something” is missing. There is only one solution—God. God alone can meet every unmet need no matter what is going on in our lives. We might not know what they are, but God does. “God will meet all your

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needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19, niv). God says he will guide you always and satisfy your needs (Isaiah 58:11). Call on him. He’s the only one who can meet your deepest needs.

Need or Desire? Allyson burst into the break room and announced to two of her coworkers, “I need to get plastic surgery. If I don’t get liposuction and breast implants, my husband is going to leave me. I can’t lose my husband. He is my life.” Her coworkers were stunned. Basically Allyson said that if she doesn’t fix her physical appearance her husband will not love her anymore. Apparently he only loves her physicality. And she needs to feel his love or else she feels worthless. She has come to believe the lie, as millions of other females have, that her husband (or a man) and her appearance are her only sources of significance and love. For that reason, she desires to have plastic surgery to meet her need to be loved. The truth is God must be her first source of love. God created in us a need to love him. We give away that power to love and be loved when we expect others to be the end all for us. Secondly, her worth is not defined by her appearance (1 Samuel 16:7). Let’s look at the difference between needs and desires. Each of us has external needs and internal needs. External needs are things that are essential, like food, clothing, a home, transportation, and money. They are a necessity. We need them so we can function in life and fulfill God’s plan. Internal needs are psychological, relational, physical, and spiritual—such as the need to be healthy, and accepted and loved unconditionally by God, our parents, and other people. We all need encouragement, release from stress, and wisdom regularly. Desires (or wants), on the other hand, are things that produce enjoyment. Often what we think is a need is really just a desire— something we want but don’t actually need to survive. Scripture says, “For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that” (1 Timothy 6:7–8, niv). Without even realizing it, we treat our desires as needs.


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Personally, my desire is to be a best-selling author and become an in-demand conference speaker. However, God has revealed to me that my greatest need is an encounter with him. There is nothing wrong with desires, as long as they fit into God’s plan and purpose—the enjoyment of him and his definition of a good life. You and I will never need more than God can supply. The Bible says, “Delight yourself in the Lordand he will give you the desires of your heart … those who seek the Lord lack no good thing” (Psalm 37:4; 34:10, niv). Notice we are asked to do something first: delight in and seek God. To delight in God is to experience great pleasure and joy in his presence. But we must know God better to delight in him. What occupies your attention most of the time? Has your focus shifted from what you do have to what you don’t have? Are you grateful that God has met your needs, or are you always thinking about what it would be like to have more? Jesus told stories to help us better understand who God is and what he is like. In the parable of the prodigal (or lost) son (see Luke 15:11–32) the youngest son demands his inheritance and his father gives it to him. He leaves for a New Testament version of Las Vegas and squanders his wealth on wild living—on fleshly desires. He only wanted his father’s money so he could spend it on his own pleasures and desires. Scripture says, “After he had spent everything there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need … He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything” (Luke 15:13–14, 16, niv). This young man’s money ran out and his desire to live extravagantly was soon replaced by the need to eat—to survive. Desires in this culture promise freedom but eventually bring slavery (John 8:34). The boy thought he’d find himself, but he only lost himself. When God is left out of our lives, external desires become enslavement. Someone once said, “The trouble is too many people spend money they don’t have for things they don’t need to impress people they don’t like.” Scripture says, “People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction” (1 Timothy 6:9, niv). Fulfilling desires that do not line with God’s plan

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can lead to ruin! If God doesn’t want something for me, I shouldn’t want it either. The Apostle Paul said, “I have learned to be content  …  ” (Philippians 4:11, niv). Notice he said he has “learned” contentment. This attribute doesn’t come naturally in a culture that breeds excess. First Timothy 6:6 likewise says that a godly life brings huge profits to those who are content with what they have. In this context, contentment is described as having the necessities of life provided. I can honestly say that today I am content, a far cry from that state of my soul just ten years ago. When presented with what you think is a need, ask yourself, “According to these definitions, is this a need or desire?” You have the right to ask for a desire if it lines up with God’s definition of what is “good for us.” David said God “satisfies your desires with good things …  ” (Psalm 103:5, niv). If I seek God more than anything else, I will eventually seek more of what God wants for me … and be content with that. Like the prodigal son, I squandered money away on clothes, stuff, booze, food, beauty products and diet pills. I engaged in high-risk behavior in an attempt to fill my soul-hole, all in the name of “fun.” Unbeknownst to me, the driving force came from a deep need to feel I belonged to someone and was loved. I also needed to feel significant and accepted. We all need to ask, “Am I only interested in God meeting my desires and external needs?” or “Am I willing to ask the Father to expose my deepest internal needs?”

Confronting Unmet Needs Unbeknown to millions of Christians, they have significant unmet needs. In their book Captivating, John and Stasi Eldredge emphasize that every little girl and little boy has one fundamental but different question. Little girls want to know, Am I lovely? Little boys ask, Do I have what it takes?290 I think most little girls want to feel attractive and captivating. I certainly did. I sought attention by starring as the beautiful queen in my own play productions. Sadly, the media and our celebrity


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culture has a way of saying, “There is nothing about you that is attractive,” thereby, chipping away at our soul-hole. The Bible says, “Examine yourselves … test yourselves” (2 Corinthians 13:5, niv). Through prayer and Bible study, God will put up a mirror and we will begin to see our attitudes, beliefs and motives from a very different perspective—his. This can be scary! Self-examination is a light shedding process—the light of truth penetrates and exposes deception. It is very easy to either deny or get overly busy in order to avoid confronting our soul-hole because we fear change and faith. This is where the rubber meets the road. This is where we look at our reasons for worshiping celebrities and determine where they fit into our unmet needs boxes. This is where we unlock the secret to living a life of authenticity. There are four essential deep needs every person has: 1. I need to feel I belong. 2. I need to feel I am worthy and valuable. 3. I need to feel I am competent and have a sense of purpose. 4. I need to feel I am loved. Each of these in a round about way say, “I need to feel there is meaning to my life,” or “If I died today, I need to know someone cared.” These needs are universal for all youth. They are particularly important for those suffering from low self-worth and low self-esteem because these mindsets are so damaging to one’s sense of identity. Identity, after all, is the core to an adolescent’s development. I’ve heard it said that human hunger will not be denied. In other words—we cannot not have these deep needs met. A person will find that “something” to fill the void: celebrity obsession or gangs or food or drugs or alcohol or shopping or sex or all of these. Pray and ask God to help you answer these questions as you move forward. Take your time. Examine your motives.

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What do I believe will truly make me happy?

What or who do I believe fills the hunger of my soul?

What deep needs am I trying to fill?

Do I fear God’s plan for my life is not what I really want?

I Need to Feel I Belong Teased. Laughed at. Put down. Lied about. “You do not belong.” This sums up a chunk of my childhood. At age seven, our family moved from America to London, England. Schoolmates teased me because I didn’t fit into the culture. One reason was my American accent. I felt stupid because I needed a tutor. They labeled me weird because my clothes were different. It hurt because I did not belong. We moved back to America, and I started sixth grade. I heard the same messages and felt the same stressors. Today we call it bullying. I worked vigorously trying to conform to the way I thought my peer group and teachers wanted me to be. In a nation of lonely, isolated people, all you have to do is look at the number of social networking sites that have exploded to see we are creatures that feel a need to belong. Every human being has a desire to be part of a relationship or a member of a group. God designed us this way. It began with God’s first human creation, Adam. He needed a mate to belong to. Realize your teenagers are working toward identifying their life’s purpose and becoming more independent. Belonging to peer groups is normal, necessary, and a healthy part of development. As a teen struggles to develop a personal identity, peer groups provide a safety net. Being part of a peer group can be a source of acceptance, affection, and a place for experimentation. By joining Lady Gaga’s Facebook page, these kids know they belong to a group of ten million who share the same interests, which is comforting to them. Two preteens mentioned to me they “loved” this particular music video. The women in the video were scantily dressed, being pushed around, and forced to drink alcohol. When asked what it was about the video they “loved,” they said they didn’t know. All


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they knew was their peer group loved it, so they did. I asked one girl, “Have you actually listened to the [appallingly graphic] lyrics?” She said no. She loved the tempo … and so did her friends. Teens face pressure, both positive and negative. Peers offer a sense of physical, emotional, and social comfort. These groups usually have more power and influence than celebrities. They are more accessible than a celebrity. Celebrities can’t exchange suggestions, thoughts, and ideas about any aspect of a relationship. With an established social identity comes a sense of community and belonging. Peer relationships can be the glue that enables your teen to feel accepted and cared for. And ideally, they are permitted by the group to be their real self in their presence—which is the capacity to be real with another person—no masks, no façades, no walls. Someone said, “Always be yourself because the people that matter don’t mind, and the ones who mind, don’t matter.” The truth is, when we do choose to love God and accept Jesus Christ as our Savior, he adopts us into his family. We then belong to the family of God. God offers us the opportunity to be joint-heirs with Jesus Christ and heirs of eternal life, so we are actually royalty (Romans 8:17). We are accepted just as we are! As Christians we also belong to the body of Christ. We are part of “the church,” which has nothing to do with denominations. But many refuse to profess belief in Christ. Sadly, they will be cut off from their family and Father’s estate. Seek out a place of belonging: join a small group or Bible study at the church. Encourage your teen to join a youth group. According to a Family Research Council study, the grade point average of sudents involved in religious activities is 14 percent higher than those not involved. Religious students spend more time on their homework.291 Ask God to show you where he wants you and your family to be.

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I Need to Feel I Am Worthy Every child seeks recognition: “Look, Mommy! See what I made!” “See what I can do!” See me! Everyone needs to feel valued. We all search for significance but some not always in a positive way, as we have seen. Conformity to this culture merely leads to feelings of insignificance. Here’s the million-dollar question, “What do you like most about yourself?” Hum? “What do you like least about yourself?” When I ask the second question, in a matter of nanoseconds most people, especially women, can vomit out a list: •

I’m stupid, boring, and dull.

I’m too shy and afraid.

I’m fat or ugly or out of shape.

I’m selfish and critical.

I’m angry and greedy.

I’m a big-time failure—a loser.

Sadly, too many people’s song is: “I don’t just feel inferior—I am inferior.” All these responses point to one common stronghold: “I’m not good enough as I am. There is something innately wrong with me.” It’s a message our mind sends us repeatedly because of expectations we set for ourselves. People who feel I am a nobody build walls that no one can penetrate because they believe if someone gets in they’d see how unworthy they are. They believe the lie that in order to get others to like them they must imitate someone who, in their eyes, is an example of worthiness. When I got my first beeper, I made sure it was visible for all to see. Surely they will think I’m a doctor or some sort of VIP! I wanted you to think I was a “somebody.” Any time we try to be someone else we are in some type of bondage. What gives a human being value? They are made in the image of God! Yet, this incredible truth has been perverted. Instead we answer: Possessions! Beauty! Wealth! The only way to untwist these


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lies and see our innate value is by seeing ourselves as God sees us and by replacing false beliefs with biblical truth. Defining Our “Self” We need to stop and define self-esteem, self-worth, self-concept, and self-image because they are terms we use repeatedly. Most often these terms are interchangeable and have come to mean the same thing. When we use one of these terms we’re usually talking about having a sense of one’s own value or worth as a person; or the mental image or opinion I have of myself. Depending on whether my esteem/worth/concept/image is high or low, I feel significant or insignificant, secure or insecure, respected or not respected. It is a deeply felt self-picture I carry in my heart. I have learned that these terms have very different meanings. •

Self-esteem or self-concept is based on what I do—my competency level; such as my strength’s and weaknesses which I develop through personal worldly experiences. Self-esteem or self-concept asks: Am I good enough? It often answers: You can’t do that! Or You are way better than they all are.

Self-image is the collection of my beliefs and feelings that I have about myself—my self-perceptions. Scripture says, “For as he [she] thinks in his [her] heart, so is he [she]” (Proverbs 23:7, kjv) Self-image asks: Am I beautiful? It often answers: You’re the ugly duckling! Or Just fix your nose and you will the most beautiful swan.

But self-worth is based on knowing I am created in the image of God, that I belong to him, and my identity—my worth, is in Jesus Christ. Knowing and believing this increases my feelings of value and self-worthiness. Self-worth asks: How can I make a difference in this world? It answers: You have Christ in you, therefore, you have a lot to offer this world because you are awesome and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:13–14).

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Understanding Self-Worth What people think about me affects my self-esteem and self-image, which ultimately influences my thinking, motivations, attitudes, behaviors, and relationships. Whereas, my self-worth is tied to my character because it is based on what people know I am—a child of God—versus what they think I am—an imitation of so and so. Jesus said those who hunger and thirst for God’s approval will be blessed and satisfied (Matthew 5:6). Self-worth is like a plant. It has the capability to grow in any direction, but only grows in the direction of the sun—the direction that receives the most reinforcement. I must first know Jesus before I can really discern and understand who I am in him. Colossians 2:10 reminds us that only in Christ are we the person we were designed to be because he has given us everything we need to be authentic. Our “self ” is formed from our perceptions, attachments, life experiences, and the way we interpret those experiences. This begins in childhood and continues to develop through adolescence. We take this information and make value judgments about ourselves, which is either positive or negative, correct or inaccurate. Most children get the message they need to measure up to their parents or other influential adults’ expectations in order to receive love and feel accepted by them. Therefore, we learn to attach our worth to what we do. By doing we believe we will earn significance and worth. However, if we are living to make sure others like us or love us, then we give them the power to determine our self-worth. If our conclusions about our worth are based on lies, the results are psychologically and spiritually damaging. We’ll never know this unless the lies are brought out into the open and challenged by truth. Fixating on skinny models and celebrities exacerbates feelings of low self-worth. When we don’t feel we look like the expectations we have set, we will forever be disappointed and our mood will always be erratic. In an effort to fix that cruddy feeling we’ll try doing something. Acceptable solutions are centered on achieve-


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ment, superstar status, performance, appearance, popularity and pleasing others. Negative solutions are substance abuse, celebrity worship, gambling, etc. I believe that’s why reality and talk shows that are centered on dysfunctional people are so popular—they humanize what is going on in our own lives and we might actually conclude, “At least I’m not as bad as that person.” If we do not receive our self-worth from God we will always feel “something” is missing. The truth is God has already bestowed great worth upon you, “You are worth more than many sparrows” (Luke 12:7, niv). I like The Message translation, “So don’t be intimidated by all this bully talk. You’re worth more than a million canaries.” David describes God’s heart for him—and us, this way: “How precious it is, Lord, to realize that you are thinking about me constantly! I can’t even count how many times a day your thoughts turn toward me. And when I waken in the morning, you are still thinking of me!” (Psalm 139:17–18, tlb). A person with high self-worth recognizes that real beauty and self-value isn’t found by imitating flawed human beings. A worthy person believes, “I am a unique and beautiful person because I’m made in the image of God,” “I’m a good person,” “I’m somebody worth knowing,” “You’d like me if you knew me,” “I’m worth being your friend,” “I am valuable!” Theologian R. C. Sproul said, “Most Christian’s salute the sovereignty of God but believe in the sovereignty of man.”292 You have a choice: let this culture determine your worth and your children’s worth, or let God. Which master will you serve? •

Make a pact as a family to refuse to find your self-worth in what this society considers valuable.

Take a class centered on a hobby or educational desire to increase self-esteem.

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Read a Christ-based book on the topic of significance to increase self-worth.

Feel valued by loving others: visit other lonely people, volunteer at a homeless shelter or a nursing home, be a big brother or sister to a foster child.

Never forget, as first lady Eleanor Roosevelt said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”293

I Need to Feel I Am Competent and Have a Sense of Purpose For some people, a successful celebrity is a shining example, a role model for all they can achieve, someone who gives them inspiration to accomplish their goals. But to others, a successful celebrity is nothing more than a reminder of all they haven’t achieved, a mirror of their worst fears and an illustration of the fame, glittering triumph, and public adoration they may never enjoy. 294 —Cooper Lawrence

We live in a world that reveres success. For many, celebrities are the incarnation of it. We reason, if they are famous, they must be successful. What is more disconcerting is the number of kids choosing careers based on television programming and impressions of television characters. Captivated with Nurse Dixie McCall on the show Emergency!, I declared in high school, “I’m going to be a nurse!” The character Dixie was well-respected, pretty, needed by everyone, and dated the good-looking Dr. Kelly Brackett. I didn’t have the grades (or passion) after my freshmen year of college to get into the school of nursing. A friend of mine’s sister is a detective. She told us inquiries for information about a career as a crime scene investigator substan172

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tially increased after the first season of CSI. Wannabe doctors are seeded from Grey’s Anatomy and House. Teens and adults alike feel the pressure to be highly successful. This doesn’t come without a cost. One of the leading causes of depression is having standards so high you cannot live up to them. As long as you believe you must imitate others, you will never know what you are capable of. There is always someone waiting in the wings to do better than us. Someone will always be prettier or smarter. Their house will be bigger. They will drive a better car. Their children will do better in school. Let it go—accept what God has given you. The prettiest woman can be battling depression. The richest person you know may be lonely. The most envied woman at work may be unable to have children. Gary Comer, founder of Land’s End, said, “Worry about being better; bigger will take care of itself.”295 What happens when you don’t do your best? Are you less of a person? No. The truth is our self-worth has nothing to do with performance or status. Nobel Prize winner Marie Curie said we must believe that we are gifted for something. Deep down, we each want to know we are competent and have a purpose here on earth. We must recognize that who we are and what we do rests on a foundation of a relationship with Almighty God through his Son, Jesus Christ. God decides how success is defined in every one of our lives. He gives us our abilities and strength (Philippians 4:13). Our worth, sense of belonging, and competence are connected to him. In Christ we are already perfect and completely competent because we can do all things—the things he has called us to do, through him.

I Need to Feel I Am Loved As a child Maya would long for her mother to play dolls and dress up with her. She had such a yearning for Mom to take her shopping and come to school events, just like her friends’ moms did. Mom claimed she was too busy or had a migraine and needed to lie down. Because her deep need to feel loved by her mom was not met, Maya

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created her own imaginative world, ignited by this society’s media machine. I over heard one teen say to her parents, “You don’t even know me, so how can you love me?” Love is the key to a teenager’s heart. When asked, “What kind of parents would you like to have?” teenagers said they only want one thing—to be loved.296 Behavioral sciences show us that unconditional love is the only soil in which the seed of a human person can grow. Every person’s heart cries, “Love me and never leave me.” God’s Word says, “What a man desires is unfailing love” (Proverbs 19:22, niv). It is not surprising that when Taylor’s workaholic husband wasn’t giving her the love she needed, she began an online fantasy affair. It is no wonder we feel like dying plants on a vine when our relationships go wrong. Sadly, certain environments provide distorted answers to the most important relational question we instinctively ask, “Am I worthy of being loved?” Every person seeks an answer to that question. Every person desires to know they are worthy of love. When the cry of our hearts is ignored, the potential for any addiction, compulsion, or distressful behavior springs up because it distracts us from that hurtful feeling—from the pain of feeling rejected and abandoned. Mankind is flawed. We can only be satisfied when we enjoy God. Though there is little research on how God fills the hole in our souls, it has been found that those who believe they have a relationship with a stronger, wiser nonphysical deity report higher levels of happiness.297 C. S. Lewis wrote, God designed the human machine to run on Himself. He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other … God cannot give us happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.298


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“As the deer longs for the water-brooks, so longs my soul for you, O God” (Psalm 42:1–7). Imagine the change in your life if your deepest needs were met by a God of abiding love. •

You’d no longer weigh down your children with your expectations and ego needs.

You’d focus on preparing your children to be who God created them to be.

You’d criticize your spouse less and say “thank you” more often.

You’d accept your parents for who they are instead of faulting them for who they couldn’t be to you.

Bottom line: you’d be more loving and giving.

And there’d be no more obsessing over what celebrities represent.

Like the Beatles’ song says, “All you need is love, love. Love is all you need.”299 Love can be demonstrated by spending time with your kids—by talking and doing things they like to do. If a child does not feel loved by their parents, they will have a hard time believing anyone else can love them. Feeling loved is very important in the development of healthy self-worth, self-image, and self-esteem. In the Old Testament, Leah was rejected by her husband Jacob. All she wanted was his love and to be able to bear his children. She must have been deeply hurt and her self-worth wounded when he did not return that love. Scripture says, “When the Lord saw that Leah was not loved, he opened her womb” (Genesis 29:31, niv). God saw inside her heart. He shows us compassion and unfailing love when we feel unloved. We all need to know we are loved by God. Yet millions see God as distant and impersonal, but he is not. “God is love” (1 John 4:16, niv). “‘My unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,’ says the Lord, who has compassion on you” (Isaiah 54:10, niv). God wants nothing more for us than for our souls to be truly filled with his love—and feel like we are his

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favorite! And get this—God wants you to seek him. He wants to be loved by you!300 Throughout the Bible, God’s cry is, “Choose me!” A. W. Tozer said, “God waits to be wanted.”301 Our unmet needs are in reality great blessings in disguise. They remind us that we’re not qualified to run our own lives. They push us to commit ourselves to Jesus and trust him. Apart from him we can’t do a thing ( John 15:5). He gives us everything we need to be live out an authentic life. We live in a throw-away society, but one thing is for sure: we do not have a throw-away God and he has no throw-away children. The Christian story is the story of God coming into our lives and dialoguing with us. We are renewed and made whole. But we must choose the extent to which we are willing to partner with God and invite him in so he may fill the hole of our heart with love.

Where Have All the Grownups Gone? In May 1998, four months before President Bill Clinton admitted to having an inappropriate relationship with twenty-two-year-old intern Monica Lewinsky, she told Rolling Stone magazine, “Adults no longer behave like adults. We have no models; they’re talking about sex and therapy and substance abuse, just like us.”302 Chuck Colson, speaking about the tragic suicide of fifteenyear-old Phoebe Prince brought on by the hand of bullies, wrote in his newsletter, It’s as if parents “are somehow not expected to know anything” about their children’s actions. Well, they’re not—at least not in contemporary American culture. American teenagers operate in what has been called a “parallel culture” that operates free of adult interference. American high schools have been described as places where individuals of the same age group define each other’s world. As we saw in South Hadley, instead of challenging these definitions, or even the kind of cruelty endured by kids like Phoebe Prince, teachers and administrators often adopt a hands-off approach. This is politically correct, to respect personal autonomy. Look what it leads to … The Christian worldview teaches us exactly what to expect when the kids are allowed to “run the island,” so to speak. We can expect not some youthful, happy utopia. No, we can expect a literal hell on earth.303


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Within six months yet another story surfaced when a French fishing vessel rescued a California sixteen-year-old from her crippled sailboat in the turbulent southern Indian Ocean, ending her solo around-the-world sailing mission. Veteran sailors questioned the wisdom of sending a teenager off alone in a small boat, knowing it would be tossed about for thirty or more hours at a time by giant waves. Her father defended the voyage.304 The distinction between adolescence and adulthood continues to blur. Someone said, “What one generation does in moderation, the next will do in excess.” Our adolescents have few adult role models or institutions that are willing, and prepared, to be there for them. To cope, kids find themselves turning to a complex and evil world. It is near impossible for kids to learn godly character in these kinds of environments. We normalize bad behavior and then wonder why kids end up abusing drugs and themselves or committing crimes. Or as C. S. Lewis wrote in his book The Abolition of Man, “We make men without chests and expect from them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst.”305 I’ve noticed how parents today have become overly kid-centered. Youth today are in a unique position of watching their parents experience childhood—some for the first time, some again. Adults are buying what the media feeds them—bikes: Harley Davidson motorcycles, dollhouses: oversized homes, toys: boats, games, and more—disposing of their hard-earned money. Parenting is a high, godly calling. Youth today need adults to remind them that the world of materialism and celebrity is atypical … and if they choose this master, they will likely endure longterm adverse effects. They also need to be told that what they face today is normal and temporary. The most beneficial thing for teenagers is a healthy, open relationship with their parents and other responsible adults. It may be awkward at first, and even if you think


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they are not listening (due to lack of response), keep asking questions and keep talking! On a scale of one to ten, ten being the highest, the most open and transparent—rate how open your relationship is with your teen. If you score low, pray for wisdom to begin opening that door.

I Want to Be a Rock Star Born into poverty and raised by a teenage mother, Steven Cooper remembers always struggling to get by. His first father figure decided he wanted no part of their family and left. When his mom did marry, she fell for an abusive alcoholic. They lived in their car and safe houses before finally moving in with relatives. To help pay the bills, Mom took up exotic dancing for a few years. As a teenager Steven battled anger and bouts of depression. “I just lived with a lot of fear and a lot of shame … ” Adding to the stress was his mother’s $2,000-a-week cocaine habit. Steven found he had a gift for writing and performing rap lyrics and got his break. He desired that lavish lifestyle he often saw in rap music videos. While on tour, Steven got a reality check. Depressed, and at one point suicidal, Steven tells in an interview on The 700 Club how he escaped his pain through music. I would watch some of my favorite celebrities at the time come off stage, and I couldn’t get my head around why they would still act like I would. They would still be depressed, lonely. They’d be mad at the world. I’m like, “Wow, you are what kids are dreaming of being one day and what I’m dreaming of being one day.” It made me really question, “Is this really the right thing to pursue? Is all this fame and money and all that really gonna change anything?” Then Steven’s life changed while on a road trip. He was invited to church and went. He said, “By the end of that sermon, even though I didn’t understand all of it, I felt God got a hold of my heart and started dealing with me. By the end of that day, I decided I wanted to give this Christian thing a shot, wanted to see what it was all about.” Steven decided to live for God. He moved in with his friend

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and started going to church. Eventually God restored Steven’s entire family!306 Nobody gets to choose his or her family, but every person can choose their future and the master they will follow.

All in the Family Ever feel like the phrase “home sweet home” doesn’t apply to you? You’re not alone. In the real world, there are no perfect parents, no matter how hard they try. Our families serve as a mirror and the difficulty is, often, the reflection is distorted. Most amusem*nt parks have a house or hall of mirrors. The purpose is entertainment. We get a good laugh at seeing ourselves grossly distorted. But suppose you live in a home with only the short, fat mirror. You grow accustomed to that image even when you see yourself in a “normal” mirror. The normal mirror, in your estimation, is the illusory one. All of us live in a house of mirrors, or we pass through one regularly since our culture reflects all sorts of illusions and distorted images. No wonder we are confused about our identities. There is no doubt we are influenced by powerful external events and circ*mstances. However, our families are still the most powerful group to which we will ever belong. Our mind and body are complex and affected not only by genetic predispositions but also the nurturing we received, or didn’t receive, in childhood. We adopt frames of mind that are similar to those of our parents—unless we are taught otherwise and develop different habits. A person’s understanding of relationships comes through early experiences with parents. They pass down to us a limited model of love and choices which they gained from their parents or learned in life. Research indicates that up to 85 percent of our personality and social skills are formed by the age of five. Research also shows that a child’s early attachments to Mom and Dad and the way a parent treats their child actually changes the structure and circuitry of that child’s brain. We know a stable home, which includes stimulation such as talking and cuddling,


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helps shape a child’s development in a very real, neurobiological and positive way.307 Studies indicate that at an early age, a parent’s response to their child is imprinted onto mirror neurons. Then, later in life, the child is apt to almost instinctively, unconsciously, and automatically respond to their own emotions and behaviors in a way that reflects the way their parents typically responded.308 Sadly, more than 10.5 million children in the United States are living with one or more substance-abusing parents.309 If a girl grows up with an alcoholic father, the odds are she will marry an alcoholic—because it is familiar. Even those who successfully break away, swearing they’ll never be like a particular parent, find they are doing life in just that vein. Why? They’ve learned the pattern. Tragically, their wounds become their identity. We realize this when we recognize we use the same tools and defenses our parents taught us. It is not uncommon to detect patterns that are passed on such as CWS, abuse, anger, divorce, addiction, abortion, shoplifting, the inability to sustain stable relationships, critical or controlling attitudes—because they are learned behaviors. To think and behave as they do is to live their lives and not your own.

Weaving a New Tapestry Scripture states that God created your inmost being, your inner parts—body, mind, spirit and soul. He knit you together in your mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13). Sadly, for many of us, our knitted self starts to unravel when we are children. Dysfunction destroys the stitches. Someone said, “Everyone seems normal until you get to know them.” All families are dysfunctional because of sin. Broadly speaking, a highly dysfunctional family is one running on empty love tanks leaving each person vulnerable to addiction or CWS in an attempt to fill them. A middle-aged woman whose life is literally devoted to the rock musician Rod Stewart said, “I just had such

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a terrible childhood … I guess I didn’t get a whole lot of love or acknowledgment as a kid, and that’s something I seek when I go to a Rod concert.”310 I expect she feels Rod’s love lyrics are meant just for her. Sadly, her deep need to be loved will never be filled through a Rod Stewart rock concert or any celebrity illusion—only through Jesus. Educators and psychologists say if we don’t give children what they need in the very early years, we cannot make it up later—but Jesus can. Scripture says, “Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me” (Psalm 27:10, niv). Many have had the unfortunate experience of being forsaken by a parent. As adults, that pain may still linger. Many parents lack self-esteem and feel worthless themselves. God can fill that void and heal the hurt. His love is sufficient for all our needs. He can also bring in a substitute parent . Anyone who cares for children can make a difference. First, before we can confront our own child’s behavior we have to meet ourselves head on. We must first look at ourselves in the right mirror and consider our parenting techniques to understand our part. We have to pick and choose, among the many examples our fallible parents modeled, what we will emulate and what we will throw out. Take some time to consider how your parents may have influenced your understanding of parenting and of God. God won’t make the past disappear. Instead, he will use those experiences to mold you into a beautiful new tapestry full of hope, faith and love. Let us not forget that when we feel swamped by lifelong patterns that God can turn our desert into pools of water and the parched ground into flowing springs (Psalm 107:35). No matter how dysfunctional we feel our backgrounds are—God can transform anyone! If you are in need of healing, open your heart and go to the Healer now.


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God’s Family Never forget that God pursues you in your brokenness, rebellion, anger, stubbornness, as well as in your beauty … and he doesn’t expect you to be perfect. The Bible is marked with a messy assortment of family tensions, sibling rivalry, adultery, murder, strife, and wars that like a thread through a tapestry pulls through and follows each generation. These families we discover were weak, scarred, struggling, fearful, and failing people. They suffered and survived horrible ordeals, many of them self-inflicted. Countless Bible stories would make for a juicy tabloid expose. Cain kills Abel, Joseph’s brothers sell him into slavery, Jacob deceives, King David commits both adultery and murder, Abraham and Isaac both allow their wives to be inaugurated into the enemy’s harems. Even the family tree of Jesus Christ reveals a closet full of skeletons. These stories are raw and bitter reminders of how awful family life can be. We can see reflections of ourselves in their messy and troubled escapades. Yet unlike most of the novels and screenplays out there, the overarching theme of the Bible is faith, hope, love, healing, and grace for families. The difference between the dysfunctional folks in the Bible, and most of our favorite icons, is God used them. God is committed to use human partners no matter how inept we appear. Apparently he loves to work with hopeless and fruitless families like ours. The media has the power to influence but so do religious icons like Jesus Christ, Moses, Mary Magdalene, King David, Job, Queen Esther and the Apostles. These people modeled faith, character and virtue. Except for Jesus, none of them were perfect. However, their stories show us good overcomes bad, and we too through God’s grace can be transformed to become persons of purpose and character. The Bible is not simply a collection of words or poems or bedtime stories. It is living and life changing. God’s Word reveals who

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we are and what we are not, reflecting a true image of us (see James 1:22–25). We learn about the beauty of our purpose. God says about his Word, “Pay attention to what I say; listen closely to my words. Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart;for they are life to those who find them and health to a man’s whole body” (Proverbs 4:20–22, niv, my emphasis). For these reasons, we must read God’s Word everyday. We need to get this: Our background and circ*mstances have influenced who we are, but we are responsible for who we become and for establishing our children’s foundation. God told the Israelites they would be in captivity in Babylon for seventy long years. He said, The truth is this: You will be in Babylon for seventy years. But I will come and do for you all the good things I have promised and bring you home again.For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:10–11 (tlb)

Since many of the captives would be dead in seventy years, the “you” God is speaking to is mostly likely their children. God has made numerous promises in the Bible for our children if we stay faithful and obey him. Praise God that he said he will pour out his Spirit on your offspring, and his blessing on your descendants (Isaiah 44:3). He is our only security blanket.

The Truth About Resiliency In the 1998 movie Hope Floats, Birdee Pruitt, played by Sandra Bullock, seems to have it all. She’s been married for years to her handsome high school sweetheart and has a brilliant, sensitive child. Her picture-perfect life comes crashing down when her beloved


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husband dumps her on national television. With no place to turn, Birdee takes her daughter, Bernice, back to Smithville, Texas. There Birdee tries to deal with a broken-hearted daughter who desperately misses her father. Bernice’s recurrent emotional outbursts are the sounds of her heart breaking, over and over. Divorce strikes at a person’s greatest fear—abandonment. A child’s wound is often hard to detect because the transgression is against Mom or Dad. But what are the children learning? No matter what the emotional reaction is to pain, we hear all too often, “Don’t worry about her. She’s a kid—resilient and strong. She’ll bounce back.” Dr. Victor G. Carrion, director of the Early Life Stress Research Program at Stanford University said, “People used to think that children were resilient by virtue of being young. The reality cannot be further from the truth. The younger you are the more vulnerable you are to the effects of trauma.”311 How do we help a traumatized child recover? No magic pill has been identified. Instead, heightened caregiving and therapy involving social behavior are key. Talk to them about the nature of trauma. You can say something like, “If you get a bad cut on your leg, you must clean it out or that cut will get infected. If you don’t do anything, it can get really infected. You can get gang green and your leg will have to be amputated. That’s what trauma can do to us if we don’t talk about it. So let’s talk!” Activity-based sessions can also have a positive outcome. Do not assume a small child or adolescent is resilient. Resiliency means when something happens you have the power or ability to return to your original emotional form or shape, such as the ability to recover readily from an illness or adversity. That would mean a child returns to or becomes who they were before being exposed to certain media or traumatic event. The concepts surrounding children and resiliency have become a popular topic in today’s world. Christian psychologist Diane Langberg states:

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Children are in fact not resilient; they are malleable. To be malleable means you can be shaped; you are adaptable. A malleable object is one that can be pounded or pressed into another shape without returning to its original form … A child is growing, unfinished, developing, maturing and learning. Each of those words implies that the child can be shaped.312

or daughter’s ballet recital, or for allowing my child to watch adult programming. Children do learn to cope—some in positive and some in negative ways. As Marilyn Meberg says, “Kids may survive but they don’t necessarily thrive.”315 I say they develop “a new kind of normal.” Call it resilient if you want. Love on your child or the teen you mentor!

Neurologist Dr. Frances Jensen said, “While youth is a time of resilience in many ways, it’s a myth that people can make up for damage later when it comes to the brain. You’re actually more sensitive, more vulnerable before adulthood.”313 Dr. Bruce D. Perry, senior fellow of The Child Trauma Academy and author of Trauma and Terror in Childhood, wrote: Exposure to traumatic stress during childhood can impact a child for life. Children are not born resilient; they are made resilient by virtue of having opportunities in early childhood to have elements of safety, predictability and nurturing. Yet even children with these opportunities, given a sufficiently intense or repeated traumatic stress will be at risk. Children are, in fact, born malleable. They are shaped by their experiences in ways that can follow them for a lifetime.314

When I look at the prison population, I don’t believe children are resilient either. I’ve been told by corrections officers at the women’s facility I volunteer at that over 95 percent of the women were traumatized or abused as children. If they were resilient and just bounced back, their lives would have, in many cases, turned out quite differently. Little girls who are sexually abused overwhelmingly have intimacy problems in marriage and many other life issues. We often want to believe children are resilient and strong to let ourselves off the hook. Then I don’t have to feel guilty for a divorce, or not showing up time after time to my son’s softball game


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Part Three Obsessed with the Master Experiencing Jesus Christ For as you know him better, he will give you, through his great power, everything you need for living a truly good life: he even shares his own glory and his own goodness with us! —The Apostle Peter, 2 Peter 1:3 (tlb) You will quickly be deceived if you look only to the outward appearance of men, and you will often be disappointed if you seek comfort and gain in them. If, however, you seek Jesus in all things, you will surely find Him. —Thomas À Kempis We take our lead from Christ, who is the source of everything we do. —The Apostle Paul, Ephesians 4:15 (msg) He became what we are that we might become what he is. –Athanasius

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Jesus Christ Super Star Leo Tolstoy wrote one of greatest novels in world literature, War and Peace. But he also wrote a book in 1879 called A Confession, which tells the story of his search for meaning and purpose in life. Rejecting Christianity as an adolescent, Tolstoy sought pleasure. He drank heavily, lived promiscuously, and gambled frequently. His ambition was to become wealthy and famous, but nothing satisfied him. He married, had thirteen children and appeared to have complete happiness. Yet one question haunted him to the verge of suicide, “Is there any meaning in my life which will not be annihilated by the inevitability of death, which awaits me?” Nicky Gumbel, in Questions of Life, explains Tolstoy’s turn around: He searched for the answer in every field of science and philosophy. As he looked around at his contemporaries, he saw that people were not facing up to the first-order questions of life: “Where did I come from?” “Where am I going?” “Who am I?” “What is life all about?” Eventually he found that the peasant people of Russia had been able to answer these questions through their Christian faith, and he came to realize that only in Jesus Christ do we find the answer.316

John Calvin said, “First you must know God before you can know yourself.”317 The shortest route to knowing God the Father is to know his Son. Jesus Christ, in the flesh, came down to earth as the mirror image of the invisible Father: “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being” (Hebrews Torn Between Two Masters


1:3, niv). He not only did extraordinary things, but he also made an extraordinary claim. Jesus is alive today and reigns with his Father, God Almighty, in heaven. The objective of salvation and living here on earth is to know God and the person of Jesus Christ.

Christification What if every teenager actually identified with Jesus, the God-man, and learned to love and give passionately? Could the mimesis of Jesus create a group of young people enabled to unmask cultural deceits? Yes! We can participate in God’s holy and amazing plan by not merely imitating how Christ lived, but by surrendering to his dynamic, life-transforming presence. If we let him reign in us—change the way we think, see, hear, feel, speak and serve, we can live a purpose-filled authentic life. Jesus can change us to such an extent that even a man who once loathed lepers went out of his way to embrace and kiss one. Jesus showed us that no one is unimportant in God’s eyes. He always had time for people. He searched for those who were lost. He healed those who were broken. If the Christian community doesn’t engage our youth in practices that identify with Jesus’s suffering love, they will look for that “something” elsewhere. Since a young person’s need to identify is stronger than their ability to discern who is worth identifying with, they will turn to pop culture to fulfill their every need and desire—a culture only too happy to oblige. Let’s also be realistic. Our flesh and human sinfulness make imitating Christ tough, especially in this culture, particularly for adolescents. The gospel beckons us to die to ourselves and to believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, trusting in his power alone. We are not simply to admire Christ, but rather become “Christified.” It’s not easy but Jesus and Paul spoke of thousands of people who were radically invaded by God and became world changers. Dr. René Girard’s theory, that our desires are inspired by the desires of another, helps us understand why teens pattern them-


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selves after the wrong model. Instead of surrendering to the pop culture, we must guide them to faith in Jesus Christ. The good news is, the Christian faith helps young people resist the pressure to conform to socially acceptable mimetic desires. And researchers found that parents can significantly influence their teenager’s religiosity.318 When it comes to their child’s spiritual growth, many parents admit their faith and doctrinal views are on shaky grounds. They are more than willing to give the church and youth ministry that job. Kenda Creasy Dean, associate professor of youth, church, and culture at Princeton Theological Seminary, states that most youth ministry is not accomplished by youth ministers. She said a youth’s faith “is far more likely to take root in the rich relational soil of families, congregations, and mentor relationship where young people can see what faithful lives look like, and encounter the people who love them enacting a larger story of divine care and hope.”319 As soon as we sincerely decide to begin to follow Jesus instead of other fallen creatures, the power of our flesh starts diminishing and his grace empowers us. Pretty amazing! The Apostle Paul tried to imitate Jesus faithfully. He proclaimed, “For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved. Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Corinthians 10:34– 11:1, niv, my emphasis). The concept that God’s people must imitate God rather than man is not new. The book of Leviticus repeated some five times the command, “I am the Lord your God. You must live holy lives. Be holy because I am holy” (Leviticus 11:44, gw). If we claim to be a Christian to the rest of the world, we are in their eyes expected to be a striking likeness and picture of Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, many who claim to be a Christian are not living a life that imitates Jesus very well. Countless disciples believe they are above the Master. One well-respected pastor said that if we Christians are indistinguishable from non-Christians, then we are useless.

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The Living Glove It sounds like an impossible task—to imitate the Jesus Christ, whether you are an adult or a teen. It is unattainable in our own strength. It is only possible when we receive God’s grace. God can do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20). The best artist isn’t discouraged. She may not be a Van Gogh—and knows she’s not a Van Gogh—but she does her very best to paint a picture of excellence. Nothing is impossible with God (Luke 1:37). Like a hand fit into a glove, believers are supposed to be the glove. Jesus is the hand. People see us. They see our fingers and hand move. They observe our impact. When they shake our gloved hand, they feel the warmth of the hand, of Jesus. The only way they can see Jesus is through the glove. This is one of the ways he makes himself visible to many who would never pick up a Bible or go to church. Through the work and example of Jesus Christ, God gives us what we need to be extraordinary in our particular areas of life. Jesus has given us his Holy Spirit to help us see, think, talk and act like him. He promises to instruct, counsel and teach us, all the while watching over us (Psalm 32:8). The purpose of getting to know Jesus intimately is not merely to model his behaviors. We want to experience Jesus—his love, his touch, his joy—and then release it! Then we live life freely and fully—authentically. In the Rospigliosi Palace in Rome is Guido Reni’s famous mural, The Aurora, a work unequalled in that period for nobility of line and poetry of color. It is painted on a lofty ceiling, and as you stand on the pavement and look up at it, your neck stiffens, your head grows dizzy, and the figures become hazy and indistinct. So the owner of the palace placed a broad mirror near the floor. In it the picture is reflected, and you can sit down comfortably and study the wonderful work. God is not so far removed from the human race as many believe. Most religions require the believer to look up. God comes down to the Christian. Everyone approaches God with a set of preconceptions collected from many sources: church, Sunday school,


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movies, television evangelists, and books. Many see God as someone to cower before, not as someone like Jesus, worthy of our love and trust. I am asking you to open your mind, to perhaps, a new view of God. Think of Jesus as a streaming beaming light who came into the world straight from God Almighty as the only true self-expression of God. Pray as Paul did that “the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him [Jesus] better” (Ephesians 1:17, niv).

The God-Man From the time Jesus started his pubic ministry to today, everyone agrees that Jesus was someone special. If you were born in America chances are you have been taught something about Jesus Christ. Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do you think I am?” (Matthew 16:13, tlb) How would you answer him? There’s a lot of conflicting information about Jesus loaded with bias. Some teachings emphasize his love, mercy and grace. Others accentuate his righteous anger. Some speak only of his majesty and power. And honestly, it’s hard to escape the feeling that our culture has taken Jesus’s question, “Who do you think I am” and changed it to “Who do you want me to be?” It would not be unusual for you to know about Jesus, but not know him personally. Maybe you’ve heard the Jesus miracle and healing stories in Sunday school. Maybe all you know is the Christmas story. More than a teacher or a prophet or a healer or a miracle worker, he was, and still is, the Messiah—the Son of the living God. C. S. Lewis pointed out he was the Son of God or else a madman.320 For centuries prophets had been telling people that God had promised a way out of their miserable way of life. He had promised he would send someone to take the punishment for mankind’s sin. That someone was Jesus Christ whom they called Immanuel which means “God with us.” One thing we know is, our life is about Jesus’s relentless pursuit of us—to the point of dying on the cross so we might be intimately acquainted with God the Father.

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Jesus, the man, was radically different than any other ordinary man. It is interesting that Jesus is rarely thought of as a “man,” in the sense of his masculinity. The truth is he was a man—a very real man. Even though he is holy and a God who transcends time and space, he set aside his rights and privileges of divinity to become a human being. He began his earthly life as an embryo. As a baby, he wore diapers. He learned to walk and talk. He went to school and learned a trade. He had at least four brothers and a number of sisters (Mark 6:1–3). He was just like other ordinary human beings—all the while he was God too. Pastor Mark Driscoll, author of Vintage Jesus, wrote, Jesus was a dude. Like my drywaller dad, he was a construction worker who swung a hammer for a living. Because Jesus worked in a day when there were no power tools, he likely had calluses on his hands and muscles on his frame, and did not look like so many of the drag-queen Jesus images that portray him with long, flowing, feathered hair, perfect teeth and soft skin … 321 Considered a normal guy, Jesus did regular things that regular people do. When he lived here on earth, he had a fully human, physical body that functioned and looked like our bodies—contrary to the many paintings over the centuries that depict him as a pansy or scrawny and feminine, even freakish. He did blue-collar labor for most of his life. He spent six times as long working at a carpenter’s bench as he did in his world-shaking ministry. He surely had a tanned, powerful physique and dirt underneath his fingernails—not creamy-smooth skin and scraggly legs. It’s hard for us to really comprehend that God became just like you and me. It is true. If you sat next to him and shared a meal or conversation with him two thousand years ago, you would have, most likely, not have noticed anything physically unique or extraordinary about him. The Bible says, “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,nothing in his appearance that we should desire him” (Isaiah 53:2, niv). He must have been an average-looking guy.


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I’ve heard it said, “God loves ordinary-looking people. That’s why he created so many of them.” Hmm … let’s chew on that one! Think about this: Jesus began his earthly life as a baby, yet he existed in the beginning with God (John 1:1). He did not descend from heaven and suddenly appear on earth like some kind of angel. Like any other fetus, he began life in the womb of a human mother. The virgin birth made possible the uniting of full deity and full humanity in one person—called the incarnation. God did not merely send another prophet or angel to declare his unconditional love and truth for us—he sent himself! I’ve often wondered about Jesus, the adolescent. The Bible is silent on this subject. Being human, I imagine he experienced the same pubescent physical growth and psychological changes all youth do. Was it a difficult transition for him like it is for scores of teens? What would it have been like to be in Jesus’s peer group? Was he considered a sort of geek? After all, he had extraordinary knowledge and unusual talents. We just don’t know. What we do know is Jesus was God in human flesh. Not God dwelling in a man. Or a man made to be God. He was God and man, the two natures combined in one personality, baffling every possibility of explanation. This is how God presented himself to the world. To prove he was God, Jesus worked many miracles. The first was the marvelous manner of his birth. God voluntarily became one of us in the person of Jesus. And he did this in order to share our burden and, ultimately, provide a permanent solution for the mess we’ve made. A minister of considerable knowledge asked statesman Daniel Webster, “Mr. Webster, can you comprehend how Jesus Christ can be both God and man?” Webster said, “No, sir, I cannot comprehend it. If I could comprehend it, He would be no greater than myself. I need a superhuman Savior.”322

Authentic Love “Jesus loves me! This I know, For the Bible tells me so. Little ones to Him belong; They are weak, but He is strong.” This popular song, written in 1860 by Anna B. Warner, is still loved among children and adults.

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Jesus loves everyone despite their motives and personalities because the very essence of his being, his personality and nature, is love (1 John 4:8). His love for us is not based on what we achieve, what we have, or what we look like. It is not based on how many members our church or youth groups have. We already belong to him. His Word says, “I have summoned you by name; you are mine” (Isaiah 43:1, niv). We are worthy and loved. The most important decision you will ever make is to accept his love. In the book of Mark, chapter five, the Apostle Mark tells three stories of three people desperate for the touch of Jesus. The first story is called “the man in the tombs” (see Mark 5: 1–20). Jesus encountered this man who was naked, self-destructive, wild, and riotous, the very things that characterize our society today. “This man lived among the gravestones and had such strength that whenever he was put into handcuffs and shackles, as he often was, he snapped the handcuffs from his wrists and smashed the shackles and walked away. No one was strong enough to control him” (Mark 5:3, tlb). This man scared away anyone who dared to come near his home in the tombs. This scene seems made up to us who live in this society. But it would not be unreal on many mission fields. This story gives us some hints as to what the life of this man had been like. Ancient peoples, as well as us moderns, regard the tombs suitable for dead people, but not for the living. No one lived among the tombs, except as a last resort. In the tombs, he was free but he was also a dead man without hope or joy of life. “Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones” (Mark 5:5, niv). This man was in misery. Millions of adolescents today are crying out by mutilating themselves with razors, glass, knives, cigarettes and nails. “Cutting” has become a way to manage painful emotions. An estimated one percent of Americans use physical self-harm as a way of coping with stress.Statistics on teen cutting are hard to come by because so few studies have been done on the subject. A 2002 study published in the British Medical Journal estimated that 13 percent of British fifteen and sixteen-year-olds purposely injure themselves. In the U.S., it is estimated that one in every 200 girls between thirteen


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and nineteen-years old, cut themselves regularly. Teen girls who cut comprise about 67 percent of those who self-harm.323 Self-harm, also called self-injury, self-abuse, or self-mutilation, is an attempt to deliberately hurt one’s own body in order to cope with, block out, or release built up feelings and emotions. Other methods include picking at skin, re-opening wounds, hair pulling, hitting, head banging, eyeball pressing, bone breaking, and biting. It can be an episodic behavior or it can become a compulsive, addictive behavior. Anyone who suffers needs treatment. Sixteen year-old Casey started cutting herself one year ago when the fights with her mother got out of control. She didn’t know how to release her anger. She said, “This (cutting) makes me feel in control. I feel alive when I see blood oozing from my flesh.” The man in the tombs was not some sort of grotesque monster. Like Casey, he felt tortured, possessed by fear and shame—not unlike many teens in our homes, neighborhoods and churches that are harming themselves or even considering suicide. Jesus and his apostles came directly into this guy’s space because of Jesus’s heart for this one man. “When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him” (Mark 5:6, niv). If anyone else came into his territory, he would attack them like a wild beast. Not this time. “Then Jesus spoke to the demon within the man, ‘Come out, you evil spirit.’” The demon gave a shriek of fear and rebellion against God. “Then the evil spirits came out of the man …  ” (Mark 5:8, 13, tlb). The demons had no power over Jesus. This tortured man’s broken heart was replaced with a new one. His tormented mind was replaced with mental clarity. The enemy intended to harm him, but God’s intentions were for good (Genesis 50:20). Bob Benson said, “When life caves in, you do not need reasons—you need comfort. You do not need some answers—you need someone. And Jesus does not come to us with an explanation—He comes to us with His presence.”324 This man begged to follow Jesus as a disciple, but Jesus told him to go back to his community to tell them what great things God had done for him. This man was the first person in the Gospels whom Jesus commissioned to be a witness of his mercy. We should

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not stay silent either. Jesus has done so very much for every one of us. Tell your story!

The Meaning of Love Jesus had no problem going into the ghetto, into quarantined areas, the hood, and the red-light districts of his time. He gravitated toward those who were hungry, ill, and lost.325 Jesus felt the limp of the crippled, the pain of the diseased, the aloneness of the leper, the shame of the adulteress woman, and the humiliation of the sinful. He had a special kind of love for those living on the fringe. When his friend Lazarus died, Jesus wept (John 11:35). He understands how horrific death is. Have you noticed that no matter how bad your heart is broken,the world doesn’t stop for your grief? Jesus stops. It is important that we don’t stuff down or deny our grief. Weeping openly is healthy. Jordan talks about the time during one of her counseling sessions when she couldn’t stop crying. For years, she feared telling her story. She felt disgraced, ashamed of the fact that her father sexually abused her. Like the man in the tombs, she cut herself several times a day. Jordan feared that anyone hearing about her abuse or her cutting would either be angry with her, or dismiss her, or think she did something to deserve it. Jordan wept. Jesus wept. He stopped for her and Jordan healed. When you’re overstressed and feeling depressed from the “trauma” of daily life, go to Jesus. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest … learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28–30, niv). Jesus longs to give us life. All we need to do is come to him. That’s all. The picture of Jesus’s heart for people is very vivid. What do we learn about this God-man from these stories? He met each deep unmet need. He breathed life into each person’s soul, into their brokenness. Live, my precious child! He wanted them to live, not a mere existence, but live an authentic life completely fulfilled through him. According to God, we are here to love. We are commanded first, to love God, and then others. God measures our lives by how


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we love. The Bible says that if I don’t love, I’m nothing (1 Corinthians 13:2). You say, “I want this! I want to be filled with authentic love like Jesus! How do I get it?” In The Wizard of Oz, a twelve-year-old farm girl named Dorothy dreams of a better place “somewhere over the rainbow.” Dorothy’s journey is full of toils and troubles. When she reaches her destination, she discovers she already had the key to this better place. She held within herself the deepest truth about love. She had the ability to get home to the people who loved her the whole time. You already have love. You are made in the image of God. Because he is planted within you, by his grace, you have the ability to access his love. You receive love through others. God created every person to form loving relationships with one another and receive his love through them. You cannot give, receive, or model love until you understand and receive it from the Lover himself. Picture Jesus, reaching out to you day after day: Is his heart breaking because you do not see him? Or is his heart alive because you understand and value his love for you and model it? Meditate on Eugene Peterson’s translation of Ephesians 5:1–2 in The Message: Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that. The Gospels are filled with numerous accounts of Jesus’s love and humanness. Read them as a family so you will understand God’s Word—not as I see it, but as God intends for you to see it.

Jesus’s Touch An eyewitness tells of a young child who fell off a chair in a restaurant. Clearly hurt, the little girl began crying. Her father never got up to help. He seemed more worried about other people watching. He made a comment to her that she should have watched what

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she was doing. He never hugged or comforted her. By withholding touch and compassion, no doubt, he made her little soul-hole a bit bigger. “Laying his hands on each one, he [ Jesus] healed them” (Luke 4:40, niv). Why didn’t Jesus speak a word or heal the whole crowd in one prayer? Because touch is one of our most basic needs. As early as the seventh week of pregnancy a baby reacts to touch. Studies show that people develop very slowly and even die if they are denied touch.326 Conversely, if a person is touched in a bad way it can traumatize their soul. Touch is the earliest sense to develop and the last one to leave at the end of life. Our body and mind craves touch. It’s the way God created us. The Greeks believed touch to be the most basic and most reliable of the senses. Touch tranquilizes the nervous system by increasing endorphins. Children who are touched and exposed to hugs are often very expressive and warm, while those who aren’t hugged very much or shown affection by their family typically grow up putting a wall between themselves and other people. They often seek intimacy elsewhere—in the wrong places. When it comes to our teens, connecting on a deeper level is imperative. I have seen far too many teens over the years end up hanging out with or dating the “wrong” person or becoming a gang member. Why? Most often it was due to lack of love and connection within their own family. Perhaps it’s hard for you to connect because your parents never connected with you. Draw from the Sustainer, Love himself. Hug your children often. It is a gesture of affirmation and approval. A child who is hugged often feels worthy and valuable, whereas a child who is hug-starved or doesn’t receive any other form of affirmation will start asking, “Am I loved?” Hugging fosters self-acceptance and also boosts our immune system. Many who followed Jesus got to touch him. Can you imagine being touched by the Son of God! Think about this: each person


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Jesus touched, he created.327 When he looked into each set of eyes, he saw their very soul. He had shaped each mind intricately and differently. He sculpted each face and every feature perfectly. Long before their birth he knew them individually, cell by cell. The Bible says, “You [God] saw me before I was born and scheduled each day of my life before I began to breathe. Every day was recorded in your book!” (Psalm 139:16, tlb)328 When you have faced a difficult time, what helped you most? A hug, an arm around your shoulder, a hand laid delicately on top of yours? Whatever gesture, no doubt, it was authentic and meant so much. Think about the kinds of touch you already use with your children; such as high fives, stroking or brushing hair, holding hands, playing touch football, or off-to-school and good night kisses or hugs. Keep it up! Think about the times you neglect to touch your children. Work to turn those into “I am loved” moments. Connect through humor. Life is just too serious today. We need to laugh more. Every time I drive up my driveway, I slow down for a good chuckle. I pass the neighbor’s lamas and Jack, the donkey. Those precious faces crack me up! God has to have a sense of humor. Take a trip to the zoo or hang out for a while at an airport— there are certain animals and people that just make us laugh. Most people think Jesus didn’t have a sense of humor and assume he was boring. I know he cried deeply so I’m certain he laughed with gusto. In the Gospels you get the picture that Jesus was actually a pretty fun guy because he hung out with some pretty wild people. He frequently used humor and wit to make his point. He had to have been a funny and happy guy since he gave us, his image bearers, a sense of humor. (Well, most image bearers.) Laughter helps us stay healthy. It is God’s gift for coping and survival. It is the shock absorber that eases the blows of life. Laughter lowers blood pressure, reduces the risk of developing heart disease, and improves mood. When we can laugh at ourselves,

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we are expressing the nature the way God intended our nature to be expressed. Jesus said, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete” ( John 15:11, niv). The Christian should be naturally joyous. But we must choose joy and work for it because it doesn’t come naturally. It requires cultivation. Jesus wants you to share in his joy and pass it on. It’s the medicine this world needs.

Dare to Get Real Jesus is the real deal—not a figment of some writer’s imagination. He is authentic. When he speaks, the winds and waves obey. When he takes a step out of a boat, he literally walks on water. When he shares lunch, thousands are fed. When he announces who he is, his enemies fall to the ground. When his garment is touched, an anemic woman is healed. His power is so real it casts out demons, cures diseases, and conquers death! No mere human prophet or teacher can do all this. When teens get to know Jesus, they want what he has to offer. We are called to be the glove that holds the hand, Jesus, which means we need to be real. Keep in mind the one thing teens and young adults cannot tolerate is hypocrites. This generation desires authenticity. They can detect “fakeness” pretty quickly. They’ve seen and heard it—from teachers and preachers who abuse children and women, to a disjointed political front, to mentors living out the seven deadly sins—they see it and trust less. So, if we want a genuine relationship with our teens, we need to get real with them. Who can forget the 1998 Clinton-Lewinsky scandal? President Bill Clinton unwaveringly stated, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman [twenty-two-year-old Monica Lewinsky]. He lied. And then he got caught. Being transparent and truthful would have gained him the respect of this generation, and he would have been excused. The sex and lies ultimately lead to an impeachment trial. Sadly, the most powerful man in the world at that time left


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office carrying this legacy with him. Transparency matters. It matters because it builds bridges and it honors God. Denise, a mom of five, practices the trait of transparency. She told me, Being open and honest with my kids aboutmy life as a teen wasn’t as hard as I thought. We all learn through experience, whether it’s on our own or through another’s eyes. My five kids have always been grateful for my honesty, openness and willingness to be vulnerable in front of them. They have never viewed it as weakness. It keeps us close and consequently we are able to discuss anything. Being honest, and most of all transparent with them, makes a huge difference in their communication and trust level.

Dare to get authentic. Share the types of struggles you had at their age and the struggles you continue to have. Humble yourself and ask your child’s forgiveness for acting out. You can say, “I’m not perfect. I face many of the same challenges and temptations you do. Let’s work together on having a heart and attitude like Jesus!” As you develop this relationship, it is important to not smother your teen but call for mutual respect. You are not to be their buddy, but a boundary enforcer, supporter, prayer warrior, unconditional lover, and a stable force in their out of control world. When parents are able to tolerate an appropriate amount of separateness but also remain adequately connected, a teen will be less likely to polarize family and will make a smooth transition into adulthood.329 Tell a story—tell your story. Sometimes a mom will send her daughter in to see me. She plops down in the chair and gives me the I don’t want to be here look. I know if I begin to ask her questions she’ll clam up or give me one-word answers. So I break the ice with my story. When I begin to talk about my battle with body image, bulimia, and guys, she usually identifies with me in some way. She

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realizes I just took a risk telling her my secrets, which says to her, “I trust you.” I also like sharing about my larger-than-life dream of meeting the Beatles when I was ten. I lived in London, England, and had a friend whose mother worked on the Beatles management team. She worked out of her house, so every time I went over there, I went believing I’d meet at least one of them. Paul was my first pick. But I’d take John, followed by George, distantly followed by Ringo. When I meet them, maybe they’ll really like me and want to hang out. Never mind I’m only ten years old! I never met any of them. So I did the next best thing. I created a fantasy and told my friends I was introduced to Paul and John, and they were really cool and nice. That got me attention! Teens can identify with my desire to be accepted and liked and connected in some way to a celebrity. Stories can be a springboard to talk about the pressure to be a “somebody.” I ask them why they think I made up that story. Then what would have been a better choice? Stories are a non-confrontational way to connect with young people. Everyone has life experiences. What stories can you tell? I must constantly remind myself their world is completely different than mine was. I can study their culture, read the best-selling books on parenting principles, youth ministry and relating to teens, but I’m still an outsider. When I tell my story I always try to weave in relevant news and information. Fess up. Some parents attempt to hide their mistakes. Usually, they are trying to protect the image they feel responsible to uphold—the perfect parents who have their act totally together and can handle anything, any time. Children do not understand an adults’ motivation behind covering up failures. As they grow older, they model their parents’ efforts to cover up faults. There are always consequences to lying and covering up. We should not be afraid to fess up—admit our failures and mistakes to our children. We do far more damage to our reputation by cover-


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ing up rather than by confessing. Failure is never final because God specializes in restoration.

The Apostle Paul confessed, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do” (Romans 7:15, niv). This is the picture of a humble and broken man. Yet Paul had no problem asking the Philippians to follow his example because he was modeling a lifelong process of imitating and identifying with Christ. Even with his imperfections and candidness, he was able, with a clear conscience, to present himself as their role model. It’s a tough world for teens today. They need us to try to understand what they face. Adults that embody Christlike and worthy values and ideologies are needed today, more than ever, to reach out to a generation of youth who want to be loved, recognized, and heard. Danny Holland said, “Remember, today’s teens want a relationship with us even more than we want a relationship with them.” 330

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Obsessed with Jesus Each year Forbes magazine releases its list of the world’s most powerful celebrities. In 2010 six teen stars made the list. Forbes estimates celebrity earnings, then factors in media metrics like Google hits, press, TV, and radio mentions, and the number of times an A-lister appears on the cover of more than fifty consumer magazines. Not surprising, Oprah Winfrey remains on top. The “Celebrity 100” measures power based on two components: money and fame. There is something intoxicating about achieving power, and it’s even more invigorating when it is over others. But its effect is only temporary. It cannot meet our deep unmet needs. Jesus had the satisfying experience while on earth of achieving power with others. By all accounts, he could have chosen power over others, but he did not. During the temptations, Satan took Jesus to the top of a high mountain to see all the kingdoms of the world. “I can give them to any one I choose. Now I will give them to you if only you will fall down and worship me” (Matthew 4:8–9, niv). You can be a super power through me! What a temptation for any human. How does Jesus respond? He lambasted him, “Get away from me, you evil one! The Lord God is the only Being who should be worshiped” (Matthew 4:10, niv). There are different types of powerful kingdoms—physical, political, sexual, financial, intellectual, spiritual, and personal. Although many people pursue power in all of the forms, Jesus’s only interest is in genuine personal power—with you and me. True personal power is power with other people, not over them, as in coercion. This frustrated Jesus’s followers because they expected him to establish himself as a political ruler and anoint them to positions of power. Jesus knew the truly powerful person is

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more interested in other people, not personal politics. For him, the true test of personal power is not controlling others, but empowering them. “No one is like you, O Lord; you are great, and your name is mighty in power” ( Jeremiah 10:6, niv).

Jesus’s Community William Shakespeare’s tragedy Romeo and Juliet is about two young star-crossed lovers whose suicides ultimately unite their feuding families. Anthony and Cleopatra both killed themselves for love. Today, all too frequently, we hear about the distraught and suicidal ex-significant other who kills his ex-lover and then himself (it is usually a male). Why do these stories end this way? We want someone to love us so much that we are willing to die for that person. Isn’t it ironic that this is what Jesus did for us, yet the average Christian isn’t terribly moved by it? The most passionate love affair ever written is in the Bible. It is the story of the love of God for his created. God is crazy in love with you! Do you want someone to love you so much that he is jealous? God is. Why isn’t that enough for us? Why do we reject his unshakable love and turn to the media’s version? The media promotes and romanticizes unhealthy relationships confusing love with lust. They make a boatload of cash and the viewer who eats the bait reaps the consequences. God’s kind of love is different. It’s directed outward toward others. It’s unselfish which goes against our human tendencies. It’s a “I expect nothing in return” kind of love. The more we become like Jesus, the more we show this kind of love to others. The greatest tragedy was the years I lived in a state of loneliness because of my addiction to relationships. I made every special guy the center of my life, convinced he was the answer—which is idolatry. I clung for fear of abandonment and rejection. When he left, which he always did, I hated myself for driving this person away. Then when I needed a shoulder to cry on, an ear to listen. I had no close friend I could turn to because I had alienated anyone who tried to be my friend. I learned that anyone who chooses not to engage with others risks dying a slow, lonely emotional death. Relationships make our


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lives so much richer. Women, who feel they are not okay with themselves unless they are in a romantic relationship, completely miss the opportunity of living a full, rich life in community with others. Mankind’s power and usefulness come, not in isolation, but through a relationship with not only God but other healthy people. Anthropologist Lionel Tiger says our brains are hardwired to make us feel better if we are connected to others. Belonging to a group triggers neurotransmitters such as serotonin, which make us feel calm and contented.331 Jesus modeled what belonging meant: for thirty years, he belonged to a family. When he began his ministry he called twelve men to be his disciples. Then Jesus belonged to a group. He didn’t do ministry alone. He foreknew he would be in need of companionship and encouragement. Too many of us have missed this. It is here we feel our greatest sense of belonging—in Jesus’s community—face to face with other believers. Technology and the online world are driving wedges between relationships. The virtual community is not a substitute for real community—the kind Jesus models for us. To have authentic relationships with other people, we must see our need for them as a sign of strength, not weakness. Independence is a myth. Expose yourself to extended family members, especially if you are part of a blended family. Connect and feel the importance of family. They are, usually, all you really got! Paul tells us if we are a Christian, we’re no longer wandering exiles and God is building a home for us. “This kingdom of faith is now your home country. You belong here, with as much right to the name Christian as anyone. He’s using us all—regardless of how we got here—in what he is building” (Ephesians 2:19, msg).

Adolescence is when kids begin to spend more time with their friends and less time with family. They want to be with people their own age, which makes them more susceptible to peer influences— both positive and negative. They tend to choose peer groups that won’t challenge their beliefs, which means they can be a stronger influence than parents.

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Peers can and do act as positive role models. Encourage them to find friends who have similar interests and views as you do—such as, doing well in school, attending church functions, respecting others, avoiding drugs, smoking, drinking, and other risky behaviors. Paul puts it, “Do not be misled: Bad company corrupts good character” (1 Corinthians 15:33–34, niv). We need to realize that relationships with unbelievers (mediabased or personal) can lead us away from Jesus and cause our faith to waiver. Tell your teen why you believe this particular friend has strong values and beliefs, or why he or she lacks character and why that is important.

The Picture of Surrender Five-year-old Sonya stands numb, peering out her bedroom window. It’s quiet now. The yelling has stopped. The taillights of her dad’s car are no longer visible. Her little arm, half-co*cked, waves good-bye. Mom yells one last “Don’t ever come back!” Twenty years later that memory still makes Sonya’s heart weep. During those decades, friends who knew her heartache invited her to church. She always declined because to her God is distant and cold and unloving. Many Christians struggle with their desire to know and love God because they have never been taught about the real character of God and how to relate to him. To them he is some big mystical being in the sky. Or they have a fractured relationship with their own father and presuppose God shares the same characteristics. Or, like Sonya, they are wounded and assume God is full of wrath. Too many believers have walked away from God. They talk about how they can no longer trust him. They may have made a series of wrong and bad choices, but they blame God for failing to prevent the consequences. Like the father of the prodigal son, God will not force us into a relationship with him. If we ignore the counsel of the Holy Spirit and insist on pursuing an ungodly path, he’ll let us go that way. The result: our deepest needs go unmet.


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Someone once said, “If you are not as close to God as you used to be, who moved?” We need to move closer to him, not farther away. We need God’s grace if we are to start anything good, see it through, and bring it to completion. Without grace, we have no power to do anything. Jesus said, “Everything is possible for him who believes” (Mark 9:23, niv). When we talk about being completely dependent on God we are putting on the Christlike virtue of surrender. The gift of surrender is knowing we need God and others. We don’t come to God to get our Christmas list fulfilled but to learn how to be like Jesus and offer ourselves as his helpers. If we come expecting to be abundantly provided for, and still find ourselves struggling and poor, chances are we will abandon God. Christianity without a dependence on God says, “If God blesses me, I’ll be obedient. If times get rough, then I’ll try something else.” C.S. Lewis wrote in his book Mere Christianity, Fallen man is not simply an imperfect creature who needs improvement: he is a rebel who must lay down his arms. Laying down your arms, surrendering, saying you are sorry, realizing that you have been on the wrong track and getting ready to start life over again from the ground floor—that is the only way out of our “hole.”332

Without surrender we remain proud, believing we don’t need other people, and we can do a better job than God at managing our lives. Chasing after dreams that are outside of God’s purposes only lead to discontent. If we come to God simply to allow him to use us as instruments in his big plan, then nothing in life can steal that joy. Spiritual growth is all about getting close to God through the person of Jesus Christ. It is a learned behavior any one of us can cultivate. The younger we start, the stronger our root system.

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Surrender means relinquishing the “I deserve this” attitude. There were many times I felt I deserved for all my books to be bestsellers. I mean I worked from one to two years on each one and received wonderful endorsem*nts. One day I felt God ask me, “Would you write a book for just one person if it saved that person?” My answer, “If that is what you wanted me to do.” The key to surrender is acceptance. We resign our circ*mstances immediately to God—the bad and the good. Gary Thomas said, “Surrender, for some of us, means keeping our eyes trained on God when we have enough money to last ten lifetimes. For others of us, it’s keeping our eyes trained on God even though we’re down to oatmeal and raisins five days in a row.” 333 This is how we worship God—by continually surrendering our broken lives and idols—whether pride, perfectionism, narcissism, greed, celebrity worship—anything that leads us to live under a perpetual illusion, missing each blind spot. Will you let go of what you have been and embrace what Christ is calling you to become? What might you be afraid of letting go of?

Dependence on God Jesus never believed the spiritual path was something to be traveled alone. He constantly acknowledged his dependence upon God in everything he did. He recognized that no one else could function in isolation, including himself. Don’t feel defeated. Every Christian, young and old, struggles with giving up control. It’s not something we can do all at once. It means taking every circ*mstance to God and asking him to help us adopt an attitude of dependence on him in each situation. Here are some suggestions:

Go to God’s Chat Room: Pray Regularly Intimate conversation with the Father he called “Abba” (similar to “Papa”) was always Jesus’s first priority. It was the source of his love, joy, and peace, as well as his decisions, wisdom, and miracles. Our first priority should be to go to Jesus. Jesus is like a good friend who calls you as soon as you get home from school. He’s honestly interested to hear about your


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day. Anything that is important to you is important to him. Close your eyes and imagine crawling into Jesus’s lap and calling him “Daddy.” Relax and talk to him. He already knows you better than anyone else. You matter to him. Jesus is intimately interested in everything about you. You can admit your most confidential thoughts and feelings to him. He accepts you for who you are. Feel safe—you are in the hand of an all-powerful God.

Rock On: Seek God’s Help Life today is challenging, to say the least. Ask God for what you think you lack. We all could use more wisdom. He is talking to you through the Bible. If you wish you were more passionate about reading it, ask for passion and understanding. Bottom line, all the answers to life’s problem can be found in the Bible. As someone once said, “Jesus is the bread of daily life, not a cake for special occasions.” James said not to let God’s Word go in one ear and out the other. “Act on what you hear!Those who hear and don’t act are like those who glance in the mirror, walk away, and two minutes later have no idea who they are, what they look like” (James 1:22–24, msg). Knowing it is not enough—we must apply what we learn. Theologian J. I. Packer said, “Disregard the study of God, and you sentence yourself to stumble and blunder through life blindfolded, as it were, with no sense of direction and no understanding of what surrounds you. This way you can waste your life and lose your soul.”334 The most important aspect of Bible study is consistency. It’s better to study a little every day than to try to absorb a lot in random study. I find I get more out of God’s Word if I read less, but chew on what I read. I ask, “What is God saying in this verse? How is this applicable to me?” If you’ve never studied the Bible, jump right in. Buy a version written for youth and study together as a family. Start with the Gospels: the books of John, Matthew, Mark, and Luke. They speak about peer pressure, teamwork, and living life to the extreme— Jesus is speaking directly to you!

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Every day brush your teeth and read your Bible. Someone said, “A lack of Bible study leads to “truth” decay.” Find what works for you, and stick with it.

The Mission

Take Time to Refuel God gives you twenty-four hours a day. Make a commitment to give him some of your precious time. Today with our busy lifestyles and schedules, it can be a challenge to find daily time to be alone with God. Busyness is a problem all of us face. In fact, a 2007 study asked over 20,000 teens and adults if the busyness of life gets in the way of developing their relationship with God. The response: six in ten Christians said they are too busy for God.335 Are you? Don’t think of it as adding one more thing to your schedule, think of it as taking time to refuel. God’s Word has so much power to change your life today. Although written centuries ago, the Bible is still fresh and relevant. •

We pray because we want, above all else, to know and dialogue with God. Decide on the best alone time for you. Make a commitment to start with ten to fifteen minutes a day.

Carve out some family time to read a devotion or study a book of the Bible. Studies show that families who have at least one faith dialogue per week are much stronger in their faith and have closer relationships.336

Pray as a family for your needs. Dinnertime seems to work best for many families.

Parents, ask your kids what they would like to pray for. Kids, ask your parents what they would like to pray for. This is an opportunity to get closer.

Acknowledge God Is Always Present “Footprints,” a poem that has been reprinted more than a million times, describes God as an invisible friend walking beside us in the sand. Keep in mind, God is sitting next to you at the breakfast table, on the school bus, in your classroom. He’s sleeping right next to you. He’s driving with you in your car. He’s everywhere you are … just waiting to be invited into your life.


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Dian Fossey had been the world’s leading authority on the mountain gorilla before her murder in December of 1985. An unlikely chain of circ*mstances led Fossey to her eventual demise high in the fog-enshrouded mountains of eastern Africa. Dedicated to the animals she made her life work, her short life included tragedy, controversy, and extraordinary courage. After years of living among them, the gorillas came to accept her as one of them. She named them, cradled their babies, and cried with them when they mourned their dead. She imitated their vocalizations, grooming habits, and eating practices. Dian was knifed and murdered, most likely by poachers, whose trade she sought to destroy. She died for those she came to live among and save. Two thousand years ago, Jesus Christ left the comforts of his home in heaven for earth. He identified with us, learned our names, wept with us, and healed us. A man on a mission, he too died for those he came to live among and save. The difference is, he came on purpose to die. To Jesus it didn’t matter the cost or the pain. He never wandered through his life divided between his desires and his purpose. He pressed on against all odds in the face of ridicule, false accusations, and a plot to murder him. Jesus’s mission was to restore broken relationships between people and God. His Father sent him because “God so loved the world” (John 3:16, niv). You are the world to him. He came to bring you together with the Father. He knows establishing a personal relationship with God the Father is the key to filling your soul.

The Garden and the Cross Who can forget the events and emotions of September 11, 2001? The World Trade Center towers were attacked … and they fell killing thousands. The camera crew from one news station followed a fireman into one of the towers. The fireman became one of those

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he sought to save. What a picture of a mission, of heroism, and heartbreak. Somewhere around a.d. 30 the Son of the living God, Jesus Christ came here on a rescue mission. He rushed into a man-made tower built of brokenness and sin to save the very people he desperately longs to know. Jesus voluntarily allowed the tower, and all it represented, to collapse upon himself, all in the name of those he would have a chance to know—you and me. Isaiah prophesized hundreds of years earlier, that Jesus would be despised and rejected—a man of sorrows, acquainted with bitterest grief (Isaiah 53:3). Before the resurrection, there had to be the crucifixion. And before the crucifixion, there had to be Gethsemane, the place where Jesus and his disciples prayed the night before. In the Bible, the garden of Gethsemane is known as the site of agony, where Jesus was taken prisoner by the Jews and suffered intense anguish and physical shock. Filled with mortal fear, Jesus prayed. He would stand before God answering for the sin of the entire world. So exhausted, an angel appeared to strengthen him.337 All God’s holy wrath and hatred toward sin, stockpiled since the dawn of mankind, was about to be poured out on Jesus. He had to do it—pay for our sins—so someday he could end evil and suffering without destroying the human race. He cried harder, so hard that his sweat became like drops of blood (Luke 22:44). It had to have been simply unbearable. Can you imagine the weight of that on your soul? No wonder he sweated blood. This man poured his whole strength, physical, and spiritual being into a plea that God would rescue and save him. Not once. Not twice. But three times he asked his Father to take away his cup—his forthcoming tribulation. The cup symbolized God’s divine judgment and the agony of alienation from his Father during the approaching crucifixion. I wonder if he thought, I really want to fulfill this mission, but isn’t there an easier way out? Jesus said, “Everything is possible for you. Take away this cup from me.” Jesus expressed his true feelings. Yet he submits to God, “I want your will, not mine” (Mark 14:36, tlb). Jesus could have called on his Father, and God could have sent out more than twelve legions of angels at the moment of his arrest


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(Matthew 26:53). That is roughly 72,000 celestial beings—but he doesn’t. There is no Starwars trilogy for Jesus. Instead he accepts God’s answer—Sorry Son! He didn’t pout, deny or rebel against his Father because he knew his mission would pave the way for eternity for all his followers. Jesus’s focus rests on God’s ultimate plan. The disciples surely didn’t help Jesus. First, they fell asleep when he asked for prayer, and then they deserted him (Mark 14:50). When Jesus needed encouragement and support, there was no one. Not one friend stood by him. Most of us have been guilty of leaving someone in the lurch, as well as possibly denying Christ as Lord in vital areas of our lives. Yet Jesus didn’t let their actions distract him from his purpose.

It Is Finished! In The Passion of the Christ, a film that broke box-office records, the audience witnesses an according-to-the-Bible account of Jesus’s last hours on this earth. Beginning in the garden of Gethsemane, the film centers around his arrest, trial, torture, crucifixion, and resurrection, events commonly known as “the passion.” Seeing these events on film shakes you up when you realize what your Savior went through for you and me. A large percent of the audience, including myself, wept during the entire movie. Some couldn’t take the brutality and walked out. In most theaters, when the movie ended people just sat there. I did. They were either sobbing or in a state of shock or melancholy. Others were so stunned they couldn’t speak for about half an hour. Because of the pain Jesus Christ endured on the cross, moviegoers actually felt his passion of love for them. Who wouldn’t be stunned? On the day of the crucifixion, Jesus was despondent, despaired, and undoubtedly overwhelmed. They did appalling and horrifying things to him—”his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any manand his form marred beyond human likeness” (Isaiah 52:14, niv). But he stood strong, ready to face damnation. The physical agony would be horrific, but the spiritual separation from God would be the final torment. He knew that in that moment, when he took on all the righteous wrath and justice of God due us, he would no longer feel like he belonged to the Father.

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As death closed in, as was custom, Jesus carried his own cross. His body was so weak from sleep deprivation, despair, pain, and abuse that he fell under that weight. As Jesus mustered every ounce of strength, tenderly placing one battered foot in front of another, he noticed a group of women openly weeping. He knew their hearts were bleeding and he said, “Do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children” (see Luke 23:27–31). In the midst of his own anguish, he stopped to console and warn these women of great suffering to come in the decades ahead, a fact supported by history. For a few years, to pacify my body image and my boyfriend, I ran a couple miles a day. It was a struggle. I really didn’t enjoy it, probably because I smoked at the time. I ran a couple of 10Ks and collapsed on the finish line—huffing and puffing, my legs as wobbly as Jell-O. This is the closest I’ve ever come to falling under immense weight. And I most certainly didn’t have compassion for anyone else! In an act of mockery, a sign was nailed to Jesus’s cross that read “King of the Jews.” I wonder what sign might be nailed to our coffins. “Queen of the Celebrity Gossip Sites.” “Almighty Shopper.” “The Great Body.” “King of Sexting.” “Depressed and Addicted.” On that dark day he laid his head back on a beam of wood covered by a crown of thorns. (The crown of thorns represented evil, called “the curse”; see Genesis 3:17–19.) He cried out in a loud voice to his Father in heaven, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken [deserted] me?” (Matthew 27:46, niv). Jesus never did anything to deserve this, but he still uses the language of intimacy—”my God.” There may be no greater inner torture than the loss of a relationship we deeply value. If your spouse, parent, boyfriend, best friend, or a person you trust and admire rejects, criticizes, or condemns you, you hurt deeply. We cannot, however, imagine what it would be like to lose the infinite love of the Father that Jesus had from all eternity. Oh, to see the agony written on his face bearing the overwhelming weight of sin, every bitter thought and evil deed. That is what sin is—the great separator of us from God. When we carry the


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weight of our own sin on our backs, we no longer feel a sense of belonging to God. We are still his children but we don’t feel worthy because sin can make us feel isolated from God. In that one moment, he became the greatest cursed sinner that ever lived. As he hung there waiting to exhale his last breath, what went through his mind? Thankfully, this nightmarish ordeal is almost over and I can get back to heaven! Or I am overjoyed! Soon everyone will have an opportunity to be reconciled to my Father for eternity! This is a picture of the suffering servant. Terrified by what he knew, he was willing to take on this damnation motivated by his love for you and me so we could be put right with God. He took upon himself my sin, your sin; the sin of every thief, murderer, abortion doctor, adulterer, robber, abuser, blasphemer, drug dealer, and every mob and sex trade organizer in the world. We should shudder as we remember the atrocious climax of his mission. Beaten, afflicted, mocked, spit on and stabbed, Jesus took on the cross and our punishment. By grace, he took it all away. This is why he came and died. In our world we may barter—exchange goods and services for a relatively equal value. But God offers to trade his holy righteousness for our dirty sin. Somehow Christ’s death puts us right with God and gives us a fresh start. We get a “do-over.” That is how passionately he loves us. If we could even begin to grasp what it cost God to redeem us, we would understand our immense worth. That day he tore off every sign from our coffins and replaced it with forgiveness and grace, with healing and unconditional love. Jesus took onto himself every one of our faults, each imperfection—all of our offenses. As a result a space was created—a hole in our soul, that “something,” which can only be filled by him. Then he took his last breath and proclaimed victory, “It is finished.” Scripture says, “At that moment the curtain of the former temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split” (Matthew 27:51, niv). Death was crushed by the risen one—Jesus Christ. The dead were raised to life and Paradise opened up. Can you imagine witnessing this? Now every human being would have a chance to be bornagain! There is no other name by which we can be saved (Isaiah

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43:11). All who receive Jesus as their Savior can enter into the presence of God—now and forever. This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son (John 3:16). This is the gospel. You now have the key to unlock a direct connection with God! Oswald Chambers, a prominent twentieth century Christian minister, wrote: The Cross did not happen to Jesus: He came on purpose for it … The Cross is the exhibition of the nature of God, the gateway whereby any individual of the human race can enter into union with God. The centre of salvation is the Cross of Jesus. Salvation comes from God alone. The reason it is so easy to obtain is because it cost God so much. It is the point where God and sinful man merge with a crash and the way to life is opened, but the crash is on the heart of God.338 You and I have been set free! Now we choose to obey and follow Jesus Christ because we want to please the one who rescued us. We do this despite the fact that the values and standards of Jesus are in direct conflict with the commonly accepted values and standards of our world. But through the grace of God we make ourselves willing and available. Thank you, merciful and gracious God, for choosing your Son, Jesus, to die on the cross for my sins. For doing so, he defeated death and the devil!

A New Life A prisoner to this culture’s customs, I wrote this poem titled “American Dieting Woman” at age nineteen. Empty, hurting, loud, and starved. Is it worth pain, fatigue, a crabby disposition? They do it—models, actresses, even moms, All for what? For appraisal, for one’s ego, for love. I call this hurt, emptiness, starvation, will power, and self-control.


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Is this what being an American woman is all about? On the day I was born again, this “American dieting woman” died. When Jesus comes into our life, life changes radically—if we allow him to take control. The Bible says, “If anyone is in Christ, he [she] is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17, niv). This is grace—an expression of God’s love, which gives us the ability to live extraordinary lives beyond our natural ability. If you want this life, a new life of freedom to be yourself and experience Jesus firsthand, read this prayer out loud and from your heart: Dear Jesus, I acknowledge I am a sinner. I ask your forgiveness now. I believe you shed your blood on the cross and died for my sins. I believe you were raised from the dead. I accept you as my own personal Savior and am willing to turn from my sin. Transform my life so I may bring glory and honor to you alone, not to myself. Thank you Jesus for dying for me and giving me eternal life. Amen. The Bible says, “This is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is found in his Son. The person who has the Son has this life. The person who doesn’t have the Son of God doesn’t have this life” (1 John 5:11–12, gw). If you just prayed this prayer, you have made the wisest decision. You have been born again and your life is about to change! Your world will be turned upside down in a positive and powerful way. The Holy Spirit now dwells within you. He is about to begin doing that “good work”—to grow you more like Christ, becoming the person God intends you to be. Jesus tells us to go and tell someone (Matthew 10:32). If you haven’t already done so, begin reading your Bible, beginning in the Gospel of John. Find a Bible-believing church and youth group to attend. Keep pursuing Jesus. He will enable you to fulfill your purpose in life.

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Just Say No Heidi, the teen I mentioned before, her desire since middle school was to be a missionary. She knew she could only do this through the power of Jesus because this pop culture’s rituals and pulls were too strong. We all are called to be missionaries. A missionary is a person sent by God into a specific area to carry out his work. Our missionary field may be no further than our own community. Heidi told me, I noticed when my friends in school were partying it was mostly a mask to cover their hidden pains. I’m sure the way of “the world” can be fun. But I know it will only last a short time and the outcome usually ends up being a disaster. There were times I wanted to join in, but I realized that it wasn’t worth it. I definitely made some bad decisions in my life, but I chose to get back up and to learn how to surrender my life to our loving and patient Lord. Your actions will always reveal what you believe. People are always watching, and they know a hypocrite when they see one. I think that is what navigated me away from “the world.” I loved Jesus and pursued Him, and I felt the results, His grace. I knew that a life with God was absolutely more fulfilling than momentary entertainment. Jesus asked, “What are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans [a person who is not a Christian] do that?” (Matthew 5:47, niv). Jesus has a way of making us take a good, hard look at ourselves. But he always provides an answer: “My yoke is easy” (Matthew 11:30, niv). In other words, Tap into my power. I will empower you to go beyond your ability! Despite the many obstacles, you, like Heidi, can shine in the corner of the world God has called you to.

Heidi said no to the culture’s customs. Interviews with kids that say no reveal they are more highly respected by their peers than the yessaying kids.339 The no-sayers may not be part of the popular group or invited to many parties but long-term they are able to maintain


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their dignity, value and reputation. Yes-sayers are ultimately riddled with guilt and shame throughout their lifetime (I know!). However, we need to remember that peer pressure and their need to fit in is extremely strong. So strong that it can be very hard to stand up to their peers. In fact, a Boys and Girls Club of America 2006 study of over 46,000 thirteen to eighteen-year-olds found that preteens say the worst advice their parents can give is to “Just say no!” Most teens say adults just don’t get it—the pressure. What they say they want from their parents are actual strategies to counter the pressure.340 This is why communication and relationship is so important. If you truly know them and are in tune with their world, then you are in a better position to present honest strategies to help them. Paul said, “Everything else is worthless when compared with the priceless gain of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I have put aside all else, counting it worth less than nothing, in order that I can have Christ” (Philippians 3:8, tlb, my emphasis). Before meeting Jesus, Paul had accomplished a lot. Yet he said no to his success because to him it was rubbish when compared with the importance of knowing Jesus. Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing” (John 14:12, niv). Do you want to be merely a copy? No! Are you ready to make changes in your thinking and lifestyle? Yes! Think about these questions: •

Are you willing to change your standards (your morals and values) to know Jesus Christ better? Why or why not?

Will you make a commitment to rearrange your busy schedule in order to set aside time for prayer and Bible study—both at home and at the church?

Will you change some of your plans, desires, and goals in order to follow Jesus?

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Are you willing to lose some friends approval?

Oh man, I just don’t know if I can! Yes, you can! The Bible says that every child of God can defeat the world (this culture). It is our faith in Jesus that gives us this victory (1 John 5:4). That faith equals power, which will help you every single day, to live a morally renewed, authentic, and extraordinary life. As the living Jesus Christ works in and through you, you can’t help but be transformed—day by day, week by week, and year by year.

He Came to Meet Our Unmet Needs First Sergeant Corey Myers served two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. He came home with a Purple Heart and shrapnel lodged in his back and talks about another soldier lost to a sniper’s bullet.341 There are thousands more stories. Nearly one in five soldiers who served in Iraq or Afghanistan has post-traumatic stress disorder or minor depression.342 As we behold our brave military, we can begin to understand something about Jesus’s mission. The message of the Gospel is about the Son of Man restoring and freeing the lost (Luke 19:10). Step back in time with me before Jesus came to earth. The Old Testament references priests, sacrifices, tabernacles and other ideas unfamiliar to us. Termed the Old Covenant, the high priest would enter the Most Holy Place of the tabernacle (the portable dwelling place for the divine presence of God), one day each year to ask for forgiveness for the Jewish nation’s sins. He would offer God a sacrifice and use an animal’s blood to atone for (make up for) his own sins and for the peoples sin (see Hebrews 9:6–8; 10:19). This sacrificial system was inadequate. The priests themselves were sinners like the people they served and not always holy in character. No matter how devoted and obedient these priests were, they could not meet the needs of all the people. When Jesus Christ came he instituted the New Covenant, which we are under today. We have the opportunity to receive salvation as a free gift. Through the Holy Spirit, who lives in all believers, we can enjoy a permanent, unbroken relationship with God.343 Scripture says Jesus Christ perfectly meets all of our needs. No celebrity high priest or other person or substance can fill the hole in the center of your soul. Jesus said, “Your Father knows what


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you need before you ask him” (Matthew 6:8, niv). The Apostle Paul declared, “My God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19, niv). Perhaps you are shaking your head, saying, “My needs are not being met! God must not hear my prayers.” What might be some reasons our needs aren’t being met? 1. We don’t ask. 2. We ask with wrong motives. 3. We doubt. 4. We have sin in our life we hang on to. 5. We don’t ask for our real deep down need to be exposed. 6. We reject his way. We don’t ask. In James’s letter he wrote, “You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures” (James 4:2–3, niv, my emphasis). We are given two reasons why God may not answer: One, we simply do not call on him. Maybe we don’t want to hear his answer. God told King Ahaz, “Ask the Lord your God” (Isaiah 7:11, niv). But Ahaz really didn’t want to know what God would say. Or we forget and get too busy. We ask with the wrong motives. John tells us, “He [God] will listen to us whenever we ask him for anything in line with his will” (1 John 5:14, tlb). The emphasis here is on God’s will, not our will. God is not a shopping fulfillment center. I heard a pastor say, “Nothing lies beyond the reach of prayer except that which lies outside the will of God.” One thing is clear: we erroneously believe that God’s will is stricter, narrower, and most certainly, unexciting. This is a lie. The Bible says, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9, niv). If we have a dynamic relationship with God, and we expose our hearts and minds regularly to his Word, our prayers will more often than not fall within the boundaries of his will. We adjust our prayers in light of what we learn about God and

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his will. The more God fills our hearts and minds with him, the more eagerly we pray and ultimately get what we desire. We doubt. John then says, “If we really know he is listening when we talk to him and make our requests, then we can be sure that he will answer us” (1 John 5:15, tlb). When we remove doubt and unbelief from our hearts, we make room for greater things. But we must believe his will for our lives is extraordinary and far exceeds our own. We have sin in our life we hang onto. God is so holy he cannot look at sin, which is why we are counseled to confess it and ask for forgiveness. John Stott said, “Sin and the child of God are incompatible. They may occasionally meet; they cannot live together in harmony.” 344 We don’t ask for our real deep down need to be exposed. Instead we ask for a surface need. When I was battling bulimia, I repeatedly prayed, “God, restore me to eat like a normal person.” That was not God’s answer. Eventually, I asked him to show me the root causes for my eating disorder. Over time I found out why and what internal needs were not being met. I filled that soul-hole with Jesus first. Then he enabled me to eat like a normal person. We reject his way. Somehow we have the notion God’s way may be too difficult or painful, or just plain counter-cultural. The Israelites refused to believe God. He led them, selected the best places for them to camp, and guided them. We too prefer to do it our own way and in our own time. Scripture says the Lord heard their complaining and was very angry at them (Deuteronomy 1:34). Don’t fear; God will leave us to our own devices if that is our will. How does this list resonate with you? Ask God to reveal which one of these are a roadblock to your unanswered prayers and personal relationship with him. Today Jesus lives his resurrected life through the lives of every believer. His intention is that our faith be experienced and practiced so we make an authentic difference in the way we live. What really counts is whether we have been changed into new and different people. Make the exchange—a temporary, plastic existence for a life of authenticity. Pray, Lord Jesus, help me to see this world through your eyes that I might not value what you despise and despise what you do not value.


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Freedom from the Beast Thomas À Kempis said, “Affection for creatures is deceitful and inconstant, but the love of Jesus is true and enduring. He who clings to a creature will fall with its frailty, but he who gives himself to Jesus will ever be strengthened.”345 When Angelina realized she scored high on the celebrity worship scale, she screamed, “I can’t believe I fell for all this celebrity garbage. This is addiction. This beast is controlling my life!” The Bible has an explanation. “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8, niv). Lions are beautiful animals—kings of the jungle. As magnificent as they are, lions are beasts and stalk their prey and destroy it. When my parents went on a safari, the guides explained that lions are night stalkers. While their campsite was safe to roam about during the day, they were not to venture outside at night without an armed guard. In the darkness of night is when most beasts are the most dangerous. They usually choose victims who are not on the alert. Like the lion, there is someone who takes an extreme interest in devouring and destroying the family. As a lion is the king of the jungle, Satan is the prince or beast of this world.346 The devil is not known for prowling around in the light. The Bible says he is the ruler of the darkness (Ephesians 6:12). Darkness and sin are his turf. Jesus called Satan a thief, who comes only to steal and kill and destroy ( John 10:10). These are the beast’s goals. A most powerful being, the devil’s sole intent is to lead God’s people into moral and physical destruction. His scheme has worked from the beginning of Torn Between Two Masters


time—he baits the hook and we bite. If you don’t think Satan has you in his sights or believe he is real, that means he can come in under your radar. It sounds almost antiquated to bring up the devil in today’s world. Yet Jesus and his apostles warn us repeatedly that we have a spiritual enemy. He has been around for a longtime, prowling and stalking his prey, waiting for the precise moment to attack and destroy. More subtle than a lion, Satan likes to prey on our selfworth and image, beliefs, value systems, and relationships. Satan’s worst nightmare is that we wake up and recognize our power and worth in Jesus Christ. Think of him and his army like co*ckroaches. I lived in a co*ckroach infested apartment once. Each morning when I turned on the light in the kitchen, these little buggers ran like crazy. To repel the beast is to stay close to the light—the light of Jesus (1 John 1:7). Then watch him run like those roaches! We live in a day when people are out of control and under the power of an enemy. God doesn’t want us to settle for divorce or to face the trials of depression or the tribulations of loneliness. He wants us to put our hope in him, alone. We don’t have to believe what the beast says about us. We have the Word of God, which tells us what God says about us. He is far greater and lives in our hearts … and fights for us (1 John 4:4). Someone said, “How beautiful we become when we look at ourselves through Jesus’s eyes, despite the ugliness the beast brings into our lives.” We must recognize we are in a war against the evil of sin and the power of temptation. There is a serious struggle going on between Christ and his followers and Satan and his forces.347 However, Satan does not have the authority to devour whomever he wants. He can’t do much with a person who is sincerely devoted to Jesus Christ. The Bible says not to give Satan a foothold (Ephesians 4:27). The word foothold means a small spot or a licensed area. It’s an area of our minds over which Satan has influence or control. We


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certainly give him a larger area to dominate every time we fall for “celebrity garbage,” as Angelina calls it. Beware, the beast will become more active when he sees that you and your family are moving toward Jesus and a hold of your destiny. Thomas À Kempis said, “For Satan does not tempt unbelievers and sinners whom he already holds securely, but in many ways he does tempt and trouble the faithful servant.”348 Remember that old Christian saying, “War against you is proof you are making war.”

The Accuser The Bible calls Satan a relentless accuser (Revelation 12:10). Jesus said he is the father of all lies ( John 8:44). Accusations and lies are exceptionally powerful. If Satan can get you to believe a lie, then he can begin to work in your life to lead you away from God and into sin. John and Stasi Eldredge said, “Satan fell because of his beauty. Now his heart for revenge is to assault beauty.”349 He has done a superb job of getting us to believe the lie that we were created repulsive. Dr. Maxwell Maltz, a cosmetic surgeon and author of PsychoCybernetics, performed some impressive reconstruction procedures. After surgery many patients grumbled, “I’m still ugly!” Surprisingly, they’d complain they couldn’t see any difference. Dr. Maltz recognized that in addition to the reconstruction work on the outside the patient needed to have reconstruction work on the inside, on their self-image. He suggested their perceptions of themselves were distorted by unchallenged and often erroneous beliefs imbedded in the subconscious mind.350 It is critical we see clearly how Satan threatens our everyday lives and the church today. He knows our points of weakness—our fatal flaws. He knows our fears and the areas we feel inadequate. Some of his accusations sound familiar: •

“Your nose is too big; your thighs are too fat; you’re ugly … so starve yourself; spend all your money on plastic surgery.”

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“You have what it takes to be famous and you deserve it … so quit school and wait for them to discover you—they will, you know!”

“No one will ever love you … so isolate yourself from people and fantasize about marrying Mr. Movie Star or Ms. Supermodel.”

“Your hopes and dreams will never come to pass …  . so you’re only hope is to so copy that person … That’s not working? Then give up and commit suicide.”

We live in a culture shaped by this deceiver. Satan knows he can’t take away our salvation so he looks for every crack and flaw to exploit. Every time we tune into some celebrity website or choose to be absorbed by a particularly famous person, we are exposing that flaw and feeding the fire of the beast within our own souls. If we choose to not believe that Satan exists, it’s like removing the big bad wolf from the story. What’s left are irresponsible characters feeding on a diet of lies who believe: •

Happiness and security is found in fame, wealth, and appearance.

I deserve never-ending pleasure and comfort.

I love others, but not as much as myself.

I will only love in the short term, selectively, and with strings attached.

I love God but not with all my heart, soul, and mind.

There are no moral absolutes. Jesus is irrelevant.

To live a life of authenticity requires you believe the truth—truth that you are passionately loved by God Almighty, yet passionately hated by the devil. The spiritual life is warfare. We cannot afford to sit back and “let go and let God.” God is not going to invade our spirit, evade our own will, automatically causing us to live like Christ. God tells us to take action: “Put on the full armor of God so


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that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes” (Ephesians 6:11, niv; read verses 10–18). It’s been said, “If you do not want to reap the fruits of sin, stay out of the devil’s orchard.” Self-delusion is amazingly powerful. Satan knows the only weapon we have against it is God’s Word found in the Bible. He can’t diminish its power, but he can tempt us to think it is obsolete and useless. This is a spiritual partnership— God working in you and you working to follow him. Trust God and keep moving forward! Rest assured God will not allow anyone or anything prevent his children from carrying out his deliberate, preset, divine plan. But there will be conflict. This is why it is important to allow God to expose the lies and cracks in our personalities. Jesus often pointed out people’s faults, not because he wanted to embarrass them. He wanted to alert them to the danger. What might he be alerting you to today?

The Tempter Every time you turn on the television or open up a magazine, temptation calls. The media uses beauty queens to sell products by linking appearance to self-worth. A content analysis of thirty issues of three major teen magazines (Sassy, Seventeen, and Young Miss) found that the 46 percent of the magazine content was devoted to advertisem*nts selling beauty products, fashion, and accessories. Since advertisem*nts make up almost half of the space in teen girl magazines, they can be very influential.351 Jesus understands how we feel under the weight of temptation. He faced the tempter Satan and victoriously overcame the difficulty associated with Satan’s fiery trials.352 We need to recognize that one of Satan’s most powerful tactics is temptation. He strikes at our point of weakness with a tempting offer. It is at that point we make a choice—to let him in or shut him out. Why would God allow temptation? Through Jesus’s example we know it is to strengthen our faith and spiritual muscles. If we never had to stand against temptation, we might never know our own spiritual strength. Facing temptations will bring out either the

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best or the worst in us. Temptation is an opportunity for obedience, leading to blessings and enjoyment of God—true joy. In a culture filled with immorality, Paul gave strong encouragement to the Corinthians about temptation. “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it” (1 Corinthians 10:13, niv). Every Christian is tempted. Wrong desires are common to everyone, so do not feel singled out by Satan. God will give you the power to resist, giving you a way out. Yet we must still devise a personal strategy for fighting temptation. •

Learn to recognize people and situations that invite trouble. Then,

Run—the Bible says “flee” from anything you know is wrong (read 1 Corinthians 10:1–14 for a definition of wrong).

Weigh the pros and cons and then choose to do the right thing (Psalm 37:3).

Stand firm in your faith, be self-controlled and on guard (1 Peter 5:8, 9).

Hang out with people who love God. Stand with God’s family against Satan.

Use your most important defensive weapon—God’s Word.

Pray daily for God’s help, asking for his grace to overcome.

When I receive an enticing offer in the mail from cosmetology providers, I immediately throw out the envelope without opening it. The same goes for Internet beauty or diet advertisem*nt popups. I immediately close them. When I find myself focusing on my perceived flaws I immediately walk away from the mirror. I remind myself that God has cleansed me from my old fleshly desires. Others have successfully resisted temptation, and so can you. Remember, we have no control over being tempted. But we can


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avoid thoughts, situations, people, media programming, such as celebrity gossip sites, fashion magazines, and certain films we know either are, or could become, sources of temptation or negative self-talk. According to Jesus, we may have to become culturally “maimed” in order to preserve our purity of mind and body (Matthew 5: 29–30). The question is: are we willing to bear that loss and endure possible ridicule? We have to decide whether we want to follow the crowd or Jesus Christ, or live for this world or the next.

Truth Be Told When was the last time an advertisem*nt made you feel good about yourself? An advertiser’s job is to sell you something based on the idea you are not complete unless you purchase their product. Considering the average person sees around 1600 commercial images a day, it is no surprise we feel badly about ourselves.353 We’ve become an image-based culture. Images, as a medium, are far better than words at evoking emotions. Advertisers, through subliminal messages, feed us negative advice which we internalize. Celebs are paid millions of dollars to smile and basically say, “Buy this and you can be or look like me. If you don’t you won’t be accepted.” They have become a venue for marketing illusions and deception. Our self-worth is determined by the attitude of the culture when we fall captive to the false illusions that if we buy what they are selling we will be happy and content. These distortions are dangerously deceptive. Plato told an allegory about people in a cave who saw each other as shadows. They thought they saw clearly because shadows were all they knew. Like these cave dwellers, we think we’re in the know. Yet, when we encounter truth we feel the pain of its brightness in our maladapted eyes. So we turn back to the darkness and the deception we’re so comfortable with. Through no fault of their own, far too many people are not able to accept the truth because it is so hard to find. Scripture says, “Truth has stumbled in the streets, honesty cannot enter. Truth is nowhere to be found” (Isaiah 59:14–15, niv). Today, we are more like the people of Judah who when confronted with the truth through

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the prophet Isaiah said, “Give us no more visions of what is right! Tell us pleasant things, prophesy illusions. Leave this way, get off this path, and stop confronting us with the Holy One of Israel!” (Isaiah 30:10–11, niv) No one wants to look dumb or out of touch. Our nature is to get defensive when we’re told we’re wrong. This stubborn willingness disables us from receiving instruction or correction which keeps truth from us. Lies and illusions make us feel secure. That’s why deceptive practices are so successful. Truth is only found in the pages of the Bible. Jesus is truth; he is the most reliable source for the truth. He is reliably correct in all matters, the source to which we must conform. He habitually began his teachings in the New Testament with the phrase, “I tell you the truth.” Any other path to truth leads to destruction as we have seen. However, there are many who don’t want to recognize Jesus as truth because it sheds light on their vices, obsessions, and addictions—on their sins. As Christians we’re called to join a different kind of culture. God challenges us: “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2, niv). Eugene Peterson’s translation of Romans 12:2 in The Message says: Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. We have a choice—to stay as we are: comfortable, perhaps safe, but tragically unfilled. Or with the help of the Holy Spirit, we demolish those things that stand in the way of our relationship with God and others. We choose to know the truth—Jesus, because he will


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set us free. God is telling us we must make a break from the world, from this culture. It is not enough to merely know truth, as in head knowledge. We must ingest God’s truth so it transforms our very soul—it affects our attitude, how we behave, and how we relate to others. When truth is lived out it results in living authentically. The second half of that verse speaks about God’s will. Many people think they know God’s will, but they are mistaken. Those who don’t have a renewed mind err and go the wrong way. The next verse says, “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment …  ” (Romans 12:3, niv). According to Scripture it is permissible to “think of yourself.” Some teach otherwise—we must push off ourselves. One thirteen-year-old told me she is not allowed to like herself or talk about the things she’s good at. When asked why, she said her parents and church leaders said to do so is to be prideful. Such teachings are understandable as a result of our culture’s “it’s all about me” mindset. To be preoccupied with thoughts of one’s self is not healthy or what God intends. That is the deadly sin of pride. Yet having positive self-worth is important and should be based on “sober judgment.” It isn’t prideful to feel good about our accomplishments or to enjoy the gifts God has blessed us with—as long as we use them to glorify him and not ourselves. The Greek translation is sober-minded, which means “think soberly”—to be free from the influence of intoxicants.354 This culture presents an intoxicated, distorted view of self. This is why we are counseled to not be conformed to the world but be transformed by the renewing of our minds. How? We replace the lies, illusions, and distortions with truth. The Holy Spirit uses the Word of God to transform our thinking and, as a result, our lives. The more we read the Scriptures and the greater our understanding, the more our mind is renewed. Putting this counsel into practice is the key to living authentically. Dr. R. C. Sproul said, “The fundamental deception of Satan is the lie that obedience can never bring happiness.”355 Before we know it we realize that God does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at our heart (1 Samuel 16:7). He looks at our mind and

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our motives. We recognize that the culture’s criticism does not mean we are inferior. It means they are wrong! God’s Word consistently reflects man as being a special creature made in his divine image. The truth is, being the person God wants us to be requires a total sell-out. It requires falling in line with God’s ways. Sadly, many teens say, I don’t want that! They’ve already eaten the bait—the lies. Ask lots of questions. This is a powerful way to help teens discover truth.

Questions, spoken in their language, will help them figure out where your information fits into their world view. They are in the process of learning the difference between right and wrong, and discerning truths from deception. Getting a teen involved in a youth group and giving him or her a youth-specific Bible that includes study guides and or commentaries are relevant ways to get Jesus’s message across.

The Way Not too long ago, I was in an airport security line. I exchanged pleasantries with a sweet smiling senior woman standing in front of me. Post screening, she collected her things off the security belt and approached two airport employees standing a couple feet away, “Do you know where [something] room is?” The man on the left answered, “That’s in Terminal B. Do you know where that is?” She replied, “No, I don’t.” He then gave her directions. “Go down [blah, blah] … turn and cross [blah, blah] then turn to your right and follow the corridor halfway down [blah, blah]. It’s right there.” The poor woman, only half-comprehending what he said, started turning about blindly. Then the other man spoke, “Come with me. I’ll take you to Terminal B.” The first man told her the way; the second man became the way. Too many celebrities model the wrong way. Jesus tells us that he is the one and only Way: “I am the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6, niv). As the way, Jesus becomes our path to the Father. As the truth he is the manifestation


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of God’s promises. As the life, he joins his divine life to ours—now and in eternity. If we want to lead an authentic life, Jesus must become our Way as he did for the disciples. More than any other disciple, Matthew knew how much it would cost him to follow Jesus. Yet he never hesitated. When he left his tax-collecting business, he became permanently unemployed. For the other disciples who were fisherman, they could always return to the sea. For Matthew, there was no turning back. Two changes happened to Matthew when he chose to follow Jesus. First, Jesus gave him a new life and new identity. He not only belonged to a new group, he belonged to God’s family. Previously a despised tax collector, now he was accepted and worthy to be called a disciple. Second, Jesus gave Matthew a new purpose for his skills. He became their record keeper. The disciples were ordinary men whose lives were transformed by the power of God. The formation of a close, trusting relationship with Jesus had a great effect on their sense of worth. Jesus met Matthew’s need to feel valuable and loved. He gave him a sense of belonging. And he meets our same deep needs. Scripture says, “Far better to take refuge in God than trust in people; far better to take refuge in God than trust in celebrities” (Psalm 118:8–9, msg). Come to Jesus and ask him to help you to begin throwing those illusions out. Acknowledge you may have attached yourself to someone else or a culture’s false belief or behavior. Close your eyes, step out of your world and imagine Jesus with outstretched arms saying, “I am offering you a most glorious, fulfilling, and meaningful human experience.” What is your response? “Maybe. Let me see if something better comes along.” The truth is, it is a myth that the Christian life is dull—far from it. God will open doors you never imagined!

Now that you know Jesus Christ, the God-man, better, what can a celebrity offer that he can’t? Reflect on what God says,

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Cursed is the strong one who depends on mere humans, Who thinks he can make it on muscle aloneand sets God aside as dead weight. He’s like a tumbleweed on the prairie, out of touch with the good earth. He lives rootless and aimless in a land where nothing grows. But blessed is the man who trusts me, God, the woman who sticks with God. They’re like trees replanted in Eden, putting down roots near the rivers—Never a worry through the hottest of summers, never dropping a leaf, Serene and calm through droughts, bearing fresh fruit every season. Jeremiah 17:5–9 (msg) There are two kinds of people contrasted in this passage: those who trust in human beings and those who trust in God. Those who trust in humans, including their selves, will be cursed—seriously disappointed, impoverished and spiritually weak. That person has no strength or power to draw on. But those who stick with and put their hope in God have plenty of strength and their every need is fulfilled. Which celebrity has the ability to fulfill your deepest needs? Is there anyone you can compare to Jesus? God has designed a one-of-a kind perfect plan for you. If you deviate from this plan, you open yourself up to chaos, strife, and pain. The lure of the world and the celebrity lifestyle is so strong that it can be hard to leave it if there is nothing to replace it. We have someone to fill that counterfeit emptiness—Jesus. When his power is at work in us we grow to be people of integrity; and our wills aligned with his will. Again I ask, are you willing to give up what this pop culture represents and leave behind those things that lead to self-destruction and sin? Jesus doesn’t need anything from us. All he wants is for us to become obsessed with him, characterized by a committed, passionate love.

Part Four Born an Original Living Authentically I will instruct you (says the Lord) and guide you along the best pathway for your life; I will advise you and watch your progress. —David, Psalm 32:8 (tlb) It is so much better just to be able to say, “Send me” without having to add “where I shall have my position properly recognized, or opportunities to use my special gifts.” It is God whom we want to get recognized, not us. —Evelyn Underhill356 Pour out your heart like water in the presence of the Lord. Lift up your hands to him for the lives of your children. —Lamentations 2:19 (niv) The universe is done. The greater masterpiece, still undone, still in the process of being created, is history. For accomplishing His grand design God needs the help of man. –Abraham Joshua Heschel357


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No One Can Serve Two Masters In junior high school, I went to a party at my friend Robin’s house. Her parents didn’t provide alcohol but said if we wanted to BYO (bring your own) and drink it under their roof, it would be okay. Their reasoning: we’d just find another place to drink. I stole the alcohol from my parents’ liquor cabinet. Locating a couple empty Flintstone jelly jars, I filled them with scotch. What a picture! I took one jar for me and one for my friend Liz. To cover my tracks, I added water to the scotch bottle. We lied to our parents and said Robin invited us to spend the night. The real plan was for Liz and me to camp out with our boyfriends. We got ripped. Then I fell, face first, on a gravel road, chipping my two front teeth and cutting up my entire upper lip. Super ouch! We couldn’t go home for fear of punishment, so we stuck to the plan and camped out. Back then junior high schoolers didn’t hook up or have sex, unlike today. Hickeys were the outward sign you had been intimate with your boyfriend. This was my first real boyfriend, and he covered my entire neck with his love language. Today, teens are following the Twilight trend, leaving loving bite marks on one another as a sign of affection. Biting is their form of kissing, visible for everyone to see. In the morning I reluctantly called my dad to pick me up. “Meet me at Robin’s in thirty minutes.” He got there in twenty-something. When I wasn’t there, he high-tailed it to Liz’s house. Liz had confessed to her mom, and now Dad knew almost everything. He drove back to Robin’s only to find his princess in an unrecognizable state.

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“What happened to you? Get in the car!” He thought I had been attacked. “I fell down the stairs, and some kids pulled me up by my neck.” He already knew we had been drinking. Punishment was unavoidable. My parents made it clear my actions were unacceptable. Yet they told me they still loved me, words I clearly remember today. Teens need to understand that rules or punishments come out of a loving heart and a desire for their best. School on Monday morning wasn’t much better. A teacher only rubbed salt in the wound when he called me “Hickey Hansen” (my maiden name). Would this not have happened if Robin’s parents had not normalized that “all kids will drink”? I don’t know. I do know, due to peer conformity, I continued this behavior. When we say “all kids” get drunk or have sex or act out or fight, we are normalizing their behavior, which denies potentially dangerous consequences. Thirty-three percent of high school teens say they are allowed to consume alcohol at home for special events. Among college students, the numbers rise to 80 percent.358 According to Dr. Pinsky, parents don’t understand that while experimentation is normal for teens, it can quickly escalate and become problematic—through excessive drug or alcohol use, or sexual acting out. Internet obsession may lead to meeting strangers.359 Parents and influential adults have a responsibility not to normalize any type of destructive behaviors. Dr. Kimberly Dennis, medical director at Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center, advises parents to talk with their children about alcohol consumption before it becomes an issue. Parents should counsel them about the risks; such as, drunk driving, alcohol poisoning, and blackouts. She also said to watch for signs that your child may be drinking. While denial is one of the first signs of an alcoholic, it is also one of the first reactions a parent will have to a child with a substance abuse problem.360


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Monkey See, Monkey Do Ginger, a single mom, repeatedly spoke of the lack of communication and fights she’d have with her fifteen-year-old daughter. “I just can’t get through to her,” she’d cry. “I’ve made so many mistakes. I picked two loser husbands. We’ve been through bankruptcy twice. What kind of model am I? I’m so afraid she’s going to rebel and choose a reckless lifestyle … be anorexic or a drunk like her father!” I asked if I could interview her daughter. We talked awhile about the influence of celebrity on her and her high school friends. Then I asked, “Who would you consider your most powerful role model?” “My mom,” she answered. I asked why. She said she respected her mom for working so hard, day after day. She knows she’s endured so much adversity and has committed to do whatever it takes to keep their family floating. Mom lives a life surrendered to God. She models faith in Jesus Christ and ongoing perseverance. I asked, “Have you ever told her this?” She rolled her eyes up and replied, “No.” Who is watching your life today, observing your decisions as you choose between loving Jesus and loving the world? Think about what messages you are sending your kids. Someone said, “Children have never been too good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.” Children learn a lot about how to think and act by watching their parents or their caregivers. That’s their chief interest.361 Even Jesus imitated his Father. John 5:19 says, “The Son can’t independently do a thing, only what he sees the Father doing. What the Father does, the Son does” (msg). With a sigh of disgust, one mom said she saw her past come alive through the actions of her daughter. That old sayings goes, “Monkey see. Monkey do.” One thing I’ve learned as a youth leader and from high school teachers is the teens are always watching us. We assume they are ignoring us because we’re not cool. They say

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they prefer their friends’ opinions. Many a time I’ve tried to break into a conversation between two teens and you’d think I was invisible. But more often they are simply trying to act the part. Often, we are not even aware that they are watching us monkeys. Kids learn nearly every interpersonal activity by watching models. The way you see yourself now, as a grownup, was shaped in your early years. We learn from our parents whether we are loved, valued, and competent. We also learn how to handle arguments, frustration, our weight, our relationship with our parents, how to solve problems, what to eat and drink, posture, and movements—everything is learned by watching the “big people” in our lives. Haley commented, “I see my mom lose it all the time, especially with my younger brother. That gives me the go-ahead to lose it too.” Sara snapped, “Mom, if you don’t like my ‘tude, look in the mirror. I’m acting like you!” Plastic surgeon Dr. Joseph Bivens of Newport Beach said, “The use of Botox in teenagers is a growing phenomenon … Much of this is due to the fact that the mothers and fathers of the teens are using the product in greater and greater numbers.”362 What can we do? Become conscious of your vocabulary and attitude. Words and actions can wound. When taken into little minds, they shape us. “My mom was always complaining about how fat she was,” said Charlene in youth group. “She was a size six and I was a size ten so how do you think that made me feel?” Even statements which appear positive, such as “You look great! Have you lost weight?” reinforces the idea to the teen they must be thin in order to look good. We embrace insensitive actions and cutting words as truth. Imagine how you’d feel if your dad introduced you as “my bratty daughter.” If you suffered verbal abuse as a child, you may find yourself treating your children the same way because you have accepted a false view of yourself. According to Jesus, we can commit murder with our words (Matthew 5:22). In his eyes malicious anger and insults are horrible crimes.


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Become conscious of what you’re watching. We’ve all heard the saying “Garbage in—garbage out.” Most movies and media today pull our minds into the gutter. Negative media direction can make the adolescent journey a great deal more difficult.363 The only way to protect the mind is to expose it to the best. Write down how many times a day your family interacts with media: TV, computer, cell phone, Wii, etc. Compare that to how many times a day you participate in a faith-based exercise such as prayer, reading the Bible and or a devotional, or listening to a Christian radio talk-show or music. Give the gift of time. Frederick Douglas said, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”364 Today’s parents must spend both quality and quantity time engaging with their children, especially during these key developmental years. You’re not alone in your tough journey as a parent. Lean on the Master. Love is spelled T-I-M-E. And don’t rule out grandparents! Annie Fox, an online advisor for teens and author of Middle School Confidential, said, Grandparents can be a wonderful antidote to the stresses of peer group, school, and home, as they are less likely to have ‘carved-in-stone’ expectations of the child. Grandparents also have fewer short-term expectations than parents, so it’s easier for the child to just ‘be’ with a grandparent.365

Loving Our Bodies—Loving Ourselves Trending today are ultra-thin celebrities who garner too much media attention when it comes to extreme dieting. As the stars cleanse, fast, eat baby food, drink cabbage soup, veg up, and survive on liquids, star-struck teenagers follow suit. Naturally we want our teens to develop a healthy body image. The time your teen spends grooming, fussing over what to wear, or comparing herself to friends and celebrities are the ways

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she or he is getting to know their new self they see reflected in the mirror. In addition, finding a group to belong to plays a major a role in heightening their concern about appearances. They are making a statement about themselves when they experiment and express their taste in clothes, hair styles and make-up. Developing a healthy body image happens over time. A number of factors influence it: life experiences, the opinions of others, and cultural messages. As your teen tries to find herself or himself in this new world of raging hormones, you can help by being accepting and supportive. Compliment your teen. It might be frustrating when she or he takes over the bathroom for hours, or looks ridiculous in your eyes; nevertheless, avoid criticizing them for being concerned about their appearance. Reassure her or him not only about their new look, but also about other important qualities. Encourage other character qualities that keep appearance in perspective. Tell her or him what personal qualities you love about them— how caring she is to her siblings, how determined he is when studying for tests, or how supportive she is of her friends. Reassure him when he expresses insecurity. Set boundaries. While it is important to be patient and supportive, you are still the parent, and still in charge. Set boundaries on how much time she can spend on grooming and dressing. Tell him it’s not acceptable to inconvenience others or let chores go. Limits like these can help them develop time management skills, consideration for others, self-discipline, while keeping appearances in perspective. Monitor the messages you send your children about your own selfworth. I believe when we criticize ourselves we’re telling God he’s done a crummy job. The Apostle Paul said, “Who are you to criticize God? Should the thing made say to the one who made it, “Why have you made me like this?” (Romans 9:20, tlb). Many adults don’t even realize they are a role model of negative body image. When kids hear you complaining and picking yourself


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apart, or picking at others, they begin to believe they must be inadequate. How many times a day to you criticize something about yourself? How often do your children hear you talk about dieting, your appearance, or what others say or think about you? We’re all a little guilty of self-condemnation. •

“Look at my belly. My thighs are huge! I really need to lose ten pounds.”

“I wished I looked like [celebrity name] … or had [celebrity’s] money so I could hire a trainer and really get into shape. Then life would be perfect.”

“I bet I’d get more job offers if I looked ten years younger. Maybe I should make an appointment with a plastic surgeon.”

The culture teaches us to use our body as a means to get what we want. However, the Bible states, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you … Therefore honor God with your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19–20, niv). Honoring God with our body is to love our body because we are created in his image. We are conscious that his Spirit resides in us. In a world where nearly everyone is under the control of other influences, the temple is the one place where God is fully in control. Your spirit and the indwelling Holy Spirit are united as one in your body. Mom, be a positive model of body image. Learning to live harmoniously in one’s own flesh can be a journey of a lifetime (believe me, I know!).If this is an area you struggle with, work with God to make peace with your body. The journey begins when we start discarding the illusions our society has sold us, namely, that happiness resides in the size and appearance of our bodies. Consider Maryanne, a woman diagnosed with breast cancer. In the middle of her personal chaos, she asked a professional photographer to shoot a nude photograph to remind herself what she looked like before surgery. Her awareness of the fragility of life led

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to a new appreciation of her body. Previously, she considered herself overweight. Now she saw her body as beautiful. Artists traditionally have celebrated the body’s beauty and mystery, and scientists have marveled at its intricate functions. How many of us will wait until something life-transforming happens before we appreciate our bodies? Jesus Christ never taught a negative view of the body. The New Testament teaches the body is good and affirms that believers’ bodies are actually joined in some mysterious way with Jesus. Loving our bodies is desperately needed in this culture. The Apostle Paul said even though it feels like our outsides are falling apart, on the inside, God is renewing us, making new life (2 Corinthians 4:16). We’ll try whatever’s trending to keep looking thin and youthful. But Paul found the way to defeat the years— the perpetual fountain of youth. The body gets older, but the spirit remains young. Time has no meaning when we live dependent on the Holy Spirit. We have to believe this enough that it changes how we think and live. That is faith. In the future, believers will have bodies that surpass all expectations. Our bodies will glow with the radiance of God’s beauty (see Philippians 3:19–21). Yet today we can experience an ongoing internal transformation so powerful we can actually be content with our bodies and appearance. Actress Sophia Loren said, “There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love.”366 Let God counsel you with his Word. As you begin replacing cultural lies and negative beliefs with his Word, you will be able to look in the mirror and say, “I’m beautiful! I can see it!” Dad, examine your attitude about appearance and weight. What kind of comments do you make about your children’s and other peoples’ appearances? Are any of your children the brunt of family jokes? You may not intentionally mean to hurt your child but your


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words on the subject of weight, appearance or body image may be insensitive, discouraging and damaging. Educate your kids about their own dignity and value. As you make peace with your own body, encourage your children to love theirs. They must learn their body is not an object or commodity to be exploited and used for mere sexual gratification. Their body is to be guarded and respected because it was designed by God himself. Young girls need to understand what their body does for them—it dances, swims, runs, fights off infections, and gets them to the bus stop every day. Someday it will the home for a developing fetus and will nourish a baby. A girl with high self-worth remains true to herself and accepts her body as a gift from God. She resists others’ attempts to evaluate and define her by her appearance. Nutritionally, she learns to listen to what her body needs, not to her mind and what the culture says. She knows that God put her on this earth to fulfill an assignment and she cannot fill her assignment if she is not healthy. Teach girls to say no. I am part of an organization that goes into middle and high schools. We talk to girls about the prevalence of abuse and dating violence. In America, every two minutes someone is sexually assaulted.367 We reiterate to them that they are amazing and have inane value, and despite peer and cultural pressure, they have the right to say no. No, you cannot touch me. You do not have my consent! They don’t “owe” any guy anything. Also keep in mind, teens are in the position of being role models to younger children. The best way to teach your teen to be a good role model to others is to be a good role model yourself. As you make choices and live a godly lifestyle that provides the right kinds of examples for your teen, you help them see that they too can make a difference by being a role model to others.

Marriage for a Lifetime? Hollywood is filled with celebrities who impulsively wed, only to split up within a year. Rare is the couple who makes it to their five

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year anniversary. And it’s not just Hollywood. Celebrity divorces are so common that they are no longer considered newsworthy. When I was a senior in college, my friend announced she was getting married. The excitement of the moment became marred when she announced, “If it doesn’t work out, we’ll just get divorced!” This pop culture endorses the view that if I no longer “love” my partner I’ll merely dissolve the contract and find someone else. Clearly, the trends are running against traditional marriage. Pew Research Center, in association with TIME magazine, conducted a nationwide poll. They found marriage is “just not as necessary as it used to be.” 368 It is easy to make a vow forever when you are “in love.” The embodiment of emotions and that sense of profound oneness are overbearing. We call that romantic love, infatuation, passion, even lust. But reality says these emotions and the fairy tale ending doesn’t last. We can get addicted to romantic love; it fills our soul-hole. It’s a thrill. When the feelings dissipate, we choose to end the relationship and look for the next person who will make us feel “gushy” all over again. Many teens today have the idea that if you have married the right person then you can expect to be “in love” forever. As a result, when that person discovers they are not completely in love, they believe they made a mistake and are entitled to change their mind—never realizing that the same thing will happen with the next person and the next. Years ago I heard a celeb state he got divorced because he didn’t like waking up to an ugly duckling. Translation: “I will only love and be committed to you if you’re made up and looking beautiful.” We hear stories all the time of men divorcing their “fat” wives. And the media continues sending the messages that in order to be an acceptable wife or partner you must be a pretty package. Contrary to the celebrity culture, Christianity teaches that marriage is for life. Gary Thomas, author of Sacred Marriage wrote, “We have to stop asking of marriage what God never designed it to


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give—perfect happiness, conflict-free living, and idolatrous obsession.” Instead, he says, we can appreciate what God designed marriage to provide: partnership, spiritual intimacy and the ability to pursue God.369 When that “in love” feeling ceases, which is does in scores of marriages, it does not mean you cease to love and choose divorce. “In love” is a feeling. “Loving” your spouse is choice when the feelings go away. C. S. Lewis said, It is a deep unity maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit; reinforced by (in Christian marriages) the grace which both partners ask, and receive, from God. They can have this love for each other even at those moments when they do not like each other.370

This is realistic love. God intends marriage to be a lifelong commitment (Genesis 2:24). His institution is intended to be exclusive and permanent—a yoking of two people into a union which we must not break (Matthew 5: 31–32). Divorce is hurtful and destructive. No one should enter marriage while considering divorce an option. Mom and dad, what kind of love is your marriage running on? You can witness the depth of God’s love by honoring biblical marriage. Do you see one another the way God sees you? Most of us fail to grasp just how much God loves our spouse. Remain faithful to one another in body, heart and mind. Pray for one another. Ask God to help you to model and teach your teens what Christian love and marriage means. Begin praying for your children’s future spouses. You want them to have spouses who love them despite their imperfections.

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Maximum Self-Worth Jolene had two daughters in their early teens. One was what our culture would call “gorgeous.” The other was rather plain or “average.” One day as they were getting ready for school, the betterlooking girl peered into the mirror beside the face of her plain sister. She struck a model pose to rub in her sister’s lack of good looks. Jolene called both girls and gave them this advice, “I want both of you to look in the mirror every day. You, who are favored of beauty, be reminded never to dishonor your good looks by the ugliness of your actions. You, who lack cultural beauty, excel by the superior attractiveness of your virtue and beautiful conduct.” As teenagers’ identities emerge, we want them to discover how God created them—authentic and beautiful on the inside. They need to realize they are more than packaging. They were designed to be different. We want to encourage them to look beneath the surface of themselves and others—beyond the trademark clothes, the brand of cell phone, the hairstyle of the week, past the tattoos and piercings.

Differentiation versus Conformity Jesus knew true religion was not a matter of conformity—it was a matter of the heart. He loved the differences between people and believed the greatest practice of Christianity meant participating with different kinds of people all working together to form a common bond of fellowship based upon their love for God and each other. Dr. Murray Bowen, a psychiatrist, professor at Georgetown University and pioneer of family systemic therapy, is best known for speaking about differentiation.371 Differentiation of self refers to one’s ability to separate one’s own intellectual and emotional functioning from their family. The opposite is to become a patchwork of different people in your family. Recall, the patchwork self is to Torn Between Two Masters


construct one’s identity by accepting, in pieces, parts of identities from diverse others. For decades, I scored lowest differentiation. I most certainly was a patchwork. I didn’t think for myself—I conformed. Depending so heavily on the acceptance and approval of others I’d adjust to their way of thinking and doing. A wannabe, I’d follow the crowd allowing others, even people I didn’t intimately know, call the shots in my life. To have a “well-differentiated” self is ideal because the person has a healthy and balanced sense of self and personal identity. These people live out life as their true selves—as God designed them—and by and large, have a high level of integrity. A well-differentiated person: •

Seeks humility. Humility means recognizing there is an allpowerful, sovereign and loving God—and it is not a particular celebrity … or you. Humility puts others ahead of ourselves and is pleased to see others succeed.

Recognizes they need others but doesn’t depend on their acceptance and approval.

Does not merely adopt the attitude of those around them but acquires their own principles and values, which helps them process important family and social issues, obey the Word of God, and resist the feelings of the moment, exhibiting selfcontrol. What they decide and say matches what they do.

Stays calm and clear headed in the face of conflict, criticism, and rejection.

Chooses not to cave into relationship pressures. Confident in their own thinking, they can either support another’s view without becoming wishy-washy or reject another’s view without becoming defensive or hostile. They can say no.


Empowers others. They are confident, self-assured, and give attention to others.

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Understands their value and worth, apart from others. Consequently, healthy relationships can be formed.

During World War II, a young sergeant was awarded the Victoria Cross for his act of heroism. With the lives of men on board in his hands, he climbed out onto the wing of a burning airplane secured only by a rope around his waist. Struggling against wind and enemy attacks, he put out the fire and crawled back into the fuselage of the plane. Sir Winston Churchill invited the sergeant to his home. He said, “You must feel very humble and awkward in my presence.” I think we all would if we had the chance to meet a man of such importance and celebrity. The sergeant answered, “Yes, sir. I do.” Sir Winston Churchill responded, “Then you can imagine how awkward and humble I feel in yours.” Sir Winston Churchill displayed high differentiation—his true self. As a believer in Jesus Christ we have the ability to live as our real, true selves. The Apostle John said, “Whoever believed he [ Jesus] was who he claimed and would do what he said, He made to be their true selves, their child-of-God selves” ( John 1:12, msg). All we have to do is believe it and live like it, taking his Word into our hearts while following the road map for living as described in the Bible. It is vital we help adolescents differentiate themselves. On the other hand, individuals with “low differentiation” live out life as their false selves. They are more likely to: •

Seek power and control—be arrogant and narcissistic.

Make others feel inadequate which comes from the fear they are less.

Become fused with predominant family emotions.

Depend on others’ approval and acceptance. They either conform in order to please others, or they attempt to force others to conform to their way.

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Give in to stress. They concede defeat and struggle more to adjust to life changes.

We all experience tension between the false self and our real, true self. The false self is the constructed, patchwork image we’ve created to deal with the world. It is our fleshly, human nature. It is defensive, self-protective and selfish, which makes intimacy with God and others difficult. It is a result of Adam and Eve’s sin. We too choose to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (see Genesis 2 and 3). The real self is the image of God within us, the part of us made in the likeness of God. That is the basis of our true identity. The real self has the ability to think abstractly, reason, to direct ourselves towards that which we know is good and right and beautiful. Jesus calls us to surrender to him and reject our patchwork, false selves unveiling the image of God. Today I am at peace with my real self. I can follow the plan the Lord has laid out for me and follow life goals. I state my opinion without feeling I have to agree with the other person, or feel I’m in competition with them. I can set boundaries. I know what I like and what I don’t like. I have a godly, functioning partnership with my husband. Dr. Maxwell Maltz said, “Accept yourself as you are. Otherwise you will never see opportunity. You will not feel free to move toward it; you will feel you are not deserving.” 372 Think about this: when you receive a beautifully wrapped gift, what do you do? You may sit and gaze at the pretty packaging, but it’s only for a moment. If you are like most people, you unveil the gift inside by taking off the wrapper. Our outside wrapper is not representative of the real person we are, the one God created. What can you—parent, teacher, leader, or mentor—do to begin to help a teenager (and possibly yourself ) differentiate him or herself from “the pack?”


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Who Are You? Headlines read: “[Actress] Makes Huge Fashion Misstep,” “[Actress] Remains the Dumbest Celebrity Alive,” and “How I [Actress] lost 10 pounds in 10 days.” It is a fact: our culture defines a person, most often, by their strengths or weaknesses. Tom Rath and Donald O. Clifton, authors of How Full Is Your Bucket, assert that as a culture we tend to focus on what is wrong, or our weaknesses, in order that we might “fit in” or won’t “stick out.” We all want to sit at the popular table—because of our deep need to belong. Parenting experts, Dr. Foster Cline and Jim Fay support this: “Unfortunately, many parents don’t give their children a chance to build a positive, self-concept; instead they concentrate on [building up] their children’s weaknesses.”373 Rath and Clifton state that this attitude ultimately crushes individuality and encourages conformity, despite good intentions. They point out that very few principles or guidance counselors are known for calling students or parents in to discuss outstanding grades. This weakness-based approach follows us throughout our lives—from grade school to the workplace. In the job world, you are often expected to change who you are to fit the role.374 Who are you? Who we think we are is often defined by our strengths and weaknesses. When asked that question we usually point to those things we do well, such as our gifts, implying our strengths are our identity. Or we define ourselves by our job roles. One celebrity fashion designer stated, “Who you wear says who you are.” Far too many American kids (and their parents) believe their clothes and brands describe who they are and define their social status. Adolescents with low self-esteem tend to value possessions significantly more than children with higher self-esteem.375 Consider whether these labels really give you a sense of significance. Do they make you an authentic person and give you that sense of worth you desperately desire? I like to ask teens to write me a letter telling me about their good qualities as a person. They

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cannot write about anything that has to do with body image or appearance. The person you actually are and project to others is created by the choices you make—choices often dictated by a parent. John Bevere, co-founder of Messenger International, wrote, As a youth pastor, I learned so much about parenting and family dynamics. One thing I repeatedly observed that broke my heart was how some young people just couldn’t please their parents. No matter what they did or how hard they tried, these kids didn’t measure up to their parents’ (most often the father’s) expectations. I soon discovered a pattern. These frustrated young people would keep attempting to please, but eventually, after repeated failures, they gave up and spiraled downward to a careless and loose life. Disillusioned, they felt hopeless. If the parents had given their children more positive feedback, many train wrecks could have been avoided. 376

Sadly, 70 percent of girls between the ages of eight and seventeen feel they don’t measure up in one way or another.377 Through simple words and actions, through encouragement, through modeling, the messages we send our kids shape the way they feel about themselves. A child who feels her parents only value her achievements may strive even harder to perform, which becomes a major stressor. It is also a common denominator in many eating disorders. The Bible says to speak encouraging words to one another (1 Thessalonians 5:11). Helping a teen build self-worth may be one of the most important things you do as a parent or mentor. It can determine whether they make positive choices or negative ones. Teens with high self-worth are less likely to be influenced by the negative celebrity culture and harmful friends. University of Illinois researchers found a correla-

tion between a negative self-worth and damaging behaviors such as early, unprotected sex, eating disorders, suicide, alcohol and drug abuse, and other psychological problems.378 The kind of person you desire to be influences the kind of person you are. Let’s say my goal is to be rich and famous. I will make all my decisions based on the context and principles of achieving wealth and fame, such as studying the Rockefeller empire or auditioning for The Apprentice. If I desire to be a loving and altruistic person, I will make decisions based on what will make me more loving and giving, such as studying the life of Christ and developing a relationship with him. A person can be great in little things. Parents play an integral part in the building of positive self-worth in their children by pointing them toward Jesus. Jesus taught we can only know ourselves through our relationships with him and others: “It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for” (Ephesians 1:11, msg). You are not who people say you are, you are not your job or what you wear. You are who God says you are. We tend to forget our real gift is not so much what we can do, but who we are to others—an imitation of Jesus Christ. People deserve to see who you really are. Your relationships will thrive because they are based on authenticity. What one new action can you put into practice to begin to build a teen’s self-worth?

The Power of Paternal Influence Would you believe that 11 percent of all alcohol consumed in America is consumed by teenagers?379 One of the main reasons teens turn to substances or extreme dieting is low self-worth and their desire to feel accepted by peers. A team of researchers at John Hopkins Medical School found the most significant predictor of mental illness, cancer, hypertension, heart disease and suicide, was a lack of closeness to the parents—especially the father.380

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For Dads Today female celebs glamorize single parenthood. One actress told reporters that women don’t need men to start a family or be good mothers. When Fox News anchor Bill O’Reilly caught wind of her bold statements, he railed, “She’s throwing a message out to 12-year-olds and 13-year-olds that, ‘Hey you don’t need a guy. You don’t need a dad.’ That is destructive to our society.”381 He’s correct. Considerable scientific and sociological research points toward a common conclusion: Fathers matter and offer so many benefits to their sons and daughters. A National Fatherhood Initiative publication notes that fathers who play an active role in their children’s lives can significantly increase the quality of those lives and decrease risks to healthy development.382 Dad, make time for each child. Lionel Dahmer, father of serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, wrote that his own life kept him too busy to be involved with his son, “And so I wasn’t there to see him as he began to sink into himself. I wasn’t there to sense, even if I could have sensed it, that he might be drifting toward that unimaginable realm of fantasy and isolation and that it would take nearly thirty years to recognize.”383 I’ve heard it said numerous times that only a tiny percent of teenage girls actually feel they can go to their dad and talk about a serious problem. Historically, the role of fathers has been thought to be of primary importance to the development of sons, while the raising of daughters was Mom’s territory. It is clear that although mothers play a vital role in raising daughters (and sons), a father’s relationship with his daughter can result in significant and measurable improvements to his daughter’s life. Many daughters experience “Father Hunger.” The term means there is an emptiness experienced by females whose fathers are emotionally or physically absent, creating a void. This may contribute to a daughter’s eating problems, body dissatisfaction, and low self-worth.

Dad has a big influence on a teenage daughter’s self-worth, self-image, and self-esteem. Not only do a father’s actions influence her sense of significance, experts say fathers can influence future romantic relationships positively or negatively by the way they interact with their daughter during childhood. Writing for the Child Psychology Research Blog, Lopez-Duran reported on a study of seventy-eight young women, average age of nineteen, which compared the quality of the daughters’ relationships with their fathers to the daughters’ relationships with their current boyfriends. An evaluation of three aspects: communication, trust, and time spent together, led the researchers to conclude that daughters who communicated with and trusted their fathers were likely to have similarly healthy relationships with their boyfriends and husbands.384 Another study found that a father’s presence in the home affected how early their daughter entered puberty and how early they began dating and participating in sex.385 Communicate authentically. I encourage all dads to have a date night once a week with each of their daughters. One dad said, “I try to talk to my daughter. But if I say something like, ‘How was school today?’ all she says is “Fine.’ Then I ask what she learned. She says, ‘Nothin’ new.’ What should I do?” Ask specific, open-ended questions: “You had a science test today. How did it go? How hard was it? What did your friends think of it?” Help your children develop their image of God from the Bible. The father-daughter relationship may strongly determine a child’s image of God. Many professionals agree that when Dad is present, the child develops a more balanced view of God. Through emotional involvement with his children, a father plays an indirect role in his child’s view of God as nurturer. If we feel we have to be perfect to please Dad, then we may feel we have to be perfect to please God. On the other hand, if we feel we can make mistakes and be accepted by our parents, then we can make mistakes and feel accepted by God. For Moms


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Mom, respect Dad. Sitcoms today often depict Dad as the dufuss in the family instead of a strong leader. Celebs are seen putting down, laughing at, or ignoring dear old dad—and God the Father. Considered a tough judge, Samuel S. Liebowitz said, “If mothers would understand that much of their importance lies in building up the father image for the child, the children would turn out well.”386 Children are commanded to honor their parents. Today it seems many parents make it difficult for their children to honor them when they do not honor one another or their marriage vows. In some situations honoring may be tough, especially if Dad had an affair, or he is abusing substances, or is a violent person. For love in marriage to survive, we decide to honor our husband’s position every day, regardless of how we feel about him at that moment. Take note of what you say and where. When you talk to your girlfriend on your phone and announce, “My husband is just plain lazy,” are you within an earshot of your kids? Even if you are jesting, your kids probably don’t know that. We know that if Mom doesn’t respect Dad, most likely daughter will not either; and worst, she many learn to not respect men in general. Practice mutual respect. Leslie Vernick in her book The Emotionally Destructive Relationship talks about the power of mutual respect. She first describes a healthy marital relationship and then expresses her concern for those who are in a harmful relationship. She wrote, Not only was there room for mutual love, encouragement, and caring, but there was also freedom to respectfully challenge, confront, and strengthen one another. Jesus modeled these kinds of interactions for us …  I am deeply concerned by those who discourage Christian wives from ever challenging their husbands, even when it looks like a man is driving himself or the entire family straight off a cliff. This kind of teaching is destructive, not only to the wife, who must lie to


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her husband in order to not wound his ego, but also to the husband who believes he’s doing well when in reality he’s not (Proverbs 29:1; Galatians 6:1; James 5:19–20). Each person in the relationship is harmed, a healthy marriage is impossible, and the children observe and absorb destructive relationship patterns only to repeat them in their adult lives [my emphasis].387

Eve’s creation gives us some important biblical lessons about our divinely designed role to honor our husband. Even though Eve was spiritually and intellectually Adam’s equal with dominion over all other creatures, there was nevertheless a distinction in their roles. Scripture teaches that Adam was the head for the human race, yet Eve remained Adam’s spiritual and intellectual equal. She was created to be his helper, not his supervisor or his slave. Scripture stressed the complementary nature of the partnership. Abusive relationships—I work in the area of domestic violence and know that many moms living in an abusive environment believe their children need their father, “I need to stay (or go back) because as a mom I’m obligated to keep my family together.” If you choose to stay in an abusive relationship, your female children learn they are supposed to also stay in an abusive relationship. Male children learn it is okay to hurt their girlfriends and wives. Children do not learn to solve interpersonal problems and conflict in a mutually respectful way.388 Single moms—if Dad is not present in your children’s lives, either physically or emotionally, it is critical your children develop a relationship with the heavenly Father to receive healthy self-worth. Model what that relationship looks like. Scripture says God will be a father to the fatherless (Psalm 68:5). Also, seek out a few strong male roles models who are willing to interact and spend time with your children.

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The Four-Legged Table of Self-Worth The building of a person’s self-worth can be compared to building a four-legged table. Such a table will only stand when all four legs are strong. If one leg is weak, the table will wobble. If a leg is missing, you don’t have a table. In the chapter “Which Master Meets Your Deepest Needs?” I pointed to four essential deep needs every person has: the need to belong, to feel worthy, to feel competent and have a sense of purpose, and to feel loved. Those are the four legs, which must stand strong. When they are strong, a person is on their way to being well differentiated. But the only way this table will continuously stand strong is when the person is in relationship with Jesus Christ and drinking from the fountain of living water each day. Leg #1: I Belong “For every living soul belongs to me …  ” (Ezekiel 18:4, niv). In The Disconnected Generation, Josh McDowell states that an intimate bond with teens is essential to providing a sense of authenticity, importance, security, significance, lovability, and responsibility.389 Bonding develops a sense of belonging. Encourage your teen to make a couple of close friends. They should not have to worry about belonging to a crowd or about popularity, but focus on finding a few good friends who accept them just as they are. Give them a valuable role in the home. Whether it’s a specific chore or a voice in some household decisions or preparing meals or taking care of the family pet, it is important they feel like they are a contributing member in their home. Notice and praise their contributions. Ask for their help. Even if you could do a project in less time without their help, this makes them feel needed and can give them a sense of accomplishment. The Bible says that God the Father


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loves his Son and includes him in everything and shows him everything he is doing ( John 5:20). Get girls involved with sports and fitness. Sports participation and exercise are positive alternatives to risk-taking for girls and help strengthen all four legs of self-worth. Playing sports gives girls a sense of belonging, status with peers, an opportunity to make friends, relieves stress, helps with weight control and more. Girls who play sports also learn life skills, such as teamwork, goal-setting, experience success and excellence in performance, as well as how to deal with failure.390 According to The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy involvement in sports may also be the key to decreasing the chances of your teenage daughter becoming pregnant, as well as avoiding a host of other behaviors that have serious risks.391 Parents, be an active role model yourself. Mothers who participate in sports or an exercise program increase their child’s participation rate by 22 percent. Fathers increase that rate by 11 percent.392 With childhood obesity at an all time high, getting into this habit may be a life saver. One mom said, Exercising is the most significant pledge I make to myself and I want my children to feel the way I do about the importance of making fitness a lifetime commitment. I have never forced my passion for exercise on my two daughters, instead I believe as they observe my commitment to daily training it has subtly pervaded their daily life. My oldest daughter stated it most brilliantly, just before she slipped out the door on the way to the gym, “Our parents are our best role models, not the people we see on TV or famous athletes.”393

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Leg #2: I Am Worthy “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons [and daughters] through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will …  ” (Ephesians 1:4–5, niv). A child’s four-legged table of self-worth is built through implied messages we give. Those messages either build them up, motivating them to succeed by themselves, or tear them down with discouragement. Parents need to be God-centered versus child-centered, which says, “We love you, but you must do as we say—as God’s Word says.” If we say we are a Christian that means we must choose to follow Christ, which also means we have no liberty to change or lower God’s commands. As an uncoordinated teen, I dreaded gym class. My heart caved in when it came time to choose up team players. It never failed, I’d usually be the last picked. On a good day, I’d be chosen next to last. I felt the pain of rejection, of not being chosen. In the book Teaching Children Physical Education, George Graham warns against letting school teams choose up sides. He states the custom is “excruciatingly painful to children and creates lasting, haunting impressions as adults. It should be banned from schools—against the law. It simply hurts too much to stand and wait, only to be picked last or next to last.”394 To the rejected I say, “Remember, the perfect Jesus was condemned, mocked and rejected too. Yet God said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17, niv). If we have put our faith in Jesus, we are “perfect” in God’s eyes even though we may fail in the world’s eyes. You will not always be favored with your peers. That’s a fact of life. One of my professors once stated that ten percent of the people you interact with will not like you—no matter how nice you are. The point is, you have been chosen first. God chooses you. Scripture says, “For the Lord has chosen Jacob to be his own, Israel to be his treasured possession” (Psalm 135:4, niv). Substitute


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your name for Jacob and Israel. The Bible says that God chose you before the world was ever created. He planned your birth long ago, calling every believer into a very special relationship with himself. Chosen people are special people, destined to be different— every teen needs to know and feel this. It increases self-worth. As a child of God, you have immense value and are equal in personhood to everybody else. Think of the person you most admire— you are equal to them. They are no better than you are. What makes human beings distinctive is we are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26–27). “Image” implies we mirror or reflect God: his spiritual, emotional, and relational dimensions. Ignoring who you are, a reflection of God, often results in destructive consequences. I wish I’d taken the time to know and hang out with Jesus when I was a teen. No doubt my choices would have been radically different. You are precious because you are loved unconditionally; you belong to, and are being formed by God himself to do something no one else can do. When you hang out with Jesus you are destined to be different. Clap and cheer! When Princes William was born to England’s Prince Charles and Lady Diana, being the firstborn son, he is held as the future king of England. That position determines how he will live. It has shaped his character, values, behavior, identity, thoughts, and attitudes. He knows, without a shadow of a doubt, he is a king, even though he is not in that position yet. His guaranteed future impacts his present behavior and beliefs. He is also held to a higher standard and is a role model, especially for young men. When one is born into royalty, one’s identity and destiny are fixed simply by being born. The same is true of Christians. The moment we are born again by God’s Spirit, we become children of God and heirs.395 We know who we are—a son or daughter of King Jesus. That knowledge increases our self-worth. Really look at your world. Do you see what I see? A lot of plastic people with hardened hearts, void of souls, controlling and power hungry manipulators, ads laced in with lies designed to get you to give up your money. Open your eyes. Start to see deceptive people and advertisem*nts for what they are. As your relationship

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with Jesus gets stronger, you will begin to understand the difference between image: the expression of this culture; and identity: who you are in Jesus Christ. You are royalty—not a copy or a celebrity wannabe!

Leg #3: I Am Competent “God is my help; the Lord is the one who sustains me” (Psalm 54:4, niv). “‘I think I can, I think I can … ‘ said the Little Train that Could.” You may recall this children’s story. The Little Train had a need to feel a sense of accomplishment. Motivational speaker John Maxwell said, “If you think you can do something, that’s confidence. If you can do it, that’s competence. Both are needed for success.”396 The voice of a teenager with a strong third leg says, “I can take control of my life and make decisions. I can live with the good and the bad consequences of my decisions (because I am on my way to a well-differentiated self ).” Certainly, due to lack of experience, they will make poor choices but they learn from them. Teens need to feel they have the ability to make it in life. Therefore, parents and other influencers must send messages telling them they have the skill sets people their age need to be victorious. Children need to feel they are competent and can adequately compete with other kids.397 They must see themselves as a unique individual, set apart by God to do something no one else can do. Encourage them to participate in activities they can do well in. Promote sports, joining a club or other activity in an area that builds on their strengths. It not only helps increase their self-esteem, it increases their social skills and helps fill that need to belong and feel accepted—and distracts them from celebrity idols. If they are musically inclined or can’t get enough of a certain sport, encourage them. This helps build competence. Obviously, if they say they


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don’t like a certain subject in school or get an F grade that needs to be addressed. The Bible says, “The Lord delights in a man’s way, he makes his steps firm;though he stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand” (Psalm 37:23–24, niv). God’s got us covered! Leg #4: I Am Loved “I have loved you, O my people, with an everlasting love; with loving-kindness I have drawn you to me” ( Jeremiah 31:3, tlb). Just as God desires to be the center of our affection, so do children. Sarah wanted her parents to love her even when she misbehaved. She cried, My parents only like me when I follow their rules and act like their robot. I’ve got in big-time trouble this year and Mom keeps bringing it up, over and over again. I can’t change what happened. It’s been months and I can’t stand it anymore. I’m all alone—it’s just me and my computer, my movies and magazines.

Each time Mom brought up Sarah’s “big mistake,” the stress alarm sounded. Kids like Sarah want parents who love them unconditionally even when they fall short of their expectations. That is the way God loves us. Sadly, many of the well-intended messages we send our kids have negative meanings. In love, we may be stating the truth when we say, “You just don’t have what it takes to be a professional dancer or ball player,” but the way we say it and the way they hear it says, “You’re inadequate.” That is exactly what Satan would want them to believe. Think, how many times have you said, “What are you doing that for? What were you thinking?” It seems like a simple question to us. We want to know why they chose to do this. However, our

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voice inflection and body language may say, “You’re so stupid. I can’t love you when you are incompetent.” In reality, the teen should respond, “I wasn’t thinking—my part of the brain (the prefrontal cortex) that controls my ability to make mature judgment decisions is shut down right now.” Be sensitive to their sensitivity. According to parenting expert Dr. Michele Borba, another deadly question is “Why are you being sooo sensitive?” Puberty is a period of intense hormonal changes. More changes are going on in a preteen’s body than at any other time in their life, and those changes are now occurring at younger ages. The area of the brain that regulates emotions is still developing. Expect mood swings and extremes. They are apt to be touchy and sensitive. Dr. Borba wrote, “Don’t tease–they will take it personally. And never tease or discipline your kid in front of a peer. You’re guaranteed to get big time resistance and a turn-off.”398 My dad playfully teased me when I got my first bra and again when I started my period. I was devastatingly embarrassed! Open communication is one of the most important factors in helping a teen feel loved and it raises their self-worth. Love for children should never be conditional and based on performance. God the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ, are models of unconditional love. God does not withhold his love as a way of making his children behave. Nor does he exert extra love after we obey him. Unconditional love visibly says, “There’s a lot of love here for you regardless of the way you act.” Let your daughter know while you may not like her actions, you love her, filling her deep need to be loved. When this is combined with touch and eye contact a tight bond is created.399 Offer constructive criticism rather than negative criticism. Criticize and label the behaviors, not the person. For example don’t say, “When I’m around you, you make me angry.” Instead say, “When you are yelling at me, it is hard for me to be around you—which I


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usually enjoy. I don’t like your yelling (or the drama-queen attitude). It makes me angry.” Words hurt. We’ve all experienced the pain of criticism. Harsh words from an influential adult can have a significant, negative, and lasting impact. William Shakespeare said, “These words are razors to my wounded heart.”400 I believe a child’s brain is so pliable that every negative remark lodges into their little mind and creates a tape. Throughout life, that tape containing every negative message is played over and over by Satan, affecting that child’s self-worth and sense of belonging. The Bible says, “A person’s spirit can endure sickness, but who can bear a broken spirit?” (Proverbs 18:14, gw). The answer is: no one. Teenagers are already emotionally fragile and probably hear enough negative comments from peer groups. The media already reinforces what is wrong with them. Give honest and genuine praise. Give accolades for effort. Let them know when they do something right that you appreciate and are proud of them. Of course you cannot praise them all the time. There will be behaviors that are not acceptable. Again, emphasize it is the behavior that is inappropriate, not the person. Be gentle but firm. Teens need to feel that their parents, and other influential people, love them no matter what. Don’t assume your children know you love them—tell them. Lastly, keep in mind, the greatest family conflicts are likely to occur when children are in this difficult period of adolescence, say marriage and family experts, Jack and Judith Balswick. One reason is their parents are likely to be reaching midlife. Research shows reaching midlife is often a crisis for adults. Therefore, both teenage children and their parents may be undergoing challenging changes simultaneously.401

Time Equals Love Dr. James Dobson wrote in The Strong Willed Child, “Child rearing is like baking a cake. You don’t realize you have a disaster until it’s too late.”402

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Children are a gift from God (Psalm 127:3). All children must feel they are a priority … and we need to hear what they have to say. Spending quality and quantity time with a teen is critical. It spells L-O-V-E. Psychologists Tim Clinton and Gary Sibcy recommend giving each child “Special Time,” time focused on the child, not the parent. It looks like this: •

Commit to at least fifteen to twenty minutes a day for your child.

Change your mindset—relax (yes, relax) and just “hang out” with him or her.

For this time, you are the participant, not the teacher or lecturer.

Let your child take the lead and set the rules allowing him or her to do an activity he or she wants to do. Let them talk about what they want to talk about.

Special time says, “I value and love you. You are important to me.”403

Be a game partner. You may not like video games but your son does. Maybe you feel you don’t have the time to play. Put your stuff aside and play with him. You may actually have fun just watching him have fun! This says, “I love you and want to be with you.” I have spoken to many adults who still vividly recall the rejection of a parent who chose fulfilling their desires over playing with them … and the regret of the parent who wished they had spent more time with their child. Have a family day and take vacations together. My dad insisted Sundays were “family day.” This meant we couldn’t make plans with friends. We’d visit parks, museums, the zoo, or go to a movie. Vacations usually meant driving across the country in the heat of the summer. Mom and Dad put up with the fighting, teasing, and whining, “Are we there yet?” Despite the challenges and headaches, this says to your kids, “I want to spend time with you. You are valuable.” 274

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Regularly attend school activities and events—sports, plays … and rehearsals! Volunteer to help in one of their group activities, even if only occasionally. You are saying, “You are important. I am genuinely interested in your life.” Teach them something like a sport or crafts. My mom taught me how to sew. This says, “I know you are competent.” Let your kids teach you something! When it comes to social networking and computer skills, they have much to teach us. Take your daughter shopping. One of my favorite things to do when I was in high school was to take the train into downtown Chicago at Christmas time with my mom’s women’s group. Ahhh … the city at Christmas! It was so beautiful. Shopping is still a favorite motherdaughter activity. This says, “I love being with you.” Be empathetic. Seek to understand your child, which means listening to their story and getting it right. You may not agree with them or support their choices, but you are communicating to them that you want to understand them. When they believe that, then they feel loved and valuable. And empathy sets the stage for problem solving. Remember what the Bible says, “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed” (Proverbs 16:3, niv).

The Valley of Darkness Unable to reason with her teenage daughter, Jenna called a psychologist, “Doctor, I’d like to come in and have you evaluate my thirteen-year-old daughter.” He answered, “She’s suffering from a transient psychosis with an intermittent rage disorder, punctuated by episodic radical mood swings, but her prognosis is good for full recovery.” Jenna said, “How can you say all that without even meeting her?” The doctor replied, “Didn’t you say she was thirteen?” Many physical, emotional, psychological, and social changes are simultaneously occurring. Immature brains need help in attempting to manage consequences. Adolescence is an unsettling time and it is Torn Between Two Masters


not always easy to come alongside a teen when they don’t want you involved in their life. Keep trying because underneath the façade they really do! Someday they will thank you for intervening. Some teens become severely depressed. CBS News reports teenage depression has become a growing problem in this country. One out of every ten teens will battle some form of depression at some point, and up to 4,000 attempt suicide every year.404 Family discord and broken boyfriend/girlfriend relationships are two universal reasons. Sadly, suicide is the third leading cause of death among youth from ages fifteen to twenty-five.405 Even more disturbing is the fact that suicide is the fourth leading cause of death for children between the ages of ten and fourteen.406 In my family, sixteen-year-old Tamra writes fiction stories for her peer group. She recognizes that depression and suicide are an issue. Through her words she gives her readers a glimpse into a suicidal teen’s mind: No one talks to me, as in truly talks to me. They’re not interested, they just talk to talk. They’re all fake; they don’t really care about me. When it comes down to it, I’m all alone. I’m so tired of my life … I lost track of who I was, and now I can’t go back.

The main character in her story is a seventeen-year-old girl who chooses to step in and come alongside this despondent girl. Her intention is not to become a hero, but she is. Through her dramatic story, Tamra wants her readers to feel just how important it is we open our ears to the cries of hurting teens all around us. She also points out how good it feels to help someone else. It is certainly a building block of self-esteem. As a parent you may not want your child to get involved—consider balance. Consider more alarming news: the impact of the media reporting suicides of celebrities may affect general suicide rates due to an imitation effect.407 Studies show that celebrity suicides are 5.27


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times more likely to report a copycat effect than non-celebrity suicides.408 That’s scary—and more reason to come along side a dispirited teen. The sister of a depressed seventeen-year-old boy who purposely took a drug overdose and died said, “If he only could have realized that what he was experiencing was normal for a kid his age. I wish we had been there more to wait it out with him and walk through all the changes with him. I really believe if he held out a few more years he would never have made this fatal choice.” A proverb goes, “Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over—it became a butterfly.” Desperate teens need to know that there is nothing wrong with them or their situation, that what they face is normal and fixable. They must believe that God is in control, and therefore, their lives are not out of control.

The Shepherd of Psalm 23 If a teen appears depressed or disconcerted, be concerned and step up. Be the shepherd of Psalm 23—take their hand and walkwith them through the valley of darkness. Read the psalm. It is a description of our divine shepherd. As a Christian, we are expected to reach out as Jesus would to shepherd a teen in turmoil. •

Sheep are helpless and need protection and care. They won’t lie down in the green pasture unless their shepherd is nearby. Then they feel safe and can sleep. In this crazy world we need to lie down, breath, and refocus with our teens.

A shepherd guides his sheep down the right paths—in the right direction. Certain paths in the valley are filled with danger. But the shepherd knows the way and walks through every dark valley with his sheep.

Assure the teen that God’s presence and protection in this dark valley can overcome the worst thing—fear, for example. I will fear no evil, for you [God] are with me. Discuss emotions of hopelessness or worthlessness openly. Be available to talk. Normalize and respect what they are feeling.

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The shepherd used a heavy club called a rod as a weapon of defense to drive off beasts of prey and protect the sheep from attacks. He used a staff to lean upon as well as to guide straying sheep. We give a teen God’s Word to protect, guide, lean upon, discipline, encourage, and comfort. We get friends, family members, pastors, and possibly mental health professionals involved.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. This is a picture of hope and a victory celebration because the enemies are captives. Teens must know that there are enemies out there whose only desire is to puff themselves up or tear them down. Scripture says, “The one [ Jesus] who loves us gives us an overwhelming victory in all these difficulties” (Romans 8:37, gw). Assure them victory is around the corner!

The psalm speaks about anointing the head with oil. Sheep get upset when pesky flies lay eggs on their noses. The shepherd calms them down by pouring special oil on their heads to keep the flies away. God has the ability to use us to help a teen calm down when he or she get out of sorts. We pray for spiritual anointing.

At the end of the day, the shepherd gives each sheep a drink from a big bowl of cool water—water of life. Its cup overflows. What kind of encouragement can you offer a teen at the end of their day that will provide refreshment? You can never give too much genuine validation—be specific.

When we dwell in the house of the Lord, goodness and love will follow. Remind the teen that every day God gives us good gifts whether we deserve them or not.

sheep. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. John 10:14–5, 27–29 (niv)

The Good Shepherd tends to, watches over, feeds and protects his sheep. He cares more deeply than we can know. Do we tend to one another with the same concern with which the Good Shepherd tends to us? What steps do you need to take to be better prepared to be a shepherd? If you notice warning signs or you have a gut feeling that things are not right, talk with the distressed teen. Don’t be afraid to ask about suicidal thoughts and seek outside help.

One thousand years after David wrote Psalm 23, one of his descendents—Jesus, was born in his home town of Bethlehem. He said: I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me—just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the


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Designed to Make a Difference Years ago a Nike commercial featured the first draft pick into the NBA, Harold Miner. In the commercial, he said something like, “Some people ask if I’m going to be the next Magic Johnson, the next Larry Bird, or the next Michael Jordon. I tell them, I’m going to be the first Harold Miner.”409 The book title You’re Born an Original, Don’t Die a Copy by John Mason says it all. God Almighty only creates originals—not duplicates. Imagine dumping out your backpack and all you have is pencils. A pencil alone isn’t going to help you get your daily homework done. Just as there are diverse school supplies designed for different purposes, God created every person different and unique. He doesn’t intend for us all to do the same things and die a copy. Jesus wants us to step out in faith. Freddie Mercury, the lead singer of the rock group Queen, wrote in one of his last songs, “Does anybody know what we are living for?” Without a purpose for living, we don’t live. Purpose gives us our reason for living. God has given each one of you the ability to find out on your own, with his help, what he created you to do. Jesus said, “All this time and money wasted on fashion—do you think it makes that much difference? Instead of looking at the fashions, walk out into the fields and look at the wildflowers” (Matthew 6:28, msg). Jesus didn’t want his listeners to stress out and focus on personal worries and problems. He wanted them to focus on God the Father. When you look into a field of colored wildflowers, they all look the same. Get up close, you will see real subtle differences in each flower. Some have more leaves. Some are taller. Some are more vibrant and the hue is faintly different in each petal. God took great care in designing every person ever born—and that includes you! No one can ever duplicate what God created

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and purposed. We must learn to listen to God by making a commitment to study the Bible so we can see for ourselves that real beauty and excellence comes from deep inside, from God himself. Sadly, I didn’t get this until mid-life. I went from a long ho-hum sales and marketing career to expressing the desire to design web sites. My family could have laughed, “You, a web designer, that’s a joke!” Instead they supported and encouraged me to take some classes at a local community college. And guess what … I was developing web sites and loving it! Designing websites lead to developing Olive Branch Outreach, a website to encourage and help people struggling with eating disorders and body image, which lead to a seminary education and ultimately to ministering to women and young girls. Had someone given me a negative comment about my ability I might not be here—the place where God has destined me to be today.

Parents: reinforce, time and again, to your children that they were created for a special, lifelong purpose.

A Better Place Dr. Leslie Parrott said, “Each of us, with our differing quirks, gifts, opportunities, networks, whims, and wishes—like the countless grains of sand on a beach—is designed to make this world a better place.” 410 It is up to this next generation, and the one after, to make this world a better place. Danny Holland said, “The cry of our culture is to rise to adequate. The cry of our purpose is to become exceptional … The undiscovered gifts of our children are one of America’s greatest tragedies.”411 The tragedy is, as a culture we are blind to the fact that God’s image is woven into our very fabric. His fingerprint is on our lives in ways we can’t imagine. Why won’t we dare to imagine that a dream from God could possibly be bigger than we are? He is the drive behind what we desire to do, yet that desire is not being nurtured in many Christian lives. We must start that process with our teens.


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We don’t know our children’s exact destinies and neither do they. But it is our responsibility to help them find their gifts, give them the tools, and point them toward finding their God-given purpose. God said, “Before you were born I set you apart” ( Jeremiah 1:5, niv). Just because Grandpa and Dad were lawyers doesn’t mean Johnnie or Susie are destined to be lawyers. Recall Proverbs 22:6 instructs us to train a child in the way he or she should go. In the Ryrie Study Bible, the notation explains that “the way he should go” really means “according to his way; that is, the child’s habits and interests.”412 What this tells us is we must take into account our child’s individuality, personality, gifts, talents—all the ways God created him or her, keeping with their physical, psychological, relational and spiritual development. While family giftedness and other relationships may provide insight into who your children are and what they should do with their future, the basis of their true identity and destiny lies in the fact each one is created in God’s image. God’s Word tells us we each have an inborn uniquiness that our parents and caregivers are to identify and train accordingly.

Discovering a Teen’s Destiny What is he or she passionate about doing? Ask, “What would you like to do if you could do anything and there were no obstacles?” or “What is the one thing you can not do?” I dunno. “Okay … W hat makes you feel most alive?” … Skateboarding! Not the answer you were hoping for? Don’t get frustrated. Like other sports, skateboarding has benefits. People who skateboard are more active, not lazy. And they are not on the computer or in front of the TV. Children who skateboard develop a sense of security, physical coordination and strength, and social skills. Skateboarding creates connections with people of all ages. Today one can even attend a skateboard church! Encourage and support a teen’s achievements and passions. Focus on what she or he is good at. In my family, sixteen-year-old Briana

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is an excellent writer. She gets excited about English and joined the writing club. Right now, a future career that uses her writing skills is a strong possibility. Her twin sister, Tamra, in addition to writing, gets fired up about animals, which her family fully supports. She volunteered at a local animal shelter. Her desire right now is a career as a veterinarian. Her peers like to volunteer at hospitals, animal shelters, churches, and homeless shelters. And it looks good on a college application! What subjects in school does your teen get excited about? What hobbies do they have? What has he accomplished that brought great satisfaction? What really makes her happy? Melissa is a fifteen-year-old whose passion is to help others. Her favorite subject is English language arts, and she wants to be a journalist. Today, Melissa has her own advice website for teen girls. Abby created a website where she sells hand made t-shirts and purses to raise money for her church’s children’s ministry. Another teen, after receiving much encouragement and support founded an organization to help children with special needs; and another, a non-profit organization that inspires kids to help people, animals, and the environment. Encourage a teen to volunteer. When I was in ninth grade, after school, a group went to a home for the blind once a week. We sat and talked for an hour to the same person, developing an intimate connection. It was advantageous for me to hear about this woman’s life from her perspective and glean her wisdom. By volunteering you see the world differently, through the eyes of people less fortunate. There is a link between happiness and selfsacrifice. It is a fact: people who feel more positive emotions spend more time helping others instead of focusing on themselves. The Bible says, “For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building” (1 Corinthians 3:9, niv). When we begin blessing others then God’s beauty breaks out in a powerful way. There are many great volunteer organizations to get involved with. Many church youth groups are committed to work-


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ing with certain groups like a local homeless shelter or pregnancy care center. Seek out role models and wise counsel. One of the best things a teen can do is talk with people who are doing what they think they want to do. I wanted to be a nurse. My parents strongly encouraged me to volunteer as a candy striper at a local hospital. I got to see firsthand what the job required. Ask these people about their job. What are the pros and cons? What do they consider essential qualities and principles for success?

Starting the Process Ask the teen to find a quiet place to think about these questions. Purchase a journal or notebook for them to write down their thoughts. Don’t give all the questions to them at one sitting. •

What do you think about a lot?

How do you feel about yourself right now?

What makes you proud of yourself?

What are your values? How does your a life reflect your values?

What are your strengths?

Who do you respect?

I am a [fill in the blank] person.

In ten years I see myself …  

For fun I like to …  

I am disappointed by …  

The ways I am similar and different from my mom and dad are …  

The goals I’ve set for myself are …  

Real Perfection and Greatness Now that you’ve worked your way through this book, let me ask you, what do you think defines an authentic life? What if I said it was to be perfect and be really great.

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Jesus did say we are to be perfect just as our heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5:48). Taken out of context, we may have been taught that in order to be like Jesus we must be painstakingly competent and faultless in order to be considered by God, and ourselves, as valuable. This is another one of those deadly lies. No one can be perfect. How then do we interpret Matthew 5:48, “be perfect”? The word “perfect” is the Greek word teleios, which means “mature, fully developed.” Jesus did not expect his followers to become morally perfect or flawless in this life. He is speaking of the kind of love that is like God’s love—mature, complete, holy, full of blessing. His Word says if I don’t have love, then I am nothing. God spells success L-O-V-E. We will never feel competent, fulfilled, or completely worthy if we are not in a love relationship with Jesus Christ and other authentic people. To be perfect is to follow in Jesus’s footsteps, and to seek and work to love others as wholeheartedly as God loves us— and show that love to those who don’t return it. If we truly know God as our Father, friend, and Savior, then we love, because he is love. Mother Teresa said, “Give of your hands to serve and your hearts to love.”413 Doing so is a process and an instantaneous experience. The gospel is about transformation and calls us to grow from obsessing and lusting over celebrities, and seeking what others have, to developing a heart that generates compassion and respect for others. It becomes our purpose for living (see Matthew 22:37–39). This is no ordinary human love. Our celebrity and media-based culture paints a different picture of loving one another. We say, I will love you when I feel it. Human love wears off with time. It is willing to help, but only to a certain point. Human love may try to be giving, but selfishness eventually creeps back in. Christian love is a willing. God tells us to love everybody even when we don’t feel it, even when they have hurt us. In Scripture, all commands of love are verbs not adjectives, like “Love your enemies” (Matthew 5:44, niv). Jesus wasn’t talking about having affection for our enemies. Love, according to God, is tied to obedience and behavioral action, which involves our


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will and our desire to please God. God commands we give without expecting anything in return (Luke 14:12–14). But we can’t do this without a supernatural heart transplant made possible by the indwelling Holy Spirit. In the Bible (see Luke 19:1–10), Zacchaeus was a chief tax collector. Many would have traded checkbooks with this little man. He was filthy rich and very powerful—considered a success by our culture’s standards. But he was also empty. After a personal encounter with Jesus his heart changed. First, he admitted ripping people off. Then, he went out of his way to make things right. The last verse summarizes Jesus’s attitude about helping those in need: “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10, niv ). In this country we value achievement, wealth, prestige, the perfect body, and acquiring the latest technology. We’ve come to believe we will be great if we have these things. No doubt you see now that this culture’s value system and definition of being “perfect” and “great” are in direct contrast to God’s. Jesus knows every person has a desire to be great in something. He said, “Whoever wants to become great among you will be your servant” (Matthew 20:26, gw). Jesus says we will find greatness in servanthood. This runs countercultural to our human nature. Don’t mistake it for slavery. True servanthood actively seeks the well-being of others. We understand that every human being is made in the image of God which is what makes each person worthy of respect. What that does for us, besides make us feel valuable, is deepen our relationship with God and it furthers his kingdom work. That’s greatness! When you seek to give, you’re assured of success because there is always someone in need of care. This week, make a commitment, both parent and teenager, to reach out to someone in need. It may mean taking the time to listen to someone else, like an elderly neighbor, when you’d rather not. Almost 60 percent of people aged seventy and older experience some type of loneliness.414 Spend a few moments with that “weird” kid down the street who’s usually sitting outside by himself, or bake a batch of cookies for the single

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mom and her kids. Mother Teresa said, “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.” This is why we need to be completely dependent on God’s power. No one can self-sacrifice without it. Loving well is the goal of the Christian life … and the secret to happiness. It is what we were made for. Jesus said, “Give away your life; you’ll find life given back, but not merely given back—given back with bonus and blessing. Giving, not getting, is the way. Generosity begets generosity” (Luke 6:38, msg).

Lord God, you have cleared the path but the walking isn’t easy. I need your divine intervention. Help me to love and serve as Jesus did. Loving people with your love means extending the kind of patience, kindness, forgiveness and grace you have given me. Lord, allow me to comfort someone in my community justby being in the right place at the right time so I can share your love with them. In Jesus’s name. Amen.

You are the world’s light—a city on a hill, glowing in the night for all to see. Don’t hide your light! Let it shine for all; let your good deeds glow for all to see, so that they will praise your heavenly Father. Matthew 5:14–16 (tlb)

Thank you for going on this journey with me. Go now. Let your lights shine! God bless you.

Live Authentically President Woodrow Wilson said, “You are not here merely to make a living. You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world.” When Jesus said, “Come, follow me,” (Matthew 4:19, niv) he was calling every one of his children into his service. We are to respond in obedience. The best part is, when we say yes, he allows us to join him in his work and to climb the greatest mountain we will ever know. God will carry you and your family through to completion. But never forget you are the principal role model. You have the final say on what media your kids consume in your home, whether your daughter’s outfit is age appropriate and whether your son’s choice of friends represents your values and beliefs. You have the authority to say no, to shut your wallet, and not buy what the celebs are selling. You hold the keys to communication.


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Bibliography Balswick, Jack and Judith, The Family, Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007 Borba, Michele, The Big Book of Parenting Solutions, Jossey-Bass, 2009 Boyatzis, Chris J., Young Children, “Of Power Rangers and V-Chips,” Vol. 52, no. 7, 75, November, 1997 Bowman, Robert and J. Ed Komoszewski, Putting Jesus in His Place, Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2007 Branden, Nathaniel, The Psychology of SelfEsteem, Jossey-Bass, 2001 Carlat, D.J. Camargo, Review of Bulimia in Males. American Journal of Psychiatry, 1997 Carlson, Melody, Dear Mom, Colorado Springs: Waterbook Press, 2009 Chan, Francis, Crazy Love, Colorado Springs: David C. Cook, 2008 Childerston, James K. and Debra Taylor, Christian Counseling Today, “The Brain and Sex,” 41, Vol. 17, November 2, 2010 Cline, Foster and Jim Fay, Parenting With Love & Logic, Colorado Springs: Pinon Press, 2006 Clinton, Tim and Joshua Straub, God Attachment, New York: Howard Books, 2010 Dahmer, Lionel, A Father’s Story, New York: William Morrow, 1994

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Dean, Kenda Creasy, Almost Christian, Oxford University Press, 2010

Jantz, Gregory L., Happy For the Rest of Your Life, Lake Mary: Siloam Books, 2009

Dean, Kenda Creasy, Practicing Passion, Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 2004

John, Killy and Alie Stribbe, Bursting at the Seams, Monarch Books, 2004

Doidge, Norman, The Brain the Changes Itself, New York: Penguin Books, 2007

Kempis, Thomas À, The Imitation of Christ, Mineola: Dover Publications, 2004 (1940)

Driscoll, Mark and Gerry Breshears, Vintage Jesus, Wheaton: Crossway, 2007

Kubany, Edward, Mari McCraig, and Janet Laconsay, Healing the Trauma of Domestic Violence, New Harbinger Publications; First edition, 2004

Eldredge, John and Stasi Eldredge, Captivating, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2005 Engleman, Marge, Your Amazing Brain and How It Works, Verona: Attainment Company, 2008 Flora, Carlin, Psychology Today, “Seeing by Starlight,” July/August 2004 Franklin, Jentezen, Believe That You Can, Lake Mary: Charisma House, 2008 Frederickson, B.L., “How Does Religion Benefit Health and Well-Being?: Are Positive Emotions Active Ingredients,” Psychology Inquiry, 2002

Lawrence, Cooper, The Cult of Celebrity: What Our Fascination with the Stars Reveals About Us, Guildford: Skirt!, 2009 Lewis, C.S., Mere Christianity, San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1980 Maltby, J., Houran, J., Lange, R., Ashe, D., and McCutcheon, L. E. (2002). Thou Shalt Worship No Other Gods—Unless They Are Celebrities. Personality and Individual Differences Mason, John L., You’re Born an Original, Don’t Die a Copy, (Insight Publishing Group, 1993)

Halpern, Jake, Fame Junkies, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2006

McGee, Robert, Search for Significance, Nashville: W Publishing, 2003

Hart, Arch and Catherine Hart-Weber, Is Your Teen Stressed or Depressed, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2005

McIlhaney, Jr., Joe S. and Freda McKissic Bush, Hooked, Chicago: Northfield Publishing, 2008

Healthy Place: America’s Mental Health Chanel, “The Many Causes of Eating Disorders,” See: http:// www.healthyplace.com/eating-disorders/main/ the-many-causes-of-eating-disorders/menu-id-58/

Meberg, Marilyn, When the Roof Caves In, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2009 Pinsky, Drew and S. Mark Young, The Mirror Effect, New York: HarperCollins, 2009

Hersh, Sharon, The Last Addiction, Colorado Springs: Waterbrook, 2008

Rath, Tom and Donald O. Clifton, How Full is Your Bucket?, New York: Gallup Press, 2005

Holland, Danny, Reaching Teens in their Natural Habitat, Colorado Springs: Waterbrook Press, 2006

Stepp, Laura Sessions, Unhooked: How Young Women Pursue Sex, Delay Love an Lose at Both, New York: Riverhead Books, 2007


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Steyer, James P., The Other Parent: The Inside Story of the Media’s Effect on Our Children, Atria, 2003 Stott, John R.W., The Message of the Sermon on the Mount, Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity Press, 1978 Strauch, Barbara, The Primal Teen, New York: Random House, 2003


See: http://www.hot10790nline.com/Channels/feed/ Story.aspx?ID=1201960, March 4, 2010

Thomas C.B. and K.R. Duszyynski, “Closeness to Parents and the Family Constellation in a Prospective Study of Five Disease States,” John Hopkins Medical Journal, vol. 134, no. 5, May 1974


“Celebrity Worship: Adolescents Newest Addiction,” Sherry Gaba, Psychotherapist and Life Coach, http:// www.sgabatherapy.com/Articles1.en.html


Jack Balswick and Judith Balswick, The Family, (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007), 161

Thomas, Gary, The Glorious Pursuit, Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1998


Stated in Psychology Today, “Lady Gaga and her 10 million Facebook friends: celebrity worship syndrome,” July 3, 2010; http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/

University of Maryland Medical Center, “Eating Disorder: Causes,” See: http://www.umm.edu/patiented/articles/ what_causes_eating_disorders_000049_3.htm


New York Times, “Time Spent Watching TV Continues Growing,” November 25, 2008


Quoted in AACC, Christian Counseling Connection, “For The Record: The Foster Report;” USA Today: 1/10/06, 2007/Issue 2


Claudia Wallis, Time, “The Kids Are Alright,” July 5, 1999


Jack Balswick and Judith Balswick, The Family, 168, Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007


Quoted in: Connect With Kids, http://connectwithkids. com; Accessed March 15, 2010


John L. Mason, You’re Born an Original, Don’t Die a Copy, (Insight Publishing Group, 1993)


See Psalm 139:16; Jeremiah 29:11


Maltby, J., Houran, J., Lange, R., Ashe, D., and McCutcheon, L.E. (2002). Thou Shalt Worship No Other Gods - Unless They Are Celebrities. Personality and Individual Differences, 32, 1157–1172.

Warren, Rick, The Purpose Driven Life, Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 2002 Wiersbe, Warren, The Bible Exposition Commentary: New Testament Volume 1,” 421, Colorado Springs: Victor, 2001 Wilson, Barbara, The Invisible Bond, Sisters: Multnomah, 2006

13 Ibid., 151–152, 195


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The Washington Post, 2007, http://www.amazon.com/ Fame-Junkies-Americas-Favorite-Addiction/dp/0618453695


Drew Pinsky and S. Mark Young, The Mirror Effect, (New York: HarperCollins, 2009), 195


Danny Holland, Reaching Teens in their Natural Habitat, (Colorado Springs: Waterbrook Press, 2006), 110

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17 18

Dictionary.com Unabridged; Based on the Random House Dictionary, Random House, Inc. 2010. See Justin Barrett, Why Would Anyone Believe in God? (Walnut Creek: Altamira Press, 2004)

19 Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life, (Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 2002), 17 20

Quoted by David Jeremiah, Today’s Turning Point, “The Herd,” October 20, 2010


Kenda Creasy Dean, Practicing Passion, (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 2004), 115


Jentezen Franklin, Believe That You Can, (Lake Mary: Charisma House, 2008), 123

23 Nathaniel Branden, The Psychology of Self-Esteem, ( Jossey-Bass, 2001), 110 24

Danny Holland, Reaching Teens in their Natural Habitat, (Colorado Springs: Waterbrook Press, 2006), 43–44

25 Rodney Stark, The Rise of Christianity, (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996), 56


Quoted in: Prevention: “9 Signs you’re happier than you think,” Shine.Yahoo.com, September 21, 2010


Quoted in Danny Holland, Reaching Teens in their Natural Habitat, (Colorado Springs: Waterbrook Press, 2006), 106


PeopleJam.com, “Celebrity Worship: Adolescents New Addiction,” http://www.peoplejam.com/blog/8161/ celebrity-worship-adolescents-new-addiction


According to the 2008–2009 State of Our Nation’s Youth survey; LiveStrong.com, “Why a Positive Role Model Is Important for Children,” http://www.livestrong.com/article/240340-why-a-positiverole-model-is-important-for-children/#ixzz0zKBXhtku

40 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/celebritynews/6884489/ Ben-Affleck-tops-celebrity-look-a-like-sperm-donors-list.html 41

Quoted on Criminal Minds, Episode 2.9; 2006


Drew Pinsky and S. Mark Young, The Mirror Effect, (New York: HarperCollins, 2009), 188


Alan Greenblatt, NPR, “Tiger Woods And Culture Of Celebrity Cheating,” February 20, 2010


Quoted by: Drew Pinsky and S. Mark Young, The Mirror Effect, (New York: HarperCollins, 2009), 139



“Seeing by Starlight: Celebrity Obsession,” See: http:// www.aktuelpsikoloji.com/haber.php?haber_id=5129

Drew Pinsky and S. Mark Young, The Mirror Effect, (New York: HarperCollins, 2009), 143


28 Reported by Chuck Colson, Breakpoint, “The Millennial Generation: Do They Know What They Believe?” April 6, 2010

Danny Buckland, Daily Mirror, “Teens fake mental health issues to look cool at school,” December 27, 2010


See Luke 14:25; Mark 5:24


Cooper Lawrence, The Cult of Celebrity: What Our Fascination with the Stars Reveals About Us, (Guildford: Skirt!, 2009), 5,6


Sorcha Corcoran, Independent.ie., “Forming a positive body image,” June 22, 2010


Carlin Flora, Psychology Today, “Seeing by Starlight,” July/ August 2004; http://www.psychologytoday.com/htdocs/ prod/ptoarticle/pto-20040715–000004.asp


New York Daily News: http://www.nydailynews.com/lifestyle/ fashion/2009/10/13/2009–10–13_barbies_ankles_too_fat_to_ christian_louboutin_showing_how_outoftouch_designers_c.html


Drew Pinsky and S. Mark Young, The Mirror Effect, (New York: HarperCollins, 2009), 86


Richmond News, study completed at the University of Toronto; “Eating disorders on rise among elementary kids,” March 19, 2010


New York Times, “Time Spent Watching TV Continues Growing,” November 25, 2008

50 Health Day: LA Health and Beauty Examiner, “Americans’ imbalanced eating fueled by tabloid irresponsibility,” August 6, 2009


See www.familyresource.com



Michael Merzenich, 2005, Quoted by Norman Doidge, M.D., The Brain the Changes Itself, (New York: Penguin Books, 2007), 306–307

See http://www.seventeen.com/fun/quizzes/ fun-teenage-test-quizzes; July, 2010


Christian Counseling Today, “The Crisis of Belief,” 19, Vol. 16 No. 3


New York Times, See: http://www.nytimes.com/1999/05/20/ world/study-finds-tv-alters-fiji-girls-view-of-body.html


Barna Group, “New Research Explores How Different Generations View and Use the Bible,” October 19, 2009


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The Christian Science Monitor, “American Idol lowers age limit: what is too young for TV?,” June 22, 2010; see http://www.csmonitor.com

55 Ibid.

73 IndiaParenting.com, “Does your child know about sex abuse?” http://www.indiaparenting.com/raising-children/125_326/ does-your-child-know-about-sex-abuse.html



Arch Hart and Catherine Hart-Weber, Is Your Teen Stressed or Depressed, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2005), 11


According to a Dove Self-Esteem Fund study in partnership with Girl Scouts of the USA; Quoted in Hubpages.com by Stacey Halprin, author of Winning After Losing, http://hubpages.com/hub/teen-self-esteem


The Brown and White, Editorial: Eating disorders affect many; March 29, 2010


According to a study published in the journal Sex Roles: Medical News Today, “Only The Beautiful Need Apply,” March 3, 2010; http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/180941.php

Cooper Lawrence, The Cult of Celebrity: What Our Fascination with the Stars Reveals About Us, 78, Guildford: Skirt!, 2009

57 Foster Cline and Jim Fay, Parenting With Love & Logic, (Colorado Springs: Pinon Press, 2006), 47 58 Hallmark, Maxine: Yelling Like It Is, Storey Books, 2001 59

Telegraph UK, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/ celebritynews/6602430/Kate-Moss-Nothing-tastes-asgood-as-skinny-feels.html; November 19, 2009


Huffington Post, “How Can We Celebrate All Sizes When Some Are Unhealthy?” January 26, 2010


According to researchers Irving, DuPen, and Berel, US Headlines Examiner “New thinner Barbie doll may fuel rising eating disorders in young women,” October 14, 2009


Quoted by Warren Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary: New Testament Volume 1,” (Colorado Springs: Victor, 2001) 421

78 See International Journal of Eating Disorders, April, 2008 79

See www.DiscoverYourDaughter.com


Dr. Clyde M. Narramore, Psychology for Living, “The Kind of Parents Children and Teenagers Want,” 2010 Vol. 52 No. 1

81 Hallmark, Maxine: Yelling Like It Is, Storey Books, 2001


John R.W. Stott, The Message of the Sermon on the Mount, (Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity Press, 1978), 49



Gregory L. Jantz, Happy For the Rest of Your Life, (Lake Mary: Siloam Books, 2009), 17

83 See Huffington Post, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/01/14/ heidi-montags-10-plastic_n_423855.html


Sarah Knoploh, Cultural and Media Institute, “The Miley Cyrus Effect: Young Girls Acting Like (Trashy) Adults,” May 20, 2010



Science Daily; LA Health and Beauty Examiner, “Americans’ imbalanced eating fueled by tabloid irresponsibility,” August 6, 2009

According to a Dove Self-Esteem Fund study in partnership with Girl Scouts of the USA; Quoted in Hubpages.com by Stacey Halprin, author of Winning After Losing, http://hubpages.com/hub/teen-self-esteem


Cosmeticsurgeon.co.uk, http://www.cosmeticsurgeon. co.uk/blog/tag/cosmetic-surgery/


Cosmeticsurgeon.co.uk, “Teenagers: Enthusiastic About Plastic Surgery?“ February 26, 2010; http://www.cosmeticsurgeon. co.uk/blog/teenagers-enthusiastic-about-plastic-surgery


New York Daily News: http://www.nydailynews.com/ gossip/2010/12/21/2010–12–21_heidi_montag_reveals_scars_from_ plastic_surgery_nightmare_bald_spots_lumpy_legs_.html#ixzz199K8zSG2


Consumer Guide to Plastic Surgery, “Teen Plastic Surgery,” June, 2008


Quoted in: The Bellingham Herald, “Talking about body image with your grandkids,” December 15, 2010


“Who are you and what you did with Jennifer Grey?” See: http:// www.stars-plastic-surgery.com/jennifer-grey-plastic-surgery.html



Stephen Hinshaw, WNDU.com, “Saving young girls from mounting pressure and expectation,” http://www.wndu.com/ mmm/headlines/63313337.html?storySection=story See: http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/index.php

69 Ibid. 70

ABC News/Nightline, “Teens Choose Plastic Surgery to Boost Self-Esteem,” November 24, 2010


Quoted by Dr. Michele Borba, http://www.micheleborba.com/ blog/2010/07/25/more-teens-getting-botox, July 25, 2010


Stephen Hinshaw, Ph.D. and Rachel Kranz, The Triple Bind: Saving Our Teenage Girls from Today’s Pressures, http://www.randomhouse.com


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Catherine Donaldson-Evans, “What’s Up With Teen Stars Having Cosmetic Surgery?,” http://www.popeater.com

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Carlin Flora, Psychology Today, “Seeing by Starlight,” July/ August 2004; http://www.psychologytoday.com/htdocs/ prod/ptoarticle/pto-20040715–000004.asp

111 Susan Ice, M.D., Medical Director, The Renfrew Center, and the Journal of Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry; https://www.msu.edu/~rubi/rubistats.htm


See http://www.forbes.com/2010/06/11/teen-celebrities-brandbuilding-entrepreneurs-miley-cyrus-justin-bieber.html


Drew Pinsky and S. Mark Young, The Mirror Effect, (New York: HarperCollins, 2009), 184

112 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, The Center for Mental Health Services, offices of the US Department of Health and Human Services.


Phil Phillips, Saturday Morning Mind Control, 54, Nashville: Oliver-Nelson, 1991


Video summary of “Tough Guise” by Jackson Katz; http://hope. journ.wwu.edu/tpilgrim/j190/toughguise.vidsum.html


Hartford Courant, “Dating Abuse: Breaking The ‘Boy Code,’” February 7, 2010; http://www.courant.com/news/opinion

97 Ibid. 98

Justsell.com; February 1, 2010


CNN.com/Transcripts, “Interview With Author James Steyer;” Aired May 25, 2002

100 Tips adapted from “Smart Guide to Kid’s TV,” American Association of Pediatrics, http://www.aap.org/family/smarttv.htm

113 ANAD Ten Year Study. National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders. 114 See Eating Disorder Statistics: http://www. healthylifestylebalance.com/eating-disorder-statistics.html 115 See www.eatingdisorderinfo.org and www.nationaleatingdisorders.org 116 Evelyn Block, Examiner.com—Los Angeles, “Eating disorders on the rise in boys,” December 27, 2010 117 Quoted in News Talk, Author of the report: Dr. Brendan Doody; See http://www.newstalk.ie/ news/5report-shows-high-levels-of-youth-mental-health-disorders27/ 118 Crystal Phend, MedPage Today, “Eating Disorder Awareness Urged for Pediatricians,” November 29, 2010 119 Ibid.

101 The Barna Group, http://www.barna.org/topics/family-kids

120 Suite101.com, “Female Athlete Triad,” February 3, 2010

102 Random House; dictionary.com

121 2010 study led by Toni Torres-McGehee, assistant professor of athletic training, University of South Carolina; http:// www.eating-disorder-resources.com/eating-disorder-articles/ research-news/college-cheerleaders-at-risk-for-eating-disorders

103 Soul Care New Every Morning, September 14, 2009 104 Tim Clinton and Joshua Straub, God Attachment, (New York: Howard Books, 2010), 45 105 http://www.quotesandpoem.com/quotes/ showquotes/author/Princess-Diana/13766 106 Digital Journal, “French model dies after battle with anorexia,” January 8, 2011; http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/302251#ixzz1ATPDZPA4 107 The Breeze, James Madison University, “A Deadly Obsession,” February 4, 2010

122 PR Newswire: Gene Links to Anorexia Found by Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Researchers; November 19, 2010; http://www. prnewswire.com/news-releases/gene-links-to-anorexia-found-bychildrens-hospital-of-philadelphia-researchers-109234004.html 123 “Docu-series on E! to tackle eating disorders: What’s Eating You?”; http://www.monstersandcritics.com/smallscreen/news/article_1555341. php/What-s-Eating-You-docu-series-on-E-to-tackle-eating-disorders

108 John Whyte, M.D., MPH, The Huffington Post, “Understanding ‘Non-Specified Eating Disorders,” July 2, 2010

124 CalorieLab, “Exercise Bulimia on the Rise,” http:// calorielab.com/labnotes/20100903/cases-of-exercisebulimia-on-the-rise; September 4, 2010

109 Los Angeles Times/Health, “Expert sees growing problem of youngsters with eating disorders,” January 9, 2011

125 See resources: “Causes of Bulimia,” http://www.healthtree. com/articles/eating-disorders/bulimia/causes

110 http://www.eatingdisorderinfo.org

126 David M. Dunkley, Jewish General Hospital, Montreal, International Journal of Eating Disorders, quoted in Times of India, May 13, 2010;


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http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/life/health-fitness/health/Bingeeating-disorder-tied-to-abused-childhood/articleshow/5925940.cms 127 E! Online; April 22, 2009; http://www.eonline.com/uberblog/ b120156_kara_dioguardi_discusses_battle_with.html 128 Judith Matz and Ellen Frankel, The Diet Survivor’s Handbook; “Diet Addiction,” http://addiction.lovetoknow.com/wiki/Diet_Addiction 129 Ibid. 130 Ibid. 131 ABC Good Morning America, “Manorexia in on the rise,” October 7, 2006 132 Carlat, D.J. Camargo. Review of Bulimia in Males. American Journal of Psychiatry, 1997, 154, 133 Ibid.

146 National Eating Disorders online: http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org 147 Digitalspy.com, ShowBiz News: “Hewitt: Media Feeds Eating Disorder,” January 31, 2010 148 Quoted in: Suite101.com, “How media affects eating disorders and society as a whole,” December 20, 2010 149 Quoted in: Cooper Lawrence, The Cult of Celebrity: What Our Fascination with the Stars Reveals About Us, (Guildford: Skirt!, 2009), 215–216 150 Ibid, 214 151 Reuters Life!; “American teen girls feel pressure to be thin,” http:// www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE6104Q420100201 152 Quoted in The Daily Contributor, “Cover Girls: How the Media Influences Teen Self-Image,” September, 2010; Source: http:// www.articlecity.com/articles/kids_and_teens/article_530.shtml

134 Ibid. 135 Ibid. 136 Quoted in 5 Magazine, “Male Anorexia,” http://5magazine. wordpress.com/2010/11/14/male-anorexia/ 137 Van den Berg P, Neumark-Sztainer D, Cafri G, and Wall M., Pediatrics, “Steroid use among adolescents: Longitudinal findings from ProjectEAT,” 2007;119:476–486 138 Toronto Sun, “When fussy goes too far,” September 13, 2010; For more info on Duke’s Finicky Eating in Adults study, go to www.eatingdisorders.mc.duke.edu 139 Quoted by Danielle Friedman, The Daily Beast, “When Veganism Is an Eating Disorder,” July 26, 2010 140 Teen Vogue Beauty Blogger, University of Minnesota study, “Are Vegetarians Really Hiding an Eating Disorder?” March 17, 2010 141 Guest Blogger, The Gloss, “I Miss my Eating Disorder,” www.thegloss.com; July 12, 2010 142 Linda K. George, David B. Larson, Harold G. Koenig, and Michael E. McCullough, “Spirituality and Health: What We Know, What we Need to Know,” Journal of Clinical and Social Psychology, 19, no. 1 (2008): 108 143 Sources: Science Daily; National Eating Disorder Association http://www.emaxhealth.com/1275/85/32431/ cause-anorexia-linked-brain-circuitry.html 144 ABC News/Health, “Eating Disorders Strike Younger and Younger,” November 29, 2010


145 Cooper Lawrence, The Cult of Celebrity: What Our Fascination with the Stars Reveals About Us, (Guildford: Skirt!, 2009), 214

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153 “Celebrity Worship: Adolescents Newest Addiction,” Sherry Gaba, Psychotherapist and Life Coach, http:// www.sgabatherapy.com/Articles1.en.html 154 Dr. Rich heads the Center on Media and Child Health at Children’s Hospital Boston; CBS News/Health, “Is Victoria’s Secret Peddling “Eating Disorder p*rn?” www.cbsnews.com; December 2, 2010 155 CBS News/Health, “Is Victoria’s Secret Peddling “Eating Disorder p*rn?” www.cbsnews.com; December 2, 2010 156 According to new research being presented at the Appearance Matters conference in Bristol; PhysOrg.com, “Reading celebrity gossip mags can encourage eating disorders,” June 16, 2010; http://www.physorg.com/news195918685.html 157 According to new research being presented at the Appearance Matters conference in Bristol; PhysOrg.com, “Reading celebrity gossip mags can encourage eating disorders,” June 16, 2010 158 Naoko Shirao, MD, PhD, Yasumasa Okamoto, MD, PhD and Tomoyuki Mantani, MD, The British Journal of Psychiatry (2005) 186: 48–53, “Gender differences in brain activity generated by unpleasant word stimuli concerning body image: an fMRI study” 159 NYDaily News.com, Rosemary Black, “Women are hardwired to worry about their weight,” April 16, 2010 160 HealthImaging.com, “Study: MRI shed light on body image concern,” April 14, 2010

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161 C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1980), 225–226

177 The Independent, “I don’t want a fat child,” October 20, 2010; http://blogs.independent.co.uk

162 Sharon Hersh, The Last Addiction, (Colorado Springs: Waterbrook, 2008), 111

178 Ibid.

163 University of North Carolina, News Release, “Genetics accounts for more than half of anorexia liability, UNCled study concludes,” March 6, 2006, No. 106 164 NIMH Eating Disorders National Institute of Mental Health; [http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/ eating-disorders/complete-publication.shtml] 165 PR Newswire: Gene Links to Anorexia Found by Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Researchers; November 19, 2010; http://www. prnewswire.com/news-releases/gene-links-to-anorexia-found-bychildrens-hospital-of-philadelphia-researchers-109234004.html 166 Doug Schepman, 7NEWS Video Journalist, “Eating Disorders Partially Due To Genetics,” www.thedenverchannel.com; May 18, 2009 167 Dr. Walter H. Kaye, director of the Eating Disorders Program, UC San Diego, Julie L. Fudge & Martin Paulus, Nature Reviews Neuroscience,”New insights into symptoms and neurocircuit function of anorexia nervosa” 168 For specific scientific references see: Dirk Hanson, MA; http:// brainblogger.com/2010/08/02/drugs-for-bulimia/ 169 Eating Disorder: Causes, See: http://www.umm.edu/patiented/ articles/what_causes_eating_disorders_000049_3.htm 170 Cooper Lawrence, The Cult of Celebrity: What Our Fascination with the Stars Reveals About Us, (Guildford: Skirt!, 2009), 98 171 Top News UK, “Slimming Mothers Ignite Teenage Daughters’ Dieting Habits,” November 20, 2010; http://topnews. co.uk/217146-slimming-mothers-ignite-teenage-daughters-dieting-habits 172 http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/comfort-cravings/201002/ michelle-obama-childhood-obesity-controversy 173 Julie Rosenberg, Parentdish.com, “When Mom Has an Eating Disorder, Everybody Suffers,” November 12, 2010 174 Press Release, October, 2010: Coupon Codes 4U, A quarter of American children are ‘dieting,’ www.CouponCodes4U.com 175 Nivashni Nair, Times Live, “Diet fads can be fatal,” October 17, 2010 176 Read more: http://healthland.time.com/2010/11/30/ is-my-baby-too-fat/#ixzz16sLOeVnt

179 Judith Matz and Ellen Frankel, The Diet Survivor’s Handbook; “Diet Addiction,” http://addiction.lovetoknow.com/wiki/Diet_Addiction 180 The study is published in the June issue of the American Journal of Public Health. See Medscape Today, “Continuous Monitoring Urged for Pro–Eating Disorder Websites” June 17, 2010; http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/724067 181 July 2, 2010, PRNewswire; See http://www.eatingdisorderhope. com/about-eating-disorder-hope-media-press-of-sponsors 182 Dina L.G. Borzekowski, Ed.D., Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore; Ira Sacker, M.D., New York City; June 17, 2010, American Journal of Public Health 183 Jack Balswick and Judith Balswick, The Family, 166, Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007 184 Melody Carlson, Dear Mom, (Colorado Springs: Waterbook Press, 2009), 82 185 Norman Doidge, M.D., The Brain the Changes Itself, (New York: Penguin Books, 2007), 173 186 Los Angeles Times/Health, “Expert sees growing problem of youngsters with eating disorders,” January 9, 2011 187 Hearld.ie, See: http://www.herald.ie/lifestyle/health-beauty/ children-as-young-as-9-now-anorexic-2255280.html 188 WebMD Health News, “Family Meals Help Prevent Eating Disorders,” data collected from more than 4,700 ethnically diverse adolescent girls and boys; Nov. 12, 2004 189 2000 study; Quoted in: Danny Holland, Reaching Teens in their Natural Habitat, (Colorado Springs: Waterbrook Press, 2006), 61 190 Anita Chandra, PhD, Steven C. Martino, PhD, Rebecca L. Collins, PhD, Marc N. Elliott, PhD, Sandra H. Berry, MA, David E. Kanouse, PhD, and Angela Miu, MS, PEDIATRICS, “Does Watching Sex on Television Predict Teen Pregnancy? Findings From a National Longitudinal Survey of Youth,” American Academy of Pediatrics, Vol. 122 No. 5, November 2008 191 “Does Watching Sex on Television Influence Teens’ Sexual Activity?” Rand Corporation, 2004; www.rand. org/pubs/research_briefs/RB9068/index1.html 192 The National Coalition for the Protection of Children and Families, http://www.nationalcoalition.org


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193 Canadian National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth study; Quoted in Hubpages.com by Stacey Halprin, author of Winning After Losing, http://hubpages.com/hub/teen-self-esteem 194 Doug Rosenau, Ed.D, “Caring for People God’s Way,” (Forest Virginia: Light University, 2009), 164 195 Peter Jensen, quoted: Barbara Strauch, The Primal Teen, (New York: Random House, 2003), 34–35 196 Elizabeth Cooney, The Boston Globe, “Miracle Grow,” June 28, 2010; Reprinted in Brain In the News, July/August 2010 197 Marge Engleman, Your Amazing Brain and How It Works, (Verona: Attainment Company, 2008), 24 198 Elizabeth Cooney, The Boston Globe, “Miracle Grow,” June 28, 2010; Reprinted in Brain In the News, July/August 2010 199 Ibid. 200 Kelly D. Shifflett, Ph.D., Director, Wendy C. Morgan, M.A., Prevention Manager, RACS Prevention Services, Prevention Newsletter, Volume 9, Issue 8, April, 2010; See also: www.parentpower.mt.gov/problem.shtml 201 Laura Sessions Stepp, Unhooked: How Young Women Pursue Sex, Delay Love an Lose at Both, (New York: Riverhead Books, 2007), 27 202 Ray B. Williams, Psychology Today, “Tiger Woods and our Obsession with Celebrities,” http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog; December 22, 2009 203 Joe S. McIlhaney, Jr., M.D. and Freda McKissic Bush, M.D., Hooked, (Chicago: Northfield Publishing, 2008), 31, 61 204 James K. Childerston and Debra Taylor, Christian Counseling Today, “The Brain and Sex,” 41, Vol. 17, No. 2, 2010 205 Medical News Today, “Dopamine Involved In Aggression,” January 15, 2008 206 Spear, “The Adolescent Brain and Age-Related Behavioral Manifestations,” Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews 24 (2000) 4:424–25 207 Christian Counseling Today, James K. Childerston and Debra Taylor, “The Brain and Sex,” Vol. 17, No. 2, 2010, 41 208 Quoted in Tim Clinton and Joshua Straub, God Attachment, (New York: Howard Books, 2010), 116–117 209 Louann Brizendine, M.D, The Female Brain, (Broadway Publishing, 2007), 70–71 210 N.I. Eisenberger and M.D. Lieberman, “Why rejection hurts,” 294–300, Trends in Cognitive Science, 2004: 8 (7):


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211 Science, October 10th issue, http://mentalhealth.about. com/b/2003/10/16/rejection-feels-like-pain-to-the-brain.htm 212 Joe S. McIlhaney, Jr., M.D. and Freda McKissic Bush, M.D., Hooked, (Chicago: Northfield Publishing, 2008), 62, 43 213 Soul Care New Every Morning, March 22, 2010 214 R.E. Rector, K.A. Johnson, and L.R. Noyes, “Sexually Active Teenagers Are More Likely to be Depressed and to Attempt Suicide,” Washington, DC: The Heritage Center for Data Analysis, The Heritage Foundation, Publication CDA03–04, 6/3/2003; http://www.heritage.org/Research/Abstinence/cda0304.cfm 215 Ibid. 216 Barbara Wilson, The Invisible Bond, (Sisters: Multnomah, 2006), 13 217 Thomas Acquinas cited in Gary Thomas, The Glorious Pursuit, (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1998), 71 218 Quoted in: Tim Clinton and Gary Sibcy, Why You Do The Things You Do, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2006), 212 219 Marilyn Meberg, When the Roof Caves In, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2009), 96 220 Stott, John R.W., The Message of the Sermon on the Mount, (Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity Press, 1978), 88 221 Barbara Strauch, The Primal Teen, (New York: Random House, 2003), 142–143 222 “Teen Pregnancy Pact: Celeb Culture Cited,” New York, June 20, 2008 223 MTV News, http://www.mtv.com/news/articles/1576804/20071219/ spears_britney.jhtml; December 19, 2007 224 See: http://www.fancast.com/blogs/2010/tv-news/ report-mtv%E2%80%99s-teen-moms-paid-65kwhat-kind-of-message-does-it-send/ 225 Quoted by Chuck Colson, Breakpoint, “Teenagers and Pregnancy,” June 29, 2010 226 Christian Newswire, Media Advisory: Abstinence America Founder Challenges Parents, October 18, 2010 227 The Bellingham Herald, “Talking about body image with your grandkids,” December 15, 2010 228 Quoted: “What Teens Want Parents to Know about Teen Sex,” See: http://drphil.com/articles/article/676/ 229 Megan A. Moreno, MD, MPH, MSEd, University of WisconsinMadison, and Dimitri A. Christakis, MD, MPH, of Seattle Children’s

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Research Institute, presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) annual meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada; “Display of Health Risk Behaviors on MySpace by Adolescents,” January 2009, Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine 230 CNN.com/Transcripts; http://transcripts.cnn.com/ TRANSCRIPTS/0207/27/smn.07.html 231 Christian Counseling Connection, Reported in Baptist Press, Heritage Foundation study; 4/23/08 per “For the Record: The Foster Report,” Vol. 16/Iss. 3, 2009 232 Peter L. Benson, et al., “Hardwired to Connect: The New Scientific Case for Authoritative Communities,” Commission on Children at Risk. Institute for American Values, 33, 2003. 233 M.L. Vincent, A.F. Clearie, and M.D. Schluchter, “Reducing Adolescent Pregnancy through School and Community-Based Education,” JAMA 257, no. 24, 3382–3386, 1987 H.P. Koo, G.H. Dunterman, C. George Y. Green, and M.L. Vincent, “Reducing Adolescent Pregnancy through a School and Community-Based Intervention: Denmark, South Carolina, Revisited, “Family Planning Perspectives,” 26, no. 5, 206–211, 217, 1994

243 Drew Pinsky and S. Mark Young, The Mirror Effect, 186, New York: HarperCollins, 2009 244 Ibid, 6–7 245 Fox News, October 27, 2010; http://www. foxnews.com/entertainment/2010/10/27/ charlie-sheens-career-remains-solid-amid-personal-issues-experts-say 246 Elkind and the Patchwork Self, 85, 1998 247 http://www.theology.ie/thinkers/girard.htm 248 Quoted in: Drew Pinsky and S. Mark Young, The Mirror Effect, (New York: HarperCollins, 2009), 184 249 René Girard on imitate Christ. Excerpt, from Girard’s essay “Violence Renounced: Response by René Girard,” of Violence Renounced, edited by Willard M. Swartley, Pandora Press, 2000, 310–311 250 Drew Pinsky and S. Mark Young, The Mirror Effect, (New York: HarperCollins, 2009), 7, 139–140 251 See Matthew 24:12; See 2 Timothy 3:1–9

234 Diane Church, The Bristol Press, “Teen survey shows ‘an alarming trend,’” August 24, 2010

252 Cooper Lawrence, The Cult of Celebrity: What Our Fascination with the Stars Reveals About Us, (Guildford: Skirt!, 2009), 3

235 Chicken Soup for the Recovering Soul, 15, Deerfield Beach: Health Communications, 2005 236 WHNT 19 News, “Charges being prepared in Balloon Boy hoax,” www.whnt.com/news

253 The Seven Deadly Sins, also known as the Capital Vices or Cardinal Sins, is a classification of the most objectionable vices that has been used since early Christian times to educate and instruct followers concerning (immoral) fallen humanity’s tendency to sin; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seven_deadly_sins

237 Quoted by John R.W., Stott, The Message of the Sermon on the Mount, (Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity Press, 1978), 59

254 Quoted in: Cooper Lawrence, The Cult of Celebrity: What Our Fascination with the Stars Reveals About Us, (Guildford: Skirt!, 2009), 14

238 The Washington Post, 2007, http://www.amazon.com/ Fame-Junkies-Americas-Favorite-Addiction/dp/0618453695

255 Drew Pinsky and S. Mark Young, The Mirror Effect, (New York: HarperCollins, 2009), 143

239 Ray B. Williams, Psychology Today, “Tiger Woods and our Obsession with Celebrities,” According to Helen Fischer of Rutgers University; http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog; December 22, 200

256 Quote of the Day: http://www.astrochicks.com

240 Stated by Mark Shaller, a psychology professor at the University of British Columbia, Ibid.

258 Michele Borba, Ed.D, The Big Book of Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers to Your Everyday Challenges and Wildest Worries; http://www.micheleborba.com/blog/2010/01/03

241 Housatonic Times, “Out on a Limb: Celebrity Worship,” Friday, May 07, 2010 242 ABC News: Celebrity Worship Syndrome: Is Americans Obsession With Stardom Becoming Unhealthy? http:// www.prisonplanet.com/240903celebrityworship.html

257 Ibid., 216

259 Quoted in: Cooper Lawrence, The Cult of Celebrity: What Our Fascination with the Stars Reveals About Us, (Guildford: Skirt!, 2009), 67–68 260 American Association of Christian Counselors, Professional Life Coaching 201 Series, 28, Light University 261 See: http://www.quotationsbook.com/quote/10219/


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Torn Between Two Masters


262 Quoted by David Jeremiah, Today’s Turning Point, “Between the Devil and the Antichrist,” October 19, 2010 263 Ibid. 264 Ibid. 265 Thomas À Kempis, The Imitation of Christ, (Mineola: Dover Publications, 2004 (1940)), 93 266 See Isaiah 45:19; John 8:31–32, niv 267 John Kennedy, Pentecostal Evangel, “From Scandal to Grace,” February 23, 2003, 23–25 268 Teri Claassen, LCSW, “Positive Parenting: Roles for Parents of Teens,” March 8, 2010, http://www. theconfidentmom.com/relationships/parenting-teens 269 Quoted in John C. Maxwell, The Difference Maker, (Nashville: Nelson Business, 2006), 136

280 Carlin Flora, Psychology Today, “Seeing by Starlight,” July/August 2004; 281 Parenting New Hampshire, Tracy Campbell, “Celebrity Kids,” February 12, 2010; http://parentingnh.ning.com/profiles/blogs/celebrities-kids-celebrity 282 Wikipedia: Schumaker, John F., ‘Star-struck’ New Internationalist; Issue 363, p34–35, 2p, December 2003 283 Ray B. Williams, Psychology Today, “Tiger Woods and our Obsession with Celebrities,” http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog; December 22, 2009 284 Ibid. 285 Christian Counseling Today, Gregory L. Jantz, “Addicted to Love,” Vol. 17, No. 2, 2010, 37 286 http://www.search-institute.org/content/peter-scales; Quoted also in: Cooper Lawrence, The Cult of Celebrity: What Our Fascination with the Stars Reveals About Us, (Guildford: Skirt!, 2009)95–96; 98

270 Mark Earley, Break Point “The Courage to Be Bored, February 3, 2010

287 Quoted in: Cooper Lawrence, The Cult of Celebrity: What Our Fascination with the Stars Reveals About Us, (Guildford: Skirt!, 2009), 24

271 Harris Interactive, “Average Time Spent Online Statistics,” http:// techcrunchies.com/average-time-spent-online-statistics

288 Adapted from Robert McGee, Search for Significance, (Nashville: W Publishing, 2003), 27

272 The Washington Past, 2007, http://www.amazon.com/ Fame-Junkies-Americas-Favorite-Addiction/dp/0618453695

289 American Association of Christian Counselors, “Attachments,” Counselor, Pastor, & Individual Training and Resource Program

273 Hardwired to Connect: The Scientific Case for Authoritative Communities, See: http://www.americanvalues.org/ExSummprint.pdf; Quoted in Tim Clinton and Joshua Straub, God Attachment, (New York: Howard Books, 2010), 51–52

290 John Eldredge and Stasi Eldredge, Captivating, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2005), 46

274 Caughey, J.L., “Social Relations with Media Figures,” in G. Gumpert & R. Cathcart (Eds.), Inter/Media: Interpersonal Communication in a Media World, 3rd Edition, 1986, 219–252 275 Forward Day by Day, July 22, 2010; http://forwardmovement. org/thursday-july-22-saint-mary-magdalene.html 276 CNN Entertainment, “Could You Be A Celebrity Stalker?” November 6, 2009, http://www.cnn.com/2009/SHOWBIZ/11/05/celebrity.stalkers/ 277 Maltby, J., Houran, J., Lange, R., Ashe, D., and McCutcheon, L.E. (2002). Thou Shalt Worship No Other Gods - Unless They Are Celebrities. Personality and Individual Differences, 32, 1157–1172

291 Stated in Christians Counseling Connection, “For the Record: The Foster Report,” OneNewsNow, 9/14/10, Volume 17, Issue 3, 2011 292 David Jeremiah, Turning Points, May 28, 2010 293 Justsell.com; June 9, 2010 294 Cooper Lawrence, The Cult of Celebrity: What Our Fascination with the Stars Reveals About Us, (Guildford: Skirt!, 2009), 171 295 Justsell.com; March 15, 2010 296 Dr. Clyde M. Narramore, Psychology for Living, “The Kind of Parents Children and Teenagers Want,” 2010 Vol. 52 No. 1 297 Polner, M, “Divine Relations, Social Relations, and Well-being,” Journal of Health and Social Behavior 30: 92–104, 1989

278 Ray B. Williams, Psychology Today, “Tiger Woods and our Obsession with Celebrities,” http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog; December 22, 2009

298 C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1980), 50

279 Maltby, J., Houran, J., Lange, R., Ashe, D., and McCutcheon, L.E. (2002). Thou Shalt Worship No Other Gods - Unless They Are Celebrities. Personality and Individual Differences, 32, 1157–1172

299 See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lennon/McCartney


Kimberly Davidson

300 Read Isaiah 49:14–15, 18; Jeremiah 24:7; Matthew 23:37; Mark 12:29–30; Matthew 22:36–38.

Torn Between Two Masters


301 http://www.worldofquotes.com/author/A.-W.-Tozer/1/index.html 302 Edward Hoagland, “The American Dream 1998,” Rolling Stone, 96, May 28, 1998 303 Chuck Colson, BreakPoint, “Savagery in South Hadley: Where Are the Adults?” April 9, 2010 304 Associated Press, “French fishing boat rescues stranded Calif. Teen,” June 12, 2010; http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/lost_sailor_found 305 Quoted in Chuck Colson, Breakpoint, “Crime and Character,” June 16, 2010 306 The 700 Club, “Steven ‘Lyrycyst’ Cooper: A Life Changed,” aired September 29, 2009; http://www.cbn.com/700club/ features/amazing/steven_cooper092909.aspx 307 Regina Sullivan, “Fear in Love: Attachment, Abuse, and the Developing Brain,” September 1, 2010; http://dana. org/news/cerebrum/detail.aspx?id=28926; North Carolina Partnership for Children, Inc., http://www.guidestar.org

319 Kenda Creasy Dean, Almost Christian, (Oxford University Press, 2010), 11–12 320 C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1980), 56 321 Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears, Vintage Jesus, (Wheaton: Crossway, 2007), 31 322 Bishop Janes; Encyclopedia of 15,000 Illustrations 323 See http://www.selfinjury.org/docs/brights.html 324 TeenHelp.com, “Cutting Statistics and Self-Injury Treatment,” http:// www.teenhelp.com/teen-health/cutting-stats-treatment.html; See also: http://www.healthtree.com/articles/teen-warning-signs/self-mutilation/ 325 Soul Care New Every Morning, March 4, 2010 326 See Matthew 9:36; 14:14; 15:32; 20:34 327 Pam Leo, “Reach Out and Touch Somebody” 328 John 1:3; Psalm 139:13

308 Tim Clinton and Joshua Straub, God Attachment, (New York: Howard Books, 2010), 55

329 Jack Balswick and Judith Balswick, The Family, (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007), 167

309 See www.ncsacw.samhsa.gov/files/508/3_Responding2Families.htm

330 Danny Holland, Reaching Teens in their Natural Habitat, (Colorado Springs: Waterbrook Press, 2006), 169

310 The Washington Post, 2007, http://www.amazon.com/ Fame-Junkies-Americas-Favorite-Addiction/dp/0618453695

331 Quoted in Chuck Colson, BreakPoint, “Prozac and Piety,” April 19, 2010

311 Joseph Brownstein, ABC News Medical Unit, “Childhood Trauma May Shorten Life By 20 Years,” October 6, 2009

332 C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1980), 56

312 Christian Counseling Today, “The Crisis of Belief,” Vol. 16 No. 3, 46–47

333 Gary Thomas, The Glorious Pursuit, (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1998), 73

313 Elizabeth Cooney, The Boston Globe, “Miracle Grow,” June 28, 2010; Reprinted in Brain In the News, July/August 2010 314 The Peaco*ck Foundation, Empowering Tomorrow’s Youth; http:// www.peaco*ckfoundation.org/childrens_trauma_support.htm

334 Quoted in: Gary Thomas, The Beautiful Flight, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2007), 57 335 Quoted by Mark Earley, BreakPoint, “Not So Fast,” July 30, 2010

315 Marilyn Meberg, When the Roof Caves In, 36, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2009

336 Quoted by Group Publishing, See: http://store.grouppublishing.com/ OA_HTML/ibeCCtpItmDspRte.jsp?item=3079227&section=23305

316 Illustrations for Every Topic and Occasion; Nicky Gumbel, “Questions of Life,” Kingsway Publications, 1993, submitted by David Holdaway; Stonehaven, Kincardinshire, Scotland, 14–15

337 See Matthew 26:36–38; Luke 22:43–44

317 Quoted by Ed Hindson, D.Min, in “Caring for People God’s Way,” Forest Virginia: Light University, 2009, 20

339 Stated in: Marilyn Meberg, When the Roof Caves In, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2009), 95

318 Jack Balswick and Judith Balswick, The Family, (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007), 168

340 Michele Borba, Ed.,D., GALTime.com, Parenting, “Surefire Ways to Turn OFF Your Teen,” July 7, 2010


Kimberly Davidson

338 Oswald Chambers, My Utmost For His Highest, April 6

Torn Between Two Masters


341 http://blogs.ajc.com/social-butterfly-blog/2009/07/04/asoldiers-sacrifice/?cxntfid=blogs_social_butterfly_blog

362 The Orange County Register, Teens using Botox are upsetting but rare, August 17, 2010

342 See www.news-medical.net/?id=37529

363 U.D. Upadhyay, M.J. Hindin, “Do perceptions of friends’ behaviors affect age at first sex? Evidence from Cebu, Philippines,” Journal of Adolescent Health, Oct. 2006: 39(4):570–7

343 See Ephesians 2:8–9; Romans 8:9–11; Hebrew 7:26–27 344 Quoted in David Jeremiah, Turning Points, July 3, 2008 345 Thomas À Kempis, The Imitation of Christ,(Mineola: Dover Publications, 2004 (1940)), 34

364 Chicken Soup for the Recovering Soul,(Deerfield Beach: Health Communications, 2005), 72

346 See John 12:31; Revelation 13:3–4

365 Quoted in: The Bellingham Herald, “Talking about body image with your grandkids,” December 15, 2010

347 For a full description of Satan read Kimberly Davidson, Breaking the Cover Girl Mask, Tate Publishing, 2009

366 Quoted in Killy John and Alie Stribbe, Bursting at the Seams, (Monarch Books, 2004), 253

348 Thomas À Kempis, The Imitation of Christ, (Mineola: Dover Publications, 2004 (1940)), 139

367 See www.rainn.org/statistics

349 See Ezekiel 28:17; John Eldredge and Stasi Eldredge, Captivating, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2005), 84 350 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maxwell_Maltz 351 “The Effect of Magazine Advertising on Body Image Disorder among Young Adolescent Girls,” www.unc. edu/~mcquello/annotated bibliography2.pdf 352 See Matthew 4:1–11; Mark 1:12, 13; Luke 4:1–13 353 Dr. Jeff Meyers, “Passing the Baton,” a live training presentation; www.myersinstitute.com 354 Vines’s Complete Expository Dictionary, “Soberminded,” Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1970 355 Quoted in David Jeremiah, Turning Points, May 20, 2010 356 Soul Care New Every Morning, March 15, 2010 357 Quoted by Philip Yancy, Prayer, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan), 101 358 According to a study from Students Against Destructive Decisions; Quoted in News from Meier Clinics, “Spirited Celebrations During the Holidays Can Mark the Beginning of a Problem,” December, 2010 359 Drew Pinsky and S. Mark Young, The Mirror Effect, (New York: HarperCollins, 2009) 360 Quoted in News from Meier Clinics, “Spirited Celebrations During the Holidays Can Mark the Beginning of a Problem,” December, 2010 361 Foster Cline and Jim Fay, Parenting With Love & Logic, (Colorado Springs: Pinon Press, 2006), 41


Kimberly Davidson

368 Time, “Who Needs Marriage? A Changing Institution,” November 18, 2010 369 Focus on the Family, God’s Design for Marriage; Gary L. Thomas is a writer and the founder and director of the Center for Evangelical Spirituality; http://www.family.org/married/growth/a0028530.cfm 370 C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1980), 109 371 See: The Bowen Center; http://www. thebowencenter.org/pages/conceptds.html 372 Brainy Quotes: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/ quotes/m/maxwellma1121158.html 373 Foster Cline and Jim Fay, Parenting With Love & Logic, (Colorado Springs: Pinon Press, 2006), 36 374 Tom Rath and Donald O. Clifton, How Full is Your Bucket?, (New York: Gallup Press, 2005), 47, 53 375 Michele Borba, Ed.,D., GALTime.com, Parenting, “Surefire Waysto Turn OFF Your Teen,” July 7, 2010 376 Word of Life Weekly Devotional, John Bevere, “Can You Really Please God?” February 28, 2010 377 According to a Dove Self-Esteem Fund study in partnership with Girl Scouts of the USA; Quoted in Hubpages.com by Stacey Halprin, author of Winning After Losing, http://hubpages.com/hub/teen-self-esteem 378 Quoted in Hubpages.com by Stacey Halprin, author of Winning After Losing, http://hubpages.com/hub/teen-self-esteem 379 Based on the CASA report; About.com, “Kids Drink 11.4 Percent of U.S. Booze, December 24, 2007

Torn Between Two Masters


380 C.B. Thomas and K.R. Duszyynski, “Closeness to Parents and the Family Constellation in a Prospective Study of Five Disease States,” John Hopkins Medical Journal, vol. 134, no. 5, May 1974, 251–270, 381 CBSNews.com; http://www.cbsnews.com/8301– 31749_162–20013468–10391698.html

398 Michele Borba, Ed.,D., GALTime.com, Parenting, “Surefire Ways to Turn OFF Your Teen,” July 7, 2010 399 Ibid. 400 Shakespeare Quotes: http://www.enotes.com/shakespeare-quotes/

382 Lionel Dahmer, A Father’s Story, (New York: William Morrow, 1994), 60

401 Jack Balswick and Judith Balswick, The Family, (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007), 157

383 NFI, “The Father Factor: How Father Absence Affects Our Youth;” Quoted in “Fatherhood,” See http://dating.overblog.net/article-f-a-t-h-e-r-h-o-o-d-52801910.html

402 Quoted in Swindoll’s Ultimate Book of Questions & Quotes, (Nashville: Tomas Nelson, 1998), 69

384 Ibid. 385 Published by the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology; Quoted in Hubpages.com by Stacey Halprin, author of Winning After Losing, http://hubpages.com/hub/teen-self-esteem 386 Quoted in Killy John and Alie Stribbe, Bursting at the Seams, (Monarch Books, 2004), 96 387 Leslie Vernick, The Emotionally Destructive Relationship, (Eugene: Harvest House, 2005), 39 388 Edward Kubany, Mari McCraig, Janet Laconsay, Healing the Trauma of Domestic Violence, New Harbinger Publications; 1 edition, 2004 389 Quoted in Arch Hart and Catherine Hart-Weber, Is Your Teen Stressed or Depressed, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2005), 20 390 According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); Connect With Kids; Sue Scheff, Parent Empowerment, http://parentempowerment.blogspot. com/2010/03/sue-scheff-teen-girls-and-sports.html 391 Connect With Kids; Sue Scheff, Parent Empowerment, http://parentempowerment.blogspot.com/2010/03/ sue-scheff-teen-girls-and-sports.html 392 Sue Scheff, Parent Empowerment, http://parentempowerment. blogspot.com/2010/03/sue-scheff-teen-girls-and-sports.html 393 Kerri Zane, theselfimprovementblog.com, “Tone Up Your Teen”

403 Tim Clinton and Gary Sibcy, Breaking Free, “Families in Crisis: Hopeless Parents and Angry/Defiant Children,” Light University [AACC], Forest, VA 404 CBSNews.com, “Teen Depression: The Signs and Symptoms,” July 26, 2010 405 Hartford Courant, “Dating Abuse: Breaking The ‘Boy Code,’” February 7, 2010; http://www.courant.com/news/opinion 406 “Teen Suicide Overview,” See: http://teensuicidestatistics.com 407 Stack S. “Media coverage as a risk factor in suicide.” J Epidemiol Community Health (2003) 57:238–40 408 Stack S. “Suicide in the media: a quantitative review of studies based on nonfictional stories. Suicide Life Threat Behav” (2005) 35:121–33 409 Quoted in Francis Chan, Crazy Love, (Colorado Springs: David C. Cook, 2008), 136–137 410 Holiness Today, Leslie Parrott, “Designed to Make a Difference,” ( January-February, 2010), 10–11 411 Danny Holland, Reaching Teens in their Natural Habitat, (Colorado Springs: Waterbrook Press, 2006), 82, 93 412 Quoted by Josh McDowell, The Unshakable Truth, (Eugene: Harvest House, 2010). 71 413 http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/m/mother_teresa.html 414 Quoted in: Miles McPherson, Do Something! (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2009), 75

394 George Graham, Teaching Children Physical Education, (Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 2008), 183 395 See John 1:12; Galatians 3:29 396 John C. Maxwell, The Difference Maker, (Nashville: Nelson Business, 2006), 20 397 Foster Cline and Jim Fay, Parenting With Love & Logic, (Colorado Springs: Pinon Press, 2006) 40


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Torn Between Two Masters




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