Posts tagged “Bible

The Fisherman and the Monkey

The restaurant beside the small harbor.

The restaurant beside the small harbor.

During my last day in Lebanon, I was reminded about just how powerful the basic need for freedom can be in a person’s life. I had visited a very unique and important school in Tyre (yes, the Tyre talked about in the Bible) and afterward was taken to a seaside restaurant where I was able to talk more with the school’s principal about the history of the school and its future mission. The story of the school must be told, as it is an amazing tale of faith and courage, but for now I will share something (else) I observed as I sat by the water’s edge.

Mending nets.

Mending nets.

There was a sea wall that protected a marina area that was home to many small fishing boats. Nets were piled on the sterns of many of the boats, or piled along the docks just behind the boats. This was a working marina, if you will. I noticed one man sitting in his boat working on one of his nets. He had white hair pulled back tightly into a short ponytail and was shirtless, revealing his weathered, overly tanned skin. It struck me as I watched him concentrating on a portion of fishing net on his lap how that might have been Peter’s exact position when Jesus walked up and asked Peter to join him. (When the school principal saw me looking at the white-haired fisherman he told me about how this fisherman was so distinctive that when documentaries are made about Tyre, as National Geographic did, the film makers always want scenes that include this man.)

A literal monkey on his back.

A literal monkey on his back.

A few moments later a younger man (younger than 35) walked onto another boat near where I was sitting. He was in jeans and an old t-shirt, and he had a little monkey on his back. Literally. This got my attention and I continued to watch this interesting duo. The man struggled to get the monkey off his back, literally, but eventually did. The monkey was on a leash and the man attached the leash to one of the metal uprights supporting a small roof for the boat. The monkey settled in, at times climbing the upright for a better view, at times just sitting on the deck and watching his companion work on nets. When the principal saw that I was focused on this younger fisherman and the monkey he told me something that expanded my understanding of the basic need that people have for freedom.

Another day at the office for the monkey.

Another day at the office for the monkey.

The young fisherman, the principal explained, had a good job as a pilot of a large boat or yacht for some rich person in the area, but that he didn’t like being under someone’s supervision or direction, and that he preferred the life of a simple fisherman, not knowing how much his income would be, but being in total control of his actions and destiny. Instead of good-sized paycheck, and having to answer to someone else, he chose a smaller, sporadic paycheck, and having total say over the details of his life. Once, the principal continued, the young fisherman caught a huge lobster, easily worth $50 if he sold it. “But he didn’t sell it,” the principal said with some passion in his voice. “When I asked him what he did with the lobster if he didn’t sell it, he told me, I ate it!

Somewhere Frank Sinatra is singing "I Did It My Way."

Somewhere Frank Sinatra is singing “I Did It My Way.”

This story reminds us of the power of the basic needs, in this case the need for freedom. He acted on his need for autonomy, which strikes some of us as gutsy. He could have stayed with the good paying job, which provided security, but for him the trade-off wasn’t worth it. Apparently, he has a lower survival need. The need for freedom doesn’t force a person to give up good paying jobs. Sometimes people work in what for them is a less than ideal situation because it pays them enough money to satisfy their need for freedom in other ways besides their jobs – maybe they travel or have expensive hobbies. If we have a high need for freedom, though, and don’t satisfy that need we will most likely be unhappy. The basic needs don’t just go away. We were born with them and they are with us for life.

The young fisherman struggled to get the monkey off his back when he wanted to start working on his nets. That moment may have captured what the fisherman felt as he wrestled with what to do with his life. Maybe his good paying job felt like a monkey on his back, too. Monkeys can be like that for all of us.


 The Choice Theory Study Group is meeting this coming Sabbath, November 2, at 2:00 pm in room 212 of the Education building at Pacific Union College in Angwin, California.

Every once in a while you run across something that puts a smile on your face and a bounce in your step. This music video does that for me. It doesn’t stop with the smile and the bounce, though, as the lyrics to the song are a good reminder for all of us. The message is simple – When the morning comes, things will probably look better. Let the worry go. This too will pass.
I think middle-schoolers and high-schoolers should watch this video as often as needed. A little encouragement with a smile and a bounce can be a good thing. Enjoy!

(*It is true that a music video doesn’t hold the ultimate answer to life’s distresses. Good mental health depends on a positive connection with the Holy Spirit, combined with a good understanding of how our brains work (e.g. – choice theory). Within this context, though, an upbeat piece of music can lift the thinking and the feeling. I can’t vouch for all of OK GO’s music, although their videos are really fun and creative. Also, thanks to the Notre Dame marching band.)

PS – Good mental health includes the ability to consciously and intentionally decide that “this too shall pass.” From a total behavior perspective we run into problems when the rear wheel Feeling tire gets too big. When this happens it is a helpful to practice the “this will pass” skill, especially when we are reminded of passages like –

Because the Lord is my shepherd I have everything I need. Ps. 23:1

And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19

Unless the Lord had helped me, I would soon have died. I cried out, “I’m slipping!” and your unfailing love, O Lord, supported me. When doubts filled my mind, your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer. Psalms 94:17-19

Is Choice Theory in the Bible?

Choice Theory and Scripture

The ideas of choice theory have appealed to me a lot. Initially, I the appeal had to do with my belief that choice theory ideas would improve the school at which I was a principal. As I learned more about the ideas, though, I came to see that they were deeper than mere school improvement, as important as that goal is, and that similar to a C.S. Lewis phrase out of Narnia, choice theory involved “deeper magic.” In other words, unintentionally, Glasser had stumbled onto spiritual principles as his therapeutic strategies took form.

I have thought about choice theory and its comparison to spiritual principles a great deal and thus far it has appeared to me that they consistently strengthen and support one another. Choice theory is not a gospel in itself. Choice theory describes and explains human behavior, but it doesn’t empower. It can explain, as our last blog did, how a person can repeatedly choose an unhealthy way to meet a need, yet this insight does not necessarily bring about change. Scripture is full of choice theory, yet religionists have missed it. So many of us church-attenders have not come into a knowledge and appreciation for our own role in making good choices, in believing, in having a saving faith. Many are waiting for God to change them from the outside-in, like a giant puppeteer, but alas, they’re still waiting. So, anyway, I think the two – the principles of choice theory and the principles of Scripture – can help each other.

Over the years I have been collecting Biblical texts that speak to or support choice theory components. What follows are texts that speak to each of the basic needs. Glasser settled on five basic needs – survival, love and belonging, power, freedom, and fun – although in Control Theory (1984) he allowed for flexibility in this list. My list of basic needs looks slightly different and includes – Purpose and Meaning, Love and Belonging, Power and Achievement, Freedom and Autonomy, Joy and Fun, and Security and Safety. I invite you to add to this list. What Scriptures have you found that support the basic needs?

Purpose and Meaning

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”   Jer. 29:11

“The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give life in all its fullness.”   John 10:10

Love and Belonging

But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees with his reply, they met together to question him again. One of them, an expert in religious law, tried to trap him with this question: “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?”
Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”    Matthew 22:34-40

Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.   1 John 4:11, 12

Power and Achievement

Trust in the Lord and do good.
Then you will live safely in the land and prosper.
Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you your heart’s desire.   Ps. 37:3, 4

“I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him.”   Ephesians 1:19

Freedom and Autonomy

“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me, because the Lord has appointed me to bring good news to the poor.  He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted and to announce that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed.”   Isaiah 61:1

Now, the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, he gives freedom.  2 Cor. 3:17

Joy and Fun

Taste and see that the Lord is good.
Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him!   Psalms 34:8

“I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. When you obey me, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father and remain in his love. I have told you this so that you will be filled with joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!”  John 15:9-11

Security and Safety

“Fearing people is a dangerous trap, but to trust the Lord means safety.”   Proverbs 29:25

“I am leaving you with a gift — peace of mind and heart.  And the peace I give isn’t like the peace the world gives.  So don’t be troubled or afraid.”   John 14:27


I am comfortable with the concept of the basic needs. I cannot prove their existence, and if we agree on their existence we cannot prove exactly what a person’s basic need strengths are. Yet theory of the basic needs provides a very good starting point when considering personality and motivation. To know ourselves seems to be a life-long process. Sometimes when I pray I ask the Spirit to show me me. Over time I have come to see myself a little differently. I used to think that I have a very high power need; now it seems to me that my power need is somewhat average, while my love and belonging need is very high. Regardless, the premise of the basic needs is supported in Scripture. And it is so cool that God cares about our needs so much. As Paul wrote – “And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.”   Philippians 4:19

God and Choice Theory

Some questions have been coming in and I thought that, while I’m finishing up We Want to Feel Good, Pt. 4, you could wrestle with one of them.

What about God in the Old Testament and choice theory? He seemed pretty into rewards and punishments. People who argue with me argue about this.  Nina D.

OK, choice theory community, what do you think? I have a feeling that 1) this strikes a chord with a lot of us, and 2) a lot of us have already thought about this topic. How have you answered this question? What are some of the bullet points that reflect your thinking?

What is the purpose of Bible class?

The new Spring quarter at PUC began today. One of the classes I am teaching is EDUC 368: Teaching K-12 Bible. To my knowledge there isn’t a textbook on how to teach Bible class. There are some standards for teaching and a curriculum guide, but in general a teacher in my position can go in a number of directions, maybe all of those directions good.  Instead of rattling something for this particular blog, I have a question for you. And I would like to hear from a lot of you, whether you have or have not taught a Bible class. The question is this — What is the purpose of Bible class?

I’ll even start your answer for you – “The purpose of Bible class is to .  .  .

PS – Would the purpose for teaching a 3rd grade Bible class be different from teaching an 11th grade Bible class?

PSS – Here are some possibilities for a purpose for Bible class (in outline form) –
Bible stories and facts
Bible interpretation
Scripture memorization
Religious history
SDA history (or if you are Lutheran, then Lutheran history)
Spirit of Prophecy – knowledge, appreciation, memorization
Spiritual formation
Indoctrination (Is this necessarily a bad thing?)
Service projects
Local church involvement

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