Posts tagged “God

My Dear Maggot

screwtape

The Screwtape Letters (C.S. Lewis’s 1942 classic) pulled back the curtains that shield us from Second Heaven and revealed conversations that occurred between an uncle and his nephew. Both of them were demons and as such both of them were in the business of tempting human beings toward wrong turns and wrong lives. Uncle Screwtape coached and counseled his nephew, Wormwood, as the younger tempter struggled to influence the life of the human to which he was assigned. It should come as no surprise that one day Wormwood himself would become the coach and pass on his knowledge to a younger relative, in this case his grandson, Maggot, a fledging tempter trying to learn the ropes.

My dear Maggot,

How touched I am that our communication is deepening and that you are so willing to lay open your thoughts and your struggles regarding your tempting strategies and the apparent lack of success that you are thus far experiencing. Honesty is not a trait that we demons display with any consistency, so I commend you for your candor. This openness will assist me as I counsel you toward more effective approaches. Keep in mind, too, that you are planting seeds of discouragement and resentment that will grow in due time. Be patient with your patient. Remember that you are in the business of making others discouraged, not in getting discouraged yourself.

In your recent letters you have shared so many details – your patient’s tendency to seek the Enemy, to want to be close to him, to want to get involved with helping others – which are all serious problems that need to be dealt with. However, it seems to me that in rushing from a tree here to a tree there, you are missing the bigger forest. Frustration over individual details are keeping you from seeing the bigger picture. Not that these details are unimportant. It’s just that seeing the bigger picture first will serve as a foundation from which to launch a more effective attack.

Since you have asked, I will begin to share with you some of the bigger, more essential elements that, I am confident, will re-focus and re-charge your efforts. Although I hate to quote the Enemy’s manual, it is instructive here to refer to a letter that traitor Paul (how he went to the other side is still beyond me) wrote to people in Corinth (a lovely city with so many wonderful problems). Anyway, he wrote that –

For the Kingdom of God is not just a lot of talk; it is living by God’s power. Which do you choose?    1 Cor. 4:20, 21

First, and I think you already know this, it is absolutely vital that you cloud and confuse the choice-power of your patient. This theme – the ability of humans to make effective choices – is rampant throughout the Enemy’s manual, yet so few humans really pick up on this. The minute they stray from this awareness we have them. For if they aren’t in the process of choosing, the alternative is that they are victims of circumstances, tossed to and fro by their tumultuous feelings. I smile just thinking about it. You and I both know that these disgusting little humans have been created in the image of the Enemy, with amazing internal guidance systems, but this must be hidden from them. At all costs.

You may at first question what I am about to write, but write it I must – religion is not our enemy. In fact, humans can be messed up by a lot of things, but nothing can mess them up as much as religion can. Paul (the turncoat) realized this when he wrote about the Enemy’s domain being about a lot of talk versus being about real power. Let his words be a lesson to you. Shower your patient with religion, let him marinate in its rules and habits and schedules. Just be sure to keep him in the realm of talking, and studying, and behaving. There are so many benefits from this focus! Where do I begin?

+ Being disconnected from the real power of the Enemy, they will try to surmise truth and reality from their own miserable, limited, little perspectives. The Enemy tried to warn them about this during his pathetic sermon on the mountainside (it is important to study what the Enemy says and does), when he pointed out that it is possible for them to think they are right(eous), when in fact they are right where we want them.1

+ One of the supreme benefits from the “lot of talk about religion focus” is its effect on their young. I savor this result as much as any of our victories. You would think they would have figured this out by now, but no, they continue to emphasize habits and lifestyles and right living. Let them talk, encourage your patient to talk. The fact is, and we must say this quietly, their young wouldn’t walk away from real power (who would?); their young walk away from talk. I’m almost laughing as I write this. Here they are desperate for power and they refuse to simply plug into the Enemy’s vast resources. It’s too easy, really.

+ Lastly (at least for this letter), without being connected to the power, religious humans lose sight of, and even move in the opposite direction of – I hate even to write the word – love. Based on what the Enemy has done for the wretched things you would think that christian would be a wonderful word to them, a cherished concept. Yet look at what the word christian evokes in people now, especially in that place they refer to as the United States. (united? lol as they would say) When humans hear that word now they often think about pictures of self-righteousness, political posturing, and meanness. This is a victory that must be placed near the pinnacle of our successes! One of the Enemy’s writers, that awful little Ellen White, explained this process perfectly, yet fortunately she may as well have been writing to a wall.

When men indulge this accusing spirit, they are not satisfied with pointing out what they suppose to be a defect in their brother. If milder means fail of making him do what they think ought to be done, they will resort to compulsion. Just as far as lies in their power they will force men to comply with their ideas of what is right. This is what the Jews did in the days of Christ and what the church has done whenever she has lost the grace of Christ. Finding herself destitute of the power of love, she has reached out for the strong arm of the state to enforce her dogmas and execute her decrees. Here is the secret of all religious laws that have ever been enacted, and the secret of all persecution from the days of Abel to our own time.2

I was worried, even scared, when I first saw what she had written, thinking that the earthlians would “get it” and head back onto the Enemy’s path, but I was soon reminded my fears were unfounded. They are more into being right, and making others be their view of right, than they are in being connected and (forgive me) loving. Keep your patient focused on the value of rightness. Prompt him to be willing to sacrifice others for the good of the right. And by all means, present to him the importance of religion and the value of knowing, dissecting, and being right.

I apologize for my droning, yet I remember with such affection the counsel I received from my Uncle Screwtape when I, like you now, needed it most. You are my cherished grandson and I yearn for your success. I look forward to more of our discussions.

Pridefully,

Grandpa Wormwood

P.S. – I know that you wanted me to specifically help you with a concept your patient is studying called choice theory. You are correct to be concerned about this. Hopefully, you can see how my letter begins to address these concerns. The concepts of choice theory are part of the Enemy’s way and I am glad you discerned this on your own. More on this later.

1. Matthew 6:22, 23
2. White, E. (1896). Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, (p. 126-127). Takoma Park, MD: Review & Herald Publishing Association.

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Choice Theory in Beirut

Beirut sunset

Beirut sunset

I am in Beirut. Yes, Lebanon.

As I write this there is a beautiful sunset to the west and the lights of the city, like stars, are beginning to come alive and twinkle. I hear the sounds of sirens echoing from the city below. I see the sunset, the sky turning gorgeous shades of darker hues, and hear the sounds of the city from my third floor dorm room, my room with a view. Quite spectacular, actually.

I am in the Middle East for the first time in my life, invited here to share the ideas of choice theory. My perception of this area of the world is that it tends toward authoritarian approaches to life, maybe especially so in the Muslim community, and both of these thoughts were confirmed by Beirut natives in discussions after I arrived. Still, though, there is a desire by teachers here to consider the principles of choice theory.

My presentations occurred on Sabbath afternoon, October 19, and most of the day on Sunday, October 20. Dr. Ed Boyatt, recently retired Dean of the School of Education at La Sierra University, is a co-presenter with me and gave his talks on Friday evening and Sabbath morning. There were three things I wanted to emphasize during the comparatively short time I had to introduce the group to the concepts of choice theory. They were –

1. God designed us for internal control based on freedom.

2. Positive relationships are the foundation on which other success pieces are built.

3. Schools can be need-satisfying places that students and teachers want to come to each day.

A large group came together for the choice theory conference on Sunday.

A large group came together for the choice theory conference on Sunday.

Sabbath afternoon really focused on the first theme, including the idea that since God created us for internal control even He won’t control us. Sunday focused on some of the choice theory elements – understanding the basic needs and the concept of the quality world – that contribute to fulfilling the second and third themes.

One of the quotes that supports the idea that we have been created for internal control, and the quote that years ago first alerted me to a possible similarity between Ellen White, one of the SDA church founders, and William Glasser, says that

The training of children must be conducted on a different principle from that which governs the training of irrational animals.  The brute has only to be accustomed to submit to its master; but the child must be taught to control himself.  The will must be trained to obey the dictates of reason and conscience. A child may be so disciplined as to have, like the beast, no will of its own, his individuality being lost in that of his teacher.  Such training is unwise, and its effect disastrous.             Fundamentals of Christian Education, p. 57

This quote led me to further reading of Ellen White’s books, which then led me to a detailed comparison between Glasser and White, and which ultimately led to the writing of the Soul Shapers book. Both Glasser and White explain, describe, remind, warn, invite, and encourage. Their written words state ideas in ways that get our attention. For example (a few other quotes shared during the conference) –

True education is not the forcing of instruction on an unready and unreceptive mind.    Education, p. 41

Those who train their pupils to feel that the power lies in themselves to become men and women of honor and usefulness, will be the most permanently successful.  Their work may not appear to the best advantage to careless observers, and their labor may not be valued so highly as that of the instructor who holds absolute control, but the after-life of the pupils will show the results of the better plan of education.                    Fundamentals of Christian Education, p. 58

The latter quote provided the idea for the name of this blog. For Ellen White, “the better plan” had everything to do with working with students in a way that honors the internal control with which they are designed. These are just some of the quotes that spurred our discussion during the conference.

Jim Roy and Jimmy Choufani

Jim Roy and Jimmy Choufani

This is a picture of Jimmy Choufani and me as we talk about the Sunday afternoon session of the conference. I can’t say enough good things about Jimmy! He will read this and probably be a little upset at me for saying these nice things about him, but .  .  . well .  .  . tough. Jimmy is a gifted educational administrator. If you haven’t been to Beirut, it may be hard for you to understand what he and his team have accomplished at Bouchrieh Adventist Secondary School (BASS). Ed Boyatt and I had the privilege of observing in classrooms today at the school and I am impressed. I am impressed with the organization and structure of the school, the ability of the teachers, and the level of respect by the students.

Isaac Atem Thon Atem and Jim Roy.

Isaac Atem Thon Atem and Jim Roy.

This last picture is of me and Isaac Atem Thon Atem. Isaac is just about to complete his teaching degree at Middle East University and attended the conference over the weekend as a future teacher on the lookout for good ideas. He approached me during one of the breaks and asked if he could purchase one of the Soul Shaper books. I didn’t bring any with me to sell, but as I listened to him tell me about his plan to return to South Sudan and to teach there, I quickly said, please, take my copy. It is a privilege for me to support Isaac. He is a gentle soul ready to go to a difficult place and do what he can to make life better for his students.

I never imagined that choice theory would bring me to the Middle East, but it has and I am very thankful for it. I look forward to a few more days here, and to discussions about the future of choice theory in Beirut!

It’s Been Awhile

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I knew it had been a while since my last bike ride, but I didn’t know it was that long. When I got home after riding today I downloaded the last several rides from my Garmin and discovered my last ride was three weeks ago. My goodness, or should it be my badness. It has been a while since my last blog, too. It’s been almost two weeks since the last Better Plan posting and that is a record. Not a record I am proud of mind you, but a record none the less.

The beginning of this school year has been so full and so busy for me, more than usual, I think. Besides getting classes set up and going this Fall quarter, several additional things also have my attention. To find out if you are interested in any of these things keep reading.

Beirut Trip

I am leaving for Beirut, Lebanon, this coming Wednesday, where I will be giving several choice theory presentations to teachers and school administrators. Jimmy Choufani, one of the school principals (and a follower of this blog), has been talking with me for over a year about getting this to happen, so it is awesome that the plan has come together. Jimmy read Soul Shapers over a year ago and wants his colleagues to have an opportunity to at least hear about the principles of choice theory. He has shared with me that on one of the days during the conference the audience will be made up of Christians and Muslims. What a testimony to their unity in the midst of so much unrest all around them. I am humbled to be a part of this venture.

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Also going to Beirut as a co-presenter with me is Dr. Ed Boyatt, recently retired Dean of the School of Education at La Sierra University. Ed, along with Dick and Anita Molstead, (all followers of the blog) was Superintendent of Education in the Oregon Conference while I was principal at Livingstone Academy in Salem from 1993-1996. (Livingstone was the school where most of the Soul Shapers book took place.) Their support meant a great deal to me and I dedicated Soul Shapers to them because of that. I am so thankful that Ed is going on this trip! Together we want to share how the principles of choice theory actually reflect the character of God, as well as share choice theory details that will be especially helpful to educators. After the weekend conference Ed and I will be observing in schools in Beirut and then talking with principals and teachers there about how choice theory can begin to have a presence in classrooms.

We solicit your prayers as we prepare for the trip. Any words of advice would be welcomed as well.

Glasser Biography

The Glasser biography – William Glasser: Champion of Choice – is supposed to come out in late November. The inside of the book looks wonderful. I am really pleased with the look and visual tone of the book. It will be a pleasant read in that way. I am in the midst of a slight disagreement regarding the cover of the book, but it is not a major thing. Hopefully, my input will sway them, but then again, what do I know about cover design. It will just be so good to have the book done!

The Evolution of Psychotherapy conference in Anaheim is at the beginning of December and I think they want to have the book available for that.

Masaki Kakatani, long time Glasser Institute member, has contacted the publisher to begin translating the biography into Japanese. Very cool.

Choice Theory Study Group

Our next Choice Theory Study Group will be on Sabbath afternoon, November 2, at 2:00 pm in the Education building at Pacific Union College. Mark it in your calendar.

Agenda items include:
+ Brief updates on any choice theory lessons or experiences in your classroom or school.
+ I will give a brief update on the Beirut trip.
+ Role play review on how to conference with a student with an attainable want.

Let me know if you have a topic or question for us to consider on November 2.

Choice Theory Study Group
November 2, 2013
PUC Education building

Thirteen (so far) Essential Psychological Skills for Kids

Kids

In the last Better Plan blog we considered the kinds of skills that kids should have before they turn 18 and definitely before they leave home. One of the categories that was missing from the list, though, was a category for Psychological Skills. Several of you responded to my request for help at forming such a list. The following list summarizes your suggestions.

Psychological Skills We Want Our Kids to Learn
1. To be able to recognize the motivation behind their choices.
2. To be able to handle failure and see it as an opportunity to learn.
3. To be able to self-evaluate.
4. Knowing the seven Caring Habits (Supporting, Listening, Encouraging, Accepting, Trusting, Respecting, and Negotiating Differences) and using them.
5. To really recognize their priceless worth, not because of their performance, achievement, or behavior, but because they are a child of God.
6. Relational skills, such as connecting, compassion, communication, and empathy.
7. To be able to process and navigate emotions in a positive way.
8. To be aware of the ability to choose their response to the conditions/circumstances of life.
9. To understand that divergent thinking is healthy.
10. To know when to –
FIGHT for something worth fighting for;
ACCOMMODATE when the relationship is more important than the issue, and
AVOID when it makes sense to split the difference and compromise.
11. Also knowing and understanding the seven Deadly Habits (Criticizing, Blaming, Complaining, Nagging, Threatening, Punishing, and Rewarding to Manipulate).
12. To learn to be caring and compassionate, especially using the skill of empathy.
13. To gain a work ethic that reflects a willingness to work and a desire to do their best.
This list is a great start, but (I wonder) have important psychological skills been left off? Reply to this blog with more suggestions and help to make the list even more complete. This could be a great resource to those of us who work with kids and to those of us who give workshops and presentations. For instance, I am scheduled to begin teaching choice theory to 10th graders this coming Friday morning. I could see myself sharing this list with “kids” and getting their response. Let’s grow this list and identify more of the psychological skills we want our kids to have.
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The Choice Theory Study Group that met near where I live this past Sabbath was a success! Group members shared examples of ways they have taught or used choice theory so far this school year, and coached and affirmed each other throughout the process. Some things that came out of our time together include –
George Barcenas, PE teacher, athletic director, and language teacher at Redwood Adventist School in Santa Rosa, CA, described how grades 9-12 began the school year with a multi-day retreat in the Santa Cruz mountains, with choice theory principles as the theme they wanted to set the tone for the school year. He has followed that opening week by consistently referring to the choice theory elements in his classes. Already students are beginning to bring up the basic needs, maybe their own or those of another student, when problem-solving moments arise.
Joel Steffen, fifth and sixth grade teacher at Foothills Adventist Elementary School, has been conducting daily class meetings. One thing he shared is that it really makes a difference which guiding question you use to start the meeting. When you choose well and kids are interested in the topic the meeting goes pretty well. Choose less well and it becomes apparent rather quickly. He sees both the effective and the less effective meetings as steps in the learning process, though, and plans to continue honing his questioning skills.
Joel Steffen is having his fifth and sixth graders create their own quality world cup.

Joel Steffen is having his fifth and sixth graders create their own personal quality world cup.

Amy Palma, fifth grade teacher at Calistoga Elementary, has been teaching there for 10 years, and has been implementing a choice theory management approach, specifically Marvin Marshall’s ABCD model for seven of those years. Amy’s story is important because she is an example of a teacher who successfully uses choice theory, even though she is the only one in the school doing so. Over the years, the school has tried different external control programs, and each time Amy has respectfully declined. While other teachers have been less than satisfied with how a school year has gone, Amy likes how it has gone and attributes choice theory as one of the key reasons. Teachers sometimes ask me, “What if I am the only teacher in the school teaching this way?” At that moment I tell them about Amy.
Sean Kootsey, History teacher at Pleasant Hill Adventist Academy, described how significant the idea of giving students multiple chances to master the learning has been for him, and for his students. He reminded us that learning and assessing is not a “gotchya” process. If students need more than one chance to learn the concepts, why is that bad, he asked. At first other teachers in the school chuckled or even scoffed at the idea of multiple learning chances, but now all of them are teaching that way and are pleased with the results. The culture there has shifted.
Ron Bunch, a local community member, shared how much the ideas have influenced his personal relationships, and especially how the choice theory ideas have helped him in his spiritual journey. He described new insights regarding the character of God and His design of us and for us. God did not create us to be a victim of circumstances, but instead gave us incredible freedom and power to make choices.
These were just a few of the things expressed in the recent study group. One thing the group decided was that we want to keep meeting, maybe even on a monthly basis. It was felt like the get-together is a good way to keep choice theory ideas from being crowded out by other things; it is a good way to re-charge the concepts and to feed off the energy of colleagues. We will be meeting twice more before the Christmas break. I’ll share those dates soon.
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One thing that came out of the blog entitled Compelling Reasons to Teach Choice Theory is the recognition that we need to begin sharing more about how to get this done. We need to assemble a clearinghouse, a place where people can go to access resources and materials, or even specific lesson plans that address choice theory elements. This is important! We need to get this started!
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Sandy Hook, Choice Theory, and Forgiveness

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It is one of the most significant of all human qualities – that being the ability to forgive. I was reminded of this truth from a remarkable source – Newtown, Connecticut.

My cousin, a school administrator in New York City, knowing of my interest in choice theory, recently sent me an article* written by Dr. Anthony Salvatore, president of the Newtown Association of School Administrators. It turns out that Newtown schools, including Sandy Hook Elementary School, have been studying and implementing the ideas of William Glasser and choice theory since the early 1990s. As a result, Newtown has sought to be a needs-satisfying school system for students.

In the aftermath of the unspeakable tragedy that occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary, Dr. Salvatore represents a voice of healing. Even his comments about the shooter reflect compassion.

“Although I will never know the answer,” he begins, “I keep thinking of what the conversation was that was going on in Adam Lanza’s head. How can we do better in school to help avoid this behavior again, even knowing we can’t control someone else’s behavior, but we can control the conditions around that person. And that takes a whole global community, not just a school or a classroom. Suicide is a final act and one that tells me he saw no other option for meeting his basic human needs. Did he feel like he was loved and belonged to his family or community? I don’t know. Did he feel like he had power in his life to feel competent about who he was? I don’t know. Did he feel like he had a choice in his life besides taking his own life? I don’t know. Did he feel like his life was filled with fun? I don’t know.”

Salvatore emphasized the need for schools to build positive relationships with students “so they can learn how to make the best choice for meeting their own needs and for helping others in society meet theirs as well. Building on the value of relationships and choice, he closed the article on a note I will not soon forget. His vision of forgiveness is more than inspiring!

“It’s time to focus on cooperation instead of competition in our society. It won’t bring back the lives of the 28 victims who died on Dec. 14, 2012, but it will honor the sacrifice they made that day. My fear is we will make the same mistake other communities have made and not recognize that Adam Lanza also was a victim that day. This is where Newtown can truly be a leader toward a new vision and new understanding. We need forgiveness on so many levels, but we first need healing. We already know from research that isolating bullies in school is harmful to the individual and to the school climate. Alienating someone from a community only exacerbates the feeling of powerlessness and not belonging. We must forgive mistakes and nurture our capacity to do good. We have control over that.”

May Dr. Salvatore’s words be an invitation and inspiration to each of us. May the Spirit work in us to prepare our hearts to respond to others, even those who do us harm, with similar compassion.

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Forgiveness is such an essential part of good mental health. Within the scheme of choice theory, though, where does it fit in? Which of the basic needs, for instance, are being satisfied when we forgive someone?

My mind quickly goes to the need for love and belonging. Forgiveness has to do with our relationships. We seek forgiveness, whether from an earthly friend or our heavenly Father, to restore a relationship. And we offer forgiveness for the same reason – to restore or maintain a relationship.

What about the other needs, though. Does forgiveness satisfy the need for power in some way? How about the need for freedom? How about the need for joy and fun? And we shouldn’t leave out the physiological need for survival. Does forgiveness impact us on a physiological level?

I would like to hear from you regarding forgiveness and the basic needs. How does forgiveness help us meet our psychological or physical needs?

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A few of us have started a Facebook page also called The Better Plan. We want it to be a collecting point for choice theory ideas and strategies. I invite you to join us. An article was posted today from a primary grade teacher who has just learned about choice theory on how her management is going to change this coming school year. Great stuff! Check it out.

* This article appeared in the Summer, 2013, edition of The Leader, the newsletter of the American Federation of School Administrators.

Behaviorism, Religion, Stimulus-Response, and the Character of God

Character of God

During the recent Soul Shapers class, I asked those in attendance to comment on four important areas or implications of choice theory. We had reviewed and discussed these areas in some depth and I wanted to check in regarding their level of understanding. In the activity format I used they each had two minutes to comment on each of these topics. Here are the topics and their answers. I think you will really find this interesting and useful. (After the topics and answers I also share how to set up a round robin activity.) If given two minutes to answer these questions, what would you write?

Something I have learned about –

. . . stimulus-response theory.

• May or may not work in the short term; does not work in the long term.
• It is a myth. May work with animals and people to a point, but is not how humans were made to respond or think. There are many factors involved in why we do what we do and this theory doesn’t address all of it.
• I learned that stimulus-response will work for some the kids, some of the time, but the students aren’t always responding to the stimulus for the reasons we as teachers think they should.
• The carrot trick can work, but the long-term effect is no good. EGW use the word disastrous. It destroys the ability to think for one’s self and it takes away the personality.
• We will never reach our full potential if we are chasing a carrot. We are not animals driven by desires or impulses. We need to be touched on a spiritual level for us to maximize our potential. Don’t drink the water in Mexico.
• Students naturally want to learn when they see the relevance of what they are learning, when it touches a chord within their hearts.

. . . the Caring Habits and the Deadly Habits.

• Criticizing, nagging, etc. are ultimately not helpful. Caring habits energize, enlighten, encourage, and help with choices.
• Use of the deadly habits will dull a student’s ears and prevent them from caring about learning.
• The deadly habits will ultimately destroy relationships, whereas the caring habits will build relationships. The caring habits take more time and energy to carry out, but the reward is worth it.
• That I am a more deadly person; I need to change. I have both, but I can see that what I fall back to mostly are more in the deadly list. I must make a conscious effort to change. My choice!
• Deadly habits are those I’ve been trained to use. I was amazed by how using these strategies “put down” or stifled creativity. I need to put a conscious effort into using “caring habits” and responses with all the people with whom I interact.
• No more smart-ass responses to smart-ass kids.
• How harmful criticism, nagging, and punishing are on relationships. How switching to using caring habits will increase connectedness and help engage students and even families.
• It is important to be aware of which habits you’re using when interacting with others. The deadly habits will push others away and cause damage, whereas the caring habits will open up doors and cause a deeper, more honest relationship to form.
• That healthy relationships are about building up the students, looking for wars to praise and spotlight. The deadly ones are about picking on faults and causing them to feel like they can’t measure to our standards. I love the Oakland A’s.

. . . Behaviorism and its effect on religion and spirituality.

• Behaviorism can be put on or taken off, but that does not necessarily affect or reflect what the heart is doing.
• It has eroded religion and spirituality. Religion focuses on the do’s and don’t’s. The focus should be more on God’s love for us.
• Behaviorism should not be the beginning of our relationship with God. Attempting to understand His great love for us and the freedom He gives us should be the most important thing. Unfortunately, we often start with the behavior, not the love.
• God will not pour obedience into us and bypass our will. The will and spirituality are linked. Being good is not the same thing as being whole and restored to the original image of God.
• God does not give us spirituality. God guides us, but with our free will we choose to obey God or Satan. My thoughts and behaviors are guided by my internal desires.
• Taking away free choice in religion and putting it in a box will turn students and adults away from the thought of any form of religion.
• That control takes away from the experience. Forcing kids to be baptized when they are 12 or pressuring people to believe or follow without choice makes the experience shallow or meaningless. Tacos are delicious.
• Forcing or not allowing choice in a religious setting will likely end up causing the person to turn away from religion as it becomes too legalistic.

. . . the character of God.

• God’s love is very deep. The power He gives us to choose is such an amazing gift. Wow!
• God’s love is so great for us that He has given us the power of choice. To love is not to force.
• Righteousness by choice; we choose our level of connectedness to Jesus. He does not force us on any front.
• God gives us free will. I may believe God is controlling me, but He is not. My behavior stems from my will to want to obey God and be like Him and like Christ.
• He loves a cheerful giver, not someone who gives under compulsion. This is probably why EGW says that rules should be few (but strictly enforced).
• From the beginning of the Great Controversy, God has let choice be the measure of your love. Decide today who you will serve. Love is not forced. Choice is not forced or coerced. That’s why prosperity gospel ministries are so shameful. God is love.
• That we have free will. God has the power to change – past, future, and present – but He allows us to choose, so that the universe can see what choices we make. I love burritos.
• God has given us free will to choose. God wants us to make the choices based on our connection with Him. God wants us to allow others to right to choose.
• He bravely gives me the ability to choose. I have been created in His same character and can reject His will or love in my life. His character teaches me to love others via His love for me.

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These topics and answers came out of a Round Robin learning format. The Round Robin format is simple to set up, yet it can lead to powerful learning results. To use a Round Robin in your classroom –

1. Identify four topics that students have recently been studying and develop clear, concise questions that can serve as writing prompts. It works best when the questions are open-ended.

2. Create quads. Divide students into learning teams with four on each team. (You can have a team of three, but don’t go more than four.)

3. Have team members number off from 1 – 4, and then provide every team member with a piece of paper.

4. Team member #1 will then write the first topic question, in bold letters, at the top of his/her paper; team member #2 will write the second topic question at the top of his/her paper; team member #3 will write the third question; and team member #4 the fourth question.

5. Each of the team members will now have a sheet of paper in front of them with a topic question headline written across the top. At the signal, students will have two minutes to write an answer to their sheet’s question. (The time can be lengthened or shortened as needed.) When the time is up, students will stop writing and slide their sheet to the team member on their left. Each team member now has a new question in front of them. At the signal, they will have two minutes to answer another prompt. This process continues until each team member has been given a chance to comment on each of the questions.

7. The round robin activity can help teachers check for understanding, as reading student answers to the prompts will show how students view the topics. Students can read what their team members wrote and then discuss their answers within the group. Small group discussions can then lead to a full-class discussion. In general, the round robin format is a good way to get 100% of your students engaging in the lesson content. And that’s a good thing!

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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

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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 Thoughts

A few days ago I posted a question on why the God of the Old Testament seems to behave so differently than He does in the New Testament. Was the God of the Old Testament a choice theorist? Several of you commented on this topic – thank you, Paul, Bob, and Tom for helping us with this conversation. I, too, will attempt a comment. What follows is my two cents worth –

Comparing the behavior of God in the Old Testament to His behavior in the New Testament has challenged the thinking of theologians for centuries. There seems to be such marked differences between the two, yet we know that the same God was centrally involved both before (during) and after the Cross. Why the difference?

I don’t claim to have the answer to this vital question. Since coming into an appreciation for choice theory I must admit that I have thought about the question with greater interest. In the process, I have come to recognize the importance of the power of choice and the freedom with which God created us. And since we are created in His image I have to believe that these are qualities He values a great deal. With that in mind, I offer the following ideas to the discussion –

1) The Old Testament Had Its Flaws

Heresy, you may say, but hold on. I actually got this idea from Jesus. A significant section of the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5:21-48) is devoted to Jesus pointing out that “You have heard that the law says . . .” whereupon He comments on things like anger, murder, adultery, divorce, vows, vengeance, and relationships. After stating what the Old Testament law supposedly demanded, He surprises us by continuing with ” . . . but I say unto you . . .” whereupon He shares a much different response, a decidedly different way of being. Don’t return violence for violence, he encourages, but instead give your cheek to be slapped if that will help. Don’t only want to be in relationship with friends, he offers, but instead behave in a way that will even show love to people you consider to be your enemy.

Jesus, who is the God of the Old Testament, must have had a huge challenge communicating with the human race. I think we really don’t understand the gulf that sin created between us and heaven. Only God coming to our little outpost called earth, and showing us who He really is and what He is really like, would begin to shed light on the events of the Old Testament.

2) We Struggled with LSL (Love as a Second-Language)

As a result of sin, the gulf between earth and heaven was wide, and our ability to commune with God directly was broken. Not severed, but seriously damaged. God’s primary language, which is love, became foreign to us. Communication was an issue. Some of the Bible writers seemed to get this language of love; others not so much. A passage in Genesis is relevant here.

“And the LORD told Moses, “When you arrive back in Egypt, go to Pharaoh and perform all the miracles I have empowered you to do. But I will harden his heart so he will refuse to let the people go.” Ex 4:21

I don’t think that God reached down and forced pharaoh to be obstinate. Most of us agree that God simply knew in advance how pharaoh was going to react to Moses’ demands. This seems to be an example of the kinds of misleading passages sometimes found in the Old Testament. Bible writers said it the best way they knew how, and maybe said it in the way they thought their hearers or readers would understand, but something was lost in the translation.

Many Bible writers did “get” God’s love language, though, and the Old Testament is full of such examples. Take, for instance, a passage from the Psalms.

Listen to me, O my people, while I give you stern warnings.
O Israel, if you would only listen to me!
You must never have a foreign god; you must not bow down before a false god.
For it was I, the LORD your God, who rescued you from the land of Egypt.
Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it with good things.
But no, my people wouldn’t listen. Israel did not want me around.
So I let them follow their own stubborn desires, living according to their own ideas.
Oh, that my people would listen to me.  Psalms 81:8-13

This description reveals a God anxious to fill people with good things, and hurt and frustrated that His people didn’t even want Him around. Instead of fire and brimstone and threats and punishment, it simply says then He let us follow our own stubborn desires and live according to our own ideas. To me, this writer is capturing a more accurate picture of God; a picture that emphasizes His love for us, and at the same time reminds us of our ability to either embrace Him and what He stands for or to tell Him to take a hike. And even in the midst of our telling Him to take a hike, He continues to love and support us; to seek us out; to save us.

Language is important. And the words we choose are important, especially so when they depict the character of God. An obvious theme throughout scripture is the theme of choice. God created us with the ability to choose and He has sought to maintain that freedom from the beginning. Let’s keep this theme in mind as we read the messages of scripture.

C.S. Lewis commented on this topic when he wrote in his classic book, The Great Divorce, “In the end there will be but two classes of people—those who say to God, Thy will be done, and those to whom God says, thy will be done.”

Of all our choices, this really is the ultimate choice.

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?

WE Want to Feel Good, Pt. 1

We Choose

I recently discovered that May is Mental Health Month, which is cool, although I would like it even better if the other 11 months were mental health months, too. With that in mind, let’s look at the following —

We want to feel good.

The phrase we want to feel good seems too simple and too self-evident to even take a glance at, yet there may be more in these few words than first meets the eye. Rather than dismiss the phrase, I suggest we actually consider it more deeply. To that end, today we begin a four-part series that will explore how we want to feel good, one part of the phrase at a time.

WE .  . want .  . to feel .  . good.

The picture accompanying today’s blog is of one of my shirts. The company I get some of my shirts from includes free monogramming and I decided to place We Choose over the pocket. People frequently ask about the shirt (Do I sell them? No, I don’t.) or about the phrase (What’s that about? or What do we choose?). The shirts have definitely led to good discussions relating to choice theory and internal motivation. When I had the first shirt monogrammed I wrestled with whether I should use I Choose rather than We Choose. I settled on We because I think it is accurate. We are all in this planet earth soup together. We all make choices every day.

It is significant that in this case the concept of We is a principle. It transcends time and place. Whether we live in the mountains of Nepal, the plains of Africa, or in a large city in the United States, we share a desire to feel good. We have in common a motivation to survive, but that is only the beginning; we want to identify our purpose, to be connected to others, to accomplish worthwhile goals, to experience freedom, and darn it, to have some fun in the process.

We is not limited by geography or culture. Different cultures come up with unique ways for people to meet their own needs, but at our human core we are all the same. We strive to have our needs met, to feel connected to others and to achieve success. We is not limited by religious affiliation. Around the globe humans have for millennia come up with ways to connect with deity and express their beliefs. With so many different religions around the world (over 300 in the U.S. alone) it would appear that religion is more about what we want from God than what He wants from us, but whatever the case we share a common urge to act on our religious beliefs.

We is not limited by age. We don’t strive to feel good when we reach a certain age or a certain level of maturity. The process of wanting to feel good begins at birth with every human being. This is why understanding the principles of choice theory is so important for parents and teachers. Acknowledging the needs that children are attempting to satisfy and even helping them to understand their needs and the ways they can fulfill these needs is a huge gift. Creating a needs-satisfying curriculum at school is also hugely significant.

And so, regardless of how old we are, where we live, and what we do, We is us, all of us.

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