Amazon Wobble Creates Ripples Across Worldwide Stock Markets

An earnings miss by Amazon that hit U.S. technology stocks overnight rippled through into other markets on Friday, with Asian stocks retreating from recent highs and European tech shares opening sharply lower.

Amazon’s stock tumbled over 2 percent on Thursday after it reported a slump in profits, as its rapid and costly expansion into new shopping categories and countries showed no sign of slowing.

“It has been a pretty good season for earnings and this is the first big company that has sown a few doubts on that, and it also raises question on where the broader tech sector is headed from here,” said Investec economist Victoria Clarke.

Amazon has been one of the companies powering the sector this year, with a 40 percent rise up until Thursday.

Though other U.S. sectors were resilient, Wall Street’s “fear index”, the VIX, rose sharply on Thursday from a record low of 8.84 percent to an intra-day high of 11.5 percent.

Amazon is one of the so-called “FANG” group of the most influential tech stocks, along with Facebook, Netflix and Google, hence the broad impact of its setback, which hit Asian shares as well knocking the U.S. tech sector off recent highs.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell 0.8 percent, with Samsung Electronics , Asia’s largest company by market capitalisation, dropping 3.5 percent.

Europe’s tech index fell 1.4 percent in early trading on Friday, the region’s worst-performing sector.

“In terms of one story shaping sentiment it is quite remarkable, but markets are also a bit nervous ahead of U.S. GDP numbers due out today,” said Investec’s Clarke.

“The trigger was Amazon but developments overnight on U.S. healthcare has not helped sentiment.”

U.S. Senate Republicans failed early on Friday to overturn the healthcare law known as Obamacare, in a stinging blow to President Donald Trump that may end the Republican Party’s seven-year quest to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

The dollar dipped against its major peers on Friday, though second quarter U.S. economic growth data due later could potentially give it some respite from the recent sell-off.

Economists expect the world’s largest economy to have grown about 2.6 percent in the second quarter, from 1.4 percent in the first quarter.


The Swiss franc was one of the biggest movers in the currency market and is on track to post its biggest weekly drop against the dollar for more than 22 months.

The franc has been falling as investors bet the Swiss National Bank will keep monetary policy loose as other central banks move towards tightening.

Oil prices held near eight-week highs hit on Thursday after key OPEC members pledged to reduce exports and the U.S. government reported a sharp decline in crude inventories.

Brent crude futures were at $51.52 per barrel, up slightly in European trading and close to highs of $51.64 hit on Thursday.


Pakistan’s Nawaz Sharif Resigns as Prime Minister

  • Sharif and his children to face corruption charges: court
  • Political chaos across Pakistan following court ruling

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif resigned after the Supreme Court ordered his disqualification from office following a corruption investigation into his family’s finances, plunging the South Asian country into political turmoil ahead of a national election next year.

The five-member bench of the Supreme Court gave its unanimous verdict on Friday after a graft probe found disparity between his family’s wealth and his known sources of income. Two justices had earlier voted to disqualify him in a verdict in April, while the other three mandated a further investigation. Finance Minister Ishaq Dar was also referred to the national anti-graft agency by the court.

Nawaz Sharif

Photographer: Aamir Qureshi/AFP via Getty Images

“Despite all the reservations the verdict will be implemented,” Sharif’s office said in a statement. “Soon after the verdict was announced, the prime minister relinquished his official responsibilities.”

Sharif is the second world leader to be felled by the Panama Papers leak, following the resignation of Iceland’s prime minister last year. The leaks also led to the exit of Spain’s industry minister, two pension fund CEOs in Iceland and senior European bankers. It also prompted increased regulatory scrutiny of offshore accounts around the world.

“Having furnished a false declaration under solvent information, Mian Nawaz Sharif is not honest,” Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan said as he read the verdict in court. “Therefore, we disqualify him to be a member of the national assembly,” and “with immediate effect thereof cease to be prime minister of Pakistan.”

QuickTakeHow the Panama Papers Sunk Another World Leader

While the findings against Sharif are a blow for the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), they’re unlikely to lead to its collapse. The ruling party has majority in the National Assembly, Parliament’s lower house, which elects the premier. A loyal lawmaker, such as Sharif’s nephew Hamza or planning minister, Ahsan Iqbal, are seen as potential candidates who could immediately take up his position and allow the government to complete its five-year term until next year’s election.

Shehbaz Sharif, who is the prime minister’s younger brother and chief minister of Punjab, is also seen as succession candidate, though the party would have to call elections to get him into office as he’s not a lawmaker in the National Assembly.

Political Chaos

Nevertheless, the verdict and ensuing political chaos may set back the party’s attempts to revive the economy after it staved off a balance-of-payments crisis in 2013 by turning to a $6.6 billion International Monetary Fund loan program. The economy grew at a rate just above 5 percent in the last fiscal year, according to government estimates, and China is financing more than $50 billion in badly-needed infrastructure projects across the nation as part of its ‘One Belt, One Road’ trade route plan.

It will cause “political instability and we have already seen a trailer of its impact on the stock market,” said A.Z. Hilali, chairman of the political science department at the Peshawar University. “Impatience, intolerance and unacceptability is back in politics and that may affect the next elections’ polling pattern and outcome.”

Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb told reporters in Islamabad that the ruling party deplored the ruling, but wasn’t surprised by the verdict.

The ruling party alliance is expected to fight this verdict and push the court to hold similar proceedings against other parties, said Economist Intelligence Unit analyst Firat Unlu. “A judicial tit-for-tat looms.”

“The fact that the ruling was unanimous will make it difficult for the PML-N to make a case in public,” Unlu said. “Pakistan is looking at a period of major political uncertainty at a time when macro economic vulnerabilities are building up — the risk of a disorderly move in the currency has risen.”

Still, security improvements and the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor are expected to continue regardless of the fate of Sharif and his family, said Hasnain Malik, global head of equities research at Dubai-based Exotix Capital. “Governance standards, long-term, are surely enhanced by the detailed scrutiny of a sitting PM.”

Corruption Investigation

The Supreme Court started looking into the corruption allegations against the Sharifs in November after a report from the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, known as the Panama Papers, showed Sharif’s children either owned or have signing rights to authorize transactions of four offshore companies in the British Virgin Islands. Those holdings were alleged to have been used to make property purchases in London. Sharif’s political rivals doubted the premier’s family obtained those assets legally.

The head of the second largest opposition party and former cricket star Imran Khan has driven a passionate campaign seeking the premier’s resignation.

“Today’s development has strengthened democracy in Pakistan,” Khan told reporters in Islamabad.

Politicians in the coup-prone country have long been accused of corruption and have often been thrown out of power. No prime minister has completed a five-year term since parliamentary democracy was introduced in Pakistan under the constitution in 1971.

Ruled by its powerful military for much of its 70-year history, Pakistan ranks at 116 out of 176 countries in Transparency International’s 2016 corruption perception index.

— With assistance by Chris Kay, Faseeh Mangi, Iain Marlow, and Ismail Dilawar





The four Republican senators whose opposition led to the collapse of the health care bill fell across the ideological spectrum. They criticized the bill for different reasons.
The four Republican senators whose opposition led to the collapse of the health care bill fell across the ideological spectrum. They criticized the bill for different reasons.
Repeal Bill Stalls in Senate
Good afternoon. Here’s what’s happening with President Trump’s agenda.
Hours after last week’s edition of this newsletter arrived in your inbox, two more Republican senators announced they would oppose the latest Senate Republican bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. The Senate parliamentarian on Friday challenged key provisions in the bill, dealing another serious blow to its prospects.
Republican leaders still plan to hold a vote Tuesday on a motion to consider the health care legislation, but several Republican senators have announced or suggested that they will vote no. Republicans would still be able to continue tweaking their plan or try writing a new one, but so far, the effort to draft a health plan acceptable to at least 50 senators has not succeeded.
One key reason Republicans haven’t passed their repeal plan: Support for the Affordable Care Act has risen since the election with more people now viewing the law favorably than unfavorably.
Sanctions for Russia, and Iran
The White House indicated on Sunday that President Trump would accept new legislation curtailing his authority to lift sanctions on Russia on his own, a striking turnaround after a broad revolt by lawmakers of both parties who distrusted his friendly approach to Moscow and sought to tie his hands. New sanctions are a setback Mr. Trump and President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia have tried to avoid.
Last week, Mr. Trump recertified President Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran, an agreement he has repeatedly condemned. But less than 12 hours later, the Trump administration announced new Iran-related sanctions to show its toughened stance. Iranian officials have made clear that they believe any unilateral American sanctions are a violation of the nuclear agreement.
The Times Interviews Trump
Last week, the president sat down with three New York Times reporters for an exclusive interview in the Oval Office. Here are excerpts from the interview and a fact check of Mr. Trump’s several misleading claims.

Unilever Nigeria Applies to Raise N58.9bn Via Rights Issue

Unilever Nigeria Plc has formally applied to the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) to raise about N58.851billion fresh capital through Rights Issue. In the application made through its stockbrokers, Stanbic IBTC Stockbrokers Limited, Unilever will be issuing 1,961,709,167 ordinary shares of 50 kobo each at N30.00 per share to shareholders on the basis of 14 new shares for every ordinary shares held.

If successfully raised, it will amount to N58.85 billion, which is lower than the N63 billion approved by the shareholders at the last annual general meeting (AGM) in Lagos.

The directors had proposed to shareholders at the AGM to approved that the authorised share capital of the company be increased to N5 billion (from N3.03 billion) by the creation of additional 3.95 billion new ordinary shares of 50 kobo and to raise up to N63 billion by way of Rights Issue, subject to obtaining regulatory approval.

The funds would be used to finance short term bank borrowings and enhance its operations among other reasons. Unilever Nigeria had increased its revenue by 17.8 per cent from N59 billion recorded in 2015 to N69 billion while Profit After Tax (PAT) jumped by 157 per cent from N1.19 billion in 2015 to N3.07 billion in 2016.

Addressing shareholders at the 92nd AGM, the Chairman of Unilever Nigeria, His Majesty Nnaemeka Achebe, theObi of Onitsha said that the company has once again demonstrated business resilience under very difficult circumstances. He asserted that the company’s performance showed its commitment to grant shareholders returns on their investments

“The company’s performance for the year ended 31 December 2016 showed sustained growth and resilience even under depressed economic conditions. Although Unilever Nigeria has not been insulated from the tough economic environment, we have remained focused on our short and long term growth ambitions with strong emphasis on operational intensity, cost efficiencies, growing market share across key categories as well as reinvesting behind our iconic brands,” he said.

He noted that even in this period of economic downturn, Unilever Nigeria is dogged about ensuring sustained and steady growth in the company’s operations to achieve improved returns on investments.

NIGERIA: Daily Parallel Market Exchange Rate (July 28, 2017)

 Nigeria’s Parallel Market Exchange rate is a daily compilation of the price of the Naira against three major currencies in the world. This tracker dates from June 1, 2016.

Note: Rates displayed here may be different from rates used in actual trades.

Data is collated from various black market dealers on the Mainland and Island of Lagos State where forex is sold. The price quoted daily on this page represents the average price obtained by our Research Team. Our prices are a guide and could be slightly different from the price you get when you eventually decide to buy or sell.

Giving up wasn’t an option’

Dr. Jim Denison | July 27, 2017
The most inspiring article I’ve read recently comes from an unlikely source.

Johnathon Carrington graduated from Georgetown University with a double major in management and finance. While he was valedictorian of his high school class, that school was in an impoverished, drug-infested community. But Johnathon chose to view his challenges as opportunities: “Given where I come from, giving up wasn’t an option. I wasn’t going to stop.”

“Cognitive reframing” is a way of seeing and experiencing events, ideas, concepts and emotions to find more positive alternatives. We can view our challenges as insurmountable, or we can find a positive way to interpret and conquer them.

A recent article in The New York Times illustrates this concept in relation to stress.

Research indicates that having a lot of stress in your life is not linked to premature death. However, having a lot of stress and believing it is taking a toll on your health increases your risk of premature death by an astounding 43 percent.

How can we handle stress in healthy ways? Consider the following examples of reframing:

• When your heart rate increases under stress, you might fear that your risk of heart attack is increasing. Instead, be grateful that your heart and body are mobilizing energy to respond to this challenge.
• When your breathing rate increases under stress, you might fear that anxiety is affecting your mental and physical health. Instead, be grateful that faster breathing means more oxygen is getting to your brain, improving your thought processes.
• When your blood pressure rises under stress, you might fear that your health is being damaged. Instead, be grateful that the extra blood flow is fueling your muscles, making your stronger for the challenge ahead.

Will these reframing techniques work? A Harvard study proved that they do, concluding that when we approach stress the right way, it makes us stronger.

Now let’s apply reframing to our culture.

We can grieve the moral direction of our society, but we can also reframe this spiritual crisis as a call to intercession and cultural engagement. We can lament the current decline in religious commitment, but we can also renew our commitment to personal witnessing for our Lord. The popularity of abortion is a call to pro-life engagement; the legalization of same-sex marriage is a summons to defend biblical marriage.

Jeremiah grieved for his culture so deeply that he yearned, “Oh that my head were waters, and my eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people!” (Jeremiah 9:1). But his compassion led to courage as he proclaimed God’s word fearlessly to his fallen nation.

The next time you encounter troubling news, reframe it as God’s invitation to prayer and action. Billy Graham was right: “We are the Bibles the world is reading; we are the creeds the world is needing; we are the sermons the world is heeding.”

Preach well today.

Stress Prevention for Parents, Part 2

By Dr. Eric Scalise

Stress Prevention for Parents – Part 2

In Part I of this blog, we defined what stress is and what it does. In Part II, we will look at some tangible and practical steps which can be taken to better manage the stress.

Many would agree that just being around children can be stressful. But there is also the stress we bring into our parenting (e.g., unresolved hurts of our own, patterns of besetting sin, unhealthy relationships, unforgiveness, insecurity, extreme control needs, etc.). Parents who have successfully addressed the second category of stress (what we bring), will do a much better job in handling the first category.

Here is a potentially difficult, but important question we must all ask ourselves from time-to-time: Is my parenting role/style causing the problems in my life; or, is my parenting role/style revealing the problems in my life? Stress and pressure have a way of squeezing things out of us. The good news is that cause-and-effect dynamics can be improved or resolved and revelation can be used by the Holy Spirit to promote needed adjustments and change. Our role is to have “ears to hear,” “eyes to see,” and a willing and open heart before the Lord.

So, what goes into a good stress prevention or self-care plan? The following are a number of principles you may find helpful in your own journey. Take them and prayerfully develop a personalized approach, tailored to your needs and/or situation. Write the plan down and review it at least once every week. Start by being honest with yourself and be open to what the Holy Spirit is speaking.

1. Learn how to recognize the stress-producing areas in your life requiring attention and take ownership of what needs to be done. “Let us search out and examine our ways, and turn back to the Lord” (Lamentations 3:40). You cannot extinguish a problem until you can first distinguish a problem. Things which remain a secret usually continue to have power over us and may be sources of fear, guilt, and shame. Here is my definition of fear: it is the “darkroom” that develops all our negatives. Fear is a dark place where negative thoughts, emotions, and behaviors emerge. The only thing I know of that will stop a developing photograph is light. This is because light penetrates and darkness does not. Ephesians 5:13 says, “But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light.”

2. Learn how to renew your mind. We need to reject the lies of Satan and replace them with the truth of Scripture. It is like taking an antibiotic to fight off an infection. However, the “medicine” will never do us any good unless and until we take it in—so too with God’s Word. The process is like weeding in a garden. If the ground is dry and hard, it can be very difficult to remove the weeds. The Word washes our minds and softens our “heart ground,” thereby allowing God to root out the things in our lives that have become detrimental to spiritual, emotional, and relational health. Paul encourages us in Romans to, “Not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (12:2).

3. Learn to depersonalize some of what you do as a parent and limit your time around negative people. Children frequently bring a host of complaints and problems to their parents, where they may not necessarily be encouraged, positive in their outlook, or full of faith in the midst of their angst. This can be draining after a while—remember Jethro’s observation of Moses in the wilderness when he was “wearing himself out” while trying to counsel everyone (Exodus 18). Criticism from a child is a frequent companion of any parent. Parents can become like lightning rods simply because they are in an authority position. This can be especially true if a child has unresolved issues, so it is important to remember that strong negative reactions may not really be about you or your parenting. Philippians 1:8 admonishes us, “Finally brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.”

4. Learn to not lose sight of your first love because “you” are not your parenting. Before our identities as husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, or any number of other roles, we are first and foremost, the adopted sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father. We must not allow our “parenting” to become the “mistress” in our walk with God because it’s like chasing the wind and a formula for discouragement and burnout. When Jesus prayed in selecting His Apostles, the Scripture says, “He appointed twelve, that they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach, and to have power to heal sicknesses and to cast out demons” (Mark 3:14-15). It is a blessing and privilege to be given opportunities to preach the Gospel, move in the miraculous, and engage in frontline spiritual warfare (all the purview of parenting from time to time), but this is not the first reason God has called or appointed us either. It is so you and I, “might be with Him,” our first love.

5. Learn to rest because the nature of God has much to do with rest. Rest, true God-given rest, does not automatically imply inactivity, but trust and dependency. God has so ordained our bodies that about every sixteen hours, they need to shut down for a while. If you live to a normal life expectancy, you will sleep approximately 25 years of that life. Speaker/author Steven Covey tells a story about two men who chopped wood side-by-side all day together. One man stopped every hour and rested, while the other worked straight through the day. When they finished, the man who rested actually chopped more wood. Why? Because when he stopped, he also sharpened his axe. Resting allows us to stay sharp. We sharpen our physical axes, our emotional and relational axes, and especially our spiritual axes. “If the axe is dull and he does not sharpen its edge, then he must exert more strength” (Ecclesiastes 10:10).

6. Learn to be silent and learn to be still. What is it about parenting that often compels us to try and accomplish more than Jesus did? I cannot imagine anyone busier and more in demand than Christ was during His life on the earth. Yet, He clearly understood the value of being alone with the Father. Luke records this for us, “However, the report went around concerning Him all the more; and great multitudes came together to hear, and to be healed by Him of their infirmities. So He Himself often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed” (5:15-16). The busier we are as parents, the more we need to strategically withdraw, wait on the Lord, and allow the Holy Spirit to “renew our strength so that we can mount up with wings like eagles, run and not be weary, walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31).

7. Learn to give your burdens to God each day. We were not designed to be pack mules. We are sheep. The only burden sheep carry is their wool and they lose that twice a year. In Matthew 11, Jesus admonishes us by saying, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (vs. 28-30). In Williamsburg, Virginia, where I have lived, there are a pair of oxen that pull a cart throughout the streets. Usually, one ox is a wise, seasoned animal and the other is new, young and untrained. Whenever a new ox is brought in, a special training yoke is used. The neck hole for the wise seasoned old ox fits his neck almost perfectly, but the yoke for the young ox is much larger. The reason—the young ox is not supposed to feel the burden of the cart, but only learn what it means to walk alongside the other. It is an easier yoke. Jesus told us His yoke is easy. Yet, it remains a yoke, which means we cannot simply go anywhere we choose. However, God does want us to learn to walk alongside Him. If you are constantly feeling the burden of the parenting yoke, it may mean you are in the lead and not the Lord.

8. Learn to triage your daily and life events. Emergency personnel have been trained to come into a situation, assess the genuine priorities, and begin making decisions regarding the most critical things first. Sometimes, it can literally make the difference between life and death. The same is true in parenting. Spiritual triage—discerning what God is doing in the moment, having the wisdom to know how to respond, and being led by the Holy Spirit—is a critical, stress-reducing parenting skill. Not everything that is important is necessarily urgent and not everything that is urgent is necessarily important. David cried out to God saying, “Show me Your ways, O Lord; Lead me in Your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; On You I wait all the day” (Psalm 25:4-5).

9. Learn to resolve those things that can be attended to easily and quickly. I frequently talk with parents who spend 90% of their time, energy, and resources on the 10% they may be able to do very little about. Reversing those numbers could help immensely in how we go about our days. Have you ever had a pebble in your shoe? A splinter? An eyelash in your eye? These are not life threatening events, but they can be extremely irritating and distracting nonetheless. A simple adjustment (i.e., taking the shoe off and shaking it out) can provide immediate relief. Ask God to show you the things in your life that represent pebbles, splinters, and eyelashes, and with a little attention, you might experience relief and even freedom—in other words the, “little foxes that spoil the vine” (Song of Solomon 2:15). Perhaps it means getting at least one more hour of sleep each night, or actually taking a day off and relaxing. It could be any number of minor adjustments having significant payoffs. We only have to be off course by a little to miss the destination by a lot.

10. Learn to manage you time by saying “No,” or your time will control you. Time does not manage us; it tends to take over. We must be active—and at times determined—in our self-examination, and intentional in correction when it comes to this issue. Do we simply need to be needed or are other factors involved? I have learned than cemeteries are full of indispensable people. The fact of the matter is that life usually goes on with or without us. Parents too often move their spouses and their own self-care out of their schedules when something else comes up and crowds the calendar. We rationalize that we will make it up later and yet, we never seem to have the time. Learning how to set reasonable and appropriate boundaries are essential to good health and well-being.

11. Maintain a healthy foundation of sleep, diet and exercise in your daily routine. Caffeine is the most abused stimulant in the United States and when combined with the adrenaline-fueled lifestyle many of us experience, the impact can have a number of negative consequences. Basically, we sleep in 90-minute cycles. The first 60 minutes or so of each cycle is when the body repairs itself at the cellular level. The last 20-30 minutes of the cycle is when the brain/mind attempts to de-clutter and restore. This is the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) or dream cycle portion associated with sleep. Most of us need around five sleep cycles per night and if we are resting properly, the REM sleep should lengthen with each cycle. Caffeine acts like a Central Nervous System (CNS) stimulant and has approximately, a seven-hour half-cycle. This means that seven hours after consuming caffeine, 50% of the effect of the stimulant is still impacting your body and brain. Studies have shown that 300 mg. of caffeine (2-4 cups of coffee; 1-2 espressos; a combination of soda, coffee and chocolate; etc.) can significantly disrupt the sleep cycle depending on when it is consumed during the day (as much as 50% when the body is trying to restore itself and as much as 70% of the REM cycle). Unfortunately, the effects of sleep loss are cumulative (a “foggy” brain, worsened vision, impaired driving, short-term memory problems, obesity, and even heart disease). A 2005 survey by the National Sleep Foundation concluded that the average person sleeps about 6.9 hours a night, but the body/mind requires closer to eight hours for most people. This means the average person loses almost an entire night’s sleep (seven hours) on a weekly basis. We have approximately one week to make up the sleep deficit and then whatever impact occurs is likely to be present and deteriorating over time.

12. Learn the value of authentic relationship and find one or two key people in your life to be accountable to. Someone once told me that accountability was the “breakfast of champions,” but that too many people skipped the most important meal of the day.

Isolation and the lack of accountability is, in my opinion, the primary strategy that Satan uses to take down any parent—“walking about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Whenever we are alone (in reality or perception) and cut off from supportive relationships, we are the most vulnerable. We do not necessarily need more “yes” men and women. Most of us already have our share of them—good people, prayer warriors, faithful, and loyal to be sure—but we also need “truth-tellers” in our lives. These are individuals who also love us, are safe, and we can count on them to give honest, direct, and transparent feedback. However, we must give these individuals permission and an open invitation to do so. The spiritual landscape is littered with individuals who have failed to embrace this truth. Look at the foresight of the wisest man who lived. In 1 Kings 4:1-19, we see a wide-ranging list of Solomon’s officials (priests, scribes, recorders, military commanders, projects managers, governors, and the like). Yet, imbedded in this list, is a priest named Zabud, who is also described as the “King’s friend” (vs. 5, NASB). Here was Solomon, apparently with the wisdom to have at least one person on his staff who also served in the capacity of friend. Who is your Zabud? If you do not have one, may I encourage you to find one? Better yet, consider being a Zabud to another parent.

Christian parenting is a high and sacred calling—to humbly, yet transparently represent Christ as His ambassadors to our children who represent the next generation. In order to, “run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1), we must be deliberate when it comes to our own self-care. Only then can we put on the compassion of Christ and consistently manifest His grace, truth, and love to our sons and daughters. May you have true joy in the journey.

Stress Prevention for Parents, Part 1

By Dr. Eric Scalise

Stress Prevention for Parents – Part 1

Counselors, social workers, doctors, nurses, teachers, pastors and many others who work in care-oriented professions are often thought of as being compassionate people, and among those who readily identify with the compassion of Christ. What about parents? They also feel and experience the call to compassion when it comes to raising their children.

Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines the term compassion as a, “sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress, together with a desire to alleviate it.” It comes from the Latin word, compat, which means to “suffer with.” Much of the research on this subject underscores the critical importance of helping relationships, and parents are frequently in close proximity to the emotional turmoil and resulting grief of their children. Herein lies both a potential problem (increased stress and burnout), as well as a wonderful opportunity (to faithfully steward what God has entrusted for eternity’s sake).

How do parents sustain joy along the way? When the unexplainable, the unpredictable, or traumatic event takes place, theological rulebooks are often inadequate when a response of compassion is required. There are day-to-day issues parenting brings that require our guidance and help. Sometimes, the impact and sheer level of distress confronting us can overwhelm even the most capable and mature parents. A primary challenge for parents is the simple reality that self-care is something we tend to focus on when it pertains to our kids, but not necessarily when it comes to looking in the mirror at ourselves. A question to be asked is, “Not only how do we finish the race God has ordained for us, but how do we finish well?”

The Lord gave me a helpful life lesson a number of years ago while flying overseas to speak with nearly a thousand pastors on, of all things, stress and burnout. It had been a particularly chaotic and harried week leading up to my departure. On top of that, making difficult connections in multiple airports due to weather conditions was not what I had in mind. When I finally boarded my last international flight, I managed to buy a newspaper and was ready to sit down and relax. If you travel frequently as I do, you may tend to politely ignore the flight crew as they go over airplane rules, seatbelts, emergency exits, and the like.

Here I was perfectly content in “tuning out” when the voice of the stewardess came across the loudspeaker and said, “Ladies and gentlemen, I know many of you have already had a long day and that you are tired, but if you would be so kind as to set aside your reading materials and give us your attention for a few brief moments, we would like to cover some important safety information with you.”

This at least prompted me to pull the corner of the newspaper back a few inches and glance up into the aisle. To my surprise, there was a flight attendant standing just a few feet away smiling at me with that “look.” Here I was going to teach on stress and I was swimming in it at the moment. Of course, I put down the paper, sighed, and smiled back.

In the middle of the preflight announcements, I heard the following—which I have heard many times before, but am not always “listening.”

“If we should experience the sudden loss of cabin pressure, oxygen masks will deploy from the ceiling above you. If you are traveling with small children, please put the mask on yourself first and then assist the child.” The Holy Spirit immediately began to stir me regarding this profound truth. Why should parents put on their masks first? One would tend to think it would be more humane, loving, and compassionate to help the child first. However, because children are typically more vulnerable and less able to take care of themselves in the moment, then the most responsible course of action is for parents to make sure they are in a position to help and facilitate care. To do that, they need to be stable and breathing in the oxygen themselves.

As our children bring their hurts or deal with a crisis, they are simply less mature and don’t have the requisite life experience. Therefore, they tend to be less mobile, less resourced, more incapacitated and anxious, and perhaps less able to discern the voice of the Lord at the moment than we are. If we want to ensure we are “available” to the Lord and to them, we must take care of ourselves first—appropriately and in a balanced way—or we risk becoming ineffective and, at times, even a hindrance to what God may be trying to accomplish.

When you made the decision to become a parent, you probably expected to be successful. Most people do not feel passionately called by God to something only to fail. One common distortion is that many of us define success primarily by quantitative measures (e.g., how much my children accomplish) and not by qualitative measures such as those that make a difference in a child’s life by helping him or her become more Christ like. There can be a strong temptation to develop a comparative mindset. We can set increasingly unrealistic standards that have less to do with trusting God and walking in faith, and more to do with how we compare to the parents or families next to us. If we evaluated Christ using this paradigm as a sole criterion, some might deem His ministry to have been an abject failure.

Few other roles have such a broad range of “high expectation” demands. Here is an important principle when it comes to parenting: the individual expectations placed on us by our children might be legitimate, but the composite expectations can be all encompassing and at times destructive. It may feel nice to be affirmed by our kids, friends, peers, external family members, etc., but we cannot allow this to become our primary motivation or define our sense of identity. Otherwise, in seeking the applause of men, we may allow others to determine our calling and purpose as moms and dads.

Paul identified himself to the Corinthians as a “bondservant,” but note it was for “Jesus’ sake” (2 Corinthians 4:5). In other words, he was certainly there to serve the church—not primarily for their sakes, but for and to his Lord. If we do not recognize this dynamic, it will catch us off guard and we may accept the false narrative that we are not allowed to fail, hurt, or in essence, be human. The result can be a crisis of faith at both a personal level and within the parental role, because we have either not learned how to set reasonable boundaries with our children or we choose not to. The truth is that if we become over responsible for our children’s well-being, we become exhausted and they will never learn or grow. In time, we may become more desperate for relief.

In my work with parents over the years, I have found several common outcomes that are frequently set into motion once they realize they may not be able to live up to the unrealistic expectations set by themselves or others:

1. Developing a preoccupation with stress-producing people or situations. We remain in the intensity of the stress-filled environment and seek after adrenaline experiences—always moving, always busy, with the appearance of human doings rather than human beings.

2. Indulging in escape behaviors. For many of the same reasons others are—we are tired of being discouraged, lonely, or in pain and our chosen path is a way to “self-medicate” via certain substances or behaviors, although usually in an unhealthy manner.

3. Avoiding intimate relationships with one’s spouse or close friends and substituting fantasy over reality. True relational intimacy requires time and effort and when we are emotionally, physically and spiritually drained, we are less able to make the necessary investment. Sexual addiction, for example, is now a worldwide epidemic. It can be tempting to engage an image on a computer screen, because it is easy, there is an immediate emotional/physical reward, and there is little risk of failing or being rejected by that image.

4. Seeking to control everything and everyone as a means of coping. Many times, control is a survival tool that is embraced rather than a characterological disorder. If we come to believe we are powerless, perhaps from being repeatedly hurt and disappointed, a false conclusion is that if we can simply control our environments and the people in them, we will somehow be safer. Unfortunately, this is rarely the case, as most children do not respond well to excessive control.

5. Justifying actions by blaming other things and/or other people. Blame shifting is an attempt, albeit with unintended negative consequences, to avoid responsibility and accountability. If we can make the issue(s) primarily about someone or something else, then we can more easily separate ourselves from the emotional and practical aftermath.

6. Choosing to simply quit or leave the marriage/family. The enemy of our souls would like nothing better than to see us fail and give up. Sadly, the Body of Christ too often “shoots its own wounded,” and this grieves the Holy Spirit deeply.

So, what are the consequences of stress overload? Dr. Hans Selye, a Canadian endocrinologist who is considered the “father” of stress research, began to define the phenomenon during the mid-1930’s in terms of what he called the General Adaptation Syndrome. The normal pattern is for the body to cycle through a three-step process: alarm, resistance, and exhaustion. He went on to define stress as the “non-specific response of the body to any demand.”1 Think about that statement for a moment. The implication here is that almost any demand placed on the body (including the mind, emotions and spirit), has the potential to create a stress response.

Stress can have both a psychosocial (within the environment) and a biogenic (within the body) orientation. Eustress, which is a normal part of every-day-life, is necessary for keeping us alert and active. It enables us to be productive, creative, and assists with decision-making activities. However, a chronically high level of stress becomes distress and results in a rapidly downward spiral for day-to-day functioning. The two primary stress hormones that begin this process are adrenaline and cortisol.

The stress cycle starts in the brain. When a stressor is detected as a threat, the amygdala, hypothalamus, and pituitary glands trigger the fight-or-flight stress response. The sympathetic nervous system activates several different physical responses to mobilize for action. The adrenal glands increase the output of adrenaline (also called epinephrine), cortisol and other glucocorticoids, which tightens and contracts the muscles and sharpens the senses. Five main systems respond to stress and can be compromised by prolonged stress: the cardiovascular system, immune system, nervous system, endocrine or glandular system, and metabolic system. The body also forms free radicals that are associated with degenerative diseases, illnesses, and an acceleration of the aging process.2

While the fight-or-flight (and sometimes the freeze) response is instinctive, it tends to compromise rational and balanced thinking. This is because adrenaline signals the body to move blood out of the brain and into the major muscle groups where it may be needed more (to prompt swift action and/or reaction). What happens is that a small gland called the amygdala, hijacks the messages from the neocortex (the thinking part of the brain), directs them into the limbic system (the feeling part of the brain) and makes calm responses vastly more difficult—think of road rage when someone cuts you off in traffic after an already demanding day at the office. As you contemplate the myriad of situations, decisions, and stressors most parents constantly face, is it any wonder that making wise, healthy, and balanced decisions can become a challenge after one’s resources (emotionally, cognitively, physically, and spiritually) are pushed to their very limits?

When excessive amounts of adrenaline and cortisol enter the bloodstream, the cumulative effects over time can be harmful. These include:

• a narrowing of the capillaries and other blood vessels leading into and out of the heart

• a decrease in the flexibility and dilation properties of blood vessels and their linings

• a decrease in the body’s ability to flush harmful (LDL) cholesterol out of its system

• an increase in the overall production of blood cholesterol

• an increase in the blood’s tendency to clot

• an increase in deposits of plaque on arterial walls

Although the research is still emerging, there is some evidence increased cortisol levels result in unwanted weight gain and the accumulation of fat cells around one’s midsection. This is why a number of dietary and weight control supplements currently available are designed to reduce these levels (e.g., CortiSlim, CortiStress, Cortistat-PS, Cort-Aid, etc.). According to the American Institute on Stress, 80-90% of all doctor’s visits today are stress-related.3 The American Heart Association further states that more than 50 million Americans suffer from high blood pressure and nearly 60 million suffer from some form of cardiovascular disease, resulting in over one million deaths each year (two out of every five who die—one every 32 seconds).4

Heart disease has been the leading cause of death each year since 1900 and crosses all racial, gender, socioeconomic, and age barriers. Finally, the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services recently reported 25% of all prescriptions written in the United States are for tranquilizers, sleep aides, antidepressants, and anti-anxiety medication.5

We have seen that parents are not only susceptible to increased levels of stress, but when combined with a call to love and serve their families, this can result in what is commonly referred to as compassion fatigue. Compassion fatigue is defined as a comprehensive exhaustion that takes place over time when one is constantly in the “giving” position and as a result, the person loses his or her ability and motivation to experience joy, satisfaction, or to feel and care for others.6Parents (especially single parents) frequently join the ranks of other caregivers in being among the most vulnerable of groups in this regard. It is sometimes referred to as secondary or vicarious traumatic stress associated with the emotional residue related to the cause of caring.

In order to address and manage the stress that comes with even normal parenting, mothers and fathers must be intentional and proactive in developing a comprehensive stress prevention plan. Part II of this series will explore the process further.