Friday, June 10, 2011

Spirituality Versus Grace

Super spirituality proffers that heaven is not for the good guys but for the good guys who are able to go everyone better. You know those who have 'spiritual disciplines' embedded into their DNA; disciplines like, tithing, fasting, prayer, small group attendance, giving up 'stuff' for whatever, and/or giving oneself to something, etc. etc. etc. The subtle erosion of grace occurs when one thinks that the gasoline of grace gets better mileage when perfect performance is the additive of choice.
Nonsense! Completely unacceptable! There is no way to tie the kingdom of God to anything you or I do! God's Kingdom is here because the King brings it Himself! Not because we give It a helping hand. You or I may do anything stupid or brilliant with the freedom we have in Grace but whatever you or I do, we must never think that it is worth a plugged nickle in the process of our salvation!
Robert Farrar Capon (Between Noon and Three) remembers that Luther wrote that the reformation was a time when people went blind staggering drunk because they discovered, "in the dusty basement of late medivialism, a whole cellarful of 1500 year old, 200 proof grace -- of bottle after bottle of pure distillate of Scripture that would convince anyone that God saves us single-handed."
Century after century humanity tries to pull itself up by its own bootstraps by worrying about the perfection of their performance and then Gospel of Grace bursts on the scene by flatly stating that the saved were home free even before they started!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Why People Change Their Minds

I have always been interested in why people change their minds. I am sure you have encountered those who were very persistent in their mind set (stubborn?) and others who seemed very non committal and vague (stubborn?).
My Dad told me years ago, "He does not have reverse in his car, Son..." and by that he meant, that person will not change and therefore will fail!
As long as you have 'reverse in your car' you have a chance at growing and learning and living a fuller life of joy and peace.
But back to my original query: Why People Change Their Minds.
Stories can illustrate this answer (at least partially).
A man went to his priest and asked, "Father, I want you to say a Mass for my favorite dog."
The priest indignately stated, "What!? What do you mean you want me to say a Mass for your dog?"
"Father, it is my pet favorite dog. I loved that dog and I would like you to offer a Mass for him."
The priest replied, "We don't offer Masses for dogs here! Go to the Episcopalians, Lutherans, or the Methodists...maybe they have a service for you!"
As the man turned to go, he said, "I really loved that dog, he was my favorite! I was planning a million dollar contribution for the Mass."
The priest called out, "Hey wait a minute, you did not tell me the dog was Catholic!"
You never quite know what will influence someone to change their mind!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

One Last Post About The Rapture That Did Not Happen

Dr. Wayne Perry succinctly links the esoteric Gnostic Mindset and the false prophet Harold Campings. Read his great piece here: ( )

RJ Cherryholms (a voice from my child hood church) used to preach with the same fervor and passion of the great orators from the past. Wayne has reminded me of one of RJ Cherryholms' sermons on Pride (a cardinal sin even to Protestants! ).

He would thunder...There is the PRIDE OF FACE (spending so much time on the external appearance to the neglect of the internal), There is the PRIDE OF RACE (falsely believing that one's race gives one preference before the Almighty), and the most hideous form of PRIDE, There is the PRIDE OF GRACE (the arrogant belief that one is more holy or more knowledgeable than fellow believers and fellow followers of the lowly Christ).

The arrogance of the human heart that believes he/she has knowledge that no one has ever known previously is the heart failure experienced by Harold Campings and many of his followers.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Dooms Day Has Passed, Again

As a psychologist (and a follower of Jesus Christ), I have pondered, "why would anyone do what Harold Camping has done...." That is, through his influence and charisma he has participated in the selling of homes, the emptying of savings, and has done this twice. As of 6:15 CST (May 21), I am still here, my wife is here, and we saw several babies today as well!

I once had a dear friend who sold all he had during the year of 1999 (doomsday was coming on Jan 1, 2000, remember), moved his family, and invested hundreds of thousands of dollars on emergency contingencies ( he had a power plant installed in the basement of his new home in the country that would light a small city!)...when Jan 1, 2000 arrived, with no sign of 'the end', he never addressed the issue of being 'wrong.' He had influence over a wide range of my friends who were in varying degrees of fear as 'the day approached'...and when the 'day' passed, he never apologized nor ever addressed this issue again.

Wonder if Harold Camping will do the same or will he fess up and apologize for the errors of his way and realize his paranoia is infectious.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Learn to Relax and Sleep Like a Baby

Think about how easy it is for a baby or small child to fall asleep. We're born with the instinct to relax and sleep when our bodies or minds need a break. Over the years, it becomes necessary to control and even suppress these natural urges to rest, since we must remain alert as we attend school, learn professions, go to work, or care for a family. Many people spend years conditioning themselves to perform well despite feelings of tiredness. While no one would argue that suppressing tiredness can be a necessary skill, it can impair our ability to actually "let go" and relax when we do find the time.

Relaxation is also a uniquely individual activity. Napping or just doing nothing might be your idea of relaxation, but this amount of inactivity might drive someone else crazy. Others may relax by participating in sports or undertaking physical challenges, but some people would find these activities stressful. Whatever your idea of relaxation, the following tips can help you re-train and regain some of those lost relaxation skills:

  1. Give yourself permission for some down time. Stop ruminating about work or personal problems or tasks. If it helps, make a to-do list of issues and projects and put it aside during your relaxation time. That way, you won't worry about forgetting or neglecting any responsibilities after your break.
  1. Decide if you're interested in a structured relaxation program, such as courses in meditation, yoga, or martial arts. Some may find this kind of training helpful; others may feel it adds to their stress.
  1. Try some short, simple exercises such as the Muscle Relaxation for Stress and Insomnia, Meditation for Reducing Stress and Improving Health, or 3 Minutes to Stress Relief!
  1. Practice other positive health habits such as getting exercise and eating well. The healthier your body is, the better it can function in all areas, including relaxation. An exhausted, "burned out" state isn't going to bring on restorative or strengthening relaxation.
  1. If necessary, force yourself to take emotional "time out" for relaxation. Practice shutting out stressful thoughts and images for a few minutes at a time to start out. Imagery exercises (visualizing a comforting or pleasurable setting) can help redirect your thoughts.
  1. Accept help. Talk to a loved one or counselor about your stress. The very act of sharing can provide a much-needed release of anger and frustration.
  1. Don't always equate relaxation with sleep. Particularly if you suffer from stress-induced insomnia, daytime napping can just make your nights more wakeful. Instead, focus on an activity that gives you pleasure.
  1. Remember that the best form of relaxation is finding and participating in something that brings you joy - whether it be alone or with others, sedentary or active, goal-directed or aimless - find whatever is it that brings you relaxation and peace.

Friday, April 1, 2011

The Unknown Soldiers: Right now

The Unknown Soldiers: Right now: "'Not one thing was mentioned by the media,' ... 'Why have we not heard of this?'"

Paul Harvey would say, war is about old men sending off young men to die for old men's problems. And now we are on several fronts but for some political reason the Afgan "conflict" is avoided by the media. If it is my son that dies, then it is a war that needs to be focused on by the media.

Everything is political and that sullies the death of these soldiers.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Making a Banquet Out of Crumbs...Another Look at Extra Marital Affairs Health: "the deception hurt the most. 'The relationship can never go anywhere. You're making a banquet out of crumbs.'"

Human hearts are wired to deal with disappointments, grief, sorrows, and loss.Painful? Yes...and endurable and workable.

However, deception is one thing the human heart cannot work through. For a recovery from an affair to begin, there must be the slow rebuilding of trust....built on an openness that is demonstrated daily (hourly) by the secrets...full access...and then maybe, just maybe, recovery is possible.

I work weekly with this is one of unimaginable pain and fraught with multiple challenges. Even with this, as a couple 'calms down', begins to be thoughtful, and begins the process of being open, there is hope for their lives and marriage.

I have seen many couples 'rise from the ashes of pain' and rebuild their lives. Here is an excellent piece on the 'price of an affair.'

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

How To Change The Quality of the Parent / Child Relationship

When you are in a family relationship with someone and they are going through an extremely hard time, physically not feeling well, hormonally challenged, 18 and going through constant life changes, (you get the picture) and they are in almost a constant negative and hurting mood, how do you keep from falling apart yourself while trying to speak in love and show love. Because when you speak it and show it they almost always reject or make it seem like it's not enough. You know they need someone to understand and listen but it seems nothing you do or say makes a difference and they just get upset. I'm desperate for suggestions.

My Answer:
Well, that is a good one...and not to get too technical but let me try this:

Let’s think a bit about two different levels of communication (the reason I start here is that there is a break down in effective communication and emotional reactivity at the heart of most relational difficulties)....


Kids who are process-oriented tend to react to any confrontation (even loving confrontation when they are upset) by persistently focusing on the process of the communication rather than the outcome. If the parent is focused on the outcome (most of us parents are...I will explain more in a moment), there can be a ‘communication breakdown....and it drives us insane’ (to borrow from Led Zepplin?!!).

Imagine you go to the IRS and your present your gripe/complaint to the IRS are considerate and she is polite, would you be more concerned about whether or not you owed more money (OUTCOME) or would you be more interested in the process of the audit? Most of us would be more interested in the OUTCOME of the audit.

However, if you and I went to the IRS to complain about how complicated the forms are and how aggravating it is to fill out the forms and how much it costs to get a CPA to do our taxes and how unfair the tax bracket we are in and how we have called 12 agents and have gotten 12 different answers to the same question and on and on we go....we are there because we are upset at the whole system...then we are at that point PROCESS one there can do one thing to rectify our situation!

Now, for us parents, who are OUTCOME oriented, the goal of a discussion/loving confrontation is to determine the outcome of the discussion. “Be happier” “Get more involved” “Bring grades up” “You should not date that boy” “You must get home by 11:00”....etc. etc. etc. BUT for the process oriented child, the goal is to control the process of the discussion...the discussion is about the discussion, the outcome is secondary. In other words, from the child’s perspective, the winner is the one who controls the process and the parent who tries to ‘win’ by determining the outcome is extremely frustrated...and often has a sense that she/he is not ‘winning’ but does not know why.

Now to THINK a bit more before about this here are three critical questions that must be answered:

1. Who determines the timing of the discussion? Is the discussion chosen by the child? When the child initiates an inopportune moment, is the parent unsuccessful in delaying the discussion until a later time? Does the child allow the parent to initiate conversation about painful issues or will the child only discuss these issues that he /she initiates?

2. Who determines the content and direction of communication during the discussion? For example, the parent comes to child to discuss ISSUE A. The child responds instead by accusing the adult of ISSUE B. The adult defends herself/himself against the child’s accusation of ISSUE B. In this example the adult initiated the content of the discussion (ISSUE A) and the direction (asking the child questions). However, the child quickly takes charge of the process as the subject is now ISSUE B and the direction becomes that of the child’s asking questions (accusations) and the adult engages in self-defense. The child ended up determining the content and direction of the conversation.

3. Who determines the mood of the discussion? Here is an important principle of parent/child relationships: If a parent and a child enter a discussion with two different moods they often leave with the same mood!! The critical issue here is whether the adult takes on the mood of the child or the child takes on the mood of the parent.

Here are some helpful hints to improve this very common situation.

I will prevent the child from determining the timing of the discussions, the direction/content, and mood of the discussion.

The timing can be altered by the parent refusing to engage in the griping / complaining....if the parent can’t contain themselves by not engaging then go to another room in the house for a short while.

To prevent the child from determining the direction/content and mood...I might write notes and leave them for the child to read...especially if this content could possibly be ‘explosive.’

Without a doubt the MOST IMPORTANT piece here is to prevent the child from determining the mood of the discussion or the mood of the home. Sometimes here, the marriage may need some strengthening so that MOM and DAD are working together and not against each other....

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The One Who Taught Me How to Love

My Dad taught me 'how to live...' He was fearless, would try anything, go anywhere, try any recipe, and worked very hard...two jobs! Fearless? Yes, a one wheel trailer and an old Studebaker and an old canvas tent...he took us (1961) from Troy, Ohio to San Francisco on less than $300! Mom had never been out of the states of Kentucky or Ohio and off we went!

My Mom taught me 'how to love...' She laughed at my jokes, laughed, sang, cried, tender, funny, fun to be with, she cooked, loved to cook, worked all my life (two jobs, one at home and one at Hobart). She taught me how to love.

Fifteen years ago today, on March 6, 1996, I watched the undertaker fold my Mother's body into his bag, walked down the hall of our home, and out to his Hearst. I still remember that day and that image...knowing that here her life was over and knowing that one day she will be reunited with the rest of her family for all of eternity.

Thanks were, and still are, the best in my mind!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Please, Please, Understand Me!

There is deep within the human heart a desperate need to be understood…to be known, to be seen for ‘who I am’ and not what you may want me to be! The life journey of ‘being known’ is a sometimes distressing and even a bit fearful but always ends with the joy of discovery.

The person that I am is not some ‘thing’ that you know but is a growing, changing, evolving, and yes even vibrant soul! As life moves, I change and become and discover who I am. John Powell said, “Please do not give me a “batting average,” fixed and irrevocable, because I am “in there” constantly, taking my swings at the opportunities of daily living. Approach me, then, with a sense of wonder, study my face and hands and voice for the signs of change; for it is certain that I have changed. But even if you do recognize this, I may be somewhat afraid to tell you who I am.”

Countless books have been written on becoming a ‘more authentic self.’ The ‘becoming real’ idea has been a popular topic of many conversations; so much so, that we have adopted a phrase “would be please get real!” which, being interpreted means, “Cut the crap, don’t you know who are talking to?!” We want people who are close to us to level with us, talk to us, to tell us who they are and what they are thinking…in other words, to open with us! And with this, I wonder, am I going about this a bit backwards?

You see, books can’t explain this, lectures cannot impart this…this “knowing and being known” thing…not it only occurs within open, honest, connected human relationships. In other words, it must be experienced on the journey of self-discovery. The journey of self-discovery is a voyage that is a bit fearful, daunting at times, and yes even painful….but always ending in ‘becoming a bit more real.’

Children are very good at being real…at least better than most adults. Why? Because they have not developed the need to hide…but they will. They will hide like you and I…behind a smiling face, or a know- it-all attitude, or behind prejudice and bigotry, or behind pouting. We adults have a myriad of games we play to keep people (with whom we do want to be close) at arm’s length…and yet we desire to be understood for who we are! What a conundrum to be in…screaming “please understand me” on the one hand and hiding behind some mask or playing some game on the other.

Several years ago my wife said, “I don’t know anything about you that everyone else does not already know.” I remember thinking, “what a dumb statement…what is it you want to know, I will tell you…” (No additional comments are needed here!). She later asked, “What are your vulnerabilities, your fears?” Again, myopic Me thought, “Me? Vulnerabilities? What are you talking about?”

But with her gentle persistence, I embarked on a journey of self-discovery. Questions like, “who am I, where did those emotions come from, and why does that upset me?” I found myself (as Morris West wrote) abandoning the search of security and reaching out to live with both arms, beginning to accept pain as a condition of existence, counting doubt and darkness as a condition of knowing, and learning to accept the consequences of living and dying. The life of being real meant knowing my vulnerabilities, owning my vulnerabilities, and disclosing them to others. As I discovered myself and as I ‘knew’ myself more fully, I experienced something very liberating, the need to hide and play games was being replaced with a ‘real me!’ The experience of accepting myself led me to (yep you guessed it), accepting others, and of course accepting her…and through that I found, I am understood and known by her!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Elusive Contentment...The Lost Art of Serenity

I am not sure there is anything more taxing nor trying to the human soul than to watch your child go down a path that you and I would think is destructive, damaging, and yes, even damning. This can be one of the most challenging 'situations' to my serenity.

A dear friend this morning emailed me the following: "I am writing [about] our daughter...she now is claiming to be a full-fledged atheist. She emails us last night with a video on Youtube of an atheist against Christ and the Bible. It made my heart sick, knowing this is how she is believing...[the daughter further states] 'I'm not trying to argue a case...religion is manmade, all the evidence is there. I was simply sharing something I enjoy.'"

For the past several years, contentment/serenity, as an experiential settling of the human soul, has been something that I have read, pondered, discussed, and even experienced as time goes by. Contentment was sold to me as a by product of getting my world in order and I interpreted that as "make sure there are no loose ends," and I exerted my will upon whatever needed to be 'controlled.' Alas, I soon was to discover that the harder I tried the behinder I got and my serenity suffered as I became more dismayed and the more my life was disrupted the more dismayed I became.

I remember one of those moments (dare I say, epiphanies, you know those sudden, intuitive perceptions of or insights into the essential meaning of something that was initiated by some homely commonplace experience) when a light went off in my mind that flashed this insight onto my soul; "the opposite of contentment is control!" Uh oh!! For me, that brought about a transformative way of thinking that was counter intuitive to all I had believed up to this point. That epiphany changed the way I approached my self, my clients, my church, my family and all of life.

This counter intuitive approach to contentment is grounded in the fundamental truth that nothing, absolutely nothing, happens in GOD's world by accident, and therefore, everything is exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment. And, further more, until I could accept that truth, I would experience no serenity/contentment. You see, my 'former' belief was grounded in the notion (not a very productive notion, I might add!) that some situation, some event, some person, some thing is unacceptable to me and therefore must be changed! Of course I knew what the change was to 'look like!' And I truly believed, that until those changes occured, I could never experience peace of mind...and as people will do, my beliefs dictated my behaviors and my thoughts and I would do my best to talk you out of, talk you into, make you wish you had, and whatever good passive agressive people do, I would do...all in the name of me 'finding peace!'

However, the peace and content GOD created me to experience is eternally grounded in the truth, that nothing, absolutely nothing happens by accident. And until I could fully accept this life changing principle, I could never find contentment. I often lose my focus and find myself looking at situations and what I expect and disturbs my peace!

So my prayer for my friend, is that the focus of he/his soul will be upon the God he/she trusts in. And when that focus zeros in on that unassaible radiant character of God, he/she will not judge God by the situations of life but will instead, judge the situations of life by the character of God. Then contentment will settle their human soul. And sweet peace will bring rest!

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