Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Dealing With What Is and Contentment

One of the therapy models I frequently keep in mind when working with some clients is ACT (ACT Made Simple, Russ Harris, M.D.)  I use an unauthorized and "Rick's paraphrase" of his model.  A stands for acceptance of the situation; not as I want it to be but as it really is.  In my personal practice of ACT, acceptance comes most frequently through prayer when I contend with God until God gives me the gift of acceptance.  Sometimes acceptance arrives through the practice of mindfulness.  Acceptance requires getting behind and beyond my wants, dreams, frustrations, anger, etc.  Acceptance isn't easy; whereas the practice of denial and/or avoidance may seem easy; unfortunately they are not only unfruitful but also keep my anxiety, worry, anger, etc. stirred up.   C stands for clarifying my core values.  Values are different than goals.  Values are those qualities I hope will be written or remembered by others as part of my obituary.  Values are who I want to be; whereas goals are what I want to do or accomplish.  T means that I choose to Travel in the direction of my values given my situation.  In other words, I try to  live out my values in the midst of whatever situation I may find myself.  I think this must be what Paul was thinking when he wrote, "I have learned to be content…." (Philippians 4:11)

Saturday, August 20, 2016

The Golden Rule

Sydney Harris, the syndicated New York columnist, wrote many years ago of accompanying a friend to a newsstand.  The friend greeted the newsman courteously.  However, he received in return a gruff and discourteous service.  Accepting the newspaper rudely shoved in his face, the friend smiled and politely wished the newsman a nice weekend.  As they walked away, Harris asked, "Does he always treat you so rudely?"  "Yes, unfortunately he does."  Harris was puzzled and inquired, "Are you always so nice to him?"  "Yes, I am" replied the friend.  Pressing the issue, Harris asked, "Why?"  The friend responded, "Because I don't want him or others to decide how I'm going to act."

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Some Lessons From 53 Years of Marriage

On Tuesday, August 16th, Judy and I will celebrate 53 years of marriage.  During these many years we've learned some things about marriage.  We've learned those things from the hard knocks of experience as well as being facilitators with the Association for Marriage Enrichment (ACME).  We've also learned much from other couples who have shared with us or let us share with them.  Some of those things we've learned are:
1.   You aren't nearly as great a "catch" as you may think you are.  Most of us "married up."
2.   When God deals with a couple, God will give half the answer to one spouse and the other half of the information to the other.  In this manner God is working to make two individuals become one.  Or, in other words when you are so certain about what God is doing in your family, you might be half-right.
3.   Don't take yourself too seriously.  Have some humor about yourself, your ideas, plans, feelings, thoughts, etc.  Be able to laugh at yourself.  We really are funny folks who say silly things and do comical stuff, especially when we are trying so hard to be 'serious.'
4.   Have fun with each other, especially in the privacy and intimacy of your house.  Just make certain that the blinds are closed. 
5.   Remember that compromise means that neither spouse gets what they want--yep, neither one!
6.   Watch your language.  No, your spouse is not "just exactly like her mother or his father."
7.   Learn to say, "I'm sorry" and mean it.  However, If you are saying "I'm sorry" a lot of times then you may need the discipline of learning how to change a behavior or your spouse may need to learn how to give up the need for control.  Too much control is about anxiety and it is a 'pain' for everyone.  Realize that you aren't in control of nearly as much as you think, wish you were or pretend that you are.
8.   When you have disagreements, the goal is the preservation of the relationship--not to prove whose right and whose wrong.  Losing means that you've won the argument,  "proved" that you were right but, the relationship ends or is significantly diminished  There are a lot of "losers" who are certain that they are "right."
9.    Learn to "get over yourself."  When things aren't going like you want, learn to "get over it" and move on.  No one wants to be around someone who is sulking and/or passive aggressive; this is the attitude that says, "Okay, I'll go to the party, but you can't make me have a good time."  Usually, their behavior gives amply evidence of one's spirit--so, get over yourself.
10.  At least once a day, eat together at the table and talk about the day.  You didn't marry the television, your phone, the computer. newspaper, etc. so turn them off.  Your spouse's day, thoughts, feelings, experiences, etc. are more interesting and important than what's on those devices. 
11.  Some things are not to be shared with your close friends, parents, children or in-laws.  Learn to share in such a respectful and trusting attitude so that you can work things out with your spouse.  If you get stuck, find a therapist and the therapist isn't you mother.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

A Gyroscopic Personality

Dr. Gardner Murphy, a Psychologist, describes a gyroscopic personality as the ability of an individual to remain stationary when his or her environment is revolving.  It is termed gyroscopic because a gyroscope spins and stays balanced despite the pitching and rolling of the ship or plane in which it is located.  It is the ability to stay upright despite the circumstances.  Too frequently our circumstances overcome us and send us spinning off in a strange direction of thoughts, feelings, attitudes, behaviors, etc.  I don't really know how the gyroscope works.  I do know that it is important for stability.  I believe that faith, in a personal God who loves and cares, can help an individual develop a gyroscope personality.  A personality with stability regardless of the circumstances.  Perhaps this was what Paul meant when he wrote, "I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances." (Philippians 4:11)

Saturday, August 6, 2016

But Don't Get Caught

I frequently hear folks talking about what's "right" and what's "wrong" as if their main sense of morality is to have a good time and enjoy life, but don't get caught.  I'm not against having a good time.  If some of these folks did get caught doing some of the activities about which they speak, they might become better persons.  I don't like the concept of a God who seems to be snooping and eavesdropping in order to keep us from having a good time.  I don't think that is a Biblically accurate concept of God.  God isn't out to "get me" or prevent me from having an enjoyable life.  How I behave will not change God; therefore, to keep my sense of wholeness and peace I can be satisfied with nothing less than my best--whether or not I "get caught."

Monday, August 1, 2016


One of the clues to discover what is important to a person is to watch those things that makes them angry.  Some thing is important to a person or else their response would be indifference, not anger.  We become angry about those things that are important to us.  Anger is a strong emotion and we spend it upon matters that are significant for us.  Jesus never became angry over personal affronts.  He didn't get angry when he was belittled or misunderstood.  Even during the time of public humiliation and death, his prayer was "Father forgive them, they don't know what they are doing."  He did, however, become angry when he saw people mistreating others; especially when that mistreatment was being done by religious people.  What does your anger reveal about yourself and what's important to you?

Sunday, July 31, 2016

A Soft Brain

A friends of mine keeps saying that her brain is going soft.  I hadn't heard that expression so I asked what she meant.  She said that her job wasn't challenging her anymore.  She wasn't having to think critically or creatively.  She wasn't being mentally challenged.  Things had become routine and she was going through the motions.  That's what she meant by "My mind is going soft."  I suspect that many of us are going soft mentally.  We find a comfortable place where we cease from the tension and struggle of critical and creative thinking.  We let others, even the media, do our thinking for us and the result is that our brains go soft.  Our goal or task is not a soft mind but a discerning mind which does the more difficult work of "testing the spirits" (I John 4:1) and "taking every thought captive...." (II Corinthians 10:5b.) 

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Doing Our Inner Work

Too frequently when there is a significant problem or issue, we're tempted to want to change our circumstances.  We look for another job, automobile, house, city, spouse, etc.  We may even change the manner in which we dress or fix our hair.  Circumstances are important and sometimes we need to make appropriate adjustments.  However, the most significant change that is probably needed is to change our thoughts, attitude, etc.  This is called doing our "inner work" and it is difficult.  We tend to want to deny or avoid that part of the problem is within our self.  The book of Proverbs says, "As he thinks within himself, so he is." (Proverbs 23:7, NASV)  Other translations will translate this as "inwardly reckoning."  In other words we need to figure out what's happening inside of our mind, heart, thoughts, attitudes, feelings, behaviors, etc.  I believe that if  we do our "inner works" we'll usually figure an appropriate way to deal with the issue.  However if we think we can't, we'll find a reason not to try.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Beginning With The Ending

I recently read about an author who wrote the ending of the story first, after which he wrote the rest of the story to fit the ending.  This seemed backwards until I realized that what we do with many things in our life.  I pictured a career then found the appropriate studies to fit that dream.  As a cook, I picture the final meal, then make preparations that will enable me to place that meal on the table. I  wonder if most of us would not do better in life if we lived this way.  Get a picture of how we like our life to be, and then make choices that make our life fit that goal.  I heard an sermon that suggested we write our obituary and then live up to it.  Not a bad suggestion--begin with the ending and make the rest of life's story fit that ending.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

A Two Career Family Circus

My wife was employed outside of our home for many years.  I was also employed so we had a two career marriage.  Two career marriages are often like two clowns attempting a simultaneous juggling act while occupying three rings of the circus at the same time.  It was difficult and we "dropped a lot of stuff."  One of our main adjustments involved the use of our time.  We would have trouble finding time for the household chores, to be with our son as well as time for each other.  We had the tendency to try and do everything as if we really weren't a two career family.  However, that usually made us frustrated and weary workaholics.  It was more profitable when we adjusted our expectations of ourselves and each other as well as kept our humor.  We also learned that we had to share many of those household tasks.  For example, I can now do laundry without turning the white items a beautiful shade of pick.  There were some things that didn't get done which we had previously thought were absolutely crucial.  It was also helpful for us not to lose the Sabbath rhythm of work, rest and play.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Meaning and Purpose In One's Work

An individual needs to be very careful about applying for and accepting a job or position which doesn't give a genuine sense of meaning and purpose.  I suspect that the usual reason we accept such employment is financial, prestige and/or power.  We can be hooked by more dollars, titles such as Boss or Supervisor as well as the recognition that comes from 'being promoted.'  However, money, prestige and power are like salt water.  Salt water looks like fresh water; it is wet and cool.  Salt water, however, can't sustain a person.  Money, prestige and power, without a genuine sense of meaning and purpose in our work, not only doesn't really satisfy; they just make us want more.  Work, that is without a sense of meaningfulness and purpose, will dry up one's spirit.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Pray As You Go

I'm not a person who has made much use of devotional literature.  My limited knowledge and experience with technology means that I haven't used any devotional items on any of my devices.  However, I'm now making use of Pray-As-You-Go on my cell phone.  Whenever I mention this to one of my friends, they look at me with that 'deer in the headlights look' and say, "You?"  Yes, me.  I was introduced to this apt by a friend who is doing excellent work through the twelve step-program.  He is making wonderful progress away from an unhealthy issue and toward a very healthy life.  I am pleased with the progress that he has made and will continue to make.  When I asked him about the various helps he has received, he made reference to this internet devotional apt.  I checked it out and have been hooked.  It is an Jesuit contemplation of scripture along with excellent music.  A Jesuit contemplation will ask questions that stir up your imagination and lead you into prayer, rather than tell you what you are to practice, believe, do, pray, etc.  For one who hasn't done much with devotional material, I recommend Pray-As-You-Go if you are looking for a daily devotion guide. 

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Fear Casts Out Perfect Love

There is much violence in our world.  In the past few days, we've been shocked by the shootings of our Afro-American family by police and, now we're shocked by the sniping of police in Dallas.  Unfortunately, violence has been with us for a long time, i.e., Genesis 4, Cain and Abel.  Violence is in all parts of the world.  The Scripture teaches that "...perfect love casts out fear." (I John 4:18)  Verse 20 even says that we can't love God and hate our neighbor.  I believe our fear is casting out perfect love.  When I'm afraid I try to avoid that of which I'm afraid.  If I can't avoid it, then I try to get rid of it.  Attempting to get rid of a fear involves denying that I have fear and/or projecting that fear onto someone else.  When I project my fears onto some other person or people group, I make them an enemy a person, or people group, to be hated.  An enemy who might take my job, diminish the value of my neighborhood, change the way my Church "works", teach a theology other than mine, etc.  Indeed, fear casts out our capability to relate via perfect love.  My prayer is for the victims of violence, their families, their cities, their people groups, their nations as well as the perpetrators of violence.  I hope we pray for ourselves, as well as each other, so that with Christ we may face our fears, trusting that the Spirit of God will redeem them

Friday, July 1, 2016

Going To The Dark Side

I've heard the phrase that an idle mind is the Devil's playground.  I don't believe that theology.  I suspect, however, that my family used that phrase not because they believed it, but to keep me working, studying, reading, etc.  This is my same family that was fond of saying "Don't burn daylight" which meant get to work early.  Whatever they meant, I've become an excellent work alcoholic.  Although I don't believe that an idle mind is the devil's playground, I do know that an idle mind tends to go to the dark side.  By the dark side I mean that an idle mind will begin to dwell on the worse that can happen and imagine all kinds of unpleasant circumstances.  Imagination isn't always a good friend.  A friend, for example, has an appointment with a Neurologist in a couple of months and he has begun to wonder if he has dementia, perhaps even Alzheimer's.  If that is true, he dwells on what that will mean for the family's finances, where will they put a hospital bed, etc., etc.  I think it is a good prescription and advise to keep one's mind profitably engaged.

Saturday, May 7, 2016


Reality has a way of not letting you forget that it is present.  This past Tuesday we had a check-up visit with Bobby's neurologist.  Bobby has been seizure free for almost two years so the visit was a celebration.  Then reality came back to visit on Friday as Bobby had three seizure in the afternoon/evening plus one during the night.  I've several clients who don't like their reality and will go to great extremes to deny, avoid, rationalize and/or blame someone else for their situation.  Most of these folks are what my Granny would call "whiners."  Whiners were not tolerated well in my family and whining got me no sympathy. My Dad would say, "When you are finished whining, you let me know so we can figure out what we're going to do."  Sometimes reality shows up due to some physical issue, such as Bobby's epilepsy.  Sometimes reality shows up due to someone else's decision(s), the consequences of which are mine or ours to handle, such as when the Counseling Center's Board changed the client fee structure. Sometimes reality shows up because of a decision that I made.  For example, there are often times that I schedule too many clients in one day and, then I often remark to my colleagues, "What idiot did this to me?"   Yes, I make my own appointments.  Often we didn't get our wish, so we have to deal with the reality that is ours.

Sunday, May 1, 2016


As I read the Gospels, it appears that Jesus went to "church", which would have been the Temple, Synagogue, etc. at least three times.  When he was twelve and his parents had to come back to get him.  When he read the scripture in Nazareth, his hometown. When he cleared the money changers and animal sellers from the Temple.  It appears that whenever Jesus went to Church, he got in trouble.  Perhaps, this says more about what we say and do at Church, than it says about Church.  Jesus didn't seem to say much about the Church as buildings, programs, finances, community influences, social ministries, etc.  I've been involved in Church all of my life as a child, teenager and a Pastor for 21 years.  Perhaps a better image of "Church" is to consider what Jesus said and did along with the disciples as they walked, talked and met folks.  They related to everyone and anyone. They appeared to not do so well with the religious folks who were in positions of authority and influence.  They met people wherever the people were.  They didn't seem to expect people to come and find them.  They also told stories that were about life's circumstances but left you thinking "there's something more in that story.".  They practiced acceptance of everyone and pronounced forgiveness.  I overheard a person wonder if Jesus were to come back would he come to their church.  I wonder if Jesus were to come back, would he even go to church or would he just walk the streets of our cities?

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Bobby's "shadow"

We've just returned from our trip to northwest Arkansas to see Judy's mother and visit with her family.  Our son, Grant, went with us so we were able to drive all the way home yesterday, eleven hours.  Throughout the trip Bobby kept saying, "I'm not tired.  I can travel a long ways."  He is very proud of this desire, which is often not true.  When he was getting ready for bed last night, he fell off the side of the bed as he attempted to put on his pajamas.  I picked him up and put him on the side of the bed.  When he lifted a leg to insert into his pajamas, he slide off the bed again.  He was so tired and weak that he was unable to get himself up.  So, a second time, I lifted him onto the bed, but this time I held on as he put on his pajamas all the while he was saying, "I'm not tired.  I can travel a long ways."  He got into his pajamas and was immediately asleep until almost noon this morning.  When he got up this morning, he said, "I can travel a long ways and not be tired."  This is what Carl Jung, the Swiss Psychiatrist, would call one of Bobby's "shadows." The shadow contains those parts of ourselves that we refuse to recognize and/or won't admit. Bobby loves to travel but can't recognize or admit that he gets tired.  Often our strengths also contain our shadows.  I may have the gifts of hospitality, but don't want to admit that I get weary of having people around all the time.  The "shadows" can be related to our gifts or strengths.  We,also, often project our "shadows" onto others.  Who aggravated you?  Who do you admire?  Are these persons exhibiting characteristics which are within your own shadow, except you don't want to admit that they are there?  What traits of yourself are you reluctant to recognize and fear they might someday become public? Jung said that the religious process is about restoring the wholeness of the personality.  "To own one's shadow is to reach a holy place--the inner center--not attainable in any other way. To fail this is to fail one's own sainthood and to miss the purpose of life." (Robert Johnson, Owning Your Own Shadow, pg. 17).  This stuff about "shadows" sounds a lot like Paul's writing about our two natures toward the end of the 7th chapter of Romans.  "Who will set me free from the body of this death?  Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord."  That's good religion.  By the way, Bobby didn't slide off the bed this morning as he was dressing.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

The Slender Threads

One of those books to which I return frequently is Balancing Heaven and Earth by Robert Johnson and Jerry Ruhl.  This is the "story" of Robert Johnson's life and the amazing coincidences that he has experienced.  He calls those coincidences, "the slender threads."  Toward the end of the book, Johnson reflects, "If you can live in the paradox long enough, then a transformation takes place and a new consciousness is born....  This occurs when one has stopped trying to maneuver external reality so that it will work out as the ego desires.  One turns authority over to something greater than oneself; the, ego is sacrificed to the Self, the earthly world serves the heavenly world, and one learns, at last, to trust the slender threads."  Some of my greatest experiences have happened when I relaxed my determined efforts to control what was happening in order to make events happen as I wanted and, instead, trusted that God was at work and my task was to relax into His care.  Trusting "the slender threads" that weave life together is not as easy discipline.  It is, however, what I call faith.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016


Teresa of Avila was a Spanish 16th century nun.  He wonderful book, Interior Castle, describes the seven "mansions" in our lives as we progress through them on our spiritual journey.  When she writes about humility, she writes that God owes us nothing.  I like her concept of humility.  God doesn't owe us health, prosperity, safety, etc.  Life is full of unexpected happenings, some of which are not what we would have chosen.  This doesn't mean that God doesn't like us, is punishing us or is not involved with our lives.  Humility accepts whatever life brings our way without the hint that God owes us something better.  Humility accepts life's twists and turns whether they point in ways we like or dislike.  Teresa also reminds us that whatever life brings, God is present.  Knowing that God is present and humility that accepts one's life, is not only contentment but, also, healing from life's stresses.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Napping and Contemplation

It has been known for a long time that sleep is a powerful medicine.  Research teaches us that when we don't get sufficient sleep, things begin to happen that aren't so healthy.  Sleep helps our brains to repair the "connections."  Another discipline that helps in this way is meditation and contemplation.  I define meditation as fixing one's attention on a subject for a period of time.  For example, It is a serious, attentive study time with the scriptures.  Meditation is an active attention as we pay attention to our thoughts and ideas.  Contemplation, however, is more of a passive attention.  It is sitting still and watching thoughts flow past my mind, but not picking them up and thinking about them.  John Climacus, an Egyptian monk of the 7th century, said that contemplation involves the discipline of not "entertaining thoughts" for a period of time.  The Spiritual Directors say that if an idea or thoughts is really serious enough, it will return.  Contemplation requires some trusting that God will return whatever ideas or thoughts I really need to give attention.  I like that idea that I don't have to invite in and entertain all of the thoughts that come through my mind.  I think contemplation is best done in a quiet and dark room.  I try it several times a week and it is a hard discipline to keep my mind still and quiet.  When thoughts come, as they will, I watch them as I might stand in a shallow river and watch the debris flow by.  I believe that contemplation is like a good night's sleep or a good nap, it is healing of the "connections" that happen in my mind and my world.  I hope you've had a good night's sleep, perhaps a nap as well as times of meditation as well as contemplation.

Sunday, January 31, 2016


Last Sunday many central Kentucky churches and businesses were closed due to eight to twelve inches of snow on the ground.  This Sunday the temperature is expected to be in the sixties. Kentuckians like to say, "If you don't like the Kentucky weather, be patient because it will change."   Not only Kentucky's weather, but things change.  At the counseling Center, I often deal with people who are in some type of transition or significant change.  The transitions may be such events as a change in jobs, positions or relationships in a business, children off to college, divorce, death, moving to a new community, etc.  As a former Pastor of 21 years, I also sit with ministers and spouses who have been dismissed from their ministry position.  Many of these transitions have been created by a decision others have made.  In his book TRANSITIONS, William Bridges writes about making a good ending, going through the neutral zone and making a good beginning.  He writes that going through the neutral zone is a significant time.   In that neutral zone, which can last for an undetermined period of time, it is important to pay attention to ideas, thoughts, feelings, dreams, etc. He recommends that one keep some type of journal.  His thesis is that during such a neutral zone, there will be new ideas, thoughts, dreams, plans, etc. that would not have materialized without the transition and those things will bring new energy.  I think paying attention to the neutral zone, is something like listening to one's self.  I like this quote from Rachel Naomi Remen, "When you listen generously to people they can hear the truth in themselves for the first time."   Sometimes it is important that we listen to ourselves, as well as others, so that we can be attentive to the deep self that nudges us toward all that God desires for us.  Transitions may be opportunities for significant growth.

Friday, January 22, 2016

To Which Voice Am I Giving Attention?

There appears to be a bunch of different  voices who seem to have taken up a residence in my thoughts.  They even have a lot of influence for my decisions and behaviors.  For example, there is the "Critic" voice.  That voice is very negative.  It reminds me that almost nothing I do is really good enough.  It sees the glass as always half empty.  My critic voice can cause me to even wonder if there is anything in the glass or even, if I have the correct glass.  The critic voice must take delight in pointing out all of my attitudes, actions, words, etc. that are less than desirable.  That voice can also be very critical of others, even if they don't deserve it.  The critic seems to have a big voice and a "pointy finger."  There is also the "Worrier" voice who must have taken up a large space in my head.  The worrier is so skilled that it can discover almost anything about which to worry.  That voice can worry about things that have never happened, probably, won't ever happen and certainly aren't happening now.  It has the ability to even worry when things are going well.  However, just because things are going well doesn't keep that voice quiet in my head.  Worry seems to have a "whiny" voice.  Worry must carry around a large bag of "anxiety dust" because it can spread that dust everywhere.  There is also a voice in my mind that says, "Hush" or "Be quiet."  Sometimes, it tries to speak to the critic and the worry voices, but they usually don't pay any attention.  I wish my "Be Quiet," "Hush" or even "Shut up" voice had a more forceful aspect because it often gets ignored by the others.  I think my "Wise" voice is saying that we need to encourage my "Be Quiet" voice to be more forceful so the other voices will hush.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Are We There Yet?

I'm not good at waiting, especially when someone else is in control.  I was that child who rode in the backseat of the auto and would repeatedly ask, "Are we there yet?"  I seem to be stuck in a time of waiting.  I have to wait for additional tests and results from heart related procedures.  At the office we are waiting to see what the University might do regarding a parking lot. I'm waiting on some insurance companies to determine whether or not they choose to place me on their panels and referral lists.  I'm also waiting for the stock market to rebound and recover what has been lost in our retirement funds.  It is difficult for me to stay focused on the present in the midst of pending changes.  My mind wants to play the 'what if ...' or 'let's try to imagine the future' game.  I realize that it is a mental and emotional game that has no certain outcome because I'm not in control and probably not even knowledgeable of all the facts.  In spite of my rational brain, I continue to play the game as a way of preparing for the 'whatever.'  It isn't easy to pray with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, "Not my will, but Thine be done."  I don't think it was easy for him, either.    Nevertheless, I keep praying that prayer even though I really want the office to have use of that parking lot and to be on those insurance panels.  Who do I ask about when the stock market is going to rebound?  I really want to ask someone--whoever that is--"Are we there yet?"  Waiting isn't easy an easy discipline.