Thursday, September 20, 2018

The Call of the Wild

The book was on the top shelf. I was just tall enough to face that shelf. Neither the bookcase nor I were very tall and I was too young to be able to read very well but the title always caught my attention, The Call of the Wild. I’m not sure whose book it was, perhaps Grandma’s because she read a lot. Neither my Dad, their son, not Grandpa was seen reading much beyond the newspaper. Some 70 years later, the Great American Read is on Public Broadcasting television, and The Call of the Wild has called out to me again. I no longer have my Grandparent’s copy; however, the book is now on my Kindle. I’ve read this great story of Buck several times. His story, and the way Jack London can describe an event, has always captured my imagination. It is one of the great books, at least in my opinion. Reading it again reminds me of the bookcase in my grandparents’ home and the book. Buck’s story is that of an archetype calling this great dog back to his ancestors from the forest and wolves. Reading The Call of the Wild again brings me back to my Grandparent’s home with fond and peaceful memories.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Selective Memory and Emotions

One of the longest phases of the grieving process is the phase called 'Selective Memory and Emotions.' My brother, Bobby, died last September. He and I would watch the Oklahoma of University football games on television and give each other a high-five when there was a great play and, always, when OU scored a touchdown. This past Saturday was the beginning of the 2018 football season and OU was on television. I watched the football game. There were many great plays and OU scored a lot of touchdowns. I missed Bobby. There was no one with whom I could share the game and give high-fives. It didn't seem the same.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Happiness, a inside work

My friend, Brother Paul Quenon, is a monk at the Abbey of Gethsemani. He has lived there for 50 plus years. He has a new book, "In Praise of the Useless Life, a monk's memoir." Brother Paul begins his book-memoir with a quote from Pascal. "Man's unhappiness spring from one thing alone, his incapacity to stay quietly in one room." I'm not so convinced that this is the "one thing alone" that causes unhappiness; however, if I'm not comfortable with myself I may never find happiness. Deep happiness and contentment are so related that I don't think they can be separated. For too many individuals, happiness seems to be sought outside of ourselves, examples: jobs, marriages, children, houses, material things, vacations, etc. These things are not unimportant. They do not, however, make one happy. Happiness is an inside job. I recommend reading and memorizing the Beatitudes, where blessed can mean happy, or Paul's letter to the Philippians written from prison and ask what is the Biblical teachings about happiness?

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Meditation is being attentive

I recently went to the Pharmacy to pick-up a prescription. I was in a hurry because I had made myself a schedule of errands. When I arrived at the Pharmacy, it was closed for a lunch period. I was frustrated. I decided to go to the lunch counter at the Pharmacy and get something to eat since I was made to wait. As I sat down with the menu, I took a few deep breathes. I didn’t like myself being so frustrated. I watched the waitress and thought about who she might be and what kind of life she might live. At a nearby table was a mother with several children. I quietly asked the Lord to bless her, her children as well as the waitress. I got my sandwich and thought how easy it is in my life to get a meal. Whatever else meditation may involve, it certainly means being attentive to the present moment and all that may involve.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Holding Lightly

Dionysius, the Aeropagite (who wasn’t the same person as in Acts 17:34) wrote that the process of spiritual growth passes through three phases. The first is purgation, followed by illumination and finally union with God. By purgation Dionysius surely means “the sin that so easily entangles us” (Hebrews 2:1). I believe purging the “sin issue” is a crucial first step. However, I also think purgation must involve the assumptions, attitudes, thoughts, etc., that keep my mind and heart closed. Open hands and mind are available to receive gifts; whereas a closed mind or hand, which becomes a fist, isn’t available for any reception. When I close my mind and heart; I’m not in an attitude of accepting gifts, not even illumination or union. I’m stuck. Open hands and mind mean that what I hold dear; I also hold lightly. An open hand and mind also means that I may let go of an attitude or thought easily. An old friend was fond of saying to the congregation, “Don’t believe this because I believe it. God’s Spirit may cause me to change my thoughts and belief tomorrow.” Hold your thoughts and attitudes lightly because God’s Spirit may be gently blowing new attitudes and thoughts into your heart.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Purging

I’ve been purging my closet, the basement and my book shelves these past several months. Clothes that I don’t actually wear have gone to the Salvation Army. I’ve not even kept those that I might again wear after I’ve lost the ten pounds that has been my goal for several years. Books have gone to colleagues in ministry or the International Book Project. Tools have gone to Habitat for Humanity. Purging hasn’t been easy because the clothes, books, tools, etc. all have a story. Their stories evoke memories of other times, places, events and/or people who were significant in my personal story. Giving an item away involves my accepting the possibility that I might not recall that specific part of my history again since I no longer have the reminder item. Purging feels like letting go of an old friend. The most difficult purging, however, is not in my closet, basement or book shelves. Rather, it is the purging of thoughts, ideas, assumptions, attitudes, desires, values, etc. that no longer fit with who I really have become or the world in which I live.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Generativity

My description of myself reads that I'm in that era which Erik Erikson called, Generativity versus Stagnation. Generativity means to what do I give myself. If there is nothing to which I give myself, I'm a good candidate for stagnation. We've been cleaning the basement and our closets. There are some wonderful items we've rediscovered; however, they are useless except for the memory or stories which they hold. That's a good description of stagnation--holding a great story but not of much use now. I'm grateful that in the era of my life, which many call the elder-years, I'm able to give myself to clergy. My ministry is as a Therapist, Adjunct Seminary Professor and Member Care minister with missionaries. I spend my time with ministers who pastor a church or who are on a staff; missionaries; students in a Seminary and folks who are ministering with their involvement with some of the social issues of our time. I know that these folks have much to give me in terms of their energy, new ideas, challenging values, etc. They are crucial in my on-going maturity. Generativity is a reciprocal arrangement or it isn't true generativity.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Hinting and Hoping Doesn't Work Very Well

Hinting and hoping is not good communication. This style of trying to communicate says, for example, "Gee, I'm hungry" and hopes the other person will catch the hint and respond, "Okay, I'll hurry up with supper." This usually doesn't work. The other person may say, "Well, you've got two legs fix yourself a sandwich." Hinting and hoping usually ends up with frustration. Good communication requires the message to be clear and simple. Jesus said that we will have to give an account of our idle words. Maybe hinting and hoping are merely idle words.

Failings or Failure?

There is a vast difference between failings and failure. When we give up or quit on ourselves, we can become a failure. When we no longer try to learn from our failings, we may become a failure. Being a failure has to do with one's character. Failing has to do with one actions. This is a difference and it is significant. God entered my life to keep me from becoming a failure. Nevertheless, in my living I will fail often. When I fail, God can pick me up, dust me off and put me back on the right track. A failure says, "I'm down and out so no hope." One who has failed says, "I'm down, but not out because God is my help." Don't quit on yourself. God hasn't

Dead Tooth

I recently went to the Dentist. He said that my tooth was dead. Sure didn't look like it to me. It's white, except for a filling. It works. It chews, mashes and grinds. It doesn't hurt. Looks like my other teeth. Nevertheless, he said it was dead. He had x-rayed it so that he could look inside. He said the root was dead. My tooth is dead on the inside even though it looks and works fine on the outside. I guess there are some folks who are like my tooth. They are dead; they've just not been buried yet. They are dead on the inside; no love, joy, peace, meaning, purpose, grace, etc. One's life doesn't need to be this way. Jesus said, "I am come that you might have life and have it nor abundantly." That's good news.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

A Check-up

I had my teeth cleaned recently. The Dentist said that I needed to come more often. I thought he would say that. He scrapped,picked and prodded. He said he was checking for weak spots, potential cavities. He also buffed and polished. He reminded me that prevention was easier, less painful and not as expensive as doing repairs. It seems that it is also important that we have a spiritual check-ups. In worship, prayer and reading the scriptures we seek out and strengthen our weak spots.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Thanks, John Parks

My friend's obituary is in today's Lexington paper, i.e., John Parks, M.D. John was a psychiatrist, who prior to coming to Lexington, worked among the people of central and southwestern Arizona. Judy and I met John and his wife in the marriage enrichment efforts in central Kentucky. Later, he asked me to be in his peer learning group as he was training in spirituality with the Shalem Institute. We met in our home for several years. He introduced me to Psycho-synthesis and involved me in their work. Sometime in the late 1970s or early 1980s, he began a dialogue group between Christians and Muslims. He involved me and later our group included Jews, Hindus, and all "religions", even a couple of "agnostics." We met monthly in his home. In 1995, I diagnosed myself (not a wise thing to do) with depression and burnout. I went to John. After a couple of sessions, he discerned that I wasn't depressed or even burned-out. I thought that being Pastor of the same church for 21 years qualified me for both depression and burned-out. John suggested that the Lord had "dried me up" because there was another direction to which I was being "called." That sounded like both a relief and a cop-out. My Spiritual Director, a Jesuit Priest, said this was a time of acting on faith and I probably wouldn't know the new direction until I resigned and trusted the Lord. I could have puked. Nevertheless after a period of time, I resigned the Church that summer. I had nothing to do. No church ever contacted me to do anything, not even to fill a pulpit. I painted the windows in our house and became a fan, via the radio, of the Cincinnati Reds. I was certain that I'd made the dumbest mistake that could ever be made. In December of my "nothing to do" period which by now was in its 6th month, I was contacted by Lexington's Calvary Baptist Church to see if I might have any interest in helping them begin a faith-based counseling center. Why not, I had nothing to do. It is now 23 years since that period and the Interfaith Counseling Center is a significant ministry (check out our website, i.e., Interfaithcounselingcenter.org). I will always appreciate John Parks and his awareness of the Lord's presence and moving in the lives of others.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

4 Suggestions for Using an Opportunity

It seems that there are four suggestions which will help any of us make good use of our opportunities. Opportunities may come at any time so, first, be ready. Be attentive to situations that can be an opportunity for a better relationship, health, work, etc. Opportunities may come as a surprise, so be attentive and ready. Readiness also means to be aware of possible resources. Second, get organized or have some type of a plan. Third, be willing to ask for assistance or help. Share the opportunity, dream, plan, etc. Get others involved with you. Fourth, get busy with the plan. Be attentive to opportunities; have a plan; involve others and get with it. It seems to me that this is what Jesus did when He and the disciples fed 5,000. Thank about it.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

The Beginning of Wisdom

A group of boys had become good friends. They have played together all summer. All was well until the day they suggested it would be exciting to try and steal a piece of fruit from the neighborhood market. One of the young men said that he would not go along with the plan. "What's the matter, are you afraid?" asked the others. "Yes," he replied, "I'm concerned about my Dad." They quickly reminded him that his Dad wasn't present and would never know. "I guess you are right," replied the young man, "but Dad and I are good friends and I don't want to do anything that would disappoint him." The Bible says that the fear [respect] of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

One Tick at a Time

The story is told about a clock who went to see a Psychiatrist. The clock's concern was that it had such great responsibilities that they were causing great worry. The Psychiatrist asked for a further explanation. The clock said that it had to tick two ticks each second which meant 120 ticks per minute as well as 7,200 ticks per hour or 172,800 per day all of which meant 1,209,600 ticks each week. That amounted to 62,899,200 for a year. The clock thought that with all that responsibility, it was about ready for a nervous breakdown. The clock just couldn't see how it could keep up with the expectations and responsibilities. The Psychiatrist asked how many ticks the clock had to tick at a time? Only one was the reply. Like that clock we would probably do better if we worried about ticking one tick at a time.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Patience

Patience is a tough behavior to practice. My head knows the value of patience and that things are to be done properly and orderly. My heart, however, wants to hurry up. Recently we were refinishing our deck. The task of sanding so the new finish would properly adhere is time consuming. I know--be patient--do the task properly. However, I want to hurry up and finish. I'm eager to see the finished product. Patience, the word actually means to stay under the task. Patience isn't as easy as we think, is it?

Truth and Bondage

Too frequently we keep ourselves in bondage to harmful attitudes, habits, thoughts, emotions, etc. Perhaps it is because we fail to acknowledge the truth about our situation. Our broken relationships, for example, may be due to our temper more than we care to admit. The lack of close friends might be the result of arrogance that we fail to recognize. Our failure to admit to the truth of a drinking problem may have strained our relationships. We long to be free but too often keep ourselves in bondage because we refuse to acknowledge the truth. Jesus said, "...and you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free." John 8:32.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

I recently learned again that beans and people need room to move around. I decided to cook some white navy beans. I've watched Judy do this so it seemed like something I could do. She's been ill and bed-fast for a couple of days so I had no supervision. I put the beans in a pot with plenty of water as well as some ham. That's what I'd seen her do. I cooked the beans most of the day. They turned into mush. When Judy finally came downstairs, she said that I had put too many beans in the pot and they didn't have room to bubble or move around. I didn't know that beans needed to bubble around in the pot. Nevertheless, the beans still taste good. I guess whether you are beans or people, we all need some wiggle room or room to move around. I guess I should have known that since I'm from Oklahoma and our motto is "Don't fence me in." I hope you have some wiggle or bouncing around room in your schedules.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

An Intelligent Mouse

The Center, where I work, has a brilliant and creative resident. The mouse has evidently come in from the cold and intends to stay for awhile. The remains of his/her candy meal was discovered on Sunday. A mouse trap was set Sunday evening. On Monday morning, I discovered he/she, i.e., the mouse, had taken the trap under a couch which is so low to the floor the trap wouldn't spring. He/she ate the food. On Monday night the trap was set in the middle of the room. Nevertheless, on Tuesday morning I again found the trap under the couch with the food gone. Last night I again set the trap and a colleague built an obstacle course of books around the trap to prevent it's removal from the area. Upon arriving this morning, I found the mouse trap, not contained within the obstacle course of books but, again, under the couch with the food contents empty. Again, no rodent. It has been has recommended that we hire this brilliant and creative rodent as our next Therapist. This morning my prayer is as was Elisha's (II Kings 6:15b), "O Lord, what shall we do?" One lesson to be learned from this continuing experience is not to under-estimate the intelligence of anyone or any thing.