Monday, September 6, 2021

Silly Religion

Psalm 31:6 reads in the New International Version, “I hate those who cling to worthless idols; I trust in the Lord.” The Message, translates that verse, “I hate all this silly religion, but you, God, I trust.” Religion can become a worthless idol when the focus is on our doctrines, building and programs. I recall the story that the finger which points to the moon is not the moon. The Church, including her doctrines, buildings and programs, is only a finger pointing to God. It is too easy to focus on the finger rather than that to which it points. Yet, we easily and quickly lose sight of God as we spend our time and energies taking care of our doctrines, buildings and programs. Lord, save us from all our silly religion.

Sunday, September 5, 2021

Others

I attended the Falls Creek Baptist Assembly as a teenager and member of the First Baptist Church of Norman, Oklahoma. The Church’s lodge at Falls Creek had the word “others” implanted with large marbles in the front walk’s concrete. Every time anyone went into or out of the Lodge, you would see the word “Others.” Those summer youth assemblies and that front walk taught me that every time I tried to decide whether my behavior or attitude was right or wrong, I was to think about others. It seems to me that many folks have lost that spirit in our time, especially as we deal with COVID. Many folks are only thinking of themselves, their “rights”, what they want, etc. Perhaps we have lost the sense of ‘greater good’. When the Lord asked Cain about his brother Abel, Cain responded, “I do not know, am I my brother’s keeper” (Genesis 4:9). Yes, Cain had killed his brother. Cain’s spirit does not sound like Paul’s instructions in Galatians 6:2 “Bear one another’s burden, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Not considering others and the consequences my behavior and attitude may have on them can cause us to become self-serving even to the point of losing the attitude of serving the greater good. We are headed for serious trouble when we begin to think that we are not our brother or sister’s keeper. I pray and hope that more and more of us will think in terms of “others” as we make decisions.

Friday, August 20, 2021

Being Certain Doesn't Mean I Am Right

A gentleman telephoned me at my therapy practice with the Interfaith Counseling Center and said he was seeking Christian counseling for marital issues. He said that Christian counseling was very important as he and his wife were "followers of Jesus." He indicated that he had done a thorough search via the web and felt that “the Lord was leading them to me.” He also said that neither he nor his wife had been vaccinated for COVID because they trusted Jesus rather than a vaccine. I told him that our practice was if they were unvaccinated, then we would look at the possibility of virtual therapy. He said that he had done some internet research and knew that virtual counseling was ineffective. He was very certain of all that he was sharing with me. He had that “authority” in his voice. I told him that given their expectations, I was not a good resource for them even if he was convinced that the Lord had led him to me. He hung up on me. I am reminded again that a person, even I, can be certain but still not be right. Humility is always a good prescription.

Monday, August 16, 2021

I am weary of finger pointing

I am weary of finger pointing. Today the national news carries the story of the fall of Kabul. The Taliban have taken over the capital and the President has left the country. The folks being interviewed seem to be attempting to answer the question “Whose fault has this been?” The finger pointing has begun. COVID is making a renewal and we ask the question, “Whose fault is this?” The finger pointing has begun at those who refuse to be vaccinated as well as those who refuse to wear masks. A church has not recovered it’s attendance since the COVID pandemic and they have begun to point fingers-- the Pastor’s sermons, the music or some of the Elders’ decisions. Whose fault is this decline in attendance? When we ask the question, “Whose fault is this?” we are looking backwards. We may even be trying to avoid the reality of the present. I think a better question would be” Given this reality, what are we going to do now? The truth is that there is probably sufficient fault to go around so we need not start pointing fingers. When I pointed my finger at someone in blame, my Dad would remind me that I also had three fingers pointing back at me. Lesson learned! I am weary of finger pointing.

Sunday, July 18, 2021

Critical Race Theory and "Kangaroo History"

I believe Critical Race Theory has something important to teach us and something to which we need to give attention. I do not appreciate those who are trying to keep this out of our schools, churches, and minds. After all, we have not had such a wonderful history. We stole lands from the Native Americans and built our cities on their sacred grounds. We captured Africans and brought them to this country as slaves to do for us what we did not want to do for ourselves. It is not surprising that many want to keep this part of our history silent. For example, I grew up in Oklahoma, attended two Universities in Oklahoma and I had never heard of the Tulsa Massacre until recently. The Tulsa massacre is evidence of why we need to learn from all of our history and not select only those parts of our history that make us look good. Critical Race Theory helps make us aware that systemic racial prejudice has been and continues to be a reality. An old friend would talk about “kangaroo history” by which he meant that we jumped over those historical parts about which we wanted to forget. Critical Race Theory challenges our kangaroo history.

Saturday, July 10, 2021

Post-Pandemic Spirit

A colleague found a New York Times article on “languishing.” Languishing seems a good term to describe this after-pandemic spirit. I have also used the word, melancholy to describe what the Pandemic has done. Melancholy is an old term and concept that indicates a sadness, grief, heaviness or darkness. The Pandemic certainly created a lot of losses so an undefined feeling of grief seems a natural response. I have asked folks, “What have you lost during this COVID pandemic?” The responses have been many and varied. There have been losses and some of those losses will not be able to be recovered. For example, we will never again be able to gather for a child’s first birthday. That child’s first birthday party will not happen again. Acknowledging our losses and grief is a healthy way of dealing with our sense of languishing or melancholy.

Sunday, June 20, 2021

The Times They Are A-Changing

I am involved in professional or vocational transitions. At the beginning of this past academic year, I retired as an Adjunct Professor with The Baptist Seminary of Kentucky. From their beginning in 2002, I have taught Spiritual Formation courses; Pastoral Care and Counseling courses; and developed and taught the Contextual Ministry or practice of ministry courses. I was honored by being invited to be the Graduation speaker in May. I have had all of this year’s graduates in my classes and I am committed to their well-being and ministry I have been with the Interfaith Counseling Center from its beginning in 1995. As of July 1st, I will become the Co-Clinical Director of the Interfaith Counseling Center. I will share the responsibilities for quality therapy with a co-worker whom I trust and have worked with for many years. I am also training a young lady who will take over the administration aspects of the Counseling Center. These two moves are the result of a growing awareness that some transitions need to be made at the Counseling Center. I will continue to see clients and spiritual directees at the Center. I am, however, beginning the process of releasing some of the responsibilities at the Center to younger folks who have their own hopes and goals for themselves as well as for our Counseling Center. Any transition has both joy and grief. I will grieve or miss being the Director of the Counseling Center. I confess that I like to be in charge. My Enneagram is clearly a 2 but with a strong 1 and 3 wings. 2’s are the care-givers; 1’s like to make reforms or make things better (according to their ideas of what is better) and 3’s are achievers, they like to be in charge. “Yes,” those of you who know the Enneagram, I test strongly with both wings--I don’t easily fit into categories. My new task is to learn how to “let go.” Letting go means that I will need to adjust to new ideas, patterns, decisions, etc. that are not my ideas, patterns or decisions. I will always care about but no longer have the responsibility to care for the Center. Whatever else is involved in letting go, learning the difference between “caring about” and “caring “for” is significant. There is also joy in this transition because these new folks bring new energy and ideas. How or where they will lead the Center into the future is unknown to me. I trust them and acknowledge that things will change. They will have their own dreams and ideas. Will we move to a larger facility? Will we add additional Therapists? If so who will we add--one of the young persons is focused on neuroscience—how significant will that become? Another has been doing webinars-- will the Center offer webinars? During this COVID pandemic we have had to do virtual therapy. Our client load, via virtual therapy, has grown about a third this past year and expanded to surrounding states. It is going to be an exciting adjustment as well as a joy to see these new persons discern and guide the Interfaith Counseling Center into new ways of ministry.