Category Archives: Psycolog

Why?

In my later years have been accused of being a little over inquisitive. I ask questions which cause seeming discomfort to myself and those who I ask. Asking why is the measure of my quest.  I can look up the how; there is always a video on YouTube to show me that.  I can weigh all the factors like my bank account and my calendar to determine the when.  I can even analyze the best person to do the how.  But when it comes to why, that question is different. 

Why? Why? Why? Any statement of fact can well be answered by the dreaded “WHY”. I was never satisfied with the, “because I said so,” in response to why I needed to clean my room. There is always a question in my mind. I can be annoying if you are the victim of most of them.  I am a curious sort and want to know everything: its origin, meaning, cause, and consequence. It can be profound or mundane. I have asked the great questions of life (or so I think) and also the base queries about ordinary stuff.

My why today is about the motive of those who express themselves in response to those around us.  It has been called peer pressure, or crowd think, or herd mentality. Why do we seem to want the acceptance of everyone around us even it may cut at the edge of public morality and personal ethic?  Why loot a store just because someone else broke the glass in the first place.  Why go along with the crowd and carry signs of solidarity with those who know little about? Why complain about the amount of cows that are in danger of being slaughtered when your own ox in the ditch (to use a biblical expression)? Or like Jesus said why worry about the speck in the eye of someone else when you have a log in your own.

I will keep asking why.  And if you don’t want to answer, Why not?

Malady of social distancing!

I have simply don’t understand the person who, by choice, have used the either a television or the internet to be the primary vehicle for spiritual renewal.  Just in these weeks of social distancing, I find myself loosing my enthusiasm.

I learned a new word today, “acedia”. It means a state of listlessness, of not caring or not being concerned with one’s position or condition in the world. In ancient Greece akidía literally meant an inert state without pain or care. It is taking a nap in the sunshine instead of personal bible study.  It is making the statement of, “once a week is enough to satisfy my soul” or “I go to church on Easter and Christmas” or “I’ll will use the internet as the filler of my soul”.  Thomas Aquinas once said of acedia as a “sadness at an interior or spiritual good.”

So how do we avoid acedia?  We have thousands of distractions in our lives.  Every one would pull us imperceptibly away from what we should be doing. First, simplify your surroundings; activation of your will to turn off some of the things which distract.  Second, covenant to persistence; I know what I have to do and I will do it.  Third, set time limits; I will work on this task, effort or deed for a set time.  Fourth, set task accomplishment steps; you can’t do it all at once, break each down. Lastly, celebrate small victories; take a moment to feel good about getting it done.

Behemoth shame

When I was a young boy, I was visiting my cousin Sam in Pacific Grove. We were more like friends than cousins and we did most everything together. One afternoon we decided to go to the movies to see Behemoth, a monster movie in black and white. Back in those days late 1961 there was not much trouble two boys in a small town could get into so together we would go.   My Aunty Mae was busy, and we didn’t really want to ask her if we could go, so out the back door and down three blocks to the movie house we walked.

But when we got there, we discovered, to our dismay, we did not have enough money for both of us to get tickets. After much discussion, we decided on a plan. Sam would buy the ticket with a clear conscience and enter the theater.  The real dastardly deed would be for Sam to sneak down the aisle and open the back door so I could get in.

It was going to be an easy thing to do. We heard of others doing it. And if we got caught, the worse would happen was to be kicked out. Oh there would be a blemish on our spotless record and be banned from ever coming back, but no risk no reward.

It wasn’t that we were evil little boys of eleven, it was that we could see no harm in me seeing the movie from an empty seat. I was not taking the place from anyone else, and no one would ever know.

For the time, it was a good monster movie. It was a knock off of Godzilla.  Lots of screaming, destruction, and ending with a victorious banishment of the monster. But I could not enjoy watching all the terror and mayhem. I felt all during the movie that someone was watching me. My guilt was keeping me from enjoying my ill gotten gain. I thought to my self, “Someone knows of the dastardly deed I had done.”  I was attending without paying the price of admission.

I have done some things in my life which I am not proud.  I have sinned in so many ways; I have done dastardly deeds that I should have been caught and punished for.  But I have availed myself of the free gift of grace and forgiveness offered by Jesus.   Occasionally I have the same feelings of cheating which I had back in my delinquent days with cousin Sam.  How do I get over them?  In the book of Hebrews is a simple and elegant answer: Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience. 10:22.  That movie ticket which I cheated on was simply wrong.  I was guilty even though I was ever found out.  That feeling is not guilt, it is shame.  Shame is the feeling in the conscience that makes us feel bad.

So every time I feel remorse, shame from a past act, I just smile.  Jesus paid the price. God is able to cleanse us from that guilty conscience.  Praise the Lord. 

Encouragement

Encouragement is not telling someone they have done well.  That is simply a reward for something done.  You may well call it honor, or accolade but it is simply something which acknowledges effort.  It is a pat on the back for something accomplished.  It is something well expected after a job is well done.  While this reward, this acknowledgement is a good thing, encouragement, is telling others that you believe in them before they even start. It is action before the battle.  Encouragement is to help someone to make a good start.  It is the coach telling the team they have it within them to beat the other team.  It is one Christian putting an arm around another when he is about to face a big decision.  Encouragement is not a, “I knew you could do it” but a “I know you can do it.”  It may be a subtle difference but the very act of encouragement leads to better results than a pat on the back afterwards.

Sure, there is always a possibility of failure, of not living up to the encouragement, never-the-less it is a much better than waiting for that failure.  Those things, those efforts that never begin are always failures.  It is better to start well than to do nothing.

I believe there are six ways to encourage:

  1. Show you care – When you take the time to learn about others, it shows that you care. This empowers and encourages them.  It confirms both our understanding of the task and an honest assessment of the possibility of success. One of the single best ways to encourage others is to care about what they care about.
  2. Tell them with words – Take the time to tell your small group, your brothers in Christ, that you believe in their abilities and that you are confident that they will succeed. It is never enough to just sit and think about success or failure.  Encouragement should be more than good thoughts.  It is not about awareness of the task.  It must go further to be encouragement.  It takes effort and a communication of that encouragement.
  3. Tell them in writing – The great thing about encouraging someone in writing is that he can keep the note forever. An email, or better yet a real, post office delivered letter is something that may well make the difference.  That is why Hallmark is successful; they make a palpable, touchable, savable product that conveys encouragement. It is the gift that keeps on giving.
  4. Share with others – When you are in public praise your fellow Christians. Be open with our praise and private with your criticisms. And while you are at it praise and encourage when no one expects it.  Encourage when they are faced with both little and great things.  Tell others of your confidence, your trusting faith in someone to everyone who do or do not want to hear it.
  5. Trust them with greater responsibilities – When you assign responsibility to someone, even if you verbalize it, you are saying, “I trust you.” Trust conveys belief. When you give someone responsibility, remember you are not only trusting them with the expectation of success, but you are allowing them to make mistakes. When you micromanage or try to “fix” things along the way, it is discouraging and demotivating. Give responsibility, trust the person, and get out of the way.
  6. Help them – This might sound like the opposite of #5, but let me be clear that helping is not micromanaging or meddling. Simply ask how you can help them. Sharing in a task delegated by the person responsible is not taking over.  It’s important for others to know that while you trust them, you are also there to help. This goes beyond just helping with projects or task. It is saying I trust your way of doing things.

Hebrews 3:12-13  See to it brothers and sisters, than none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God.  But ENCOURAGE, one another daily, as long as it called today.

Priorities

Some things are much more important than others.  Choosing between two things or options before you there is an inherent prioritization. Your mind immediately wants to put them into a logical order.

Figuring out what most important is part of life.  Sometimes we even have to say no to one thing in order to say yes to something more important in our lives.  At issue is we want both.  “I want my cake and eat it too.”  To live according to the tenants and teachings of Jesus we must set priorities. 

My first priority is that relationships are more important than things. People are always more important than thing I may accumulate.  Don’t get me wrong here, I have several things in my life, but when given a choice between a relationship and this accumulation of plastic brightly colored stuff, people win.  You see people are ultimately forever.  Wives are more important than what chair I sit in at night.

Second, Intellect over emotion.  I once heard to never make a decision when I am upset, sad, jealous or in love.  Emotions rule the immediate. In my life I must slow down and let emotion subside.  The intellect allows the spirit to speak.  The intellect allows the soul to make a logical decision.

Third, Joy over happiness.  Happiness is short term.  Joy comes in abiding.  Our desires will change the longer we abide in Him.  Joy is beyond a smile.  If you seek happiness it will disappear. Happiness is a good thing but when it is rooted in joy it is the best.  I believe we can’t always have happiness, but we can always have the joy that comes with God.

Fourth and last.  In setting my priorities I must choose the future over the past.  The past is over.  I can’t change that, but I can be forgiven.  The past does not necessarily dictate our future.  Our habits of yesterday can be broken.  The future has its foundation in today’s decisions.

Leadership Dilemma

There is a myriad of stories of Bible studies, small groups, even churches that have less than stellar endpoints.  We look to many causes. “It was the building was not welcoming.”  The heat and cooling were not to my liking.” “There was not enough commitment from the church board.”  “There was an economic downturn in our area.” “The ministries were not meeting the needs of our socioeconomic mix.” And the list goes on and on.

I teach a regular Bible study specifically designed and presented to a subset of the congregation.  It is Men ministering to men.  The attendance has not always been equal from week to week and I am amazed at the progress each of these Christian disciples has come.  Never-the-less, I have to do personal inventory on a constant and continual schedule.  I want to make sure I am not the person that causes the change in attendance.

I am a very boisterous, loud, opinionated, strong personality. And this personal character must be kept in check within reason or there may well be an exodus from attendance. I don’t want to be an emotionally unhealthy Christian leader.

This emotional deficit is caused by a lack of inward understanding of my own feelings, my own weaknesses and limits.  It is this emotional detachment that also prevents an understanding of other’s feelings and perspectives.

Leadership that does not look inwardly will ultimately alienate all that is around them. As a remedy for this inward continual desire to be heard understood and agreed with comes a tendency to work a little harder, to volunteer for one more thing, to give of my time talent and treasure until they have little left.

This type of leader ends up engaging in more and more activities that what can not be sustained.  They seem to continually give out FOR God more than they receive FROM Him. They serve others to share the joy of Jesus because there is little joy in their efforts alone.

In their more honest moments, they admit that their cup with God is empty or, at best, half full, hardly overflowing with the divine joy and love they proclaim to others.

As a result, with all the balls in the air, a leader must continually grab at the next one lest one should fall.  And in the heavenly juggling act, the time and effort due to the current ball in hand go into “good enough” category.

In the process, they obscure the beauty and perfection of Christ they say they want the whole world to see. No well-intentioned leader would set out to lead this way, but it happens all the time.

Pondering is better than quibbling.

I have been making a concerted attempt at teaching my grandson a few things about numbers.  Once you get beyond the rote memorization and tedium of the times tables there is an elegance to numbers. We talked about prime numbers, you know those numbers that are only divisible itself and one.  1,2,3,5,7,11,13,19,23,29,31,37,41, and on and on.  As we sat together in my study we pondered this list of numbers.  We were wise owls staring into the night as I explained, “as numbers get bigger and bigger there are fewer and fewer prime numbers and like numbers themselves, they go on for infinity.”

It looked as if his head was going to explode.  Mind you he is getting ready to enter the fifth grade, and the relativity of numbers and infinity itself is some of those things that probably needs to held back to at least the seventh grade.  But it was an introduction.  A beginning of a thought pattern that could well carry through to the rest of his life.

For me, there is a thirst for learning that can’t quite be quenched. There is a little itch that cannot be scratched urging me on.  It is more than a want to just rearrange the ideas and facts of others.  I must find the new, the encouraging, the frightful, the consoling, the special in everything I see.  When I am disappointed in someone or experience a slightly hurtful comment, I go to my special place of wonder.  I look out at the world around me and try to discover something new.  You might well call this escapism, or even an unwillingness to face the reality that people sometimes hurt me without knowing.  But for me, it is better than lashing out or making my own snide comment.

Of all the comments, slurs, circumstances, and disappointments that Jesus went through, I see very few instances of Him lashing out.  Don’t get me wrong, I am no Jesus.  Nevertheless, I think it is just better this way.  I will not waste my pondering on quibbles.

Love as a gift.

Knit booties

In a small town in which I first Pastored, there is little that was not known by the population.  A good reputation can be lost a lot faster than a bad reputation can be repaired.  I needed the Church to be known as a place of caring. Faced with a need to tell the community that the church  cared and wanting the congregation to both buy into the idea and wanting to involve the congregation in the solution, I thought long and hard as to a methodology. There was only one hospital in town. Every baby born in the county took its first breath in The Clearwater County Hospital.

I asked the some of the ladies of the church to create something I could give to each newborn.  The solution was a pair of homemade knit booties.  We added a card from the church with good wishes and an invitation.

Before I knew it I was inundated with the most adorable knit booties you could ever want.  The ladies of the church bought into the idea that their wares which would be the first gift a new child would use.  I pumped up the knitting crew with ideas like “Booties from Jesus” and “Gifts from the Maji.”

We were going to do something out of the ordinary.  To give without any expectation. There seems to be an insidious thought pattern in the church.  A thought that there is a reciprocity timeline.  That is to say, if I do something nice for someone that person becomes obligated to respond in an appropriate manner and in an assumed appropriate time period. If I do good things I should be rewarded because now I deserve it.  One definition of karma is: moral law of cause and effect governing the future.   If I give you a compliment, you are expected to respond with either a self-deprecating comment or an equally gracious compliment in return.  If you receive a Christmas card the week before Christmas you have to make a mad dash to the Hallmark store and send one back immediately.  If I offer you half of my cookie you have to offer me some of your Cheetos. It is just common politeness. We make sure everyone gets equitable gifts for their birthdays, so when it is your turn you will get gifts in return.  The problem with this reciprocity mindset is it always seems to be accompanied by disappointment if the giver does not get gifted in return.

When you give someone a gracious compliment like, “you are a great speaker,” and they return with “I know that,” you are hurt.  We find ourselves wallowing in disappointment when our ample generosity is not met with the expected results.  The problem is not with the complement being not received, but it is our return expectation.  The issue was that we gave with a motive of reciprocity. The motive behind telling someone you like their new shoes is partly dictated by the reasonable expectation for them to tell you that you look good in your terrible shirt.  This mindset no matter how subtle ruins the true meaning of gift giving.  Though our intention is likely pure, we can unintentionally mar the beautiful experience of giving by focusing on what we will eventually receive in return.

When we let go of the notion that we deserve to receive gifts or actions or behaviors based on our giving, then and only then can be the kind of giving displayed by God.

When gifts are given laden down with expectations, they cease to be gifts and become units of exchange that is offered up for some future reward.

As those ladies gathered around together to do ministry they may have had grand expectations.  But the gift itself was love.

If you have trouble divesting yourself of your expectations, you may need to reflect upon the root of your inability to act in the true spirit of giving. Each time you make a gift ask yourself if there is something you hope to receive in return. You may be surprised to discover that you expect to be repaid with an easy life, financial windfalls, or opportunities.  We have to go beyond this.  The Church had to become a place of selfless generosity. And we did that by letting go of our expectations.

To integrate this most selfless form of generosity into the life of the church and even in the lives of individuals, you will have to let go of your need to be in control. Giving without expectation is letting go of the timetable, it is releasing the control of the outcome. Giving selflessly and without expectation eventually becomes a profound joy that stands alone, separate from any and all conditions.

We must rediscover the distinction between hope and expectation. Expectations are often characterized by unfulfilled desires. Expectation is about calculation. Expectation is manipulation of the response.  Expectation may not always be realistic.  Expectation has no surprise.  Expectation is often disappointed. Expectation is typically fixed and frozen.  It is inflexible and rigid.  It is unable to give or bend or to change. The worst part of expectations is what happens when we just don’t give them up.  We hold on to them as if they were gold. They infect and overwhelm us, like viral flu that simply will not go away. It consumes us like the plague.  We are unable to give them up.  We are not able to let them go.  Expectations change us.  They affect how we see the world around us.  Expectations start to rule our responses to everything in our lives.  Expectation is so rigid, we always respond negatively.  We become angry.  Sometimes unmet expectations cause us to even more force our expectations.

When little results were seen from our booty ministry, someone said, “If the booties were better constructed, or if the invitation was worded more eloquently we would get a better response.” Expectation was pushing out the hope and with it the joy.

Hope is much different.  Expectation is the assumption of success, false or not, hope is the wish for something to happen. Hope is about imagination. Hope is alive.  Hope responds.  Hope allows others to grow.  Hope is not limited by our experiences because it does not die when unmet. Hope is not directing the responses or the lack of response.  Hope is always realistic and can happen. Hope always comes with a surprise. Hope never results in disappointment. Hope admits uncertainty.  We may have to adjust our hopes but we can always keep hoping. Hope helps us to keep moving forward.  Hope fills with life.

When someone does not live up to our hopes, we can keep hoping for them because hope is flexible. We may adjust our hopes based on what we learned. We may lower our hopes realizing they were too unrealistic. What I learned from the God of Idaho and dozens of pretty bootees is, “There is no such thing as a false hope.”

I don’t know if a single booty ever changed the mind of a new mother and father to come to the church.  I don’t know if the plan was a good one.  I don’t know if sometime, in some place, the future a parent or even the child will pick up that first gift from the ladies at the Church of the Nazarene and have their life changed.  But I do choose to believe that no work, no effort given selflessly and in the name of Jesus is for naught. I choose to believe these special ladies, sometimes with sore hands and failing eyesight, did ministry.  They made an effort outside of themselves.  They felt part of the church.  They felt an inner joy in giving in the name of God.  They gave in hope.  And it is in these moments of joy that these lady saints enjoyed the very presence of God.  Love is always bestowed as a gift – freely, willingly and without expectation. We don’t love to be loved; we love to love.

Love is part of the human condition.

Let there be ORDER.

A clean desk simply means messy drawers.

Organization has never been my strongest attribute of character.  Once in a while I stop and try to get some semblance to order to my chaos. Today was the day I was to organize all my written sermons, ideas, thought starters, taxes, vehicle registrations, vacation plans, research, church notes, books, notebooks, music CDs, books, coats, hats, computer stuff, and the list goes on.  At least that was the goal.  I find myself stopping and reading it all. It is tough for me to throw away a magazine that is over a year old; I read it through one more time.  Another hour gone in my quest for the grand scheme of order.

Once organized, I tell myself, I will be able to find anything I want.  No more searching, no more quests for something that I know exists in my ethereal universe.

Then in the middle of it all, I ask myself, “Larry, what is the why of the effort?”  Order is the internal desire for organization, cleanliness, and routine.   It brings an inner feeling of stability.  It is a need for control of the uncontrollable.

My father was changed drastically by the second world war.  His life for three years was always in jeopardy.  He was regular Navy stationed on merchant ships crossing the Atlantic in constant fear of an unseen enemy in a submarine.  He brought that disorder of his very existence by controlling his personal space.  He often said to me when he came into my room as a child, “everything has a place, and everything should be in that space.”  Order for the moment created a space of control and with that little space was a sense of peace.

The desire for organization is there to find order amid my chaos. My desire, my inner urge is to overcome the lack of control that is exhibited in my office.  So here I sit writing when I should be sorting.  I wrote last month of the inner desire of curiosity.  The inner urge to know more.  But the negative side of curiosity is all the clutter it makes.  I must buy more computer memory and hard drive space to hold all my thoughts.  My curiosity is being squashed by my need to have order in my life.  If I don’t keep a handle on my chaotic disorganization, all the stuff I have accumulated in my curiosity will be a loss.

Desires are the reasons for doing.  They are the motives for my actions.  They are the reasons for my behavior. All ends are the result of my desire.  The very nature of my inner desires sets my path.  My path may not be your path.  My path is mine.  I may share the road with you once and while but look out and don’t trip over some of the things I not quite organized yet.

Comments?

Star Trek and Idealism

‘What a piece of work is man! How noble in reason! How infinite in faculty! In form, in moving, how express and admirable! In action, how like an angel! In apprehension, how like a god!'”

Jean-Luc Picard, Star Trek: The Next Generation, “Hide and Q”

There is within man a spark of idealism. A spark that will not be extinguished. It is a universal urge to do more than what is expected.  That urge is what drives me to help in a local food bank which distributes over 20,000 pounds of food to the “food insecure” every month. Why do I do that?  What characteristic or deep-seated urge seems to send me to volunteer.  Is there an inner desire, or core belief within us all to be altruistic and social-minded?  I believe so.  It is an internal urge to have compassion with no expectation of reward. There is an inner voice that wants me to move to action to correct what appears to be unjust.  I give time, talent and treasure to meet perceived needs.  It moves me. It makes me overlook the smells and sometimes bad attitudes of the recipients.

But there is a multiplicity of competing voices.  For some being around the unwashed and uncouth is just too much.  For that matter, some even feel uncomfortable when they hear what I do.  They are uncomfortable because their inner voice has been muffled for so long that they can look a homeless person on the street corner and act as though they did not exist.

Everyone has that inner desire to right wrongs.  Everyone wants to do right when the opportunity is presented to their sensibilities. This week the nation is morning a senseless school shooting, but we seem to turn a deaf ear to the thousands dying in Chicago and other large cities.  The problem is we can’t do everything.  There must be a hierarchy of our altruism and idealism. Sure, I care for the poor and hungry in my city, I do my part, but I am also aware there always be someone I can not help.  I know without a doubt that hunger will never be stamped out of my community.  Never-the-less, I can help with some and those I do help are sufficient. It quiets my still small voice crying in the darkness of my soul to do more.

My inner voice that cries for idealism and altruism causes my actions.  And those actions are what I will be measured.

Your comments?