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Archive for the ‘Questions’ Category

Either you will
go through this door
or you will not go through.

If you go through
there is always the risk
of remembering your name.

Things look at you doubly
and you must look back
and let them happen.

If you do not go through
it is possible
to live worthily

to maintain your attitudes
to hold your position
to die bravely

but much will blind you,
much will evade you,
at what cost who knows?

The door itself
makes no promises.
It is only a door.

— Adrienne Rich

I read this poem a few days ago on The Velveteen Rabbi and it’s really stuck in my head. If the door is the decisions you make in life, how do you know when to go through the door and when to back away? If it’s not one of those situations where the will of God is clear, do you go through the door or not go through? And is one choice better than the other, or are they simply different choices, with different costs and outcomes? How do you count the cost of a decision without knowing what the outcome will be? And in the end, maybe any choice is just a leap of faith… a step forward or backward into unknowns. And why do I always want to stare down the doors as if they have the answers that really only exist in the heart of God? It is only a door, but I struggle to remember that and keep things in perspective.

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“…with God is strength and understanding…”

-Speech of Job of Uz to his friends

Sometimes, I don’t understand. I don’t understand God, when faced with the incredible mind-numbing brokenness of this world we live in.  I believe God is powerful and personal… which is to say, he has the ability to change things, influence events, and is active in human events. Beyond that, because there is no greater power or source, I believe that things don’t happen outside of his will, or at least outside of his allowance for them to happen.

And on weeks like this, it would be a joke to pretend I understand my God. I don’t understand children suffering, especially like I’ve seen in these last few days. I don’t know what purpose or good could be found in something like this. I just don’t get it. I believe, but I sure don’t understand. Sometimes, I think belief is a more challenging path than disbelief, and this is one of those weeks. So I fuss at God, ranting and complaining to try to make him do things my way, as if I were God instead of him. And when some kind of quiet comes to my soul, I can begin to wait for redemption in this too… but there is no quiet. Not yet. Not this night. Sometimes I wonder if God’s not more interested in our struggle than in the eventual resolution. Or maybe I just hope so.

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…For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord…

How do you know God’s plan? Lately, I’ve been feeling dissatisfied, as if I’m waiting for something else, something more…. and I don’t know what, exactly. I’m tired of socialization in the name of spirituality. I’m frustrated with churches thinking they need to put on elaborate programs to draw people in, as if Jesus isn’t enough on his own, as if something else is required. I’m tired of wasting time on things that aren’t important. I want something more than that. I want Christ, unadulterated by my desires. I want God, free from my cultural expectations of what God ought or ought-not to be. I want to be changed. I’m tired of being distracted, of settling for less, of putting my will before God’s will.  Jesus told Martha, “Only one thing is neccesary” when she was distracted. I don’t want to be distracted any longer, or flinch from the things God asks of me… I want the one thing.

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A man of too many friends comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

 What separates the passing friends– the ones who enter your life for some short time, but who don’t stay– from the real friends– the friend who sticks closer than a brother, who will be there for years to come through good times and bad? Why do some people just pass through life, while others stay and become part of the fabric of the self? What is it that makes souls connect? And why?

 I don’t have any answers for that. I don’t pretend to understand it. But I’m grateful to those deep, closer-than-a-brother friends who’ve stood by me year after year, shared life, and become part of me. Friendships like that are what make life worth living, and give the closest thing I can imagine to a bit of heaven on earth.  

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I was organizing my yarn stash tonight. I have way, way too much yarn… not only my yarns but a friend’s mother’s stash as well, one of the neatest gifts I’ve been given in a long time. Going through her stash is always neat… and I always find myself wondering what project each yarn was inteded for, and where they came from. Several are labeled: “Hawaii” or “Special Silk” or have foreign-language labels. These had to be the special yarns. I think every knitter has special yarns. The extra-expensive or special-trip purchases that we’re saving for some undefined “later.” Only this yarn never got its later, and now it’s passed on to me.

 Why do we save our special things for later? I do this with all sorts of things, not just yarns. I have special candles, special clothes, special shoes even… special tableclothes, special dishes…. all the things I really like, but rarely use. Why? Life is short. Why don’t we use our favorite things, our special things, now? Why don’t we enjoy what we have now instead of waiting, thinking some other day will be better for enjoying? What’s wrong with today?

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If you were going to die soon and had only one phone call you could make, who would you call and what would you say?  And why are you waiting?  ~Stephen Levine 

Tonight, we were talking about community and connection in our Bible study. It seems like we, as a culture, often lack connection… not that we lack for people or activities, but that we lack connection with those people. The activities just become an end in themselves, instead of a means for developing relationship. I find myself doing that. More often than I’d like to admit, I have surface-level conversations, surface-level connections, without going deeper. And yet, humanity longs for that connection– it seems to be part of human nature– and Christians are called to it. So what are we doing about it? In a culture called to community, where’s the communion? How is it that we have more opportunities for communication than any group of people before us, but somehow have less connection to those around us? And what are we going to do about it?

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Whatever you are doing, do the best work you can. Work as if you were working for God, and not for other people. (Paul’s letter to the Colossians)

Today, in a graduate-level class at a local “Christian” university, a professor espoused the use of “The Serenity Prayer” as a therapy technique. Specifically, he praised a client of his for accepting her trauma-related anxiety and realizing that she simply won’t be able to drive or maintain her previous job as a result of that anxiety. A major breakthrough, he said excitedly.

 I couldn’t help myself. Really, I asked? Have you considered utilizing cognitive behavioral techniques? Systematic desensitization? Relaxation techniques? No, he responded, there’s nothing that can be done about anxiety or the nightmares she’s having. She just needs to pray, and accept that her life has changed. Do you know about the nightmare study, I asked? She prayed about it, he said. She’s accepted it. It’s a turning point. I wanted to throw up.

 Disclosure time: I’m a Christian, and I believe in the power of prayer. I am also a therapist, and a scientist. I am unalterably committed to evidenced-based treatments and the scientist-practitioner model.

Rant time:

 Prayer, while therapeutic, is not therapy. If you want to pray with someone, wonderful. Great. Go right ahead. But call it a prayer session, not a therapy session, and by all means do not charge for it. To charge someone for prayer, and pass it off as therapy, isto be a cheat and a charlatain.

 If you are going to call yourself a therapist, you have an ethical commitment to not do harm. So, do no harm… and beyond that, don’t waste your clients’ time. If you’re not helping them make progress toward their goals… find them a therapist who can. This is bare-minimum ethics, people. Bare. Minimum.

Now, God made us with brains. I firmly believe that the God who gave us these brains fully intended that we use them.  We’ve also been landed in the middle of an amazing age of evidence-based therapeutic practice… and we absolutely must take advantage of that. To have the access that we do to good, evidence-based therapeutic techniques and not utilize them is to sell our work and our clients short. It is unethical. If we are going to charge people for the time we spend with them, we have an obligation to provide the very best services possible. A therapist who does not utilize best practices is like a medical doctor who still uses leeches to treat the common cold. Would you go to such a doctor? Would you consider them an ethical provider of services, or a fraud? Right. Why, then,  is there any lower standard for therapists?

If you are a therapist: utilized evidence-based best practices. If you don’t know what these are, click here  for a generalized consumer-oriented primer.

If you call yourself a Christian, and a therapist: consider carefully what you do, and the reflection it sheds on all who share the name Christian. Are you being ethical? Is what you’re doing really therapy, or merely therapeutic? Are you working carefully and providing the best services possible? Not only do your professional ethics expect that of you, your God does as well. Don’t disgrace the name of Christ by using it as an excuse for shoddy work. Repent, if you need to. Pray about it. And then get to work!  

If you are not a Christian, and are a therapist: allow me to apologize for the shortcomings of those who share my beliefs.  There are scientifically sound Christian-therapists out there. Hopefully, someday, there will be a lot more of us.

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