46-Year Reunion — A Kind of Time Warp

June 11, 2006


Friday marked a special historic event for me. Mary (Baxter) Bickerstaff, Fred Ahrens and Imet with our spouses for breakfast. Forty-six years ago we were the three valedictorians at our high school graduation because all three of us had received all-A’s. We had been together once before about 16 years ago, but this was the first time we were able to sit down and talk. It’s amazing to me how we can get to know more about each other in two hours that we had in four years of high school. Maybe we’re growing up. Mary went on to become a nurse and to marry John, a Methodist minister, both retired now. Fred went on to become the Human Resource Director of the DuPont Company and married Nancy who was a nurse. They are enjoying retirement now and have hosted us in their Ocean City, NJ home for the past three days. I “clicked” with Fred and Sonia clicked with Nancy. We all were grateful that Mary and John were passing through town and could make our breakfast meeting so special.

We each spoke for ten minutes at graduation on “Nationalism: an Outgrowth of the Home, School and Church.” What patience the audience showed! I never realized what nationalism was until 20-30 years later. It was delightful to see how others had grown over the years, since none of us knew ourselves at that time and none of us knew much about what we wanted to do with our lives. But all six of us are now followers of Christ, who has blessed each one of us richly. Gratitude shared is a unique form of celebration.



Knowing God AND Knowing Self

June 10, 2006

clouds.jpgI was both challenged and inspired by David Benner’s book The Gift of Being Yourself (IVP, 2004).  Vacation time provides great opportunities to read great books like this.  I realized that I had been thinking of knowing God as a very spiritual pursuit and knowing myself as a very psychological pursuit.  Benner convincingly argues that you must do both.  You cannot know God without knowing yourself and you cannot know yourself without knowing God.  Knowing must be experiential, experiential implies subjective, and this kind of knowing requires both God and us in relationship.  Also, this kind of knowing transforms us.  This is what moved me deeply.  “We come to know God best not by looking at God exclusively, but by looking at God and then looking at ourselves, then looking at God, and then again looking at ourselves.”  He uses examples from the lives of Peter, Paul, Augustine, Calvin and many others to anchor his points in historical reality.  He helped me integrate even the unpleasant things from my darker side with knowing God.  Everything fits together in this transforming relationship.  I plan to go back sometime late and read the book again.  I recommend it for everyone.  David Benner is the director of the Institute for Psychospiritual Health

Thinking Sensibly about Immigration

June 8, 2006

immigration.jpgThis post marks the beginning of a new category — social concerns. Mary Ann Glendon's article in First Things (June/July 2006) entitled "Principled Immigration" serves as a wonderful example of what I want to do. Namely, clarify the issues that can help facilitate intelligent and productive dialog on controversial issues. No hyper-emotional slogans to promote one side or the other. Rather, well articulated presentations of how to think about issues as potentially volatile as immigration.

She points out that the only way our social-welfare system can survive in the face of our low birth rates and greater longevity of our older population is to promote immigration. It takes anywhere from 7 to 9 active workers to support every pensioner. With increased longevity comes increased need for medical care, not to mention the increased cost of medical care. In order to maintain economic vigor in the context of our "birth dearth," we had better welcome immigration. She goes on to say that the issue is not who will do jobs that Americans don't want, but rather "who will fill the ranks of a labor force that the retiring generation failed to replenish."

On what grounds do people base their opposition to immigration? Glendon highlights several: (1) fear that immigrants will drive down wages and take away jobs, (2) exclusionist sentiments, (3) fear that our nation's cultural cohesion will be diluted or undermined, and (4) the increasing disregard for the law, which is a concept help close to the core of our national identity. I think this last issue will become increasingly significant, particularly in light of demonstrations and demands for concessions by the Latino community.

So what's the answer? We need a much fuller dialog based on a better-informed public in order to map a strategy for encouraging orderly and legal immigration. The US needs to look for creative ways to facilitate the adjustment to the more needy human beings who are seeking to improve their lives. The immigrants will need to look for ways to contribute to the greater good for everyone. "To move from the level of principle to specific programs and policies will require realistic discussion of the human and economic costs and benefits." Rather than shouting slogans across a chasm of polarized ignorance, I want to take to heart Glendon's challenge and become more informed of the issues that are in tension.

Some statistics came to me from someone who is opposed to immigration, but I include this because the numbers are part of the reality that needs to be addressed: Read the rest of this entry »

Psychology and the Arts?

June 5, 2006

art.jpgI just returned from a planning meeting of the DSPP (Dallas Society for Psychoanalytic Psychology) Arts Committee. At first, I struggled to understand what the group was and what it did. Like this picture I saw on the web site of Arts Advice and Support, it seemed like it could be several things but at first you search for definition. Indeed, the committee does plan several different kinds of activities while maintaining a very cohesive identity. One track is to analyze art forms to derive life principles that resonate with the human condition. For example, they planned one movie evening to respond to the story of Johnny Cash in Walk the Line. A second track is to look at how the arts can function as a healing agent. For example, a renowned concert pianist, John Bayless, will focus on the transforming power of music in his own life following traumatic and life-threatening birth defects. A third track is simply to get together in someone’s home and share the artistic talents of the members. Some play guitar, some sing, some paint, and others like me appreciate the gifts of others. What a wonderful group of bright and fun people. Check out their web link and, when they update their agenda, update your calendar.



What, Me Worry?

June 4, 2006

WORRY.jpgTom Duke gave an insightful and sensitive lesson this morning from the Sermon on the Mount on how worry interferes with our seeking “the kingdom of God and His righteousness” as our top priority. He highlighted four implications about worry to illustrate his point:

(1) Worry trivializes the significance of our lives. “Isn’t life more than food, etc.?”

(2) Worry distracts us from eternal pursuits. "Seek first His kingdom"

(3) Worry denies the love of God for us and his providential care for us.

(4) Worry dethrones God in our lives.

I particularly liked his message because he went beyond the simple imperative, “Cut it out,” which makes us worry even more about how to not worry. It occurred to me that trust is the pivot point that distinguishes concern from worry. If we are concerned about something and trusting that the situation is being managed well and is in good hands, we are free to enjoy the process and can focus on our positive goals. If we are worried, we do not have an adequate basis of trust and we become frightened about the outcome of a situation that might not be managed well and might not be in good hands. We spend our energy with contingency planning while we anticipate all sorts of things that might go wrong. Even Tom’s closing Psalm 121 was most appropriate to what we should be doing instead of worrying.