Doing Justice – An Example

February 9, 2011

According to Tim Keller, and more importantly, according to the Bible, there are three levels of social justice.

  • Relief – direct aid to meet immediate physical, material and economic needs.
  • Development – training that is needed for an individual or community to move beyond dependency on relief into a condition of greater self-sufficiency.
  • Reform – change in the conditions and social structures that aggravate or cause dependency.

I’m most familiar with the “relief” level through the efforts of The Salvation Army (disaster relief) and Good Will.  But the people that provide development are all too often hidden from view.  They deserve to be showcased.  They need to be easily accessible.

The Duckworth Project provides one such “development” effort.  A recent graduate of Dallas

Robert Duckworth

Theological Seminary, Robert Duckworth targets at-risk, inner city youth and provides a wide range of life skills to equip them to meet life’s challenges successfully.  For a moment, close your eyes and try to imagine what you would provide.  Here’s what his non-profit organization provides:

  • Male Responsibility
  • Conflict Resolution Skills
  • Decision Making Skills and Attitudes toward Consequences
  • Abstinence Only Sex Education
  • Career Planning
  • Communication Skills
  • Timeless Values

Since Robert graduated with a Masters Degree in Biblical Counseling, his next step is to provide low cost (perhaps free) counseling.  Later, he plans to offer career mentorship, community re-entry programming, and prison ministry.

This is what can happen when one person pursues his vision and is led by God’s gifting and calling.  We don’t all have that calling or gifting, but we can all support the good things he is doing.  It’s a non-profit organizations, so your contributions are tax deductible.  Even without that perk, we do well to follow the teaching of Jesus and give sacrificially to those who cannot repay us.  That’s what grace is about.  Kudos to Robert, who is “doing justice”

He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?

Talk to Kids, Don’t Yell

October 25, 2009

yelling A

When I was young, I considered myself to be a patient person.  Then I had children.  On several occasions, I lost it.  “If at first you don’t hear me”, I thought,  “I’ll yell a little louder.”  (The cheerleaders used to chant that line at high school basketball games).  The kids had a lot to learn, but I also had to learn to grow up.  At best, yelling brings about frozen silence, maybe a modicum of compliance on a good day.  But it never accomplishes what you want.

When our children were adults (late 20’s) I asked them what they remembered about my various styles of discipline.  How my eyes were opened.  They said, “When you yelled at us, we had no idea what we did ruby-yelling-500wrong or why you were mad, only THAT you were mad.”  So my being mad was the main focus.  “When you explained to us what we did wrong and why it was wrong, then the discipline made sense.  We then figured out ways to do better next time.”  I learned that yelling stifles learning and growth; explanation with consequences enhances it.

The Bible puts it well in one of the Proverbs:

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.”

That kind of power should caution us to guard our speech.

The best explanation of this verse and other proverbs on the topic of the power of words is a sermon by Tim Keller, Pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in NY City.  You can (and should) order this sermon by clicking here.

Our well-read daughter just tipped us off to a couple of good articles in the New York Times that reinforce the need to correct a current harmful trend.  One article makes a case for how yelling is the new spanking.   The other article emphases the importance of talking to your child from birth onward.

If you’re interested in additional tips on mothering, consider Dr. Shiela Cason’s blog and also  Mommy, M.D.

How to Get to Know One Another

January 1, 2009

getting-to-knowWhat kind of questions do you ask someone to get to know them?  I have always reacted with a bit of frustration when I hear people say, “Be sure you get to know the other person before you enter into a permanent relationship.”   Most people don’t know how to do that.  Now, finally, Julie Ferwerda, shows us how.  Her book, The Perfect Fit,  contains over a hundred questions that you can use to start personal discussions.  The context for her book is premarital awareness of your partner.  The application goes far beyond that.  My wife and I (married 33 years) took this list to dinner with us this evening and started discussing some of the statements.  We dealt with two of them.  You won’t run out of material for a long time.  I share them all with you and also encourage you to check out her blog.   She’s clear, personable and insightful.

Work through these questions together. There’s no hurry; take all the time you need. But there’s one rule.  You must be completely, gut-wrenchingly honest!

My biggest goal in life is to _____.
I find satisfaction in _____.
Before I die I want to _____.
I am here because _____.
My dream is to someday _____.
I will be ready to die when I’ve _____.

The best part about my childhood was _____.
The worst part about my childhood was _____.
The scariest thing that ever happened to me was _____.
Something I¹m afraid to tell anyone about my past is _____.
A past situation that could affect my future is _____.
I’ve had [ ___ ] sexual partners before this relationship.
The way I feel about my past relationship history is _____.

My biggest fears in life are _____.
My biggest needs in life are _____.
My most frequent mood is _____.
The thing I hate most is _____.
The thing I worry about most is _____.
Three things I want to change about myself are _____.
Read the rest of this entry »

A New Psychiatrist in Town

October 12, 2008

Ever try to find a psychiatrist who’s available to help your child with ADD or other problematic childhood issues?

Here’s some relief.

He’s a psychiatrist who works with children, adolescents and adults.

He has room for new patients because he’s new.

I don’t think that’s going to last long.

I met him. He’s also a very trustworthy Christian man. I like him.

Sean Mathew, MD (Click here for his website)


October 5, 2008

Managing interpersonal boundaries challenges all of us every day.  Good boundaries wall out negative influences from others that could disrupt our lives.  Good boundaries restrain some our own toxicity to respect the dignity of those around us.  Good boundaries result in good manners, poise, grace, propriety, diplomacy, and so on.  One of my interns offers a very readable and substantive article on this issue as well as some recommended reading.  Give Lorraine a read and check out her own web site.


By Lorraine Turbyfill, LPC Intern

My English friend was learning to drive his rental car “on the wrong side of the road” in America. He did well until we came to an intersection. Though the light was red and he knew to come to a stop, he could not find a line on the road to tell him where to stop. Before I could say, “stop” he had drifted into the middle of the intersection! The line he was looking for (and the invisible line that existed though unknown to him) is a kind of boundary. Boundaries provide direction to us, telling us where one thing stops and another begins. They may be physical, emotional, relational or spiritual in nature.

In relationships, boundaries clarify the nature of the relationship between two or more people. Positively, they help us enjoy a balanced life and healthy relationships. Negatively, they may lead to relational distress. Sometimes people can’t say “no” to others (can’t set boundaries) or can’t hear “no” (they violate the boundaries set by others).  Other times people can’t say “yes” (to loving others) or can’t hear “yes” (to receive love/care).  Some people feel controlled, manipulated, and/or exploited by others and others may become controlling, manipulative, and/or exploitive of others.

The bottom line is that a person with poor boundaries may frequently take responsibility for others or situations (things they cannot truly control or change) and they may not take responsibility for themselves (the things they can control or change). As a result this person often pays the consequences of another’s behavior while the offending party continues out of control with no consequences (whether they be emotional, physical, or spiritual). In this way people may enable others’ poor choices. Though it may be difficult to do, the healthy thing to do is to take responsibility for the enabling behaviors and to let others experience the natural consequences (the pain) of their choices in hopes that they will acknowledge the problem and take steps to change.

Some common obstacles to setting boundaries may include the fear of losing the approval of others or losing the relationship itself. Some may worry about getting an angry response, feeling guilty or selfish, and appearing unloving if they say “no.”  With little emotional muscles to set boundaries people may pretend things are “okay” but in reality resent it. They often feel sad, frustrated or angry, unappreciated, lonely, unsupported, running on empty, and out of control of their lives. In the end, individuals and relationships suffer because boundaries exist and affect us whether we talk about them or not.

The key to boundary building is rooted in healthy, supportive relationships with others (and especially established in relationship with God who is perfect Love).   Foundationally, boundary development takes place primarily during childhood in the context of relationships with our primary caregivers. For example trust is developed to the degree that the caregivers meet a baby’s basic needs. When the child’s needs are not met, he (she) learns that others cannot be depended on. Mistrust develops. Over time this child may decide it is better to be self-reliant than to get disappointed or hurt. Further, one may believe that to ask for help is a sign of weakness, and that he (she) does not want to appear weak.  In that a child views God largely through the lens of their experiences with their caregivers and in that caregivers cannot meet a standard of perfection, the child may come to believe God cannot be trusted either. Ultimately, the tension for us is that this runs counter to God’s design and our deep desire to belong in relationship with others and Him. When relationships are severed, our deepest God-given need for true intimacy (to be known and to know another person) goes unmet. The good news is that we can unlearn old ways of being that we once used to survive and we can adopt healthy ways of being so we can truly live (thrive).

For a fuller understanding of boundaries, I recommend reading Boundaries by Drs. Cloud & Townsend (1992) and From Bondage to Bonding: Escaping Codependency, Embracing Biblical Love by Nancy Groom (1991).  Cloud and Townsend have also written books devoted to specific topics – Boundaries in Marriage, Boundaries in Dating, etc. Groom lays out a plan to help boundary-injured people who function in a codependent way with others. She unmasks the behavior that seems loving (but is actually very self-focused) and points the way to healthy relationships and becoming truly loving.

News, Tools, & a Counseling Resource

August 13, 2006

Brian Craig’s new website is worthy of a link.  He has included a tab for counseling-related news and insights into marriage which helps you keep up with what’s going on in the counseling world.  Brian has a heart for working with pastors to help meet the needs of people in the Christian community.  He is also building practical tools.  For example, if you need help setting up a home budget, check out Brian’s downloadable form.  One click and you have all the necessary categories organized on an Excel spreadsheet ready for your numbers.