Category Archives: Great Quotes

CS Lewis on suffering from your suffering


Read this helpful quote from my Aug. 1 daily reading from CS Lewis (from his Grief Observed):

Part of every misery is, so to speak, the misery’s shadow or reflection: the fact that you don’t merely suffer but have to keep on thinking about the fact that you suffer.

I didn’t write the whole quote down but he said something like, the problem with lying awake at night with a toothache is that you are thinking about the fact that you are lying awake all night with a toothache.

Isn’t this so true. We suffer not only from the present pain but also from our inability to distract or think thoughts other than reminding ourselves that we are in present pain.

Is it possible to forget the present pain (or depression, anxiety, etc.)? No. I don’t think so. Nor should we seek to forget altogether. And yet, we can find bits of respite where the pain moves from the front of our consciousness to the back. It is at those times we find rest. Some seem more capable to move the pain to the back burner. And this can be healthy, as long as it doesn’t lead to denial.

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Cherishing suffering?


Reading in the CS Lewis daily reader about the common feeling of shame that a bereaved person has for feeling better on a given day. My friend described that feeling as one of feeling disloyal to his deceased wife. Lewis describes this well.

We don’t really want grief, in its first agonies, to be prolonged: nobody could. But we want something else of which grief is a frequent symptom, and then we confuse the symptom with the thing itself. I wrote the other night that bereavement is not the truncation of married love but one of its regular phases–like the honeymoon. What we want is to live our marriage well and faithfully through that phase too. If it hurts (and it certainly will) we accept the pains as a necessary part of this phase. We don’t want to escape them at the price of desertion or divorce. Killing the dead a second time. We were one flesh. Now that it has been cut in two, we don’t want to pretend that it is whole and complete. We will be still married, still in love. Therefore we shall still ache.

From A Grief Observed

Good description of the pain of losing a mate based on my friends experience.

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The danger within the professor’s office


No, I’m not talking about the danger of dying from a collapsing pile of clutter. Consider this quote:

The desk is a dangerous place from which to watch the world.

I read this quote from John le Carré in Larry Michael’s Spurgeon on Leadership(p. 29; Kregel, 2003) and thought it applied nicely to counselors and professors as well as to pastors. We need to be out there interacting in the real world if we want to be effective in our teaching, pastoring, and counseling. While the desk provides some distance that may help objectivity, sitting too long leads to arrogance, listening to our own kind, and the loss of realism.

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The two sides of Power


In staff meeting today we listened to a Tim Keller sermon on political power (I wonder how many private practice psychology staff meetings do something neat like this!) from the text of Jesus conversations with Pilate. In talking about political power, Keller quoted Vaclav Havel on the topic. You can find Havel’s quote herewithin a speech he made after receiving the Sonning Prize in 1991. This speech was designed to answer these two questions:

“Why is it that people long for political power, and why, when they have achieved it, are they so reluctant to give it up?” 

I don’t have it exactly as either Keller or Havel said it, but both were making this point:

1. We want to use power in the service of all that is true, good, and right. We want to use power to better the world. While some may use power from the get-go for evil purposes, most do not.

2. But we also wan to use power in the service of self. Havel talks about use of power for self-affirmation. Self-affirmation, Havel says, is not “essentially reprehensible” but human. But without suspicious self-examination, a slippage happens–something like this, it makes sense that my important work means I get special privileges in order to do my work well. But then I begin to lose the difference between being enabled to do my job better and the self-affirmation that I so desperately crave.”

Regardless of how pure his intentions may originally have been, it takes a high degree of self-awareness and critical distance for someone in power–however well-meaning at the start–to recognize that moment [when we stop caring about the state and start only caring about self-affirmation]

I see similarities outside of power. When I counsel someone long silenced through abuse and neglect, I see someone who is readily aware of the impact of abuse of power. When that person develops their voice, they begin to exert power for the sake of truth, goodness, and all that is right. They say no to further abuse; they raise their voice so as to be heard. They learn to use power to draw proper boundaries. But like all, it is easy to use the power for self-affirmation and self-protection. It is easy to argue for its goodness and rightness and to become blind to the demanding side of self-affirmation.

Power is good, but humans with power must be vigilant to avoid the corruption. Vaclav Havel recognizes the need to stay vigilant. John Adams recognized the inherent corruption of power as he designed the separation of powers for the USA. And we look to Jesus who willingly gives up his right to power but uses his power to sacrifice himself for our sake.

Good to think about in this season of elections. Pray we have leaders who will question their tendency to self-affirmation. And pray that each of us uses power for justice and not for self alone.

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Filed under Abuse, Cultural Anthropology, Great Quotes, News and politics, self-deception

When a good label loses its value, or, should we rethink labels altogether?


Ever found a word, term, idea that had great meaning for you become useless or degraded because it became popular? Well, maybe that only happens to academic and clinical types. As a counselor terms like idols of the heart, Biblical counselor, integration, christian psychology all are meant to help individuals identify themselves and shape a conversation. At Biblical Seminary, we are attempting to train students to think “missionally.” When we started down this path, not many were using the word. But now it seems everywhere and used in so many ways that make you question whether the word really has any meaning.

So, I’ve had these thoughts from time to time but last night I was reading Paul Wachtel’s (professor at CUNY) “Relational Theory and the Practice of Psychotherapy” and he had this to say about one of his terms, relational. You could easily replace all the relational words with your own favorite term.

[The relational movement] is a loose coalition that is encouraging a diversity in viewpoint rather than seeking to impose a new orthodoxy. But this diversity of meanings also introduces confusion. Students in particular often are unclear about just what it means to be relational, both theoretically and clinically. Some, for example, (mis)understand being relational as being almost relentlessly self-referentially interpreting everything that transpires as being about the therapist.

In part, the problem lies with the very success of the relational movement. As the term “relational” has come into broader and broader use in recent years, there has been a corresponding decrease in the degree to which it communicates a clear and unambiguous meaning. This is perhaps an inevitable cost of success; relational perspectives have become increasingly prominent in the field of psychotherapy, and we have reached a point where many people want to jump onto the bandwagon. As more and more people use the term, sometimes more as a token of membership in a movement to which they wish to belong than as a substantive reference to a clearly specified set of theoretical premises and practices, the ripple of meanings makes a phrase like relational psychotherapy less than ideally precise.

Labels like relational, object relational, classical, or contemporary Freudian (to use examples from the psychoanalytic realm) often serve less as a medium of illuminating discourse than as a functional activity of boundary making, akin to the way our animal cousins leave their  scent to mark off the boundaries of their territory. “I belong here, you belong there,” may be a sentence; but it is a sentence whose message is not very different from what is conveyed by the glands of our mammalian kin. (pp 7-8)

He goes on to say that words should not merely make boundaries but to “alter and complicate” them through the act of conversation. While there are boundaries, they do move and change and no one human created word will adequately separate the sheep and goats, to mix my metaphors.  

So, what do we do with labels if they lose explanatory power when others find them helpful? Get rid of them? Or, do we use them with greater and greater humility. I like Wachtel’s description of the problem with another set of labels, 1person and 2 person approaches to counseling (1 person refers to analysis where the client monologues and interacts with their own psyche and 2 person approaches tend toward a relational, experiential interaction). Wachtel holds a 2 person theory. But here’s what he says,

To begin with, it is worth noting that the distinction [between the two labels] is almost always employed by putative two-person thinkers, as a critique of one-person modes of thought. There are rather few writers who defiantly proclaim, “I am a one-person theorist and proud of it,” although there are, of course, many writers who declare themselves to be proponents of the models that are called one-person models by two-person theorists. Writing as someone who, if the dichotomy is usable at all, would without question fall on the “two-person” side of the divide, I must say I find it disquieting to be characterizing competing theorists in a way they do not acknowledge as the basis of their own thinking.

This lack of acknowledgment on the part of “one-person” theorists, of course, does not in itself invalidate the critiques. It is certainly possible that critics of one-person models are recognizing something about the theories they are criticizing that their advocates do not. Indeed, in certain respects I myself believe this to be the case. It does, however, raise a question as to whether there might be a way to frame the critique that would be more illuminating and experienced as less of a straw man by more traditional theorists.” (p. 11)

I think Wachtel is helpful here and I have said similar ideas in the past. We need to be willing to come at a situation with differing dividing markers than we may have used in the past. For us Christian counselors, this is especially true. Mark McMinn considers himself to be an integrationist. But, his recent book, reviewed here, shows willingness to describe his model in ways that might make older integrative folks uncomfortable (i.e., giving Scripture trump power). So, we need new ways of looking at the data and less focus on division and more focus on description. Maybe we take a little longer look to see what is shared in our venn diagrams… 

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Filed under book reviews, christian psychology, Communication, Cultural Anthropology, Doctrine/Theology, Great Quotes, missional, Missional Church, Psychology

The thirst for leadership…of any kind


Grading papers from class and one student illustrated her point by including this quotation from The American President. Not a movie I’ve seen but like this little piece:

President’s Aid (Michael J. Fox): People want leadership, Mr. President, and in the absence of genuine leadership, they’ll listen to anyone who steps up to the microphone. They want leadership. They’re so thirsty for it they’ll crawl through the desert toward a mirage, and when they discover there’s no water, they’ll drink the sand.

President: …People don’t drink the sand because they’re thirsty. They drink the sand because they don’t know the difference.

Sounds just about right.

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Race matters: Obama’s speech in Philadephia


MSNBC provides this transcript of Obama’s speech today. As you likely know he is under fire for comments his pastor, Jeremiah Wright, made in sermons over the years. This speech is quite masterful as it rejects Wright’s characterizations but recognizes the reality that is behind his angry judgments about American politics, racism, injustice, and place in the world. He shows the parallel with white anger for being held accountable for the sins of our early fathers. In both cases, impolite speech is understandable but not helpful. He says,

Just as black anger often proved counterproductive, so have these white resentments distracted attention from the real culprits of the middle class squeeze

What should we do? He tells us to take responsibility for our lives, reject victim mentalities, insisting on justice for all, acknowledging the legacy of discrimination, rejecting cynicism, working together as opposed to for our own good alone. 

He’s right.  When we see hyperbole, we must acknowledge the truth at the center. Fact: we have been arrogant snobs in dealings with other countries. It shouldn’t surprise us that if we kick the dog, the dog bites back. Fact: The country wants equality as long as it doesn’t cost anything. We keep complaining, but until we all agree that my neighbor’s struggle is my own, we won’t see much change. 

He’s wrong.  Trying harder and being truthful about racial reconciliation progress is good, but it is not enough. Without the work of the Holy Spirit, the breaking of our pride, the demand that our individual identities take precedence over that of God’s humble servants, we’re not likely to make much more progress. Legislation helps curb our sin, but it does not stop the seed of racialization. Only the Cross does that. Isaiah’s prophecy is that God is going to discipline his people so that cannot put their trust in man–whether he is bad (e.g., Ahaz) or good (Hezekiah). He lays us bare then He brings us into Zion so that we know that it is His power and holiness that makes us his people.

One final note from his speech. See how he explains why he doesn’t reject a friend who has said stupid things. In my mind this is how we ought to talk about each other instead of throwing them under the bus in order to get what we want:

I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother – a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.

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Filed under anger, church and culture, Civil Rights, Cultural Anthropology, Great Quotes, news, News and politics, Race, Racial Reconciliation

Should you listen to your clients?


In chapter one of Workmen of God, Oswald Chambers has this to say about the work of curing souls (bold emphases mine):

Keep these three things in mind—reliance on the Holy Spirit of God, keeping in contact with people, and above all, keeping in contact with the revelation facts in God’s Book; live amongst them, and ask God how to apply them.

Another thing I want to mention—never believe what people tell you about themselves. There is only one person in a thousand who can actually tell you his or her symptoms; and beware of the people who can tell you where they are spiritually. I mean by that, never be guided by what people tell you; rely on the Spirit of God all the time you are probing them.

Let me read you this in regard to medical treatment—

Recent evidence in the law courts has pointed to a fact which the medical profession holds of great value—the necessity, not only of personal and private interview with a patient, but of the penetrative ability to get at the real facts and symptoms. In other words, successful diagnosis depends on the doctor’s acumen in cross-examination. “Cross-examination of a patient is almost always necessary,” says an eminent medical man. “They will give me causes, or rather what they think are causes, instead of symptoms. The rich patient is more troublesome in this respect than the poor, for he has had leisure in which to evolve a sort of scheme of his illness, based on ‘popular’ medical knowledge.

“Patients always colour facts, speaking absolutely instead of relatively. They never tell the truth about the amount of sleep they have had or as to appetite. They frequently say they have had nothing to eat. Casually you find there were two eggs at least for breakfast. A minute or two later they remember stewed steak for dinner. Perhaps the greatest need for cross-examination is that it gives an extended opportunity to the medical man to examine the patient objectively. The most important symptoms are generally those the patient never notices.”

If that is true in the medical profession which deals with men’s bodies, it is a thousandfold more true about spiritual symptoms when it comes to dealing with a man’s soul. Do beware, then, of paying too much attention to the talk of the one that is in trouble, keep your own heart and mind alert on what God is saying to you; get to the place where you will know when the Holy Spirit brings the word of God to your remembrance for that one.

If you are unacquainted with Chambers, you might think him rather harsh and condescending to those he ministers. To the contrary, he very much cares for the souls he serves. In fact, his next lines are some of my favorite. He confronts those who love to hurl bible texts at others without listening to the Spirit.

So, how might these thoughts from Chambers inform the counselor?

Listen to what is being said, even if not the actual words. It is not hard to hear the heart cry despite being dressed up in words that accuse the self or other for causing the misery presently experienced. Then, consider what the Spirit and the Word have to say to that heart cry (Chambers alludes here to John 14:25).  It is a delicate balancing act to listen to our clients describe their dream of a solution to their problems, validate that dream, and yet bring reality into that dream. Sometimes, we are called to help them see how their dream leaves themselves out of the solution? Sometimes, we are called to help them work where they have the power to make changes and let go of those areas where they do not.

So, listen, validate, and yet point to those areas where God is leading the client. Of course, this assumes that the counselor is in touch with the Spirit and not just in touch with their own mind.  

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Not enough grace?


Prayer found in Valley of Vision:

Every new duty calls for more grace than I possess, but not more than is found in thee, the divine treasury in whom all fulness dwells. To thee I repair for grace upon grace.

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Who do you serve?


My wife has been a fan of Bob Dylan’s music and lyrics. My oldest son likes just about all kinds of music. This past week she introduced him to the song below. Old “Bobby One-Note” might not turn your crank with his voice but he is a master song-writer and has something to say.  The song has tons of biblical-theological implications. It’d make a great ending to a sermon on Jesus’ parables. Click here for a site that has all his song lyrics.

Gotta Serve Somebody (Bob Dylan) 

You may be an ambassador to England or France,
You may like to gamble, you might like to dance,
You may be the heavyweight champion of the world,
You may be a socialite with a long string of pearls

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You’re gonna have to serve somebody,
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.

You might be a rock ‘n’ roll addict prancing on the stage,
You might have drugs at your command, women in a cage,
You may be a business man or some high degree thief,
They may call you Doctor or they may call you Chief

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You’re gonna have to serve somebody,
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.

You may be a state trooper, you might be a young Turk,
You may be the head of some big TV network,
You may be rich or poor, you may be blind or lame,
You may be living in another country under another name

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You’re gonna have to serve somebody,
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.

You may be a construction worker working on a home,
You may be living in a mansion or you might live in a dome,
You might own guns and you might even own tanks,
You might be somebody’s landlord, you might even own banks

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You’re gonna have to serve somebody,
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.

You may be a preacher with your spiritual pride,
You may be a city councilman taking bribes on the side,
You may be workin’ in a barbershop, you may know how to cut hair,
You may be somebody’s mistress, may be somebody’s heir

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You’re gonna have to serve somebody,
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.

Might like to wear cotton, might like to wear silk,
Might like to drink whiskey, might like to drink milk,
You might like to eat caviar, you might like to eat bread,
You may be sleeping on the floor, sleeping in a king-sized bed

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You’re gonna have to serve somebody,
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.

You may call me Terry, you may call me Timmy,
You may call me Bobby, you may call me Zimmy,
You may call me R.J., you may call me Ray,
You may call me anything but no matter what you say

You’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You’re gonna have to serve somebody.
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.
 

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