A Word From A Therapist — Save Me Some Work

I get that life is hard. Trust me, I get it. But seriously? You don’t have to make it hard. 

Here’s a short list of things that would prevent me from getting business that you can do and everybody — not just me — would be happy. 

1) Don’t molest your children. You probably can’t imagine how many things this messes up and how long the pain lasts for my clients. I swear sometimes that — under every symptom — there’s a sexual abuse/rape. It’s not actually that bad, but if a client is really messed up or complicated, I’m not surprised anymore if somebody somewhere sexually assaulted them.

2) Don’t deal drugs, don’t “turn somebody on to” a drug, don’t offer them drugs. See above. If it’s not abuse, it’s addiction. The addictive gene is out there, gang. You just never know who’s life you are going to turn to manure by “welcoming” someone into drug use. Oh, and YES, alcohol is a drug. 

I could stop right there. 80% of my long-term business is there. 

But there’s more — things that make those two more likely to happen…

1) Don’t beat your wife/girlfriend/partner.  Women aren’t generally physically abusive to others. Instead, they tend to be verbally nasty when they are in pain or scarred (that’s not a typo). A guaranteed way to scar a woman? Beat her up. If you don’t want her to take it out on everybody verbally (including you) for the rest of her life, don’t beat her up now or ever.

2) Never pick on a man’s masculity. Just don’t go there. If you wound a man re: this, deep hurt will occur. From that hurt will come anger which will be expressed outward or sadness which will be turned inward. Want to guarantee a man will shut down and not talk? Pick on his manhood. Tell him he’s weak for having problems. Then try to find a good male therapist to help him. Good luck with that. Alternatively, you could save the time and expense and not pick on his masculine side.

3) Pay your employees enough to live on. The top 3 causes of problems in a marriage are money, power, and sex. I can deal with the second two, but I can’t pay them and I can’t give them money, and I can’t let them be at home parents because they have enough money andfeel safe enough doing so. Want to mess up society? Mess up a kid’s life by not raising them or fill their lives with anxiety. Want to save society? Pay people what they are worth. It may take a generation or two to get used to it, but I guarantee that we’ll all be safer.

4) Remember that other people are not you. Your dreams are great — for you. Your thoughts and feelings are real for you. Other people might think differently or experience things differently. If you didn’t become an all-pro quarterback or head of the cheerleading squad, it’s not your child’s problem. 

5) Remember that sex leads to babies. If you want children, that’s generally how it happens. If you don’t want, can’t handle, dislike, or can’t afford kids at this time in your life, this is still how it happens. 

There are ways to prevent this connection, but they don’t always work. They definitely don’t work if you don’t use them. A special note: antibiotics make “the pill” less effective. If you had antibiotics lately, you might take that into account. Men: if you were there at conception,  you signed up for kids until they are grown. Maybe longer. Needless to say, sex when you are mentally impaired: not a good idea.

Children change lives forever. If you are ready for them, it’s incredible. If you’re not, it’s going to be a long life for you.

I’m not against sex or children, but like everything else I listed, they can be “the gift that keeps on giving” mental health issues.

So that’s the basics. If you can do these things, I still won’t run out of business. Life still won’t be perfect. I can handle that, and so can you.

If you want to keep the cost of mental health care down — and the crime rate, and your personal level of anxiety — you now know how.

Peace,

John

For the little Easters…

“And so we need a little Easter, right this very moment”… That song floated through my mind last night. Yes, I know it’s not a real Easter song. It’s ripped off wholly from the Christmas song with all the tambourines and cheery singers in the background. As I thought about Easter, I thought how much we need Jesus’ presence here in our modern world. Just last night I saw that  “Somalia’s Islamic extremist group al-Shabab warned Saturday of more attacks in Kenya like the assault on Garissa University College that killed 148 people”. Lately, there’s been a lot of intentional death in the news lately: Airline pilots, videos of hostages, Boko Haran, blah, blah, blah.

Maybe it’s because I’m home sick this Easter, but I don’t need any more bad news. And, regardless of what people may think, I don’t go looking for this news. I look to see what is news. I like the good stuff, and dislike the bad stuff, like everyone else. If I’m that bummed by the news, I have to assume that a lot more people than me — even without the “bug” — are pretty bummed by three hundred deaths-that-didn’t-need-to-happen in one week.

We need to see resurrection in the news. That would be a headline: “148 people rose from the dead today in Kenya. People from the Garissa University Attack returned to their families on Easter Sunday, once again proving that life overcomes death and stunning the extremist who killed them recently.  How about “All 150 members of the German West plane crash, including the pilot were given a chance to celebrate life again when they rose from the dead. The pilot stated that God had shown him he was worth it, despite his depression, and he was delighted to be back…”

But we don’t get that kind of news, unless I’ve missed a really big headline. Still, wouldn’t it be nice? Christians believe that bizarre notion that (without the press) we will get to experience some version of that news at the end of time.  As incredible and wonderful as that is, I need a little more to get through the day. I need a lot of little “silly” resurrections to make up for that many unnecessary big deaths.

Luckily, I know they’re out there. In my work, people’s marriages return to life at times, drug addicts and alcoholics manage to get their lives together a little at a time, trauma victims heal or trust or gain a little more traction on reality.  In my not-work life, music brings joy to my heart, the TV Show Chuck on Netflix renews my hope in good people, my wife’s kind texts, my kid’s smiles and “Hi, Dad!” when I come home make a difference, but sometimes it’s not enough. Sometimes, I get worn down when I hear the stories of how horrible people’s lives have been — and they have been horrible — in ways I couldn’t  previously imagine. Then somebody kills a hundred and fifty people for no reason. One Easter just isn’t enough.

Luckily, lately, I have had a lot of little Easters — sometimes ten or twenty in a day.  Friends have sent get-well thoughts, ideas, prayers, and just general concerns for my well-being while I had a fever. People have given my daughters gifts, bringing a smile to my face. My wife lets me sleep. Conferences renew my soul by renewing my mind. Sleep renews my body. All of these things are little resurrections — little Easters.

Each time one of us makes a kid smile, removes some weight off of someone’s mind, renews faith in humanity by telling the truth or showing love, a little Easter happens, and these things happen every day, all around us — sometimes because of us, sometimes to us. Even when death and sadness surround us, it is all these little Easters that keep us alive. A hundred and forty-nine deaths at a time is a lot to fight against, and yet we’re still here. We must be doing something right.  We must be doing a lot of things right. Nothing as big as a resurrection from the dead? No, not at one time, but daily, we — you and I — return bits of life to our souls and the souls of people around us.  And for every time we hurt someone, we kill a little bit of their soul, making our own work — the work of living — harder. Luckily, grace and forgiveness and love overcome those little deaths and restore life.

Every time we exhibit love or grace or forgiveness or justice or help somebody in any way, every time we give a hug or kiss a loved one or tell someone they did a great job, we resurrect a bit of their soul, and ours as wellLove, friendship, a smile, a kind gesture, all make our lives a little lighter. If Easter only comes once a year, and the news comes daily, we need to have little Easters as often in our lives as we can manage. As always, we have no control over other people’s actions, which leaves is with our own actions…

And we need a little Easter, right this very moment…

Peace,

John

Can We Put A “Hold” On Stupid For Awhile? Maybe Forever?

Today’s Huffington Post reports that someone in Austin Texas is putting stickers on doors saying “White People Only”. A Black man was found hanging in a tree. In New York City yesterday, a court refused to release information about Grand Jury deliberations on a police officer who choked a (Black!) man to death and was not charged with anything… People can’t even figure out why and the justice system won’t give them any reason? Isn’t this America? A student (guess what color?) was beaten bloody the other day by police in Virginia.

Racism not only continues to raise its ugly head, but the people doing these things no longer care who knows it. Hopefully the man hung in a tree committed suicide, but that’s hardly helpful. I know people wish I would stop harping about it, but can our society stop giving me things to harp about?

Lest you think I only care about one group of people in our country… Oh, yes, ISIS blew up a bunch of people in massive suicide bombings. And Netanyahu won an election by coming out harder against Palestinians. And the list goes on…It’s the same thing — people talking about, hating, and killing people they don’t know, simply because they are different (or even just perceived as being different)!  Hating people because they are gay, or straight or bi — or because we think they are — is just as wasteful of our time. Hating women or the poor — or poor women — is just as stupid — a waste of our time, our energy, and our loved ones. It’s all the same stuff with different names.

Did no one get the memo that we’re supposed to care for each other, rather than kill each other, threaten to kill each other, and generally hate each other?

In this country, the racism continues to sadden, anger and enrage me. I worry for my friends. It is soooo draining. Loving each other, building community, sharing resources with each other so that people have what they need, seeing each other as one species, rather than “us” and “them” or “me” and “everyone else”, are so much on everything. Maybe we could spend our energy curing cancer if we weren’t spending so much time hating other.  Maybe we could just have each other over for dinner and have a few treasured moments if we weren’t afraid of those we hate. Maybe we could have money for education if we weren’t spending it on bullets, Maybe we could save money left-and-right if we didn’t have to have people protecting “us” from “them”.

Does anyone know how we got to this place? Does anyone know how to fix it? Is this fun for somebody? If so, how and why? Don’t people have families that they could spend time with? Friends who are human, but different than them in some way? Wouldn’t they like to be home with them, feeling safe and loved?

There’s an old Stevie Wonder song called “Love’s in need of love today” ( I like Joan Osborne’s version of it best) that says “hate’s going around, breaking many hearts” It’s one of those days/months/periods in our history where that is true. The fact that I can give five or six examples in one week proves it’s so. On the other hand, I wouldn’t know about the song or the singer if I wasn’t open to diversity.

So, today, be nice to the concept of love by making it visible and proving it’s real. Exercise your right to open up your hearts, give somebody a hug, tell your children you love them, take care of other people’s children or their elderly, respect people, be open to them, and listen to them. In short, remind people that love works. Care for each other. Be cared for by another. Share food and fellowship with each other, laugh together, cry together, be silent with each other.

I want to wake up tomorrow and see stickers that say “everyone’s welcome here”. I want to see no one hanging from a tree, or being beaten up or threatened, or abused just because they are “different” in some way. I want to wake up tomorrow with the Israelis and Palestinians wanting to work together and actually doing it, to create a two-state solution. I want the news to say that no one thought their politics or their religion or their gender was so important they killed for it. I want no one to blow up anybody for a while, maybe forever. There are going to be cynics who will say, “It’ll never happen” or “it can’t happen as soon as tomorrow”. I don’t believe it. I’m done believing in hate’s power. I’m just done with it. If we can have a war overnight, we can have peace overnight. If we can have killings in the middle of the night, we can have sleep in the middle of the night. If we can be mean and snide to each other via the media, we can choose to be otherwise, and act on it.

So think about what would happen if Israel and Palestine worked out a solution and no one died over there. Imagine what it would be like if no cop beat up another person for 24 hours. Picture no one starting a new war, and no one fighting any old wars tomorrow.  Picture not needing to worry about walking through a certain section of town because you know you’ve treated them well and they all have enough food and water and clothing and shelter and know that they are loved by somebody.  Think about going to the airport and not needing to go through the TSA checkout, because there is no need for a war on terror. This is what love can do.

If, when you picture those things, you feel all warm and happy, know that’s how you’ll feel when you make it a reality. This hate thing is just so exhausting, let’s do something else.

I’m tired of being tired, and sad, and angry, and dumbstruck by the the events of the world.

So let’s try for ….Peace,

John

The Lessons of History?

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” — George Santayana.

“Head-desk” — a UCC Minister

It’s the 50th anniversary of the March in Selma, Alabama, a turning point in American history in which African-Americans made strides toward voting rights and civil rights. The history of the day is described poignantly in the movies “Selma” which came out in the past few months.

It is the story of hard hearts and closed minds of Southern Whites and the resulting hard and hurting hearts of Southern Blacks, the pull toward violence in the Student Non-Violence Coordinating Committee (SNCC) overtaken by the non-violent love, dignity and respect for persons given by Martin Luther King’s Southern Christian Leadership Confrerence (SCLC) and King”s leadership.

In the same era as The March on Selma was happening, White Southerners wouldn’t let what were then called  “Negroes” or “Coloreds” the right to sit down in the same restaurants and coffee shops,  From the sit-ins that were a response to the coffee houses and the March came two of the most united times as a people and two of the proudest moments in American history.

In remembrance of these significant events, three stories have come to the fore:

1) The party which now controls Congress has made a point of refusing to send its leaders to the remembrance.

2) Oklahoma Senator Joseph Silk has stated that LGBT people “don’t have the right to be served in every store”.

3) The Ferguson, MO mayor whose city was besieged this past summer, has seen a report by the Department of Justice that says there were widespread abuses and policies which created the situation and resulting problems says that even though “The report stated there was probable cause to believe the police and court routinely violate people’s civil rights. But, Knowles said, “that’s not proof.” He added that “there is probably another side to all of these stories.”

Is anyone seeing a pattern of absurdity here?

To give some perspective here, this would be like this happening:

On the week prior to July 4, 2016,  as the Prince Harry and Kate Upton are preparing to come to America to celebrate American Democracy and Independence and what it has mean to the world,

Members of the Labour Party state in a press conference that they would not send a letter of congratulations to the US on the Fourth of July because they didn’t want to stir up hard feelings. I don’t know if they normally would, but going on record as saying they wouldn’t is a statement in itself.

Following this, A member of Parliament states that Americans are not welcome in England because “many of them” are traitors. Further, people with both American and English citizenship would be sent back to America, because their citizenship in Britain was no longer considered valid.

Shortly thereafter, The Prime Minister states that regardless of what history has said, democracy has not succeeded in America despite the list of grievances in the Declaration of Independence, there were no “repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States”.  Therefore, the supposed Revolution isn’t legitimate because “there’s no photographic evidence that the events described by the Americans ever took place”. Even if they did happen , the PM went on to add, it would be a matter of “They said, We said” because there are two sides to every story.

Every day that week, there is a new story that tells the decline of relations between the two countries, even while the Prince and Princess represent the “official version of history” and are embarrassed by the news from home.

Can you feel the craziness coming on? This is what it’s like to live in America today  as a “minority” of some sort, or as a supporter of a minority.

Here’s the reality and good news of the Civil Rights movement:

1) There was a problem of civil rights for some Americans.

2) When Americans of all stripes saw how bad the problem was, they fixed it. White people (LBJ and Congress) gave to Black people what was due them and felt proud of themselves for doing so,

3) The option for violence was presented again and again and — for a time — the minorities remained non-violent and looked to heal America.  When the leaders of the movement who had tried so hard to love were killed. Violence erupted against those in power and divided us again.

Those are the facts of history. We became a better people because we faced our own issues and dealt with them. We were proud to be Americans. When we didn’t deal with our issues, there was violence.

Now, there are people in power who say that we should be divided, that we shouldn’t be proud, and that violence will not erupt as we revoke the civil rights of some of our citizens, because our democratically elected (twice) president might have a bias. Those who can’t remember their past…

There are usually two types of hurts: Intentional hurt of others and ignorant hurt of others (someone didn’t know the situation and, as a result, hurt someone unintentionally.) While many of us are trying to argue the latter of those two regarding Ferguson and others, leaders have now added a third category — refusal to acknowledge the hurting of others and blaming them for being hurt.

So these are our choices as I see it: 1) Pride, dignity, and respect for us, unity, support for each other and belief in one America or 2) chosen ignorance, no respect for us by other countries, a diminished sense of unity, less pride in what we have accomplished, less love and more violence.

It’s oddly exhausting and feels crazy at times, because others shout louder and lie more aggressively, but I’m going to go with option 1.

Peace,

John

Has Something Good Come Out of The War In Iraq? I Missed What That Was

Some of my friends are arguing about War Mongers, draft-avoiders, and the start of the Iraq war on Facebook. Most seem to be pulling away from my position on war in general and they certainly have the right to do that. I still want to interject those thoughts back into the conversation.

Here’s my premise:

1) Killing people is wrong.That’s it. After that….

2) Killing people on a massive scale (aka war) is wrong on a larger scale.

3) Telling or coercing people to kill on a massive scale is wrong, but if you have the willingness to do it yourself, you’re at least consistent in your belief. If you won’t go, or won’t send your child, then you have no right to a) send somebody else or their child to war or b) punish them for not doing something you won’t do,

4) Killing people not only takes their lives (your intent) but a part of your psyche. Witnessing death or taking part in it is traumatizing. There is no argument about this. It is not open to interpretation.  It is simply a fact of human life. In “The Good War,” people didn’t talk much about taking other people’s life. They talked about risking their own lives for someone else. There’s a reason for this. The first is shameful and traumatizing. The second is heroic and perhaps necessary at times. Jesus did the second. He never did the first.

5) Assuming, for the sake of the argument, that my argument is wrong, but the first part of #4 is true, if you want to send someone to war, you’d better have a damn good reason to do it.

All of that is about war in general — all war, all gang wars, turf wars, religious wars, “holy” wars — all of them.

Now, about Iraq:

5) Lying is wrong.

6) Lying to get people to do something that traumatizes them is, frankly, evil.

7) I believe (but could be wrong) that the Bush White House lied about the Iraq war. They implied that Saddam Hussein was behind Al-Queda and the 9/11 plots. The told us, in no uncertain terms, that Saddam possessed Weapons of Mass Destruction. They sent Colin Powell to the UN to explain things they knew to be wrong to make the case for the war. Powell intimated later that he couldn’t work with people like that.

8) Hussein was neither behind Al-Queda or the 9/11 attacks. A ruthless dictator, yes. A brutal man to the Kurds, yes. Behind 9/11? No.

9) With that argument out of the way, they had to lie about the reason to have a war. One of the UN inspectors published a piece in the New York Times that stated that they couldn’t find any. In response, the Bush White House (in the person of Scooter Libby) leaked that the inspector’s wife was a CIA operative, This put her life in danger, but Libby was later pardoned.

10) By my reckoning, if you need a damn good reason to go to war, and you don’t have one, you don’t go. The Congress didn’t have one, either. The best they had was the possibility of a good reason. They voted for going anyway, as is their right and/or job, but I will never believe that the reasons for that war were good enough to put people on both sides of the conflict into danger.

11) We’re already well over my standards for war, but to make matters worse, we sent troops into harm’s way to inflict harm on people, and we did it while 1) Calling our people “patriots” and 2) Not giving them the proper equipment to be patriots, making it more likely they would die. When this was raised by the soldiers, Donald Rumsfeld, of the Bush White House, told them “You go to war with what you’ve got” and implying they weren’t patriots for complaining.

SInce we went there, we have put those soldiers in contact with some illness called “Gulf War Syndrome”, destroyed the oil wells and put huge amounts of pollution into the air in Iraq (and said “global warming/climate change is a lie”), gave them sub-par medical treatment via the VA, and destroyed our economy paying for the war.

The Iraqi people are sort of free, but I’m not seeing how that makes up for all the losses involved. The Iraqis still fight among themselves. Their psyches are scarred by it all as well. They had to deal with the pollution we created. We looted their treasures while we were there, after destroying many of their resources. The kind of terrorism that Osama Bin Laden wanted and we (supposedly) went to fight against is stronger than it was before the war.

We’ve made the world less safe, destroyed our economy by raising the debt paying for this war, while cutting social programs. Are we any safer because of our actions? No. Do we trust our politicians? No. Did anyone profit by this but the weapons manufacturers? No. Is there a growing income inequality in this country? You bet. So, unless you are one of the 1%, nothing good came out of this war — a war we shouldn’t have been in in the first place, and we did it all for no good reason.

I could be wrong, but that’s my view.

Peace,

John

11)

Fifty Shades of Red

This is an opinion piece, rather than a Very Important Topic and I have a piece on caring for the homeless that I want to give air to in my “opinion”/current events blog, so here this is. Still, I’m not sure that this topic isn’t an eternal question — and that’s part of the problem.

Today, Valentine’s Day 2015, the sexually “kinky” movie “50 shades of Grey” comes out. Last night, my wife informed me that the kids in Middle School and High School are talking about the movie, that “fetish” is a “regular” word now but that kids mean something different than the clinical definition and more…

I wanted to put my fingers in my ears and say “la la la” loudly so that I didn’t have to think about it because we’re talking about my girls and sexual topics. I get that there’s a personal emotional side to this, as a Dad. I would expect myself to be queasy as my girls grow up and start talking about sexuality because I don’t think my brain should go there. I don’t want to be able to form mental pictures of my kids nude with somebody of their choosing doing sexual things, for the same reason I don’t read their journals. I believe in privacy. Their bodies, their lives, their decisions. Cross-generational sexual thoughts give me the heeby-jeebys and I think they should.

That said, I was mostly sad by the news that it’s a topic. Is there any place left in America where kids can just be kids anymore? Why do they need to know about BDSM? I remember the Clinton years and having to explain oral sex because it was in the news. I consider that to be a relatively normal topic in the adult world between partners or people at the age where sex is everything. Bondage/Domination/Sado-Masochism is, I think, at least a full standard deviation from the mean in terms of sexual expression. Why does any parent have to discuss it with kids who should thinking about the playground swing and finding the other genre “yucky”!if they think about them at all!?

Isn’t there kids world and adult world anymore? Why do kids need to know everything? Aren’t there things their little minds shouldn’t know about because they have no meaning to them? Does bondage really need to be on the Today show? Or the radio? Or the previews at the movies? In the Super Bowl commercials?

Isn’t sexuality a private, adult thing anymore? Is anything? Shouldn’t there be something? Maybe I’m just old and prudish. I’m certain that’s part of it and I know I don’t have any adult reason to dislike the topic. I just think it’s weird.

I get that sex is “natural”. I get that communication between parents and kids is important. I get that people do whatever they do and have the right to in private. If I wouldn’t let my kids in my bedroom in real life because it’s private, why would I let them into the virtual bedroom? More to the point, why would I move my sex life into their life at all?

I know how we got here, but really, did we need to go there?

Peace,

John

Reminders from “Selma”

It has been a long time since I was at seminary and a long time since I had a congregation to lead, which required spiritual time and Bible study, so sometimes these things fade into the distant haze of my brain and heart, and every once in awhile something reminds me of the things I believe — a movie, a song, a friend, a hug, a picture — and I feel more like the person I want to be.  The family and I saw “Selma” tonight and it brought back some basics for me — as well as some new lessons.

The new, first: 1) People put their lives on the line when they want their rights non-violently. They must be scared out of their mind doing it.

The fact that they do it anyway ,means they are a) brave, b) honorable and c) full of dignity. They should be recognized as such. I have been to protests, but have never faced clubs. I have seen friends hit with a club by police, but — ironically — not at a protest, but at bar in L.A. Because I have seen Andrew Young, Dick Gregory, Jesse Jackson, Joan Baez, Peter, Paul, and Mary, I have seen people I am in awe of as an adult, Yes, I have seen Dr. King on TV as a child, and have been in awe. That awe was always from the outside, seeing them do their thing or talk about it. The movie “Selma” shows it from their perspective and so the fear they must have experienced became evident.

2) The Voting Rights Act’s recent gutting needs to be fixed. I knew vaguely about poll taxes and increased requirements for registering. The ripple effects they talked about in the movie were new to me. Then again, I don’t spend my days thinking up ways to oppress people.

Now, the old:

1) It is important that human beings are brave and stand up for themselves and others. — it brings out the best in them. It is the job of parents and clergy and helping professionals to teach children to believe in themselves and be brave living everyday life. The quote by Thoreau, “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation” is both true and horrible.

2) Religion is not meant to oppress. Religion is meant to worship God. God is good. Religion that worships God does good for the world. Any religion that doesn’t make the world a better place, as is God’s intention, is not a religion worth having or practicing, and is certainly not a true religion.

3) God likes justice. Faith and love and justice are not mutually exclusive. God calls us to be our best selves — and even better. God knows what our best selves are and we don’t. We just guess at it and aim in that direction.

4) Black lives matter because all life matters. Black lives are a part of humanity — a humanity that the Spirit endows with life. They are not better or worse. They are simply lives. But “simple” in this case is also “holy”. They ought not to be taken lightly.

5) Good is good. We know it when we see it. Bad is bad. We know it when we see it, Being a faithful Christian is often like standing in the middle of the road — you get hit by cars going both ways. Still, it is the best way to be.

6) Contrary to what many of my liberal friends and my conservative enemies believe, violence never solved anything. Conservatives are not enemies because they are conservative, but people who are way off the conservative deep end  tend to believe in violence — and ignorance. Off-the-deep-end liberals tend to be educated and violent. They are still wrong, but they are smart and I like that better. Of course, I could be wrong about that.

Peace,

John