All the World’s a Stage… Really?

“All the world’s a stage…”, so said Shakespeare, and he depicted seven ages for each man and woman who might pass across this stage. Well and good for William, but I have been thinking about this stage in some different ways lately… not so sure I like the staging that is taking place. More of us are led to believe that we are major players, that we will change the world, and maybe we will. More than likely, however, we may find that we are observing a play that annoyingly is hanging on to some very old habits. Some of the players we thought had exited, did not do so completely, or maybe not at all. The current public dialog is infested with sarcasm, with fight talk and spite talk, and sad, sad, sad verbiage… the kind of verbiage that destroys relationships, families, and communities.

Spotlights move about, and get jealously fought over, and they exchange one target for another… so much so, that characters we thought were gone only show up again. Slavery, racism, sexism, financial and political corruption, are still with us, and sometimes in bigger proportions than before. The spotlights were not shining on certain groups over the last couple of decades, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t there… or that they won’t come around again. More frustrating, is a haunting realization that while we criticize previous generations for not changing their world, we may not be changing our world, either. My generation didn’t do it, and your generation won’t do it either.

I find many stage managers calling for my attention and cooperation. But, who has made them the managers? What if I don’t want to play?

The job will never be finished, and it will always be a job we should be doing. Making a contribution to a needy world will always be the calling we receive.

Think about two things Jesus said about the world stage. In Matthew 18:7 he said… “Woe to the world because of its stumbling blocks! For it is inevitable that stumbling blocks come; but woe to that man through whom the stumbling block comes!”
Inevitable, he says, we are always going to have the stumbling blocks we have, even if the spotlights are off for a bit, the problems are inevitable and the spotlights will return. However, my first obligation is to make sure I am not part of the problem. Let me contribute to the solution, not to the stumbling block.

Second, Jesus said much about doing good things for “the least of these” and thereby doing good toward him. He gave the example of the Good Samaritan and more hospitals, children’s homes, and charities have been named after this very example than any other story.

Still, this kingdom of love and service is not brought about by anger and protest and politics. Spotlight or not, stage management or not, stage or no stage, it is a lifestyle of being Christ-like and active in his name that will make the contribution the world needs. Christ-like and active…

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From the Counseling Room

Here are a couple of thoughts from the Counseling Room where I work and minister. I need to say that these are not about any particular client… their confidentiality must always be protected… rather, these are some comments I have heard several times, in different ways.

 

And, before I begin, I want to say thanks to those who have signed up to get e-mails about when my articles appear. I am making some changes to the blog at the end of August, to economize and improve the blog. I will only be using Word Press to publish the blog, instead of a separate Web Host. I am not sure how things will end up… SO… I have already written an article, and it is ready to go out on Sept. 3 (Monday). If you have gotten notices before, but do not get a notice on Sept. 3, please let me know at gfordcounsel@yahoo.com  I will try to fix things. Now, to the thoughts.

Dear Client,,, I have often said to you that you should “find your voice” and I still say that. You have heard it from many other sources. It is a common phrase in the world of Assertiveness and Self-Improvement materials. But lately I have become aware that that encouragement is incomplete. I should be encouraging you to find your ears, also. When you use your voice and expect people to listen, bear in mind and heart that you are more than likely talking with a person who ALSO wants to be heard. As Daniel Wile says, we will all generate some kind of symptom when we believe we are not getting our leading edge thoughts and feelings across.

The other thought is this… Sometimes when I encourage a person to think before they speak they respond with something like, “But, I am no longer going to just stay silent, and…..” To this I say, well and good, I am talking about being accurate about what you have heard and seen, clarify first if there is room for doubt, and the dialog positive… firm and assertive, yet positive. A first impression, not vetted, can be way off target.

 

See you in September…

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The Locust Effect, part 2

I did finish reading the book, The Locust Effect, a few weeks ago, but just now am putting together some thoughts about the conclusion of the book. It has been a book that is unsettling, dealing with real examples of poverty, violence, and human suffering. I will say, however, that the authors, Gary A. Haugen and Victor Boutros, have made excellent suggestions for responding to the problems. I encourage you to read the book, especially for the conclusions and suggestions for being part of the solution. Here are a few of the challenging but optimistic proposals.

Is There Hope?

They tell us that, “It has been done before.” Citing examples of cities around the world, including the United States, at different times in history, they point out that seemingly impossible changes have been made before. It was estimated that in 1890’s New York City 90% of people arrested did not receive due process. Theodore Roosevelt became the Chief of Police and things began to change for the better. Los Angeles of the 1870’s saw violent pogroms against the Chinese population.

These and many other stories tell the powerful truth, that change is possible.

I want you to read the book, so I don’t want to give away the ending. I will tell you that chapter 10 gives several “common themes” (pages 229-240) of the changes that have happened before, and can happen again. Here are a few…

“Each movement of criminal justice reform required local ownership and leadership of a very intentional effort to transform the justice system.” Now here is a tough issue to deal with… Haugen and Boutros state that they believe, “in every society there are people, interests, and institutions that are intentionally trying to make the justice system fail and to make poor people and marginalized groups weaker and more vulnerable to violence.”

“Committed community leaders and reform-minded elites played a critical role.” Yes, we need even the elites, even though this word is often used disparagingly against people who seem to have social power. Simply, sometimes it takes a good elite to catch a bad elite.

“The priority goal of effective transformation efforts was a criminal justice system that prevented violence and crime and built trust with the people.” It looks as though both of these are needed, and that we cannot afford to have either one of them to fail, or even get behind the other.

Projects of Hope

The next signal of hope being restored is what the authors call Projects of Hope. These are selected areas in which the principles discovered and advocated by the International Justice Mission can be organized, funded, staffed, and put into action. These will then be used to demonstrate the accuracy and effectiveness of the approach.

One such place is Cibu City, of The Philippines. Funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a team from IMJ were given four years to do two things, 1) transform local law enforcement in the fight against sex trafficking of minors, and 2) demonstrate to outside auditors a measurable 20 % reduction in the availability of children in the sex trafficking industry of Cibu City. When the four years were finished, there was 1) a 1000% improvement in the rescue of victims and in the prosecution of perpetrators, and 2) there was a measurable 79% reduction in the availability of children in the commercial sex trade.

This success story, in addition to others, allows the advocates of the IJM approach to point to demonstrable evidence that the approach works. This Hope for our world is not a Hope Deferred.

“…they took the truth that everybody knew(about corruption, incompetence, and abuse), and they made it a truth that nobody could ignore.”

 

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The Locust Effect

For this article… I want and need your feedback. (Helpful, serious, positive, resolving, but no snarck)

I’ve begun reading a challenging book, The Locust Effect, by Gary Haugen and Victor Boutros. I say it is challenging because it has startling reports and statistics about violence, poverty, injustices, and many stories of people facing awful, devastating trauma, and facing it daily. Reading it causes feelings of anger, and also despair, over the horrible elements of the human journey. I don’t want to feel sad, or disgusted, or angry, but neither do I want to be ignorant or oblivious to the issues dealt with in this book.

When I finish, I will let you know how it all looks at that point, but I want to address a couple of things while I am about two thirds through the book; things which have stood out from the first. One of the themes of this book goes against an idea commonly held. The common idea is that violence comes to a neighborhood, or a country, because of the awful poverty that is there. Poverty causes violence because of the anger of the victim. The theme of the authors is the opposite, that poverty comes to a neighborhood, or a country, because of violence. Violence comes in a variety of ways, but it comes, whether the one lone bully, or a much more complicated set of individuals whose world lacks the goodness and conscientiousness to make it a better world for others as well as for self.

Haugen and Boutros state that “endemic to being poor is a vulnerability to violence”[1] Then, I have read enough, including some heartbreaking examples, to see that the authors are telling us that violence 1) causes poverty, 2) preys upon poverty, and 3) perpetuates poverty.

The book is mostly about violence and poverty in the “developing world”, but I hear the words that are often spoken about violence closer to home. I hear people say that this or that neighborhood in the United States has become violent due to the poverty found there. This never sounded quite right and I believe the message of this book explains why. What if it is the violence that comes first? Could it be the violence that is causing the businesses to suffer, sometimes leave the neighborhood, or to otherwise fail if they try to stay in the neighborhood? Could it be that people leave the neighborhood if they can afford to leave it, due to the violence, not due to the poverty. Living next door to a poor person doesn’t really seem to be a motivation to move, but living next door to a violent person does seem to be an obvious motivation.

People who can’t afford to leave a violent neighborhood must stay even though they may suffer violence. Some in this group choose violence because they see it as a road to power. This is not power with others that helps solve problems, but power over others to dominate. Others may choose violence because they believe it is the only way to survive. Either way, these choices are about the misuse of power; the same wrongdoing as held by the violent people who started the problem.

 

Another main theme of the book is about police and the justice system. The poor suffer more from police absence, or justice absence, than they do from police racism. (They do suffer from both.) In many countries the police are viewed as working only for the elite and the politically powerful. It stems from the old tradition of feudalism where the wealthiest fellow in the country-side hired his own army to keep the peace, so you had to be in his favor to be safe. It continued through colonialism where police and the courts were there to protect the colonial powers but not the indigenous peoples. The authors illustrate the plight of the poor in many countries. In certain parts of developing and established countries you will find businesses growing in the twenty-first century, but right alongside you will find the police and the justice systems operating in the fifteenth century. The businesses hire their own private police force. Everyday protection for the everyday poor person in these places is practically non-existent. The theme of The Locust Effect is that it is the violent, and not the poor, who want it that way.

So many questions come to my mind. I don’t know if the last portion of the book will deal with these or not. I do know I will be thinking of the questions more deliberately, thanks to this book.

  • Is a poor person more likely to become a violent person than is a middle-class or well-to-do person? If so, is there a real cause and effect at work, or is it for other reasons?
  • How do we explain the many people who move through poverty and never become violent?
  • How do we explain the many people who come through poverty, and leave poverty, without ever becoming violent?
  • Can we see violence, and the illegitimate power that goes with it, causing poverty in the United States today?
  • Can we see violence preying upon poverty in this country?
  • Can we see violence in the United States perpetuating poverty for the advantage of the violent people themselves?
  • Are there lower levels of police protection, and justice system follow-through available for the poorer neighborhoods? Just what are “the numbers?” What do the numbers mean?
  • What do we need to understand about the different levels of legal representation available for the different levels of socio-economic standing among people?

Will you share your thoughts?

[1] Page xi

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Another to share, from Tim Fall

via Rejecting the Peacemakers

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Hope deferred makes the heart sick…

A friend recently asked a question about Proverbs 13:12. Here are a few thoughts I’d like to share here, also. …remember that I am a counselor, so those passages that talk about depression, hope, despair, and recovery stand out to us.

About Proverbs 13:12… the first thing I see is that this is an example of Hebrew poetry.

In this verse, the first half of the verse makes a statement, then the second half states the opposite in order to paint a full picture of an idea. Proverbs 13 has many such examples of this poetry.
1. Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
2. But desire fulfilled is a tree of life.

The Hebrew word for hope seems to be a word that means “expectation” and it parallels the words in the second half of the verse, “desire” fulfilled. The sickness of the heart (first half) that comes from the disappointment of hope deferred is the opposite of the pleasure of the tree of life (second half). Let me add that this expectation seems, at least to this reader, to refer more to the daily purposes we have, and the things we want to accomplish in this life. It doesn’t exclude eternal life issues, but I believe the main focus of this expectation is our daily journey, and the spot of the horizon we pick for our aim.
This verse can have several applications. Here are my initial thoughts, though it is not a complete list. Please add more to the list.
• I need hope (healthy expectations and desires) to keep my heart healthy.
• I should understand, and make good choices about, the wants that I live for. They make up a good part of who I am, and whom I will become.
• “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.” Proverbs 4:23
• “Listen, my child, and be wise, and direct your heart in the way.” Proverbs 23:19
• One source of depression is the neglect, or laying aside, of hope.
• My hopes should be centered in the seeking of the Will of God.
• The gifts and calling God has given me are meant to be lived out and put to work.
• “Desire realized is sweet to the soul,
But it is an abomination to fools to turn away from evil.” Proverbs 13:19

The verse does not directly instruct me to do so, but nevertheless I find myself challenged to inspect what it is that I want. In his book, You Are What You Love, James K. A. Smith speaks a warning to us about our “unconscious loves”. (p. 32) He tells of a film by Andrei Tarkovsky, Stalker, in which the main characters are invited to enter a place known as The Room. When one enters The Room, they get what they most deeply want. But, the characters get cold feet. What if what they most deeply want isn’t what they think they want, or what if it is not what they wish that others will learn about what they want. (p. 27ff)

Smith asks a great question about what we truly and deeply want….. Early in the morning we read our Bible and pray. Later that day, we go to Home Depot or the Mall. Where do we worship most deeply?

Next in my study…
I did a word study on the word translated as “deferred”, and found some interesting information.
It is the Hebrew word מָשַׁךְ mashak ; a primitive. root; to draw, drag:—

• NASB – away(1), bore(1), continue(1), deferred(1), delayed(2), deployed(1), drag(1), drag me away(1), drags(1), draw(3), drawn(2), draws(1), drew(2), extend(1), follow(1), go(1), led(1), long blast(2), make a long blast(1), march(1), prolong(1), prolonged(1), pulled(3), sounds a long blast(1), sows(1), stimulate(1), stretched(1), tall(2), wield(1). [The numbers refer to how often the word appears with a particular translation in the New American Standard Bible.] —Brown-Driver-Briggs (Old Testament Hebrew-English Lexicon)
A primitive root; to draw, used in a great variety of applications (including to sow, to sound, to prolong, to develop, to march, to remove, to delay, to be tall, etc.):—draw (along, out), continue, defer, extend, forbear, X give, handle, make (pro-, sound) long, X sow, scatter, stretch out.

[ The use of this word translated as “sow” is a depiction of the action of casting seed by a sweeping motion of the arm.]

AV – draw 15, draw out 3, prolonged 3, scattered 2, draw along 1, draw away 1, continue 1, deferred 1, misc 9; 36 [The numbers refer to how often the word appears with a particular translation in the King James Version.]
Here are other places where this Hebrew word appears.
Along, Judges 20:37. Away, Psalms 28:3. Continue, Psalms 36:10. Deferred, Proverbs 13:12. Draw, Judges 4:6, 7. Job 21:33. Song of Songs 1:4. Isaiah 5:18; 66:19. Ezekiel 32:20. Draweth, Job 24:22. Psalms 10:9. Drawn, Deuteronomy 21:3. Jeremiah 31:3.
Drew, Genesis 37:28. 1 Kings 22:34. 2 Chronicles 18:33. Hosea 11:4. Extend, Psalms 109:12. Forbear, Nehemiah 9:30. Give, Ecclesiastes 2:3. Handle, Judges 5:14. Long, Exodus 19:13. Joshua 6:5. Out, Exodus 12:21. Job 41:1. Psalms 85:5. Hosea 7:5. Prolonged, Isaiah 13:22. Ezekiel 12:25, 28. Scattered, Isaiah 18:2, 7. Soweth, Amos 9:13. Up, Jeremiah 38:13.
—Exhaustive Concordance (KJV Translation Frequency & Location)

Back to the word that we usually translate as “deferred”. Many Hebrew verbs are word pictures about actions.
In this one, the picture is about casting to the side, scattering, or otherwise neglecting hope.

Here is this proverb’s big punch…….

It is not hope that is taken away from us by another person or by circumstances. Rather, it is hope that is deferred by our own lack of attention or self-discipline.

We are responsible for the care and feeding of our expectations. We are responsible for choosing wisely, as we put together our hopes and desires. We may not be able to change another person’s mind, but by that same truth, they cannot change ours either. Even if our family was dysfunctional, we can say, “For myself, I am taking a different road, and no one can keep me from independent choices, without my permission. I won’t neglect the care and feeding of the hope I have, nor will I assign my tasks to someone else. I won’t cast my hope over to the side.”

For this reason we are challenged, “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.” Proverbs 4:23

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Is it Easy?

Often in the counseling room I notice when a client will use words like, “happy”, “easy”, “fun”, and “quick”, in clumps, and also frequently. When these words appear so frequently, and together so often, I begin looking and listening for references to addiction, to frequent shut-downs in growth, and to excessive complaints about other people around them. These connections do often show up. It is not that I object to happiness, ease, fun, or quickness in life, but I believe that when someone insists on these things being primary and predominant characteristics in life, they will concurrently refuse the acceptance of life’s difficulty, and its risks. In that refusal, they find that their “life muscles” don’t sufficiently develop.

Ken Chafin, a dear friend of long ago, and a mentor I didn’t get to be around near as much as I had wished, once told of a relative of his who joked on his way out of church one Sunday, “I am thinking of never coming back here… every time I hear you preach, I learn something for my life, and I’m not sure we are supposed to do that at church.” In our modern times and modern churches our worship experiences are more sensual than they were years ago, and they are not as growth provoking as they should be, and I am not sure they were always growth provoking years ago, at least not so in many locations. But, sometimes, a situation, in church or in everyday life, is not growth provoking largely because that is not what someone is shopping for.

I see the challenge in counseling, also. As powerful as the moments in counseling may be for transforming life… there are limits. During a discussion of the transformative effects of therapy, Seth Bernstein, an excellent therapist in Corvallis, Oregon, said, “Life is our greatest teacher, not psychotherapy.” But, what happens if we don’t want to learn from life? What happens if avoiding life’s difficulties is the main thing someone wants? Counseling can help someone get unstuck, then provide encouragement and guidance in learning from life, but it can’t work when we won’t take life on with a purpose in mind.

Those of us in Christian counseling will take Bernstein’s reminder a step further. We will say, “Christ— and Life in Christ– is our greatest teacher.” One of the greatest misunderstandings of the Christian life is the misunderstanding of the Union with Christ. (Romans 6:8-11)

Someone once said that the Christian life was not meant to be difficult, it was meant to be dangerous. That is true, I believe. We see our new identity, we see that sin no longer works (if it ever really did), we see that the new power in our life is the rule of Grace , and we discover that this means our life is going to involve sacrifice, growth, change, I guess if someone considers that to be hard, then the answer to the question, “Is it easy?”, has to be answered with a “No”. But, if we understand the true nature of the transformation that is ours in Christ— the questions about “ease, fun, quick, and happy” all get left behind. The Joy of the Lord is ours, even when life is difficult, and life cannot really be about Avoidance, anymore. The mature and active disciple is no longer a glutton for ease.

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Cultural Hegemony… a guest post

May I share an excellent post by Tim Fall

via Authoritarian Husbands – the failure to follow Scripture and revere Christ

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In Praise of Imaginary Friends

I have my client’s permission to tell you about a great idea he had. We had been talking about the perils of being self-employed… keeping a good schedule, being productive, making plans and following through, all with self-discipline as the main driver. He said, “I need an imaginary boss.” Next time he was at the huge, sell everything store he picked up an inexpensive action hero, his favorite League of Justice hero, put it in his home office, and told himself that this “boss” was there to advise him, keep him on task, and train him in self-discipline. And, it has worked.

I realized, and shared a little with him about why it may be working. It builds habits with a humorous way, moving ideas from the impulse level up to more rational and productive executive function areas of the brain. After a minute or so of that, we were both tired of academics, and we returned to the thrill of the chase. That is, how can we get to where we want to be in our efforts, when we are the boss. At the end of the day, week, or year, we need to feel a sense of accomplishment.

In praise of imaginary friends, it helps him to be able to say, “What would _______ say at a time like this?” Let me admit that there have been plenty of times that I have said to myself, “What would Ole Roy do at a time like this?” (If you don’t know who that is, go to You Tube, and look up Roy Rogers.)

I will frequently say to couples in marriage counseling, “What would Harley and Davidson do at a time like this?” Most partnerships would go out of business if they did not communicate, and share influence/decisions any better than some couples do.

Most of us talk to ourselves, and we aren’t imaginary. We do it to get some reflection and some perspective about ourselves. Can we mentor ourselves, especially when other mentors are not available?

I recommend some other of these internal references. We need to think on those good and wise things said by others over the years.

Our Imaginary Sage can be a collection of those shared quotes and stories told us by people who have learned and loved the truth.

Our Imaginary Coach can be sum of good motivators and teachers we have had.

Our Imaginary Critic can remind us of the uncaring folks out there who want to make us feel as stymied in life as they do. The imaginary one in our mind can let us practice as we say to them, “I am content with my better way of making well rounded decisions about this.” One more thing, an important thing, in your mind, be sure your imaginary critic is tied to a tree, so that you can keep on walking down your chosen road.

 

Imagination doesn’t have to be about fiction. 

Imagination is what developers and inventers use to come up with new tools, products, solutions, and even changes in life itself. It can be about the future, and how we can accomplish. One of my favorite books is one I have read several times, with a title I think of at least scores of times a year since I first read it in the 70’s. It is by Edward C. Briggs, Will It Matter What I Was?, and it challenges me. Imagine the future you want and head that direction, but you have to do it every day.

May I contribute to your collection of good advice?

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.

Paul in Philippians 4:8

 

Paul is telling the truth, recommending the truth of a real relationship with a real and living God. Living an effective Christian life needs healthy thinking… and before we ask, “What Would Jesus Do?”, we need to read, understand, and put into committed practice, “What Jesus Did….” Find your gifts and callings, and find good relationships with other encouragers in the faith.

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Bad Parenting Advice That’s Worse Than Bad Parenting

Another wonderful article by Tim Fall… (Thanks Tim)

Tim's Blog - Just One Train Wreck After Another

[From the archives.]

A few years ago Voddie Baucham made the outlandish claim that shyness is a sin. Then he said that when he sees a shy kid he knows better than the kid’s own parents how to fix that kid’s sin. (Skip to 2 minutes 30 seconds if you want to bypass his insistence on corporal punishment when children are just a few weeks old, because “your kids desperately need to be spanked”.)

As he puts it toward the end of the video clip:

Let me give you an example, a prime example. The so-called shy kid, who doesn’t shake hands at church, okay? Usually what happens is you come up, ya’ know and here I am, I’m the guest and I walk up and I’m saying hi to somebody and they say to their kid “Hey, ya’ know, say good morning to Dr. Baucham,” and the kid hides and runs…

View original post 1,028 more words

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