Showing posts with label Story of the day. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Story of the day. Show all posts

Friday, August 29, 2014

Story of the day - Without vision the people perish or enjoy afternoon delight

He raised his voice slightly and intoned, "It is said in Proverbs, 'Where there is no vision, the people perish', and where is the vision in this congregation? Who is it we want to become? What is it that we, as a people, feel called to do for ourselves, our community, our world?"

Barry felt a tingle in his spine. Rev. Burnett was usually not this inspired, this decisive, this forceful. Barry liked what he was saying, but also felt slightly anxious, afraid, but of what? He elbowed Linda and stuck his chin out at the reverend up in the pulpit preaching. She nodded. She looked like she felt it too.

When they went to brunch later after the service Barry said to Linda, "What was up with Doug this morning? He seemed a bit wound up. What's with all this vision stuff?

Linda said, "Barb told me he is thinking of leaving. She said that Melony told her that Doug is feeling burned out. He's lost his spark," she said, "as if he ever had any."

"He seems like a nice guy," said Barry. "Everybody likes him."

"Maybe that's the problem," said Linda. "Nice guys finish last."

"I wonder if he's depressed," said Barry.

"Yeah, well Barb said that Melony told her that he did start on some antidepressant, Zoloft, or Prozac, or something like that."

"Well maybe that explains it then. Doug has discovered a little more fire in his belly. Maybe he is amping up to actually lead this congregation somewhere instead of just coast in a sea of mediocrity," said Barry.

"The question," Linda said, "if you are right, is will we follow?"

"Where is he guiding us," said Barry, "is the first question we would have to have answered before we get to that one."

"All I know," said Linda, "is if you don't know where you're going any road will take you there, and we have been taking Sunday morning leisurely drives all over the place for the last 4 years since he has been here and we've arrived at absolutely nowhere that I can see."

"Ahhhhhh," said Barry laughing, " nowhere is somewhere even though when you get there you don't know where you are."

"Exactly," said Linda laughing with him, "we are somewhere, maybe, and if Doug figures out where he is, and we are, maybe he will tell us as his vision thing becomes clearer to him."

"Remember when the kids were little and we'd be traveling that long trip to your mother's and we wouldn't have even traveled 30 minutes and the kids would start asking, 'are we there yet?', and we'd say ' we still have a long way to go. Take a nap. Go to sleep.'?"

"Are you suggesting that we take a nap, go to sleep, until Doug figures out where we are going and we get there?" said Linda.

Barry said, "Linda, honey, it's Sunday. We have a whole afternoon to ourselves. It's been awhile. How about we enjoy some 'afternoon delight?'"

"Splendid," was all she said with  a Mona Lisa smile on her face.

My Kind Of Church Music - Afternoon Delight, Starland Vocal Band

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Story of the day - Tragedy is awareness in the excess of power

Alicia said to Greg half way between anger and tears, "I don't know what's wrong with me! My people never win in elections. I fight for stuff all the time, and lose. I argue with people and they just don't get it. What in God's green earth is wrong with people??? Or is it me? Tell me if you think I'm nuts!

Greg started laughing, "Lice, it's not you, believe me. You are too good a person and if you have a fault, it's that you care too much."

"Yeah, how can you not care about doing the right things. So many times I feel it's not fair! Things shouldn't be this way! Somebody should do something.' I guess I've been this way since I was a little girl. You know what my mother used to say? She'd say to me kind of sternly, 'Alicia you have no right to complain unless you can do it better.'"

"How did that work out for you?" Greg asked.

"I've walked around my whole life muttering to myself, I know I could do it better. I know I could do it better. Maybe it's all my mother's fault for putting that thought in my head," Alicia said now laughing herself.

"Your mother was a very good woman and she raised a wonderful daughter," said Greg.

"Oh yeah?" said Alicia. "Then how come I'm so screwed up?"

"You're not screwed up," said Greg. "You're counter cultural. You're way ahead of your time. You're the sane one living in an insane world. You have to learn how not to take it so seriously, because it's all nonsense. You know that,"

"Not take it seriously, you say? How do you do that?" asked Alicia.

"Like Jesus said, 'Be in the world but not of the world,'" said Greg.

"I'm suppose to live a double life?" asked Alicia.

"Karl Jaspers said that tragedy is awareness in the excess of power, by which I think he meant, to know something and not to be able to do anything about it puts a person in a position of anger, discouragement, helplessness, sorrow and grief, and fear. You know, it's a real tragedy, the stuff tragedy is made of. The person might be better off not knowing because they can't do anything about it anyway. That's why they say 'ignorance is bliss.'" said Greg.

"I'd be better off if I was stupid, ignorant. Is that what you're saying?" asked Alicia.

"No, I didn't say that. What I said is that you would be more blissful because you wouldn't know so it wouldn't bother you. The question is whether you'd rather be in ignorant bliss or know the truth?" said Greg.

"How well do you know me?" said Alicia laughing.

"Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know you pretty well I think. That's why I love you. You're fine, just tired. You can't win em all as they say," said Greg.

"I don't seem to win any," said Alicia feigning a pout.

"You won me," said Greg.

"And what a blessing," said Alicia as she hugged him and gave him a big kiss.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Story of the day - Is your compassion medically necessary?

John was aware of the power of groups. He had been a counselor for years and had facilitated many groups which were intended to be therapeutic. In the substance abuse field this activity is called "treatment."

The payors, the insurance companies, have required that a medical model be imposed on psychotherapeutic activities like individual counseling, group meetings, family therapy and would only pay for services if these activities met the definition of "medically necessary." The health insurance companies refuse to pay for services which are simply educational, vocational rehabilitation, or case management. The medical records of these activities are constantly scrutinized to determine if acceptable symptoms had been noted, appropriate psychiatric diagnoses assigned, legitimate treatment goals articulated, and progress towards those goals described.

It seemed an arbitrary definition to John whether his compassion, his empathic conversations, his purposeful interaction with clients and their families and referral agents are "medically necessary."

When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead to ease the grief of his mourning sisters would it have been reimbursed in this day and age by the health insurance companies or when Jesus made a paste from dust and his saliva, and cured the blind man's blindness when he put the muddy paste over this eyes?

As this thought crossed his mind, John started laughing to himself, guffawing really, and his eyes welled up with tears, and his colleague, Shannon, having heard the explosion of frivolity got up and came to his office, looked in, and seeing him alone, asked, "Are you okay?"

John, at first couldn't answer because he was laughing/crying so hard, he couldn't articulate the words properly to speak. Finally, he stood up, took a tissue and wiped his face and blew his nose, and said to her, "I need a day off. I am really not feeling well. I've got to get out of here. Please cancel my appointments or find someone else to cover them. I'll see you tomorrow." and John walked out of the office, down the corridor, out the back door into the parking lot, got in his car, took a big sigh of relief, and drove down to the lake to watch the seagulls and the waves roll up to the beach line.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Story of the day - UU yahoos and tree hugging

Joe was talking with a bunch of folks at the local coffee shop sitting outside at the sidewalk tables when the topic turned to religion.

Barry asked, “So Joe where are you going to church now days? I’ve heard you move around a lot.”

Joe said, “I’ve been going to the Unitarian Universalist church,” quietly waiting for Barry’s snide remarks which he usually made to get a laugh from whatever audience was present.

“Ah,” said Barry, “the UU yahoos,” laughing which made everyone snicker.

Joe laughed too. “That’s a good one. I hadn’t heard that before. It even rhymes. UU yahoo. That’s good.”

“Yeah,” said Ken. “They’re the guys who don’t believe in anything, right?”

“We have our seven principles,” said Joe. “It’s not a creed. They’re more like values we agree to.”

“Like what?” said Cindy.

“Well, like we accept one another and try to help each other out, “ said Joe.

“Like Kiwanis,” said Barry making a statement and not a question.

“UU is just a civic club?” asked Cindy like she was incredulous.

“No,” said Joe starting to get mad. “It’s a religion. They believe in some stuff. It’s spiritual not just a civic club.”

“That’s bullshit,” said Barry. “Do they believe in Jesus? No! Do they accept Him as Lord and Savior? No again! Don’t give me ‘it’s a religion crap.’ They let atheists in, Jews, humanists. If people who don’t believe in God are part of your religion how can you call it a religion? Huh? Answer that smart ass, and I know it’s true because my cousin left our church and became a UU yahoo and he told everybody he lost his belief that Jesus was God and was an agnostic. So what the hell do you call that?”

Joe had had enough. He was tired of Barry and his entourage making fun of him and his new found religion. Further, to be honest, Joe didn’t really know the answer to Barry’s question anyway. Was UU really a religion? He thought so, but he couldn’t really explain it to himself, let alone to anyone else.

Joe said, “To each his own, ya know? I don’t have to explain myself to you or to anyone else. Maybe I’ll wind up rotting in hell or, I guess, it will be burning in hell according to people like you. I’ve got to go, though. There’s a meeting this afternoon over at the church and us ‘UU yahoos’ as you call  us are trying to figure out what we can do to help the environment, you know, about climate change and fracking and stuff. Maybe we just care about Mother Nature, you know. Maybe she is one of the gods that we UU yahoos care about. Whatever we decide to do we will all be better off because of it even you, Barry, and Ken and Cindy, all of us. See ya!

And Joe got up, turned, and walked away rather quickly before there could be any further rejoinders, but he heard Barry say, “Go hug a tree, Joe!” and the rest of them laughing.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Story of the day - I’d rather be used than be alone.

She was 17, a junior in high school, a mousy looking girl, kind of nerdy. She was a high honor student, and a student manager of the girls basketball team. She told me she admired the jock, prep girls and wanted to be like them but she wasn’t that well coordinated to be an athlete.

Her grades had been dropping through the spring and she became depressed. Her pediatrician put her on Prozac and said she needed counseling so she came to see me.

She said she’d been a virgin and not very popular and finally a boy took an interest in her but on the second date he told her he was breaking up with her unless she “put out”. She told me she didn’t even know at first what this meant until he was clear that he wanted sex. She said she was confused, upset, and didn’t want this first romantic relationship to end so she agreed. She lost her virginity to him on their second date, and then he promptly bragged to his friends that he had “scored” with her, and broke-up with her any way.

All his friends wanted to go out with her and after having sex with four or five guys she said she got a reputation as the junior class slut. She was devastated, became depressed, and now felt more isolated than ever.

“What do you make of all this?” I asked her.

She paused for some time and then said, “I guess I would rather be used than be alone.”

I was stunned, and for a minute at a loss for words. The silence was palpable but also soothing. I felt like I was sitting in the presence of a Buddha.

I finally said to her, “I’m amazed at your insight. You’d rather be used than be alone. I have a lot of thirty, forty, fifty year old clients that haven’t figured this out yet and you’re only 17! You are what they call an “old soul.”

She got through the school year, pulled her grades up, and while still withdrawn, the depression slowly seemed to lift and the school year ended. We didn’t meet over the summer and I assumed she was okay. Then in September she called and asked to see me again. She said she was feeling much better and told me she had asked her pediatrician if she could stop her anti-depressants and he asked her how her counseling was going. She said she told him that we hadn’t been meeting since school ended in June and the pediatrician told her to see me for a “check-up” and if I agreed that her depression had improved he would work with her to taper off the antidepressant. So she came to see me.

She looked much better, had gained a little weight, smiling, even bubbly, a changed person. I asked her, “What has happened since we last met?”

“I’m a senior this year, and things are going great. I’m managing the basketball team later this fall, and I’m working part time at McDonald’s and I’m planning on going to college next year. I’m feeling great and I want to stop the anti-depressants and my doctor told me I had to talk to you first,” she said.

“Things seem much better. Any symptoms of depression?” I asked.

“No, they've all cleared up and I feel, and am doing, better than ever,” she replied.

“Do you remember that thing we talked about last spring when you told me that you would rather be used than be alone?” I asked.

“Yeah, sure,” she said smiling.

“And what do you think now?” I asked.

“Oh, I’d rather be alone any day,” she said laughing.

“Indeed,” I said, “it is better to be alone than to be used. You go girl!”

And that was that. Obviously I have remembered her story to this day and feel graced and blessed by my encounters with a 17 year old teenage old soul.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Story of the day - If the preacher were the play mate of the month would more men go to church?

Alicia still hasn't found a church home but she has been looking and visited several mostly without Greg although he said he would go if she found one she liked. Like everything else she thought to herself. He wants me to take the initiative and do all the work and then he'll go along. But at least he wasn't trying to stop her and he cheered her on from the sidelines so she thought she shouldn't complain.

Alicia had grown up in a family which had religious traditions. Having been raised Catholic she had made all the sacraments, at her mother's insistence, except confirmation. That sacrament they couldn't make her do and the stuff about virgin births and resurrections and walking on water and turning water into wine had been enthralling stories when she was five and six didn't work for her any more at 14 and certainly not when she was 26.

And she was worried, because if and when she married Greg, which she thought she would eventually do, and they had children, how would they raise them? What values would they teach them? Greg was very laid back. He was 6 when his parents divorced and neither one of them were religious and Greg never went to church so he had nothing to fall back on when it came to religious upbringing. Greg is a very spiritual guy, that's what attracted her to him, but he was pretty air headed when it came to putting his thoughts and feelings about his religious beliefs into words.

Now that she had kind of given up on her Roman Catholicism she didn't really know what to do and where she belonged. She liked the Unitarian Universalist church she had visited, All Soul's, but they didn't seem to believe in much as far as she could tell, but they seemed to be nice people and didn't faun all over her and ask her questions about whether she'd been saved and loved Jesus like they had at some other churches she had been to.

The things she really like about the UUs is that they seemed very open and welcoming to everyone especially gay people. She had had a college room mate who was gay and even though Alicia was heterosexual they had become, and continue to be, good friends, and Alicia thought, this is a church I could bring Jennifer to and not feel embarrassed or wonder how she would be treated were people to find out she was lesbian.

And so, Alicia said to Greg, "Jennifer and I are going to visit All Soul's next Sunday for their service do you want to come?"

"Is this it?" Greg asked. "Is this the church you like?"

"Well, I don't know for sure, but it's the best so far, and I told Jennifer that they are very welcoming to gay people and so she said she wanted to check it out too," said Alicia.

"Are you sure, you're not bi?" said Greg laughing a little nervously.

"Come on," said Alicia, "we've been though this. You like Jennifer, right?"

"Of course," said Greg. "I guess I'm just a little jealous."

"Of my friendship with Jennifer?" said Alicia. "You could have come with me on my church visits any time and still can. Jennifer is the one who jumped on board and wanted to come, and I just asked you if you wanted to come with us. How can you be jealous of that?"

"Stupid!" said Greg. "I'm just being stupid. After my parents and everything, I have a hard time with trust because of my insecurity. You know that, right? I'm working on it. Sure I'd love to go with you, or the two of you, whatever."

"Sunday at 10:00," said Alicia. "You'll have to get up early for you on a Sunday," said Alicia with a tone of jest.

"Is the preacher a man or a woman?" asked Greg.

"I don't even know," said Alicia. "Does it make a difference?"

"Well if she was the playmate of the month look-a-like it might," said Greg laughing again. "But with my luck she'd probably be a lesbian."

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Story of the day - When the bliss of ignorance is over what do you do?

Mary came in to the counseling room and began the session with the statement, “I’ve been very depressed and anxious for the last few months. My doctor gave me something and told me I should talk to somebody. That’s why I called you.”

“What’s going on?” I asked as she started to weep.

She paused and shook her head slowly back and forth and held her breath for a few seconds and said, “I promised myself I wasn’t going to do this.”

“It’s okay,” I said, “that’s why you’re here. I have several boxes of tissues in the closet if we run out of tissues in this one.”

“I think my husband is having an affair,” she blurted. “We’ve been married 18 years.”

“How long has this been going on?” I ask gently.

“Oh, a year or two,” she says somewhat sheepishly.

“A year or two,” I say evenly. “And why now are you having symptoms and seeking help?”

“Well, I don’t know for sure. We pretend that things are okay, and for the most part they are if I don’t question anything, but it got so I just couldn’t ignore it any more. If you really want to know, one of my friends saw them together at a restaurant in the next town over about two months ago and asked me about it. I was embarrassed. I didn’t know what to say. I suppose if he’s discreet, I could let it go, but when my friends know, and I pretend I don’t, I look foolish, you know, like I don’t know what’s going on in my own home, in my own marriage, and I do,  even if I would like to think that I don’t. Does that make any sense? It’s crazy isn’t it? Tell me the truth. Please! I need someone to tell me the truth, not make me believe one thing when it’s really another.”

“Oh, it seems to me that you know very well what’s going on even though you and he deny it. Knowing the truth is not the problem. It’s how are you going to handle the truth when the cat is out of the bag. That scares people. They don’t want to think about it. Us therapists talk sometimes with clients about the risk of change. People want things different. They know things can’t go on as they have been, but they are afraid of the future, of what might happen if they call a spade a spade and take the bull by the horns. Things will never be the same again, couldn’t be even if they wanted them to be, because now they know, they are aware, and they can’t go back to being ignorant again. That’s why they say ‘ignorance is bliss.’ If you didn’t really know any better it wouldn’t bother you, but when you know it is disturbing and the symptoms of depression and anxiety, or sometimes anger and irritability, emerge.”

“So what do I do?” she asked.

“I would guess you have plenty of options all with advantages and disadvantages. I might take a while to sort them out before you can decide what your best course of action will be. For today, let me just say to you. ‘You’re not crazy. Your fears and confusion and embarrassment are not crazy. It’s normal to feel this way when disillusionment sets in and it is becoming clearer and clearer to you that you don’t have the marriage that you thought you had or you wanted. And so there is a big loss no matter what happens next. But you’re okay. You’re not nuts. You’ll figure out what’s in your longer term best interest, I’m confident. Our time for today is almost up. Is there anything else you wanted to cover in our first session? Anything in particular you wanted to walk out the door with?”

“I feel better just getting this off my chest and having someone I can talk to honestly about it. Can I see you again?” she said.

“That’s a great idea. When would be a good time for you?”

Monday, August 11, 2014

Story of the day - Amazing grace to comfort the distressed

It was Mother's Day and I wanted to take her out and do something special, but she said she didn't want to, she was going to the hospital to see Clare, a quirky, eccentric friend of hers, who was dying of a brain tumor. Reluctantly, I agreed, because I was aware that Clare was at the end of her life and wasn't likely to live much longer.

So with anxiety I went with her, my wife at the time, knowing it was the right thing, but still resenting that we couldn't celebrate her mothering of our children.

When we arrived, Clare was in agony and my wife was upset that Clare wasn't getting more medication to control her pain. She left me alone at Clare's beside while she went to the nurse's station to inquire about what could be done to help Clare.

I, left alone, moved to take her place at Clare's bedside and tentatively took Clare's hand, and with a grimace and tears Clare said to me, "David, I'm so afraid. I'm afraid to die." I had no idea what to say, what to do, how do you encourage someone who is dying and afraid of it?

I heard myself say, "Clare, it's okay to be afraid. It's alright. It's fine." I thought to myself, That's the dumbest, stupidest thing to say. Is that all you've got? Jesus!

Clare, though, sighed, and relaxed, and settled down.

The nurse came in with my wife and some medication, took a look at Clare, and said, "She seems to be resting comfortably, now. I am not sure she needs this."

My wife looked at Clare and then at me and had a quizzical look in her eyes that seemed to say, "What have you done to soothe her?"

I had no idea and didn't know what to say if she actually asked me that question. But in fact, Clare was now resting comfortably.

This event happened 30 years ago and I still puzzle over it and marvel at how God sometimes works through us in strange ways when we least expect it, least feel capable of it, and yet turning it over to the Holy Spirit we become a conduit for a grace that we, personally, can't even fathom.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Story of the day – Keeping the world safe from terrorists

     “I don’t believe in this climate change stuff,” said my CPA, Al, when I took in my taxes. “You can’t convince me.”
Well, you’re  a  CPA, I thought to myself. Good with numbers in little boxes and adding up columns of figures, but when it comes to wisdom, life, still a child. And I wondered about people whose lives are made up of rules and regulations, yes and no answers, they know the trees,  but  don’t understand the forest that they are standing in.
 Is this the time to share my views or change the subject? I changed the subject. Not the time to review the scientific evidence with his mind already made up. He did complain about the unusual cold, rainy summer we’ve been having which has prevented him from enjoying his cottage and his boat. But weather is not the same thing necessarily as climate change so I didn’t go there.
But I had to wonder how a smart guy, a professional man, like Al could be so ignorant of bigger things? He’s used to working with immediate detail in the relatively short term of a year or two and beyond that he couldn’t be bothered. Bigger questions of a more philosophical nature seemed to make him anxious and awkward and out of his element.
Let it go, I counseled myself. All you need is your taxes done. You got an extension so get them in by the August 15th deadline. Al is good at this. Accentuate the positive and minimize the negative. You need him for his professional services not for his opinions on climate change.

     So we chatted about the weather, sports, music, books, and I left. I left feeling relieved I’d got my taxes done, but uneasy about our lack of agreement about climate change. What good is it to pay your taxes with the world heading in the direction it is going in? What will be the state of our country and world 100 years from now, the world of my grandchildren and great grandchildren? I’ll be gone. It will be their problem, but one I helped to create. I did make my small contribution though to fund the next billion dollar Lockheed F-35 stealth jet fighter to keep us safe from terrorists.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Story of the day- What’s so funny?

     I was in the local coffee shop talking to some of the regulars not the brightest bulbs on the shelf or the sharpest knives in the drawer, but I thought they could handle my favorite joke so I said, “Hey what did the Buddhist monk say to the hot dog vendor?”

     They looked at me quizzically and bit, “What,” the three of them said in unison.

     “Make me one with everything, “ I said with a big laugh and they just stared at me. They didn't  get it.

     What?” one of them said.

     “Make me one with everything,” I said again tentatively hoping for a response because it was awkward.

     Trying to salvage the situation, I said, “And the monk gave the vendor $5.00 for a $2.00 hot dog and after a minute the monk said, ‘Excuse me, where’s my change?’ And the vendor said, ‘You, oh monk , should know more than anyone that change comes from within.” Again all I could hear was myself laughing.

     I thought to myself, Stage 1,2,or 3 according to Fowler’s model of faith development, surely, not a stage 4, 5, or 6. Stage 4s and 5s think this joke is hysterical, but below stage 3 they just don’t get it.

     Note to self: Be careful to ascertain level of faith development of audience before telling this joke in the future.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Story of the day -Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches can't help to resolve the problem of climate change denial

"I don't believe in denial," said Larry. "I think people know they just don't have the courage to face the truth so they repress it."

"Same thing," said Martha, "I don't care what you call it, denial, repression, avoidance, lying. Still the same thing. The ole 'out of sight, out of mind.'"

"Whistling in the dark, fiddlin around while Rome is burning, sweeping the dirt under the rug, letting sleeping dogs lie, blowing it off, ducking the shit," said Larry laughing.

"Let's eat drink and be merry for tomorrow we die. 'Carpe diem' as Horace wrote in one of his odes before Jesus was even born," said Martha.

"Listen to us now, laughing about the truth of climate change," said Larry. "I guess it is serious business. All the real scientists agree - the planet is getting warmer, the ice caps are melting, the seas are rising, the weather over the long haul is changing significantly.

"Remember Sarah Palin - 'Drill baby, drill!'? said Martha.

"I don't know who was scarier, McCain or her," said Larry.

"Right, well we got Obama. Has he been any better when it comes to the environment?" said Martha.

"For a Muslim, born in Kenya, and a 'nigga' what did you expect?" said Larry.

"That's not funny!" shouted Martha, "even if you are fooling around."

"Same mentality that denies climate change," said Larry.

"We have a lot of work to do," said Martha. "How do you convince the naysayers?"

"I don't know if you can until it affects them personally or someone they love," said Larry.

"Yeah, people are pretty selfish and shortsighted aren't they," said Martha.

"Look at me," said Larry. "What's for dinner? I'm hungry.

"Nothing for you until we solve this climate change denial problem," said Martha smiling.

"I'll guess I'll starve to death," said Larry.

"It would be the quicker way to go. Sooner rather than later," said Martha.

"But I 'm not ready to die yet," whined Larry.

"I'm not going to let you die before me, "said Martha. "How about I whip up some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches?"

"Yummmmmmmmmmmm," said Larry. "I guess I'll live another day to continue to work to resolve the problem of climate change denial.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Story of the day - A sincere and authentic heart

Brian left the Catholic church saying, "There are too many mysteries there for me to base a life on. You know, virgin births, bodily resurrection and assumptions, going to hell for eating meat on Friday, missing mass on Sunday, and having sex with my girlfriend."

Kara, "Yeah, well, you know, they still forbid women to use birth control even with the population on the planet over seven billion and growing. It's lunacy. Jesus loved women and if He were alive today, he'd want them to use birth control I am absolutely convinced. Not a question in my mind."

"It's no wonder the Catholic churches in first world countries are emptying out. Nobody in this day and age could take this antiquated stuff seriously any more," said Brian.

"My mom and dad paid lip service to the church when we were growing up," said Kara. "They are what I call 'cultural catholics'. They didn't want to upset their family and friends so they went to mass and had us kids participate in the sacraments, you know, baptism, first communion, penance, all that stuff. I refused to get confirmed though when I was 14 and they didn't say much, only that it was my decision."

Brian said laughing, "So you're a back slider, a FARC, Fallen Away Roman Catholic."

"I don't know if you can fall out of something you never intentionally chose to get into. In fact when I had to chose at confirmation, I said 'no'", said Kara.

"As Polonius says in Hamlet, 'Above all else, to thine own self be true,'" said Brian.

"How could God ask for anything more than a sincere, and authentic heart?" asked Kara.

"Indeed!" said Brian, "You go girl!"

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Story of the day - The "big lie" and there are so many of them

Larry was hollering and screaming at the TV when Karen came into the living room just in time to watch him hurl a throw pillow at the TV.

"Wohhhhhhhhhhhw," said Karen, "down big guy."

"I'm so pissed," ranted Larry. "I can't believe what they're doing now. Jesus Christ almighty. If He wasn't resurrected, He'd be rolling over in his grave."

"Did you take your pills today," asked Karen.

"No god damn it, I didn't take my pills. I wanted some beers, so I'm skipping them today," said Larry.

"You really think that's a good idea?" asked Karen with a subdued tone so she didn't upset him further.

"Listen, if a guy can't have a couple of beers on Sunday, what's the point of living?" asked Larry.

"You work hard," said Karen placatingly, "and you deserve to relax and enjoy yourself on your day off, but look at what's happening to you. Maybe you need to stop watching these Sunday morning political shows. They just get you upset."

"Yeah, maybe you're right. I don't know why I let them get to me. You know, when I was in high school, our Social Studies teacher wanted us to watch the news to keep up with world and national events. If we wrote up a report of what we learned, he'd give us extra credit. So it seemed like a good thing, like its my patriotic duty to keep up with what's going on, but Jesus, these assholes just don't get it and are only in it for themselves, and then these TV moderators seem to just want to stir up trouble,"said Larry.

"Remember Holden Caufield, in Catcher In The Rye, talking about the big lie?" said Karen.

"Yeah, it all seems like lies now days and you can't tell which is the biggest," said Larry.

"Turn that off why don't you. We still have time to go to church. The service is at 11:00," said Karen.

"Really?" said Larry. "You want to go to church? Why?

"We haven't been there is a while, and it might do us some good. You know get our minds off of all the crap," said Karen.

"What's the sermon topic?" asked Larry. "Do you know?"

"Something about climate change, I think,"said Karen.

"Jesus!", said Larry, "What the fuck are we suppose to do about that?"

"Yeah, well, we could go to the beach and just walk around. That would be relaxing," said Karen.

"I'd rather go the beach," said Larry. "I need a break from all the shit. I feel like my brain is fried."

"Yeah, well, let's go commune with Mother Nature, watch the seagulls, watch the waves, you know, become one with the sea of life," said Karen.

"That's my girl," said Larry. "I love you."

"I love me too," said Karen laughing, "and I love you too."

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Story of the day - Is rejection the end of the story?

"You're an asshole!" he shouted into the phone. Then again, "You're an asshole!", and then again, and again, and again. "I don't owe you anything! Don't ask me for anything, expect anything, I don't owe you anything!"

"You don't seem very happy?" was all he said before his son hung up on him.

The father didn't feel rejected but puzzled and concerned for his son who was so vehement in not just non-acceptance, but aggressive and hostile rejection. He had learned that the opposite of love is not hate, but indifference. And his son was anything but indifferent. He was full of rage. The only thing he could think was "Patricide". His son had just killed his father verbally, mentally, emotionally, psychologically, socially, and now he could have his mother all to himself. The classic Oedipal conflict. It all occurred on the phone.

And so it was over, a relationship of 46 years. Another child lost to him. You have them, you raise them, you invest heart, blood, tears, and it is all so easily rejected. Look what they did to Jesus he thought to himself. I am no better than Him. Look what they did to Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Gandhi, Bobby Kennedy, Bishop Romero, and the list can go on. Who am I to complain?

Acceptance is not always important. If a person stands for something, is post-conventional, that person will be a threat to the status quo, will be going against the grain of the vested interests, will be upsetting the apple cart, will be perceived as a trouble maker. That's how change is made when the seed of growth is injected into the stagnant system and the system's response is self protection, rejection, even extermination of what it perceives and experiences as toxic to its continued existence.

And so, he realized that his son's vehement rejection, his attempts to kill the relationship, in the end would not prevail, but merely change the form of the connection they have had over the years. With that kind of anger, there was plenty of energy there which would go dormant now until it erupted and manifested itself again at some time in the future, only God knows when.  "It's good," he said to himself. "It's all good." as a tear welled up in his left eye.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Story of the day - What's with the Hummer?

Carl told his wife, Sally, that when he retired from the police force he was going to buy a Hummer.

"Why on earth, would you do that?" asked Sally. "Stick with the penis enlargement potion you bought from the internet. You don't need a Hummer to satisfy me."

Carl laughed, "Satisfying you is the last thing in the world I worry about, honey. It's the neighbors and the guys on the force I want to impress."

"With a Hummer?" Sally said incredulously.

"It's what they're in to," said Carl, "force, strength, power. Driving a Hummer is making a statement that I'm not washed up now that I am no longer on the force."

"What is this, Carl, a mid-life crisis?" asked Sally.

"Whatever," said Carl looking down no longer seeming so sure of himself.

"What do you think the people at church will say?" said, Sally. "I'll tell you right now, I'm not riding with you to church or anywhere with you in that thing."

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Story of the day - Going down on a sinking ship with people you like

Glen was depressed and anxious. He'd wake up about 3:00 AM like clock work, anxious, and couldn't get back to sleep sometimes for 2 or 3 hours at 5:00 or 6:00 AM and he had to get up for work at 7:00 AM. At work he was anxious, dizzy, at times feeling like he was going to faint and he had no idea what was wrong. No fever, no other symptoms but his sense of dread and impending doom. It was incapacitating at times. He visited his doctor several times over a two week period who kept telling him he could find no medical explanation for his symptoms. His doctor suggested that he might be depressed and he didn't agree. He didn't feel depressed. Glen insisted it was medical not psychological. Finally, he did start taking an antidepressant, citalopram, and in three days he noticed he was sleeping better and his anxiety subsided. He was starting to feel like his old self. Glen told his story to Gary and said, "Jesus, if this is depression, my heart goes out to anyone who suffers from it. It is terrible. One of the worst things in my life I have ever gone through."

What bothered Glen the most, besides not sleeping, was the sense of dread, the impending doom, and there was nothing in his life to cause this. Things were going well. However, he had become scared as he learned more about the climate change. The scientists were in agreement. The scientific findings and trajectory was basically sound, but nobody besides Al Gore and Bill McKibben seemed to be taking this seriously. Glen felt he was trapped in a Catch 22. Who was crazy, him or the people who seemed oblivious or were in outright denial?

While the antidepressants helped with the symptoms, they did not address the underlying concerns and alarm. Glen was in his 60s, getting to the final stage of his life, and he wasn't so worried for himself, but what he was leaving behind for the younger generations. Were they being warned and adequately prepared for the changes they would have to make? No one seemed to be talking seriously about the upcoming years ahead. It was like it was just so overwhelming and unmanageable that people had given up before they'd even started. Glen remembered reading a futurist who said that the biggest threat facing humankind is the "I don't care attitude". As long as I've got mine, lots of luck to you. Leave me alone. Glen didn't want to live in a world like that and it seemed more and more that's what his world, the United States, was becoming. The rich get richer, and the poor get poorer, and the concern is no longer for the common good, but for vested interests. What goes on in Washington, and in his state, and county, and town disgusted him. Everyone is looking out for him or herself, and worrying about anyone else seems increasingly overwhelming. You can't take care of everybody so take care of yourself seemed to be the new ethic.

Glen didn't know what to do so he thought he would go back to church, and he didn't go back to the church of his youth because he already knew they didn't have what he was looking for. He went to a new church where they talked a good game, but he was skeptical if they played the game they talked. What he found was half and half. They definitely talked a better game than they played, but many of the people there were trying at least. It gave him hope. He felt a tad bit more optimistic. It the ship was sinking, at least these are the kind of people he'd like to go down with.

My Kind Of Church Music - Call It Democracy, Bruce Cockburn

Friday, August 1, 2014

Story of the day - How racism is learned

Our little Mary, Shirley Temple look alike, came home from kindergarten, and said with a pout, "I don't like black people!" My wife and I were horrified. How could our darling little white girl with the curly blond hair and blue eyes and polite middle class upbringing, be a racist?

Her kindergarten was in a school which was part of the "urban-suburban" program meaning that inner city children were bused out to school in the suburbs and most of these "city children" were, of course, people of color and lower class. What Mary was objecting to was not that they were black but that they were aggressive, unmannered, didn't use middle class speech patterns, and had values foreign to Mary's middle class upbringing. What to do to help Mary, 6 years old, with growing antipathy towards this behavior? Should we encourage Mary to "stand her ground" and fight back, or be passive and "nice" and continue to get taken advantage of? Perhaps we should find a way to help Mary find a middle ground.

My wife and I had a conference with the teacher who at first was very polite, reserved, and diplomatic, but as the conversation continued she admitted that there was quite a culture clash, and her job as a kindergarten teacher was made much more challenging by the very different social backgrounds of her students. How to help the middle class kids tolerate or constructively respond to the objectionable behavior of the lower class kids was a challenge that the teacher often felt inadequate and unsuccessful in dealing with. The teacher said that Mary was one of her best students, well behaved, followed directions, and tried hard to accommodate the objectionable behavior of the inner city kids, and yet there were times that the teacher said she observed that Mary was hurt and mistreated.

Should we move Mary to another classroom that did not participate in the "urban-suburban program?" As we considered this, a miraculous thing happened. Mary made friends with a sweet, delightful, African American girl, who agreed with Mary that sometimes the boys were "too rough". Mary and Laketa became good friends and Laketa was invited to come to our home for play dates but she never did. My wife and I, I am embarrassed to admit, were just as happy with this for fear that Laketa's mother would want to reciprocate and Mary would go to her home in the inner city.

I became well aware that my discomfort was not about race, but about class. If Laketa had been Bill Cosby's child or Michael Jordan's, no problem, but the child of single mom living in poverty with a father no one seemed to know about, raised fears of the unknown especially when we considered if we would be responsible parents subjecting our daughter to these circumstances.

My wife said to me, "You know Jerry, this is how racism is learned. It's our fears and attitudes as much as anything that get unconsciously shifted to Mary. She knows we are afraid, and wary of these people too, and really don't want her to get too close to Laketa."

"Better than nothing," I said, "at least we are trying. Not perfect, but I hope somehow it helps."

"I hope you're right," is all she said.

My Kind Of Church Music - Ebony and Ivory, Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Story of the day - Saving our elderly planet

"Honey, listen to these passages from Moore's book. I just love her writing. It is full of pathos and snark all at the same time.

"I feel like I'm dying, but I'm not exactly breaking new ground here. Someone in my family is always dying."
" We've just finished supper. Eileen has our mother on a three-day visit from the nursing home. I keep calling it parole."
"Aunt Mary's legs were swollen up like two balloons." Eileen's voice is schoolmarm taut. "She couldn't catch her breath, and when we took her to the E.R., they gave her morphine right away, and six different kinds of medicine, and I said to the doctor, 'Does this mean you're trying everything?' and he said, 'Yes.'"
     The Aunt Mary in question is 97.

"She is good," said Jennifer. "What's the book again?"

"This Road Will Take Us Closer To The Moon," said Troy. "It's a book of short stories. This story is Baby Doll."

"Kind of reminds me, the stuff about people always dying, of Flight Behavior and the climate change causing all the extinction of various species," said Jennifer.

"Birth and death: it's the cycle of life, right?" said Troy.

"When it's natural, yes, but how about when it's deliberately caused by human selfishness? Then it's evil, isn't it? Not just the natural cycle of life," said Jennifer.

"Yeah, I guess so. It's a good point," said Troy.

"And when it comes to Mother Nature, I don't think we are trying everything like Eileen wants the doctor to do for Aunt Mary," said Jennifer.

"A lot of people, half of the freaking population in the country, don't want to admit that things are even sick," said Troy, "so how can they be trying everything when they don't even know or want to admit there's a problem?"

"What we need is Eileen," said Jennifer laughing. "She sounds a bit like a control freak who's willing to kick some butt to save her elderly aunt. How about if someone like Eileen was around to save our elderly planet?"

"We'd have to have a lot of Eileens," said Troy. "How about you?"

"What do you mean?" said Jennifer.

"Well you're a bit of a control freak and you care about the planet, don't you? said Troy laughing.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Story of the day - For there to be winners there's got to be losers.

Suzie said to her husband John when he got home from work, "Sophie came home crying today because the cheerleading coach told her if she didn't work harder she'd be cut from the team. She thinks she's fat so she said she is skipping dinner."

"She's not fat," said John. "What would make her think such a thing?"

"She's only in sixth grade, but developing faster than the other girls, and they may be jealous so they are teasing her. You know how girls can be? Or maybe you don't," said Suzie.

"So she thinks starving herself is going to stop her breast and hip development?" said John.

"I don't know," said Suzie. "Kids at this age are so competitive, and catty, and worried about fitting in and being popular. Everyone wants to be a winner and, of course, for there to be winners, there's got to be losers. Some people are just going to be the losers that's how the pecking order for the pre-teen, and young teenagers works."

"I remember when I was kid that age, I would complain to my mother that things weren't right, things weren't fair, things shouldn't be the way they were, and she'd say to me 'John, who have no right to complain unless you can do it better.' And I've walked around since that time muttering to myself, 'I can do it better, I can do it better, I know I can do it better.'"

"So that's where your self righteous indignation comes from," said Suzie laughing.

"Oh, yeah," said John. "I love to blame dear old mom for screwing me up."

"Honey, your desire for things to be right, and your honesty, and humility are what attracted me to you. If you were an arrogant know it all, it wouldn't be attractive, but because of your honesty and humility and willingness to admit if you can't do it better, it works for you," said Suzie.

"So what do we do to help, Sophie? She's got to eat." said John.

"You need to talk to her," said Suzie. "Coming from a man and her father is probably more important that it coming from me. Tell her whether she gets on the team or not is not important. What's important is that she do her best and the chips will fall where they may, she can't control that. And if she is cut it certainly won't be because she is fat, she is just right, and her body is changing just as Mother Nature intended and that you love her no matter what."

"God that's good," said John. "I hope I can remember all that."

And he did, and Sophie listened, and ate her dinner. The moral of the story is that love trumps torturing yourself, turning yourself into somebody you aren't, to win and fit in. Amen. May it be so.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Story of the day - Butterflies and feminazies

"What do you think of that book, Flight Behavior?" asked Alex.

"I didn't read it all," said Brian. "Why would she ask us to read a book about butterflies? Jesus!"

"It really wasn't about butterflies  and you'd know that if you'd read it," said Alex.

"Yes, it was. Did you read it, dork face?" said Brian.

"It's about climate change and how it's affecting life on this planet," said Alex. "The butterflies are just an example, an artistic device, to tell the story."

"Chic lit, if you ask me. I swear you're gay," said Brian.

"How are you going to pass the exam when you don't even get the point of the book?" asked Alex.

"Who gives a shit. I'm cutting class that day, anyway, to go hunting. Deer season opens Friday."

"You're going to take a zero to go hunting?" asked Alex.

"Hell yeah. I can't believe that witch would schedule an exam on the first day of the season. She knows a lot of us guys hunt," said Brian.

"Well, she grew up in Boston, I think. Went to Bryn Mawr, or Vassar or one of the those Ivy League schools for women. She doesn't know about our lives here that well yet. She's only been here teaching for a couple of years. I think this is her second year," said Alex.

"Well she needs to get with the program, ya know, and quit with the butterfly shit already. My parents are paying good money for me to go here and if they knew what I was being forced to learn they'd probably be upset like Rush that these professors are all liberals and the women are feminazies," said Brian.
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