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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Words from the Doctor of Grace

While we're all fretting about healthcare, et al; I thought a bit of wisdom from St. Augustine might be particularly fitting for those of us waiting in joyful hope. (Thanks Myra, for coming up with the great idea to make a study of Augustine's Confessions...this is a preface of the good things to come.)

"The maker of man, he was made man, so that the director of the stars might be a babe at the breast; that bread might be hungry, and the fountain thirsty; that the light might sleep, and the way be weary from a journey; that the truth might be accused by false witnesses, and the judge of the living and the dead be judged by a mortal judge; that justice might be convicted by the unjust, and discipline be scourged with whips; that the cluster of grapes might be crowned with thorns, and the foundation be hung up on a tree; that strength might grow weak, eternal health be wounded, life die.

It was in order to endure these and similar indignities for our sake; in order to set free those who had forfeited all dignity; though he deserved no evil but endured such terrible evils on our behalf, and we deserved no good, but received such splendid goods through him; so it was for these reasons that the one who was before all ages the Son of God, without beginning of days, was prepared in these last days to become a son of man; and that the one who was born of the Father, not made by the Father, was made in the Mother whom he had made; so that he might exist here for a time, being born of her who could never and nowhere have existed except through him."

St. Augustine of Hippo (+430)

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Santa "Clause"

As a kiddo, I remember that music was a big part of our Christmas rituals. Though we were not necessarily a very religious family, our home recognized that this night was set apart as a time of worship and praise for the miracle of God coming to earth as a baby. We celebrated Christ’s Mass as most everyone else I knew did, with trimmed tree, wrapped presents, great food, snow, mistletoe, a church visit and SANTA.

One of the songs that was indelibly seared into my memory was “Santa Clause is coming to Town” Remember that old favorite?: “You better watch out, you better not cry you better not pout I’m telling you why…Santa Clause is coming town. He’s makin’ a list and checkin’ it twice, gonna find out who’s naughty and nice…Santa Clause is coming town.” You’ve got the idea. This song usually put the proverbial fear of God into me. Threats, fear, conditions, don’t cry, don’t pout, don’t shout….for crying out loud, don’t even move! And fear was an adequate motivator for this little Spartan. My folks would use this tactic frequently starting about mid-November . “Remember, Christmas is coming.” I was a devotee of the contracted agreement: I behave, I do good things and I stay out of hot water, and voila…I get STUFF. Alas: The Santa “Clause”.

I suppose this psychology works well if you can be intimidated. And who better to intimidate than little kids! This bodes well for parents who need to get a little bit of mileage out of their slackened parenting skills. As a young parent, those words “Or else” could be used in restaurants, grocery stores, gramma’s house, church or just about anyplace that required a instant compliance. And then there was the issue of the lump of coal in the stocking. Need I say more?

This year, a few lucky friends received my humorous Christmas Card. (You know who you are). It is the adorable picture of little Johnny poised on Santa’s lap, penitently enlisting Santa’s ear for the yearly rundown of goodness or badness. The word bubble quips.....Define “good”.

Isn’t it ironic how we must first learn to do good. The Santa “Clause” starts to lose credibility around age 10 or so. We figure that even if we’ve been a little bad, Santa still comes through for us. We learned last year that little Emily down the street still scored that magnificent 10 speed bike even after she lathered the pet cocker spaniel in strawberry yogurt. As a matter of fact, my personal survey told me that not a single lump of coal was issued in the year 1972. You get my drift?

There is a gray area in our conscience formation if we are "Santa-as-sleigh-driver" believers turned Christ-Adorers. Where does this happen? Where do we cross the line? Somewhere between mistletoe and egg-nog? I think not. More sensibly, it is probably somewhere between pain and needfulness. And that, my friends, can come at any age or any season.

I don’t need rooty toot toots or rummy tum tums, curly head dolls that toddle and coo, elephants or boats or kiddy cars. I need a savior. I am a sinner. God made me good, but sometimes I’m downright BAD. I know what I deserve and it is something very much akin to a lump of coal. But no, the Amazing, Adorable, Lord of the Universe bestows upon me, a poor sinner, something unfathomable; something eons better than any kid in girl or boyland’s jubilee could fancy: An eternal endless day of joy, bliss and glory in the Presence of the One who loves me without condition, strings attached or threats of punishment. He loves me just because I am.

So the Santa “Clause” is a good earthy beginning perhaps, but it is only that. It is a manifestation of a gimmick in the world of toddlerdom that is meant to teach us that good things come to those who do good things. As an adult, we somehow appetize ourselves with the notion that if we do good, we’ll get heaven, but I think at our core, we realize that we need a lot more than what our deeds can buy. We need a personal savior. In fact, we want a personal savior. This want rests at the bosom of every human soul. His name is Holy One, Prince of Peace, Lord of Lords, The Alpha and the Omega. He really exists. He was born in a stable in Bethlehem to two very real people. He was their little “Yeshua”. He can be yours too – you need just ask.

Fall on your knees
Oh hear the angel voices
Oh night divine
Oh night, when Christ was born.

There is no other place I’d rather be on this night than on my knees, thanking our adorable Lord.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Where I will be as a Counselor in 15 years...

I've just completed my 2nd class in my graduate school counseling program and the final question asked by Instructor Yost is below followed by my response. I thought it would be fitting to post here on the blog.

In light of emerging trends in psychotherapy, discuss what your life as a therapist may look like in 15 years. Describe the kinds of clients you may see, the ways you may practice!e, and the professional environment in which you may work.

Karen's Answer: (I will be 59 in 15 years, fyi)

Oh the times, they are a changin’…
Stolling through Costco the other day, I stumbled upon a nifty black leather studio sofa where one end of it could elevate making for a great napping cot. Reminded me of something Freudian, circa 1940, that could have been used by a highly respected psychotherapist! I think those days are behind us. What I do see in 15 short years is a society in great need of what psychology has to offer and a disheveled healthcare situation which will require creative genius to meet the demands of a growing and diverse population. (If you have Rosetta Stone-Spanish, now would be the time to learn it.)

Postmodern thinking has taken aim at the very institutions that once made our society what it is today: religion, marriage, family, a culture of life, the protection of the innocence of childhood, the protection & respect for the elderly, etc. As a result, we are nearing an age of advanced secularization, where abortion, rampant drug and alcohol abuse, objectification of the human person, euthanasia, loss of personal integrity and spirituality etc. will have caused a decay so great that we may be on the verge of a collective nervous break-down.

I do not like to be gloomy and do not claim to have any prophetic abilities whatsoever (whew!). That having been said, it’s just my speculation that we will be seeing more folks who are depressed, are lost, have lost hope, are isolated and are overwhelmed. We will be watching more people attempt to ruin their lives with drugs, alcohol and newly engineered chemicals. We will need to be able to think on our feet. The need will be great and the healthcare dollars will be in short supply. People will need to be able to have access to brief therapy and work in group settings. Clinicians will need to meet people “where they are” by offering more flexible plans, office hours and location options. The eclectics will be increasingly popular because there is a trend towards more community-oriented psychologies which may give rise to approaches that are more spirituality-based.

I think in 15 yrs, I will be very busy working with post-abortive men and women and those who are chemically dependent. I would like to continue to work on a pet project of mine that involves high school girls in Title I schools in AZ in helping them to experience their true beauty as human beings. I think it would be lovely to have a book deal worked out by then so that I can subsidize my counseling practice (said with tongue firmly implanted in cheek :-)). I will go wherever I'm supposed to go...that's the deal I worked out with my Higher Power.

Though I’ve painted a very grim picture, I do believe that in times like this, special people with unique talents are called to meet the challenges that are before us. I remain eager to be of service to those who suffer…that’s why I’ve always wanted to be a counselor in the first place; in season or out of season.

On that note, it’s been my pleasure to journey through the counseling theories with you. I have learned so much from all of you and have truly enjoyed reading your thoughtful posts. Honorable mention goes to Team Nickel…you guys rock. I hope to cross paths with all of you again soon.
Respectfully yours, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays…