Imagine the scene in Mark 4:35-41
The disciples are in the boat trying not to lose their boat and avoid drowning and Jesus is asleep in the back. When they wake him up, they ask, “Don’t you care that we are perishing”?
Jesus response is not what I would expect. “Why are you acting so cowardly? Where is your faith?”
Is it cowardly to be afraid you are about to die?
I think of being a coward as running away from something; not doing something out of fear of the consequences.
What the disciples (and I) don’t get is that when Jesus is in our boat, when he is with us, we are safe and there is no need to fear the consequences. Big waves, fierce wind, feeling unproductive, unfulfilled, frustrated, angry–trust me says Jesus.
I find it interesting that after Jesus stops the storm, the disciples became fearful–actually, they were caused to fear (passive) with a great fear.
Why? Because of the awesome display of the power of God.
I love what comes next, “Who is this guy?” Even the wind and waves obey him!
Seems like there are two kinds of fear here–a self-centered fear and a God-centered fear. In the storm they were afraid to die, afraid they were being left alone to make it with out any help. Faced with self-centered fear, they might have done anything to get out of the situation–including insulting their teacher, “don’t you care?”
But the other kind of fear is a God-centered fear, the kind that causes you to fall down and say, “ok God, I surrender, I give up.” A fear that produces reverence and awe. A safe yet holy fear. I want to have a God-centered fear but tend to have a self-centered fear.
Does a self-centered fear lead us to doubt that God really cares?
What do you fear today?
Sad morning. A young MK from our mission and a long-time friend of ours (another missionary) died in the night. John wrote, “We’re numb, shattered hearts and yet our soul is anchored by the firm foundation of Jesus, the author and completor of our faith. I remember Lynn and celebrate a life well lived. With hearts surrrendered to His eternal purposes”
Found this song by Gungor last night. Beautifully expresses what I am sure both families have experienced in recent days. May these two families continue to know God being their strength.
Please Be My Strength
I’ve tried to stand my ground
I’ve tried to understand
but I can’t seem to find my faith again
like water on the sand
or grasping at the wind
I keep on falling short
please be my strength
please be my strength
I don’t have anymore
I don’t have anymore
I’m looking for a place
where I can plant my faith
one thing I know for sure
I cannot create it
I cannot sustain it
It’s Your love that’s keeping (captured) me
Please be my strength…
at my final breath
I hope that I can say
I’ve fought the good fight of faith
I pray your glory shines
in this doubting heart of mine
and all would know that You
You are my strength
You and You alone
Keep bringin me back home
You are my strength
You are my strength
You and You alone
Keep bringin me back home
Here is the Gungor myspace and their own website Unfortunately, I could not find the song above so you will need to go to itunes or another similar site. I did download it and the melody fits well with the words.
More conversations with missionaries regarding the losses incurred on their return to their home country.
Vicious loss cycles—Vicious loss cycles occurred when the primary re-entry losses led to secondary losses which aggravated the primary losses and were associated with a breakdown of balance in the participants’ lives.
N: . . . as we focus on the situation of settling back in we have countless decisions to make in a relatively short period of time. . . so that in itself is very wearing and means that isolation and lack . . . of people to confide in makes all those decisions more difficult.
F: And it [illness on re-entry] was partly due to ongoing stresses when we came home added to all the other things, which I really haven’t had time to process.
For N, multiple re-entry losses, including lack of support, led to multiple decisions with loss of energy which aggravated the initial losses and resulted in an imbalance between the demands and his ability to respond. For F, multiple re-entry losses led to lack of balance in her time to process these losses which had negative physical, mental and spiritual changes which then led to further loss.
From “Back Home: a qualitative study exploring re-entering cross-cultural missionary aid workers’ loss and grief” Published in Omega 59:1 2008-2009
What are the psychological conditions conducive to evil? That was the goal for Robert Jay Lifton as he wrote The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide which I should finish reading later tonight. Lifton found there are no easy answers as one physician survivor stated,
“The professor would like to understand what is not understandable. We ourselves who were there, and who have always asked ourselves the question and will ask it until the end of our lives, we will never understand it , because it cannot be understood.”
Lifton’s book focuses on a particular part of the “final solution,” one of the many terms the Nazis used to describe their attempted genocide of the Jews. He writes about the role the German medical profession played in the selection, technology and disposal of the millions killed during WW II. For most of his 500+ pages, he focuses on the events in Auschwitz, a place in which at the height of their “efficiency,” 24,000 people in one twenty-four hour period were killed and then burned or otherwise disposed. For the Nazis, the Jews were a “life unworthy of life” or a disease that must be eradicated and so they attempted to justify their attempt to “heal” the nation. As Lifton says, “Genocide is a response to collective fear of pollution and defilement” (481). “The perpetrator of genocide kills to cure himself as well as his people” (487).
This is a long and tough read and I bought it because one of my profs had mentioned it a number of years ago as a book worth reading. Lifton comes to a similar conclusion as does Roy F. Baumeister, in his book Evil: Inside Human Violence and Cruelty who wrote about the myth of pure evil (see my post on this). “No individual self is inherently evil, murderous, genocidal. Yet under certain conditions virtually any self is capable of becoming all of these” 497).
On a related note, my wife sent me a link to an article about why our response to hundreds of thousands of people dying is not significantly greater than our response to one person dying or in the article’s case, the life of one dog. I had never heard the story of Hokget, the dog stranded on an abandoned freighter. Worth a read!
But the real point is why don’t we care more? According to research cited in the article, our brains don’t have the capacity for dealing with the death of so many. In fact, Shankar Vedantam concludes, “We are best able to respond when we are focused on a single victim.” Maybe this provides some explanation why we cannot get our minds around the 6 million+ Jews that were killed during WW II. But, that does not make the facts any less true. If you are in any doubt, check out The Nazi Doctors.
What would a Christian response be to Brett Favre? An article today quotes him with regard to his feelings of doubt and insecurity. For those non-American-football fans, Favre is a 40 year old star quarterback who has come back with great success after retiring. Talking about his self-doubts, Favre says:
“I think it’s human nature,” he said. “For me, I know it’s always been a source of drive or a sense of always needing to prove myself, not ever being satisfied. I think it’s OK to be confident. I don’t think it’s OK to be overconfident. Doubt to me at times is a good thing. It makes you work harder. You never get complacent.
I have had a few conversations this week about doubt and insecurity and am often confronted with my own. I suspect that most of us have doubts and insecurities and about some very significant issues but not too many are willing to admit it as did Favre. Not that he is asking but as a Christian, what would you say to Brett?
Greed is lust expressed in nonsexual ways. Grows out of the suspicion that God will not take care of our needs as well as we can do it ourselves. Expressed in five ways:
- Avarice is inordinate pursuit of wealth and material things by either honest or dishonest means. Antidote: generosity or liberality
- Inordinate ambition captures the lust of power and status. Antidote: servanthood or sacrificiality
- Prodigality is wastefulness and extravagance. Antidote: discipline, self-sacrifice or simplicity
- Penuriousness is stinginess. Comes from an obsession with security and imagine that wealth can project us. Antidote: faith in God’s abundance
- Domination insists on having things our own way. Opposed by surrender or pacificsm
Found this on beliefnet about this deadly sin
In the Inferno, Dante decided that the punishment for avarice should be having your face pressed into the earth for eternity (in Circle 4)–a reminder that you had cared too much about earthly concerns.
An inordinate or inappropriate anger is directed at selfish and mundane matters. The antidote to anger is dependent on the source of the anger. If control is the problem, then we need to surrender, if criticism is the problem, then we need humility, if rage is our issue then we need peace etc. Mangis gives five different forms of anger.
Resentment: a refusal to accept God’s will and a refusal to move on. Responds to forgiveness and release.
Retaliation: refuses to forgive and seeks vengeance on those who have done wrong. Needs pardon
Paranoia: anticipates the worst. Met with trust
Obsequiousness: inordinate rejection of anger and a refusal to take responsible dominion in the world. Although I didn’t write down what Mangis said, I would guess the need here is self-awareness and honesty.
Kelly and Michele O’Donnell offered the following resources for missionary member care in a recent newsletter but I think a lot of people might benefit from some of these self-assessment instruments Warning: not written with a Christian perspective. Some registration is required but all of them are free as far as I could tell. Following is their email:
There are a number of brief tools for assessing areas like work-life balance, strengths, burnout, stress, and resiliency. The inventories we mention below are easy to use although note that their applicability to international settings/populations is not established. We use such tools to help workers get a general sense of how they are doing and to discuss strengths, weaknesses, and coping strategies.
1. Resilience. Here is one of many online tools: www.careerdiagnostics.com/surveys/resilience.htm
2. Strengths. The Authentic Happiness site offers helpful tools in six languages. See the tools to assess perseverance (GRIT Survey) and character strengths (VIA Survey). www.authentichappiness.org
3. Social support. One example of a tool is the Social Provision Scale. The link here includes no norms so it is best to use this tool for discussion. www.my.ilstu.edu/~jhkahn/psy442/sps.pdf
4. Organizational support. How can organizations help their staff deal with stress? See the “Managing Stress” guidelines in English and Arabic from the Antares Foundation. www.antaresfoundation.org
What exactly is the relationship between our spiritual health and our psychological health? Between despair and depression? I think most people would say that they are inter-related—what affects one affects the other. But, even though they are inter-related, are the fundamental or core problems different? And thus, are the solutions not different?
Gordon Marino suggests in an article in the NY Times, Kierkegaard on the Couch, that today we have become “deaf to the ancient distinction between psychological and spiritual disorders, between depression and despair.” Are not many happy and yet full of despair. Quoting Kierkegaard, Marino says, “Happiness is the greatest hiding place for despair.”
If despair is a spiritual problem, then perhaps the solution is also physical? Marino said that despair equaled intensified doubt for K? Quoting, from From K’s Sickness unto death, “A human being is a synthesis of the infinite and the finite, of the temporal and the eternal, of freedom and necessity.” For K, despair seems to occurs when there is an imbalance in this synthesis. Despair according to Kierkegaard is a lack of awareness of being a self or spirit, says Marino. Perhaps the dark feelings of depression and despair may look similar but come to be due to different causes.
So, if despair is related to a loss of hope or could we say a desperate longing for the transcendent, then a visit to a mental health professional alone will not bring the answer that is needed. A spiritual consultation may be what is needed, along with a visit to a mental health professional and to a medical doctor. How do we provide care for depression and yet allow people to sense their despair at being disconnected from the Transcendent one?
Gordon Marino at NY Times on Oct 28, 2009
I appreciate Michael Hyatt’s words on what to do when we receive that unfair email or text message or . . . Happened to me last week! Hyatt says the next time he gets angry or frustrated:
- I will pause before responding.
- I will give myself time to cool down.
- I will not write anything in anger.
His full post is worth reading.
In another post Hyatt suggests the use of the following ten words, “I’m sorry. I was wrong. Will you please forgive me?”
I think as Hyatt notes that it is the combination of all of these words that makes for an effective apology when we mess up, as I do frequently. Unfortunately, I don’t see this being practiced too much in our organization. Then again, I have yet to read Five Languages of Apology!
Saw this piece about Monkey Economics on Kruse Kronicle. What caught my interest is when they said that they obtained “economic outcomes not through sitting down and negotiation, but through feeling and emotion.” Sounds a little like what we learned about in our counseling and member care seminar last week.
Their conclusion on the broadcast, “It’s the law of supply and demand played out along the neurohormonal pathways that deal with emotion in the monkey brain.”
Intriguing poem by George Herbert from the Desiring God website.
Ah, my dear angry Lord,
Since thou dost love, yet strike;
Cast down, yet help afford;
Sure I will do the like.
I will complain, yet praise;
I will bewail, approve;
And all my sour-sweet days
I will lament and love.
Several of our speakers last week tried to help us understand what is happening in the brain during various emotional interactions. One part of the brain, the amygdala was called “fear central,” I suppose since that is the part that regulates emotions. Another described how anger takes over during “amygdala hijacking.” Just read an article in which a less than fully functioning amygdala led to poor impulse control.
The interesting point–there may be a link between a less developed amygdala and those who do not have two care givers in the home. Love actually makes a difference in our neurological development! I am sure this will not go well in some circles! The problem–tests were done on small rodents called degus. The article quotes the scientests,
Of course, the frontal cortex—where thinking and decision-making take place—is more complex in humans than it is in other animals. Thus, says Dr. Braun, it is important to be “really careful” about extrapolating the recent findings to human populations.
“The minute you get into stuff with extensive social and environmental components, the social differences between humans and animals are massive,” says Simon Chapple, a senior economist in the social policy division of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the 30-country grouping of the world’s largest economies.
It remains an “open verdict” whether single parenthood causes these bad outcomes, or is merely associated with them, says Dr. Chapple.
But the bottom line
“The bottom line, says Dr. Braun, is that parents need to fuel their children’s brains with talk, touch and sensitive stimulation that involves give and take.”
Parents, she says, “are the sculptors of their children’s brains.”
Not sure exactly what Andre Agassi was thinking when he was working on his autobiography, Open, but I wonder if there is not a grieving of his past pain going on there. Rick Reilly writes about the new book and asks, why would a guy write about his dark (and secret) past–a sad relationship with his dad and later drug usage.
As Dr. Jenny Pak said at our counseling and member care conference last week, “It takes a lot of energy to repress our pain.” I am grateful for the God-given insight about some personal pain I have been repressing and for which I need to grieve. During our conference, I learned that it is necessary for us to grieve when we have lost people (or things) to which we were attached. I guess the idea is that the pain has to go somewhere!
If I heard correctly, in grief work, we sit with the pain of our losses (feeling abandoned or rejected , not being loved the way we wanted or needed etc.) and after a period of time, we are able to let go. To quote Dr. Pak again, “Emotions are a package—dampening the ability to grieve will prevent us from fully experiencing the other emotions.”
Of course, most of us don’t need to write books to grieve our losses like Andre (if indeed that is what he is doing) or post blogs about our losses (??) but it does seem that we will likely need others to walk with us on this grief journey. I know I think I do!
Interesting post from Ed Yong in which he discusses a study in which researchers discovered that the self-help idea of giving yourself positive thinking messages actually does more harm than good for those that have lower self-esteem.
I really don’t want to be reading a Psalm this week about joy from Psalm 126. I want to be reading a Psalm of lament, something that will help me to grieve, to complain, to express the deep pain and loss of yet another close friend.
Peterson writes about joy, “It is not what we have to acquire in order to experience life in Christ; it is what comes to us when we are walking in the way of faith and obedience.” 92 So, can I be in mourning and still have joy? I don’t know about that.
More from Peterson, “All suffering, all pain, all emptiness, all disappointment is seed: sow in in God, he will, finally, bring a crop of joy from it. . . One of the most interesting and remarkable things that Christians learn is that laughter does not exclude weeping. Christian joy is not an escape from sorrow. Pain and hardship still come but they are unable to drive out the happiness of the redeemed.” 96
“Christian joy is actual in the midst of pain, suffering, loneliness and misfortune,” says Peterson.
I don’t know, maybe joy is coming but it sure doesn’t feel much like joy right now. I have hope in the resurrection and that reality takes away some of the seeming futility of life right now. Maybe that is what Peterson means when he says, “The joy comes because God knows how to wipe away tears, and, in his resurrection work, create the smile of life. Joy is what God gives, not what we work up.”
We will see. For now, it just hurts and I hope I can avoid expressing my anger toward those who do and say such hurtful things. Life is too short.
My wife pointed me to this article on the process of forgiveness. Thanks dear. Simple way to remember the essentials. Probably the hardest for me is E and it seems to me that if C was practiced more often, we would have a different world.
R ecall the pain
E mpathize with the offender
A ltruistic gift of forgivness
C ommittment to publicly forgive
H olding onto forgiveness
Reading this morning in Psalm 94 and Luke 12:22-34. Because of what has been happening of late, I spent some time reflecting on Ps 94:18
I felt myself almost slipping and your unfailing love, Oh YHWH supported me
When doubts filled my mind your comfort gave me
Renewed hope and joy
The slipping and doubt are the parts that connect with me. As someone emailed me this week, “Sounds like you may be starting to push the envelope a bit again and are definitely under attack. A bit worn down, not feeling well, busy schedule, interpersonal challenges, personal attacks…..slow down, focus on God.”
Then I came to Lk 12:22-34-actually, my reading for yesterday that I didn’t read yesterday—too busy!!!
Some questions I asked
- What do I worry about?
- Why do I worry?
What should I do when I begin to worry? Remember
- I am valuable to God v24
- Worry does not change anything
- What I worry about is often (always?) connected to what I fear. Sooo, I need to face my fears.
- Make the Kingdom of God my primary concern. Is God’s agenda or mine more important today? What I value occupies my heart and thoughts.
- Be generous with others-when we release what we hold onto so tightly, we find freedom.
I thought of the words of Abigail to David in 1 Sam 25:29
“Even when you are chased by those who seek your life, you are safe in the care of the LORD your God, secure in his treasure pouch.” NLT but in the NIV, “. . . the life of my lord shall be bound in the bundle of the living with the LORD your God. He shall sling out, as from the pocket of a sling.”
- I do NOT need to protect myself
- It is NOT all up to me and it is NOT all about me.
- GOD is in control. GOD cares for me.
- I can relax and stop worrying.
- I can abandon myself to His will.
Last week, I had to deal with some hurt feelings when it appeared that someone did not show respect to me in my role. I was able to work it out and even to explain to the other person what was happening inside me. Then, Thursday, God was able to show me what was truly happening inside of me. My problem: pride. Once again, thanks to CS Lewis on “The Greatest Sin.”
If you want to find out how proud you are, suggested Lewis, ask yourself, “How much do I dislike it when other people snub me or refuse to take any notice of me or patronise me.” And of course, I would add, “when they show me disrespect.”