Category Archives: Psychology

The Good, the True, and the Beautiful…

The Good, the True, and the Beautiful by way of John Senior, and Ben Cash

Have you ever heard of John Senior?  If not, and you’re a Christian, you should make yourself acquainted with him.  More Catholics than Protestants have heard of this teacher, but in this day and age we can all benefit from his kind.  There is a fantastic biography of him by Fr. Francis Bethel, OSB called John Senior and the Restoration of Realism.  During the 1970’s Senior was a professor at the University of Kansas and was instrumental in developing an Integrated Humanities Program there.  Interestingly the college shut the program down after several students converted to Christianity, many of them becoming Catholic.

The ideas the Senior put forward were that we are only truly human when seeking and finding the good, the true, and the beautiful, and doing so with our minds and our senses.  Not only were the classics taught in abundance, Senior and several other professors introduced the students to dancing, star gazing, poetry, and even singing.  Truth was presented as it really is; fixed and real.  Goodness as something to be pursued because it is rooted in truth.  The flip side (rejecting Truth), Senior argued, results in depression and hopelessness, destructive personal behavior, which in turn leads to a breakdown in society and culture.  Sound familiar?  Maybe sound like what’s going on in Western culture right now?  (Go check out the suicide statistics, study the trend, and then let that sink in.)

When I first watched Captain Fantastic, which I reviewed here just the other day, I instantly (and somewhat ironically) thought of John Senior and his method of teaching.  As I mentioned in my review of the movie Ben Cash is the father of the Cash clan and his method of teaching included star gazing, anatomy, copious amounts of reading and debating, music and singing, and exercising one’s mind and body through physical encounters with the real world.  I said “ironically” above because Ben Cash apparently despises Christianity (at least through much of the movie), which John Senior championed and also held up as the ultimate lynch pin of everything, including the true understanding of the humanities.

Both Senior and Cash seem to hold some key to the massive sense of… ennui we currently seem to have in our society.  Technology isn’t evil, but I think we can all agree that in most cases what was supposed to draw us closer together either hasn’t produced that promise, or, perhaps worse, has made us all engage in compulsive comparisons which then results in depression.  Keeping up with the Joneses has become global, and when the Joneses only post the highlights of their lives on social media it compounds the problem (folks, here’s the secret; Mr. Jones has a gambling addiction, Mrs. Jones is contemplating suicide, the kids hate each other, and they are in debt so far over their heads they’ll never get out… well, maybe that’s hyperbole, maybe not.)  Consumerism has run amok, mental health issues are on the rise, and we are more divided as a people than ever.

Both Senior and Cash call us back to our senses; we are whole and complete creatures only when our physical selves are involved.  Seeing someone’s picture or even a live vid of them is great when that’s all you can get, but isn’t a hug 100 times better?  You can see the real person, feel them, heck, even smell them (hopefully it’s a nice smell!).  How about nature?  Seeing a picture or a vid of a tree isn’t anything like experiencing a tree with our senses.  When our senses are involved it speaks to the concrete nature of our world, it gives us experiences that are more rich and steeped in truth.  When you are out hiking and trip on a root or a rock and fall, you are experiencing gravity first hand, and yes, you experience physical pain.

We have become divorced from nature and nature’s God.  We’ve even become divorced from each other.  And, yes, I’m speaking in generalities, as there are those who actually make an effort to experience life first-hand, instead of through a screen (however, I know more people who gripe about tech and social media and yet still have their noses shoved up against screens 24 hours a day).  How many of us still hike, stargaze, grow our own food, hunt our own food, write letters with a pen and paper, hold books in our two hands, bury our noses in roses, learn to actually dance with a partner in a manner that takes finesse and skill…  The classics of literature are being trashed (sometimes literally), and cast aside.  We read less and less (especially the males of our society) and watch TV more and more.

What Senior and the fictitious Cash calls us toward is a reconnect with what makes us human, something that gives us roots and wings.  I think of Tolkien’s hobbits when I read of Senior as well; comfort, and parties, and food… a warm, dry house, and a full belly while strolling in the garden that you planted and tended.  Sure, Bilbo and Frodo were grand adventurers and heroes, but that is because their roots were in the good, the true, and the beautiful represented by the Shire.  Ben Cash’s kids were indeed brilliant, but lacked that incredible piece of the puzzle that makes us fully human; society.  Now our society itself lacks the good, the true, and the beautiful, and it’s up to us as individuals to seek them out, and to offer them to others as much as we can.  (BTW, Ben Cash, and his wife, both turned their backs on God and that was the other major piece of the puzzle missing… interesting how Cash’s downfall involved rejecting both key commandments summed up by Christ; Love God, and love your neighbor.  So, as much as Cash reminded me of Senior in his teaching style, that’s the major difference and why Cash became so disconnected to the world he tried to teach his kids about.)

We need more physical activity, more time in nature, more unprocessed food, and to share that healthy food with others, more gratitude.  Instead of basking in the glow of our electronics, perhaps a good ol’ fashioned cookout is in order, with the glow and the warmth of the fire reflected from friendly faces.  When is the last time you read a classic?  How about some poetry?  Go visit someone you haven’t seen in forever, take ’em some home grown veggies, flowers, or just yourself.  After it’s all over, find and acknowledge those feelings of gratitude.  God hasn’t gone anywhere, perhaps spare some time for Him, and that’s to fulfill your needs, not His.

In other words, let’s remember what it’s like to be fully human in the world we inhabit; seek and find the good, the true, and the beautiful, share it with others, it’s still there.

1 Comment

Filed under Christianity, Musings, Philosophy, Psychology

First the Cross

It’s Good Friday.  There are a lot of thoughts out there on what Good Friday means to us, so I thought I would add mine.  Here are some of my takeaways as to how to apply the lessons of Good Friday to our lives.

Even though you know what’s coming, keep pushing forward.  Avoidance only works in our lives in the short term.  If there is a rough road ahead we sometimes try to skirt around it, and then wind up in a ditch.  We need to logically look at the facts around us, pray to God that His will be done, and then move forward.  Sometimes life flat out stinks… if you see someone preaching that life is roses and kittens 24/7, run the other way.  We, as Christians, are to be made over into “little Christs,” well, that means sometimes first the cross.

Even though you are anxious, keep pushing forward.  Read the scriptures about Jesus in the garden.  Courage isn’t about a lack of anxiety, it is about having anxiety and acting anyway.  Humans get anxious when confronted with hard things.  That’s ok.  Seek out people that can help you with the burden of anxiety, seek out the Father that is always there, always listening to our fears and desires.  And, if you are anxious about everything, it’s time to get some help with that, and I’m saying that sincerely.  Anxiety can turn into a beast that we start to feel we can’t control, and there’s lots of reasons that anxiety can take over, but it can be fought and put back into perspective.  For rational anxiety; things work out, but first the cross.

Even though you are going through excruciating times, you can be right in the middle of God’s will.  Isn’t that one of the ultimate messages?  Don’t let other Christians shame you into thinking that we only suffer if we sin… did not Jesus suffer?  Was not Jesus sinless?  It rains on the just and the unjust alike, and the sun shines on both.  I would love to say that if you convert to Christianity that you won’t suffer… I can’t say that, it would be a lie, but what I can say is that as Christians, suffering has meaning.  Suffering also has an end.  We aren’t to seek suffering out in some masochistic manner, but when it comes to us, we hit our knees, seek His will, and remember His cross.  The resurrection is coming, but first the cross.

Hang in there my fellow humans, it doesn’t end at the cross.

Leave a comment

Filed under Christianity, Conversion, Musings, Prayer, Psychology

Seeking the Divine in Architecture

I’ve hunted down and read people’s comments on a lot of different sites about the Notre Dame fire and its restoration.  Most of it is supportive, but there are a few fellow Christians (and others of course) out there hung up on the money it will take to restore Notre Dame, and the fact that “it’s just a building.”  I do my best to empathize with my fellow human beings, especially when there is a dearth of that on the interweb, so I do get the point they are making, but they are missing The Point of structures like Notre Dame.

Yes, it will take loads of cash to rebuild the Lady, yes, that cash could go elsewhere (I suggest putting your cash wherever you like if it bothers you so much, and make sure you are eating beans and rice, and not anything more expensive so you can give even more money to your causes), but do you seriously think that a structure is all that the money is going toward?  What good are buildings anyway?  Does God disapprove of buildings? Of beauty? Of Architecture?

We already know from Art Appreciation 101 that the human eye, hence the human mind finds certain ratios, and shapes pleasing.  It evokes something in us at a level that we are hardly aware of.  There are many articles out now about the impact of architecture on the human brain, even neurobiologically speaking.  Interesting isn’t it?  I don’t think God does anything frivolously, especially in the laying down of laws or guidance, so all of those structures he ordered humans to build in very specific ways can’t have been capricious.  We are not Gnostics; the physical world (including our bodies) started out good, we are physical beings, and after the resurrection we will have perfected physical bodies.  The physical is important, it always has been since the beginning.

God even gave specific instruction dealing with physical things all the time, including buildings.  The way He instructed the Jewish tribes to arrange their camp, the instructions for the tent, and then the temple.  Noah’s ark, the ark of the covenant, and Nehushtan the bronze serpent.  God knows us and our minds because He made us and He recognizes the need we have for physical-ness.  No, He is not limited to physical place and clearly when Jesus walked the earth, was crucified, and resurrected things did change, but there was never a proscribed ban on buildings built to hold worshipers.

Notre Dame was built with worship directed toward God.  The artisans and workers poured themselves into it and made their praise physically manifest.  The windows were the Gospel writ large in living color.  Symbols are important, they are not impotent signs, but rather something that has taken on the true essence of the thing it represents.  Symbols have power.

There are people that owe their belief in God to capitulating to His call put forth in beauty.  People have felt His call in churches, before great works of art, or listening to music.  I know the stories of people who were agnostic, but upon traveling to all the great old cathedrals in Europe said they came away knowing He existed, and have followed Him since.  When humans allow God to work through us, or to inspire us, the result can be a glimpse of heaven.  We can definitely see that in nature as well, but when we see something that comes from the effort of a group of humans working together to build instead of destroy… well, we recognize a truth in that.  Civilization.  Civilization directed toward God and in His service.  That’s important.

Leave a comment

Filed under Apologetics, Christianity, Conversion, Musings, Of Interest, Psychology, Sacred Tourism

“It’s time to practice what we big boys call ‘self-control…'”

Self-control.

Where have you gone, self-control?

What has become of you?

Have you left our land never to return, or are you there waiting to be reintroduced by those who should already know you?

Oh, self-control, don’t hide your face anymore…

Ha! Just a little strange poetry humor to get us started… anyone know Silverweed from Watership Down? No?  Moving on… Self-control. No one talks about SELF control any more, or if they do, it is actually seen to be a negative thing, something to make fun of.  However, when we read scripture it become evident that self-control is extremely important and is a valuable thing.  It is my argument that many negative things we are facing in our current culture arises, in part, from a lack of self-control.

Freedom and self-control go hand-in-hand.  Do we see this in scripture?  We sure do!  Please check out an earlier article on mine that goes into the Greek behind “temperance” which is self-control, and that is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. The Fruit of the Spirit, pt. 9; Temperance

Self-control is also taught in the OT; Proverbs 25:28 He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls.  If you lack self-control, you lack defenses against the enemy.  Sound like that could be a connection with all the things we see around us right now in our culture? When we have a lack of self-control, we suffer as individuals, but we also hurt others including the whole of the Body of Christ.  When self-control is absent, addiction can move and set up shop in our lives.

We look around and we see the lack of self-control; sex and porn addiction, homosexual acts, fornication, adultery, drug and alcohol addiction, gluttony, addiction to gossip, and on and on.  Not only that, we see a generation of kids who can’t control themselves.  Debts is out of control, and people can’t seem to put their electronics down for more than a minute at a time.  One of the reasons we see this is that it has become a belief that control comes from outside of ourselves.  Drugs are a popular example of this.  I’m all for necessary medications, but there is now this thought that whatever is wrong, legal or illegal drugs can correct.  We also see law, or legality, as an example as well. If it is legal, it must be ok, because if it wasn’t ok, it would be illegal and the government would control us.  Speaking of the government, they are also trying to impose control in other ways.  Kids not eating healthy?  Take away the vending machines at school.  Outlaw big gulps… yeah, that’ll work.

No.  God puts the responsibility squarely on us, and says if we are walking with Him, if we are believers, we will have help from the Holy Spirit.  One of the major things I hope people understand is that it is not weakness to seek help for something we feel is out of our control.  Let’s use the porn epidemic as an example.  Men and women are both affected, sometimes in different ways.  Further, some may think porn “doesn’t hurt anyone” so what is the big deal?  First of all, it is a big deal to God. It hurts the one viewing it.  It changes the neural pathways in the brain in a way that is unhealthy, and causes the individual to react differently when met with a real-life woman (or man) and a real relationship.  It also hurts the ones participating in the pornography itself; it is degrading and debasing for all involved.  It hurts the whole Body of Christ, for when one person is harmed the rest are as well.  It’s like a virus spreading; what we do in “private” is not disconnected from everything else, nor everyone else.  Perfect example of all of this; I’m sure you’ve read or heard of the Josh Duggar scandal.  He never actually internalized self-control, but was instead controlled by thoughts, urges, and hormones; the perfect example of what not to do or how to be.  He learned how to mimic self-control, not how to actually control himself.

We see other examples surrounding us, or even in our own lives.  How we eat, how we spend our money, how we handle anger, where our thoughts go, how we spend our time, our actions, our words… It’s past time we take a look at our selves, and start practicing self-control and teaching our children how to practice it as well, if we haven’t already.  Practicing self-control isn’t locking ourselves away from temptation, but rather learning how to respond correctly to the temptation when it rears its ugly head. Part of this is embracing the freedom God gives us, and learning responsibility within that freedom. God says He always gives us a way out of temptation… it’s time to look for that open door.  If you need help, find help.  This is not a legalistic thing, but rather it is all about health; the individual’s spiritual, physical, and mental health, and having good defenses.  As each individual gains proper healthy defenses, the body of Christ as a whole can flourish.

3 Comments

Filed under Christianity, Health, Musings, Of Interest, Psychology

Marriage.

Marriage has become a hot-button topic in our day and age mainly because of the same-sex marriage debate.  But, lets set that subject aside.  As easy as that, let’s focus on the real point.  Biblically, in the New Testament, marriage is indeed to be between one man and one woman.  Marriage is a sacred institution, and the tragedy is that somewhere along the way the church adapted marriage to the world.

Confessing Christians get divorced at rates that cannot be pleasing to God.  God hates divorce, while at the same time allowing for it.  I have the feeling that Christians don’t respect the idea of vows and marriage like they should. Duh.  So, what is some of the problem?  One major factor is the idea of love.

In our modern time, love has been redefined as a mix of lust and fluffy nebulous feeling.  That, esp. lust, has nothing to do with Biblical love between a man and a woman in marriage that is spiritually equal to a legal, binding contract.  We tend to forget that at one point in time divorce was pretty much illegal unless you could show hard evidence of something like ongoing adultery.   By tying marriage into lust, we cheapen it, and make it extraordinarily easy to make excuses to get a divorce from someone we don’t “love” any more.

But you have to love your spouse right?  No.  Not in the way the world defines love.  Look at arranged marriages, just for an example.  In the beginning of an arranged marriage, the two people don’t even know each other, instead they have trusted either their parents or an intermediary to pick a spouse that meets certain criteria.  I believe that we should be able to pick out our spouse; however, I also believe we have lost some of the common sense aspects of arranging a marriage that is going to last.

I don’t really care how good looking a person is if they can’t work.  I don’t really care about anything else if they don’t believe in the same God I do.  Whether I find the person sexually attractive becomes moot really quick unless they have the same expectation when it comes to kids; do they want them?  Can they provide for them?  How many?  How are they to be raised?  Is the mom going to stay at home or not?  What about education?

The family budget, and what money is ultimately for.  Where are you going to live?  Do they have a good relationship with their parents, and on and on.   Also, when we get married it is like starting a family that is as permanent as our former family, meaning that my genetic brother is still my brother no matter what happens.  I can hate him, or not talk to him for five years, but he’s still my brother.  My husband is the exact same. That is the important bit we seem to be forgetting.  Two become one flesh.

Annnddd, here’s something a lot people probably don’t want to hear; you need to decide who is in charge.  Not in a command way, but someone, at some point, is going to have to lead.  If everything is functioning properly, it should be the husband.  Women, marry someone with that in mind.  I truly believe the husband needs to be at least as smart as the wife.  I believe that women can be leaders in the church (such as deacons), and that when God used the term helpmeet, He did so deliberately, and that people miss the part where He uses the same word for Himself.

A weaker thing cannot help a stronger thing.  Just sayin’.  Men and women are meant to be complimentary, so that life is enhanced by their joining.  Ok, so you’ve picked a suitable mate; what kind of love needs to be there in the marriage over time?  Many know that there are different words for “love” in the Greek language used in the Bible, and these show us the type of love that should be there (keep in mind this isn’t a pick-one, leave the rest list, this is inclusive).

1) Agape love – This love is an unselfish love and is the key to all the rest.  This is the same type of love that God has for us, that unconditional love that forgives.  This is the love He had toward us that while we where yet sinners Christ died for the ungodly.  We are called to love our spouses in the same way.  If you start with selfish love, your mate is rightly going to feel manipulated and judged.

2) Epithumia love – Interestingly this type can, and is, both positive and negative depending on form.  The negative side is lust.  The positive side is desire within marriage.  This is the physical desire that results in fulfilling sex within marriage.  Guess what?  Sex is good if done in a Godly setting, sex was devised to bring release and intimacy for BOTH partners. This can also be abused if it turns lustful, esp. outside of marriage (or sadly even within).  When someone cannot temper this they will hurt their mate if they are demanding, obsessed, and insensitive.

3) Eros love – This is the romantic love often skewed by the media.  Romance in Christian marriage is all about pursuing your beloved… it is the chase within marriage.  It is seeking out your loved one and showing them how much you cherish them.  We have already covered the physical side, so this love includes more than that.  This is the compliments, the verbal praises, the together time, the day dreaming, the hugs, hand-holding, the planning, etc…

4) Storge love – This is the comfort type of love.  At home with our family we are to feel safe, and secure in love.  We should feel that we “fit” together.  You know those older pair of jeans that are so comfortable and are just “you?” Well, that’s storge-type love.

5) Phileo love – Friendship love is sharing time and interests together.  It’s that feeling of camaraderie and “liking” as well as loving the person you are with.  It’s ok to have our own interests, but we should also cultivate interests in common and pursue those as well as our own hobbies.

Again, all 5 types of love are what we should have in our marriages.  The key is to find our strengths and weaknesses, and to consciously change the weak areas and work on them, practice fulfilling them.  Another key thing to remember is that agape love calls for us to have all 5 types regardless of our mate… that’s the point of “unconditional” love.  Be friendly even if you mate isn’t (and don’t be attack-friendly to try to show how wonderful you are).  Of course all that assumes that you are not being harmed by an abuser.  God does not look kindly on an abusive mate.

If you find your marriage is on rocky ground, seek Christian counseling through a Christian psychologist or counselor, read some good book on marriage, pray and seek God’s help and grace.  All marriages hit rough patches, and they can only be smoothed out by understanding how God sees marriage, and what our roles are to be.

Leave a comment

Filed under Christianity, Health, Psychology, Uncategorized

It Matters Who Your Friends Are…

There are so many things that are different in our modern world than in days gone by that it is hard to pick out a topic to cover. Recently, however, I have been thinking and studying the effects of good parental involvement and teaching in children’s lives. One of the things in by-gone times that parents monitored were who their children befriended.

Now it seems it isn’t “cool” for parents to monitor something so “personal” as their children’s friendships, let alone to actually teach children that it does indeed matter who they hang out with, and that they need to be aware of the effects of their peers. We all know the peer pressure commercials and they have become a joke. How often, though, do we think about wisdom, intelligence, social manners, morals, etc… when it comes to who the next generation surrounds themselves with?

God makes no bones about it; Proverbs 13:20 He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm. The teaching here is twofold; walk with wise individuals and you will actually be wise. Walk with foolish individuals and you will be hurt. It is crucial to remember that the bulk of Proverbs is underscoring listening to our Parents’ wise counsel, so the safe assumption here is that this bit of knowledge should be on the list to teach the next generation. Try that in today’s world, and the world will say that you have your nose in the air. That’s the world… so that underscores that we should indeed be teaching our kids to be selective in their friendships and that means monitoring who your children “befriend.”

For us older types, this brilliant Proverb also means we need to take a good hard look at who we attach ourselves too. As one simple example, this isn’t limited to friends, is it? How about our spouses? If we pay attention to the Lord and His guidance, and our blessed enough to stay married, our spouses are going to be one of the major people we “walk with.” So you’d better pick a good one, and not on the basis of the short-lived romantic hogwash love that the world forces down your throat. Do you want wisdom? The first step is to ask God for it, and that will include studying scripture to see what He has to say about wisdom. It is apparent to me that one of the keys is deliberately picking who we walk with.

1 Comment

Filed under Christianity, Musings, Philosophy, Psychology, The Bible, Uncategorized

Healthy habits for the New Year; pt. 3: Sleep

Sleep is crucial to be fully functioning and effective in everyday life.  Too much sleep isn’t good and not sleeping enough isn’t good.  Oversleeping can be just as problematic as insomnia, and it actually has many of the same effects as insomnia.  Sleeping too much can also be a sign that something is wrong either mentally or physically.

A rule of thumb is to figure out what length of time is optimum for you to sleep and aim for that time.  You absolutely must figure out how to be truthful with yourself and accurately estimate the length you need.  Try to think of a time when you’ve had good, uninterrupted sleep at a time when you feel mentally and physically healthy.  What you want to do is figure out, during that time-frame, when you would naturally awake and feel refreshed.

You do yourself a disservice if you over or underestimate the number of hours you need; the vast majority of people will need right around 8 hours.  Don’t try to be eccentric or different and act as though you need much more or less.  More than likely you need 7 — 9 hours.  Many times people let “sleep debt” sway their opinion on how much “basal sleep” they need.  You want to keep aiming for you basal time every night, and eventually your “sleep debt” will disappear.

Many focus on too little sleep, especially those suffering from insomnia.  If at all possible do not take sleep aids, they normally have bad side effects and can actually make your insomnia worse in the long run.  Instead, make a true commitment to change habits that could be leading to your insomnia.  Long term insomnia is not good for your health; physical, mental, or spiritual.

General Sleep Hygiene

  1. Pick a fixed bedtime and awake time, and follow it even if you are off of work
  2. Avoid sleeping/napping during the day. If you have to take a nap, limit it to 30-45 min.
  3. Alcohol should be avoided 4-6 hours before your set bedtime
  4. Caffeine should also be avoided for 4-6 hours prior, and limit yourself to 2 cups a day. (Things like chocolate also have caffeine and should be avoided)
  5. Avoid heavy foods 4-6 hours prior
  6. Don’t exercise within 2 hours of trying to sleep
  7. Do exercise during the day, with at least some of it being outside
  8. A cool room (not cold) is more conducive to sleep
  9. Use relaxation techniques before bed
  10. Try to designate waking hours to “worrying” and not to carry it with you to bed. Making lists for things to deal with/think about the next day, and then plan to do what needs to be done BEFORE laying down to sleep, esp. a few hours before.
  11. Try to have a pre-sleep ritual. Taking a shower, reading for a bit, etc…
  12. If you can’t sleep for around 20 min, get up, go into another room and do something like reading until you are sleepy again.
  13. Sleep in as dark a room as you can stand. Television isn’t recommended, and if you need something to fall asleep to, try radio instead.
  14. Your bed is for sleeping and sex, try not to use it for anything else like watching TV or reading.

Psychological factors

  1. Loneliness, stress, and depression can add to insomnia.
  2. You also don’t want “rewarded” for insomnia; for example, increased attention.  So, try to avoid posting about it on places like Facebook and/or Twitter just to get a response from others, or to show how late/early you are up.

Milton H. Erickson once said to make sure your alcoholic is sincere in wanting to quit, or else it will do no good to try to help.  The same is true of insomniacs; if you are not sincere in wanting to change your sleep patterns, you will find all manner of excuses and rationalizations to avoid changing bad habits.

Give yourself time to establish an actual new pattern.  It can take up to 30 days, for example, to completely modify your sleep schedule.  As to when you should wake up, there are many advantages to waking early, but the important thing is to be honest about the outcome of your day; meaning if you deal with people on a regular basis through the day, you should probably stick to a schedule to be fully rested with the mainstream.

You may want to stay up late, but if you have to be at work at 8 am, that isn’t going to be a healthy choice.  Make the commitment to follow the healthy sleep hygiene points above and do it consistently.

1 Comment

Filed under Health, Psychology