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Welcome.

(note:  This is the welcome and info article and it does not change.  Scroll on down for the most recent article addition.)

I believe in the power of truth.  I also believe in the power of freedom.  I am neverendingly impressed at how truth sets us free, and how freedom opens us up to the truth.  Though I have some posts that are personal to me, this is my ministry site.  I post articles about all kinds of things that are of interest to me… and I also find great joy in answering, or at trying to answer, or at least discussing, questions.  Feel free to ask them here.

I am still working on these sites, but the best way to navigate this material is either the tabs at the top of the page – these take you to totally different pages with targeted information.  If you are researching me as a personal therapist, click the Counseling/Therapy tab… if you are a man looking for encouragement, ideas and support in life, click on Phalanx… if you are considering me as a speaker, teacher, pastor, or consultant, that information should be available there.

Most of my work hours are spent serving at South Spring Baptist Church. Check out the amazing ministry there.

I am also the lead therapist at the Alethia Counseling Center in Tyler, Texas… and I love the team of Counselors we have here, so…

I want to introduce you to our team of counselors at the offices:

 

You can meet them HERE.

 

If you are interested in scheduling with any of us, call us at 903 561 8955 today!

…If you are more interested in browsing my articles, then your best bet might be the catagories list to the right.  If you are interested in me writing an article on a given topic, you can request it in any comments section… I will try to get to it as soon as I can!

I will continue to post all new articles here as well as on the targeted site, so either option should still give you the chance to find what you are looking for.

Typically, my series, sermons and seminars will be found at:  Talks

Thanks for stopping in… God Bless you and Keep you.

Chris

More Information on my specific Counseling

My style of therapy is generally called “eclectic” which really just means I make use of many different styles and techniques of counseling.  I believe that every human life has intrinsic value, including yours.  No amount of pain, guilt, shame, regret, resentment, anger, depression, depravity, or brokenness can change that.  Every person has a story that is worth hearing, no matter how much hurt, love, purpose, abandonment or normality that life includes or lacks.

A big part of why I believe what I just said is that I am a proclaimed follower of Jesus, The Christ, into Life, death, and Life again.  I think life can often feel a lot like a series of life and death patterns.  I believe it is hopeful to know that those are a parable of the larger Epic story.  I believe in a Creator, and I therefore rationally think the most foundational thing in life is to have a right relationship with our Creator.

It seems reasonable to me that it would be impossible to over-estimate philosophically how important it would be for a created thing to know its creator.  After doing decades of research, of the major views on this problem, only Christianity has been able to offer what I consider the most reasonable answers. So, with that understanding, I am a Christian therapist.

However, as a “style” I am not exclusively what is called a “biblical counselor” nor do I offer counseling only for other Christians. Far from it. I agree with the way I was taught: I expose my faith, but am careful not to impose my faith on my clients. It isn’t always an easy integration, but that is my goal. The main way that my faith and philosophy impact my counseling is in regards to truth. I believe in the power of truth to set us free (John 8:31). I think it is vitally important for everyone to be able to acknowledge the truth about their lives – this point is also made in Orwell’s “1984” when it is noted that true freedom begins with the freedom to speak the truth.

Until we can say what we know is true, we are still bound. I make use of reality therapy techniques, Gestalt work, psychotherapy, Jungian archetypes, personality theory, paradoxical work, REBT, transactional analysis, and virtually anything else I come across that works and fits within what I believe is true.

I believe that each human being is so complex and unique that no one therapeutic theory covers everyone. Generally, I talk to people for about 50 minutes in the session, but the real work comes in the hours of integration in-between sessions. I encourage people to deal with the past and not ignore it – to speak the truth about their past. This is not about living in the past. Understanding, speaking and accepting the truth about our past is a work of the present.

I also encourage people to face the present and future honestly. Reality therapy becomes vital when dealing with the present. I think that many more people could really benefit from counseling than get it. It takes a certain level of emotional health to be able to risk coming in. Coming to counseling the first time can be pretty tough, so I applaud anyone strong enough to do it, especially those who are able to come in before they are in stage 4 sickness… Counseling isn’t meant to last forever, so come in with some specific goals and you and I will work together to identify and deal with those and any others that arise.

Final words for this section: beware of coming in for counseling when it is storming and the roof is leaking, and then quitting when the rain quits rather than when the roof is repaired.

any questions?

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Star Wars Last Jedi Critique

I had wanted to wait until I had seen it twice until I wrote this, but though I hope to at some point, I have realized that most of my complaints are likely to get worse rather than better, so I can hope, but I do not predict a positive change.

First, the good news.

So, here we go:

I have been more conflicted (feel the conflict?) about this Star Wars movie than any since the first 24 hours after Ep. 1 when I assumed there must be something wrong with me for not liking anything about it but some music, some sound effects and Darth Maul. After that first 24 hours when all of my other SW fan friends felt the same way and we realized it was ok to hate it and after another 2 viewing, there was no conflict. I have not let go of my hate.

So why am I conflicted now?

A couple of my favorite scenes in Star Wars history is in The Last Jedi. For the first time EVER in Star Wars, I have understood the actual temptation of the Dark Side (as it is presented in these movies – not theologically in real life, but as it is presented in the Star Wars Universe).

The abject failure of anyone to make the fall of Anakin seem in any way plausible didn’t help. The “fall” of Anakin is one of the most forehead slapping scenes in all of the SW universe (if you count 1-3 as part of that universe).

The best thing about TLJ was the final fall of Kylo and the temptation of Rey after the death of Snoke. For the first time ever, I could feel the draw to the dark side. Never before in the SW universe has the dark side ever seemed even vaguely realistic conceptually – why would anyone actually ever choose it? I know it is allegedly quicker and easier, but more seductive in the long term? Quicker and easier is tempting in a moment, but not as a lifestyle choice unless it carries some significant payoff.

However, Ren’s desperate loneliness, pain, and fear… his desire for Rey to join him is palpable! I found myself wishing for her to not leave him in his misery alone. I was almost rooting for her to join him and could imagine his motivation and her justification, if she had joined him.   I can imagine him continuing to choose it across time, rather than converting from it.

For someone to have finally truly captured the lure of the dark side is no small feat, especially after Lucas so disastrously failed to do so in Ep 3 with the “fall” of Anakin. Man, Ep 1-3 were so terrible. As much as there is that I despise about 8, I am not among those that hate it as much or more than the prequels.

The fight scene that preceded that scene was pretty good, too, with the teamwork of Rey and Kylo.

Also, the scenery was beautiful. Many scenes were intentionally developed to present color or bleakness and reminded me of some of the colors and scenes of Ep 5. That was all that reminded me of 5, but there was that. I appreciated the cinematography of the scenery on planets and space. The visual of the FO armada being wiped out with no sound was another example of that – the visual, but not the fact of it happening.

Aaaand that is about it for the good news.

Next week, we start the adventure into the problems

The First Life

The First Life.

Often, theistic views (design, creation, fine-tuning) are disrespected as somehow based in something irrational.

I wonder.

Let’s look at one small consequence of the alternative.

Imagine the first life.

The first life from lifelessness: Somehow a non-living thing came into the spark of life. Not sure how. So far under the most precise and controlled conditions with the energy and resources and intellect of the world’s best scientific community, we have not managed to accomplish this once.

Not just failed in a boiling cauldron of mud, not in the salt water off the coast of a volcanic island, not in a dark cave… in the climate controlled, chlorinated, clinical environment of the lab.

However, the theory is that somehow, in some kind natural environment, life came from something lifeless.  The evidence is that this happened more than 3.45 billion years ago.  (fossils have been found to be dated around that time) So, whatever happened, it happened the first time within the first billion years or so.

That life didn’t die instantly, as one might expect. It didn’t wink out just as quickly as it winked in. We know now how fragile life is, especially at the microscopic level… but this first hardy soul survived.

It seems more likely that this life winking into existence would have needed to have happened a few billion times before one survived past the next micro-second.   But, apparently, one of these little lives survived. And not just survive, but thrive!

Somehow that first life had to find nutrition. There were no predators – that must have been a relief, but still there was no system on Earth to reward or encourage life either… but now it had to find nutrition somehow. Photosynthesis is a crazily complex system of organs and chemical reactions, so it must have taken a long time with a boatload of positive mutations to come into existence… no way this first life had something like that. However, somehow, it found a way to sustain its existence.

And then, perhaps most impressively, it didn’t die alone! Somehow that first life had to figure out how to reproduce… all in one life span. It had to survive long enough to reproduce itself – all in one generation, since obviously no evolution could have taken place yet.

It had to not die instantaneously.

It had to sustain and grow.

It had to reproduce.

All alone, without help or protection… in a hostile world where no life had ever existed before… and no reason to exist beyond chance.

And we have never seen it happen again since; we have never been able to cause it to happen intentionally ever again. Perhaps we will someday. Perhaps one day we will bring life from lifelessness in a lab.

And then we will have shown how, with enough energy, intelligence, resources and intentionality, life can come into existence.

So, am I ok to believe that it is rational to believe that this first life was not all alone?

Can we respect the belief that it was Shepherded intentionally into existence (teleology) and sustained intentionally (providence) and crafted (design) to accomplish what it has accomplished?

I am sorry that this two part article got broken up.  You might go back and refresh yourself with the first part again.

This level of “oddity” is so “common” that it inspired Tom Clancy to say that “the difference between fiction and reality is that fiction has to make sense.”

Mark Twain is given credit for “…Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities. Truth isn’t.”

Recent events of flooding in South-East Texas have led to dozens of “unbelievable” accounts of people being rescued.  Unlikely though they may be, people are alive because of them.

But would the historians of the future think them merely myths, legends, or miracles – an ignorant people trying to explain something they didn’t really understand?

At church we went through a sermon series for a few weeks of looking at some of the “extraordinary” lives in the Bible… the likes of Paul, Mary, Zacchaeus, David, and others… and at the same realizing that their lives are extraordinary… Just like ours.

I think many people imagine that the accounts of people’s lives in the Bible for example, or biographies of other great men and women, are radically different from their own… but exactly what makes their lives believable are the ways they seem “out of the ordinary.”

And yet, they happened.

Is it likely that a client told me that that God has woken her up in the night for her to pray for the baby we were pregnant with – having never met my wife – even though we weren’t pregnant?

Or rather, didn’t know that we were?

That seems like a miracle.

They meet astonishing people. They are caught up in events that define their times and history. Unlikely things happen all around them.   Sometimes when we look back on our own lives, these things seem unbelievable, but they happened.

Is it believable that some orphan, Esther, spends a night with Xerxes? That some kidnapped Hebrew kid, Daniel, meets Nebuchadnezzar and Darius? That David faces a Philistine warrior giant and kills him?

It doesn’t seem so, does it? And yet, everyday “normal” people interacted with Napoleon Bonaparte, Florence Nightingale, Abraham Lincoln, Shaka Zulu, etc.

Normal people become everyday soldiers and periodically everyday soldiers become extraordinary heroes.

But all extraordinary heroes are also normal everyday people, too.

The fact that biblical characters have strangely, unlikely, even miraculous unexplainable events is part of what makes them believable!

What seems to unite our lives are the “unbelievable” things that happen.   The vast majority of people, when I have asked them, say that they have experienced “miracles”.

So, Ehrman says that since historians can only accept as accurate what was “most likely” to have happened and by (his) definition, miracles are “the least likely things to happen,” and therefore cannot be accepted as historically accurate.

But in this is a serious problem. So, all of the radically unlikely things that have happened to me, and you could not be part of history? Historians of the future cannot accept those as historically accurate?

In that case, they will miss the truth, because we were present for these events… for these extraordinary, unlikely events.

But they happened. I assume things like them happened to the people of the past,

too. So, it is exactly the accounts of them experiencing miracles that make their life accounts believable – not less believable.

The unwillingness to accept what is unlikely to have happened makes it impossible to accept what does & did happen. This understanding of history makes history a science utterly incapable of accurately describing the unlikely events that are universal to human experience and apparently always have been!

To dismiss the miraculous is to miss out on an accurate understanding of the human experience… and maybe what makes it the human experience.

 

“and Lead us not into temptation”

According to “The Independent” on Dec 8, 2017,

“Pope Francis has called for a change to the wording of the Lord’s Prayer, as the existing translation implies God ‘induces temptation’… The prayer, also known as Our Father, asks God to ‘lead us not into temptation’.”

“The 80-year-old also highlighted that the Catholic Church in France had already adapted the prayer, and uses the phrase ‘do not let us fall into temptation’ instead.”

I want to start by clarifying that I do not think there is anything malicious or necessarily heretical about the Pope’s call for change here. However, I do think there is clear error, so I will make the case.

“The reasoning is that ‘It is not a good translation because it speaks of a God who induces temptation.’”

This is just a mis-use of the word “translation”.  (I hope that, assuming the Pope was speaking in Latin, that this English translation isn’t erroneous).  Rather than trying to change the translation, he should be engaging in the issues of interpretation (more on that later).

Translation is the process of one language to another. In this case, Greek to English (in the case of the Catholic Church, it is often Greek to Latin to English.

The Greek (with English letters) is:

Kai eisphero ego me eis peirasmos

Kai – a conjunction – “And”

eisphero – (bring, take (like a message, a sacrifice, ) (see Luke 5:18, I Tim 6:7))

ego – me

me – not

eis – spatially in reference to – (before, into, onto, next, resulting in, among, about, etc)

peirasmos – “to be put to the test/tribulation”

I know that just like English, just the meaning of each Greek word is not always the right answer for a thought or phrase, but in this case, apparently is pretty good. So, all that being said,

“And lead us not into temptation…” (Matt 5:13)

is a perfectly sound “translation” – in fact, it is an excellent translation! If anything was a potential change in the translation, you might could change it to “and lead us not into trials/tests”… but that isn’t what he wants to change.

The Pope is not troubled by the translation. He is troubled by an interpretation question. One does not change what the Bible says because one is troubled by a question of interpretation – one teaches through it!

What does it say?

It clearly says something close to “and lead us not into temptation.”  If the translation is sound, what is the Pope concerned about?  From his further thoughts it is clear that he is troubled by the interpretation.

“Interpretation” is what something means.

So, if the Pope is uncomfortable with the fact that it sounds like God Himself is tempting someone to sin (which is not in the character of God, as indicated in James 1:13

“Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.”

So, is there any way to understand the words in the prayer other than God tempting people? Can someone lead someone into temptation without tempting them? Of course they can.

Consider that perhaps the exact experience that Jesus had in mind was His own recent experience (Matt 4, which starts with “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.”

Jesus had been led into a situation in which He was tempted. Did the Father tempt Him? No. Did Jesus want to experience the situation again or want His followers to ask to avoid those kind of situations? I think it is likely so.

One interpreter of this passage referenced the idea of a mother taking their children through the checkout line with all of the candy having already told them that they could not have candy. She is putting them in a situation in which they will be tempted. She is not tempted them, though.

Jesus is encouraging us to ask for the extra grace from God to allow them to avoid those type of tough tests – the tests of being led into situations of temptation.

This situation, in which Pope Francis is seeking to change a translation because he thinks the passage needs further interpretation, is just an error. Of course, like the rest of us, he is just a man and “to err is human” (that is also not in the Bible by the way, but a quote from Alexander Pope – no relation to Pope Francis).

The “Uncommon” Life?

The uncommon life

Popular historian and self-proclaimed former Christian-turned-atheist, Dr. Bart Ehrman, in his debate with Dr. William Craig, clarified that a historian’s job is not to tell “what” happened, but what was “most likely” to have happened.

He goes on to explain why that makes it impossible for him to hold to the idea of a historical miracle.

If the historian is looking for what is most likely to have happened, then he could never accept a historical miracle since miracles are never the most likely thing to have happened… “by definition.”

I can totally see his point. Though, first, I do not agree with his definition of a miracle being “unlikely”. I am not sure what evidence he would have for the rarity of miracles.

It is a common definition that miracles are when God defies “natural law”… however, I am not certain that GK Chesterton wasn’t right about natural laws being somewhat miraculous themselves:

 “It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them.”   (G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy)

Maybe even natural processes are fundamentally miraculous. I talk about the difference between “how” and “who” (or even “why”) in part 4 of a series of articles about creationism’s relationship to scientific discovery.

Though not anywhere near as well trained in history as he is, I am very well trained and even more experienced in human lives.

In this, I have come to accept an oxymoron… and an apparent (though not literal) paradox.

It seems that everyone has an “uncommon” life.

In the last 20 plus years of doing counseling, I have heard hundreds of people’s life stories. In my effort to understand before seeking to be understood, or even before just being able to effectively come alongside people, I actively listen to them tell their life story.

When it comes to life stories, kid, I’ve flown from one side of this galaxy to the other, and I’ve seen a lot of strange stuff, and everything I’ve seen leads me to believe that there’s one all-powerful Force governing everything. (with apologies to Han)

I have come the conclusion that everyone’s lives are bizarre. Nutty coincidences that often hardly seem coincidental.

Everyone’s lives are filled with these “coincidences” that strain even the most credulous person’s sensibilities.

In fact, I would go so far as to say that maybe the most unifying factor in people’s lives is that we all have experiences… often defining experiences… that are extraordinarily unlikely.

In my experience most people who can stomach the concept of a miracle believe that they have experienced them.

It seems that everyone has experienced million-to-one odds… and been the one… in multiple experiences!

Our lives are extraordinary and somehow, thus, common. More next week. (**** Link to follow).

… and, (if you haven’t read part I, jump to it now) real relationships require dials across time.

This same principle applies to emotional responses.  Maybe you are the “worst case scenario” type – you jump all the way to the extremely unlikely but possible options? Avoid the switch and seek to examine for more likely but less intense options.

It is ok to deal with the realities rather than attempt to borrow troubles that are essentially guaranteed to not exist. A doctor friend of mine likes to remind his patients that “it is probably horses.”

He makes the point that if we hear hoof beats outside, it could be zebras (they have hooves) but probably, it is horses. Sometimes when someone has a symptom that could be an allergy headache or a brain tumor, it is most likely an allergy headache… horses.

Could it be zebras? Well, technically, yes… but pretty darned unlikely.

When it comes to worry, keep the gauge dialed down as low as the common denominators allow.

I would encourage anyone to seek to develop the skill of measured emotional responses. In the past, this character trait was called “temperance.”

Temperance means to be the governor of your emotions rather than governed by them.   We have the capacity to affect the intensity of our emotions with our minds and hearts. Learning to understand our emotions maturely is fundamental. Then learning the way to talk to ourselves in emotionally rational terms…

These are us using the dial mentality. Rather than feeling sudden and extreme frustration or rage or utter despair or completely overwhelmed, we can feel annoyed or angry or discouraged or just stymied a little instead.

You can find some more tools about emotions here and there will always be more coming here.

So, do your best to develop the patterns and skills of engaging with dials. Avoid “switch” thinking. Feel a little more or a little less – not everything or nothing. Let your relationships grow a little or fade a little… pull back a little, step up some more.

There are no perfect relationships with humans. Don’t demand them to be perfect. Get better and better and cranking the volume dial up or down a few notches. There are better things than off or on all the way.

Showers are better integrating the hot and cold a little up or a little down. Take that skill and apply it to your relationships and emotions.

Note – I am not staying that anyone who has the switch mentality rather than the dial mentality has a personality disorder, of course.

However, the reason that I talked about personality disorders at the beginning of the article is so that you can understand the dysfunctional nature of the habit to engage with off and on only thinking when it comes to feelings and relationships.

Learn to make incremental changes in emotions and in relationships. Both will become more valuable and healthy aspects of your life.

Switches or Dials

In the psychological world, there is an area of diagnosis called “personality disorders.” These include Narcissism, Borderline, Avoidant, Dependent, Paranoid, etc. There are 10 of three types (clusters).

The American Psychiatric Association describes Personality disorders as “ways of thinking, feeling and behaving that deviates from the expectations of the culture, causes distress or problems functioning, and lasts over time.”

The pattern includes at least two of these:

  • Way of thinking about oneself and others
  • Way of responding emotionally
  • Way of relating to other people
  • Way of controlling one’s behavior

I have done extensive work and writing on one of them, Narcissism. And, each year when I do training for future ministers, I teach about Borderline. Hopefully, I will be able to write about that material soon, as well.

There is something I dislike about Psychological diagnosis – and that is the false impression of diagnosis speaking identity into people.   At most, any diagnosis is a descriptor, not an identifier… and really all that a diagnosis is, is a shorthand for internal communication.

Medical professionals and insurance companies out there, please refrain from defining, cursing, or incarcerating someone with a diagnosis – psychological or otherwise.

Jack Horner, curator of paleontology at the Museum of the Rockies, poses near the Wankel T. rex, in Fort Peck, Mont., in June 1990. Researchers estimate the dinosaur weighed between 6 and 7 tons.

Imagine a group of Paleontologists who get tired of saying “Hey, I found another one of those really big dinosaurs with big teeth, little front legs, really big hind legs…” So, they gave that dinosaur a name: T-Rex.

In the same way, mental health professionals got tired of saying “I saw another client today with a poor sense of identity and a sever fixation on abandonment and extreme emotional and relational responses…” and they gave that combination of traits a name: Borderline Personality Disorder.

Anyway, that was my two cents about diagnosis. They are nothing more than useful shorthand.  No extra charge.

Many of us – heck, maybe all of us – have some traits from the lists. The most severe problems come when a single person has multiple of the traits. That is what a personality disorder is.

Pretty much every personality disorder shares a tendency that I think is worth all of us examining in our own lives.

Do we have dials or switches when it comes to our own emotional responses? What about in our relationships?

If you are all-in with a friendship until that person disappoints you, and then you are all out, you are engaging with a switch, not a dial. A switch is either off or on. A dial can be turned up or down incrementally.

If a family member hurts me, I can draw a slightly tighter boundary around the relationship… or I can just cut that person off and stop speaking to them. Dial. Switch.

Dials are generally healthier.

When I hire a new employee, certain that they are the perfect person for the job, I can get behind them, be excited about them… the switch fully in the “on” position. 100% positive.

What happens when it turns out they aren’t the perfect person for the job (because there is no such thing)? A person with a dial mentality can continue to support them at 90% or 70% positive.   A person with a switch mentality is done.

Apply that to friendships and marriage.

I once read that we all marry an ideal person, but turn out to be married to a real person. In the end, we have divorce the ideal and stay married to the real, or we divorce the real and keep searching for the ideal.

But, there is more to come: part II