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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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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

https://hunterbeless.com/new-blog/2017/7/ep28-on-understanding-sexuality

I got to be a part of a great podcast a few days ago.  This expresses some of the roots – going WAAAAAYYYY back (in time and in philosophy) for the issues of sexual identity that we face as a culture today.  Check it out!

Noah and Gilgamesh

Guest Post by Mark Legg

This is a great addition to the series about Christ and ancient myths.  What about how the ancient account of Gilgamesh overlaps with the account of Noah?

Though there are many accounts of a flood that extended back many thousands of years ago, the epic of Gilgamesh is remarkably like the flood narrative of Genesis in many ways. The mention of the flood begins as early as line 7-8 in tablet I. In introducing Gilgamesh, it compares him to people before the flood, and that his in his wisdom he knows many secrets of the world before it. Later, Gilgamesh hears the whole story from Utanapishtim (the Noah character), who possesses eternal life (tablet XI, 10-212). How do the stories differ, and how do they compare? Though the main narrative is similar, many details and the theology behind the story differ.

Utanapishtim’s story infers that the gods attempt to destroy mankind because of overpopulation and that population was also wicked and full of wrongdoers (XI, 185-200). Similarly, we see God’s judgment in the Bible. Genesis 6.1 begins with this sentiment: “When man began to multiply on the face of the land . . .” The text then explains that mankind has grown immoral and wicked (6.5-11). These are cited as reasons for the destruction of mankind in both cases. Also, in both instances the antagonist builds a boat at the command of a god (or the God). Both take the lives of other animals or people (XI, 27 and 6.20). Both come to rest on a mountain (of whose true identity we are unsure of) (144 and 8.4), and both offered sacrifices after arriving safely (160-165 and 8.20). Furthermore, we read a strangely similar detail in the story. To check the safety of the surroundings, they send out birds essentially as scouts (148-160 and 8.6-12). Furthermore, both generally speak of the absolute destruction and the terrible power of the flood.

However, many details differ between the two ancient accounts. The construction and dimensions of the Ark (48-75 and 6.14-22), the length of the flood (it is much shorter in Gilgamesh) (114-150 and 8.1-12)), and many other specifics contrast. More importantly, we see several theological differences. Utanapishtim’s story includes, naturally, multiple gods. All except for two wish to destroy the entire human race. We see the common attribution of gods the ancient times, that they are essentially overgrown people. They cower in fear, their “lips are parched”, and they infight (115-126, 180-200). In the Bible, God sees Noah’s righteousness and decides to save him unilaterally, since He is the only true God. Finally, Utanapishtim receives eternal life on earth (205-211). Though we can assume Noah similarly received eternal life in heaven, the two do differ in that regard (Heb. 11.7).

Though the messages are similar, the difference in deities and details pose a very interesting comparison. The overall stories do overlap in many ways, however. It could easily be theorized that the Babylonian epic drew from the real life events that transpired in Genesis 6-9.

This is an era of when suicide is a part of the cultural conversation again, we need to be prepared to engage with it in a serious way.

The article I linked to above is for parents who kids are watching or who have watched the popular show “13 Reasons” – but in general, I think that the show is not appropriate for any audience.  It glorifies suicide and turns into a hero a teenage girl who is in serious need of help and yet instead chooses to take her own life and communicate it in a vengeful vindictive way.

Suicide is a complicated issue, biblically and psychologically.  I strongly recommend you check out this sermon on suicide I posted a few weeks back.  I think it will be very helpful to anyone.  All of us have thought about it, and all of us know someone who has taken their life… and others who likely will in the future.

However, I think what would be most valuable to many is just simple, practical guidelines for what to do when someone we know threatens suicide.

Anytime someone threatens, even in a veiled way, to commit suicide, we have two options:

  1.  Take it seriously
  2.  Not take it seriously

Typically, based on statistics, it would seem to be perfectly safe to go with #2., right?

Obviously, people threaten or hint at committing suicide all the time without actually doing it. There are many reasons why someone might even threaten without any intention of doing it.

Rarely do otherwise rational people become disconnected enough from reality to go through with suicide. The disconnection may not be what you think, but it is there when someone actually comes to the point of being willing to take his or her own life.

So, let’s examine option #2.  Anyone who can become delusional – who can experience a psychotic break from reality – can do things that are dangerous to themselves and others. They might get in a plane attempt to vanish without warning, or have an affair, commit suicide.  Even in those cases, the chances are low, right?

However, not taking it seriously can leave us with a dead or devastated friend… and we should not be willing to take that risk for a lot of reasons… one of which is that we do not want to carry the burden of our decision to not take them seriously after they are dead.

So, even if our odds of being ok not taking such a threat seriously are kind of good, the cost of being wrong is unacceptable.

Which leaves us option 1.

So, here are my recommendations:

Speak to a friend or family member and make sure she or he knows that if you suspect that they are a danger to themselves, then you are going to contact the police and send them to your friend to check on them and verify that they are safe.

Make the call.

It is also possible to send a family member who lives with them to check on them and keep a watch over them until they are safe. If that is not an option, then the police are the best option.

If the police do not think they are safe, they should take your friend to a hospital.  Your friend needs to know that you will always, without hesitation, contact professionals and police if you suspect that this person is a threat to themselves.  This is in an effort to protect your friend; and an effort to protect yourself from the regret that doing nothing can create.

So, she needs to make sure that if she is going to threaten or hint at suicide, that your love for her and desire for her best will motivate you to take her seriously.

If you are going to take her seriously, you have no choice to contact the professionals and/or get the police involved ASAP.

It is incumbent upon us to communicate this boundary with anyone who threatens or hints at suicide. Make sure they know that this is how you will respond to such things – that you will contact a professional and/or the police.

This kind of boundary will help you know that when the friend speaks of suicide, they are serious, since they know what your response will be. If, by some chance, they use the threat of suicide as a manipulative tool, this will put a stop to it.

If they are serious, you may save their life by refusing to keep their suicidal ideas secret.  If they are serious, then even if they are going to be angry at you for telling, when they are healthy again, they will recognize that you have done what a good friend would do.

If they are not serious about suicide, they probably are serious about getting help or attention or something – and you will have helped them in that way, too.  They will know you are a friend who listens and takes them seriously.

The cure for real suicidal ideation is hope.  People who care can go a long way toward giving us hope.  People who love us even more than they care if we are happy with them right now, give us solid hope. They give us some space to grow.

We all deeply desire to be heard and known.  Giving people, whether seriously suicidal or not, other options for being heard, cared about, valued, is quite a gift.   Help them understand that they are treasure and you can help them live an abundant life as the treasure they are!

Crisis Culture

In our crisis-based nation (we seem to have almost no culture except for the culture of crisis… which, by the way, I assume is the unavoidable consequence of the culture of media that we developed in the last few decades. To paraphrase Frank Peretti , “TV does not reflect the culture nor affect the culture; TV is the culture.”)

Crises allow attention-seeking people to find that attention without earning it. I think this is a major cause of this cultural shift.   My generation, Gen X, was the first generation of Americans to not be drafted into combat and I think combat is probably a consistently trustworthy way to weed out attention-seeking people with a poor sense of identity outside of their role within the current crisis.

These people find purpose in creating problems for other people in their sphere of influence and are in a constant search to prop up their flagging identity by linking their identity to a cause that is in the attention of the public. They experience a sense of fear or even panic as the crisis begins to fade as its few hours or days begin to run short – and the next new end-of-the-world crisis begins to take over.

Add to that the fact that some of these cultural crises have created their own cottage industries and you can see how certain ones keep coming back. Racism is one of these. The entire world as well as the US has a long history of racist thought. Any concept of racial superiority is, and always has been, one of the stupidest thoughts humans have come up with. More has been accomplished in the modern western world to engage with and minimize racist thought than probably ever before in history and anywhere in the world… but it is still one of the culture of crisis’ favorites.

Again, there is still endemic racist thought.  It seems to be a universal experience for my African American friends.  It has to end.  It makes absolutely no sense that any black man would be treated any differently than a white man for no other reason than the color of his skin.  Absurd.

I am always impressed at my own inability to see from the perspective of people different from me – from other cultures, backgrounds, sex, ethnicity, etc. The more that is different about them from me, the less intuitive it is to me to see their way of thinking.

But I don’t think these crisis culture people are motivate by racism positively or negatively. I think they are motivated by likes, thumbs up emojis, clicks, and public attention.

It is the quantity of response they crave, not the quality.

Not everyone is like this who is involved, of course.  But some are, and I hate the thought of being lumped in with them hurts me.

In fact, this seems like a good time to communicate my assumption that I am off base in my understanding in some of this stuff.  I am sure that I have committed some of the same internally scripted thinking that is so tough for almost any of us to completely see.  There is nothing in this article intended to offend people who are sincerely struggling with this, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t!  If I did, I apologize.

Anyway, the attention seekers, and crisis culture addicts?   I see them as more innocent than another group – the baiters.

Hate –  baiting, of which race-baiting is an example, is a deeply evil motivation, and I think there are many in the US who are involved in it.  I want to take just a second to call them out.  I don’t care which side of these issues you are on.  If you are continuing to support and empower the role of racism in our culture, you are a race-baiter. The white supremacists and supremacists of any race are the easily (deservedly) seen to be culpable in this, but in my soul, I fear that much of it is motivated by some people who don’t hate nor really care… but just seek position, power, or election through race baiting. I hope I am wrong, but I think I am not on this one.

Followers of Christ must be different on this.  We are the peacemakers!

I also think I have an answer to the question of “how far do we take this?”  I think the line can be “honor” versus “remember”.

I know I mentioned this already, but I think we need to determine who it is appropriate to honor in our culture and why (big enough step, I know), but at least there are some we are likely to be able to agree on one way or another.  Those on the list who are on the “we know we desire to honor” list, we name things after them, etc.  Those on the “we know we don’t want to ask people to honor” we change the names or move the monuments into museums, where they can be remembered.

Now, who decides how to enforce this?  I think it has to be local governments – the more local the better, but I still think it is a fair way to come at the issue.

All this being said, all of the articles on The Theology of Race (**** link to follow) and this series of articles is really written to my Christian brothers and sisters.  I think the ethics of Christ give us some great guidelines for how to handle crises like this.  Let us not seek after our on interested above others.

May I beg all of us, especially proclaimed Christ followers, as we seek to

  1. humble ourselves,

2. grow up to learning to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4),

3. to live at peace with everyone (to the degree it is up to us),

4. to think about right things, and to

5. consider others more significant than ourselves,

6. to recognize that we are broken too, and we must consider our own motives. If we find ourselves craving those clicks, maybe we need to make no provision for the flesh which yearns for the comfort of such counterfeits of true value and identity, and wait before we respond, so that,“If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all… Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” The Apostle Paul, Romans 12:18 & 21