Friday, July 10, 2015

Response to a classmate who is an athiest ...

Susie (not her real name),

I am sooooo glad you posed these questions!  You really challenged me to work hard this final week of our course!

I have outlined the questions that you raised to the best of my ability in order to clearly provide the answers that you seek.

Would I only be working with the Christian population?
Would I hold Christian-based counseling techniques separately when working with the general population?
What are some Christian-based techniques for example?
What about Christian counseling’s efficacy?
Where are the boundaries / integrations in what is considered Christian counseling? 


Let me begin with a good definition of Christian counseling.  Gary Collins (1993), a pioneer Christian counselor, defined Christian counseling as counseling that is provided by a deeply committed, spirit-guided servant of Jesus Christ, who applies their God-given abilities, skills, training, knowledge, and insights, to the task of helping others move to personal wholeness, interpersonal competence, mental stability, and spiritual maturity.

My practice would not be limited to the Christian population, but would be made available to clients who would have a full awareness of my Christian worldview.  Just as I would be required to make my credentials and areas of experience known to potential clients, I would also make this information available.  As a Christian, I know how limited the choices are in Southeast Texas for good, sound Christian counselors who are grounded in the truth of Scripture.

According to Garzon, Clinton, and Hawkins (2011), Gallop polls consistently find that 90% of U.S. citizens believe there is a God, 80% try to live according to their faith, and about 85% self-identify as Christians. These percentages suggest that the majority of clients coming to therapy will have some sort of spiritual perspective.  However, the statistics for mental-health professionals are substantially different.  Delaney, Miller, and Bosono (2007) found that only 46% of clinical psychologists identified themselves as Christian, 38% endorsed other religions, and 16% were agnostic, atheist, or had no religious faith.

Many people are unaware that there are various types of Christian counselors. Some are lay or peer counselors who mostly work in the church. Recovery counselors work largely with addictions. Pastoral or biblical counselors also work largely in the church. Fourque and Glachen (2000) found that 42% of people seek help from clergy first for their emotional problems showing they have a desire for their faith to be addressed when they are in need.

Then there are professional counselors and clinicians who are state-licensed professionals across the disciplines of psychology, social work, mental-health counseling, marriage and family therapy, psychiatry and nursing. I was sorry to hear about the two incidents that you related, but I would question whether or not the counselor was a licensed professional in these situations.  It sounds like they failed to treat the whole client and were focused mainly on the spiritual issue. 

Here is my personal philosophy regarding the selection of a counselor.  If I needed brain surgery, I would not see a chiropractor.  I could justify that my D.O. or my dentist is a doctor, but he certainly isn’t qualified to meet my need for brain surgery. If I am a Christian, and struggling with a spiritual issue, I would look for a counselor who I can trust to help me find answers that are based on the truth of God’s word.  As a Christian, I believe that God’s word, the Bible is God’s standard for living. As such, I can find principles in his word to live by and that help me find solutions to life’s problems. 

The climate and setting for a Christian counselor should be the same as any other, characterized by a sense of safety, unconditional positive regard, and respect for the clients’ value system.  The goal of therapy would not be to impose my values on the client or to get them to believe what I think is right, but to help them determine if they are living up to their own values and whether those beliefs are leading to behaviors that negatively affect their lives or relationships with others.

Here is an example: If a client presents with symptoms of depression, I am going to use every tool available in my toolbox to offer help, including referring the client for a medical check-up and possible medication. I’m going to use the therapeutic techniques and skills that we are learning in our coursework, as well as applying scriptural principles, and offering to pray with the client if they are open to do so.

A wide variety of spiritual interventions exist for Christian counselors to use when appropriate. These could include prayer, devotional meditation, Bible study, forgiveness therapy, therapist spiritual self-disclosure, confrontation of sin, values exploration, church involvement, confession, spiritual resources and media, pastoral consultation, and referrals. The American Association of Christian Counselors offers resources for additional training which includes areas such as biblical counseling, addiction and recovery, and stress and trauma, etc.

Just as a hospital or doctor’s office collects information about a person’s ethnic, cultural, and religious background, my intake interview forms would include this type of information.  If a hospital knew that a patient was a Jehovah’s Witness, they would know that the person is likely to refuse a blood transfusion for religious reasons. In the same way, if a client in counseling indicated that he/she is an atheist, I would know that it would likely be offensive to offer to pray for that client. This is demonstrating cultural competence and respectf for my client.

In Caring for People God’s Way, Clinton, Hart, and Ohlschlager, (2005) outlined seven traits that anchor what is done in Christian counseling today. It is scripturally anchored, meaning that we believe that the Scriptures are the food and water of spiritual life. It is spiritual forming, meaning the Spirit of God does the work through the counselor as the helper. It is short term (6 – 10 sessions), solution-focused, and strength-based. It allows clients to tell their stories, because God reveals himself to us through our life story. Finally, it is scientific, meaning that it is submitted to the rigors of research and empirical evidence in the same way as any other counseling theories or techniques.

Also, in our coursework, we have been exposed to the important role that spirituality plays in the recovery of clients. A meta-analysis was conducted by Worthington, Hook, Davis, and McDaniel (2011) on religiously accommodated treatments. The results showed that when counselors adapted religious treatments, their clients had reduced psychological symptoms, and the effects are at least as strong as with secular treatments. Religiously accommodated treatments produced more positive spiritual changes and the most consistently effective psychotherapies or couple treatments have been Christian-oriented cognitive and cognitive-behavioral therapies (which are empirically supported treatments or ESTs) and forgiveness therapies. Worthington’s REACH forgiveness model as well as the Christian PREP approach have been proven to be efficacious and have also been designated ESTs.

My final comments would be to express my sincerest disappointment regarding your own negative experiences with Christianity.  You mentioned experiencing a lot of guilt and anxiety as a result of the beliefs you were taught. If you were my client, I might explain to you that God’s word says that there are two types of guilt, false guilt, and true guilt.  True guilt brings about Godly sorrow and is intended to lead to repentance or a turning from sin. False guilt condemns and is shame-based. False guilt occurs when Satan continues to accuse a person of something for which he / she has already obtained forgiveness.

Sin separates us from God but Jesus came to pay the penalty for our sin so that we could receive forgiveness and be brought back into a right relationship with our creator God. When we truly accept His forgiveness we experience freedom to enjoy the abundant life that God intended for us. Afterward, He continues to work in our lives to grow and mature us and provide the help and direction we need for life. That doesn’t mean that we won’t experience difficult circumstances, because we live in a fallen world, but He provides the strength we need, and brings helpers in our lives to help us overcome life’s hardships (and trust me I have had my share). Innocent   My personal experience of faith doesn't cause me to feel anxious or continually guilty. For me Faith stands for Forsaking All I Trust Him. It means allowing God in the driver’s seat of my life, trusting Him to get me where he wants me to go, and just enjoying the journey.

Truthfully, I don't know how it all will come together, but I know without a doubt God placed this goal and dream on my heart, and I am just taking it one day at a time and seeing what doors He opens for me.



Clinton, T., Hart, A., & Ohlschlager,G. (2005) Caring for People God’s Way: Personal and Emotional Issues, Addictions, Grief, and Trauma. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.

Collins, G.R. (1993). The Biblical Basis of Christian Counseling for People Helpers. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress.

Delaney, H.D., Miller, W.R., & Bisono, A.M. (2007). Religiousity and spirituality among psychologists: A survey of clinician members of the American Psychological Association. Professional Psychology: Research & Practice, 38(5). 538-546.

Fourque, P., & Glachen, M. (2000). The impact of Christian counseling on survivors of sexual abuse. Counseling Psychology Quarterly,13, 201-220.

Garzon, F., Clinton, T, & Hawkins, R. (2011) Spirituality in Counseling. In The Popular Encyclopedia of Christian Counseling. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House.

Worthington, E.L., Jr.,  Hook, J.N., Davis, D.E., &  McDaniel,M. (2011). Religion and spirituality. Journal of Clinical Psychology: In Session, 67(4), 204-214.

Esther Perel: Rethinking infidelity ... a talk for anyone who has ever loved




Affairs are an active betrayal but they are also an expression of longing and loss. 

At the heart of an affair you will often find a longing and yearning for an emotional connection, for novelty, for freedom, for autonomy, for sexual intensity, a wish to recapture lost parts of ourselves, or an attempt to bring back vitality in the face of loss and tragedy. 


When we seek the gaze of another it isn’t always our partner that we are turning away from, but the person that we ourselves have become, and it isn’t so much that we are looking for another person but another self. 

Affairs usually follow recent losses … death of a parent, bad news at the Dr., a friend who went to soon.  They are an attempt to beat back deadness, and an antidote to death.  They beg to ask the questions “Is this it?” “Is there more?” “Will I ever feel that thing again?” 

Today in the west, most of us are gonna have 2 or 3 relationships or marriages and some of us are gonna do it with the same person.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Fear, Anxiety, Neuroticism, and Depression



Have you noticed this saying going around the internet ...

"The phrase 'do not be afraid' is written in the Bible 365 times. That's a daily reminder from God to live every day being fearless"?
Did you know is it not actually true?

1. The phrase "fear not" in the intended context is only used 80+ times


2. The phrase “fear not” is used in other contexts, but you wouldn’t want them to apply to you

3. Other word pairings that would be equal to “fear not” (“do not be afraid”, “do not fear”, “be not afraid”) is used 30+ times


What IS significant is that the command "do not fear" is given more than any other command in the Bible (84 times). This should tell us something ... and I think it means that God intended for us to live without fear.


I recently took one of those online personality tests utilizing a really cool tool call Five Labs. Five Labs analyzes the language of your Facebook posts to predict personality using a method based on the world's largest study of language and personality. The report said I am "disciplined, inventive, restless, analytical, and outgoing". Wow! All of these were traits seemed very positive, except for the restless one, that one made me think, but overall I agreed 100% Plus it told me which of my friends have similar characteristics.  


What was really interesting was that it said I also scored high on openness, NEUROTICISM (yep, that's me!), and conscientiousness.  Now two of these latter qualities seem very admirable.  But NEUROTICISM??  not so much !   


So my next step was to look up the definition of neuroticism and here's what I found ... 

Neuroticism is a fundamental personality trait in the study of psychology characterized by anxiety, fear, moodiness, worry, envy, frustration, jealousy, and loneliness.

Yikes!  There's that word "FEAR" again, added right next to ANXIETY, and WORRY, and FRUSTRATION and LONELINESS .... ugh ... makes me neurotic just thinking about it.  


Then, since I am currently taking a course in Abnormal Human Behavior, I was doing some research on Major Depressive Disorder. Major depression is a disabling condition that affects a person's family, work or school life, sleeping and eating habits, and health in general. Depression can run in families, but can also be triggered by a stressful life change or event.


I discovered that Major Depression Disorder is referred to as "the common cold" of mental health, but don't let that description fool you.  Major Depression is the most serious, and the most life-affecting, mental health problem that people suffer. It can occur not only in adults, but also in children and teenagers.  


What was really enlightening to me is the fact that depression can occur by itself or in combination with other mental disorders and it co-occurs with anxiety more than 50% of the time.  For this reason depression is often mis-diagnosed as an anxiety disorder. Depression also co-occurs in people who suffer with chronic pain, dementia in the elderly, and with drug or alcohol abuse.


Now, back to my original thoughts on conquering fear. Not everyone who has fear will have an anxiety disorder, but you can see how progressively fear can lead to more anxiety and an increased risk for depression.  Knowing the risks that fear can lead to isn't likely to deter us from acting out of fear. So what's the solution?   


The answer is knowing the truth of God's word.  Only when we know and put our faith and trust in what the word says, can we truly overcome fear. Something helpful would be to find a scripture that directly relates to the fear you have. The next step would be to commit that scripture to memory. Maybe you don't think you can memorize scripture, but you can write it down and carry it with you or put it in a prominent place where you will see it. Read it over and over and say it aloud.  The scripture will become a part of you and when you are tempted by fear, the Holy Spirit will bring the truth to your mind and calm your spirit.


I didn't say it would be easy, this habit takes practice.  It also takes practice noticing the things that prompt you to be fearful, worried, and anxious. (Some refer to this as "mindfulness".) But the more you incorporate this habit into your daily life, during your quiet time, or devotional time, the more you will find yourself living a life without fear.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Here are my notes from my textbook reading on the subject of family systems and substance abuse this week. 

Ackerman (1983) states that the "key to surviving in an alcoholic home is adaptation" (p.16). 

We know that one of the developmental tasks of children is to learn to adapt to their surroundings. Therefore, the adaptation to a dysfunctional, chemically dependent system will create dysfunctional behaviors in children as they interact with outside systems and as they grow into adulthood.

No matter what your belief about the etiology of addiction, - biological, sociological, psychological - it clearly passes from generation to generation.

Many addictive families share common characteristics.  Secrecy (disengagement), for example is extremely important. Denial of the problem is also paramount. Family members will go to extreme measures to keep the secret and to avoid dealing with the issue of alcohol / drug use.

Characteristics of addictive families: 
1. Hypervigilance - constant state of fear 
2. Lack of trust 
3. Inability to identify and express feelings 
4. Highly vulnerable to shame 
5. Afraid of abandonment 
6. Communication is angry, hostile, and critical 
7. Intense love or hate 
8. Totally in control or totally out of control 
9. Either enmeshed or disengaged 
10 Partners are so interrelated they are inseparable emotionally, psychologically, & sometimes physically from each other or from their drug of choice 
11. Behaviors center around "If you love me, you will (or will not) ...."  

Mal-adaptive behaviors: 
1. Being over-involved 
2. Obsessing 
3. Attempting to control another's behavior 
4. Trying to gain approval of others 
5. Making great sacrifices for others
6. Repeating the same pattern seen in family of origin 
7. Seeking out abusers to marry 
8. Either totally dependent or totally disregards feedback of others 
9. Drawn into relationships with needy individuals 
10. Shields the abusing partner from unpleasantness 
11. Pattern of preserving balance becomes a coping mechanism 
12. Enabling - a form of protection - anything done to protect the chemically dependent person from the consequences of his behavior  - results from attempting to adapt rather than confronting

Research supports that substance abuse in families impairs a child's physical, social, and psychological development in a way that may lead to an adult with mental illness or substance abuse issues (McCrady, Epstein, & Kahler, 2004).

Children in these families are at high risk for the development of a variety of stress-related disorders including conduct disorders, poor academic performance, and inattentiveness.
Children in substance-abusing families are socially immature, lack self-esteem and self-efficacy, and have deficits in social skills.  Furthermore, because these children live in chronic chaos and trauma, they might develop long-lasting emotional disturbances, antisocial personality disorders, or chemical dependence in later life. Children may become addicted to excitement or chaos and may develop inappropriate behaviors such as fire setting or, conversely, may become the "superresponsible" child in the family, taking on parental roles.

Factors that impact the parental chemical dependence on children: 
1. The sex of the abusing parent 
2. The sex of the child 
3. The length of time the parent has been actively abusing 
4. The extent of the abuse/ dependence on the chemical 

Four family structures of alcoholic families: 
1. Functional - abuse is connected to social or personal problems
2. Neurotic enmeshed - stereotypical -
3. Disintegrated - separation occurs between the abuser and other family members.
4. Absent - permanent separation between the chemically dependent person and the other members.

References
Ackerman, R.J. (1983). Children of alcoholics: A guide book for educators, therapists, and parents. Holmes Beach, FL: Learning Publications.

McCrady, B. S., Epstein, E.E., & Kahler, C.W. (2004). Alcoholics Anonymous and relapse prevention as maintenance strategies after conjoint behavioral alcohol treatment for men: 18 month outcomes. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 72(5), 870-878. 

Stevens, P., & Smith, R. (2013). Substance abuse counseling: Theory and practice (5th ed.). Boston: Pearson.


Friday, May 23, 2014

Introducing Baby Suggs








The Story of My Life by The Piano Guys

Don't Argue with Idiots

Saturday, October 12, 2013

The Best of Me by Nicholas Sparks


Quotes from The Best of Me .... 

"Life was messy. Always had been and always would be and that was just the way it was, so why bother complaining? You either did something about it or you didn’t, and then you lived with the choice you made.”

“It was a life, she eventually concluded, that had been lived in the middle ground, where contentment and love were found in the smallest details of people’s lives. It was a life of dignity and honor, not without sorrows yet fulfilling in a way that few experiences ever were.”

“Being together isn’t about a honeymoon. It’s about the real you and me. I want to wake up with you beside me in the mornings, I want to spend my evenings looking at you across the dinner table. I want to share every mundane detail of my day with you and hear every detail of yours. I want to laugh with you and fall asleep with you in my arms. Because you aren’t just someone I loved back then. You were my best friend, my best self, and I can’t imagine giving that up again… You might not understand but I gave you the best of me, and after you left nothing was ever the same.. "

“Everyone wanted to believe that endless love was possible. She’d believed in it once, too, back when she was eighteen…”

“Dawson, like Tuck, was one of those rare people who could love only once, and if anything, separation had only made his feelings grow stronger. Two days ago, that realization had been disconcerting, but she now understood that, for Dawson, there had been no other choice. Love, after all, always said more about those who felt it than it did about the ones they loved.”

“Don’t take my advice. Or anyone’s advice. Trust yourself. For good or for bad, happy or unhappy, it’s your life, and what you do with it has always been entirely up to you.”

“She turned to face him. ‘What were we thinking?’ ‘We weren’t,’ he said. ‘We were in love.’” 

I've recently become a fan of Nicholas Sparks.  All of his books have been New York Times bestsellers with 8 of them being released as movies ... Safe Haven, The Notebook, The Last Song, Dear John, A Walk to Remember, Message in a Bottle, Nights in Rodanthe, and one of my favorites ... The Lucky One. 

This book touched me deeply because there was a great life lesson for several of the characters as well as the reader.  It's a message about living with regrets.  The definition of regret is to feel sad, repentant, or disappointed over something that has happened or been done, especially a loss or missed opportunity.

In the story the two main characters, Dawson and Amanda, fall in love as teenagers.  But because her parents don't approve of him, they are soon separated.  

Dawson was the one who insisted that she let go of the relationship and follow her dreams, but he never married, never dated, just worked hard to make a good living.  

 Amanda moves away to college and ends up marrying a dentist, has 4 children, but suffers the pain of losing a child to cancer.  Her husband tries to drown his pain with alcohol which puts a huge strain on their relationship.   

The 2 young lovers are reunited after 20 yrs by the death of a mutual friend and soon come to realize they are still in love.  Next comes the question, how to move forward.  The author's words jumped out at me ... "people in pain don't always see things as clearly as they should".   That's so true! 

The man who died, who was a friend to both Dawson and Amanda, left some letters he had written to them.  It seems that he lived with some regrets of his own, but had some very good advice for each of them.  He writes "you've got to understand that you can't look back anymore.  It'll destroy you in the end ... Neither one of you can keep living with regret, because it drains the life right out of you ...".   

In contrast, loving someone and knowing that you are loved in return has the power to renew a person in a way you would never dream is possible. And when you truly love someone, you are willing to give them the best of you, and that's something that we should never regret.

The book doesn't end the way that you hope it will but it's a very good ending to the story that leaves the reader satisfied and filled with hope.   In Amanda's words to her son, the message of the story is summed up like this ... "You'll make mistakes and struggle like everyone, but when you're with the right person, you'll feel almost perfect joy, like you're the luckiest person who ever lived. ... you'll love and be loved ... and in the end, nothing else really matters."  

Thursday, October 3, 2013

New England 2013







Founded in 1722, Christ Church in the City of Boston, known to all as the Old North Church, is Boston’s oldest surviving church building and most visited historical site. The enduring fame of the Old North began on the evening of April 18, 1775, when the church sexton, Robert Newman, and Vestryman Capt. John Pulling, Jr. climbed the steeple and held high two lanterns as a signal from Paul Revere that the British were marching to Lexington and Concord by sea across the Charles River and not by land.  This fateful event ignited the American Revolution.


The Inn at Ellis River began life as the home of Alice and Andrew Harriman and their family. Harriman, a talented carpenter, built the farmhouse in 1893 along the banks of the Ellis River, and the road leading to the inn bears the family’s name. Nestled by a mountain stream at the edge of Jackson New Hampshire, a classic New England village, the Inn at Ellis River is your perfect choice for a weekend getaway, skiing or hiking vacation, or to celebrate any special occasion. 



The White Mountains are a mountain range covering about a quarter of the state of New Hampshire and a small portion of western Maine in the United States. Part of the northern Appalachian Mountains, they are the most rugged mountains in New England



Most of the area is public land, including the White Mountain National Forest as well as a number of state parks. Its most famous peak is Mount Washington, which at 6,288 feet (1,917 m) is the highest mountain in the Northeastern U.S. Mount Washington is one of a line of summits called the Presidential Range, many of which are named after U.S. presidents and other prominent Americans.



The Nubble Lighthouse is a lighthouse in Cape NeddickYorkMaine. In 1874 Congress appropriated $15,000 to build a light station at the "Nubble" and in 1879 construction began. Cape Neddick Light Station was dedicated by the U.S. Lighthouse Service and put into use in 1879. It is still in use today.


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Families are messy ...

Families are messy. I know this because I’ve lived in one all my life. Your family is probably messy too, although you probably don’t like to admit it.

I found out today that my Uncle Frank died 5 months ago. He was 93 and my father’s oldest brother. None of his family bothered to contact me or my brother. I found out by doing some research online. That makes me very sad. I loved my uncle Frank. I want to be angry at my father’s family, but I know it won’t do me or them any good. It would only serve to carry on the family legacy of bitterness.

 I have to force myself consciously to make a choice not to respond in anger because that’s really what my nature tells me to do. It’s just sad to think how the people who you think are supposed to love you, your family, could do something so hurtful to cause you further grief. I guess it’s because they are family that it makes it hurt so much. Something happened, I’m not really sure what it was when my father died years ago, that disappointed them and they’ve never told me what it was. I pity them really because they miss out on the really good things that my father passed on to his kids and grandkids. They rob themselves of the beauty of family connection.

 Most families prefer to keep their family issues a secret. That only perpetuates the problem. Families are only as dysfunctional as the secrets they keep. Healthy families talk about their problems and find solutions and love each other even when they are disappointed. Yes, families are messy, but individuals have a choice whether or not to continue to hurt those around them or bring healing. I choose healing.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Saturday, January 19, 2013

"Knowing death leads to reverence for life" by Charles L. Bridwell

It occurred to me that today's youngsters are so insulated from death that they don't comprehend its finality, its coldness, or its permanence. Yet, they are exposed to "make-believe" death at every turn on television and in movies. They're only getting half the picture; and only the "fantasy" part, at that.

Arnold Schwarzenegger argued yesterday that violent movies (for which he is famous) are not a cause of real-life gun violence. He said, "We have to separate out what is in the movies – which is pure entertainment – and what is out there in reality." Millions play "shoot-'em-up" video games and watch violent movies, but the vast majority of them don't grab a gun and kill people. They seem to fluidly move between reality and fantasy. So, even if movies and games have some detrimental influence on the mind of youths, there must be other causes.

Surely, those who kill innocent people are not lucid. Most are probably mentally ill to some degree. Perhaps the prescription drugs youngsters are given so frequently are a factor, too. But, I have to wonder if some are really disillusioned about the reality of death, based on a "fantasy" perception.

Many have never actually seen a dead human body. Some have never attended a funeral. Most have not lost siblings or parents to death. And while we wouldn't wish that on them, death is a natural part of living. In simpler times death was real, close, and sometimes suffocating. The dead were cleaned up and prepared for burial by friends and neighbors, often on the kitchen table. A wake was held in the home, followed shortly thereafter by a funeral. With no embalming or refrigeration, the smell of death was experienced and remembered. Youngsters may not have helped with preparations, but they were doubtless aware of death's realities.

Americans once raised, killed and prepared their own animals for food, and the kids saw it, or even participated. Many a lad was sent out to kill a chicken for a meal, under orders from his mother. They raised calves, lambs or pigs that were considered pets, and then later slaughtered. They understood that animals die to provide meat. Today's youngsters see meat in sterile, plastic-wrapped packages, and may be oblivious as to whether it came from a cow, hog, or chicken.

Those who hunt comprehend their impact on their prey. What hunter hasn't simultaneously felt exhilaration and a twinge of remorse when he made a good shot, then watched his quarry gasp its last breath to become his food? Only a thoughtless slob kills without feeling. Hunters aren't blood-thirsty, but the prey must die to be eaten. Ethical hunters usually develop a deep reverence for all life; both human and animal. Young hunters, at first thrilled by the chase, later mature into stewards and protectors of wildlife; and they contribute the majority of funds for wildlife conservation.

Native Americans lived close to the land, and often prayed before their hunts. They offered thanks to the deer, buffalo, duck, or fish for giving up its life so they might eat. In many ways, they were more spiritual than some "civilized" people. They were certainly more in-tune with the real "circle of life" so erroneously portrayed in movies like Bambi or The Lion King. Their lives were rooted in one reality; hunt or starve.

Is it possible that exposure to the death of humans and animals creates a reverence for life? I submit that it does. I grew up on a farm, helped butcher livestock, and have been a lifelong hunter. Yet, I have a deep love for wildlife, a reverence for their existence, and a desire to conserve and nurture them. I, too, have sought the blessings of the Creator before a hunt, and whispered my thanks to a dying animal for giving its life to become my sustenance. It's an enigma, but I've also cried unashamedly at the death of pet, and while holding the hand of a beloved relative on their death bed.

A rural upbringing also included a healthy exposure to birth, the springing forth of life with all its splendor, gore, and awe. Any birth is miraculous, whether it's an animal, bird, fish, or human. No witnesses remains unchanged; untouched by the miracle they beheld. The husband who attends his wife during birth empathizes with her near-death experience, and treasures the memory of welcoming his children into the light.

We can't all have a pastoral existence; nor will we likely raise and kill our own livestock, or actually depend on hunting for food. We probably won't be preparing our dead for burial. We may not all witness a birth. But I, for one, believe those events engender a deeper understanding of death, from which can spring a deep, lasting, and realistic reverence for life.

It might be illuminating to study mass shooters, to scrutinize their influences and experiences, their homes and families, and what drugs they were prescribed. Did they believe in God, or in right and wrong? Were they abused, neglected, or ignored? We might not unearth their penchant for death, but perhaps we could gain an insight into their unfeeling, deliberate, and horrible disregard for life.

*** * This article may be freely distributed, quoted, or reproduced with proper credit. clb

Sunday, December 23, 2012