Sunday, December 30, 2012


And the tasks of the season,
Both expected and unexpected,
Now jockey for soulspace,
Fighting in desperation to become real memories,
Like puppies fighting to nurse,
And the satisfied,
And the tired,
Mother does not bother to say,
"There is enough,"
For there is always enough -
And these baby memories will grow,
Into joy,
Into hope,
Into peace,
Into love.
We will say, "remember,"
And these full grown memories
Will bark,
Will yalp,
Will howl.

For in the resolution of Christmastide,
We no longer execute the tasks,
For they have been accomplished,
Rather, we accomplish the final task,
And we do not wait,
We do not toil,
We do the only thing left that we can possibly do.

We assign meaning;
It is the food of memories.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Provision and welcome: A prayer

Oh God, this road you have given us -
What joys, what sorrows;
A life of constant response;
Though mysterious, is not unknown;
Though unpredictable, is not random;
Though challenging, is the road of ease.
Oh God, this road you have given us.

We ask for all we need on this road;
When temptation seduces, give us wiser souls;
When anxiety threatens, give us peace-filled souls;
When anger sears, give us thoughtful minds;
When guilt burdens, give us grace-filled hearts;
When distraction points, give us steady eyes;
When despair oppresses, give us hopeful hands;
When doubts clouds, give us faithful hearts.
We ask for all we need on this road.

We ask for all we need on this road;
When we have plenty, let us share;
When we have success, let us celebrate;
When we are together, let us embrace;
When we have are songs, let us sing;
When we have stories, let us speak;
When we have talents, let us shine;
And when there is a new day, let us give thanks for every one of them;
We ask for all we need on this road.

We ask for all we need on this road;
For nothing is safe and little is good;
For your promises are true and your redemption sweet;
For pain is instructive and pleasure a balm;
For each loss sets a part of our soul into eternity;
For each experience is an act of creation;
For this road is short and we will walk it once;
For we must leave meaning to those who will come later;
We ask for all we need on this road.

Oh God, this road you have given us -
What joys, what sorrows;
A life of constant response;
Though mysterious, is not unknown;
Though unpredictable, is not random;
Though challenging, is the road of ease.
Oh God, this road you have given us,

Let us walk it in faith for we will soon come to see:
You were with us all along;
Heaven began before death, before life, before time;
And though this road ends,
You do not end
We do not end
And we come to learn that we were welcomed, always welcomed,
And that welcome never ends.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

GLAPA - Gun Liability And Portability Act

Although this is vastly incomplete, it is the first attempt at meaningful legislation that might place a more shared responsibility to gun violence. I am sharinig this in order to get all kinds of feedback. Please be positive whether your comments are supportive of something like this or critical.

I am not really sure what I think of this, but I am just brainstorming creative alternatives to the following:

1. Do nothing.
2. Ban guns.
3. Blame everyone else.

So, here goes:


1.      All guns purchased or owned must be registered.
2.      All ammunition purchased or owned must be registered.
3.      Gun possession without registered ownership is illegal.
4.      Gun owners must carry a gun liability insurance policy for every gun they own (similar to auto insurance).
5.      Gun owners must carry their proof of current insurance with them.
6.      Gun owners must disclose all “users” of the gun (like auto insurance).
7.      All disclosed “users” must follow all requirements of GLAPA.
8.      Gun owners must state the intended purpose for each gun owned (hunting, home safety, recreational range shooting etc)
9.      Gun owners must register each owned gun annually (like auto registration).
10.  Gun owners must pass a safety, storage, and use proficiency test on a regular basis (like auto drivers).
11.  Gun owners must renew their liability policy every six months (like auto insurance).
12.  Gun owners be assessed for the following risk factors for each renewal:
a.       Drug (legal, prescription, and illegal) and alcohol use
b.      Stress events (e.g. divorce, job change, etc)
c.       Mental health screening
d.      Criminal background
e.       Other known or suspected risk factors often associated with gun violence.
13.  Gun owners must submit to randomized drug tests in each 6 month period of coverage.
14.  Gun owners must have a complete liability policy in place for 48 hours prior to the purchase of a gun.
15.  No one may operate or handle a gun that is not registered to them or is not a designated “user” of that gun.  
1.      Gun owners must not transport guns and/or ammunition outside of the stated use (e.g. guns designated home safety should never leave the house).
2.      Guns owners who live in one state, but use their guns and/or in another state must carry policies in both states (like fishing or hunting licenses).
3.      Guns owners who will cross state lines with their guns must notify both states of their transport 48 hours prior to travel.
4.      No one may carry a gun into a designated gun free zone
1.      Law enforcement agents who have reasonable suspicion of any violation of GLAPA may use the same measures law enforcement are permitted to use as spelled out in the Alabama Immigration Law.
2.      Breaking GLAPA is a felony.
3.      Fraudulent claims are subject similar law on insurance fraud
4.      Federally recognized law enforcement and military are exempt from GLAPA while on duty.

1.      Victims of gun violence may make a claim against the policy of the gun owner.
2.      Victims must not:
a.       Be engaged in gang violence as a gang member or associate while being shot
b.      Be intentionally or willfully a victim
c.       The victim of suicide or suicide attempt
3.      Claims may include:
a.       medical care costs
b.      mental health care costs
c.       associated damage to property
d.      associated damages such as lost income etc.
e.       funeral costs
4.      The validity of claims will be determined by policy informed and by law (this will have to be very detailed so as to define fraud and prevent abuse).
5.      Claims must be related to the gun violence (pre-existing conditions will not be covered)

1.      Premiums will be set by the following:
a.       Relative risk each type of gun owned based on research
b.      Relative risk of the gun owner PLUS the risk of all disclosed “users” as per the bi-annual risk assessments
c.       Relative of the amount of ammunition owned, purchased or possessed.  
d.      Fair and customary estimated profits for the insuring company.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Social Narratives of Violence and Mental Health

The tragic mass killing at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown Connecticut is both heartbreaking and disturbing. We all ache and share the trauma of this unthinkable event. In the shock and grief, we are filled with questions. Some questions seek facts – what happened? Some questions seek the Divine – where was God? Some questions seek understanding – why did this happen?

In times of such pain and uncertainty we want answers sooner rather than later. We hope that perhaps answers will provide a little balm for the soul-wound we all feel. In our urgency to know, we run the risk of being satisfied with simple and incomplete answers.

Mental illness such a personality disorder and neurocognitive disorders such as Aspergers Syndrome (an Autism Spectrum Disorder) have been discussed extensively in media accounts of the Sandy Hook tragedy. In less formal conversations I have heard people defaulting to saying, “he was crazy.” It understandable to default to mental health answers in our urgency for the relief answers to impossible questions can provide, but we must also consider how these mental health social narratives impact the vast majority of people with mental illness or neurocognitive disorders who are not violent.

If we arrive at the simple conclusion that “he was crazy” or had a mental illness and go no further in our thinking or understanding, then what we have done is to situate anyone with a mental illness as potentially or likely dangerous. It will result in the social construction of stigma creating an environment ripe for discrimination, dismissal, and violence against people who fight daily against mental illness.

In order to help with the conversation about the intersection of violence and mental health, here are some facts:

· "…the vast majority of people who are violent do not suffer from mental illnesses”

(American Psychiatric Association, 1994)

· “People with mental illness are much more likely to be the victim of violence than the perpetrator.” (World Psychiatry. 2003 June; 2(2): 121–124)

In short, people who struggle against mental illness are not to be feared, but rather protected and advocated for. Here are a few tips on helping the conversation of mental health and violence.

1. Avoid simple answers that serve only to soothe our own anxieties, but do little by way of helping.

2. Put unhelpful words like “crazy” out of the social narratives of mass violence.

3. Engage in activities, organizations, and relationships in such a way that promotes the mental, emotional, social, and spiritual health of yourself and everyone around you.

Prayer in Schools

Student led and private student prayer is perfectly legal in 100% of schools in America. I encourage all students who pray to pray.
Pray on the bus to school. Pray between classes. Pray in the lunchroom. Pray before tests (probably already doing that).

Pray for your friends. Pray for those students who you think they think are better than you. Pray for your teachers - even the mean ones. Pray for that lonely student (and befriend her or him). Pray for the janitor. Pray for the hurried principal. Pray for the food service people.
Pray for the aching hearts, angry hearts, broken hearts. Pray for the scattered minds, frayed minds, distracted minds. Pray for the lonely souls, anxious souls, lost souls. Pray for the ostracized and traumatized. Pray for the oppressed and depressed. Pray for the confused and confounded. Pray for the rejected and neglected.
Just pray.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

An Open Letter to MFT and Counseling Masters Students: Mental Health and Violence

Dear Graduate MFTs and Counseling Students,

The news of the mass killings in Newton, CT at Sandy Hook Elementary School is heartbreaking and very disturbing. Everyone wants to know answers to the deluge of questions that arise in situations such as these. Some questions are simply factual - what happened? Other questions are theological - where was God? Still other questions are about understanding - why did this happen?

As we ourselves struggle with these and many other questions, I want to encourage you to think through this situation as a mental health professional. You are being trained in such a way that sets you apart from the rest of the population. You are gaining knowledge, insight, and more importantly, a way of understanding the world that is different that the average person. As a mental health professional, you have the responsibility to view events such as these through the lens of mental health.

Why does your understanding matter in situations like these? It matters because you are being trained not merely to treat people who struggle with their mental health, relational health, and spiritual health, but you are an advocate for truth when it comes to mental health.

The way in which stories such as these are reported are generally done without the understanding you have about mental health. Media reports events such as these in such a way as to capture a story. Sadly, the way in which the media capture stories often leaves so much overgeneralization completely uncontested. It could easily be understood from events such as these that mental illness is the cause of violence. There is simply no empirical evidence for such a claim. As a professional, you have the responsibility to speak about the truth of the link between mental health and violence.

Your voice matters in the social narrative of the mental health and violence. Mass violence is a complex issue that has complex origins that cannot and should not be pinned to mental health without a fuller and more robust understanding of how a mass killing could develop.

I would encourage you to think systemically about this event integrating biological, psychological, social, and theological antecedents. Take some time to understand this event. Get your facts straight and be able to talk accurately, coherently, and generously to others about this event and others like it. Defend those who struggle with mental health issues who have no violence in them (which is almost everyone) and help to reduce stigma.

Here are a couple links with some good information on mental health and violence.

Link 1

Link 2



Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Advent: The Cast

When God came in the flesh, the incarnation could have happened in many different ways. God chose a curious cast of players. Also chosen were some people not to be included.

The religious powers of the day did not even know about God's arrival. The Jewish leaders were oblivious. They were not included in the cast.

The political powers of the day only knew of the arrival of God indirectly through the Magi. And when the political powers learned of the arrival of God in the forma of a baby, there was not disbelief or dismissal - the was fear. Herod decided to kill all babies just in case he missed out killing the God-baby.

The two classes of the most privileged people were ignorant or afraid of the God-baby. Why would God not come to be incarnated in political or religious power and privilege? There is much to be I'd for the way God entered the world. The birth of Jesus anticipated the ministry of Jesus.

So, excluded we're the privileged, but who was included?

Mary is clearly central to the story - a woman. Gender redemption

Joseph was honorable, but of little means. Not enough money or influence to even get a hotel room. Economic redemption.

Shepherds were a motley bunch - a tolerated class. Class redemption.

Magi were not even believers in God. They were most certainly "other" when it came to religion. They were astrologers. And yet God talked to them in a way they understood. God came to them on their terms, but at the same time shared a message that challenged their terms. Religious redemption.

The Magi were also "other" ethnically. Ethnic reconciliation.

So, even in the way in which God came to humans as a human, the goal appears evident that privilege systems developed by humans were not the pathway God chose to use while at the same time, the was significant effort at indicating that the oppressed, the others, the dismissed were to have access. The ministry of Jesus began before his birth.

The cast of Advent anticipated the trajectory of followers over a couple thousand years and thousands of years to come.