Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Should you pursue a PhD?

I am a PhD candidate in Church History/Theology. I am in my fourth year of study. I have 69,000 words out of 80,000 written on my thesis. I am attending a British university where the PhD is 100% research, no classes.

Many of my masters-graduated friends ask me if they should pursue the terminal degree. This is my answer to all.

If you can do the following: you can make it.

1. Study.  I mean study for hours a day.

2. Limit your social obligations. Here it is New Year's Eve and I am in my room with the door locked. I am not partying. You will have to give up many, many parties, events, that you once attended.

3. Rewrite. I remember vaguely the days of roughdraft-edit-final draft. Any paper or chapter that is a finished project has gone through at least eight drafts, usually more.

4. Take criticism. If your advisor/supervisor is doing their job, they will rip your work to pieces in the beginning. You have to be able to take it.

5.  Be disciplined. When writing a thesis/dissertation, you have to set your own deadlines. No one will make you sit your butt in the chair and type except you.

6. Be humble. Education is a long lesson in humility. If you think you know everything you need to know and just need the letters at the end of your name, forget it. You won't make it past the first semester.  The more you know, the more you will realize what you do not know.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Ordinary 22 Proper 22 Matthew 7:13-14 The Two Paths Roads

This passage is a short saying that people could easily remember. Jesus often used these. He speaks in opposites, in a parallel way. The text may be aligned in the following way.
NIV
Enter through the narrow gate
For                                                                              But
wide is the gate                                                        small is the gate
and broad is the road                                               and narrow is the road
 that leads                                                                  that leads
 to destruction,                                                          to life
 and may enter                                                          and only a few
 through it                                                                  find it
NRSV
For                                                                              For
the gate is wide                                                         gate is narrow
that leads                                                                   that leads
to destruction                                                            to life

road is easy                                                                road is hard
So much advice about life has to do with choosing one's path or road or way.  
How do we know which is the right or best way? Often we choose based upon the way that most people are going. Have you ever arrived at an appointment or event and did not know exactly where to go? You followed the crowd and hopefully arrived at the right place. However, this is not the direction that Jesus gives. The right way is the narrow gate, the one not easily found; most people do not even bother to look. It is rough, the road is hard. 
“For it is one thing to see the Land of Peace from a wooded ridge, and yet another to walk the road that leads to it.”  Augustine of Hippo

The Road Not Taken

BY Robert Frost
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Easter 3 Walk to Emmaus Luke 24:13-49

A favorite passage for many reasons. And so very easy to preach. But sometimes the easy passages to preach become difficult as you have preached them so many times. Perhaps this will give you a few insights.

1. They did not recognize him. Why not? Did he look different? Did he sound different? Or was it simply because, well, he died! Who expects the person they saw die 3 days ago to be walking next to them?

2. The Scriptures revealed to them who he was. The Gospels are careful to point out that Jesus as Messiah was a fulfillment of the prophecies.

3. They recognized him at the Table. Note he didn't ask if they believed before they sat down or even before he broke the bread. My tradition, Wesleyan, believes in an open table. We do not believe that there is any requirement for sharing the Lord's Supper except for a desire to know Jesus.

4. This passage may be used as a lens in which to interpret all of Scripture.
    a. We come with limited knowledge
    b. The spirit of Christ reveals the Scriptures to us.
    c. The Spirit reveals His Word at the Table.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Last Epiphany Year A Transfiguration Sunday Matthew 17:1-9 Exodus 24:12-18

There are two places in the Gospels where the disciples experience the full glory of Jesus. This is one; the other is the resurrection.

Jesus, on the mountain, like Moses in Exodus 24, encounters the glory of the father. The people cannot bear to witness Moses' face so he wears a veil. But the disciples look on the face of Jesus during the encounter and after. Jesus has revealed the power and presence of God in the flesh, something Moses could not do. Yet here we find Moses again!

Some questions that arise from this passage:

1. How did Peter know it was Moses and Elijah? Jews did not carve statues of their leaders nor did they paint pictures of him. The only thing he could base their identity on was the prophecies.

2. Why did Peter want to build tabernacles for the three? Did he think he could keep them right there forever?

3. Why did Jesus only let three of his disciples view this and not the 12?

4. Why were the disciples afraid when the voice said This is my beloved son. Was it particularly loud? How did they know it was God's voice? Did God's voice sound anything like Jesus' voice?

5. Why did Jesus tell them not to tell anyone about this incident?


Monday, February 3, 2014

Reflections on celebrity death [Philip Seymour Hoffman] and Superbowl Sunday

Why does social media light up when one famous person is found dead of an overdose of illegal drugs but doesn't seem to say anything about the millions dying everyday from this epidemic? 

Why does social media light up with complaints about lack of good commercials and bad defense over the superbowl but says little about the drug and human trafficking problems tied up with super sporting events in this country?

Where are our priorities? Drugs kill people every single day; not just users but innocent victims around the users. 

Speak out against drug use and encourage those you know with addiction to get help. I highly recommend 12 step programs. They are free and they are everywhere. Do a simple google search for Alcoholics Anonymous in your area. A Christian twelve stop recovery program is called Celebrate Recovery and it is now in most cities. Once again, these programs are 100% free.


Thursday, October 10, 2013

6 simple ways to break stigma of seeking psychotherapy

1.  Be open and honest about your own issues. Just about everyone who knows me knows that I struggle with depression. I am open about my own 13 years of therapy.

2. When your children struggle with anxiety or depression, take them to a therapist. Let them know early on that this is a normal, accepted thing to do.

3.  Talk positively about psychiatry and psychology. The words, "head shrinking" or even "shrink" are negative and derogatory. Stop using them.

4.  Refuse to use the word, "crazy" to describe someone with mental illness. Correct your children or family members when they do. "That person struggles, for everyone struggles with something," is a good reply.

5. Be thankful for medical research that has provided us with antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs, and psychotropics. Once human beings did not have the options we do today.

6. Watch the movies, "A Beautiful Mind," or "Lars and the Real Girl." They both tell deep, thought-provoking stories that give insight into mental disorders. "A Beautiful Mind" is especially well done at showing the distorted view of reality a person faces with a mental disorder or illness. The physician character in "Lars and the Real Girl" is beyond amazing.


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

How to be a friend to someone suffering from depression

I am not a medical professional and I am not giving medical advice. Please see a health professional if you think you are depressed. I am simply someone who has fought depression for 13 years.

1. Practice empathy. Even if you have never been depressed, most likely you have felt down. Imagine yourself in the other person's place. Imagine a sadness that just doesn't leave. Imagine sorrow that can't be cured by a funny movie. Try to understand. Just try.

2. Sometimes your friend might want to be alone. Do not take this personally.

3. The look on his/her face is not about you. So many times I have been accused of being angry at upset at someone simply because my face refuses to show anything but sorrow.

4. Encourage your friend to get help. This can be tricky. Try, "You deserve to live a better life and therapy can help you do that," rather than, "You are seriously screwed, you need a shrink." 

But know that you cannot make anyone do anything. It will not help if you go to a therapy session with them unless you are asked by the therapist. Offer to drive the person to therapy, yes. Offer to help them find a therapist. Offer to pick them up, yes. But you can't do it for them. 

5. Depression manifests itself in multiple ways. Sometimes my depression is not sadness, but lack of 'put up with crap' energy. Often it simply means I need more sleep. Sometimes I just feel extremely irritable. Your friend may have some or all of these symptoms if they are depressed.

6. You cannot fix them. Depression is an illness. It is not an attitude or a sign of laziness. Do not tell them to just make up their mind to be happy. This cannot be done.

7. If they threaten suicide, take them seriously. If you think they are going to hurt themselves, call 911. They may get mad, they may not be your friend anymore, but what is more important, that your friend lives, or that they speak to you?