But What do you MEAN??

Books are not meant to be believed, but to be subjected to inquiry. When we consider a book, we mustn’t ask ourselves what it says but what it means. -Umberto Eco

The quote above can lead some to say, “That’s foolish! It says what it means, and means what it says!”

A clue to the challenge of the quote is that meaning is more tied to value than to facts. People commonly give facts to support certain values. But facts alone don’t reveal these values commonly. That’s because value is part of the affective part of our being, rather than cognitive or behavioral Also, part of the affective part of ourselves is our emotions. In fact, it is hard to draw clear boundaries between emotions and values— they are intertwined.

If, then, one wants to know what something means to another, listen to emotion or feeling words.  Take the following example.

John says, “My uncle died yesterday.”

Now you know the facts, but what does that really MEAN to John?  You can only guess. Rather than guessing, you could ask, “Oh my… you does that make you feel?”

John could give many different responses.

  • “I’m so very sad. He was like a second father to me.”
  • “Happy! He hurt everyone he knew. I’m glad he’s gone.”
  • “I feel lost. He was paying for my schooling. What do I do now?”
  • “Angry! He was supposed to take care of my auntie. Instead, he drank himself to death.”
  • “I don’t know. I don’t feel much of anything. I barely knew him.”

When we talk to people… we need to focus less on facts than meaning.




A Healthy Faith?

In Pastoral Care and Pastoral Counseling, it is generally believed that the faith of the individual can be a vital part of the healing process. This belief is built from a more fundamental assumption that faith is healthy. Yet, what is faith?

One of the best works I have seen on faith was written close to 40 years ago. Wayne E. Oates, a Christian Psychologist (and writer and seminary professor) wrote a book in 1973 called The Psychology of Religion. The final chapter (19) is titled “Toward a Psychology of Faith.” As a Christian, Oates valued faith. However, as a Christian Psychologist, he understood that some understandings of “faith” (both inside and outside of faith communities) may be psychologically destructive. So Oates sought to find a good understanding of the Biblical view of faith, informed by psychology, while avoiding unhealthy faith (or unhealthy things that are called faith by some).

  • Unhealthy Faith involves allegiance to the irrational
  • Unhealthy Faith involves trust without demonstrated trustworthiness
  • Unhealthy Faith is absence of, or denial of, doubt

The following is an excerpt from the chapter, under the subheading of “Faith as an Act of Surrender.” The chapter looks at faith in terms of faith in God, but also faith in other relationships. Thus it doesn’t look simply at “saving faith” but healthy faith in its many forms.

… faith involves a surrender of one’s childish sense of omnipotence, that is, an acute sense of total responsibility for everything other people do. One sees it in clinicians of every kind— doctors, ministers, social workers, psychologists, and so on— who feel themselves a failure unless they can be everything and totally succeed with persons in their care. One sees it in parents who accept total responsibility for the thoughts, values, and acts of their children. Faith as an act of surrender in such situations can be expressed in the account of a World War II solder who volunteered for combat without his father’s explicit approval. Upon sailing for Europe, his father said to him, “Son, your mother and I have done all for you we can. You’re on your own now. You have made your bed and you will just have to lie in it.” Then nearly thirty years later he says, “I thought he was angry, then. But being a father now, I can see he was telling me that he cared but that there were limits beyond which he could not go in doing so.” He exercised an act of surrender, or a life of faith, in order to survive the pain, the anxiety, and the helplessness of seeing his son in war.

Yet surrender is not a once-for-all giving up of one’s need to be totally responsible and all-powerful. It is a daily, twenty-four-hour-at-a-time exercise of faith. It must be done again and again, not as a work of merit but as a means of spiritual survival as a finite self in one’s own right before God. Without this faith, all sorts of substitutes— drugs, alcohol, work— become the insulation of terror, the inducers of sleep.


Grief: One Woman's Perspective

This is my sincere wish and prayer for all bereaved parents this holiday season – and all through the years that it takes to integrate such a huge loss into the fabric of our lives – that more gentleness and caring would be shared with those who have lost someone especially dear, that more gladness and warmth would be unconditionally shared, that time would be time taken amidst the daily and holiday bustle to recognize the depth of grief behind the mask and the silence of the face, and that a hand of genuine and continued friendship and love would grasp those who are hurting and who so badly need comfort. Sometimes those who deeply grieve aren’t transparent with their grief (for wide and varied reasons of their own); sometimes people around those who deeply grieve don’t take the time to notice or don’t take the time to do anything…

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When is it NOT okay to say “God is Good”?

People of faith often know the right thing but still end up saying the wrong thing. Commonly, bumper sticker phrases like “It must be God’s will,” “Everything will work out,” and “I’m sure it’s for the best” pepper our conversations with people struggling. I would like to think that we know better than to say this, but somehow fall into meaningless aphorisms when we under pressure to give a word of wisdom.

A good example of this is the bumper sticker phrase “God is Good, All the Time.” Rather than get into the question of whether God IS indeed always good (from our perspective), let’s consider if there are times when the phrase is not useful in conversation. Try the following Blog Post for this question:

The preacher shouted out, “GOD IS GOOD!” And the congregation responded, “ALL THE TIME!” At which point the choir picked up it’s cue:

God is good all the time
He put a song of praise in this heart of mine
God is good all the time
Through the darkest night, His light will shine
God is good, God is good all the time

But Christians have developed the bad habit of saying “God is good” in a way that suggests that sometimes God is not good. This is because, whether we like it or not, some elements of the prosperity gospel has seeped into the wider Christian subculture.

The rest of the article is HERE

Article on Crisis Care with Theological Perspective

Based on a recent staff meeting at Bukal Life Care, it was decided that we would use our website (www.bukallife.org) for useful organizational information (as well as our Facebook Group). We would use our Blog here for useful information in the areas of Life Care, Chaplaincy, CPE, and so forth. With that in mind, attached is a recent article on Crisis Care. The article is actually in “Bukal Life Journal” (2012 edition). The entire e-journal is located HERE.

William & Viola Farrell Symposia, Oct 2012

This October we had our 2nd annual symposium on Pastoral Care & Counseling, led by Dr. Cesar Espineda. This year we decided to have several small seminars rather than one big seminar. Thus we had
-Central Philippines University, Iloilo.
-Philippine Baptist Theological Seminary, Baguio City
-University of the Cordilleras, Baguio City
-Central Methodist Church, Manila
The groups ranged from 30-60 attendants.Additionally, Doc Cesar was able to meet with various chapters of the CPSP-Philippines. He was vital in getting these chapters jump-started. Exciting things are happening, and we are looking forward to this new chapter in pastoral supervision and chaplaincy in the Philippines.

Photos at the top:
Left: Dr. Espineda with Dr. Sim Dang-Awan, President of BOT of Bukal Life Care.
Middle: Seminar at CPU in Iloilo
Right: At Seminar in Baguio City.