Divine Mercy Can Save Our Children and Families

“Happy are those who reject the advice of evil people, who do not follow their example.”  Psalms 1:1

Good and evil are real, in forms both supernatural and material, inhabiting bodies and souls.  Nothing in the field Psychology that I have ever read matches the wisdom of this verse.  I do have a degree in counseling psychology, but I have nothing better in my counseling knowledge base, consisting of sophisticated theories to explain our soul sicknesses.   Too often these theories don’t go deep enough.

I recommend a book by a psychiatrist who wrote eloquently about evil people.  This psychiatrist is Dr. M. Scott Peck and the book is People of the Lie.

Neil Armstrong was a philosopher as well as an astronaut.  He wrote, “Mystery creates wonder and wonder is the basis of man’s desire to understand.”  This urge is ancient, deep in the questing heart of mankind.

Yet the youth of our country today are being led into a very dark hole by popular culture.  I counsel many of these sad youth as a working Christian psychotherapist.  I sit with forlorn face and cringe to listen to their utter emptiness quite often.  Some are worse off than others, wracked by traumas of abuse and violence.  So often they don’t know why they are even alive, and suicide too often is their solution to that emptiness

“Addicted to Mercy” is about a Christian approach to solve this massive social and spiritual illness.  It’s simply wrong to do nothing, to let our youth go off on the wrong path when we can do something about it.  Dear Reader, forgive my outrage, but it comes from compassion, which means to “feel with or for” another person.

I began this blog with families in mind.  St. John Paul II wrote a prayer for the family I hold very dear.

Lord God, from You every family in Heaven and on earth takes its name.  Father, You are love and life. Through Your Son, Jesus Christ … grant that every family on earth may become for each successive generation a true shrine of life and love.  Grant that Your grace may guide the thoughts and actions of husbands and wives for the good of their families … Grant that the young may find in the family solid support for their human dignity and for their growth in truth and love.

Please note his urgency; he well knew the dire trouble The Family was in then, and it’s so much worse now.  But it’s not hopeless!  We can make a difference by extending our compassion to the orphans of families so tortured by the evils of our day, which I know you are too well aware of and care deeply about.

I started this blog called “Addicted to Mercy” in 2017.  What happens to the blog from here I’m not exactly sure.  We’ll see, but I do know that right now I plan to keep writing it, for the time being.  May God’s Grace enter and remain in your life and soul, and direct to heaven oneday you and those you love.  Divine Mercy can save us all, if we just trust and pray.

 

 

Heart of the Play

In the play of our life our heart is mostly hidden, but it’s the most vulnerable actor on the stage.  We’re smart to protect our hearts.  Why should we risk getting it hurt?  Sometimes though we have to reveal what’s in our heart from time to time.  Most often to receive the relief it brings to finally unburden ourselves.

In Judaism and Christianity the word “heart” represents the core of a person.  We expose who we are when we open our heart to someone.  Can we trust that other person with our heart?  They might be appealing, attractive or charismatic enough to persuade us to.  We can be right about them or we can be wrong about them.

We tend to pick the wrong people to trust when we’re young.  We’re hungry for love and friendships but very unwise.  You get older you learn who you can trust.  It takes experience before you can find those people.

In the play, The Time of Your Life, by William Saroyan, the main character, Joe, is open-hearted to an unbelievable degree; also quick-tempered.  He’s wise and tough, generous and hard to figure out.  In the first scene Joe looks for best friend Tom, but doesn’t see him.  Tension builds, then Tom suddenly walks through the door.

Joe tells Tom sternly, “I want you to be around when I need you.”

“I won’t do it again,” Tom says.  Joe saved his life once and he owed Joe, not forever, but at that point in the time of his life.

At one point in my life I turned my life over to God.  When you hear someone say, “I gave my life to God,” it comes across as a cliche.  If somebody you know suggests that you “Give your life to God,” you might shrug, mumble, “Sure, sure,” and just forget it the next moment.  It may not make much impression on you then.

One thing about Jesus that really sticks when you read the New Testament is that he grabbed people’s attention with the sincerity from his heart, and I’ve always found these words of Jesus to be especially powerful:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

 

That’s bold by anyone’s standards.  Yet you can feel his heart in his pleading tone!  He had to know he wasn’t only speaking to those assembled.  He had to know he was speaking to you and me and everyone else.  Historical persons like Jesus know they have the world’s attention, not just for their place and time.  Jesus surely knew his words would reach us today, right here and right now.

I can vouch for Jesus that he’s trustworthy, that he has my back and yours.  But I guess it’s up to you what you do with that.  Please let me know, because I am interested.  May God’s Mercy follow you along your path in all the times of your life!

 

Thankful for Family

“We can be thankful for those we’ve loved, near and far, past and present, who’ve loved us back; thankful for family, whether through blood, choice or happenstance.” *

Mercy is the goodness of God, his free act of choosing us to receive his graces, leading us to His Rest, where we will find peace eternal.

I realize that any correct understanding of life comes from my Father and Creator, that any true wisdom always comes from Him.

What does the so-called wisdom of the world teach us?  It says, “Find your own way and you will be happy.”  Upon closer inspection, however, that advice will lead us to unhappiness.  True wisdom whispers, “Find your true way by stepping carefully, for there are many traps to step over before peace and freedom are found.”

Thank you, Father, for all I know or will know by Your Grace.  I accept fully that there are mysteries about this life I cannot understand.  I accept that there are things beyond the reach of my human intelligence.  This is ordained by Your Wisdom.

* Quoted from the Curtis cartoon strip, written and drawn by Ray Billingsley, published in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

 

Blade Runner, Meet Maria Faustina of Divine Mercy

I have two marvelous books to share with you.  The first is Philip K. Dick and Philosophy: Do Androids Have Kindred Spirits?  If you have visited this blog much, you know I love absurd humor, theology and philosophy.  Let me quote from the other book, by a woman who wrote only one, but a great one, nonetheless.  What she lacks in absurd humor, she makes up for in mystical revelations.  Her book is a diary called Divine Mercy in my Soul.

“Only love has meaning,” wrote this author, Maria Faustina Kowalska.  “It raises up our smallest actions into infinity.”  Let’s follow this logically: if her statement is true then love becomes the sine qua non, absolutely indispensable and essential for our lives to have meaning.  Maria’s diary, Divine Mercy in My Soul, was written for the sole purpose of introducing the world to the ocean of mercy that is open everyone who needs a miracle.  And who doesn’t need a miracle?  Can you think of anyone you know who may need one?

Her diary contains revelations. But wait, you may be philosophically skeptical.  Good!  It’s not philosophy, it’s hope in diary form.  Philosophy is a wonderful discipline, but it may not be what you need now.  You will not be disappointed spending a little time looking through it.

Phillip K. Dick is also a writer who does not disappoint.  He is the late great master of the philosophical sci-fi novel.  He penned the original story that the movie, “Blade Runner (1982)” is based on: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?  

“Blade Runner 2049 (2017),” the sequel, starts with the character K (Ryan Gosling), who moves the plot forward.  We learn that K is a blade runner, an officer who hunts and removes other rogue androids, called replicants.  In the course of his investigation K learns he might be human.  To discover the truth about himself becomes K’s burning quest, and ours.

K’s quest for meaning is also his quest for love.  For K, if a human, he could know love, give love, receive love.  His life then, through love, would be given meaning, as Maria Faustina reveals only love has the power to do.  Maria Faustina Kowalska and Phillip K. Dick cross paths here on this ground of truth.

K is ordered by his superior to find Richard Deckard (Harrison Ford) the hero of “Blade Runner.” Although Deckard is played by Ford as a crotchety hermit, love takes over his story also.  In the end, he finds his meaning when he begins his quest for someone he loves after K enters his life.  In his own earnest seeking K lights the way for another soul.

Maria Faustina, as a result of her visions, was compelled by Divine Mercy and Divine Love to write her book for nothing less than to shift the destiny of mankind toward eternity, infinity and our reason for being.  Mercy is the quality of the Supreme Being, God.  He is the original Giver of monumentally enormous generosity.  Mercy is the greatest thing about God for us to understand, before anything else, she proclaims.

Maria, a simple, cloistered nun, was asked to proclaim to us the greatest attribute of God, which is His mercy, and to reveal that every good thing we experience is a sign of His mercy.  All we have to do is to open the chest containing this everlasting treasure. 

Thanks for visiting this space and please come again soon.

 

 

EMOTIONAL SCARS FROM CHILDHOOD ARE NOT PERMANENT

EMOTIONAL SCARS FROM CHILDHOOD ARE NOT PERMANENT 

by Ron Houssaye, LMFT, SASA, licensed psychotherapist

No matter how devoted, few of our parents were able to respond perfectly to all of our needs. We all had some parts of our childhood that were tough, even perilous. Every child experiences a “primitive anxiety” that the world is not a safe place.

There’s a group that was created for adults with emotional scars from childhood, and those who are recovering attest that their scars are healing.  The group is Adult Children of Alcoholics.  I was a member for nine years and I can tell you that during those years I uncovered my own wounds, many of which are healed.

I no longer worry too much about what people think of me.  I no longer spend my weekends feeling I must go out and party to feel accepted.  Instead, I can stay in and read a good book, or go out to dinner with someone, then come home to my nest.  It’s because I now feel secure inside, so the outside doesn’t matter as much.  In short, I no longer fester in the wounds of my childhood.

As a therapist, I know that people enter relationships with the expectation that their partners will magically restore to them a feeling of wholeness.  For those of my readers who may be in that category, I recommend this book: Getting the Love You Want, by Dr. Harville Hendrix.  He explains The Imago, which is the psychic image inside each of us that leads us to our “perfect partner,” although that unconscious mental picture is merely a composite of the positive and negative characteristics of our parents.

Once in the relationship, when we are beyond the romance stage of about six months, the chickens come home to roost, so to speak, and we must confront the reality that our partner is flawed in many ways we did not see before.

Then often begins the call for healing inside both people in the relationship.  If they seek help and don’t blame each other for the psychic aches inside them they can make it.

So don’t give up when you realize your parents weren’t perfect.  None of ours were, that’s for sure.

The Confessions of an Anxious People-Pleaser

It’s hard to resist people-pleasing.  People pleasing brings rewards, perks, even material advantages sometimes.  I’m a people-pleaser and I’m going to be completely transparent.  Take a glance at that photo of me below.  I look like a people-pleaser, don’t I?  I know I do.  Look at that smile and you can tell right off.

May I take a stab at defining this?  People-pleasing is acting in specifically contrived ways so that others will like or approve of you.  You may relate to this or you may not, or you may know someone who people-pleases.  Maybe you are a reformed pleaser and escaped it somehow.  If so, good for you.

I am “in recovery” from people-pleasing.

I used to believe that my life was about becoming what others wanted me to be.  I craved acceptance at any cost.  I tried so hard to make you like me.  Today, if I sense someone doesn’t like me, do I obsess about it?  I wish I could say I didn’t.

I still do obsess, but I’ve stop obsessing as much.  I mean I don’t obsess about it as long.  I used to obsess days and days, even sometimes weeks and weeks when I sensed someone didn’t like what I did, or didn’t do, or didn’t like what I said, or didn’t say.  Now, thanks to a wonderful therapist, I only obsess hours and hours about it.  Okay, I am not fully cured of people pleasing.

I’m in partial remission, which means I’m in a training-wheels stage.  I don’t call my therapist between sessions to talk about the last session “in more detail.”  So I’ve made progress, which is good, because that drives therapists crazy, believe me.

Do my insides match my outsides now?  Not really.  I’m calm on the outside but nervous on the inside most of the time.

I’ve come a long though.  I used to believe the entire purpose of my life was to become the best replica of the person you wanted me to be.  Not true anymore.

My anxiety about whether you like me or not is still the same as it was, truth be told.  Sometimes it goes through the roof because now I refuse to pretend who I imagine the other person wants me to be.

Today it matters very much to just be who I am.  Writing helps me do that.  Who has the time time to play around with projecting images to others?  Let me know if you have any thoughts on this issue of people-pleasing.

“Why can’t I please them all the time? What’s wrong with me?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Boy Who Found Peace

Before we were born, God sent each of us a love letter.  He sent the letters to very private mailboxes deep in our hearts.  This is about how one boy discovered his letter from God.

Connor Kravitz had large brown eyes, which glistened like two small moons, as if searching for some magical country he believed existed somewhere.  Except for that, Connor was like any boy of twelve.  Yet he lacked one quality–connection. For some reason he was disconnected.  He felt alone in the world, cut off.  And he didn’t know why or how that had happened.

It was a mystery Connor very much wanted to solve.

Other children had a native buoyancy and cheerfulness.  He could see that quality in others at school.  It was an energy inside them which seemed to lift them up. He didn’t think he had that.

Connor was even different with respect to his family.  He lived with his parents and his older sister, Julia, in a state of anxious isolation.  It was a local joke that Connor walked around in a peculiar manner: that he floated ten feet off the ground, .

“That boy’s a real space cadet,” Dick Carter, a local store manager, would say.

His parents were just too busy arguing with each other most of the time to notice much about their son.  After school Connor just wandered about like a ghost.

All the sensations in the world were not enough to make Connor happy.  Nor did he have any peace within.  Sadly, he was hollow, and what he truly needed was peace inside, a peace that was personal and his own.

On Sundays the Kravitz family went to church, where Connor and Julia learned about Jesus.  Connor was curious about the Nazarene and wanted to know more.

Yet another problem Connor had was that he couldn’t seem to genuflect.  You were supposed to bend your right knee, but Connor always went down on his left knee.  He would order his right knee, “Go down, go down!”  but always the left one went down instead of the right one.  His teachers thought it was very odd and sort of funny.  It caused a few to snicker and Connor heard the snickering one time, but he tried to ignore it.

Connor remembered hearing that Jesus promised peace to the world someday, when he returned, because Jesus was the mighty “Prince of Peace.”  Jesus would then give each one a personal peace, special to each of person.  Connor sensed he had something in common with Jesus, which was that they were both odd, different, both set apart from the crowd.

Connor definitely wanted to know more about Christ, but he yearned for more than what his teachers were teaching him in catechism.  Connor was different in this also, that while other boys and girls were focused on having crushes, going to parties, playing sports, getting good grades or being rich someday, Connor didn’t care about any of those things.

Perhaps that was why he seemed to float “ten feet off the ground,” as Dick the storekeeper would joke.

Though Connor was an altar boy, it wasn’t enough for him, so he began to spend time in the Eucharist Chapel, where Jesus waited, in the form of a white host, contained in golden monstrance, inviting everyone to come and spend a holy hour with him.  His teachers encouraged Connor to make these holy hours a part of his life.  His parents didn’t mind, but Julia could not figure out what the point was.

Connor felt the Eucharist chapel was a very special place.  After about ten to twenty minutes sitting there he started to feel something wonderful.  It was a soft, lilting feeling.  He felt lifted up, but not physically.  It was entirely spiritual.

One day Connor was about to leave the chapel when the holy hour was up.  He heard a voice inside him say, “Stay with me awhile longer.”  He had the thought, “It must be Jesus speaking to me.”  It didn’t take him very long to realize and believe that it was Jesus speaking inside his heart.

Jesus had a soft, sweet voice, a low voice, a humble voice.  It wasn’t imperial, demanding or full of pomp.  Nor was it regal.  It was simply a very human voice.

“Stay with me awhile longer, Connor,” the voice repeated.

So Connor stayed in the chapel with Jesus for another twenty minutes.  He consciously gave the time away to Jesus, who protected him from his depression, his loneliness and his anxious isolation.  Connor finally knew a happy peace inside, which Jesus gave him.  Connor felt very gratified to have been given so special a gift.

Connor came to see, over time, that His Divine Friend was bigger than any problem he had, bigger than his loneliness and isolation, than his parents’ torturous marital problems, than his grandmother’s sulking sadness.  These personal problems were secret, mostly.  No one in the community was smart enough to even suspect that those forces had silently oppressed Connor and had nearly suffocated his spirit.  However, Jesus knew.  Gentle Jesus had always known.

In fact, Connor knew that Jesus was even bigger than all the hatred and violence and alienation in the world, and in so many people, too.  Therefore, Connor prayed for all of them that they would discover real personal peace from Jesus, as he had.

Next and best of all was the private heart of love Jesus had begun to create inside of Connor, along with his personal peace.  Eventually, Connor’s childhood ended, as it does for all of us, and he became a man. Yet, he never forgot the core of this amazing experience as a child.

My Canadian Vacation

From “Oh Canada Eh!” dinner show, Niagra Falls, Ontario

I know I risk putting my readers to sleep writing about my vacation.  Please, should I bore you, write and let me know.  I will come to your home and personally apologize.  Or, since the demands of my counseling practice may prevent such a visit, I will send you an apology via email instead.

Let me begin with “Oh Canada Eh!” It is Canada’s longest running dinner musical and it is squeaky clean.  It’s a high-energy show, too, featuring over 70 songs, with colorful characters from Canadian Legend, most memorably a stalwart, virtuous mountie, a frontiersman, along with wholesome fair damsels and frisky barmaids.

Here’s the truly amazing part of our experience.  Both myself and my lovely wife each suddenly became part of the show!

I was invited up when one golden-haired maiden walked from her place on stage into the audience, right up to our table and, smiling, she faced me.  She wanted me to waltz with her, as the music began to swell.  I had a choice: freeze, and thereby chicken out, or stand up and accept her invitation.  Thankfully, I managed to call up the guts to accept.  I stood to my feet and we began to waltz.  I was so glad for those ballroom dancing classes I had taken, over fifteen years before.

Arleen, my extremely understanding wife, didn’t grimace with ill humor, as some wives would have.  Perhaps she was as stunned as I.  But how could I resist such an offer, to be a ham actor one more time?

It had been several years since I was on a theatrical stage.  Specifically, it was the winter of 2011.  I was cast in a play called “Someone to Watch Over Me,” in which I played an Oxford Professor of Old English Studies, who was kidnapped off the streets of Lebanon, then chained and thrown into prison.  Needless to say, I didn’t resist this opportunity.  I ordered the ham, which was me.

It was only for less than a minute that we danced under the soft spotlight.  I then sat down and heard the people applauding us.  Just think if I had ordered chicken instead of ham!

Several minutes passed.  From the stage a mountie strode down from his place and faced Arleen, just as the maid had done to me.  He took her hand.  He then sang to her in a manly baritone voice, swept her off of her feet, then returned to his fantasy life onstage.  We knew this wonderful cast had concocted this turn of events: nor would it have been right if Arleen had not been given her moment in the spotlight.

Only one of our Canadian vacation experiences was more memorable.  It was the special time we had with our Canadian friends, Carol and Wayne, whom we had met on a Princess Cruise some years before.  Were were with them for two full days.  They graciously gave us a personal tour of Toronto, taking us first to High Park and then to Toronto Islands, a chain of islands just a ferry ride away from the mainland.  It was windy but pleasant the day we visited.  Just talking intimately with our friends, on a wood table at the Toronto Islands, was the best my memories hold of that trip.

Now let me briefly share with you the excitement of the Hornblower boat ride, which took us and fifty other people right up to the edge of Niagra Falls itself.  I ventured with my Samsung Galaxy S8 camera to “the edge of doom” and I survived, not really risking life and limb to capture the rush and surge of the falls close up on my device.  It was a very sturdy craft, to be sure, and staffed with a fine crew of mates, both women and men.

So what did Canadians think of America at the time we were there in the summer of 2018?  Not anything different than what they’d always thought—we  were their “good neighbors,” tariffs or no tariffs.  Our friends had to admit they were scratching their heads about what was coming out of Washington at that time, but we avoided politics as much as possible.

I loved what I’d read that the Canadian actor, Ryan Gosling, said about American-Canadian relations: “Americans are starting to notice that there is a place called Canada, that we’re not just America’s hat.”  Ryan was hard-pressed to explain to the interviewer why he was the current mega-heartthrob, considered by many American women as “the perfect boyfriend.” It remains something less than a deep mystery.

So ends my first vacation tale.  Perhaps we will visit Europe again soon and I’ll write about that.  For now, please let me know what did not bore you about this post.  I would love to hear from you.

 

 

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Having Compassion for Oneself

Self-compassion is giving yourself kindness, empathy, understanding and forgiveness.  Psychologist Kristen Neff has touched many with her research on self-compassion.  After learning of her work, I was moved to feature self-compassion on this blog.  I hope you find what follows encouraging for you, or for someone you know who needs it.

Imagine an elderly woman walking along any street in America.  You can’t see her face because her head is bowed over a can of cold beans.  The beans are her meal today.  You may feel her need.  You may imagine the tiny room she lives in, the crummy neighborhood, the crime there, and the danger she lives with, day in and day out.  Perhaps you feel for her.

Now think of the need you have inside.  You know it’s there, but you may not have really looked at it before.  Does it have a name?  You may have expected others in your life to meet your need.  They may have failed you.  They may have ignored or neglected you, or forgotten you.

But you did not deserve to be ignored.  Yet, that may have happened.

What have you always needed?  What is it you need right now?  It may be to feel secure inside, to like yourself, to have good friends, to have a more comfortable life, a better job, or to feel you belong, to feel you are worthy of love, to feel you fit in, or to have some of the good things life has to offer, for you and for your children and family.

Or, you may have stopped caring, or almost stopped caring.

Right now try to talk to yourself with kindness.  You can do this silently or out loud.  Tell yourself that you are worth it, worth being loved and cared for–respected, even honored.  If the dear lady in the photo is worth it, my friend, so are you.

Peace.

(No copyright infringement of this photo is intended.)

 

Addiction’s Ripple Effect on Family Members

Yes, Mercy for Our Families main mission is supporting family members affected by addiction in the family. I come from such a family, so I’ve been there. My Dad was an alcoholic in recovery. My family suffered as yours may suffer, in all the ways we can suffer. And the addiction that you suffer from can be anything.

Addiction is defined as “any related, compulsive behavior which interferes with normal living and causes severe stress on family, friends, loved ones and one’s work environment.”

You can be addicted to a drug, a liquid or an activity, like video games or other games. Or it could be social media, your cell phone, spending, gambling, sex and romance or something else. The board is open.

Yes, the board is open. Here I’m talking about intense games, such as chess. You can be addicted to that “royal game,” which I “played” for over thirty years. Before I quit it had become an obsession, which centered, like all addictions, in the brain.

You can easily spot someone who is addiction if you know what to look for. Look for the following:

Loss of control
Compulsion
Continued use despite serious negative consequences
Obsessed thinking about the substance or activity

Addictions reveal themselves when the victims of them try to hide what are impossible to hide, which are obsessive-compulsive behaviors, such as:

Staying up all night occupied with the addiction
Doing it multiple times during the day or night
It’s the main thing they enjoy doing, far beyond others
Person is unable to limit how much time they give to it

If you are a family member of a person with an addiction, you may have once thought there was nothing wrong, then suddenly or gradually you realize there is something very wrong with your loved one. You then became stressed and obsessed with their behavior. That is what we call “the family disease of addiction.”

If you see signs of this in yourself, don’t hesitate to get help. Once you get that help, you will be in a better position to help your addicted loved one.

Mercy is God’s Gift to all who are in trouble. Seek out someone who can help you. Pray about it, even if you’re new at praying. That person sent to help you will appear. He or she might be your pastor, a therapist or someone you meet in the grocery line. Grace and Mercy will find you.

Please note: quoted passages from this blogpost are by Chris Tuell, Ed.D., Clinical Director of Addiction Services, Linder Center of Hope, Dept. of Psychiatry of the University of Cincinnati.