Rats, I’m sick!!!

Got a Springtime cold, and it’s a whopper! It started coming on Sunday morning during the message. It’s rare that the congregation and I get sick at the same time. While I was making them sick preaching, I got sick. Sounds only fair.

I was home on Monday and Tuesday, except that Tuesday evening I helped lead DivorceCare. On Wednesday I went into the office midmorning and stayed until I went to teach my evening course at Eastern Nazarene College. My voice gave out 30 minutes into the four hour course. It was a long night!!! And now it’s early Thursday morning, and I can’t sleep with my stuffy head and sore throat.

On Monday and Tuesday I began reading Anne Lamott’s Plan B and Freud: Inventor of the Modern Mind.I enjoy Lamott because she does a great job expressing how uneven the life of Christ-following is. She is about as far away from my fundamentalist upbringing as anyone could be. At times she makes me wonder if we are actually in the same camp. But she says things that makes me think she understands how frustrating this life of faith can be and how exasperated I can be – will I ever get it right? She expresses brokenness in the most creative of ways.

She writes of her mother this way.

I’ve spent my whole life trying to get over having had Nikki for a mother, and I have to say that from day one after she died, I liked haivng a dead mother much more than having an impossible one…I prayed to forgive her but didn’t – for staying in a fever dream of a marriage, for fanatically pushing her children to achieve, for letting herself go from great beauty to hugely overweight woman in dowdy clothes and sloppy mask makeup. It wasn’t black and white. I really loved her, and took great care of her, and was proud of some heroic things she had done with her life. She had put herself through law school, fought the great good fights for justice and civil rights, marched against the Vietnam war. But she was like someone who had broken my leg, and my leg healed badly, and I would limp forever. I couldn’t pretend she hadn’t done extensive damage – that’s called denial. But I wanted to dance anyway, even with a limp. I know forgiveness is a component of freedom, yet I couldn’t, even after she died, grant her amnesty. Forgiveness means it finally becomes unimportant that you hit back. You’re done. It doesn’t necessarily mean you want to have lunch with this person. If you keep hitting back, you stay trapped in the nightmare-which is a tiny problem with our Israeli and Palestinian friends. And I guess I wasn’t done.

Again she writes:

Grace means you’re in a different universe from where you had been stuck, when you had absolutely no way to get there on your own.

And again:

One secret of life is that the reason life works at all is that not everyone in your tribe is nuts on the same day. Another is that laughter is carbonated holiness.

She curses a bit, and I don’t mean using the word “darn.” John MacArthur she isn’t. And the Billy Graham organization isn’t going to invite her to speak at a conference. (Though a lot of the BG people will have her book in their briefcases, safely hidden under their big Bibles). When “ten-easy-steps-Christianity” gets a bit too much for me and the Christian speaking circuit is filled with impossibly holy people who for some reason seem terribly oppressed to me, Anne Lamott is a good antidote.

She has a new book just out titled Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith. I have put a hold onto it through the library so at some point here they’ll have it for me.

As to the book of Freud, I picked it up because I do some teaching on Freud in my class on philosophy. Both Freud and Darwin dominate the landscape of twentieth century thought. Darwin at the level of biology and Freud at the level of the “spiritual” sought to give an explanation of mankind without a God hypothesis. And by and large our culture has bought in. Freud called religion the universal neurosis of mankind. In other words, religion makes people sick. But we have a love-hate relationship with Freud and increasingly many of his ideas are passing from the scene. Publisher’s Weekly reviews the book this way: 

Looking closely at Freud’s approach to specific patients and revisiting some of his lesser-known publications (including a vigorous campaign in support of cocaine as a mood-enhancer and anesthetic), Kramer finds in this irreverent biography a man who “displayed bad character in the service of bad science.” Kramer’s task is a difficult one, in large part because, in anticipation of his own legacy, Freud began destroying his personal documents at an early age. It’s this kind of hubris (“as for the biographers … we have no desire to make it too easy for them”) which enabled him to hide the fact that he was “more devious and less original than he made himself out to be;” it also makes him a fascinating subject. Kramer is careful to give Freud’s major contributions-including the recognition that symptoms can “reveal hints of thoughts and feelings pushed out of awareness” and that psychoanalysis’s unfettered exploration of the subconscious can offer patients a haven for exploring otherwise repressed thoughts-their due. But he is unsparing in his assessment of Freud’s errors in judgment: “there is a disturbing consistency in Freud’s indifference to inconvenient facts. … he bullied his patients and misrepresented his results.”

Peter Kramer is best known for his book Listening to Prozac. He is a psychiatrist in Providence, RI, ready to take on some of the sacred cows of the mental health profession.

By the way, Ben, my youngest son, is going to accept the offer from the Univ of California-Santa Barbara to do his PhD work in material sciences. He showed me a picture of his campus and pointed out his lab building, which is directly by the seashore. He can literally walk out of the building onto the beach. Not bad!!!!

Jon is having cadaver lab work at the University of Chicago. It keeps things interesting, for sure.


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