Friday, June 24, 2016

Bishop’s Note: June 23, 2016 – Nativity of St. John the Baptist

Bishop Eric Menees

“Almighty God, by whose providence your servant John the Baptist was wonderfully born, and sent to prepare the way of your Son our Savior by preaching repentance: Make us so to follow his teaching and holy life, that we may truly repent according to his preaching; and, following his example, constantly speak the truth, boldly rebuke vice, and patiently suffer for the truth's sake; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”

This is the collect for tomorrow, when we will celebrate the Feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist. This is a feast day that often goes without much thought or fanfare, but I would like to encourage you to take the time and mark the day.

Two major themes are woven into this feast day: the end of barrenness, and the birth of a mighty prophet.

How incredibly powerful it must have been for Zechariah and Elizabeth, after so many years of hoping and praying for a child, to discover that their faithfulness was to be rewarded, even in their old age. You can imagine that all of this became clearer to Elizabeth with the visitation of her niece, Mary, when the baby in her womb leapt in the presence of the savior, even in utero.

However, this event also reminds us of the end of a sorrowful barrenness for the world. From the fall of our first parents - Adam and Eve - sorrow, illness, and death had no real answer. With the supernatural conception of John the Baptist, God spoke mightily into the world offering hope and grace: “Prepare the way of the Lord.”

On this feast day we give thanks to almighty God for His immeasurable love and goodness, proclaiming an end to the power of death, and the return of that eternal life originally intended for creation prior to the fall.  

St. John the Baptist would grow into a mighty man of God, who would serve as an example to all of us. John called the people of Israel to repent and turn to the Lord. He reminded the people of Israel that God’s love was all-powerful, and that His redemption would overturn the reign of death for all of those who would turn to and accept the Messiah of God!

Let us take strength in the witness of St. John the Baptist, and proclaim to all who will listen the same message of the forgiveness of sin offered through Jesus the Messiah, and the eternal life found in his resurrection!

I pray you all a truly blessed Feast Day, and a wonderful week!

Catechism Questions: 301-304

301. What is the Sixth Commandment?
The Sixth Commandment is: “You shall not murder.”

302. What does it mean not to murder?
Since God declares human life sacred from conception to natural death, I may not take the life of neighbors unjustly, bear them malice in my heart, or harm them by word or deed; rather, I should seek to cause their lives to flourish. (Genesis 9:6; Leviticus 19:16; Deuteronomy 19:4-7)

303. How did Christ cause life to flourish?
Jesus sought the well-being of all who came to him: he made the blind see and the deaf hear, caused the lame to walk, cured the sick, fed the hungry, cast out demons, raised the dead, and preached good news to all. (Luke 4:17-21;Matthew 14:13-21, 34-36)

304. How did Jesus extend the law against murder?
Jesus equated unjust anger with murder. (Matthew 5:21-22; 1 John 3:15)

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Bishop’s Note: June 16, 2016 – “Your sins are forgiven”

Bishop Eric Menees

Last Sunday’s gospel reading (Luke 7:36-50), which the English Standard Version of the Bible entitled: “A Sinful Woman Forgiven,” tells the beautiful story of the woman in Simon the Pharisee’s home, who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears, dried them with her hair, and then anointed his feet with costly ointment. This scripture demonstrates the response of a grateful heart to the forgiving love of Jesus. The question from the gospel lesson is, what does this message mean for us?

Well, as Christians, we need to address sin and the consequences of sin, in our lives and in the lives of others, so that people can come to a place of understanding their need for, and the benefit of, Christ’s forgiveness. Admittedly this is very difficult, for several reasons:

We live in time and age that ignores sin and even celebrates sin.
We live in a world that brands us as being intolerant if we advance biblical morality.
We live in a climate that values false self-worth above all else.

However, precisely because it is difficult to speak about sin, this does not mean that we should not speak about sin:
In our own lives, we should be examining the ways in which we fall short of God’s glory, and then repent.
In our families, we should lift up for our children, and ourselves, a standard of behavior that is based on scripture, not on cultural mores.
In our communities, we should be proclaiming the Glory of God and His willingness to forgive our sins and wash us clean in His sacrifice!

What a great sadness that we live in a world ignorant of sin, but living under the terrible consequences of sin. What a great sadness that in ignoring sin, we deny people, and ourselves, the liberation found in forgiveness. What a great sadness that in denying sin and the forgiveness found in Jesus, we deny the Love and Grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Let us, this day, resolve to turn that around. As we come to confession in church next Sunday, let us not white wash our sins but truly and courageously offer them to the Lord. Let us truly hear, and receive, the words of Absolution: “Almighty God, our heavenly Father, who in his great mercy has promised forgiveness of sins to all those who sincerely repent and with true faith turn to him, have mercy upon you, pardon and deliver you from all your sins, confirm and strengthen you in all goodness, and bring you to everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Let us come to this altar with clean hearts to receive the Sacrament of Christ’s body and blood. And let us go forward into the world, with grateful hearts full of love, sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ. And to that I say… AMEN!

I pray you all a very blessed Lord’s Day!

Catechism Questions: 298-300

298. How else do you love God in light of the Fifth Commandment?
I keep the Fifth Commandment in love to God by showing respect for the aged; submitting to my teachers, pastors, and directors; respecting tradition and civil authority; and ordering myself in reverent humility, as is fitting for a servant and child of God. (Matthew 22:15-22; Romans 13; Colossians 3:18-4:1; 1 Tim 6:1-2; Hebrews 13:7,17; Articles of Religion, 37)

299. Will such an attitude of honor come to you naturally?
No. “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child” (Proverbs 22:15). From my earliest days, led and driven by sin, I persistently attempt to rule myself.

300. Does earthly authority have limits?
Yes. All authority comes from God, who is the King of kings and expects me to love, honor, and obey him rather than others if they command me to sin. (Exodus 1:17; Daniel 1:8-16; 3:16-18; Acts 5:29; Romans 13:1-5; Colossians 4:1; 1 Peter 2:14-15)

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Bishop’s Note: June 09, 2016 – Ordinary Time

Bishop Eric Menees

According to the 1928 Book of Common Prayer, we are in the second week after Trinity, or the third week after Pentecost using the 1979 Book of Common Prayer. Whichever calendar you use, this time, lasting the next six months, is referred to “Ordinary Time.” Essentially this is the period between Pentecost and Advent where each Sunday we examine the life of Jesus.

This past week was a terrific example of “Ordinary” in the life of Jesus, which was and is anything but ordinary in our lives. In the Old Testament lesson from Kings, we heard of how Elijah petitioned God, who raised from the dead the son of the Widow of Zarephath. In the Epistle lesson from Galatians, St. Paul reminded the Church in Galatia that the Risen Lord had met him on the road to Damascus and then, over the next three years, revealed the good news to him. And finally, in the Gospel lesson we heard how Jesus had compassion on the Widow of Nain, whose son had died. Jesus stopped the funeral procession of the widow’s son and simply said, “Young man, I say to you, arise!” (Luke 7:14) With those words, the young man sat up and was completely restored to life and health, to the fear and amazement of the people and the absolute joy of his mother.

Of course miracles are always astounding. With our limited minds we just cannot imagine how the laws of nature can be suspended for the benefit of man and the glory of God, and yet miracles happen day in and day out. Sometimes we are too myopic to see them, or we are quick to rationalize them away, but there is no doubt but that they occur daily. In my own ministry, I’ve seen healings where people on hospice care, with days to live, are completely healed, to the astonishment of the medical professionals and the joy of their families. I’ve seen people who were declared dead, suddenly and without medical explanation, come back to life. I’ve seen hundreds of people fed with a few bags of food that simply didn’t run out until the last person’s hunger was satisfied.

The question isn’t if miracles occur – they do! My prayer is that miracles will indeed become ordinary for us. That we will live our lives so in tune with the Lord and his loving power, that our eyes, minds, and hearts will be open to recognize and expect His miraculous hand acting in our lives!

I pray you all a very blessed week!

Catechism Questions: 295-297

295. What is the Fifth Commandment?
The Fifth Commandment is: “Honor your father and your mother.”

296. What does it mean to honor your father and mother?
While still a child, I should obey my parents; and I should honor, serve, respect, love, and care for them all their lives. (Proverbs 2:10; 23:22; Ephesians 6:1-4; Colossians 3:20-21)

297. How did Jesus keep the Fifth Commandment?
As a child Jesus submitted himself to Mary and Joseph, and honored his mother even as he suffered on the cross by entrusting her to his beloved disciple’s care. (Luke 2:39-52; John 19:25-27)

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Contending For The Faith

Pentecost 3C 2016

Fr. Dale Matson

Click On Photograph To Enlarge
Window In Chapel Of The Innocents At Saint James Anglican Cathedral

Our opening Collect for today states, “O God, from whom all good proceeds: Grant that by your inspiration we may think those things that are right, and by your merciful guiding may do them; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”

If you are wondering why there seems to be such great confusion today about what is the right thing to do just look at Genesis where the confusion all began. The serpent said to Eve, “… for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."

The problem was Adam and Eve already knew what was good. By disobeying God and obeying the serpent, they knew evil. The serpent did not say that they would be able to discern between good and evil or that they would choose to do good over evil. Evil clouded their minds and destroyed their relationship with God their creator. The further we are from God, the further we are from reality, sanity and the more confused our thinking is.

We live in times where the spirit of the age has taken hold and become dominant in our society and our western culture. The mass media and social media have hastened this decline. There is great pressure on the church to give up the fight, to acquiesce and approve of what is evil in the eyes of God. It is an upside down world where holding fast to that which is right is difficult.

Again our opening Collect states, “Grant that by your inspiration we may think those things that are right, and by your merciful guiding may do them.”

Two weeks ago we began a week of prayer, fasting and discussion to help discern God’s Will for St. James. In fact we have asked for God’s leadership many times and I believe our crucial decision is not ahead of us but happened nine years ago in 2007. Every thing that has happened since that time flows from the decision to leave the Episcopal Church and be received as an Anglican diocese of the Southern Cone under Archbishop Gregory Venables. For those who may have forgotten or who may have never known why we left, we were contending for the faith. Some of the orthodox Christians who remained to fight inside the Episcopal Church referred to us as “quitters” and “leavers”. The voices of those who decided to stay in the Episcopal Church and contend for the faith over the years have been muted by a process called “reconciliation” or silenced by deposition. The Reformation called for by those who remained never came from within. It never came at all.

John David Schofield our bishop led the vast majority of our churches in our diocese out of bondage into the wilderness. Like the Israelites who left the bondage of Egypt, we had to learn obedience and relearn our identity.  The Episcopal Church called us schismatics who damaged the unity of the church but there can be no unity without truth. They also claimed that we left with property that rightly belonged to them. Since that time we have been defending ourselves in court. We have been asking for justice to be served.

I am retelling this story because the story of the people of Israel leaving the bondage of Egypt is a story often repeated by the Old Testament leaders to generations long after their departure to remind them of their unique relationship with God.

I am retelling our departure from the Episcopal Church and deliverance from bondage for the same reason. We too are a chosen people led by a heroic bishop. We were the first of several dioceses to leave the Episcopal Church and this original group became the nucleus of what is now the Anglican Church In North America (ACNA). We were the tip of the spear and have suffered much during this wilderness of litigation. Is it because when all's said and done, we were fighting the Episcopal Church for the property?

In fact, we have been contending for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God's holy people. (Jude 1:3) That is also what Father Carlos said last week. As I listened last week, I had to smile because I had already penned that same phrase from Jude as I begun preparing today’s homily. We have chosen God’s truth over a false unity in a house spiritually divided. We have been fighting for the uniqueness of Christ as Savior and redeemer. We have been fighting for the Gospel of Jesus Christ not some manifesto of human flourishing. We have been fighting for the truth, the necessity of repentance; forgiveness and sanctification, of becoming Holy, not calling things good and blessed those things that are evil.

Living into our true selves can only mean one thing for the Christian. Christ must become more and we must become less.          
We have been contending against the spirit of the age as Anglicans using Scripture, Tradition and Reason. Innovation requires abandoning all three.

What I am talking about is more of a Biblical understanding of the spirit of the age. To understand it more clearly, it is better to say the spirit of the ages for this spirit of disobedience was present with Adam and Eve at the fall of the human race.
There are other elements to the spirit of the ages, not just disobedience. The spirit of the ages is not spiritual but materialistic. That is why Nicodemus was confused when Jesus said that he must be born again. Nicodemus stated, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?” No Nicodemus, being born again is a spiritual birth not a physical birth. People confuse the kingdom of this world for the Kingdom of God. There is a bumper sticker that reminds me of this. “He who dies with the most toys wins.” Really, I believe that he who dies with the most toys is the biggest loser. He is the one who can’t pass through the eye of a needle.

Another element in the spirit of the ages is individualism. There are positive aspects to individualism like someone who does not conform to the pressures of society like Rosa Parks. She refused to go to the back of the bus just because she was black.  Individualism in its worst form however is narcissism. Narcissists are people that believe the rest of the world is there to make them happy and to adore them. I think we have helped this along with the self-esteem school program called “I am special”. As Christians we are individuals but members of the body of Christ, the church. We all have spiritual gifts unique to each of us intended for service to other members of the body. Individualism may be one of the most dangerous elements in the spirit of the ages because folks believe that being an individual means they have a right to do whatever they please. Once again, the church is pointed at as discriminating and bigoted because we don’t condone behaviors legally engaged in by consenting adults. For example, just because Marijuana is legal does not mean that it is not harmful. As the electronic highway signs state, “Buzzed driving is drunk driving.”

Another element in the spirit of the ages is the loss of Truth. Satan is the author of lies, Pontius Pilate said, “What is truth?” when Jesus said, I have come into the world to testify to the truth. Modern church leaders say that Christ is “our truth” but will not go so far as to say He is the truth for fear of offending others. What does this do for the main mission of the church? We are called to preach the Good News of Jesus Christ to the whole world. We are not told to avoid offending others with this message.
What is God calling us to do? I believe that is the same question Christ’s disciples were asking as they sat fortified behind a locked door in the upper room. We have been called to action. How is God calling us to act? We have been called to good works. We need to discern those good works.

While we have been hoping for justice these past nine years, I think about how our Lord responded from the cross to the biggest injustice in history. "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.”

I know there are many here who have spent much of their adult life attending services on this campus. Some have been married here. Some have buried their parents, spouses or even children here. Bishop Schofield ordained me as a deacon and priest here. There are many joys and sorrows shared here but if we must, we can take those memories with us. Memories can’t be taken from us. Many of us are older and change can be difficult. Pray for resilience in this time of transition.

When Sharon and I came to St. James, we had left Holy Family Church. The priest there at that time was one of the individuals who brought a lawsuit against his own bishop, John David. Bishop Schofield had peacefully released the few congregations who chose not to depart with him. Sharon and I met with the priest prior to the suit being brought and pleaded with him not to proceed. He told me that I was a poor follower and he could not support my ordination for deacon if I didn’t get on board. He said he was going ahead with the lawsuit and we placed a key to the front door of the church on his desk as we were leaving.

I called Fr. Carlos and told him what had happened and he immediately began praying about the situation. He then said, “We could sponsor your ordination”. God provided a new church and a new rector. Although we still miss some of the members there where we worshiped for eleven years God has provided many new sisters and brothers in Christ. We are spiritual survivors from that church. Some were not so fortunate.
The most important thing for us is not what happens but how we respond to what happens. If our legal case is not heard, do we respond with righteous indignation or like our Lord from the cross? Forgive them for they know not what they do. And if they get the property, what will come of it? I sometimes smile when I think about what happened when the Philistines captured the Ark Of The Covenant. The property has been a blessing to us like the Ark was a blessing to Israel. Like the Ark, the property could become a curse to those who may capture it.

The author of the spirit of the ages is Satan who is the ruler of this world and this age. As a church our marching orders remain the same against the spirit of this age. Preach the Good News of Jesus Christ. “O God, from whom all good proceeds: Grant that by your inspiration we may think those things that are right, and by your merciful guiding may do them”. Lord, with Your inspiration, may we help others come into the light of Your Truth.  Amen   


Thursday, June 2, 2016

Bishop’s Note: June 02, 2016 – Corpus Christi

 Bishop Eric Menees

This past weekend I had the pleasure of making my pastoral visit to Our Lady of Guadalupe, where on Saturday I had the honor of confirming 36 men and women. On Sunday, we celebrated the ancient feast of Corpus Christi, also known as the Most Blessed Body and Blood of Jesus Christ - in other words, a celebration of the Sacrament of Holy Eucharist.

Corpus Christi reminds us of Christ’s real presence in the Holy Eucharist. How he is present remains a mystery, save by the power of the Holy Spirit working through the instrument of the priest and the gathering of the faithful people. This is not a new teaching, but rather comes from the earliest days of the Church. St. Paul addressed the people of the church in Corinth saying:

“For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” (1 Corinthians 11:23-25 ESV)

It is precisely because of Jesus’ presence in the sacrament that St. Paul gives this warning to those who would receive Holy Eucharist in an unworthy manner:

“Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.” (1 Corinthians 11:27-29 ESV)

For this reason, only those disciples of Jesus who are baptized in the name of the Holy Trinity, who have examined their lives, and who have repented of their sins are invited to receive Holy Eucharist. 

This does not mean that all are not welcome at the altar of the Lord. Just the opposite: we are all sinners in need of salvation, and so we invite all people to the altar for a blessing, whether or not they are not baptized believing Christians. 

In the second century, St. Justin Martyr wrote of Christ’s presence in the sacrament:

"This food we call the Eucharist, of which no one is allowed to partake except one who believes that the things we teach are true, and has received the washing for forgiveness of sins and for rebirth, and who lives as Christ handed down to us. For we do not receive these things as common bread or common drink; but as Jesus Christ our Savior being incarnate by God's Word took flesh and blood for our salvation, so also we have been taught that the food consecrated by the Word of prayer which comes from him, from which our flesh and blood are nourished by transformation, is the flesh and blood of that incarnate Jesus." (First Apology of Justin Martyr, Ch. 66)

Catechism Questions: 292-294

292. What does it mean that a Sabbath rest remains for the people of God?
When the Church is perfected in Christ, all believers will be completely free from sin and its curse, and established in an eternity of love, adoration, and joy. This will be our unending Sabbath rest. (Isaiah 66: 22-23; Romans 8:18-30; 1 Corinthians 15; Hebrews 4)

293. How do you celebrate this Sabbath rest with the Church now?
I join in the Church’s weekly worship and participation in God’s heavenly rest, which brings order, meaning, and holiness to the other six days of the week. (Hebrews 4:9-10; Colossians 2:16-19)

294. Why does the Church worship on the first day of the week rather than the seventh? 
The Church worships on the first day of the week in remembrance of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ on the first day of the week. (Matthew 28:1

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Bishops Note: May 26, 2016 – The Holy Trinity

Bishop Eric Menees

This past Sunday we celebrated the Feast of the Most Holy Trinity. The opening collect on Trinity Sunday was placed in the 1549 Book of Common Prayer by Archbishop Cranmer, and read: “Almighty and everlasting God, which has given unto us thy servants grace by the confession of a true faith to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and in the power of the divine Majesty to worship the Unity: we beseech thee, that through the steadfastness of this faith, we may evermore be defended from all adversity, which livest and reignest one God, world without end. Amen.”

Of course, ultimately, the Holy Trinity is a mystery of faith which cannot be fully understood by the human mind, but may be fully submitted and yielded unto. Throughout history, poets and artists have celebrated the Holy Trinity and given us an insight into that mystery, even if we cannot fully understand it. I ran across this piece of prose this week by Sister Elizabeth of the Trinity – a Carmelite Nun who lived but twenty six years, and yet left a lasting impact.

O My God, Trinity Whom I Adore
O my God, Trinity whom I adore, let me entirely forget myself that I may abide in you, still and peaceful as if my soul were already in eternity; let nothing disturb my peace nor separate me from you, O my unchanging God, but that each moment may take me further into the depths of your mystery ! Pacify my soul! Make it your heaven, your beloved home and place of your repose; let me never leave you there alone, but may I be ever attentive, ever alert in my faith, ever adoring and all given up to your creative action.

O my beloved Christ, crucified for love, would that I might be for you a spouse of your heart! I would anoint you with glory, I would love you - even unto death! Yet I sense my frailty and ask you to adorn me with yourself; identify my soul with all the movements of your soul, submerge me, overwhelm. me, substitute yourself in me that my life may become but a reflection of your life. Come into me as Adorer, Redeemer and Saviour.

O Eternal Word, Word of my God, would that I might spend my life listening to you, would that I might be fully receptive to learn all from you; in all darkness, all loneliness, all weakness, may I ever keep my eyes fixed on you and abide under your great light; O my Beloved Star, fascinate me so that I may never be able to leave your radiance.

O consuming Fire, Spirit of Love, descend into my soul and make all in me as an incarnation of the Word, that I may be to him a super-added humanity wherein he renews his mystery; and you O Father, bestow yourself and bend down to your little creature, seeing in her only your beloved Son in whom you are well pleased.

O my `Three', my All, my Beatitude, infinite Solitude, Immensity in whom I lose myself, I give myself to you as a prey to be consumed; enclose yourself in me that I may be absorbed in you so as to contemplate in your light the abyss of your Splendour!

Elizabeth of the Trinity (1880-1906)

I pray you all a very blessed week

Catechism Questions: 289-291

289. Where do you learn about the holiness of time?

In creation, through the sun, moon, and stars; in the Law, through Israel’s sacrificial calendar; and in the Church’s liturgy, patterned after Temple worship, I learn that time belongs to God and is ordered by him. (Genesis 1:14-15; Numbers 28:9-10; Deuteronomy 16-18)

290. Did Jesus keep the Sabbath?
As its Lord, Jesus both kept and fulfilled the Sabbath. (Matthew 5:17-20; Mark 2:23-27)

291. How does Jesus bring Sabbath as God’s eternal gift to you?
Jesus now offers himself as the source of my true rest—from the slavery of sin, from the wasteland of human striving, and from Satan’s legacy of futile toil, pain, disease, and death. (Matthew 11:25-30)

Tuesday, May 24, 2016



Fr. Dale Matson

[Note: I was invited to give an address on Wellness to the San Joaquin Counselor’s association on Wednesday. I thought it would be useful to put it on “Soundings” too.]
I would like to begin by thanking you folks for inviting me to share with you today. I came to Fresno 24 years ago. My mentor Bob Wilson was younger then at age 65 than I am now and was head of the School Counseling School Psychology programs at Fresno Pacific University. It was called Fresno Pacific College then. He died at age 71 and that is how old I am now. This talk begins with a looking back of sorts for me.

I am also a former member of the San Joaquin Counselors' Association and attended my first meeting in the fall of 1992 held at Duncan Gardens here in Fresno. Bob Wilson, who would later receive the McDaniel Award as outstanding California Counselor, introduced me to many of the counselors. I also met Diane Talbot at that meeting. She was a deserving recipient of the McDaniel Award also. At that time she was a counselor at Tranquility High School. I would later recommend her as Bob’s replacement as head of counseling at Fresno Pacific when he retired. She obtained her doctorate, held that position and later become my department head when I stepped down. She retired this year from Fresno Pacific as director of Counseling and School Psychology. I am so proud of Bob and Diane and the programs at FPU have prospered under their wonderful guidance. It was a joy to share many years' worth of conversations and lunches with both Diane and Bob.

With that said, it brings me to the topic at hand, “Wellness”. When I attended my first meeting in 1992, it was sadly evident that many of the counselors were burned out. Some told me candidly that it was all they could do just to make it through another school day. They were stressed and stretched beyond their ability to cope.

I left that meeting wondering why Bob at age 65 had more enthusiasm for helping others and more fire in his belly for the profession of counseling than many of these young counselors. I wondered how the students they worked with could be helped if their own issues distracted the counselors themselves. 

Additionally, we were preparing graduate counselors and school psychologists at a Christian university. What could and should be different about our training approach than other preparation programs? How could we train our students that would make them more resilient to the job stresses they would be immersed in once they became employed? The California Commission on Credentialing had standards we had to meet for our programs to be accredited. Could we include a “Wellness” component into our classes that would help the students become more resilient and robust themselves? We set out to do just that using Bob himself as the incarnation of what it means to be a healthy individual. Bob was one of the most resilient individuals I have ever met and he had beaten back cancer for the last 12 years.

Bob and I both discussed this situation and realized that the most important treatment variable in counseling was not treatment technique. Research had demonstrated that all forms of treatment like behavioral, cognitive, psychodynamic and family systems all had about the same amount of treatment efficacy. In other words, they all worked about the same. The bottom line was counseling was better than no counseling.

Our second conclusion was that if the chief treatment variable was not technique then it must be the individual counselor. The wellness of the individual counselor was the chief treatment variable. How could we help the counselor develop behaviors that would model self-nurturing not self-destruction?

Bob himself was involved in his Roman Catholic Church and was a man of deep faith. He had come to a place where he accepted God’s will totally. For Bob, each day was truly a gift. He was also a strong advocate of Logotherapy. Victor Frankel wrote the book “Man’s Search For Meaning”

And it became the platform for Bob’s use of the Socratic method and helping others find meaning in their life. The main principles of Logotherapy are:
•Life has meaning under all circumstances, even the most miserable ones.
•Our main motivation for living is our will to find meaning in life.
•We have freedom to find meaning in what we do, and what we experience, or at least in the stand we take when faced with a situation of unchangeable suffering.

While Bob never said these verses from Scripture to me, I think they best typify his counseling and his life. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). “Love one another as I have loved you.” (John 13:34b) When Bob interacted with others, they always discovered the best parts of themselves. There were good things they may never have seen before.

Wellness is not just taking on a hopeful and positive attitude about self and others. It is also walking the walk with behaviors that enrich life including self-discipline and a regulated life. When I see Diane, I often ask her if she is still working out at the fitness center in the morning and her reply is always in the affirmative. Bob walked 5 miles every morning using hand weights.

Unlike Bob, I am a prodigal who spent about 20 years of my early adult life killing myself on the installment plan with cigarettes and alcohol. Christ rescued me from an unproductive and self-destructive life and running the good race has remained my objective. I have led a disciplined life because at mid life I chose with God’s help, life not death. God is a God of life.

Every morning for the last 25 years, I have arisen at 4am. I begin by journaling the previous days activities. This has proven invaluable when reconstructing events, writing books and wrestling with personal issues over the years. Sharon, my wife has agreed to respect the privacy of these journals and burn them when I die. When I travel, including backpacking, I have a smaller travel journal that I take with me. I tear the pages out when I get home and put them in my regular journal. I also use a daily devotional and this year I am using a daily devotional I published last October.
It was a blessing to write it in Lectio Divina format. The format is a verse or verses from Scripture, a reflection on the verse(s) followed by a prayer.  Now I can read my own devotional after reading devotionals from the church fathers like St. Augustine for many years.Every morning I check my e-mail and check the news on the Internet including responses to the two blogs I moderate.

I run, swim or bike every morning. I heard it said once that sweat comes from places a shower never reaches! I also train with weights three times a week. Recently the research has indicated that weightlifting is not only good for maintaining upper body strength and cardiovascular health. It is also good for bone density and reduces the risk of dementia.

Sharon and I also walk our two Airedales together every morning. Although our first Airedale Brown has passed on, we have walked our dogs for 20 years together. Keeping in touch with your spouse is a way of loving them.

What else is important to personal wellness? Attending a religious service on a regular basis helps one deal with life on a spiritual level. Attending services is not only an exercise in faith, hope and love; it is basic Wellness. I would be willing to bet Bill W. who was a cofounder of Alcoholics Anonymous based the 12 steps on the church liturgy. In the liturgy, we have confession, forgiveness, absolution and reconciliation and the promise of amendment of life. We are made well again.

Over the years I have also found that the song by Barbara Streisand, “People” sums our need for others quite well.

“People who need people
Are the luckiest people in the world,
We're children, needing other children
And yet letting our grown-up pride
Hide all the need inside,
Acting more like children
Than children.”

Human relationships form a psychological safety net and are the bedrock of Wellness. It is important to initiate and cultivate friendships. I have one friend Mark Allyn that I have known and remained in touch with for over 65 years. I have a group of friends that has met for over 20 years every Thursday morning for coffee and a bicycle ride. I am usually the one who initiates, who calls, who writes. Why not? If I didn’t the relationships might perish from neglect. Most people don’t initiate. Get over it.

I include family in this too. I can still remember meals at my parents' home when I was a child. My grandparents would be there along with my siblings and parents. We continue that tradition today and Sharon is very intentional and tenacious about making these events happen.

I read books also and many of the classics are available through Amazon at little or no cost as used books or via Kindle. In addition to Man's Search For Meaning, I would recommend Spiritual Passages: The Psychology Of Spiritual Development by the late Benedict Groeschel.

The role of the Counselor is like the role of the Holy Spirit who is also referred to as “The Counselor”, “The Advocate”, and “The Paraclete”. The counselor is sometimes a bruised individual from a dysfunctional family. The counselor cannot help someone else find peace until the counselor has rewritten his or her own self-destructive life script. However God uses the broken people for their compassion. As St. Paul States in 2nd Corinthians. “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.” (1:3-5)

My trainer, Fran Culbertson from the University of Wisconsin at Whitewater once told me, “A good counselor listens with his third ear.” How different is this in reality to the Old Testament passage from 1st Kings? “And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the LORD. And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake: And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.” (1 Kings 19:11-12 KJV). The NIV version states, “The gentle whisper”. Are you listening for the gentle whisper in your counseling? Are you listening for the gentle whisper in your life?