Pastoral Lectures

I enjoy giving (free) talks that combine psychology and spirituality. “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience” (Pierre Teilhard de Chardin). If you have a group that is interested in any of the topics below, please invite me!

For parents…

The Role of Nature in Childhood Development

Nature is the ground and the given of human experience. To be fully human and to fully hear God’s Word, we have to remain connected and harmonious with the natural world – everything prior to culture. This is true through life but in childhood and adolescence, the specific soul-development tasks tied to nature are 1) the preservation of innocence, 2) exploring the enchantment of the natural world, including human nature, and 3) practicing authenticity.

Success: How Much Does Your Child Need?

A lot. Children need to experience agency and efficacy – that they can make things happen and make things work – in order to build a healthy ego. However, they also need to tolerate stumbles and setbacks, learning that there are many roads to many successes and the emergence of one’s divine gifts is a lifelong process. They can only learn this if their parents have learned it for themselves.

Raising Kids With Special Needs

A child with special needs is a profound loss for the family, especially the parents, and a profound gift for everybody, especially the parents. Along the way, as a parent, you question all of your assumptions about how a person participates in the family, in society and in the Church. What emerges is a deeper appreciation of human dignity and a greater capacity to see with God’s eyes.

Family and Small Community Faith Formation in Grades 6-12

Faith and spirituality, the saying goes, is caught, not taught. In the teenage years, children become too old for propositional faith but they do not have the lived experience to sense the world as “charged with the glory of God.” They learn best from listening to the experience of adults, who share their concrete concerns, strengths and faith among themselves in adult conversation.

For 7th/8th grade students…

Drugs: A Poor Solution to a Real Problem

Young people sometimes experiment with and/or misuse alcohol and other drugs for a variety of internal and/or social reasons. Merely educating kids on the perils of drug misuse leaves out any recognition for the emotional suffering and social needs that drugs address, even somewhat effectively at first. Rather than the problem, drug misuse is better described as a poor solution to a serious problem

The Sad Lies of Bullying

Both the aggressor (bully) and the victim are suffering in the same struggle – to be socially acceptable. There are well-known and often-taught strategies to prevent and avoid bullying but none of them are especially effective. Through individual and group counseling, both sides can be helped to see through the false social messages. Bullying is a misperception about power and the Bible is an excellent corrective that can direct and redirect everybody to true, inner power.

For High School Students…

Faith and Doubt

As adolescents mature towards independence, they form a worldview that they can truly call their own. They may subjugate faith to youthful reason and decide that the symbols of their faith tradition no longer fit. Less decisively, an adolescent begins to experience doubt and wonders doubt is a sign of a flawed and untenable faith. Just the opposite is true. “[Adult] faith without doubt is idolatry.” God is the infinite mystery that we can never neatly have in our back pockets.

Vocational Discernment: Where Do I Fit in this World?

Today’s young adults will probably have more than one career and several long-term jobs. Within work, there is a survival task and a sacred task. They are ideally pursued together, but may be done separately with full honors. God is self-communicating through every individual in a unique way. “Your obligation is to reach as deeply as you can and offer your unique and authentic gifts as bravely and beautifully as you’re able” (Bill Plotkin).

For Adults…

The Two Halves of Life

The first half of life is about building your container; the second half is about the contents. The first half of life is about building a culturally viable and authentic identity; the second half is about leaving that identity in search of a deeper self that occupies a unique place in the natural, Spirit-filled world. Too many people never journey beyond halftime.

Why Intimate Relationships Are So Hard

They bring to the fore all of your deepest needs and desires for attachment and emotional connection, including any debts accrued during the first intimacy of the child and its primary caregiver. They are saddled with maladaptive coping mechanisms developed early in life. “For one human being to love another: that is perhaps the most difficult of all our tasks, the ultimate, the last test and proof, the work for which all other work is but preparation” (Rilke).

The Mystery of Suffering

Inexplicable suffering often leads to an estrangement from a personal and loving God. Using the spirituality of the Book of Job and the philosophy of C. S. Lewis, we learn that suffering is inevitable and that God is present in suffering in a way that helps more profoundly than our either/or questions would allow. Suffering invites us to evolve our faith in who God is for us.

Career Crossroads: Perspectives and Alternatives

Questions and vulnerability abound when a career goes off-track or runs out of track. Many people have their career or profession enmeshed with their identity. Disrupting the former seriously undermines the latter. A helpful distinction lies between our unique gifts (the Creator’s self-communication through the creature) and various delivery systems (jobs, roles).

The Residual Effects of Childhood Trauma

Many people recognize that they had troubled families and conditions, even abuse, when they were growing up. A blind spot forms when it is assumed that this painful history is healed by time and separation alone. Childhood wounds and emotional engagement styles directly affect adult relationships, especially with spouses.

For Older Adults…

Aging and Loss

Loss is built into life at every stage. For older adults, losses come in greater number and frequency. Taken altogether they drown us in a sea of sadness and steer us toward isolation. Major losses occur in at least three areas: death of peers, disabilities, and cultural fit. What do these losses mean and how do we grow beyond them?

Relationships with Adult Children

We never stop loving our children as our children and we never completely shed the parental mindset. At the same time, we need to temper these deep feelings with the healthy boundaries of an adult peer relationship. For some, the question is how do we let go of our adult children and let them fully emerge as God’s children. For others, the challenge is in receiving appropriate care from those for whom we once did all the caring.