Mimickry

I’ve been at it for over two years. It’s a slow burn.

When I transitioned to a new job and anticipated working more from home and not having an office, I knew something had to be done. All my books weren’t going to fit on one bookcase at home. So it began. The personal library deconstruction. As the walls enclose, the books are finding new homes.

I’m guessing all book lovers have similar problems. Not only do we buy more than we need nor have room for, we tend to not get around to reading all of them either. I’d guess someone has labeled this a disorder. I mean, chocolate lovers don’t buy boxes of chocolate just to put them on display never to be opened and eventually discarded. At least I don’t. I enjoy what’s inside. The chocolate box, just to be clear.

To address this problem, I’ve continued the deconstruction in two ways. One, if I’ve never read the book and don’t see that I will in the near future, “off with its head (given away in some fashion).” Two, rather than buying new books (Kindle doesn’t count), I’m reading the books I haven’t read and then deciding if it deserves to stay or go.

Occasionally, I encounter deja vu. Happened yesterday. I finished a book, which deserved to stay on the shelf. So I picked out another one I was pretty sure I hadn’t read. Not even sure where I got it, honestly. It’s signed by the author, which most likely explains why it’s still on the shelf. As I’m reading the first few chapters, it reads like a new book-nothing familiar at all. And then, with the light on the page just right, I see faint yellow highlighting. Are you kidding me? I’ve read this book before, even highlighted it, and I don’t remember. Another book lover problem. Actually, there’s several problems in that realization, but let’s move on.

One joy in re-reading a book is your eye, your mind being captured with more. Something you didn’t engage the first time speaks to you the second time. Like re-watching a movie. Here’s the line in this book that captured me:

We mimic the god we serve.

God’s Resting Place: Finding Your Identity In His Peace, by Ron Marquardt

Marquardt explained that our belief of God’s character plays out in how we live. “If I believe God is angry and hard to please, I find myself behaving the same way. If I find Him happy one moment and angry the next, I will soon follow suit.” (p.19) Mind captured.

So I chose to meditate on that in a journal entry. Rather than analyze my mimicry, I decided to make a list of truths I believe about God. This list, certainly not exhaustive, can then serve as a checklist of how I’m mimicking Him:

  • God loves us as we are
  • God sent his son not to condemn
  • God receives us from our wandering
  • God seeks the lost sheep
  • God rests
  • God listens to his children
  • God blesses those who bless him
  • God humbled himself for his creation
  • God keeps his promises
  • God forgives
  • God is faithful
  • God has eternity in mind
  • God gives generously
  • God has compassion
  • God remembers we are dust

Deconstruction leading to deja vu leading to mimickry. Here’s to the slow burn!

Photo: Izabela Zagaja-Florek

The Doubting Disease (book review)

“If you make listening and observation your occupation, you will gain much more than you can by talk.”­ – Robert Baden-Powell, founder of the scouting movement

I’m still working at this occupation at age 53. Certainly hope I’m better than at 23.

A while back during staff meeting, a colleague mentioned a book on a subject I’d never heard of-scrupulosity. I downloaded the Kindle sample. After reading that, I couldn’t help but buy it and see what I could gain.

Ciarrocchi defines scrupulosity as seeing sin where there is none, a “phobia concerning sin.” The title of his book comes from a label the French give to the emotional condition which is sometimes part of scrupulosity.

Having been in church life since I was born in a pastor’s home and then serving over 20 years on church staffs, I have witnessed this phobia. But reading the connection Ciarrocchi makes to OCD was eye-opening to exactly how doubters struggle. With this knowledge, one can see a variety of ways to navigate life while struggling with deep emotional and spiritual challenges.

He quotes Dr. Judith Rapoport of the National Institute of Mental Health as describing OCD as losing the ability “to know if you know something.” This description paints a picture of OCD as being as much about doubt as it is about anxiety. Quite a different view of what an OCD patient is enduring. Dealing with their compulsions and obsessions can lead to depression therefore challenging everything they believe and think they know. To show the severity of it, he shares historical examples in chapter three through the lives of John Bunyan and St. Ignatius Loyola. Both considered suicide. Ignatius prayed, “Show me, Lord, where I can obtain help: and if I have to follow a little dog to obtain the cure I need, I am ready to do just that.”

The hope Ciarrocchi provides begins in chapter 4 and continues through the rest of the book. This hope is directed to both professional and pastoral counselors. Unfortunately, those living like Bunyan and Ignatius often feel like they’ve tried everything and have failed, nothing is available to help. He provides worksheets (chapters 5-7) and techniques for counselors to use to send this message to their clients: “Past failure does not mean you are weak-willed or hopeless. You have simply lacked some essential ingredients for effective change. You can learn skills with patience and proper direction.” Chapter 8 is where he provides those ingredients. One of the most helpful directions by Ciarrocchi is his listing and explanations of three types of scrupulous behavior in chapter 9:

  • Developmental, prominent during adolescence and following a religious conversion in adulthood
  • Milieu-influenced, as taught by family and religious educators
  • Clinical, the version associated with OCD symptoms

He ends the book encouraging those in religion and psychology that they can learn from one another.

Clinical work also requires validation of counseling methods that make explicit use of clients’ religious perspective. This research is long overdue, and some preliminary work indicates the utility of this approach. Researchers studied treating depressed patients who had a religious orientation. They found that incorporating the clients’ religious beliefs through either cognitive-behavior counseling strategies or standard pastoral counseling methods led to more rapid recovery than standard counseling methods without using the clients’ religious beliefs. What is even more intriguing is that using the clients’ religious beliefs was effective even if the counselors were agnostic themselves.

I’m thankful I was listening in that staff meeting and have read this book. Had I read this during my church ministry days, I know of at least one lady I would have ministered to better. My encouragement to all those remotely touched by this review, get your copy and gain.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

10 Minutes in New Orleans

Last weekend we traveled to New Orleans to run the Rock ‘n’ Roll race. Unless you hibernate in your hotel, you see and therefore learn a lot in New Orleans. I’ve never been disappointed visiting New Orleans.

As for seeing and learning in New Orleans, a visit there should include taking in great food. We made it a point to not eat at the same place twice. Not necessarily hard to do, but certainly fun to achieve. Here’s the food establishments we visited during our stay:

The Milk Bar

We ate just about anything you could ask for: crawfish, shrimp and grits, crab, gumbo, pasta, burgers, pizza, chocolate, ice cream, and beignets. No regrets.

Boil Seafood House

I can only imagine the challenges these owners and employees have survived during the pandemic. This race, an annual event, wasn’t even held last year. And who knows how many others were canceled. So to be open and surviving is a testament to their commitment to their business and their customers.

We Floridians came to town somewhat clueless to the continuing COVID protocols in place in New Orleans. We learned real quick. Not in a rude way, but it was clear we were not at home. Mask mandates required us to mask up everywhere we went. No problem. Happy to comply. In some places, vaccination proof was required; we knew this as a requirement to enter the race expo. No problem. Happy to comply.

What was interesting to see was how the employees of these ten food businesses went about treating their customers while holding to these protocols. 9 out of 10 were excellent experiences. Regardless of their choosing to uphold the protocols or choosing to require vaccination proof, these employees treated their customers with excellent respect and warmth as they worked under unusual circumstances.

Our best experience was at Kilwins on Decatur Street. It was Sunday afternoon, and my friend wanted a shake. Google told us the closest shake available was Kilwins, so we headed there. We passed Cafe Beignet on our way there and decided it was time to get some beignets as well, after Kilwins. The next 10 minutes was a lesson in customer service.

If you know me, a “no” to ice cream is rare. But I was saving room for beignets. Even the chocolate was not tempting me in Kilwins. We already had our share from Leah’s Pralines, so I didn’t enter Kilwins with a shopping mindset. Just taking it in. We were not greeted at the door by anyone checking proof of vaccination. What we were greeted with was employees behind the counter welcoming us in the store, “Welcome to Kilwins!” My buddy ordered his shake, while I eyed the chocolate. Nicey, behind the counter, asked if I needed any help. I said, “No, just looking.” She offered to give me a fudge sample. Do you think I said no? After that sample of her favorite, she asked if I saw another fudge I’d like to sample. Well, I had to admit I didn’t need a sample. I had been hooked into buying a chunk of Toasted Coconut Fudge, simply because it sounded intriguing. Plus, Nicey lived up to her name. We walked out of Kilwins happy shake and fudge customers expecting to enjoy more happiness in beignet land.

We went from the best customer experience to the worst customer experience in what felt like another city, but only two stores apart. Not to bore you with the details, but suffice it to say one Cafe Beignet employee was determined to have things her way when it came to COVID protocols to the point customers did not feel welcomed. We were thankful for outside seating.

In that ten minutes in New Orleans, we saw and learned a few things about customer service, about how to treat one another during challenging times, about power, about treating others the way you want to be treated.

To the 90% of New Orleans businesses that made our trip amazing, thank you. We remember our time with you as minutes well spent, minutes we were seen and heard, minutes you thought more about us than you did yourself. Keep giving your customers great minutes!