Something Wonderful & Supernatural

Posted by meclary on October 5, 2015

Question Marks

"This piece was originally written as a weekly staff devotional for the Pastoral Counseling Center. Our aim at PCC is about melding pastoral concern and counseling. I note we have been talking about the interaction of faith and science recently at NorthPark Presbyterian, in the Open Door class and other areas, so this blog seemed suitable to share, since many of us have this same concern when we try to consider, speak of, or act on spiritual reality in our mundane world." –  Allen DeSalme, LPCS

Another staffer called me a couple weeks ago and said, "My devotional is the first one in October and yours is next week – can we switch?" So we switched. I was not considering that it put my turn within a couple days of the one-year anniversary of the day on which my mom was not supposed to die and the middle of our interminable sojourn with her in the Cardiac ICU at St. Paul’s. So I thought some about that, and I thought some about our endeavor here at PCC, and I stayed up too late, and these thoughts came to me.

At the Pastoral Counseling Center we are about blending pastoral concern and counseling, spirituality and psychological practice, theology and science. How does this happen? What are the dynamics? How do theories mix and practices meld? Well, we can talk about that a lot. These are great questions and bear a lot of thought and discussion. Spoiler alert: I cannot answer them this morning.      

Ah, but I can tell you at least one place (and by extension, a couple others) where  we run those two concerns parallel and entwined – right in here [points to chest]. Right in here [points to everyone and the room]. We each have theological and psychological training and experience and expertise. We each combine these things in ourselves and in our words and actions each time we talk with a client, maybe sometimes more expertly, maybe sometimes in a questioning way, and I hope when we do that when we question along with our clients.

It happens every day. When my family was with mom those last days, with machines hooked up to her and various drugs and treatments being administered, and us holding her hands and praying and talking with her, science and theology were working together.

When Brad, our executive director at PCC, goes to talk about parenting at a local church, science and faith are coming together. When Gina and Stephanie and Michele (licensed social workers and counselors at PCC) are in the playroom leading play therapy and loving those kids, science and theology are working together.

I used to hear the phrase, "I have learned my Presbyterian theology so well that it is in my bones." Do I have to say it? {Sing} "The theology bone is connected to the thigh bone…"

In Molecules of Emotion, neuroscientist and pharmacologist Candace Peart proposes that when we have a strong thought, a peptide is altered or created. It then goes to a different part of the body and has a physiological effect, which is almost saying that thoughts are drugs.

We humans work in fantastic ways. In near death experiences, people report a tunnel and a light and sometimes people waiting for them. Scientists will say, "that was just a spasm of brain activity – the areas of the brain affected would light up on this or that kind of scan." Religious people may say, "that was a vision of afterlife."

My grandmother, a good Norwegian Lutheran not given to flights of fancy or silly humor, on the night she was supposed to die of tetanus (lockjaw – for which there was no cure), reported a man coming to her bed in the night, holding out his hand, and saying, "come with me." She refused because she had two children to take care of here. Her tetanus was gone in the morning. Brain function or spiritual experience?

Why can’t it be both?

Are we not created in the image of the greatest Spirit of all? Are we only plumbing and scaffolding? Or are we also something wonderful and supernatural, breathing 0₂ and pneuma, walking earthly and pre-heavenly paths? Do not the mundane and the spiritual, indeed, work together every day? Rather than wondering how the two work together, let’s try rather assuming that they do. Let’s try to stay on both tracks more regularly and more effectively. I think we, with the help of God and one another, can do exactly that.

Closing Prayer

We thank you, God, for being both Lord of life and grand engineer, for being Creator of hearts, lungs, and brains, and of lifeblood, breath, and minds, organs and pain, eyes and happiness, ears and wisdom.

As we all are joined in prayer, let your mind go to the universe with its millions of stars and orbs, vast spaces and infinitely attractive black holes, and let your soul appreciate heaven and the enormousness of God and all that God entails and inhabits.

Let your awareness go inside yourself and note the beating of your heart, the feelings in your gut, and the fine sensations of your inner self – and let your questing spirit go within and connect with the Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, that dwells within you from moment to moment and always.

Let that awareness and Spirit move outside of you now and take in the spiritual aura of the person on each side of you, the people in the room with you, your co-workers, your supervisors, men and women, young and old, practiced and learning.  Engage with them emotionally and spiritually.

And may we always pray for one another, and for each of those in our care, the community in which we live and move and the churches in which we serve, worship, and grow.

We pray in the name of the one who lived among us flesh and blood, who died and rose for us (wait, isn’t that scientifically impossible? Can we talk, God?), who took our sin and transforms us in the moment, and who waits for us in that future where, hopefully, we won’t be needed to deal with pain and grief and separation, in Jesus Christ, our brother, our example, and our Lord. Amen.

Allen DeSalme is Licensed Professional Counselor-Supervisor at the Pastoral Counseling Center in Dallas, specializing in the treatment of mood disorders, anxiety, depression and anger, and families with at-risk youth. Allen is a current member of NorthPark Presbyterian Church and regularly leads the Genesis II Sunday School class.


Posted by Cherry Haymes on
Yes indeed, the mundane and the spiritual work together. In today's world, killing has become mundane. Individuals do it, our government does it.
Pray for Oregon, pray for the 9 doctors bombed in Afghanistan, their patients and the families. This is the mundane and spirituality working together?
Posted by Allen DeSalme on
I too am distressed by the constant bombardment of news stories of this kind. I tend to think the horrors you cited are then mundane working alone, or a VERY negative spirituality at work. I would not say, to be clear, that the mundane and spiritual work together in every thing that happens. I do think if we keep our eyes open we might see the spiritual evident in our daily lives more often than we think, which could help us from becoming discouraged.
Posted by Allen DeSalme on
Also I think it might be helpful that I use the term "mundane" to mean "earthly", as opposed to spiritual, rather than "common" or "regularly accepted".
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