Samaritan Recognition Award Winners


Photos of the award winners from the 2014 Samaritan Recognition and Award fundraiser held at the Bay Valley Resort in Bay City on November 10. Please see this article from the Midland Daily News for more information about all of the award winners.


Carl Continues to be Cogent

On August 17, I preached a sermon at the United Church of Christ, Midland.  Some folks have expressed an interest in being able to read the full text of the sermon.  In this sermon I talked about the difference between "belief" and "faith" and suggested that faith was enriched in a dialog with doubt while belief is just frightened of doubt and runs away (more or less).  Here is a link to that sermon:

Results from first annual Samaritan Recognition and Award event

The Samaritan Recognition and Award Banquet held on November 11th was a huge success.

The event raised over $4000 which will be used to support counseling of clients who otherwise would not be able to pay the full cost. Thank you to all the individuals, organizations, attendees, and most of all, award winners who supported the event with their presence and their contributions.

The galleries below feature photos from the banquet.


More of Carl's Cogent Comments


This summer has seen the severe disciplining of several major league baseball players for using performance enhancing drugs.  One player, Alex Rodriguez, was loudly booed by the New York Yankee fans when he came out to play after planning to appeal his very lengthy suspension from the game.  It wasn’t very long ago that the news media treated us to the sad, lengthy saga of Lance Armstrong for his using performance enhancing drugs in the Tour de France bicycle races.  The National Football League has just announced a new study trying to discover whether or not its players are similarly involved.  The media and large portions of the public seem to be offended and/or horrified by all this.

The same TV programs that bring us information about this feature advertising for such things as 5 Hour Energy, Cialis, Viagra, Levitra, etc.  Simply put, these are performance enhancing drugs.  In 2008 the public spent nearly two billion dollars on Viagra.  Last year 5 Hour Energy sales topped one billion dollars and Cialis passed the $900,000 mark. 

What makes performance enhancing drugs so appealing?  Perhaps the belief that we are not enough is a major part of the appeal.  Often we think that if we can just do more work, have more sex, keep going farther, longer, harder than maybe we will be enough.  But it doesn’t work that way.  A few years ago the NCAA ran some TV commercials about performance enhancing drugs that featured a human statue and showed various parts of it (arms, legs, etc.) falling off.  The point was clear:  the use of these drugs is physically debilitating. Sometime when you see the ads for these various products, listen carefully to the disclaimers which warn us about all sorts of dire effects that might result from using these medications---and Cialis even now has an “everyday” dose.  Apparently our society is willing to sacrifice long-term health for a few more “high performance” moments.  This is an awesome cost that we pay trying to appease the irrational belief that we are not enough. 

You might think that some of these “medications” are aimed at actual physical health issues.  However, the mass marketing betrays the producers’ belief that we all need these.  Everyone gets hungry and we don’t treat hunger as a clinical condition.  Everyone gets sleepy and we don’t usually treat fatigue as a clinical condition.  The human desire for sexual gratification is not a medical or clinical issue.  Some things change as we age.  But old age is not a clinical condition.  So we have a host of companies out there trying to convince us that we are not enough—and we, as a society, are buying into that belief with huge sums of money.

The belief that we are not enough is a spiritual issue with emotional overtones.  It cannot be addressed by doing or obtaining more of anything.  It can only be addressed by challenging the irrational beliefs we treasure and have sometimes inherited. Part of that means we need to understand what it really means to be human.  Spiritually sensitive counseling, such as that provided by the Fresh Aire staff, can help people to break through the bondage of irrational beliefs and discover a new freedom as we celebrate our humanity---the God-created reality that we are enough just as we are.

Carl's Cogent Comments Continue


In recent years the positive psychology movement has been gathering speed and power.  Sometimes it feels like a welcome breath of fresh air into a field long filled with issues of clinical pathology.  Sometimes it feels like a “pie in the sky” approach to life that urges us to just smile more and laugh a lot.  We have all had our fill of “cheer up” advice which doesn’t seem to be very effective especially when we’re not feeling very cheerful.  When I am overwhelmed with negative feelings, a bunch of “feel good” saying just doesn’t cut it. 

However, we need to take a closer look at the body of work that falls under the title “positive psychology.”  A lot of very serious, diligent work and research is going on in this area.  I believe that overall this effort will provide a much needed balance to our tendency to ignore the good news and to really dwell on the depressing and discouraging emphasis on clinical pathology.

I came across an interesting bit of research from the positive psychology folk recently.  They looked first at what happens when people are told to cheer up, recite mantras about how things are getting better, etc.  The effort confirms what most of us know:  people who have high levels of self-esteem can raise those even higher by reciting these “feel good” mantras.  However, people whose self-esteem is low will lower their self-esteem even more by making these feel good comments to themselves.

Then the researchers took another tact.  They asked people to replace their negative self-talk with various positive comments which they themselves had devised.  The results were dramatically different.  People with low self-esteem were able to raise their self-esteem when they developed their own mantras to replace their usual negative and self-derogatory comments. 

A person who routinely describes herself as ugly will feel even worse if she tries to repeat her friends’ suggestions that she is really beautiful.  However, if she decides to stress a positive characteristic of her own and tell herself that instead of being ugly that she is dedicated and compassionate, then the detrimental effect of the word “ugly’ disappears along with the word.

Think about the ways you talk about yourself to yourself.  Take note of the self-defeating, self-critical and self-deprecating comments you repeat constantly.  Then take some time to make a list of some of your skills, gifts, talents, and strengths.  Pick a few of the more powerful words from this second list and use them to replace all that negative junk you’re so good at verbalizing.  You probably won’t find the items on my list of good things to say very helpful, but you will get a lot of benefit from your own list of positive comments.  We have a lot of power to shift our thinking if we will allow ourselves to highlight the nice things we really already know about ourselves.  Try it.  The only thing you have to lose is your low self-esteem.

Carl's Cogent Comments

 John Steinbeck took a line from William Shakespeare's Richard III: "Now is the winter of our discontent” as the title of a novel which deals with what happens when a man tries to get ahead by betraying his own moral values.  Many critics were disappointed with the book, which was published in 1961.  However, after the Watergate scandal, one critic, Reloy Garcia, changed his mind about the book, saying:  "The book [that] I then so impetuously criticized as somewhat thin, now strikes me as a deeply penetrating study of the American condition. I did not realize, at the time, that we had a condition," and he attributes this change of heart to "our own enriched experience".  This bit of literary history might also be used as an example of another kind of “condition” which is among us and becoming more severe than ever.  I am talking about depression.  Recently a rather grim statistic caught my attention.  We have now come, as a country, to a place where there are more deaths from suicide than from automobile accidents.  Suicide is probably a person’s final attempt to resolve the pain of depression.  Depression, unfortunately is alive and well among us. 

Depression comes in many forms and levels of severity.  It has been suggested that the perpetrators of mass killings are people who have lost all hope—which would certainly mean that they were depressed.  But as common as life destroying depression has become, it is still far less common than the depressed feelings which frequently stalk our days and nights, trouble our families, encourage alcohol abuse, and wreck our friendships.

The winter in Michigan is a time for depression.  Unemployment in Michigan exacerbates depression. Some days the news is depressing.  The psychiatric diagnostic manual suggests that depression comes in at least half a dozen forms.  It is estimated that nationally depression imposes costs of 34 billion dollars on the workplace.  Depressed people have higher absentee rates than others.  The children of depressed mothers do poorly in school.  Clearly the depressed folk in our midst feel like hope has eluded or abandoned them.  We have a “condition” among us that the religious community is called to address just as surely as we address injustice, poverty and peace issues.  If hope is our message, then it is important to help the sufferers of depression find their way out of the darkness that overwhelms them.

Fresh Aire Counselors can be a supportive aid to churches and pastors who are concerned about this silent epidemic.  When pastors refer members of their flocks to Fresh Aire, they can be assured that depression will be professionally treated by clinicians who are committed to keeping hope alive.  Fresh Aire counselors are available and eager to join forces with the leadership of faith communities to bring light and life to those whose depressed moods interfere with their attempt to find meaning in their lives.

Carl's Cogent Comments are written by the Rev. Dr. Carl R. Gillett