What are you looking forward to? 8-10-2017

Sunday, 8 October 2107

Today the lectionary subject would be about the parable of the vineyard owner looking forward to receiving a harvest however; I have chosen to share with you some treasures gleaned from just one book drawn out of a treasure store of books which Brenda monitors for fundraising purposes.

Dr Gordon Livingston did service as a surgeon in the Vietnam War but later became a Psychiatrist.[2a] He listened to people talk about their lives, what works, what doesn’t, and the limitless ways to be unhappy. He has had tragedy in his own family, losing his eldest son to suicide and his youngest to leukaemia. 

He nominates thirty bedrock truths in his book: “Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart”. Today I will share maybe half a dozen with you, to underscore the adage that we are what we do and that we have the faith, and the capacity to face loss, misfortune, and regret -to move beyond them. It is not too late. My hope is that somewhere, somehow, you will find in this session, solace, guidance and hope. Later, I will invite you to have a short chat with your friend/s sitting alongside, to discuss “What are you looking forward to?”

Being a psychiatrist, Gordon’s clients are in the main, people who are trying to choose or keep a mate. He says that the fact that upward of half of all marriages end in divorce indicates we are collectively not very good at this task. We fail to understand that the qualities which we value- kindness, tolerance and perseverance and, like common sense are not all that common. He puts kindness, a willingness to give of oneself to another as the most desirable of all virtues. Maybe hard to define but when we are in its presence, we feel it.

His next chapter states “we are what we do”. Not what we think, or what we say, or how we feel. We are what we do. So in others, we need pay attention to not what they promise but how they behave. Past behaviour is the most reliable predictor of future behaviour.  He says that the three components of happiness are something to do, someone to love, and something to look forward to. Of course true love requires of us the courage to become totally vulnerable to another. Risk and trust are involved.

In times of trouble or stress, it is usually up to ourselves to work out what needs to be done. Dr L. says his technique is to listen to people’s problems then guide them to come up with their own solutions. He states that we are responsible for most of what happens to us. We of course have endured events and losses about which we had no choice. The first of three quotes from the “Friendship book 2017”,[ Jan and I read each day at Breakfast time]{Aug 23]He tries to instil hope for a better future which of course requires the client to let go of the past. {Let go and let God said Rev Gordon Powell].

People wait till they can feel better. For some it is a long wait. A capacity to laugh is necessary. Some of us come along each Friday to the morning drop in, for our dose of laughs and exchange mutual ignorance’s about such characters as “Murphy” and “Pam”.

Change is needed, to try new things, but in taking a risk we may fail.[Aug. 11] Some-one who is  an alcoholic has a choice like joining Alcoholics Anonymous. It may not help but it very well could too. A determination to overcome fear and discouragement constitutes an effective antidote to a sense of powerlessness over unwanted feelings. Behaviour has to be altered to yield greater control over our life. Confession may be good for the soul but it is only altered behaviour, in other words action taken to change something for the better.

As we age, less and less notice is taken of us by the ‘young’, have you noticed? The aged care industry is enormous and growing as is the cosmetic industry which fuels our desire to remain young looking. God appears to have said, “I will give you dominion over all other forms of life. But you will be the only species able to contemplate your death”.  We cop a lot of reminders of our mortality along life’s path which can make us angry. We, the olds have to wear the diminished sexual attractiveness and enthusiasm, declining health, the loss of long-time friends and the decline of mental acuity.  We appear to also have to put up with the disdain that society reserves for those of us with grey hair and wrinkles, without much power or any gainful employment.

 We senior citizens appear to exist in order to annoy everyone else with our slowness and physical complaints. Many of us olds are preoccupied with self-centred complaints. When depressed, people tend to be self-absorbed, irritable, and unpleasant to be around. Adequate treatment is sometimes denied the elderly with the attitude:” I’d be depressed too, if I were that old.” We have to take care that, when asked, how are we, that a litany of aches, pains and bowel difficulties does not get a mention. Grace and determination is needed to avoid inflicting their discomforts on those who love them. “Getting old is not for sissies” is an accurate predicament faced by the old in a youth obsessed society. Possibly the greatest gifts we parents can pass on to our children and grandchildren are a sense of optimism and a conviction that we can achieve happiness. The values we want to bravely pass on include honesty, commitment, empathy, respect; hard-work as well as hope is taught by example. If we can retain our good humour and interest in others we will fulfil our final obligation to our children and will have expressed our gratitude for the gift of life that we, undeserving, have been given and that we have enjoyed for so long.

Let me digress and relate one story from Les Twentyman who recently wrote: ”The Mouth that Roared”

Our Psychiatrist frequently asks his clients: “What are you looking forward to?” 

Congregation DISCUSSION

Clients overwhelmed by anxiety or depression often have no answer

The truly hopeless, of course, think about ending their lives, and we are noting a fair bit about assisted death lately in the media, emanating from our state government. Dr L believes it reasonable to confront would be suicides with the selfishness and anger implied in any act of self-destruction.{Sep 10]


Everything I need to learn from life, I learned from Noah’s Ark.

Geoff Serpell