Wednesday, May 22, 2013

What do to next? After home loss - Tornado, Fire, Flood, Natural Disaster.

There are tips here that would be applicable to anyone who might have total loss of a home from any major disaster.  I'm archiving this for myself - - and sharing here for anyone.

I received this information with permission to share with Tornado Victims in Oklahoma.

From Dr. Ed Neuenschwander, a renown Physics professor who lost his home to a Tornado in 2011. This list of important tips & steps comes from him and his first-hand experience in Oklahoma.

"Based on our experience in the aftermath of the May 24, 2011 tornado that wiped out our house, here are some actions that tornado victims may want to consider.

1. Contact insurance agent about homeowner's policy. It should have funds in it not only for the house, but also for the contents, debris removal, and temporary housing. Your agent will probably come and take photos to send to the company.

2. Contact your insurance agent about vehicles.

3. For insurance, and for your own memories (you will be telling your stories in years to come), take lots of photos. They may be painful to look at, but they really help in showing friends and family what you had to deal with. They will want to see. In addition, as you find items that you need to claim for insurance, photos will help document your losses. Even stuff that you throw away immediately should be noted so you can remember to claim it on the insurance.

4. Get a plastic file box, pads of paper, and so on, because you will be inundated with papers. Not only important documents but a avalanche of telephone numbers and so forth.

5. Get some plastic tubs to put stuff in that you will try to clean up and salvage.

6. Very soon the Red Cross will set up some kind of headquarters near your neighborhood, where you can go to get plastic tubs, meals, bottled water, shovels and rakes, donations of clothing and household items, soaps and toiletries, and hot meals. Make use of these facilities; they help you keep from getting exhausted, dehydrated, and discouraged--in addition to the useful stuff that they will give you, which will all be donated. Stories, besides meals and necessities, will be shared there. Sharing experiences helps a lot.

7. Put an alert on your credit cards, bank accounts, and so on. A bank statement, with your account number and address, may be on someone's yard in Arkansas this morning. Likewise your tax documents with your SSN on them.

8. Until you are back in a new permanent house, you may want to get a post office box, and send change of address notices to your utilities, mortgage company, bank, and so on.

9. Contact your mortgage company and tell them what happened. Let them know that the house was destroyed, and as soon as you get the insurance settlement, that you will pay it off. They may or may not insist that you make the next payment at the usual time before payoff; get that clarified. Some lenders want the payment schedule maintained; others will let you miss the next payment without penalty if they know the payoff is coming in a few weeks. But make sure they understand what is happening, and that you understand what is expected of you. The maddening thing in dealing with mortgage companies, insurance, and so on will be that you will get bounced around from one person to another, seldom to the same person each time you call. Expect this, so it does not become too frustrating. The check for the house will be made out to you and the mortgage company jointly; you have to sign it then mail it to them for them to sign, and they will eventually mail it back to you. They will probably hold it in their bank for a month to draw interest on it, while you sit and wait. This is annoying but don't let it get to you.

10. Notify your utilities that your address is one of those affected. No need to pay an electrical hookup charge, trash collection, and water there for the next few months!

11. Notify your county assessor so that your property tax rate reverts to that of vacant land for the time being.

12. If you cannot find copies of your mortgage documents, car title, birth certificates, and so on, you can contact which is a group of lawyers that donate their time to tornado victims to help them with these legal issues. They had a spokesman on Channel 4 this morning talking about these matters. Eventually you will work with your mortgage company, the Oklahoma Tax Commission, and the state of your birth to get copies of essential lost documents. When the insurance company gives you the check for a vehicle that was totaled, they will want the title and keys, especially the title.

13. While you are sifting through the rubble, you will step on a nail or two. Get a tetanus shot. Some of the local hospitals give them free to tornado victims. A medical technician from the state health department came down our street giving us tetanus shot on the spot, a couple of days afterwards.

14. Some civic groups collect funds to distribute to tornado victims. You will need to find out how to register or otherwise make them aware of you. Someone at the Red Cross location mentioned above will know about this.

15. As you collect stuff that might be salvageable, you may need a storage unit for a few weeks.

16. Sometime during the next several weeks, the federal agency FEMA will set up a meeting in a church or school near you, describing government assistance programs for natural disaster victims. If your insurance is adequate you may not need FEMA, but if your insurance is not adequate then they can offer real help, but expect a lot of bureaucracy and federal guidelines. It would be worthwhile to go and hear what they have to say. It's also a good chance to swap stories with other tornado victims at the meeting. In such settings you will all feel the kinship of a shared experience throughout all of this.

17. Don't be afraid to ask questions, whether you're in the county courthouse or the insurance office. When your house gets wiped out by a tornado, you will find that people genuinely want to help. I was trying to get some piece of paperwork sorted out about our property before we could rebuild on it, and made at least two trips to the Canadian County courthouse about it, and talked to the ladies in this particular office. No, they had not seen the paperwork come back from the mortgage company releasing the lien on the property, even though the mortgage company told us they had sent it. A couple of days later one of those ladies phoned us and said they had found it. It was a personal touch that was very uplifting because they genuinely wanted to help. The bureaucracy will be frustrating, especially when dealing with people by phone in other states (especially the mortgage and insurance companies; your local insurance agent can facilitate a lot of stuff for you with your insurance company), but expect some delays. Be persistent and patient.

18. We suggest opening an new checking account into which you will deposit the funds you get from insurance and other sources for rebuilding your house and replacing your car and household contents. If you mix the rebuilding monies with your daily living expense monies, it will be hard to know where you are at financially. We opened a separate checking account for rebuilding and were glad we did. Later on when rebuilding you will also need a construction loan up front, but your builder can send you to bankers he works with all the time. You could also take the insurance money, pay off the mortgage, then use the balance as a down payment on an existing house elsewhere.

19. You will be responsible for seeing that the debris is removed. Don't mess with trying to salvage the slab even if it looks good. It will be compromised, and be a liability if you decide to sell the property. Clean it off the ground so you or a buyer can start over. Don't try to do the debris removal yourself, after spending $1600 on four dumpsters from WCA you will not have made a dent in the debris, with no end in sight, and will feel overwhelmed. Get somebody like Midwest Wrecking who has the big trucks and serious front-end loaders, and they will have it all cleaned off in an afternoon.

20. If you decide to rebuild, get a builder who has a long-standing, excellent local reputation, even if you have to wait awhile for him. You and that builder will be talking daily for months, so the working relationship and trust must be there too.

21. Allow your self time to grieve over the that which cannot be replaced. Remember that new beginnings can be good. Keep perspective. If we never had any trouble, where would our great stories come from?"

Saturday, May 18, 2013

The Ten Commandments & Jesus' summary of the Law & Prophets

I hope it is the case that all Christians know that Jesus summarized the Greatest Command and the Second, which is like it, as - You shall love the LORD your God  and You shall love your neighbor.

Many Christians, though, may not realize these two summary commands are not from the Ten Commandments. 

The Ten Commandments are found in two nearly identical lists found in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5.

The Greatest Commandments that Jesus lists though, derive from the Shema found Deuteronomy 6:4-5 and a specific command found in a larger list of commands in Leviticus 19:18.

These facts are well known to anyone who has taken the time to study the statements of Jesus.

Having noted these facts, it would be good for Christians to recognize that the themes about God and Neighbor are clearly part of the Ten Commandments. 

The provisions of the first several commandments begin with a call to honor and recognize the LORD-God by not having other gods and by honoring the LORD's name! 

And, one should not miss that the provisions at the end of the commandments are not just about "coveting" someone's belongings.  They are provisions of protection from coveting the property and possessions and life of one's neighbor!

Jesus did not quote the Ten Commandments, even as Jesus understood that the Ten Commandments begin with God and end with Neighbor.

The Central Claim of Psalm 23 & the Bible.

I shared this reflection with a Masters in Organizational Leadership class I taught on Conflict and Negotiation.

I think it has ample meaning for any Christian.

The more I mature, the more I realize that the most profound insights of great wisdom deep reflections on quite simple claims.   I think Jesus had this same insight in his “simple” reflection on the “deep” truth that all of the Law and Prophets are found in the claim to Love God and Love Neighbor.  [Including the claim that loving our neighbor means loving the neighbor we may not like – our enemy!]

The South-African-Dutch Bible Scholar C.J. Labuschagne observed that the 23rd Psalm (along with each of the Psalms) is more carefully constructed and intentionally structured than we have previously noticed.  Many before Labushcagne noted that at 23:4 the language of the Psalm moves form 3rd person (“He guides me . . . “) to 2nd person (“You prepare . . . “).  Labuschagne, though, is the first I know of to point that the exact place of this change in the Psalm also is the exact center of the Psalm.  There are 26 words in Hebrew, that lead up to a 3 word centre, with 26 Hebrew words coming after the centre statement. 

The central 3 Hebrew words, since they are compound words, take 5 words to translate into English.  The five words that translate the deliberate centre – the very heart – of the 23rd Psalm are these:  “for you are with me.”  [A phonetic transliteration equivalent to the 3 Hebrew words is “key  a-taw  im-ma-dee.”]






It strikes me that the central claim of the 23rd Psalm is the core claim of the book of Psalms.  In all of the highs and lows (laments and praise) of the book of Psalms – each Psalm understands that the LORD reigns and that in all things, the LORD is with us.

And, it strikes me that the stories of Old and New Testament alike come back to the same claim, again and again and again.  Moses – don’t be afraid, the LORD is with you.  Joshua, don’t be afraid, the LORD is with you.  David and Israel standing before the Philistines, don’t be afraid, the LORD is with you.  Jeremiah and Exiles heading out of the Land, don’t be afraid, the LORD is with you.  People of Judah, don’t be afraid, the LORD dressed in swaddling clothes, teaching as an itinerant preacher, calming storms at sea, is with you.  Disciples after the crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension, do not be afraid, the LORD as Holy Spirit, is with you.

Psalm 23 understands that in “green pastures” of plenty – or – at a table with enemies! – the LORD will be present.  For You are with me.

Psalm 23 understands that there will be “calm waters” and “dark valleys” – and the LORD will be present.  For You are with me.

Perhaps, one of the greatest realizations we need to discern – in the midst of whatever conflicting situation we are trying to negotiate – is the reality that in all of life, the LORD is with us.

Whatever the conflict . . .

No matter the trouble of negotiation . . .

“For You are with me.”

Perhaps the heart of the entire message of the Bible – from Genesis where God creates heaven and earth – to Revelation where God creates new heaven and new earth – is the claim that in the midst of the conflict humans have brought into God’s good creation, the LORD wants to be with us. 

The LORD is with us.

The message of the Bible may simply be this sentence derived from three central words of the 2rd Psalm.

“For You are with me.”


"I didn't win" - the $600 million lottery

The Powerball $600 million lottery just "ended" (actually, no winners have yet been confirmed, thought he winning numbers have been selected.)

I happened to be online to several news-sources, to read the comments within minutes of the winning numbers being posted.  Numerous persons commented, "I didn't win." Others commented, "I won!  I won!" - clearly they did not.  A few posted they wish they would have bought a pizza instead - and several commented that they wished the winners luck and hoped they would share the winnings.

I don't get people who "buy" into lotteries. [I've read numerous sociological or economic studies on those who do "play" so I do "get it" in some way, even while I still do not comprehend it.]

For one, the only genuine and guaranteed way in life, as shaped by years of experience worldwide, to reap any harvest or gain on any achievement is to sow & work and then reap a harvest in due time, hopefully of ample yield.   Long term, diligent, careful work, over time, can yield a result.

What is more, the math of lotteries is phenomenally and outrageously against the simple probability of winning.  Perhaps if I buy a raffle ticket from the local school, and I have a 1-in-1000 to win, it's possible I might win the raffle, but I have to remember I have a 999-in-1000 chance of not winning.

Maybe I'm in a crowd of 15,000 at the local NBA game, and they toss out 20 shirts, I have a 1-in750 chance to grab a shirt (though even that is not true - there are some seats in the arena that will never get a shirt!)  But, in this lottery a winner had a 1-in-175,000,000 chance of winning.   That means 174,999,999 people will not win!!  That's the probable number for persons who "played."  A person thinking about buying a ticket should have said to themselves, "If I buy this ticket, I am 99.999999999 guaranteed to not win!"

At current population rates - California has 38 million people and Texas 26 million people.  That means if I took 3x the population of California (every city, every town, every neighborhood, every person!) and added to that 3x the population of Texas - from all of those persons, 1 of them will win.  1! One!  Only 1!

I don't get why anyone thinks they "have a chance" in any realistic way!

Meanwhile, consider every person who paid $2.00 or $10.00 or $100.00 to buy a ticket.  The total value of tickets exceeds the $600 million given out - and I would guess total sales revenue is closer to $1 Billion for this lottery. Statistics I've read suggest that the powerball lottery alone (not the various other scratch-offs and other forms of gambling that exist) will gross over $5 billion this year. 

If every person who played these games of chance would instead contribute to agencies performing acts of justice - we could give 1,000 agencies $1,000,000 each.  Or - we could give $2 million dollars to 500 agencies.   We could fund $20 million dollars to 50 agencies!


I didn't win the $600 million dollar Powerball lottery.

I didn't buy a ticket. 

I wish we lived in a society willing to "play" at acts of charity and the transformative work of justice  which could transform our world - instead of "playing" on the nearly impossible chance to win a lottery.

Investment in transformative justice could yield results that would yield returns in predictable and sustainable ways to make our world better!

Reciprocity and Eutrophia

Reciprocity is one of my favorite words &  favorite concepts. 
I enjoy participating in relationships of mutual growth & development. 

Nurtured relationships of reciprocity create a eutrophia to daily existence.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Is Psycho-therapeutic diagnosis accurate?

I'm glad to read that some of the best neuro-scientists are challenging the validity of the Diagnostics and Statistical Manual used to diagnose patients.  Specifically, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) is distancing itself from the the American Psychiatric Association and its upcoming Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).

The director of NIMH, Tom Insel, writes:
The goal of this new manual, as with all previous editions, is to provide a common language for describing psychopathology. While DSM has been described as a “Bible” for the field, it is, at best, a dictionary, creating a set of labels and defining each. The strength of each of the editions of DSM has been “reliability” – each edition has ensured that clinicians use the same terms in the same ways. The weakness is its lack of validity. (Link to source.

After finishing my Master's Degree in counseling a few years ago, I intentionally elected to not pursue licensure by the State.  This was an elective decision, rooted in many reasons, one of which had to do with my antipathy with psychological diagnosis for billing.

I am a person who embraces the ideas of existential philosophy and human-personhood including Theistic elements.  Additionally, I embrace the manifold complexities of what science can "know" about the body and the brain.  [I accept Science!  I just think it continues to find that the more we know - the more we realize what we do not know.]

The simple, neat and tidy" diagnostic descriptions from the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistics Manual) bothered me for what they failed to contain - and for how they qualified and quantified certain subjective factors.  I had no trouble passing the class on Psychopathology when I applied the ideas within narrow categories to sample-case-studies, but I could not make myself believe the categories were more than helpful frames of reference in most cases, and even in the best diagnostic situations, they still had to be discerned alongside many other cognitive, hormonal, cultural, social and situational dynamics.

In my final cumulative research project, after having spent many hours with a client, I completed a full diagnostic evaluation of him.  I earned a "C" on the project, thus, pulling my grade to a B, and "ruining" the 4.0 GPA I had worked for was lost in my Master's Degree.  Given the rhetorical directness with which I challenged the Professor of the class, and the Director of the program, in his review of my diagnosis, I'm surprised I did not receive a lower grade in the course!

Though I was a straight "A", competent student, also an adult who had spent countless hours with persons in personal and pastoral settings, I did not diagnose my client in the way the professor expected from me based on his giving greater validity to the DSM-IV.  Even though I had spent many hours with the client (and the Professor only knew him as a fictitious name on the pages of my full report), and even though I described the nature of why I ruled-out the diagnosis that the professor expected of me, and even though I defended my diagnosis at my Oral Defense, based on the entire social-situational perspective that I saw from the client, I was forced by the professor to resubmit the paper and use his diagnosis in order to pass the class and finish the program.

Oh, the irony therefore, that the links I include in this post actually came to my awareness from the self-same professor who, now in a new role himself professionally at a hospital it seems is around other scientifically astute persons and he is recognizing the hubris of the DSM as a perfect model for pristine diagnostic evaluation.  

I do not believe the categories of the DSM are "wrong," nor unhelpful. (In my view, Thomas Szasz went too far.)   I believe, instead that the hubris with which some clinicians use the categories to narrowly and exclusively "box" persons in to limited confines, only discernible to those with the skill to diagnose in these predictable and exclusionary ways, can too often be an act of vanity.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Pastor, Do you love Jesus?

Stanley Hauerwas preached a great sermon at Duke Divinity School.

The full transcript for a quick read is linked here - though the delivery, provided below is great as well.

Thoughtful, clear, and convicting.