A Marital Check-up

While it is true in marriage that opposites attract, couples do need to share core morals and values. A couple has to be headed down the same path with the same goals. Very often discussions about money turn into major conflicts because couples do not share the same core values regarding spending and saving habits. If a couple is not like-minded there could be serious trouble ahead in the marital relationship. Another area for potential conflict is artificial contraception and how to regulate the birth of children in a marriage. One of the major purposes of marriage besides building your spouse’s self-esteem and helping each other achieve eternity with God, is the procreation and education of children. Very often it is the woman who is asked to sacrifice her health and well-being because she is expected to take birth control pills. However birth control pills have a demonstrably detrimental side effects to the overall health of a woman. A couple should share the core morality of regulating births through Natural Family Planning (NFP). A man who genuinely loves his spouse would never ask her to go on birth control pills and deal with the very real consequences to her body, mind, and soul. This continues to be visibly demonstrated by study after study, so much so that even a non-Christian would draw the same conclusions.

Psychologists all the way back to the ancient philosophers of Greece have studied and categorized a variety of human temperaments, meaning an individual’s “thumbprint” as to how they are wired. Typically a simple way to look at it is that a so-called “Type A” temperament fits better with a laid back temperament. So in marriage, temperaments should balance out with one another. Two “Type A” temperaments generally will not work well for a marital relationship nor will two laid back people have much success either.

The third area where couples need to take a more reflective look is, “Are both committed to saving and/or creating a healthy relationship?” The assumption that marriage is forever and that your partner is going along just for the ride is quite dangerous. Marriages must grow and stretch and the couple has to be “all-in.” Wanting to stay married is the best predictor of being able to work through and compromise in areas of disagreement that at first glance seem daunting or irreconcilable. The assumption that a partner will go along just to get along is faulty and a real danger area for marriages. It is a simple but true axiom, “don’t take your spouse for granted.”

Now beyond avoiding taking your partner for granted is a huge one, do you speak your partner’s love language? This can mean simply things like, “What does he like?” or “What makes her feel special?” The answer to these questions are not panaceas meaning fixed formulas to calm an unstable relationship. These are things that bring true meaning and sincerity to the marital relationship. If your spouse’s love language is quality time then are you present with him/her in a genuine and thoughtful manner. Spouses do not like to be a “third wheel” whether it is to work or a leisure activity. A spouse should be able to say to themselves, “No matter what we do, I want to be with you.” Yes guys that may mean a trip to the mall.

Even very good marital relationships have conflicts and it is during these conflicts where spouses have an opportunity to really hurt each other and damage the relationship deeply. Instead of working against each other (oftentimes for the same goal!) couples need to be able to work together to resolve problems. Marriage can be thought of as a pair of shoes and from time to time these shoes need to be cleaned and polished. This means both shoes! Marriages can always benefit from a good “brushing up.”

Not surprisingly couples who stay invested in their marriages are attracted to each other physically and they genuinely like each other. Ask yourself if you like the sight of him in his boxers or her in her “nightie.” Most marriages are based on a solid friendship but if that has been lost then get it back. This can be done through going on dates or talking and listening to each other without the distractions of media (or children!). “Liking” each other again can mean everything for a marriage to continue growing and being all that it can be. If you or someone you know may need counseling, please contact Lamar Hunt Jr. or see his website at http://lamarhuntjrcounseling.com/.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel Review

Last week my wife and I went to see a movie called, “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” starring a slew of well-known English actors and set in India. As the movie opens the viewer is introduced to various characters experiencing specific life events that are going to place them in the same location, a start-up retirement community in India run by an ambitious young man who is the youngest of three sons. I did not read a review of the movie beforehand but had seen a preview of it. Years ago I had read a book called “Howard’s End” by E.M. Forester and remembered the fine movie I had seen made from the book, so I was expecting something similar. Forester’s book is about three families and does address class and gender struggle among other things. The “expectations” of my mind floated to an exotic location with an understated plot full of subtle twists and turns with plenty of psychological nuances and tensions. Boy were we disappointed. Movies have tremendous power to convey messages and Hollywood rarely disappoints when it comes to furthering an agenda that is not only misguided but very dangerous. We have a generation of brainwashed individuals both young and old falling for this balderdash like no other. It was actually embarrassing to see well-known seasoned actors play parts beneath their true talents. What a waste!

In the movie we see the word or concept of “love” linked throughout to the following: a thirty-year marriage portrayed as miserable, overbearing, and on the verge of breaking up; an elderly man focused on finding a woman to have a “mountaintop” sexual experience with; a recently widowed woman whose husband of forty years hid their finances from her throughout their marriage, thus leaving her broke and having to find work to support herself; an older woman with a reputation of multiple past marriages; a recently retired lawyer with health concerns who is returning to find a man he had a brief sexual fling with in their late teens (he is a confirmed lifelong “gay” man); a bitter old maid with deep prejudices (and no ability to hold her tongue about it) who has taken care of someone else’s children her whole life; and lastly a young couple who are attracted to each other (it is implied that they are having sex) but of course their attraction is counter to their stations in life (i.e. clearly a reference to the caste system). While we do get a very brief glimpse of these people’s lives before they leave for India, the move seems impulsive because they just up and leave family and friends. This is clearly an attack on the family and the stability it provides. Where are these people’s roots? Do their life experiences count for anything? What we see in their behavior is just not realistic. In short there is nothing that reflects a traditional view of what real love is as stated by Paul in the Bible. “Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong; but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Corinthians 13: 4-7). Upon reflection, the movie bashed marriage and quite frankly why would the young couple in the movie want to persevere given what they witness going on around them in the so-called “older and wiser” generation. It was as if these people never learned anything from their own personal life experiences. Human beings are not just reactive animals. We can reflect on our experiences and grow emotionally and spiritually from them.

Mary Eberstadt author of “Adam and Eve After the Pill” (a book everyone should read) states that, “Christian teaching in these intensely controversial matters (such as premarital sex, cohabitation, homosexuality, and birth control) is actually being vindicated by secular social science and secular evidence from elsewhere, including the popular culture.” Even an atheist would draw the same conclusions. Most of what is portrayed in “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” strikes at the dignity of the human person. There is not love but the “use” of another human being for one’s own personal gratification (selfishness). The evidence is in: must we as a nation collapse due to a lack of moral clarity or can we begin to teach virtue and strive for the happiness that authentic and genuine relationships provide? Happily, ticket sale revenues for “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” are low and I am sorry I saw it. However I am grateful to point out to readers how movies can associate truly beautiful God-given capacities like love with such hurtful, immature and destructive behavior. This association is deceitful and will ruin lives! There was nothing charming about this film and in fact, it made me angry and miserable on the inside.

The book, “50 Shades of Grey” by E L James, is being billed as an “erotic best seller” and is sweeping through neighborhood book clubs at an alarming rate. How can anyone in their right mind proclaim anything redeeming about a book that portrays “rape” as some form of “romance.” St. Paul said “flee immorality” and we should all do the same. I briefly glanced at a blog about the book and was simply shocked by the nonsense that I read. St. Augustine said, “Sin diminishes sight” meaning the more we separate ourselves from God’s self-revelation through his Son, Jesus Christ, we don’t think or do things in a right mind. We become senseless. Where has common sense gone? The book is just another example of the “pornification” of our culture.

Studies clearly demonstrate that premarital sex, cohabitation, and the use of birth control lead to markedly higher levels of marital/relational dissatisfaction and ultimately divorce. Social science confirms what faith and reason already tell us. Spread the Word! If you or someone you know may need counseling, please contact Lamar Hunt Jr. or see his website at http://lamarhuntjrcounseling.com/.

Your Unfinished Work?

The wonderful Italian composer, Giacomo Puccini, who wrote the opera “Madame Butterfly” among many other operas, was stricken with cancer while at work on his last opera “Turandot.” He told his students that “if I don’t finish it, finish it for me.” Shortly thereafter he died.  “Turandot” is about Princess Turandot and is set in the Forbidden City in Peking, China (now called Beijing). Unfortunately Princess Turandot, while a beautiful woman, is also filled with hate and rage toward men because one of her ancestors was brutally slain by a conquering prince. Her heart is literally “ice.” However anyone who can answer three questions that are posed as riddles will be able to marry her and very soon a Prince Calaf becomes smitten with her beauty and is willing to answer these questions. Others who have not been able to answer these questions are put to death. The first question is, “What is born each night and dies each dawn?” The second question is, “What flickers red and warm like a flame, yet is not fire?” And lastly, “What is like ice but burns?” Prince Calaf answers these three riddles with, “Hope, Blood, and Turandot!” Now Turandot is quite dismayed by these answers and begs her own father not to turn her over to a stranger, in fact she does not even know his name. However if she can learn his name by dawn, Calaf agrees to forfeit his life. At this point a young slave girl, named Liu whom Calaf had smiled upon in the past, reveals that she does know Calaf’s name. Turandot has her tortured to reveal Calaf’s name but she remains silent. Turandot asks the girl her secret as to why she can endure such pain and Liu replies, “Love.” Turandot filled with further rage orders the torture to be intensified but Liu snatches a dagger from one of the soldiers and takes her own life. Turandot is now alone with Calaf who takes her in his arms and forces her to kiss him. Turnadot, knowing physical passion for the first time in her life begins to weep and Calaf tells her his name. Turandot approaches the throne of the Emperor and announces Calaf’s name which is “Love.” In 1926 Puccini’s favorite student, Arturo Toscanini, conducted and directed the premiere of “Turandot” in Milan, Italy. When the opera reached the point where Puccini was forced to put down his pen, Toscanini stopped the music and turned to the audience and cried out, “Thus far the Master wrote, but he died.” Suddenly a reverent silence filled the opera house. The Toscanini then picked up his baton and smiling through his own tears cried out, “But the disciples finished his work.” At the conclusion of the opera, the audience broke into a tumultuous applause. We are still in the season of Easter and the Master, Jesus Christ has died for our sins, risen from the dead, and will soon ascend to the right hand of the Father. If Jesus is the Lord and Saviour of your life, then how prepared and willing are you to help finish the Master’s work? If you or someone you know may need counseling, please contact Lamar Hunt Jr. or see his website at http://lamarhuntjrcounseling.com/.

Take Your Time

Men and women do get lonely and certainly relationships are unquestionably important. However wanting a relationship “right now” can be costly. This urgency can appear too frantic and rushed much like ordering an item through the Internet. Again an irrational thought can spring to mind, “I don’t have time to get out and face the whole dating scene. I have so much to do!” So people feel pressured to get into what they think is a meaningful relationship too fast and that is the fourth complication in building a solid foundation for a relationship. Rush rush rush. Men and women sometimes interview each other as if they were screening applicants for a job. The process can approach an interrogation. Here is an example of a guy’s interview list, “How much time do you spend cooking dinner each night?” and “Do you use fresh ingredients or processed foods?” and lastly “Do you use cookbooks or do you just wing it?” I suppose I need to put a disclaimer on this and say, gentlemen don’t ask these types of questions if you want to find your soul mate! The primary danger in all of this rushing around is that you never get to know the other person. Instead of perceiving and really seeing the other person fully on his or her own terms, the pressure you feel to “move things along” may tend to force your vision to see only what you want to see and not reality. You may not be as open to the other person in all of his or her complexity, richness, and yes contradictions. If one only pays attention to beauty, “coolness,” and attributes of wealth and social status then that sense of hurry won’t lead to building a good solid foundation in your relationship. Here is what I most often see in couples who resort to rushing: Rushing means you get into the relationship too fast which can lead to one or both parties feeling hurt, deceived, or confused about the “terms” of the relationship; rushing means that you are more likely to get deeply involved before you really know if the other person is what you are looking for; rushing risks the situation of ordering goods “on impulse” and after committing yourself discovering that what you have “ordered” is not what you bargained for; and lastly rushing makes it harder for you and the other person to get to know each other beyond an initial, superficial level which can lead to short-term misunderstandings, disillusionment, and resentment, and in the longer term to an unstable marriage and even divorce. If you or someone you know may need counseling, please contact Lamar Hunt Jr. or see his website at http://lamarhuntjrcounseling.com/.

Looking Deeper

Last week I wrote about the confusion and anxiety over the more recent approaches, such as the Internet, to search for love and mentioned that we would be focusing on the 7 paths to strong and lasting relationships. The first path is to build solid foundations. I also mentioned the first complication within that path as being a sense of unpredictability in how to go about searching for one’s soul mate. The second complication is the images of what we want not being shaped by our inner needs but by Hollywood, the fashion industry, and the media. Unfortunately the “shopping list” of demands of what people want in a mate is comprised by expectations of “must-have” features that spring up from who knows where. These expectations could arise from our inner needs or they could come from the culture surrounding us. The detailed, picky specifications that people express about ideal mates can become obstacles that prevent them from connecting with reality. Physical attraction, for example, does not always translate into a long-lasting profound relationship. You do not find your lifetime partner as a result of only an initial attraction. In fact that initial reaction can be brought down a few notches when we listen or speak to people and get to know them. In our society we do indeed have a tendency to “judge a book by its cover” and we really don’t look inside. We stay on the surface and this impairs our ability to get know someone on a deeper level. As a counselor when I am told things like, “I am sleeping with a stranger” or “I don’t know this person anymore” or ” This isn’t the person I married” it can mean they fell into the trap of only knowing someone on a superficial level. The stuff of real relationships is being able to see into another person’s heart and to find the treasure that lies within. If you or someone you know may need counseling, please contact Lamar Hunt Jr. or see his website at http://lamarhuntjrcounseling.com/.

Is It Hard To Find Someone Good?

The English poet John Donne wrote, “No man is an island, sufficient unto himself.” There are those who appear to be completely self-sufficient but these self-sufficient types are mostly out of touch with their own needs, desires, and feelings. Everyone needs someone. Thus begins the search for a “soul mate” or “someone I can share my life with.” However even with so many ways to meet people the one overriding complaint is the unpredictability of the process in the quest for love. There don’t seem to be any ground rules, no set patterns, and thus no clear sequence of steps to take. This can lead to a lot of confusion and anxiety. It would seem that our culture and society is simply “making up” the courtship dance. Without rules, people stumble, so it is not surprising that people grab at anything that will keep them on their feet. One of the serious problems with Internet matchmaking is that even though a person may list all of the features they desire in a person, does that mean you will “catch” the person you have cast your net for? After all, the Internet provides a very large “pond” in which to cast a net. Yet there are clearly mixed results and dissatisfaction that can result from reliance on this approach. One of the main reasons people don’t find what they want is that the vision in their mind of the ideal mate may not translate into reality. Very often people will post information on the Internet that is not truthful only to make themselves look better than they really are. Some potential partners present themselves in ways that can only be called “wishful thinking.” Being intrigued by a personality as it takes shape on a computer screen, a so-called “digital personality”, is taking a risk that may even complicate the task of finding a “soul mate.” If you or someone you know may need counseling, please contact Lamar Hunt Jr. or see his website at http://lamarhuntjrcounseling.com/.

Relationship Foundations

The first path is “Build Solid Foundations.” To live is to relate and there really is no other alternative. From the moment of birth to the moment of death, a person deals with people in all sorts of relationships. No one cuts their own umbilical cord at birth and no one closes their own casket at death so we are dependent on others. Babies, for example, cannot survive even a few hours without the care and nurturance of other people. We are wired for relationships and have a natural drive for connection with others. Each of us has an inborn desire to reach out toward someone else. The experience of reaching out and connecting with others is what ultimately makes us human. No man or woman is an island. When we relate to others we develop and discover ourselves. Being human is a matter of how we relate and share ourselves with others. We need to love and feel loved. This does not mean interacting superficially. It means getting to know other people on deeper levels and building meaningful, lasting relationships. “Building Solid Foundations” means focusing on the perceptions, decisions, values, and actions that support and strengthen caring relationships over the long term. As an adult we are much more autonomous (able to act independently) than when we were younger. An individual can function on their own, live alone, work alone, and even play alone. But in spite of this so-called “adult” autonomy, there is a craving for a relatedness to others. There is a desire to connect with someone who will be a lifetime partner-someone who will be there through the ups and downs, share your dreams, who will give you a sense of meaning, and perhaps the person who will share the gift of parenthood during the child-rearing years. If you or someone you know may need counseling, please contact Lamar Hunt Jr. or see his website at http://lamarhuntjrcounseling.com/.

Relationship Basics

Almost everyone struggles with the difficulties and the differences of opinion that arise from their relationships. For example, how can a couple bridge the gap between our culture’s romantic expectations about love (a recurrent theme in so many movies) and the reality of everyday domestic life together? Or how do you live with the differences that occur in a relationship where two totally different people must interact, compromise, and live together? How can you communicate effectively as a couple without hurting one another? How can couples reconcile the different cultural, familial, and individual expectations that you and your partner each may hold so dear? How do couples solve the problems and resolve the conflicts that occur in even the happiest of relationships? And finally, how does a couple nurture love over the years of a long relationship-especially given the demands that work and parenting exert on a married couple? In a happy relationship, couples must come to terms with all of these issues. In a conflicted relationship, the partners often feel frustration and pain because they cannot “get a handle” on the issues well enough to live in peace together. The very best marriages in the world will present spouses with issues that require adjustments, compromise, accommodations, and soul-searching. Human beings have an innate drive to be happy and fulfilled, and relationships are one of the primary ways that all of us express that desire. A presentation will be made in these blogs over the next few months to explore “Seven Paths” that can serve as useful guidelines to explore the “terrain” of your own relationship. If you or someone you know may need counseling, please contact Lamar Hunt Jr. or see his website at http://lamarhuntjrcounseling.com/.

A Review of the Kansas City Symphony

I believe most musicians and lovers of classical music can recall the moment when they first fell in love with classical music. My moment was a record that featured two musical works both by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) one of the featured composers at a performance of the Kansas City Symphony on Friday evening March 30, 2012. This concert was the 10th in the classical series for the 2011-2012 inaugural season at the Kaufmann Center for the Performing Arts.

I had purchased a recording of the “Concerto for Flute and Harp” (featuring the famed flutist Julius Baker) by Mozart because I was studying the flute and simply loved (and still do) this piece of music. On the flip side of the record was the Symphony No. 41, called the “Jupiter,” by Mozart and I listened to that piece until the record wore out. What I learned about was form and symmetry and really perfection in music (especially the last movement of the symphony). Mozart composed an amazing amount of music for the very short time he lived. Commentary has been made that often his scores were free from multiple corrections (or markings) as he seemed to write out of divine inspiration and his music still speaks to us over 200 years after the fact. When Mozart wrote this music he was at the height of his compositional powers but quickly approaching the end of his life, financially broke with a sickly spouse and enduring the recent death of a daughter, aged six months. I have a new granddaughter, named Claire Ann, and I cannot imagine what it would be like to lose a child so very young, but obviously this was a more common place occurrence in that day and age but no less painful.

So why is the Symphony no. 41 nicknamed the “Jupiter?” Well Mozart did not name it that, but most probably Johann Peter Salomon did. Salomon was an oboist and violinist who was not only a composer but a well-known music promoter at the time of Mozart and Haydn. In the last two minutes (remember that noteworthy last movement) of the “Jupiter,” Mozart composes a five-part fugato (think fugue-like with musical voices entering at different times), which at that point in the history of music had never been done. J.S. Bach had only done a three-part fugato. Since it would be very difficult for an individual to process five melodies simultaneously, Salomon thought surely only a great god such as “Jupiter” could hear this majestic music, hence the nickname. Salomon has the wrong God of course, but the inspiration for the music is clearly of Divine origin. As for the performance by the orchestra it was excellent. The strings played as one and were convincing in their shaping of the musical phrases and dynamics and the winds sounded sweet and sublime. Being a wind player (but now only a winded player!) I enjoyed their precision the most (sorry sometimes I am unashamedly biased). The brass and tympani provided the appropriate punctuation without being annoying or in the way. Well done.

The opening piece of the concert, “Water Music,” was a world premiere composed by Daniel Kellogg, born in 1976. I have often considered that the history of classical music ended with the death of Dimitri Shostakovich in 1975 but continue to be proven wrong when hearing new and challenging pieces of music. Yes some of the new music is bad but then so was some of Shostakovich’s as well. I also judge new music based on my wife, Rita’s reaction to it. She does not pretend to be knowledgeable about classical music but is very open to listening and learning about it. We both liked the piece and I thought it conveyed what it set out to do musically, describing three different fountains in the City of Fountains. What I liked about the piece is that the music sounded challenging to play but was not unrealistic to play. So often new music disregards what the instruments can really do effectively and convincingly. This was not the case. Also I think composers of new music are compared to past composers and styles of music because the listener is trying to fit it in with a template of what they already know. However certain combinations of instruments do produce pleasing sonorities and they are still worth exploration. The blocks of orchestral sound were very reminiscent of Jean Sibelius, the late romantic Finnish composer. The Kansas City Symphony played with great concentration and dedication in conveying the composer’s intentions and the brass shown marvelously particularly the principal trumpet, Gary Schutza.

So what is left to say is that it is so easy to take for granted musical talent especially pianists. There are so many gifted performers on this instrument and the featured soloist, Yefim Bronfman, on the Bela Bartok Piano Concerto No. 2 is one of those. Bartok is indeed one of his specialties. It is often said that if you want to catch the best part of an NBA basketball game just watch the fourth quarter because that is when the players really begin to play some great and intense basketball. Well if Mr. Bronfman had had that attitude of saving his best for last, he would have perished on the stage because the Bartok Piano Concerto No. 2 starts with an unbelievable display of virtuosity from the pianist. Game on! I was not familiar with the work but was pleased to hear it. Bela Bartok is known for his use of folk songs within the context of his musical scores and he also writes these fabulous movements of music that he called “night music.” I wonder if he could sense the coming conflict of World War II in his music because there is a very dark seriousness to the music with very few playful moments. The orchestra seemed a bit distracted from the earlier world premiere but they refocused (thanks to conductor Michael Stern) and the last movement of the Bartok was the most pleasing to listen to as a dialogue between soloist and orchestra. Once again I will point out the work of principal trumpet Gary Schutza as ear-catching. Bravo!

Please take the time out of your busy schedules to support the arts in Kansas City. It is so much better than reality TV!  If you or someone you know may need counseling, please contact Lamar Hunt Jr. or see his website at http://lamarhuntjrcounseling.com/.

The Hunger Game

With the opening of the movie, “The Hunger Games”, we all have a chance to learn a new word, dystopia or dystopian. The word means a society characterized by human misery, such as squalor, oppression, disease, and overcrowding. There is nothing subtle about “The Hunger Games” though there are redeeming human virtues displayed throughout such as justice, fortitude, temperance, and prudence. These four virtues are commonly referred to as the “cardinal” virtues and serve as the hinges for all of the other virtues that come to mind such as patience.

A much better movie and perhaps more disturbing because it rings so true is an adaptation of a PD James novel written in 1992 called, “The Children of Men.” This 2006 movie is set in England and centers on the results of mass infertility, where the women can no longer conceive a child. However in the midst of a steadily declining population in the United Kingdom is a group of resisters who do not share the disillusionment of the masses of people who have lost hope. Among this group is a woman who is found to be capable of conceiving and giving birth to a child who in essence will save mankind. Somewhere I think we have heard this story before. Check out the book and the movie and tell your friends to ignore the prophets of gloom and doom. All is well and life is worth living! Check out Natural Family Planning (NFP). If you or someone you know may need counseling, please contact Lamar Hunt Jr. or see his website at http://lamarhuntjrcounseling.com/.