I’m a little uncomfortable being introduced as an “expert” on anything. I once opened a talk with, “There are people who know more about this subject than I do . . . but as I look around . . . I don’t see any of them present. So I guess you’re stuck with me!” Promise me you won’t tune me out when I tell you I’m an 80-year-old retired expert in human behavior who still wonders why we sometimes do what we do. Nevertheless, I’m supposed to provide here some evidence of my academic, clinical, and real life experience in each of the my blog topics, so here goes. You may go straight to either of my four blogs, Managing Stress, Loving Well, Thriving Spiritually, and Hot Topics that focus on current crises of our time, or you can get acquainted with my journey here.
Thriving Spiritually: My pathway to being mislabeled an “expert” in the spiritual things of life included ordination in ministry, fifteen years in a variety of congregational and denominational positions, preceded by an undergraduate degree in religion (Baylor University), a seminary masters degree (Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary), and fifteen years in church and denominational leadership roles. Fast forward, past several decades of my so-called “secular” career in mental health and I’m back in the denominational world leading the counseling and psychological services for the Baptist General Convention of Texas (BGCT). During that final decade before official “retirement,” I helped to create the BGCT Congregational Leadership Team while serving as its Coordinator of Leader Research & Product Development. I was honored to teach as an adjunct professor in two seminaries (George W. Truett Theological Seminary at Baylor University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary) and served for four years on the annual faculty of a Baylor University-sponsored academic leadership seminar where I provided leadership assessments for university presidents and administrators in church-related universities across the country. I also provided leadership assessments and served as a consultant and annual retreat leader for Baylor University’s Center for Leadership and Civic Engagement.
Given this theologically-oriented history it may surprise you that my spiritual journey is intimately integrated into the physical sciences. My love for nature is woven into much of what I will share with you and those who join us. Images of wildlife are found everywhere in my home. I have spent much of my life in the Colorado Rockies, climbing, jeeping, rafting, skiing, snowmobiling and horseback riding. Yet, the solitude I first experienced in the North Georgia mountains of my childhood became the context for recognizing God’s presence in all of the creation, including me. I will share with you practices used by Christians as early as the 3rd and 4th centuries that are still being used today. They are known as “The Desert Fathers” and they followed the model of Jesus who found his source of strength in withdrawal from the crowd on a mountain, in a garden, in the wilderness and even on the sea.
My journey to find God’s Presence in my personal life led to the writing of my book, Experiencing God’s Presence: A Personal Guide Through Six Spiritual Disciplines. I also was privileged to co-author Beyond Termination: A Spouse’s Story of Pain and Healing, with my sister and lead author, Myra Marshall, along with author, Jennifer Bryon Owen. Former First Lady, Rosalyn Carter wrote its cover endorsement.
It may surprise you that I see no conflict integrating the best of what science has to offer with spirituality. I look forward to sharing how I got there, and I want to hear where you are in your search for God’s presence. I do not claim to know all the answers. I continue to spend time in the search for the right questions. As the late Vaclav Havel, former Czech statesman and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom award once warned us, “. . . to keep the company of those who seek the truth, and run away from those who have found it.” We are all temporary residents of this tiny planet orbiting a magnificent star. We will never comprehend fully, but the search is worth it for it opens a pathway to the spiritual dimension of life where we find the presence of God awaiting us.
Bottom line? My spiritual journey is my passion—the basis for what resilience some seem to think I have. I’d like to share with you how I, and many of our Christian ancestors, have found a peace and resilience to face life’s challenges. Our community joining us here will all contribute to our common journey with God.
Managing Stress: The last half century of my mental health career was used building upon my original research in the field of stress, culminating in my recent book, Choosing Balance: The ABC’s of Stress(r). Dr. Leonard Derogatis, prolific author of testing instruments and former Director of Medical Psychology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, gave me his support in creating an integrative stress model for use with his Derogotis Stress Profile(R) (DSP), an instrument I used in my research and assessments with thousands of inpatients and outpatients. For seventeen years I led a large mental health organization built primarily upon stress management, and recently served as president of a firm that for over a decade managed a state-wide network of mental health providers (Texas) that certified professionals in stress management and leadership assessment. My post-seminary graduate work included social work, research in urban affairs and a post-doctoral seminar in advances in behavioral medicine provided by Harvard-affiliated McLean Hospital in Boston. I hold the registered trademark for the ABC’s of Stress(R).
Once during a live TV call-in show called, COPE, I was confronted with a man in the process of a full-blown panic attack. While I normally avoid attempting therapy on live television (for many good reasons) my brain immediately clicked into emergency intervention mode. I walked him through my step-by-step recovery approach I had developed over many years in practice. He soon regained an obviously calm state as we visited for a few minutes. The phones lit up with questions about panic disorder and continued for many weeks until our producer made an obvious suggestion: record this approach for use in coping with a panic attack. Indeed we produced a studio quality recording, Talking Through a Panic Attack, that soon was getting widespread media attention, and is still in use internationally. Included in the CD is an adaptation of my stress assessment form designed to enable panic attack victims to understand the underlying thought patterns that intensify these frequently misdiagnosed panic episodes. In addition, the COPE show published the CD, The ABCs of Stress: An Interview With Dr. Dan McGee.
Loving Well: Counseling individuals, couples and families in creating loving relationships has consumed my adult life for well over a half century, first as a minister, then as a marriage and family therapist in private practice, and for the last decade before retirement, specifically for ministry families. From an academic perspective I completed graduate work in two state universities (The University of Texas at Arlington and Texas Woman’s University) and chose marriage and family therapy for my Ph.D. major, which led to licensure and eventually state board approval as a supervisor in that field. For a few years I was honored to teach as Associate Professor of Psychology and Director of the Graduate Program in Family Psychology at Hardin-Simmons University where I directed the campus Family Psychology Center. During mental health career I was certified as a sex therapist and board supervisor by two national boards and named a Clinical Fellow by the American Academy of Clinical Sexologists.
In retirement I’ve also been honored as a Clinical Fellow by the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy. My beautiful and talented wife, Sandra McGee, former teacher and Certified Family Life Educator (CFL) and I traveled America for several years leading marriage enrichment retreats. We co-authored the book, Celebrating Sex In Your Marriage, used as the text by the series, Fall Festival of Marriage. If I were asked to choose my all-time favorite article of mine it would be, “The Inti-Mate Marriage,” published in The Review & Expositor theological journal, and available on this website as a blog by the same name. In the late 1990’s Sandra and I published the newsletter, The Inti-Mate Marriage, a Resource for Intimate Marriages. I’ve also served as an expert witness in court regarding child custody, chemical dependency and sexual abuse.
Hot Topics: Finally, don’t forget my “Hot Topics” blog where I will lead us in a discussion of the crises and national leadership issues we now face with COVID-19, the political polarization of our nation, our continuing economic issues, and especially the racial inequalities our nation has grappled with since its founding. As an Advocate for the Alzheimer’s Association of Oklahoma and leader of dementia caregivers groups, I hope to address the challenges we face finding treatment for and prevention of this dreaded epidemic.
So there you have it! Whether or not these experiences of mine reach your standard for an “expert” in spirituality, stress, loving relationships, or the crises of our day, I promise you they do not fully reach mine. My hope is that collectively we will gain insight and a pathway to resilience that overcomes whatever challenges we may face. I’ve retired my license, so I can’t be your therapist here. This exchange with you cannot replace treatment by a medical and/or mental health professional. I welcome you to read my blogs and participate in the conversations by commenting at the end of the blogs. So glad you’re joining us!