Thursday, November 30, 2006

A Life Controlled by Drugs

He’s sitting in jail as I write this, and his parents have made the heart-breaking decision to let him stay there for the next three weeks. His life overtaken by drugs, he is facing numerous charges of breaking into cars, car theft, drug possession, and driving under the influence. His parents hope to negotiate with the district attorney so that he will be allowed to go to rehab instead of prison, assuming, that is, that he will agree to go to rehab.

His life certainly didn’t start out this way. Raised by loving, Christian parents, he attended a Christian school for 13 years, kindergarten through 12th grade. His father is a minister; church attendance and involvement have always been a way of life for this family.

I began to see small changes in him last year. He started hanging out with a fast crowd. He seemed angry, sullen. This year, the difference was more dramatic: weight loss, frequent absences, sleeping in class, and occasional extreme silliness. He often smelled like cigarettes. We called his parents to let them know, since it is a violation of our school code of conduct for students to smoke. His mother said that although he used to smoke, he promised her that he had quit. That was enough for her, but we knew he was still smoking; I was gravely concerned that it was not all he was doing. I scheduled for the “drug lady”, a police representative who brings a dog specially trained to sniff out drugs, to visit our school. There are very specific laws against searching students without cause, but a random visit from the “drug dog” can provide that cause. Unfortunately it was too late. One week before she was scheduled to visit, he ran away from home.

It happened on Saturday. His dad, on the advice from a counselor friend, bought him a brand new pool table. It seems he was advised to find something they could do together to help with their relationship. They spent the afternoon playing pool followed by dinner at his favorite restaurant. After a fun-filled day, the father turned in, satisfied that he had taken the first step to mending the relationship. Once the boy was sure that his parents were asleep, he fashioned a rope to his bedpost, shimmied down two stories, and ran away. A little over one semester away from graduation, he took off. No note, no call, no thought to his future, no concern about his family, just gone.

Two weeks later, his dad is sitting in my office, ready to withdraw him from school. He is a broken man: pale, emotional, guilt-ridden, at a loss for words, and perplexed as to the best course of action for his son. His days, which just a few weeks earlier, were filled with ministry opportunities, now are driven by gut-wrenching decision after decision.

I’ve been thinking about this boy a lot the past few weeks. I may not be tempted by drugs, but, like everyone else, I am vulnerable. I am all too familiar with the stench of Satan’s hot breath as he looms closer and closer seeking control over me.

“Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm, and steadfast.

To him be the power for ever and ever.


I Peter 5:8-11

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Out of the Mouths of Babes

One of the blessings of working at a Christian School is a morning devotional we call chapel. In the early childhood building (grades pre-k through second grade) the teachers pick a value of the week, such as love, honesty, etc. and plan the devotional around that theme.

Recently, one of our kindergarten teachers was preparing a skit for her class to perform in chapel. In the midst of assigning parts, she asked as her eyes scanned the room, “Who wants to be Jesus?” One little energetic, mischievous five-year-old boy quickly thrust his hand in the air. “Ok, Petey, you can be Jesus,” she said cautiously, trying to smother her skepticism that she could trust him with such an important role in the skit. Immediately, the little boy next to him, his usual “partner in crime”, reacted in a droll voice, “Well, if he’s going to be Jesus, I need to be God.”

It starts early, doesn’t it?

“He asked them. ’What were you arguing about on the road?’ But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest. Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, ‘If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.’ "

Mark 9:33-35

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

It Only Takes A Spark

"Just as an inferno begins with but a spark,
a field grows vast and plentiful from the sprinkling of seeds"

~ Stephanie Fries ~

There were about 100 of us from church who went camping together this past weekend. We enjoyed three days and two nights under the stars. We cooked our meals by campfire, slept in tents, and enjoyed the beauty of nature. Each morning someone would create a mix of wood, Sterno logs, and charcoal so that we could alternately cook our meals and keep warm. It was amazing to watch the blaze come to life and even more amazing how little stoking it took to keep the fire going.

At night we gathered around the fire to sing songs of praise. Inevitably, someone would start the hymn "Pass It On", which is often called, “It Only Takes a Spark”, not only because it is a beautiful song, but because of the irony of the song in relation to sitting around a campfire.

This hymn was originally part of a musical, written in 1969 by Texan Baptist musician Kurt Kaiser called, "Tell It Like It Is”. In the minds of many people, Kaiser and his friend Ralph Carmichael revolutionized the gospel music industry. In the mid-1960s, they wrote a series of musicals that incorporated the new sound of rock and roll to reach out to the youth who were feeling neglected by the church. Kaiser and Carmichael were amazed as the [musical] sold out its first run of 2,500 copies. In total, they sold about 500,000 copies of the musical. It remains his signature song today.

Pass It On

It only takes a spark to get a fire going.
And soon all those around can warm up in its glowing.
That’s how it is with God’s love,
Once you’ve experience it.
You spread his love to everyone;
You want to pass it on.

What a wondrous time is spring,
When all the tress are budding
The birds begin to sing, the flowers start their blooming;
That's how it is with God's love,
Once you've experienced it.
You want to sing, it's fresh like spring,
You want to pass it on.

I wish for you my friend, this happiness that I've found;
you can depend on him, it matters not where you're bound.
I'll shout it from the mountaintop;
I want my world to know;
the Lord of love has come to me,
I want to pass it on."

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love another.”

John 13:34-35

Sunday, November 05, 2006

God Doesn't Like Bragging

In my previous post, Confessions of a Germaphobe, I confessed to bragging about my health, which I attributed to my persistent avoidance of doorknob touching. I soon learned that God doesn’t like bragging.

Last Friday night, my beloved and I ate a wonderful dinner and headed for the airport to catch a plane for Kansas City to visit Kindred Spirit and her husband Sammy. As we sat in the terminal waiting to board, I began to feel uncomfortable. In minutes, my stomach was bloated and cramping. It was pretty miserable, but quickly forgotten as we boarded the plane and headed to KC.

On Saturday, Kindred Spirit and I enjoyed a day of shopping and running errands. By late afternoon, I became distracted by my new visitor, a rolling stomach ache. After a couple of hours of that, it, too, went away. Sunday was a full day that ended with a visit to the Cheesecake Factory with family and friends. We had a wonderful meal, topped with a group dessert; you know the kind, a huge piece of cake and eight forks. I took one bite…one bite of the cake and was overcome with a sinking feeling. I am going to throw up. Right here, right now. My mind raced as we walked to our cars to head back to Kindred Spirit’s house. Can I make it to the house? Do I tell her in case I need her to pull over?

I did tell her and we made it, just barely. I then took a nap until time to catch the plane home. By that time I felt somewhat better; mostly I was just anxious about getting on a plane in case I got sick again. She dropped us off at the airport; we made it through security and stood in line to board. As you may know, Southwest Airlines does not have assigned seats, so it is first come, first serve. The flight was running behind schedule, so after about thirty minutes of standing in line, I started feeling bad again. Scouting around for the nearest restroom, it dawned on me that I was not going to throw up; I was going to pass out.

I leaned into my beloved and whispered, “I’m going to pass out.”

“No you’re not. You’re fine” (his attempt at positive thinking).

“I am. I’m going to pass out.”

You know how it feels when your arm or leg goes to sleep? Passing out feels like your whole body has gone to sleep. It tingles all over, everything goes black, and you have zero muscle control.

He grabbed me before I hit the floor, and together with a kind fellow passenger, dragged me to the nearest chair, then stuffed my head between my knees. The blood rushed back to my head and I soon felt better, awkwardly embarrassed, but better.

The airline allowed us to pre-board. We took seats near the front and I slept the whole way home. Once home, I was up sick most of the night, slept most of the next day with a splitting headache; I missed two days of work in all.

When I returned to work today, I received some genuine sympathy, but quite a bit of ribbing too. “So, how’s that doorknob thing working for you?”

Lesson learned the hard way: God doesn’t like bragging.

“Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom

Or the strong man boast of his strength

Or the rich man boast of his riches,

But let him who boasts boast about this:

That he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice, and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight, declares the Lord.”

Jeremiah 9:17

Friday, November 03, 2006

Confessions of a Germaphobe

You may have noticed from my profile that I am a germaphobe. In particular, I am paranoid about public restroom facilities and doorknobs of any kind, anywhere.

Since I work in a school, I am faced with doorknobs all day long. I have become quite creative about opening doors without touching the knob. I might push the door open with my shoulder or elbow as you would do if your hands were full, or, if pulling the door open, I might whip out a Kleenex that just happens to be in my pocket, or cover the doorknob with my jacket to open it.

Shortly after school starts each year, we have our usual rash of illnesses that come from being cooped up in classrooms together and touching the same doorknobs. One by one during October each person in the high school office succumbed to a particularly nasty stomach virus. Everyone that is, except me. As the days wore on, I must admit that I got rather cocky, whipping out my Kleenex, avoiding all doorknobs. Last week, I took it to the next level. I bragged, not once, but several times. “I am the only one in my office who has not taken a sick day. Have I mentioned I don’t touch doorknobs?”

I realize that so many of these germs are also air-borne, but I have no control over that, so I refuse to think about it. Somehow, it makes me feel in control over my health to know that I am doing something proactive; I am actively avoiding doorknobs.

In my next post, I’ll share the lesson I learned the next day from such bragging, but for now, let me just say:

“Do not boast about tomorrow,

for you do not know what a day may bring forth.”

Proverbs 27:1

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

The Language of the Mind (Potential - part three)

The incident I shared in Potential – part two has weighed heavily on my mind as I have compared this young man to my own life growing up and that of the two boys I mentioned in Potential – part one. I am one of those people who responds positively to talk of my potential. To me, it means that someone sees qualities in me that I may not even see in myself. It motivates me to a higher level of behavior, effort, or achievement.

I am convinced, though, that such talk does not have the same effect on everyone. The difference, it seems, is in the interpretation, which is filtered by the language of the mind, what you say when you talk to yourself. For example, if you are constantly telling yourself that you are fat, then when someone comes along and says, “Wow, you are a big girl” because you are 5’11”, what you might hear is, “Wow, you’re really fat!” because to you big means fat.

In Potential – part one and part two, I shared stories of children who grew up with bitterness in their hearts, in spite of loving, nurturing parents. I am convinced that this heart problem is poisoned by the language of the mind. In 1986, Shad Helmstetter published: What to Say When You Talk to Yourself – A Rational, Methodical, incredibly Simple Program for Success and Lasting Self-Change.

He compares the human brain to an incredibly powerful personal computer that is capable of doing anything reasonable as long as you know how to use it correctly. However, if you give your mental computer (brain) the wrong directions, it will act on those as well and will continue to respond to the negative programming that you and the rest of the world have been giving it without even being aware of it.

Check this out: Through scientific discovery, the relationship between your own "mental programming" and whether you will succeed or fail in any endeavor you undertake, from something as important as a lifetime goal to something as small as what you do in a single day, has been proven. In short, how successful you will be at anything is inexorably tied to the words and beliefs about yourself that you have stored in your "subconscious" mind!” (p10-11) The brain simply "believes" what you tell it most! And, what you tell it about you, it will create. It has no choice!” (p11-14)

He recommends a “Self-Management” Sequence – Five Steps that can control your success or failure.

1. Behavior: The step that most directly controls your success or failure is your behavior ("actions"). How you manage yourself, what you do, how you act, and every word you speak will determine how well everything in your life works for you.

2. Feelings: How you feel about something always affects what you do and how well you do it.

3. Attitudes: Your attitudes are the perspectives from which you view life.

4. Beliefs: What you believe about anything will determine your attitudes about it, create your feelings, direct your actions, and in each instance, help you do well or poorly, succeed or fail. The belief that you have about anything is so powerful that it can even make something appear to be something different than what it really is. Belief does not require that something be the way you perceive ("see") it is. It only requires that you believe that it is. Perception is reality.

5. Programming: Your beliefs are created and directed entirely by your programming. You believe what you are programmed to believe. Your programming ("conditioning") from the day you were born, has created and reinforced most of what you believe about yourself and what you believe about most of what goes on around you, whether the programming was true or false.

Your programming sets up your beliefs, and the "chain reaction" begins:

(1) Programming creates beliefs

(2) Beliefs create attitudes

(3) Attitudes create feelings

(4) Feelings determine actions

(5) Actions create results

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, "Everything begins with thought. Life consists of what a man thinks about all day".

Even better and more simply put is the King James Version of Proverbs 23:7:

“For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he.”

What are your thoughts on this?