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Is Suicide Ever Right?

17 Jun

I would like to open a discussion on the topic of a person taking his or her life. We call it by the term “suicide.” The suicide recently, of a friend has spurred the revisiting of an older post. On the heels of California becoming the fifth state to legalize a “right to die” for patients, the events of this trying week beg the question: Is suicide ever the right thing to do?
Before I move into a bit of conversation, I would like us to make certain to spend a little extra time lingering over those hugs with our kids, spouses, families, and friends. We must state our love in words and in actions. One never knows how long we have on this earth, which leads me to the next point. The facts are that even with all of these loving expressions, we live in a world that is tainted by evil and sin. We live in bodies that are faulty, and riddled with chemical imbalances, at times. We are frail and all of us one breath from the end of life here on earth. We also live in a world that would swallow us up, as a vortex vanquishes its volume. The pressures are great on us all.
For me, there is no mistaking the fact that evil exists, and that some people are tempted by internal and external forces to end their lives. The culture of death and abuse in which we live is pervasive. Many young people are not seeing their futures as full of purpose, and that is our fault as Americans. There is also no mistaking the fact that there are other factors that can cause people to “feel” hopeless, and convince themselves there is only one way to deal with this hopelessness. These feelings are real. These feelings are heightened beyond reality, sometimes. They are feelings, nonetheless. I am left to wonder the extent that biology plays into depression and destructive thoughts.
With that last query in mind, I know firsthand the thyroid deficiencies that cause irrational thoughts and bizarre behaviors. I am aware of the depression that haunts some people, due to chemical imbalances, bipolarism, or PTSDs–and even child sexual abuse. The threat of suicide by all should be taken seriously by loved ones and friends. A person living with “harmed and fractured insides” sometimes believes that such harm is a norm and that what we would call “additional harm” may be viewed as that person’s “additional norm.” When this happens, something is wrong inside the person. Add to this some form of chemical or substance abuse, and the brain is all cross-circuited, and emotions are imbalanced. The brain both affects and is affected by biology and chemistry. Emotions and the brain are inseparable, especially so for girls and women.
As a Christian man, I can assure you that praying for people is the right thing to do. Miracles do occur. I have seen some. But God gives us common sense also, and sometimes prayer has to be coupled with professional assistance and treatment. Asking a person to simply pray their way out of depression, or for healing from a fractured youth is one thing. Walking through these issues has to be accomplished by the person first admitting there is a problem. This is where there is often a hang up.
As quickly as we go to the doctor for a physical disease, the same should be done for something problematic emotionally and mentally. However, getting the right help with the right worldview is critical. I am no physician, and certainly I am not a psychotherapist. But I am a man of common sense and signs of trouble are perceptible if we take the time to see them and act accordingly. They are easily missed, and even more easily dismissed–until it is too late. Having said all of this, permit me to address some issues for additional conversational purposes.
First, Jesus, in offering up His life and being in command of the moment it ended, has been accused of suicide by some critics. I would like to know the differences between giving up one’s life by choice, and ending one’s life by choice. They are both ends of life by choice. Is it in the purpose that we consider one not as suicide and the other, as such? Love to know your thoughts.
Second, if a military person charges directly into the line of fire, we call this person a hero—even if it means his life is ended. Is this suicide to do so, knowing the outcome is certain death? On the other hand, again, is it in the purpose for which the life ended that allows the removal of the label of suicide? Can it ever be heroic for a person to take his or her own life, albeit for a higher cause–even if it means pain in the present? I have heard people say, “They would be better off without me, in the long run.” Some people actually think they are choosing a higher path, in their own minds. That is the issue. They see this negative as a positive. In a disabled mental or emotional state, one’s mind can confuse purposeful actions.
Therefore, third, is it possible for a person to be in such a confused state that ending his or her own life is to be viewed as equal to sacrifice for a higher cause? The converse of this is whether suicide is a cheap and selfish way out of problems a person sees not end to, and it is ultimately purposeless, irrational, and devoid of anything heroic. I have always said, if those who kill themselves by their own choice, could float above the room in which their family and friends gather, and see the devastation and grief their actions leave behind in the people they claim to love, they might very well wish to un-choose their actions. Yes, this is only speculation. But, we struggle to understand reasons why people would be tormented by thoughts of death and destruction.
If we trace the family history, sometimes is seems as if others in the family’s past have also committed the destructive act. But this is not always the case for the first person in the family to carry out the act. But now there is a precedent and a bridge crossed for others to more easily justify the action for themselves. I have heard people say, “I have suicidal thoughts because my mom and grandfather committed suicide.”
Some argue this is a spiritual issue. Others argue it is genetic and that mental illnesses are passed on. I think there is a sensible position in the middle, where both explanations might can fit as factors. Certainly drugs can cause a person to commit irrational acts—whether prescription or not. We must understand that death is not a part of life, like a nap from which we awaken later. Death is the cessation of physical life. Taking one’s life with the hope that there is an eternal life, lessens the value of this temple we are given–the very house of the Holy Spirit and new creations, at that! This leads me to the ultimate question: If the last act committed by a Christian is a sin—in the case of suicide, which a crime against oneself and a sin to God, as well as the stumbling other believers—does this person find himself in the presence of the Lord, and ultimately heaven? I do not know the answer to this question. I have my beliefs and these are strong beliefs–but I simply do not know. This is where my faith comes in.
I did not originate life and I do not control its ends and the eternal state of created souls. Certainly we cannot practice anything we want at any time, and think our lives are in line with the Almighty. What is more, we cannot expect those in their right minds, who rake their lives, to be accountable. Inasmuch as a small child’s brain is not fully developed to be accountable for his or her actions, I also believe there are probably some adults whose brains, hearts, and minds are so injured that they are not accountable for their actions, either. My only dilemma is whether or not all suicides fit this accountability factor. Again, that’s up to the Almighty.
In summation, here are six questions to consider:
(1) How is killing another the same, or different from killing self? Is killing still killing?
(2) If suicide ever justified for the believer, if it means saving someone else from harm?
(3) Is suicide an unpardonable sin, since the person deceased cannot repent and ask for forgiveness, after the fact?
(4) Is there purposeful suicide to alleviate suffering, whereby the person saves others from having to deal with the individual any longer?
(5) If a physician assists in a patient’s suicide, by his or her choice, is that really suicide, or murder—or both?
(6) What reasons are there biblically, and what theological context is there, to say categorically that suicide keeps one out of heaven, or does not keep one from heaven?
Thanks for reading and thanks, in advance, for your comments. Please keep them respectful.

Coming Out . . . The Genius of It All

2 Mar

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A few years back, our school newspaper published an article titled, “Sexuality loses meaning as it becomes career booster.” The title, in-and-of-itself, was an oxymoron. The very thing that enhances careers is indeed meaningful. In fact, the claim of “sexuality” at all has become and “enigmatic enhancement” of the first order. How’s THAT for an oxymoron?

But semantics aside, titles are meant to catch people’s attention. What is it about today’s culture, anyway? Everyone seems to be defining themselves by their sexuality. The stars in the media always have to come across as sexy. Clothes have to be sexy. Food has to be sexy. Then there are mouthwashes, toothpastes, cars, whatever! Sex sells, I guess. Being sexy-gay, and metro-sexual also sell in today’s culture. Even Facebook has caved to the pressures of sexual expression, called by progressives as “gender identity.”

In that issue of the school newspaper, comments by students were printed in response to others, who have chosen alternative lifestyles. Isn’t everyone’s lifestyle an alternative one? Titles really do not define us, and neither do nicknames. What they do, though, is capture attention. Consequently, if a person favors traditional marriage, he or she is labeled “anti-homosexual,” or a homophobe.” Attention pushes emotions and thus, fads are born. High school campuses are replete with fads. Sex is just one more fad. However, fads based on sexuality are just a bit different, in that people seem to think their sex and gender are who they are.

The Genius of It All

Here is an example. If I call myself a genius, a born genius, and I am someone who joins up with groups of geniuses—and even begin to wear the “attire of the genius” groups, use the language of geniuses, etc.–I am perceived by these actions as a genius. But am I truly a genius? Would a genius seek to be one so desperately that he must come out as one and join a group?

Taking things even farther, I could even have participated in a community parade of geniuses and protested people of ordinary intelligence, calling them all hater of geniuses, if they dared to speak of the ordinary in ways that validated their ordinary intelligence. All things considered, do any of these actions mean I am a genius? Participation in the actions that some equate with lifestyle does not necessarily equate to the conclusion that I am a genius. I could bear the title of GENIUS and not be one. What is more, I could claim to have been born a genius, only to arrive later in life at the realization that I am quite an “ordinary genius.” Talk about oxymorons?

We live in a heightened state of sexual identity today, media-driven to be sure! How else would high schoolers—or anyone for that matter—know their sexuality, absent the practice? In my opinion, the titles we ascribe to our identities are not the real points of identification. Just like one’s beliefs, names are just that—NAMES. It is the actual, continued practice that defines us, in my opinion. Attraction is not the main issue. In the same way no one can claim to be a potato because of one’s regular cravings, attractions–and even addiction–for french fries, no one can say they are heterosexual or homosexual merely by attraction, or sexual lust. I’ll return to this conclusion a bit later. One thing is certain: We are all born sexual.

In case no one has paid attention yet, allow me to open a door and reveal this truth. We, the human race, are sexual creatures. Did you hear me? WE ARE SEXUAL. Why should we have to go around labeling ourselves by culturally-spotlighted titles? Why should heterosexuals and homosexuals have to somehow be certain that their sexuality is front-and-center? Think about it. Why do we have “sexuality clubs” on school campus? The Gay and Straight Alliance (GSA) is a club titled after sexual orientation and practice? Is being “straight” a belief or a practice? Or is it a world-view? Or better yet is it an inalienable right to be homosexual, found somewhere in Jefferson’s Declaration, or Locke’s Natural Rights?

Considering Teenagers

How do teens ever know what they are, unless they practice something long enough to know? Are high schoolers even oriented yet? Their brains and bodies are changing daily. Do we expect that teens WILL inevitably experiment with sexuality to discover their orientation? I hope not. That is quite dangerous. So, what purpose does a “sexual-titled” club have? I’d love to hear of the celibate homosexual–talk about the ultimate in doublespeak!!!

Any Google search will produce the answers to the questions just raised. There are places all over the nation popping up that base their identity on sexuality—as far down as middle and elementary schools. However, instead of going Google, many young people are going “Gaga.” Here is one such recent example:

The Youth Empowerment Summit (YES)

YES took place at Everett Middle School, just one of dozens of locations in the past few years. YES remains a FREE conference, sponsored by GSA Network for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer, questioning, and straight ally youth dedicated to fostering safe schools and youth activism. The conference is open to all youth and allies, with a focus on middle school and high school. Adults and teachers are welcome. Under the guise of “bullying,” the homosexuality agenda has made its was into all the corners of our kids lives.

It is not a moot issue to ask why not have a BSC Club too (Bi-Sexual Curious club). What about a Transgender Club? Many GSAs include these other orientations and lifestyles as protectionary, for those choose to proclaim a different sexuality. If gays do not feel comfortable in places, based upon their sexuality, then bisexuals and transgenders will probably feel just as uncomfortable. Should all sexual expressions have their own club? I would like to know just what “alliance” is formed between students of different sexual expressions? What about the “teenagers with crushes on their teachers clubs”? I’ll stop there at the edge of absurdity.

Why can’t we just stick to clubs period, you know, those that enhance civic participation and not sexuality? Why does sexuality have to be the open door? I shudder to think that demonstrating sexual practice is somehow one’s civic duty. Does there have to be a heterosexual community service club and a homosexual service club? Could we ever envision a non-gender club? Hmmm. How about naming it the Interact Club, where everyone interacts? What about Rotary, or Lions Clubs?

What About the Celibates?

What I am pointing out in this article, and hopefully the reader is catching some of my sarcasm and facetious allusions, along the way, is that we are all sexual creatures– including celibates? Those folks are defined by their LACK of practice, or orientation. Are they born that way, or is it a choice? Do we have opportunities for them to be celibate, and are they offended by all of this intolerable sex-talk? Celibates are still male or female, therefore sexual. I would like to see the statistics on gay celibates–those who have never had sex before. I would enjoy a discussion to discover how celibates know they are gay. The norm never has to explain itself. It is pure silliness to think that just attraction and even physical lust makes one gay, yet these are the primary determinants of one’s “same-sex-ploration,” if you will, all pigeonholed by the phrase “born that way.”

We live in a society that is so afraid to discuss the gay-issue, for fear of being labeled a homophobe (fear of gays). Labels, Schmabels, Carling Black-Labels (Calm down; The latter is a beer). As a person, I dislike bashing of any kind. Bashing heterosexuals who speak out as activists against the gay-lifestyle, with labels of bigotry, is as bad as heterosexuals who bashing gays at every opportunity. I agree with my colleagues that bashing and sexual slurs have to stop. But, I will go one further. Defining oneself by their sexuality invites polarization, and that also has to stop, unless we are going to allow additional marginalization of Americans with whom they choose to love and with whom to have sex. I call that form of identification quite shallow. But we live in a culture of labels and shallowness, and it is as if people are so uncontrolled in their desires they cannot help themselves and have little choice in their actions. Additional labels are assigned when one finds heterosexuality, and comes out of the homosexual lifestyle. It seems that with sex, you can’t have it “both ways.”

Lost and Found?

Anyone who comes out of the closet to admit their sexuality is somehow viewed as a person who has found himself, or herself. When were they lost? Many gay-adults are people who had opposite-sex spouses and families, children, and were involved in mainstream American life and living. Suddenly some of these folks walk away from marriages, many of their responsibilities, and those they reared, in order to pursue themselves? That is quite the height of selfishness, if you ask me–another hallmark of the current culture.

Do I have to admit to being a heterosexual for the world to accept me? Am I intolerant if I have different set of beliefs about sexuality? Not at all in either case.

New Civil Rights?

I have heard it said that the gay rights issue of today is a new “race” issue, like unto what the blacks faced in earlier decades. I think that argument is a red herring. No one I know has chosen to leave the Asian, Black, or Caucasian races to join another. Slaves were property with no rights, no freedom of speech, etc. Gays have all of these constitutional rights and more, depending on the state–where the Constitution grants everyone the same basic rights. Your skin color and DNA are what they are. If just one person leaves homosexuality and lives a heterosexual life, then there goes the ALL GAYS ARE BORN THAT WAY.

If a person uses race as analogous to sexuality, in order to define or identify oneself, then a coming out of one race to realize he or she is not truly that race, would suffice. Many of us have heard about, or know gays and straights, that have chosen another lifestyle. Trust me on this. There is nothing Eminem, Madonna, or JT can do to be Timbaland, “no matta how day dress wiff dare cloves.” I know we are “One Nation,” but don’t ask the aforementioned to “Apologize” for their own identities. They did NOT choose them. I reiterate, if just one gay or straight has chosen the alternate lifestyle, then the “birth” argument needs to be reexamined. And believe me, it does need to be reexamined. There are many reasons for “being” homosexual, departing from the norm. Maybe I have it wrong. Maybe we are all born homosexual, and because of abuse, social conditioning, or gender identity maturity, we just come out as heterosexual–even though we say nothing about it. Are you shaking your head yet?

Today we have gay sports teams being sued by bisexual players for sexual discrimination. Homosexuals are demanding that marriage is a right, when it is clearly NOT a right. Government might grant a legal right, but it can never be “right.” Gays in Texas want to divorce there, even when they were not married in that state. They’ll try anything to get a state to recognize marriage. If states against gay-marriage grant divorces from OTHER states’ marriages, then they (1) would have to recognize the marriage for a divorce to be granted, and (2) “the full faith and credit clause” would be implied, opening the door to federal decisions to bring the “doctrine of incorporation” into the mix. Having said that, it is just a matter of time before homosexual marriage (notice, I did not say same-sex marriage) is brought to the Supreme Court. The trend is that soon, homosexual marriage will be a legally done deal, and incorporated into all 50 states. Then it will be like abortion–forever an issue that will raise anger and disgust for many.

Radicalism

We have proms being cancelled because lesbians and gay teenagers want to make it a point to being same-sex dates. Things are so out of control that there is little sense anymore. It’s all about the individual and not the common good. Soon there will be heterosexual proms, homosexual proms, bisexual proms, transgender proms, etc. There are already proms and graduation parties designated by race and ethnicity. I am starting to see some reasons why some Muslims of the radical sects want to destroy the western world. But they don’t have to do it. We are doing it to ourselves.

In closing, I reiterate, we are all born sexual, for that is what being male and female imply when you check the gender box. I know it is popular today for people to define gender and sex different ways. Expressing that reality with sexual practice, or not expressing that is mostly about one’s choice. Without the practice, who knows? We all have our feelings and passions. How does anyone really know what his preferences are, when they are based in experimentation? I would not trust a teenage mind to make a lifelong determination about sexuality.

Teenagers and Life-Altering Decisions

I would hate to define anybody by their feelings and passions—especially high-schoolers–whose brains and bodies are changing every day. Here’s the bottom line. Am I against gays, or somehow a homophobe? Nope. That would be silly. I can easily separate issues from people. What I am against is this notion that somehow we must accept that everyone’s individuality who is either born gay, straight, whatever–over and against the vast majority of others. I am against a group hijacking sexuality and calling those who speak out, all sorts of names. It is classical republicanism versus individual rights all over again. Common good for the majority, versus the individuality expression of one, or a group. This is a good struggle to have in a democracy, as long as the struggle is not enjoined by haters using media and politics to ruin dissenters.

Coming out of the closet is a choice. I repeat, coming out in a “choice.” So too, is coming out of, and entering a lifestyle. No one is so compelled and driven to practice a lifestyle, unless there are issues of abuse, self-control, or some other sociological or personal concerns, such as addictions. Does this mean that out of all homosexuals, NONE are born that way? Probably not. However, no one has discovered the “gay gene,” yet. But does that mean all are born as such? I would reject that notion, because humans are not so bound that they cannot un-choose, make new choices, or choose not to choose, at all.

Speaking of such concerns, I want to go on record and come out and state that I am a “caffeinexual.” I have been hiding this fact and been cavorting with tea drinkers. People think I actually am a “tea-drinker.” I feel highly empowered, after having written this piece. I also feel like a parade is “brewing.” Coffee drinkers unite! We are all born this way. I can now check the gender box as a caffeinexual. But I can both ways, honestly–and I have! Coffee or tea? I am attracted to both, depending on my moods and the days of the week. Come and join me in my classroom any morning in my new Coffee-Tea-Alliance, to celebrate my “phreshness,” as long as you have “grounds” to do so.

A Christmas Baby

22 Dec

Babies have a way of finding ways into the alcoves of our souls, the very places where things are known only to God.  They crawl right up into those hidden areas and something quite miraculous happens.  Those little ones open us wide to the world, while teaching us a little more each day about God.  Think about it. Who touches us more deeply than a baby?

One baby in a room of adults reduces most of us to mere functional illiterates–and by choice!  We become entranced by the bald-headed, toothless, drooling squirmers, mesmerized by their attempts to make sense of the insensible.

I remember talking to my own children:  “You wan Dada to bwing your baba or bankie?”

I won’t go into all the baby-talk, or nicknames my wife and I had for our children.  Some of them are hilarious, to be sure.  If you are like we are, you might still find the urge to pop open one of these phrases from time-to-time, just for the sake of reaction.

There aren’t too many of us that are able to hold back baby-talk when face-to-face with a little life in our presence.  It is almost expected.  I often wonder if grown adults talk to the aged the same way.  After all, both ends of life’s continuum quite resemble each other.  But that discussion is for another time.

In the presence of babies, we sing and tell stories.  For some, these practices begin while the baby is in utero.  Regardless, we talk to them, and we pray for them.  We teach them nursery rhymes as they grow into toddlers, tell them stories of our childhood (and maybe just a bit embellished), and instruct them in right and wrong, as well as share in affection and closing prayers at bedtime.

Remember those fun days?  I am referring to the fun days before they sat on the sides of their beds and cried for no reasons at all, or got quiet when they realize as teenagers they are held accountable.  Recall the moments when we asked them, “What’s wrong,” only to hear in return, “Nothin”?  I surely remember them!  In fact, there are times I’d like to sit on the side of my own bed and cry a little for myself, these days.  It is sometimes a good thing to feel sorry for ourselves, as adults, at least for fifteen minutes, before someone asks for money, or the cell phone rings.

However, I am left to wonder: Why is it that babies bring out the best in us?

I remember their giggles, tiny dimples, gummy smiles, flailing hands and stubby toes, their splashing arms and legs during baths–capped off by their pudgy, solid, yet wrinkly feet.  All of this serves to remind us of life’s simplicities and basic human needs.  Babies also remind us of the necessity of the protection they need, their fragile states, and complete dependency.  The trust they place in adults is astounding. But they learn quickly.  Once they figure out that we are not really perfect, all things begin to change.

If you are like I am, you are torn by those early years, sometimes longing for them again–but happy also not to have to repeat those long nights, illnesses, doctors’ visits, and the like.  Have you ever wished for your children to stay little forever.  Have you ever wanted that?  Nah!  There are grandchildren for those reasons.  Right?  Babies are signals of life.  Life must move forward.  

Babies are reminders that the future is already in the “present”–and the word-play is intended.  Babies comprise the past through one’s DNA and heritage. They consume the present and they portend the future.  Babies are the miracles that are united from one sperm and one egg–gestating over time–to become the “other” us. With each birth of our children we are reminded that “WE” are with us.  We are connected and that’s that.  Here in this sophisticated new millennium we tend to place things which have the sense of the miraculous, such as child birth, into the realm of the ordinary.  Each conception brings into existence an absolutely unique entity, a person of the most distinct, individual “being.”  The truth is we are all unique and the mold is broken with each one of us. However, we have this little nature thing, with which to contend.  And therein lies the problem!

Imagine for a moment that your teenage daughter comes home one day and tells you that she is impressed in her spirit about something incredibly unique.  What if she tells you that an angel of God had told her that she was specially favored among all other young teenagers of the day?  Assume, then, that sometime later she informs you that she is pregnant, yet maintains that she was still a virgin–untouched by any man sexually.  To make matters more concerning, imagine your single, teenage daughter had been engaged to a man more than twice her age–and that the engagement was going to be broken by the man, once he discovers your daughter is pregnant.  I know, I know . . . I see your faces now.  Yet, I do think you know where I am going with this.

Philosopher Paul C. Vitz asks us to “Consider that Mary was pregnant with Jesus today.” I also ask us to do the same.  What are the chances that some of the parents of this pregnant teenage girl would shuffle her off to the local Planned Parenthood clinic?  What would her friends and contemporaries say?  Speaking as one who was conceived prior to marriage, I kind of identify with that last statement, in terms of its implications.  Know that I mean?  No, I am not claiming divinity, personally–but divinity as a delicacy–that stuff it freakin’ awesome!  (It is approaching Christmas, after all)

The prophet Isaiah (ca 800 BC) stated: “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14)

A miracle baby son, a virgin, and the name translated to mean “God with us” (Immanuel) Hmmmm.

Most interesting.  The disciple Matthew Levi (1st century AD), the tax gatherer wrote:

“And Joseph, her husband, being a righteous man, and not wanting to disgrace her, desired to put her away secretly.  But when he had considered this, behold an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for that which has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for it is He who will save His people from their sins.’  Now all this took place that which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet shall be fulfilled . . .” (Matthew 1:19-24)

The Christmas holiday (derived from “holy-day”) is about the advent of Jesus, the baby, and the beginning of His earthly pilgrimage.  The birth occurred more than likely during the summer months and there was no snow.  That reminds me, what happens in Australia and Africa, during December in the Southern Hemisphere? I hope Santa’s varicosities aren’t too apparent with those pasty legs of his, filling out those speedo-like shorts.

John 1 speaks also to this event:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God . . . And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1; 1, 14).

This baby Jesus is the gift that keeps on reminding us of our flesh and mortality.  The baby reminds us of our beginning and the blessings we are to others.  But why do we keep Him in a manger?  Why is Christmas about Jesus as a baby only?  Is it because there is no room in the “inn of our hearts?” Maybe it reflects the reality that babies are no threat.  Babies do not challenge the way we live.

Babies are the miracle gifts in-and-of-themselves. But babies do grow up into young adults and then enter mature adulthood.  Apparently King Herod had serious fears of the baby Jesus, for he had all male children slaughtered, age-two and under.  This infanticide occurred in Bethlehem and its surrounding environs (Matthew 2:16). Herod feared all of this talk about the birth of a king, a Messiah, would diminish his sovereignty over the land. So the child Jesus and His parents went to Egypt until King Herod had died. Afterwards, they returned to their homeland.  One interesting piece of trivia from the Hebrew language is quite telling. The name “Beth-lehem,” actually means “House of Bread.” Later Jesus was given the title “Bread of life,” and communion would be taken at “the Last Supper,” to symbolize His crucified and broken body.

Part of the communion remembrance today using crackers or bread illustrates the “broken bread” of life. Who would have ever thought that the bread of life would have been born in a house of bread?  All of this is derived from the Christmas story?  Yes indeed! Another point of interest was that when the wise men came to visit Jesus, He was already a toddler. The Magi were the ones who tipped off Herod, and this was the reason for the age-2 on down slaughter of the innocents.

So, yes we celebrate the baby Jesus. But we really should be celebrating the toddler, at least in my mind.  But no toddler I know would stay in a crib.  I know my own kids did not. As far as my kids were concerned, they kept jumping out, falling on their heads, or something along those lines.  Come to think of it, that might explain a few things. Now my father’s statements to me in my youth ring more clearly.  He would ask rhetorically, “What is the matter with you?  Did you play too many football games without a helmet?” I never figured out “how many” was too many. But back to Jesus.

Some 2,000 years after the birth of Jesus, his infancy still impacts the world.  While some wanted to make Him an Earthly Excellency, believers see Him as their All-Sufficiency, beginning with infancy.  The commemoration of Jesus’ birth is the real reason we celebrate the giving of “gifts” to each other.  Jesus is the ultimate gift to the world.  The reason for the season is ultimately for His pleasin’.

A second gift was given to us by the resurrected Jesus, just prior to His ascension.  Luke, the physician, records in Acts 1:3:

“. . . He also presented Himself alive, after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days, and speaking of the things to come . . .

He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised . . .

” Jesus told His followers: “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever” (John 14:15-16).

The Holy Spirit is the gift that keeps on giving.

During this festive season of holidays, may we Christians celebrate like never before.  We live and love like never before.  The baby has grown, lived, and He has changed the world through his death, resurrection and ascension.  Don’t you think it is time to be Christ-like in ways that show we also have left our own “Christian cribs?” My apologies to the hip-hop community.

Dear believer, let us celebrate the holiday as He is NOW in our lives. May we look back to the past, while living in the present–knowing that we have a future with Him.  May our baby-talk grow into a mature, contagious conversation, coupled with a powerful Christian walk.  May this walk evidence movement in the right direction, joined by the fruit of the Spirit.  No, I did not say fruitcake.  Unlike divinity, THAT stuff is so nasty, and is the evil twin of the yule log.

Thank you for reading! OK, where’s my egg-nog?

Feliz Navidad!

Rozhdyestvom Christovom

Buon Natale

Merry Christmas

Attention Educators!

20 Apr

Front Cover

Front Cover

We have a national epidemic on our hands!

http://www.amazon.com/Teacher-Student-Relationships-Crossing-Emotional-Physical/dp/1475802366/ref=tmm_hrd_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1366476640&sr=8-1″ title=”Teacher-Student Relationships: Crossing Into the Emotional, Physical, and Sexual Realms” target=”_blank”>

Enjoying People

4 Feb

There is an old saying which I have found quite accurate, although often a bit bumper-sticker-like and too dichotomous for my liking.  But it reads something like this.  “There are two types of people in this world, those who like working with people, and those who don’t.”  Have you ever heard this phrase?

It seems that my youth was marked by dichotomous axioms such as these, as was my parents before me.  Somewhere along the line I began to challenge the black-and-white nature of my parent’s philosophy with certain fundamental differences I ascertained along the way.  Apparently, to some, where they seem black-and-white, I tend to see color.   Maybe this blog comprises the strokes of your life’s canvas as well.  If so, you are probably a Baby Boom child.

 “There are two types of people in this world, those who like working with people, and those who don’t.”

All criticism aside, there is some truth to the people and work axiom stated above.  There are times when I step back and wonder whether it is a personality issue, or a focus issue that keeps people from experiencing more than a business-like relationship.  Aside from the grumpy and coarse personalities of the world, I wonder, at times, whether some people are just wired to see “everything” as an issue, or a “thing,” as opposed to beyond the tangible to the human elements.  I wonder also, “Are some people unable to find the joy in working with others, or are they just unwilling to do so?”  Maybe it is both; maybe neither.  I think there is a lot that goes on within our brains that is yet not understood.

But this I do know to be true:  There is joy in Mudville, for some, whether or not Casey strikes out.  And here is why!

Life is not a game, although some refer to life in this way.  People are not just clients, or networks.  Yet, how many of us miss out on some much more when we see humans as things.  Making money off professional connections, or for clients, is quite shallow and feeds the notion that making money produces all the depths of emotions required in human-to-human relationships.  I guess if “things” are a person’s focus, then such is life for those folks.  But joy is not found in treating life as things contracted, bought or sold, or the conclusion of a contract.

Recently, the Komen Foundation bowed to political pressure and restored funds to the abortion providers Planned Parenthood.  I mention this because their philosophy is to provide women abortions, in claiming that fetal life is secondary to an already born human.  There can be no joy associated with abortion, even under the guise of breast exams.  Human beings are not things to be disposed of by a choice.  We coin terms for this kind of approach, and I think you’ve heard most of them already.

Each day I thank God for the people in my life.  At work, I do not know of any of my colleagues who dread their work.  At church the people express joy for others and value each life for its own at every level.  Those who know me from days of coaching and playing athletics found in me a fierce competitor, yet protective of the lives that entrusted their “lives” to my leadership.  I am not ashamed to admit it:  “I am a people person.”

People like me do not often have serious riches amassed, for we see needs and try to meet them.  People-lovers tend to find each other through smiles and eye-contact, hugs, and sincere handshakes.  Like-attract-like.  Truthfully, those who are a bit gregarious tend to gather momentum as a unit and the fun begins.  I have heard some comments like, “I wish I could sit in a cubicle for today and just spend quiet time.”  There is a down-side to being what we all call “people-oriented.”  The down-side is physical and mental exhaustion.

There are times when the mind and soul–as well as the body–need time and space to recharge.  But after being recharged, we go back at life and, as the Sandals commercial implore, “We do it all again!”

The joy of being with people, whether at work, or anywhere, is such a kick!  My wife recently said that when I walk into a room that it does not take long for me to have greeted everyone around me.  I just love being with people.  I am not alone.  Most of my friends online are the same.  I think this is just the way God made us.  We are all meant to discover the basic elements of happiness over things and the deeper elements of joy with people.

A word of caution to the gregariously natured reader.  A very dangerous trend can be found in using this tremendous tool for communication, called the Internet.  We sit here and type words and read things others have written, like this blog, and  sometimes never have truly know the “real” person on the other end.  That has both good and bad written implications.  But make no mistake about it.  I am very happy to have friends online.  But from within this happiness springs joy, when I know people in real contexts day-in-and-day-out.

I guess what I am saying in all of this is that I am wired for joy, and joy comes from people and not from material things.  No apologies here!  This is why I teach.  This is also why I serve others in need.  Some do not like that my joy extends to the womb on behalf of the losses of people to future generations.  But that’s the way I am wired:  I see people when others see things.

When it is all said and done, I do not know anyone who would ever say, “My goodness, that abortion provider sure made a difference in my life and in the life of my family.”  Unless, now, that difference is meant as an answer in a mathematical sense.

I love being with people–the more, the merrier.  If I am obnoxious to your personality, it’s all right.  You’ll get over it.  <smiles>

It’s Rough Growing Up In The Entitlement Age

7 Feb

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be young, again? Really, really, young again? George Bernard Shaw wrote, “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.”  I read that and I wonder, did he work for Toys R Us?  Was he a teacher?

A discussion that prompts adults to consider going back to their youth is met with many responses.  I can hear groans now. Puberty, emotions, biological clocks and interpersonal issues?  Are you kidding me, Zarra?  Outcries are deafening and certainly do get my attention — but wait a minute.  How about we let teachers go back to their youth?  In some ways, teaching keeps teachers young.  We all know, in reality, it’s not true, but teaching is a profession that thrusts youth and adulthood together in unique ways.

So here’s the deal.  Although we can never really go back in time, teaching the same age group and grade level every year somehow circumvents the reality that we are getting older.  It perpetuates a perception that the time clock is somehow in neutral and that our relevance and vibrancy still exists.  The strange part is that as teachers age we are aware that students appear the same age, year-in and year-out.  Each new group of students that comes my way is about the same age as the previous year’s students.  It is in this sense that teachers perceive themselves as youthful — literally and figuratively.

Today’s young people have it made.  They work daily on typing skills and literary interpretations.  Text messaging is essential to them because they have to be in touch with friends in other classes.  It makes little difference that a teacher thinks they might be sending photos, messages or answers about a quiz or test.  Text messaging has done away with the need for writing notes to fellow students.

Typing skills are up.  Writing skills are taking a nose-dive.

Keyboarding teachers love it.  English teachers, not so much.

With the spell check option on every computer, anyone can be virtually as smart as Bill Gates.  That can’t be a bad thing.  Besides we all know today’s youth can be trusted with many things and would never try to get away with breaking any rules—I am smiling because I know what I was like in high school.

While in class, all anyone needs is an excuse to go to the restroom and then a student can make all the phone calls desired with no one around.  They’d have to check in with Mom to be certain she didn’t leave a very important voicemail that must be heard right away.  If there are other students in the restroom, one could also test out the phone’s camera and video to see if its pixels are adequate for immediately uploading to a YouTube, MySpace or Facebook account.  A person could even check a digital calendar to see what activities were occurring that day.  That would make Mom happy, in terms of responsibility.

Gone are the days of pagers, gigapets, Furbies and other toys.  Thank goodness we have technology and communication at the touch of a key.  Waiting and developing patience was the pits.  For that matter, who needs an imagination when one has virtual reality?  This technological “reality” just might cut down on daydreaming, which teachers hate.  Everyone might be more focused in class, much to the delight of teachers.

The wonders of technology would make youth so much fun.  If only we could be young again.

Think of the possibilities, parents!  Think about being young again and how fun it would be to be banished!  The words “go to your room” would be an invitation for an awesome time.  We would have our own cell phones, computers, instant messaging, cable-television, iPods, DVD players and video games.  Now that’s what I call being grounded!

Another cool thing about being young is that parents and teachers are virtually clueless when students copy and paste documents together from the Internet—along with sharing files and pirated music and other cool things.  Just think, no typewriters.  If we all became young again, we would be taught to work together in groups and turn in assignments derived from collaborative efforts. Mom and Dad always wanted me to get along with others and learn to share, anyway.

Being young also means being stylish.  We could wear our hats and hoods in class, claiming our heads are cold, while listening to our favorite tunes.  If our parents let us have cell phones and iPods, what is so wrong with using them whenever we so desire?  We must be entitled to them.

Whatever happened to vinyl 45s?  There is something to be said for that “pffffft, pffffft” noise with each turn of the record.

Shaw concluded that “Youth is wasted on the young.”  Couple that with another of his famous sayings, “I want to be all used up when I die,” and students might begin to understand just what parents and teachers have in common.  We are gigabytes in a terabyte world. 

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