I walk in your shadow by Ray Mancini

This is one of my favorite poems about the influence a man has on his son. It was written for Father’s Days back in 1976. Ray Mancini was a great boxer and the son of a boxer. The movie “The Good Son” was about his life.

I watch every step that this man takes,
I listen to every sound that this man makes,
I touch every part of this mans face,
I hold this mans body when we embrace, 

I cry every tear that this man cries,
I try every task that this man tries,
I keep every memory that this man keeps,
I leap every mountain that this man leaps. 

I love you dad and I really want you to know,
I wanna be like you and walk in your shadow.
I wanna be like you and live with your great name,
for I am this mans son and I will never bear him shame.

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Lost Boy by Ruth B

ruth bAs a 51 year old man surrounded by a bunch of adolescent children, I rarely share their taste in music. However, the teenagers have turned me onto one song that I find quite moving: Lost Boy by Ruth B. I imagine most of the people reading my blog have never heard of this song or the artist. Yet, for young people living in a children’s home there seems to be an universal appeal. They all seem to like it, and when it is played conversations stop, and with reverence rarely seen among children everybody sings along like some sort of solemn ritual. It’s a new song by an artist who was virtually unknown until recently. I believe this is the first song she has written. It is a simple piano ballad with no embellishments whatsoever. Yet, this song has come out of nowhere and is climbing the charts in several genres. Why? I imagine the song will appeal to people in different ways but there is almost certainly certain elements we can all relate to.

Loneliness 

There was a time when I was alone
Nowhere to go and no place to call home
My only friend was the man in the moon
And even sometimes he would go away, too  

The opening words to the song are the most heart-wrenching. I think they really appeal to our young people here. Childhood is a very insecure time for anyone, but when you take away the security of the family due to divorce, poverty, abuse, or drugs, a child can feel very isolated and alone. These children sing the words because they have lived the words.

The truth is, we have all lived these words. Out of all the painful things I have endured through life loneliness is the most dreaded. It’s one thing to be alone, it’s another thing to be lonely. I think we all benefit from times of solitude, but loneliness is another matter. Loneliness is that feeling of insignificance. It’s feeling like nobody knows you or cares to know you. There’s nobody to turn to without feeling like you are being a burden. It is a despairing feeling that has driven many to make all sorts of sacrifices even taking their own lives to escape the feeling. We need people. Those who have gone through loneliness usually feel a great deal of sympathy for those going through it.   Perhaps that is why the opening lines command such silence and even reverence.

Acceptance

Then one night, as I closed my eyes,
I saw a shadow flying high
He came to me with the sweetest smile
Told me he wanted to talk for awhile
He said, “Peter Pan. That’s what they call me.
I promise that you’ll never be lonely.”

For me, the reference to Peter Pan and the lost boys is really a secondary theme. I think the song is really about finding acceptance (real or imagined). I think it is quite appropriate that the video of the song is nothing more than a woman and a keyboard in a completely vacant room. It’s sadness, yet just like the rays of sunshine pouring through the windows there is hope. Acceptance is sometimes rare and highly treasured. I think we crave more than just friendship. I think what we really crave is know that even if all our flaws were known, there would be some people who still loved us for what we are and not what we pretend to be. Perhaps the only place where such a place exist is in our own imagination.

As we soared above the town that never loved me
I realized I finally had a family
Soon enough we reached Neverland
Peacefully my feet hit the sand
And ever since that day…

When we are experiencing rejection especially from people closest to us, we all must be capable of finding hope. It guess that is what Neverland is to me. We can soar above all the negativity when we can envision a place where people can accept us for what we are. Isn’t this something we all crave. A place where we can walk in and everybody knows us and is glad we are there.

“Run, run, lost boy,” they say to me,
“Away from all of reality.”

Sometimes all we can do is run away from the negative circumstances of life. I think this is why so many truly troubled people find solace in the arts. Writing poems, songs, stories, or even blogs give people a peace of mind they can’t seem to find otherwise. The ability to express yourself through pictures, painting, music, or any other use of the imagination might be the best thing for survival.

Faith

He sprinkled me in pixie dust and told me to believe
Believe in him and believe in me

There may be times when all of us need a little pixie dust to restore our faith in ourselves. Each failure, each rejection is another blow to a person’s self esteem. Quite often we forget our successes, but we rarely forget our failures. Too many failures and we may identify ourselves as a failure. It’s hard to get up when you keep getting knocked down. How refreshing it is when people believe in our abilities even when we can’t believe in ourselves. That is the very thing we need to lift us up.

To me a good song is one that touches our hearts, and lifts our spirits. Lost Boys definately does that.

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Goosfraba: Dealing with Anger

anger-managementEverybody has to deal with anger, but in a household with at least 5 teenage girls and one adult woman, there is hardly ever a passing moment when somebody isn’t ticked off somebody (mainly me) or something.

I don’t think anyone has ever been capable of coming up with a full-proof plan for resolving all anger issues, but I am one that is convinced that humor will sometimes help. I’ve gained a great deal from a comedy movie called Anger Management. It’s really too crude of a movie for me to recommend it, but it does have some parts in it which are not only humorous, they are truly helpful in dealing with those moments when you feel like breaking a chair over somebody’s head.

For instance, I believe singing is more helpful in changing a bad mood than anything else. One of my favorite scenes in the movie is when Jack Nicholson (the doctor) forces Adam Sandler (the patient)  to stop in the middle of a bridge and unfluster. To help he has him sing the song, “I Feel Pretty” from Westside Story. If you haven’t seen it, please click on the link and watch it (Warning!!! there is some offensive language, but nothing you won’t hear occasionally on your way to school or work anyway).

​Whenever I feel tempers starting to rise, I respond by singing one of three songs: 1. Love One Another ( the church devotion song that is basically a direct quotation of 1 Jn. 4:7-8). 2. I Feel Pretty (from the movie like above). 3. The Goosfraba song (which I came up with that was inspired from the Anger Management movie. Those who haven’t seen the movie have no idea what “Goosfraba” means. So click on the word “Goosfraba.” and it will open a link that shows the scene from the movie.

I’m sure the word is probably made up, but over the years  we have used this word a lot in my family. When starts getting upset it is either my son or I will respond by saying, “Goosfraba.” I guess it’s our way of saying calm down, this isn’t a big deal. My son and I do this a lot. The females refuse will often refuse to comply which is why they are much more prone to anger. 🙂

Anyway I liked the word so I made it into a song. When I first came up with part of the song we were taking care of boys. The idea is I say “goosfraba” and another person responds by singing “in the morning.” Then goosfraba is repeated followed by “in the evening” and a third time goosfraba and all sing all afternoon. This is followed by the different verses. So here is the song:

Goosfraba

Goos-fra-ba (In the Morning)
Goos-fra-ba (In the Evening)
Goos-fra-ba (All after-noon)

If you’re ever feelin’ angry
And the world has got you down
Just sing these words to yourself
And they’ll help you to calm down. 

Goos-fra-ba (In the Morning)
Goos-fra-ba (In the Evening)
Goos-fra-ba (All after-noon)

If you ever feeling stabbing
Someone who’s made you mad
Just sing this song a couple times
It will help you to be glad

Goos-fra-ba (In the Morning)
Goos-fra-ba (In the Evening)
Goos-fra-ba (All after-noon)

If you’re ever feeling’ so mad
You feel the urge to kill
Just sing this song; it can’t be wrong
The words will help you child. 

Goos-fra-ba (In the Morning)
Goos-fra-ba (In the Evening)
Goos-fra-ba (All after-noon)

And so forth. . .

Now when a person is really upset, the last thing they want to do is sing a song, and almost all are very resistant to singing the song with me. That’s okay. It really doesn’t matter. The song still helps. Sure most think it’s stupid, but after a while when I say: “Goosfraba” at least will respond out loud with the “in the morning.” Even if they don’t, it’s still in their head. It’s one of those songs that once it’s in your head, you can’t hardly get it out. And it definately lightens the mood, even if you won’t want it to.

I don’t think anybody in the cottage has seen the movie or knows what “goosfraba” means, but they definately know the song. I have made an imprint.

Anyway, if you know somebody with an anger problem share this post or the video of the song and tag them on Facebook. That’s always fun.:)

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Commodious Commode

It’s time once again for Silly Songs with Ken. When my children were a lot younger I was trying to increase their vocabulary. One of the words was commodious, and it went so well with commode that I just kept saying it. Well, commodious commode somehow got brought up a couple months ago just before we were going to staff meeting and I thought to myself that could be a really cool song, and I started putting it together. So here it is with a video I put together and posted on YouTube. I hope you will like it and get a good laugh. If so, please share it with everyone. It’s really good for a laugh. I hope its not too crude.

Here are the lyrics are here as follows. You can see the video by clicking on Commodious Commode.

Commodious Commode
I need a commodious commode

To have when I get old

With a super soft toilet seat

One that’s easy on my cheeks
I need super soft toilet paper

Not the kind like sandpaper

But it needs to be the stronger kind

So none’s left in my behind.
I need a commodious commode

One that can handle heavy loads

With a super powered flush

So it won’t ever stop up.
I need a shelf with lots of books

Perhaps a stove so I can cook

That would really make me smile

Cause I’m gonna a be there a while.
I need a commodious commode

One that makes me feel at home

So when I’m not feeling great

At least I can lose some weight
And if I’m ever feeling frustration

When I’m stopped up from constipation

I know it will be okay

Cause I can sit in there all day.
I need a commodious commode

For when I get home from the road

That’ll be my special place

Every time I need some space
Now I don’t ask for much, I’m a simple man

But I’d like some comfort when I use the can

Oh when I really really have to go

I want a commodious commode
I need a commodious commode. . .

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Loving Enough to Let Go

True love is not selfish. True love will seek the welfare of the one we love above our own desires. It’s been well over two decades now, but I can scarcely think of the event without tearing up. My daughter was just a toddler back then and very sick. We weren’t sure what was wrong with her, we just knew she was starving to death before our eyes and we felt so helpless.  As a young father that little girl was my whole world and I would strolled the valley of Hell itself to save her from pain, but that wasn’t an option. 

We had to take her to a children’s hospital for a biopsy to try and figure out what was wrong. Before they could do the biopsy they had to get an I.V. in her arm which is incredibly difficult to do on a malnourished toddler. They had to strap her down and get the help of several people before they finally got that little needle in her arm. Meanwhile, my wife and I were asked to leave the room, but we were still close enough to hear my little girl scream at the top of her lungs as they poked her over and over again with that I.V. until somebody finally got it in. Listening to her scream, “DADDY, HELP ME!!! DADDY, WHERE ARE YOU?” over and over again as they kept poking her remains a fresh and painful memory to this day. She doesn’t remember it, and we’ve both seen her go through much worse pain, but I’ll never forget it simply because the phase of life I was in. 

To a toddler, daddy is Super Man. I could swoop in from nowhere when she fell in a pool. I’d carry her when she was tired, I’d  bandage boo boo’s, and most of all I’d protect her. She counted on me to fix problems. But I couldn’t fix this problem without help, and for a short time that help meant that she would feel like her daddy had abandoned her.  Little did she know my pain was much worse than her own. 

Just the other day a young teenage girl came up to me and asked, “Mr. Ken, do you think my daddy loves me?” I work for a children’s home, and she had recently been placed in our care largely because of a divorce/remarriage situation. She felt her daddy had abandoned her by putting her in our care. I told her that I don’t know her daddy, but my experience as a daddy is that he can’t help but to love his daughter even if it doesn’t seem like it at the time.  

Now I don’t know the details of the decision nor the character of the parents, but based on what I see in the girl, I’m betting she has at least half-way decent parents. She is after all very pretty, polite, respectful, well-groomed, and intelligent. One thing I do know is that there are times when a family situation can get to the point where the most loving act for a child may be to get them to a better environment then can be established at home. It’s not giving up and it’s not abandoning the child; it’s getting help, and that may be the most loving act possible even if not ideal. 

I have seen a lot of situations like this. Real life is not anything like an episode of “Leave to Beaver.” People make some huge messes out of their lives and they make even bigger messes out of their children. For whatever reason, some parents really shouldn’t be parents. Some love their children very much; they just are not capable of raising them right. It’s a hard fact to face, but denying it may only causes more harm for the child and leads to a vicious cycle that causes more damage. 

I have a niece who has a child about the same age as my own granddaughter. But my niece is a drug addict and even though I think she is trying desperately to stay clean, she is losing the battle. She has stolen from just about everyone she knows and is facing prison time. Even if she got clean, she has a crimson record and no education. But she loves that child.  Even though she can’t raise him, she isn’t willing let him go either. The real truth of the matter is that my niece was born to people who weren’t ready to be parents either. But they tried, and kept trying till they couldn’t take it anymore and then they passed on to whoever was willing to take her until they couldn’t take her anymore. 

I know of all sorts of young successful couples. They have money, education, a stable family and home life, but they simply can’t have children. The younger the child is placed into a stable environment the better chance he/she has at ending the cycle and leading a successful life. By the time a child reaches adolescents, families who try to care for them are not equipped to deal with the damage already done, so the child simply gets passed from one place to the other never reaching their full potential. I know my niece loves her child, but I also know the most loving act she can do for that child right now is get him into a loving family who will raise him as their own. Stating this, I’m sure, will tick off several family members, but I’ve already seen the cycle several times, and it’s heartbreaking. 

I know it’s hard for children who are adopted to understand why their biological parents would give them up. They may feel abandoned or unloved. But sometimes giving them to somebody else may be the hardest decision their parents ever made. At the same time, it may be the most loving thing they could have done. 

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Spam

I’m not a big fan of Spam, but when one of the girls found some old leftover Spam in the fridge. I decided to create a little song. A short video can be found through this link if interested. The Spam Song Video from Facebook

Spam Spam
What is it man?
Some mystery meat
That comes in a can

You can fry it up
Or you can eat it cold
It really doesn’t matter
If it’s new or old

What it is
I’m really not sure
But it goes pretty good
On a hamburger.

This mystery meat
Is easy and it’s cheap
We’re all really big fans.
That’s why we eat spam

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Yazoo

I (G) met a girl in (Cadd9) Morrilton,

loveShe’s as (G) pretty as can (D) be.
She (G) makes me feel on (Cadd9) top of the world
Every (D) time she’s with (G) me.

Chorus:
Ya-(G) zoo, Ya- (Cadd9) zoo
(D) I’m so in love with (G) you
And I feel (G) blue, Ya-(Cadd9) zoo
(D) When I’m not with (G) you

You (G) went and stole this heart of mine
I want to (Cadd9) be with you till the end of time
(G) Yazoo, (Cadd9) Yazoo,
I’m (D) so in love with (G) you.

Verse 2
She’s just as sweet at chocolate cake
And so fun to be around.
She can put a smile back on my face
Even when I’m feeling down.

Chorus
Bridge:
She (D) makes the world a brighter place,
She (Cadd9) keeps away from  (G) drama
She (D) makes me smile every (Cadd9)time she says,
(G) “Como te llama?”

Oh Ya- (G) zoo, Ya-(Cadd9) zoo
I’m (D) so in love with (G) you
Ya-(G) zoo, Ya-(Cadd0) zoo
I’m (D)so in love (Stay on D)
I can’t get enough
I’m so in love with (G) you

Yaaazooooooooo

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A Crash Course in Character Building

Today, a picture on Facebook once again started me reminiscing of the days when I was young. We all go through all sorts of phases of development in life. Each of these phases makes it’s own contribution in making us wFile Aug 17, 8 14 41 AMho we are today.  So, when I saw the this picture, it naturally conjured up all sorts of memories and got me to thinking of how incredibly formative this particular phase of life was for me. Anybody who has been in the Marines, will immediately recognize the picture. It’s a squad bay in Marine Corps boot camp. It doesn’t matter much if you were in recently or if you’re a WWII veteran, the simplistics of boot camp haven’t changed that much from what I can tell. We would all recognize the picture. No exceptions.

I was in the Marine Corps just four years (1984-1988). I went into the National Guard when I was 17, and went to Army boot camp in Ft. Leonard Wood, MO  in between my junior and senior years of high school. After graduating high school I went to Ft. Gordon, GA for my advanced training. Therefore, I was not a stranger to military life when I went into the marines in December of 1984. Even so, it was the marines that had the indisputably greatest impact on my life.

I think there is a tendency for veterans to over glorify their time in the corps. It’s been well over 20 years now, but I’ve heard several former marines refer to Marine Corps as the best days of their life. I recall things a bit differently. First of all, hardly any of my peers in the marines stayed in. I can only think of one who made a career out of it. We not only got out, but we were counting down the days until we got out. Still, all of us were changed by the Marines; most for the better, a few for the worse. It wasn’t the best time of my life nor the worst, but I do believe it was the most formative time.

I wish I could say I was a good marine; but I wasn’t. Part of me would like to claim the honor due to those who served in combat; but I didn’t. Nevertheless, when I think of the character traits that have carried me through life the best, I owe them to the Marines for developing them more than anything else. It was the Marines that took a rebellious teenager, and made him into a man. Before the Marines, I barely graduated high school with a 1.46 GPA. I went into college on probation, and my reading level was so low, I need several remedial classes that would not count for college credit just to survive in the academic world. I graduated college with a 3.96. For my first four years of college I had straight A’s. And that is just one example. I’m not at all saying that it was just the Marines,  it certainly wasn’t; but I don’t think it could have happened if the Marines had not developed in me the character traits that prepared me for life. Let’s go over three of these character traits.

Leadership & Submission: You can’t lead before you learn to follow any more than you can run before you can walk. The two are inseparably linked, but this is a difficult lesson to learn for a young man. It was boot camp that taught me importance of taking orders as well as what it meant to be a leader.

marine1Marine Corps boot camp was way different from the Army. There was no washing machines to wash our clothes, we washed our clothes by hand with a bottle of soap and a brush. We didn’t have brooms or mops, we used a whole bunch of towels, but that squad bay was cleaned to a spotless condition every morning within minutes. Few ever get to see the incredible potential of submission and leadership. This is because, as Americans, we have learned to dispute leadership constantly from the president on down to parents. As a result, true leadership does not really exist as it did in boot camp.

In the boot camp, leadership was NEVER questioned. You may not like it. There may be a better way of doing things, but it was not open for dispute. As a result, I was constantly in awe of what could be accomplished in such a small amount of time. In the first picture above, you see organized condition of the squad bay. In the picture connected below, you see what happens when leadership gets angry. You don’t want to make the drill instructors angry. But what’s amazing is how quickly we could take the chaos of the picture below and make it look like the picture above. It could be done in minutes.

marine1Boot camp started the same way every day. Reville would sound at 5:30 and before the tune was finished, you were fully dressed, your rack (bed) was made perfectly , and you were standing at attention before your rack. Next we had to clean the squad bay. The proficiency in which this was done has amazed me throughout my life. All the racks had to be moved to one side, then the other as people were used as dust mop to clean the floors. One private laid down on the ground with a wet towel between his arms and floor placing his body weight on the towel, while another private dragged him by the feet across the floor to get all up all the dirt. The towell was then thrown to another private who threw it to another where it was washed by hand, and another towell was thrown to begin the process all over again until the entire floor was clean enough to eat on. At the same time others are dusting and cleaning windows. Nobody was idle. As a result, within 15 minutes the squad bay was cleaned to perfection, and we were out front ready to go eat. That is just one example of the proficiency that is accomplished through leadership and submission. I have hundreds of other examples.

Most of us want to be leaders, but only a few really have the ability. Never was this more apparent than in boot camp. Leaders, didn’t just bark out orders, they lead by doing.  Drill instructors were known for going through some of the most rigorous training the marine corps offered. Few make it through the training. Those that do have one of the stressful and demanding jobs in the armed services. Among all the other physical and emotional strains ,drill instructors  have to be impeccably dressed, they can show no weakness, or  any indecisiveness. They work long hours and must be away from their families for long periods of time. Competition is fierce as competitions are held to determine the best platoons. The drill instructor’s reputation is always at stake. There is hardly any margin for error. For this reason, drill instructors have the potential for gaining rank quicker than other positions, but there is also equal potential to lose it. Only a few, have what it takes to do such a job, and all that can are worthy of the highest respect.

Leadership has little to do with barking orders, it has to do with being the type of person his followers desire to be. There is not much room for the lazy, the stupid,  the cowardly, or the weak. It’s not a job for everyone. Leaders are leaders because they rise to the top. Not everyone has the ability to rise to the top. In the real world, we all find ourselves in positions of leadership and submission. We all have people we look up to as the examples of what we want to be, and hopefully, we have people who look up to us as well. That is what leadership is about.

Self-discipline: For those who are strangers to exercise, boot camp can be a traumatic experience. I was not one of these, and even though boot camp was physically demanding, it wasn’t really anything I hadn’t been exposed to before. Self-discipline wasn’t learned in boot camp, it came later. In boot camp, you don’t have any options. You are told what to do from the moment you get up till the time you go to sleep. Self-discipline has to do with forcing yourself to do something you don’t want to do or have to do. I was in the infantry, so exercise was pretty regular as a platoon. But that isn’t enough. If the only time a person ran was when the platoon ran, he would be more of a hinderance than an asset when his physical condition was demanded. A platoon runs at about a 6 mph pace. If you run the physical fitness test at that pace, you would fail. Therefore, you had to exercise on your own as well.

Furthermore, self-discipline is not just about physical conditioning. It’s about pushing yourself mentally, emotionally and physically. Of all the traits I developed in the Marines, this one helped me to excel academically. I was far from the most intelligent, but my discipline kept me near the top of the class.  Discipline taught me to face fears, to give when I thought I had nothing left to give, and to think ahead.   It is why I can still fit into my 3o year old uniform, and I can still pass a the physical fitness test at age 50.

Endurance: Closely related to self-discipline is endurance. They may even be the same thing. However, endurance has to do with the long haul.  Life is more like a marathon than a 100 yard dash. I was what they call a “hollywood marine.” Meaning that I went to boot camp in San Diego instead of Paris Island. Paris Island is known to be tougher largely because of the sand fleas, but Paris Island doesn’t have “Mount Mother”. Hollywood marines get to go to Camp Pendleton for some training which has some pretty steep terrain.Marine Mt Mother Everybody hears about Mt. Mother at the beginning of training. It’s one of those things that you dread till it’s finally done. Mt. Mother was so named because, in the words of my drill instructor, when people climbed it, they cried out in exhaustion, “Mother. . .” I was stationed at Camp Pendleton, so I would eventually see the worst it had to offer, and in my opinion the worst certainly wasn’t Mt. Mother. But Mt. Mother was my first exposure to the massive hikes we would take together as an infantry unit.

What nobody really mentioned was that it really wasn’t the mountain itself that was so bad, it was walk to the mountain. You are dead tired by the time you see this last bit of steep terrain, and it’s at that point where you people cry out, “Mother. . .” Another thing they don’t tell you is that just over the top of Mt. Mother is your destination. Just like life, your biggest challenges seems to come just before you reach your goal.  My most difficult semester in college was the last one. Raising children too, the worst part was when the children were ready to leave the nest. In marriage our darkest moments preceded our greatest triumphs. Way too often, people give up right before achievement. Mt. Mother was nothing in the vast scheme of life. This spring I ran a half-marathon up the the second highest hill in Arkansas. That was a whole lot more challenging than Mt. Mother I assure you. And a half-marathon is nothing compared to other tasks I have faced requiring endurance like 25+ years of marriage, or trying to provide for a family after job loss and various health problems.

I am grateful for my experience in the marines. It wasn’t easy, but the most beneficial things in life rarely are. No those weren’t the greatest days of my life nor the most difficult. It wasn’t my greatest learning experience either, but it did form a foundation from which many more learning experiences could take place. I needed the marines to make the transition from being a drug using rebellious teenager into a mature adult. I don’t recommend military service for everyone. The military can do more harm than good in many cases. If it wasn’t for the church’s influence towards the end of my duty, I’m sure that would have been the case for me. I drank way to heavily while I was in and did way too many drugs. But the marines also helped me get sober which would eventually lead to Christianity and a complete transformation in my thinking. I am convinced that I needed both.

Today, I’m not the person I wish I was, nor the person I hope to be, but I am so grateful that I am not who I was. Most people can develop the character traits from family and other influences in life. I needed more. I would not have been ready for college if I wasn’t in the marines first. For me it was a crash course in character building. I haven’t always been faithful to such disciplines, but I always seem to return to them. Marines have a bond that I don’t see with other military services. Some say, “Once a marine; always a marine.” I suppose in some ways that is very  true.

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Dealing With Pain You Can’t Explain

Robin WilliamsI just saw this quote by Robin Williams on social media and felt compelled to write something. Pain takes all sorts of shapes and forms, but some of the worst pain is hard to explain because it only exist in the mind. It doesn’t matter how rich, talented, famous, beautiful, or even spiritual you are. There is a pain so great and so relentless that it can strip life of all it’s enjoyments and leave a person feeling helpless and hopeless to the point that all he can think about is escaping from life itself.  Sometimes our greatest enemy is our own brain and the greatest battle we will ever face is inside our mind.

I don’t give celebrities much thought, but Robbin Williams’ death bothered me very much. It wasn’t that he died. Everybody dies, I’m used to that. It’s how he died. I knew Robin Williams struggled with depression. I never knew him, but what I saw in his eyes was more than just a talented actor. There was pain, the type of pain you can’t explain. He did his best to cover it up. He was a master. He was one of the most effective masters over one of the most effective tools at fighting the demons of the mind: laughter. I guess that’s why his death bothered me so much. Here was a man who was adored. He touched people deeply in good ways. He was talented, wealthy, popular, and miserable.

His death showed me how vulnerable people are to their own thoughts. Many who struggle with the self destructive thoughts of their own perceived worthlessness do not have the weapons in their arsenal that Robin Williams had. That bothered me. Kurt CobainJust like it bothered me when Kurt Cobain, at the height of career, in spite of all his talent and popularity decided he could battle his pain no more. We like to cast blame.  Maybe it was the drugs, maybe it was the pressures of fame, maybe it was that girl he was with. Maybe it’s because he didn’t believe in God and the hope of a higher purpose. Then people start lashing out about things they don’t understand. “He was just being selfish,” they say. “He should of done this or he shouldn’t of done that”. . .”How dare he.”

My thoughts? What kind of pain was in the brain in these men where they saw no other alternatives. Spiritual people are not exempt either. The pastoral profession has a very high rate of suicides. Matt WarrenIt devastated me when Rick Warren’s son, Matt killed himself. Rick Warren is not just another Pastor, he is probably the most influential preacher since Billy Graham. I may not agree with him on every doctrine or practice, but there is no denying his sincerity, effectiveness or his impact on my life. There is also no denying his attempts at practical and scriptural  advice for dealing the self destructive thoughts. I don’t know what it would be like to grow up in the Warren home, but I’m convinced Matt was loved, guided, and even sincere in his faith. But it wasn’t enough to win the battle that raged in his mind. What broke my heart more than anything else was the response of so many hateful and hurtful comments strung out all over the internet after Matt’s death. Comments from those who would consider themselves Christians, but they acted in the most unbecoming manner at the most inappropriate time. Such people should be ashamed of themselves. I can’t help but imagine the shame such comments caused our Lord, regardless how you feel about Rick Warren or Matt.

A couple months ago, tragedy struck at Oklahoma Christian, my alma mater. The son of Oklahoma Christian’s president killed himself.Joe deSteiguer's sonOklahoma-Christian Suicide jpg Joe deSteiguer was a student at Oklahoma Christian when he took is own life. The big question infiltrated the campus: WHY? Was it a girlfriend, abusive parents, was he failing a class and couldn’t handle the shame? Why? Where ever there is a suicide, that is the question everybody wants answered. Religious people have a particularly difficult time with this question. What will this do to the church? What will this do to the university? What about all the young adult students and friends? Was he doubting his faith? I DON’T KNOW. But one thing I do know is in each of these cases as well as thousands of others, each of these people was in incredible PAIN.

They didn’t understand their pain anymore than we do. Even those who experience it can’t explain it. We can recognize it, relate to it, sympathize with it, but we can’t explain it. We can try to diagnose it and even treat it, but understand it? I don’t think so. We have all sorts of superficial remedies especially in a spiritual culture. Maybe this is a battle of the supernatural instead of the physical. Regardless how you look at it, the battle is real and its killing people. It’s too simple to say the person should have been praying more or had more trust in God. It’s not just a matter of moral weakness.

I recently read about a preacher who committed suicide. He was a very successful preacher of a very large church, but when his wife died, he couldn’t bounce back. The article was about the abundance of suicide within the pastoral profession. Such suicides are particularly devastating because they have such a heavy influence on so many. We look to such people as spiritual leaders never realizing they too are human. Preachers struggle with doubt, burnout, loneliness, and insecurity just as much as anybody else. What’s worse is they may feel like there is nobody they can turn to. Some of the comments on the article were appalling. “We need to be more careful who we hire,” one said. “Churches should never hire Pastors who have bouts with depression.” “Church leaders should never doubt. If they doubt, they are not fit to lead.” Really? Was Elijah fit to lead? What about John the Baptist, was he fit to lead?

People are drawn to the ministry because they care. They see a purpose beyond themselves, and a hope that they can change lives for the better. By their nature they are people of strong emotions. They have a compassion for others in pain. They are more emotional then men of other occupations. Now in the military or law enforcement, I can see that overly sensitive people may be detrimental to the mission. But in the ministry? Do you really want an insensitive person?

People who struggle with depression are actually people with an extra dose of emotions. They usually cling to the arts for careers as well as their hobbies. They become musicians, authors, artist, comedians, actors,  and preachers. They are effective because they are emotional, and the more they can communicate those emotions through their media, the more effective and successful they are. But they are also a bit eccentric as well.  You see, it’s actually a gift.  We don’t get to decide how we are created. We don’t get to determine our strengths or our weaknesses. If a person is strong in one area, he will be week in another. The key is to build on strengths and supplement weaknesses.

People with depression need people who won’t look down on them. Who won’t shame them for feeling the way they do. Someone who can hold their hand and help them stand till they can stand on their own. I’m convinced that one of the reasons why there is so many suicides is because these people feel completely alone and helpless. Their negative thoughts are consuming them to the point that that is all they hear. Where can such people find help in their darkest moments? A psychiatrist? Have you ever tried to get a psychiatrist  when you really needed one? That just isn’t going to happen. Now days psychiatrist are little more than glorified drug dealers. A person needs more than a pill.   A PERSON NEEDS A FRIEND. An acquaintance will not do. And in our world of social media and superficial relationships a real friend  is as rare as an ice cycle in the desert.

People are so independent and superficial that they have simply lost the ability to ask for help. We are so used to putting on masks that we don’t know what it means to be real. People convince themselves that there is no help. This is particularly devastating when a person’s closest friends are perceived as unavailable due to barriers in the relationship. After all, depressed people are not the easiest people to get along with.

What can be done? I do have some suggestions for both those who are going through depression, as well as those trying to help. I have no degree in this area. All I have is experience.

We need to reclaim the need for intense relationships before the needs arise.  Intense relationships are much different than acquaintances. They demand time, energy, and above anything else: honesty and openness. Such relationships are like finding a pearl in the midst of a lot of clams. They are rare; very rare. Which is why you must be constantly looking and evaluating. You must also risk. It’s kind of like asking a person out on a date or making the move to kiss somebody for the first time. Nobody likes rejection, but if you don’t risk; you’ll never get. Likewise, if you procrastinate on building relationships, you won’t have the relationship when you really need it. And you will need more than one.

Have a lot of patience. We all get irritated with each other from time to time. But we need to recognize when a person is getting too low. We need to know when to back off and show, “I may not like what you are doing, but I still love and care about you.” We all have trouble forgiving others, but it is even more difficult forgiving ourselves. It sure does help when we can offer love, forgiveness, and even acceptance unconditionally.

Hang on!!!  This one is for the person at rock bottom. You may not see hope right now. You may feel worthless and hopeless, but hang on. You may feel like your pain is permanent and relief is inconceivable; still, hold on. Sometimes it is a matter of just getting out of bed. Sometimes all we can do is take one step at a time, but keep stepping. The darkness that you are experiencing, is not permanent. When you feel like you absolutely can’t go on. At least make it through the night.

Sing. Yes, force yourself if you have to, but sing. Sing something joyful even if you don’t feel like it, especially if you don’t feel like it. I can’t explain it, but I know it works–SING.  And for those of you who criticize a person for  singing out–shame on you. Sometimes a song is one’s only way of coping. Do you really want to take that away from him? 

Do what brings you joy. If you like to write, write. If you like to play an instrument, play. If you like to draw and paint, do so. If you don’t know how, learn. It doesn’t matter if you’re good at it or not. EXPRESS YOURSELF. The real you too. It’s okay to express negative thoughts. Have you ever read through the book of Psalms in the Bible. It’s full of discouragement, and pain, but when directed to God; He considers it worship. God doesn’t mind when we wrestle with Him because when we wrestle, we are still in contact. Have you ever looked up what the name “Israel” means? (Hint: Gen. 32:28).

Help somebody. Sometimes the best thing we can do to help ourselves is to help somebody else. Think of somebody that may be feeling discouraged. Give them a call. Go visit an old friend. If you know somebody in the hospital  or in a nursing home, it may be worth your while to go visit. Take the focus off your problems.

When somebody just can’t make it. Suicide is a tragedy. There is no value in condemning what you don’t understand. Until God grants you omniscience quit pretending He has. If you do not have the ability read another person’s mind in intimate detail, then quit pretending you can. Your job is not to contemplate the afterlife of anyone. You don’t have the ability to determine motives. A person died because they were in so much pain that they saw no way out! Is criticism really the proper response? Will casting blame change anything? Will feeling guilty?  If there is something that can be learned, learn it and apply it. Try to comfort those left behind. Most of all, we should try to prevent it from happening again.

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When Our Rights Trample the Rights of Others

human rightsI do my best to live according to what is known as the golden rule: “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you (Mt. 7:12).” This rule accepts the facts that we don’t always agree with one another, but we can still treat each other with respect and decency (like we want to be treated), even when we disagree. When I disagree with somebody I do my best to understand the other person’s point of view. However, differences cannot always be resolved. Sometimes people will just have to agree to disagree, right? I’m good with that. I’m free to say what I think and live accordingly, and I afford others the same privilege. I feel this is a basic human right. But what happens when your rights trample my rights or visa versa? What if our rights cause harm to others? Then there’s a problem, right?

Let’s take for instance a message I have seen several times posted on Facebook which I have included in this post.


Now this sounds like a simple case of let’s just agree to disagree and go our separate ways. You don’t like something? Don’t do it. Simple right? But each of the items listed above in many cases, is not just a matter of opinion or personal practice because each of these has a way of affecting and even harming the community .  It is ironic how this message ends by referring to our rights. “Don’t like your rights taken away? Then don’t take away someone else’s.” Now I agree with the concept, but I cannot apply the concept to the items listed, because each of the items listed has potential for harming and violating the rights of others. THAT’S WHERE THE PROBLEM IS. Should you have the right to  violate my rights? NO WAY. Just like I shouldn’t have the right to violate yours. So lets consider each of the statements listed above.

Don’t like gay marriage? Don’t get one. Now I will admit gay marriage doesn’t affect me or my lifestyle in and of itself. Homosexuality has been around since the earliest of times. There has always been those who practiced it, and those who consider it wrong and unnatural. As a Bible believing Christian, I consider homosexuality wrong, just like I consider all sorts of sexual practices wrong because the Bible says they are wrong. That’s my authority and that is what I try to live by. I don’t isolate homosexuals from the other forms of sexual immorality.  I don’t feel homosexual sins are any worse than heterosexual sins. I don’t fear homosexuals, I don’t disdain them,  nor do I treat them differently than those committing other forms of sexual immorality.

I have plenty of people that I know, respect, and care for in my life and in my family who do not share my views about sexual immorality. I imagine even a few will read this blog. I think their sexual practices are wrong, and they disagree. I can say what I think, and they have no problem sharing what they think. It is very doubtful that either of us is going to persuade the other to our side. I love these people. I care what happens to these people. I will help these people any chance that I get. We can eat together, play together, and enjoy each other with little discomfort.  I will also hope they change their ways before it is too late, but I don’t have much control over that, and I have no desire whatsoever to force or coerce them in accepting my views.

The homosexual issue, however,  has become a different matter in recent years which causes me great concern because it is beginning to infringe on my right to practice my own religious beliefs. Up until recently, I have been able to preach messages from the Bible against all forms of sexual immorality without violating any governmental laws. But it is quickly becoming the case, that speaking against homosexuality is a “hate crime.” I would like to make one thing very clear, no matter what I preach for or against, I NEVER preach out of HATE. To do so would violate the very foundations of the biblical message. When I preach against something, it is out of love and concern. I don’t hate anybody. If I preach against something, its the behavior, NEVER a person. But to say I can’t preach a biblical message is a violation against my rights. It not only interferes with the separation of  church and state, it violates my individual right to express my own opinions. In doing so, I’m forced to become a law-breaker in that I must obey what I understand as God’s law above human law. If it is a hate crime to preach against homosexuality, then by the same logic, it should be considered a hate crime to preach against adultery, fornication, lying, stealing, etc.

It’s no longer a matter of agreeing to disagree, or you share your views and I’ll share mine. It is quickly becoming I must accept your view and keep quiet about my own when it comes to the issue of homosexuality. Not only so, but now ministers are being prosecuted for refusing to endorse homosexual marriage. It’s not just a matter of homosexuals being allowed to marry which is no real consequence to me. But should I be legally forced to perform the wedding ceremony that violates my conscience? Here is another place where the homosexual issue is promoted over other sexual sins. I have refused to conduct several heterosexual weddings that I felt uncomfortable with doing for one reason or another. I was breaking no law in my refusal to conduct the ceremonies.  But now I read about ministers being prosecuted for refusing to marry a gay couples. Whose rights are being violated here? MINE.

http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2014/10/20/city-threatens-to-arrest-ministers-who-refuse-to-perform-same-sex-weddings.html
http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/oct/20/idaho-citys-ordinance-tells-pastors-to-marry-gays-/

Don’t like cigarettes? Don’t smoke one. I don’t smoke, nor do I want to smoke. If a person wants to destroy their bodies by smoking cigarettes with nobody else around, there isn’t much I can do about it and that doesn’t really affect me. But if they light up a cigarette around me or in a public place, then they are forcing others to smoke too.  The harm caused from smoking and second hand smoke is well researched and undeniable. I don’t want to smoke. That is the whole point. Therefore, don’t make me smoke your cigarettes. That would violate my rights and my choice not to smoke.

Don’t like abortions? Don’t get one. In abortion, a life is being taken by another. Nobody getting an abortion is considering the unborn child’s rights. You can talk about convenience and choice all you want. That fact is, in abortion you choice is destroying another human being. By the way, abortion is a bi-product of irresponsible recreational sex which is discussed next.

Don’t like sex? Don’t do it. I like sex. Sex is good. It feels good, it’s healthy, it’s fun, fulfilling, and just plain AWESOME. I really like sex. Out of all the things my wife and I do together, SEX is my favorite.  I consider it one of the greatest gifts God has given to mankind. But can sex be abusive? Can sex violate the rights of another person? Can sex be treated irresponsibly? Can sex be harmful?  ABSOLUTELY! If you don’t think so, you might consider how you feel when your spouse decides to venture out sexually with another partner. How do you feel when you are forced to have sex against your will? I believe the word that comes to mind is VIOLATED. How would you feel is your mother was so promiscuous that she had no idea who your father was? How do feel about needing to support people through your tax money because they had no control over there sexual urges and just jumped from lover to lover with little concern for the babies they were producing? Let’s face it. sex isn’t the problem. Irresponsible sex is, and irresponsible sex is a burden do everyone.

Don’t like drugs? Don’t do them. I will consider this one along with alcohol together below.

Don’t like porn? Don’t watch it. Does anybody really think that porn only affects the one who watches it? The harmful and addictive nature of pornography is  well known even by those who watch it. Don’t think so? Do you have any objections to your children viewing it? How do you feel when the only way your spouse can enjoy sex with you is be imagining having sex with somebody else? Does anybody really consider this a harmless vice??? You may want to think of porn’s role in rape. What about sex trafficking? Do you really think all those videos are produced by willing participants? What about all the teenage girls who are kidnapped, enslaved, and forced to perform all those atrocious acts for somebody’s sick viewing pleasure? What if it was your daughter who is captured? No rights violated here, right? Come on people, porn affects us all rather we view it or not. WAKE UP!

Don’t like alcohol? Don’t drink it. This one is so personal to me that I’m tempted to write more than what is really needed. I recognize the fact, that there are many people who have the ability to drink responsibly. I have no problem with you, even though I seriously doubt that you always drink responsibly.  Such people drinking a little alcohol doesn’t affect me at all, at least not yet. But I do consider alcohol one of the greatest menaces to society ever created. Because of this liquid poison thousands of lives are ended every year. But that’s not the worst of it. How many family’s are ripped apart because of it? How many people are in prison for crimes committed under its influence that would not have been committed if the person was sober? How many jobs are lost? How many people have been injured. I don’t know the statistics, but I bet many of our prisons would be empty if you removed  the involvement of drugs and alcohol.

Yes, I consider drugs and alcohol together. I think it is a tragic mistake to think alcohol is not as bad as the illegal drug use that takes place. In reality, alcohol is the worst of all of the drugs out there because it is so accepted and ubiquitous. Take a look at the statistics. You will find illegal drugs barely scratch the surface compared to the damage done by alcohol. Can anybody really maintain that alcohol doesn’t hurt anybody but the user? Come on, really?

Now let me say something to the responsible drinkers. First of all, very few would admit to drinking irresponsibly. I have met very few people who will admit they are too drunk to drive. Nevertheless, I know many people who have no problem drinking moderately. My hats off to you; I can’t. To me having one drink would be like having one potato chip. It took two DUI’s, jail, a wrecked career,  and lots of money to convince me of that, and I would be considered a fast learner. Alcohol impairs the mind and lowers self-control. Is that ever a good idea? I think that is, well, irresponsible. The problem is most people don’t know if they can drink responsibly or not. I also want you to consider in important question if you consider yourself a “responsible” drinker.  Have your ever driven a motor vehicle while legally intoxicated? Although I’m sure there are exception, every responsible drinker I know would have to answer yes to that question. I rest my case.

Don’t like guns? Don’t buy one.  I am a gun owner, but I don’t like guns, and I certainly don’t want every one to have the right to own one. Do you??? There are so many who really have no business having guns, perhaps even I would qualify in this category.  I am grateful for the protection my weapons offer me. I am grateful that I can legally own a gun. I feel much more secure owning a gun than I would feel if I could not. However, I must admit I don’t want everybody owning guns. Some are criminals that will use their guns to commit crimes. Some are mentally and emotionally disturbed. I don’t want them owning guns either. The problem is it is really hard to know who should own a gun and who shouldn’t. Guns kill people and that violates their rights. I don’t know the answer. I want my gun, but I really don’t think it should be easy for everyone to get them.

Freedom and rights are normally a good thing. However both need restraints. Freedom should never be interpreted as being free to do whatever you want. If freedom is to exist, it must be freedom with restraints and responsibilities. Each of us has the freedom of choice, but your choice will always be accompanied with consequences. You should not have the freedom to engage in activities that harm others. That is why we create laws. That is why I will continue to speak out against certain activities. If you have no regard for other’s in your choices, you will face punishment from others. After all has been said,  the golden rule is the way to live:  “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you (Mt. 7:12).” If we all lived by this simple rule, we would have a lot less problems.

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