Facing the Bully



Over the last few weeks, I’ve been involved in a men’s group studying the book “Wild at Heart” by John Eldredge. He relates the following story in chapter five, “The Battle for Every Man’s Heart”:

A few years ago now my middle son, Blaine, made the big transition to first grade. That’s a huge step for any child – leaving the comfort and safety of Mom’s side, spending all day at school, being among the “big kids.” But Blaine’s a very outgoing and winsome boy, a born leader, and we knew he’d handle it swimmingly. Every night at the dinner table he regaled us with tales of the day’s adventures. It was fun to recall with him the joys of those early school days – a shiny new lunchbox, brand-new yellow No. 2 pencils, a box of Crayolas with a built-in sharpener, a new desk, and new friends. We heard all about his new teacher, gym class, what they played at recess, how he was emerging as a leader in all the games. But then one night he was silent. “What’s wrong, Tiger?” I asked. He wouldn’t say, wouldn’t even look up. “What happened?” He didn’t want to talk about it. Finally, the story came out – a bully. Some first-grade poser had pushed him down on the playground in front of all his friends. Tears were streaming down his cheeks as he told us the story.

“Blaine, look at me.” He raised his tearful eyes slowly, reluctantly. There was shame written all over his face. “I want you to listen very closely to what I am about to say. The next time that bully pushes you down, here is what I want you to do – are you listening, Blaine?” He nodded, his big wet eyes fixed on mine. “I want you to get up…and I want you to hit him…as hard as you possibly can.” A look of embarrassed delight came over Blaine’s face. Then he smiled.

Good Lord – why did I give him such advice? And why was he delighted with it? Why are some of you delighted with it?, while others are appalled?

Yes, I know that Jesus told us to turn the other cheek. But we have really misused that verse. If you take one passage of Scripture and hold it up while ignoring all others, you will come to absurd conclusions. Paul said, “It is good for a man not to marry” (1 Cor. 7:1). Well then – no man should marry. Jesus said, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor…” (Matt. 19:21). Then why do you still have possessions? Do you see the foolishness of this?

If Jesus intended to teach us, “Never resist a bully,” why does he also tell his disciples, “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one” (Luke 22:36). Buy a sword? “The disciples said, ‘See, Lord, here are two swords.’ That is enough,’ he replied” (Luke 22:36). He arms them. And that little matter of making a whip and using it to clear the temple – that doesn’t seem like turning the other cheek, now, does it?

We do not want to teach boys that bullies should never be resisted, and we do not want to teach bullies that they can get away with it! Yes, Scripture teaches the wise use of strength and the power of forgiveness. But you cannot teach a boy to use his strength by stripping him of it. Jesus was able to retaliate, believe me. But he chose not to. And yet we suggest that a boy who is mocked, shamed before his fellows, stripped of all power and dignity should stay in that beaten place because Jesus wants him there? You will emasculate him for life. From that point on all will be passive and fearful. He will grow up never knowing how to stand his ground, never knowing if he is a man indeed. Oh yes, he will be courteous, sweet even, deferential, minding all his manners. It may look moral, it may look like turning the other cheek, but it is merely weakness. You cannot turn a cheek you do not have. Our churches are full of such men.

At that moment, Blaine’s soul was hanging in the balance. Then the fire came back into his eyes and the shame disappeared. Now, I gave that advice to a boy I could trust who was at the time in first grade. I did not give this advice to a high school boy whose enemy might pull a gun on him. There is wisdom and context. But we must not strip a man of strength and call it sanctification. Yet for many, many men their souls still hang in the balance because no one, no one has ever invited them to be dangerous, to know their own strength, to discover that they have what it takes.

I guess I’d never really looked at that whole “turn the other cheek” passage in that way. I’ve never really believed that Jesus was quite the passive man that he’s often made out to be. You know, the guy in all those Biblical movies that has that meek look on his face all the time, devoid of much emotion or strength, and seemingly floating two feet off the ground and never really engaging anyone in the process. On the other hand, I probably never really pictured him as the angry, driven man who chased the moneychangers out of the temple, either. Regardless, Eldredge makes a great point here.

I’d put it another way…God doesn’t want me, as a Godly man, to be a limp dishrag. Yes, there are times when I should keep my calm, turn the other cheek, etc., following the example of Jesus. However, there’s another part of me that needs to passionately engage, to fight strongly for what I believe in.

One of my favorite sayings is “If you’re offended by nothing, you likely don’t care enough about something to begin with.” Point being, there SHOULD be things that we get riled up about and offended by. Should we be offended by everything? Obviously not, but I think Christians have, for too long, fallen into the trap of thinking that we need to just be nice, fall into line, and keep the peace for the sake of our testimony when there are times, in my opinion, that we need to stand up and fight with the kind of passion that Jesus had when he drove those crooks out of the temple.

9/11: A Personal Reflection


In the four years since I started blogging and only really two years blogging on a regular basis, I haven’t really even thought of putting my own words about my memories of 9/11 to paper…Or to screen, in this case.

However, earlier today on the way home, I listened as former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani was interviewed regarding his memories about what happened back in 2001. When asked about what memory was most etched in his mind from that day, he recounted the painful memories he has of being close enough to the two devastated towers to witness trapped World Trade Center workers leaping from the wreckage and flames to certain death near or over 100 stories to the pavement below. The picture you see above is of one of those desperate souls who perished that day.

On 9/11/2001, I was at work in downtown Indianapolis on the 17th floor of what is known as the “Gold Building”. There are several buildings considerably taller than the Gold Building but it stands out due to its gold-colored windows, causing it to distinguish itself from other buildings in the Indianapolis skyline. Shortly after 8:45 AM, Deb, our office manager hurriedly moved through the office saying something about an airplane striking one of the Twin Towers in New York City. I guess at the time we were certainly a little stunned but it had probably not dawned on anyone just yet that a terrorist attack was under way. We had a small, portable black-and-white television set that Deb had set up in her office as the news played, informing us of what was going on.

Honestly, after hearing about that first plane crashing into the tower, I don’t remember much detail of what we learned over the course of the next hour or two. I do remember hearing about the second plane and realizing that it was now certainly no accident and then we heard a little later on about the plane striking the Pentagon. By this time, there was little work being done as we all tried to keep track of more pressing matters.

Then we heard about another plane possibly heading towards Washington on a similar mission and, shortly thereafter, crashing in Pennsylvania. By this time, I remember feeling pretty numb, the kind of feeling you get hearing about the unexpected passing of a loved one or receiving bad news from the doctor.

Also by this time, emergency responders all across the country were preparing for the possibility of similar attacks occurring in their own localities. We were told that we could go home if we wanted. I didn’t see much point in staying since there weren’t many, if any calls coming in to our support department, so I decided to head home.

After arriving home nearly 45 minutes later, listening to the news on the radio the entire way, I planted myself in front of the TV and watched in stunned silence the news coverage of the events of the day being played on nearly every channel, including many of those that never covered the news. That’s pretty much all I did for the rest of that day. I honestly don’t even remember if I went to work that next day, which would have been a Wednesday. I think I must have but it’s mostly a blur by now.

Listening to Giuliani’s account of what he experienced that day, I wept as I thought of the despair that those people in the towers must have felt that day. I cannot even begin to fathom how hopeless that must’ve felt to be trapped on the floors above the initial devastation. I’ve found it horrifying enough to have had dreams where I was falling and the helplessness I felt from it, to say nothing of actually falling to certain doom. What must the man in the above picture have been thinking in his last few seconds alive, knowing that he would not wake up to see his family the next day? What of those who made last-second phone calls to their spouse or child, knowing that the person on the other end of the call would soon be without their husband, wife, father, or mother? What went through the minds of those responders who rushed fearlessly into the soon-to-collapse towers in the hopes of saving maybe just one more person?

One of the sights I remember from that day as I looked east out the windows of the 17th floor of the Gold Building was that of a rainbow circling the sun. I’d never seen anything like it before and perhaps my mind and/or eyes were just playing tricks on me. I don’t even know if something like that is possible but I took it as a sign that, despite the evil that had occurred that morning, much good would or could come from it. Time really did seem to stand still that day.

May God bless and heal the families of those who lost their loved ones on 9/11/2001.

NEVER FORGET.

Westboro Wall of Fame


I’ve done a few entries on the Westboro Baptist Church in the past. They’re the folks that make their name claiming that every bad thing happening under the sun is because God is judging the world for their sin (mostly homosexuality or for being “fag-enablers”). Never mind that, in the Bible, Luke 13:1-5 completely contradicts them. Does God judge people and countries by allowing bad things to happen? Yes, he probably does. However, we don’t know and aren’t qualified to judge, according to the above-mentioned passage, whether some calamity has happened because of God’s judgment or not.

One thing that caught my eye recently on the RSS feed from their web site was a little blast against Glenn Beck. The conservative pundit was recently diagnosed with macular dystrophy, which may or may not cause him to go blind. I responded to their hateful blurb by quoting the passage from Luke and warning them that they may end up being the victims of their own pronouncements. A few days later, I received a response from them, which has now been posted on the wall of fame on their web site.

Here’s their original post…

GodSmack: Blinding Beck

THANK GOD FOR BLINDING THE LOUD FOOL GLENN BECK.  He uses the bully pulpit that he has to blaspheme God and misuse and abuse His prophets.  Glenn Beck will manifest real blindness to match the perfect blindness and the dark heart God has given him so he is unable to see and understand His word.  God has struck him with Macular Dystrophy.

GodSmack!

Deliver the poor and needy: rid them out of the hand of the wicked.  They know not, neither will they understand; they walk on in darkness: all the foundations of the earth are out of course. Ps. 82:4-5

They way of the wicked is as darkness:  they know not at what they stumble.  Pr. 4:19

Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!  Isa. 5:20

Righteous Judgment!!

Now here’s the text of their little homage to yours truly, followed by my response…

You do realize that Beck is not actually blind, right, and that he may NEVER go blind?

Read Luke 13:1-5 and pray that God doesn’t destroy you.

Thanks,

Dave

Dear angry rebel –

How interesting that you invoke the wrath of God toward us for discussing the blindness that He has cursed Glenn Beck with! The wrath that you want for us is abiding upon you and Doomed america generally. You were appointed to wrath. You love your cursed lot so don’t get all Abraham Lincoln on us for connecting the dots on a scriptural / spiritual level for you.

The time is short. The destruction is imminent.  Glenn Beck is as blind as a bat!  Love it. Be one with that spiritual blindness, as you have been smitten with it as well.

Anathema, Maranatha.

This little nugget was written by Shirley Phelps-Roper (pictured above). I’ve seen her and her attention-starved hounds on television before and I’m sure they’ve made other appearances elsewhere.

I know what some of you are probably thinking…Why post about them and give them any additional exposure? Well, first of all, we’re talking about my blog here. I mean, come on. It’s not like my blog is internet destination one. I’m lucky to get 50 hits in a day anymore (perhaps twice that before changing my site’s URL). In other words, this little podunk operation ain’t gonna give them nuthin’. Most importantly, though, I believe the light of day needs to be shown on hatred and bigotry wherever it exists. I know they’re media hounds but the more people know about them, the better, in my opinion. Believers in the one true God need to stand in opposition to the wolves in the midst. Otherwise, the sheep end up falling by the wayside in the end.

Acts 20:28-31
(28)  Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.
(29)  I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock.
(30)  Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them.
(31)  So be on your guard.

Forty-One


On Father’s Day, one of my gifts was a few hours of down time and solitude, something that particularly recharges my personal batteries. As part of that down time, I watched one of my favorite all-time movies, “Ben-Hur“. The 1959 film went on to win eleven Academy Awards, which has only been equaled by two other films, “Titanic” and “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King”.

The most famous  scene in the movie is that of the violent chariot race near the very end of the movie in which Judah Ben-Hur triumphs over his childhood friend turned enemy, Messala, who dies afterward  from injuries sustained in the race. This time through, however, the scene that stood out to me the most was one I had noticed before but, honestly, hadn’t thought much of. The scene comes during the middle of the movie.

Messala, as vengeance for Judah’s refusal to betray his people, assigned Judah to be a galley slave in the Roman navy. In this particular scene, Judah had already been serving in the galleys for over three years when he was assigned to the ship of Consul Quintus Arrias. As Arrias tests the slaves on his ship, Judah, referred to by Arrias as “Forty-One” wins his trust by his restraint and self-discipline. As the ship enters battle, Arrias orders all the slaves to be chained in preparation for battle, all that is except for Judah. During the battle, the ship is rammed by an enemy ship. As the enemies flood the ship and hand-to-hand combat commences, Arrias is knocked overboard in the scuffle. Judah jumps into the water and pulls Arrias to safety. They are later rescued by another ship in the fleet and find out that the Roman fleet had indeed been victorious.

As Arrias walks towards the back of the ship, he takes Judah with him and they begin to pass by the area where the galley slaves can be seen below, living out their miserable existence in monotony as they row away what little life they have left in them. Having been freed from his rowing duties by Arrias, Judah stops and gazes at them in their suffering, as if he longs for their freedom yet knowing that most of them will not survive.

This scene reminded me of what Jesus Christ has done for each and every one of us. He came to earth, lived as one of us, was tempted as we are tempted (Hebrews 4:15), yet was obedient to God the Father even to the point of giving up his own life in exchange for ours. Not only that but he proved his divinity by literally rising from the dead (Romans 10:9). That’s how he freed us from sin and its ultimate consequence, hell.

I pray that God’s Spirit will continually remind me that He’s freed me from the chain that kept me bound to the oar and, as Judah Ben-Hur looked down on those still afflicted and in chains longing for their freedom, that he would give me a heart ever-softening for those Christ is leading me to minister to. By God’s grace, I am no longer a “Forty-One”.

Living a Better Story


This past Sunday, our pastor spoke about finding a better story, based on Donald Miller’s book “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years”. Miller has this to say about the main ingredients of a great story (this may not be a completely accurate quote but it gets the point across):

All the great stories have two primary elements: calling and conflict. Calling occurs when the character in the story is given something to live for. Conflict occurs when the character in the story is given something to fight against.

My pastor went on to say this (referencing 2nd Timothy 2:1-2):

What is the story that we’re giving to our families? Is it a story of risk and adventure or is it a story of boredom and safety? Which is it?

You see, like Timothy, what we have to do is not only be strong in the grace of Christ ourselves. Our children have to be strong in the grace of Christ as well. And the only way we can do that is to involve them in the story of Christ.

The risk spoken of here is not a blind or reckless risk. It’s a risk we as believers in Christ take to live the story that Jesus has written, trusting in a loving Savior for the outcome that he desires to see in us. It’s been said that where there is no risk, there is also no reward and I believe that to be true in the spiritual sense also. If I don’t take a risk, stepping out in faith and trusting God for the outcome, what reward is there? That reward, in this case, would be the boredom and safety that my pastor spoke about. The only thing is, I believe there doesn’t end up being much safety in that kind of a story. Boredom, yes, but its outcome isn’t security at all. Well, it’s security as we see it, the kind of security you get when you take no risks but also end up with no interesting story to tell and characters in that story living a stagnant faith that does no one any good at all.

Part of my family’s already written story includes our journey to adopt our daughter, a long distance journey to the eastern European country of Estonia. Previous to that, my wife and I had decided to become foster parents. We had two placements, one for just a day or so and another for two or three weeks. We then left for Estonia to take custody of our daughter and our foster parent license subsequently expired. Due to some of the circumstances surrounding our daughter’s issues, we didn’t really discuss adding to our family again until just recently.

Anyway, this leads us to the next chapter of my family’s story. We’ve decided to get re-certified as foster parents again, starting at the end of this month, with the intention of adopting an “unwanted” child into our home. This is something I’ve long been very passionate about. I’ve had a passion for working with children ever since becoming a Christian but seeing and hearing about orphaned, abused, neglected, or unwanted children has always made a real impact on me on a personal level that goes beyond just wanting to work with them. I don’t share this to shine some spotlight on me because God knows that I’m certainly no better than the next person. I share it in the hopes that it inspires someone else with a similar passion to find a story for their family as well.

So now our family has the essential elements we need for our story: a calling and a conflict. Our calling is to provide a loving and nurturing home for a child who otherwise would not have one. Our conflict is to fight against abandonment, neglect, and abuse. We’re involving our daughter in this story (and she’s excited about it, by the way). It’s a story that’s close to my heart and I hope someone else out there is inspired to live their own story because of it.

Of Courage and Valor


“The Lord of the Rings” trilogy is my favorite movie of all time and, respectively, the books as well. They hold a deep well of symbolism that means far more to me than just the outward story they tell.

My favorite character is that of Boromir of Gondor. Boromir is part of the company that was chosen at the Elven city of Rivendell to accompany the hobbit Frodo on his quest to journey to the land of Mordor to destroy the ring of power. Before this fellowship is even selected however, Boromir displays his humanness, if you will, by attempting to claim the ring for himself, wishing to take it back to his capital city of Minas Tirith to use in the fight against the Dark Lord Sauron. Against his wishes, they decide instead to destroy the ring by taking it to Mordor to cast into the fires of Mount Doom where it was originally forged by Sauron. He decides to join the fellowship to safeguard the ring’s passage on their quest.

On the trip towards Mordor, Boromir is tempted on multiple occasions to take the ring from Frodo. He is drawn by its power and tempted to use its magic to save his people of Gondor. In a fit of rage, Boromir attempts to forcefully take the ring from Frodo as they are talking with one another in the forest. Frodo escapes and, from there, decides that he must proceed on his own with the ring to Mordor. He flees but is pursued by a band of Uruk-hai. Coming to his senses from the fit of rage he was in, Boromir recovers his senses and hurries to the aid of the hobbits as they are attacked by overwhelming numbers. In the midst of battle, he blows his horn of Gondor to summon his compatriots to his side. The man who cowered and whimpered while coming to his senses after trying to steal the ring now fought heroically to save the Hobbits from the Uruk-hai. In the end, Boromir summons strength to fight against great odds, shot twice with arrows but still fighting on. Finally, a third arrow brings him to the ground, no longer able to stand. He’s then saved from a quick death from a fourth arrow by Aragorn. He later dies in the arms of Aragorn, dying the death of a hero.

All this being said, Boromir’s character traits remind me of just how flawed I am. I’m human and, when I say that, it’s certainly not a compliment. It’s an acknowledgment of my innate flaws. Everyone has them from the so-called greatest of us to the very least. Some people’s flaws are easy to see while others struggle inwardly with nary a notice from anyone around them. One kind is not necessarily worse than another but, rest assured, everyone has an issue they deal with on a regular basis. Like Boromir, we all succeed or fail at our attempts in dealing with that issue to one degree or another. Not long before his life ended, he miserably failed. However, he found the strength to ultimately succeed. In such a way, God gives us each the opportunity to also ultimately triumph. Perhaps not in such a dramatic way as dying in combat against overwhelming odds but it’s a real battle we all face nonetheless.

Whatever it is we face, it’s always a question of finding the courage and valor to fight and overcome those obstacles. For many, we fight and overcome them only to be once again overtaken by them later. Then it’s a matter of getting back up and finding the courage to face them once again.

Revisiting F.A.S.


Well, I’ve been scratched and bitten by a sedated cat today and endured being verbally assaulted by an 11-year old. What a great, fun day it’s been (sarcasm intended)!

Anyway, for those of you who’ve read this blog…The VERY few, I should say (your check is in the mail, btw)…You may have read my post about FAS (Fetal Alcohol Syndrome). It’s what’s at the root of all the behavior problems my daughter has.

Please, please, please…If you know a pregnant woman that is drinking alcohol, please beg her to not drink while she’s pregnant. Even a small amount can be harmful. Believe me, we’re now living with the effects of it and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone else.

_______________________

Most of you reading this (is that an echo I hear…) probably have never heard of FAS/FAE (Fetal Alcohol Syndrome/Effects).  FAS is a disorder caused by a pregnant woman ingesting alcohol during pregnancy that causes brain damage in the unborn child.  There is no hard or fast rule on how much alcohol causes brain damage or how much damage will result from it.  Much of it depends on the physiology of the child.  Some doctors report being able to smell alcohol in the amniotic fluid during the birth of an FAS child.

Consider yourself fortunate if you’ve never had to raise an FAS child or if you’ve ever been close to someone raising such a child.  My wife and I adopted our daughter at the age of 6, knowing that it was possible that she may have full-blown FAS or, at least, FAE.  Since this was an international adoption and we had not yet met our daughter in person, we consulted with a physician who specialized in reviewing medical information, video tapes, etc., of these kinds of children.  He cautioned us and we came away from the consultation being somewhat disillusioned.  We didn’t change our minds, however, and truly believed God was leading us to go through with the adoption.

We had a great adventure while we were in Europe, travelling, doing paperwork, meeting various interesting people, and interacting for the first time with our new daughter.  She was very quiet and said no more than a few words each day.  Occasionally, there would be an excited outburst when she would notice an airplane flying over, a helicopter, or a motorcycle.  After we returned home, however, things headed south fairly quickly.  We began experiencing severe temper tantrums, sometimes one to two hours long or longer (once up to 6 hours).  She was often completely out of control, becoming physically and verbally abusive.  We finally had to resort to therapeutic holds to keep her from destroying property and from hurting herself or us.  My wife especially suffered a lot of, well, crap during this time.  Our daughter would punch, kick, spit, bite, scratch, head butt, and just about anything else she could think of during these tantrums.  I remember coming home from work that first day after returning from Europe and finding my wife with her arms and legs covered with bruises and scratches.  I also remember how powerless and defeated we felt.  What were we doing?  Were we handling this correctly?  Did we just make a huge mistake?

Things finally got better after a few months, though we would still hit a bump in the road every now and then.  We’ve recently experienced more severe problems, in the last few months, since the onset of puberty.  Fun wow!  There’s not as much violence, though she does occasionally throw things, kicks holes in the wall, bangs on the doors, walls, etc.  It’s now mostly verbal abuse.  We’ve been called stupid, idiots, dummies, etc., heard her say that she doesn’t want to live here in this boring house, that we never should have gone to Estonia to get her, etc.  You name it, we’ve heard it.

I’m telling you all this to illustrate how life can be with an FAS child.  Due to the brain damage from alcohol exposure, she has learning difficulties that make it extremely difficult for her to understand things.  We have to be very literal with her and, even then, she may not understand.  Part of her diagnosis is that the two hemispheres of the brain do not communicate together like a normal child’s brain.  This causes her to get “stuck” often in her emotional state.  She will dwell on something and will just not let it go.  I’m sure normal children can be like this but multiply that by about a million and that is what you’re dealing with.  Things that would cause minor or, at the most, temper tantrums lasting a few minutes to maybe a half hour are now an hour, two hours, three hours long, sometimes longer, happening several times over the course of a day or even several days.

FAS children usually appear normal to everyone else.  Our daughter is mostly well-behaved in public, appearing very sweet and lovable and, for the most part, this isn’t far off.  When she’s not in an emotional state like I described above, she is very loving.  However, watch out if she gets “stuck”!

Unfortunately, she’s also very delayed in her learning and will always require supervision.  We’re resigned to the fact that she will never be “normal”, if that even exists anymore.  She certainly has potential but the goals we would like to see her achieve are not normal, either.  She’s 11 now but her developmental age is actually closer to 7, so she usually plays much better with children who are much younger than her.

Due to some of her habits, she tends not to make friends or keep them very easily.  Other children are easily annoyed by her.  It saddens me that she doesn’t really have any close friends.  My heart hurts for her when I think of how some of her peers have treated her and especially now going into her teen years.  If she does make friends, I worry about her being able to keep them.  She’s not very socially conscious, so it’s easy to be annoyed by her.  Been there, done that myself.  Anyway, I worry about it more than she does but, then again, she can’t comprehend it.

This is one of my longer posts in a while but it still feels like I’ve left out a lot.  If you know anyone raising an FAS child, please support them as much as possible.  They probably need it far more than you’ll ever know.  Pray for them.  Be there for them.  Listen to them.  Just be available.