Friday, March 30, 2012

Rahna Reiko Rizzuto - Hero or villian?

Last night DJ's (my son) grandpa Rick called and asked if he could pick him up to take him fishing this morning. I told Rick yes, and my son overheard. He had trouble falling asleep and then woke up repeatedly this morning asking each time, "Is papa Rick here to take me fishing yet?"
After Rick came to pick him up this morning, all I could think of is how lucky my son is to have a grandpa that actually wants to be a part of his life. I remembered how hurt I was when I did not see my dad for a year when my mom left him. The thoughts that I was not good enough to keep my dad in my life. I blamed myself for him not seeing me, and always wondered what I had done wrong that made him not want to be around me anymore. Little did I know at the time, but my mother had left state with us and not told my dad where we were.
I still carried that blame and did not work through it until I was well into my 30’s, even though I knew better. I swore that I would never do that to a kid. I knew the impact that it had on me. I began substance abuse and self-abuse while struggling with depression at an early age and it continued into my mid-30’s. Not going to say that it was the reason, but it helped to fuel the fire once it started. The damage that was done to me was horrific by that event. Horrific, and It was unforgiveable.
Now I am a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) who specializes in substance abuse, co-occuring disorder and family counseling. I see first hand the damage that is done to the children who have dads and moms not in their lives. I have a number of clients that are addicts today because they are still struggling with the questions I worked through in my 30’s: “Why am I not enough for you?” and “What can I do to change so you will love me and come back?” 

They are plagued by these questions because their parents aren’t in their lives and it kills them emotionally. Sometimes they put on the strong face and put up walls, but it hurts them severely! So today when I heard about Rahna Reiko Rizzuto I was shocked. Here is a women who had two children as well as a husband of 20 years, and decided that motherhood was not what she thought it would be. "I wanted to give myself more priority," Rahna says, so she left her husband and two children that were 3 and 5. 

She whines because she left her children and her friends would not talk to her because of it. That sounds amazing to me. Can you imagine her friends expecting her to be a parent to the children that she gave birth to? She says she now is able to pay attention to her kids in 5 or 6 hour blocks a couple of times a week. That is mighty big of her. Parenting when it is convenient. Further, can you imagine the pain it would cause to hear your mother on national television say that she never wanted to have you to begin with? We are not to have children for the joy that they give us, but the joy that we can give them. 

Now before every one jumps on the bash wagon, I want to applaud her for one thing. At least she gave birth to her sons and did not abort them. Now back to the point of this blog. She is up for a national book award for her book and has won previous awards?????? We are basically rewarding her for leaving her children. She can make a profit on the emotional/psychological harm she did her children by putting it in print! And some of you buy it??

Way to go Today Show, further praise her. I also like how she says that her children were not traumatized, and that they have the best of both worlds! She even says that their relationship has improved. I enjoy how she justifies her actions and tries to make herself feel good about what she has done. I would like to hear their opinion on it. From my experience in counseling, she has hurt them deeply.  

If this were a guy, we would not even be having this conversation. He would not be up for a book award or anything. In fact, we would call it business as usual. No courageous hero would he be called. I just do not understand why she is getting all of this credit. She is doing what any parent should do when the family splits up.......other than saying in books/blogs she has written and on the Today Show that she never wanted to give birth to your children. I guess that would be pretty rough. I imagine the kids at school are pretty mean to them with that kind of ammunition. 

How dare we make her feel like a saint. She is, just like any other parent who leaves their children because it is a hassle: self-centered, selfish and a bad parent. I would say the same thing if she was a he! We place no value on the family unit anymore. What saddens me is that she is lauded and called courageous and brave for what she did. 

No wonder our society is going down hill so fast. Suicide, murder, rape, abortion, divorce and substance abuse abound and a large part of that is because we are stepping away from family values. We live in a selfish, me first society. If I am not happy, I can just run away!! I don't have to be responsible for my actions. This is part of the great secularization of our country. Why should family values matter, if nothing matters? I imagine many would call a mother leaving her children and feeling good about it progress. If that is progress, I don't want it! 

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Trayvon Martin Tragedy and the Media's Focus

I do not know for a fact what happened on February 26th in Sanford, Florida. I do know that the captain of a neighborhood watch, 28 year old George Zimmerman, shot and killed unarmed  17 year old  Trayvon Martin. This is a tragedy regardless of what happened. I would argue that only Zimmerman and Martin actually know, and one of them is dead.

My heart and prayers go out to his family. I cannot imagine the pain that they are going through right now. It would appear that the incident was instigated by George Zimmerman based on the information that has been provided. He was told to stay in his car and he did not listen, plus the kid was unarmed that he fatally shot. That sounds open and shut to me, but until all of the information comes out it is a horrific tragedy that should have never occurred.

Now we move on to the media. SHAME ON YOU!! In the month since the shooting occurred it has changed from a horrific killing to a racist occurance (which it might be). Some how though the media has managed to turn this into a black vs white thing. Every where that I look I see or hear about the white adult shooting the black child. How is that possible when it was a Hispanic that did the shooting? Since when is a Hispanic considered white? It is more like a brown versus black thing.

The media is trying to make this a white versus black thing so they can generate more viewers through sensationalism and capitalize even more on a tragedy. They are emotionally stirring this up even more, and I am afraid that innocent people may get hurt. You have the New Black Panthers saying, "You kill one of mine, I have to kill one of yours!"Retaliation is never the answer, especially when it is racially motivated.  Racism is always wrong, wrong, wrong no matter who does it. Revenge is not the answer, either. Ghandi said it best, "An eye for an eye leaves everyone blind."

Regardless of what happened, this is a man using deadly force against a teen-ager that was unarmed. That makes it a tragic killing that should not have happened! This is clearly a wrong versus right issue. All race and color aside, the point is that an unarmed teenager was shot by a grown man.

That leads me to the next part of my blog. Why is the Trayvon Martin shooting on every channel and every hour that I see the news, yet there is hardly any mention of the daily deaths, strokes and seizures of teen-agers who are buying synthetic marijuana and methamphetamine in head shops and convenience stores across the United States? It is marketed under many names: potpourri, spice, bathing salts, jewelry cleaner, K-2, K-3, etc. How about having that on the news all of the time! It is sold in stores so people  people think that it is safe, and it is clearly not. Why are we not shutting down the places that knowingly sell the products that are killing our children?

Some people argue that there are lots of things sold that teens are abusing and dying from. That may be true, but they generally are buying these other products and using them as other than they were originally intended and/or having to combine them with other products or chemicals through a process in order to get high. They are not having to make something from the synthetics that are being sold I am talking about. They are using it in the same form they buy them in. It is murder in the worst case scenario and criminal negligence is the best you can say about it. If you want to argue that alcohol is legal and is just as bad or worse, I hear you. I wish that it was illegal, also.

In closing, it is definitely possible that the shooting of Trayvon was racially motivated. Why? Because racism is alive and well in our country. That is a very sad fact. That said, could we not only focus on the outrage over this shooting but also on the youth that are being rushed daily to the hospital and in some cases dying because of the synthetic drugs that people are selling in places of business? Can we please focus on our lack of proper prevention education to them! Please let us set our youth up to be successful and help them when they have issues instead of setting them up to fail and incarcerating them when they struggle!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Tactics by Gregory Koukl Chapter 2: Reservations

"There are two things you don't talk about, religion and politics!" Does that sound familiar? Religion for some time has been considered a taboo subject. So when a book encourages you to have religious discussions, you probably get nervous. "How can I possibly discuss my faith, especially with non-believers, without it turning into a heated dispute?" Mr Koukl addresses just that question in Chapter 2, and he goes further than simply saying we should discuss it. He encourages that we should argue for our faith. Scary, huh!!!

Let's start by clarifying what the word argue mean? Is it two people yelling at each other back and forth, getting angrier and angrier as the discussion continues to escalate? No, argue is to attempt persuading others with reason and evidence. An argument sounds like a positive experience. A heated argument, however, is the last thing you want. If you get angry and raise your voice, cut someone off in mid-sentence or try to bully/intimidate them you lose! You give the appearance of using power instead of persuasion. It is the best way to appear ignorant on the issue. Plus it is a showing of bad manners, which is hardly Christ-like.

On the flip side, what if you stay calm as a cucumber and the other person gets angry and defensive? Once again, you lose! You should always try to keep the conversation cordial by being kind, patient and gentle. What if you express your ideas in that fashion and it still enrages people? You now know that it is your beliefs and ideas, not your attitude or behavior that bothers them.

In live you must never forget, YOU are a representative of Christ and you need to always display that. You are to love your neighbor as yourself. That means that you are to be compassionate, respectful and caring to those around you. Treat them how you want them to treat you whether they do or not. You also are to love God with your whole heart. If you have that kind of love for him, why would you not share Him? You bore people to death telling them about your children, so why do you fear discussing Christ?

You may not be able to handle someone challenging your beliefs without getting hostile. Maybe you fear enraging others. Remember, that is on them if you argue with as long as you use patience, care and respect when in discussions with others. Finally, you may be afraid that differing opinions may destroy the unity of the church. 2 Timothy chapter 2 tells you to teach others and in 2 Timothy chapter 4:2-5 we are told to:

"Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry."

Scripture tells you to correct, rebuke and encourage using sound doctrine by doing the work of an evangelist and performing the duties of ministry. This requires you to have conversations and discussions with both believers and non-believers. You cannot know truth without legitimate conversation, in which you treat others with civility and don't take what they say personally.

Here is why you should argue. Your views must be challenged if you are to develop strong faith. Without discussion and debate your faith stays weak and shallow. Argument is vital to help you distinguish between truth and error, friend from foe, positive from negative and right from wrong. The author states, "The ability to argue well is vital for clear thinking. That's why arguments are good things. Arguing is a virtue because it helps us to determine what is true and discard what is false." 

How can we love God with all of our mind as Jesus instructed us to in Mark 12:30 if we never engage our mind? Your mind is  best exercised when you dispute your claims with those who have opposing beliefs. Your faith grow stronger through arguments and sometimes they can even be effective!

In Acts 17: 2-3, Paul reasoned with non-believers for 3 Sabbaths while he explained and gave evidence for his beliefs. He did not sway them all, but the Bible says that "some of them were persuaded" (Acts 17:4). You should not expect everyone to change. In John 10:27-28 Jesus says that His sheep hear and follow. This means that there will be some who don't respond to the Truth.

In fact, you may never change anyone. If they don't respond, do not take it personally! It is not on you to change people. That is the work of God. You can neither love nor argue someone to Christ on your own. Without the work of the Spirit, there can be no conversion. Only through the power of God can the gospel transform someone. So if it is not on you to change others, why waste your time? What should your goal be?

You are to be faithful to God, and He tells you to minister and evangelize. Your goal may be to introduce a question or two for the other person to think about. Mr. Koukl says, "My aim is never to win someone to Christ. All I want to do is put a stone in some one's shoe. I want to give them something to think about." Everyone has their calling. You may be the one to harvest You may be a gardener, not a harvester. It is okay to sow, even if you do not reap. Without the seed sown (rock in their shoe) their would be no fruit to harvest.

So I would encourage you to sow some seed today. You may not harvest the seed, but it will never grow to fruition if it isn't planted. See you next week when we will examine Chapter 3 and begin examining methods of sowing the seed!

Friday, March 23, 2012

What's Wrong With Faith?

How many of you stop at a green light?

I am asking that question for a reason. We will get to the reason later. That said, I am a firm believer in faith. Currently I am a Christian, and I have faith that what I believe is true. When I was an Agnostic I also had faith that what I believed was true. I had a confidence in both instances that I was right in my belief, therefore I had faith.

Unfortunately when I was agnostic I abused drugs and enjoyed hurting people. I tried multiple methods to get off of drugs: prison, jail, house arrest, counselors, psychiatrists, psychologists, prescription medication, residential treatment, outpatient treatment, scared straight, anger management even suicide. Nothing secular worked. I couldn't even be successful at killing myself!

Since  I have been a Christian, I have not used drugs nor have I been arrested. I turned my life over to Christ February 1st, 2009 at 2 A.M. and I have not smoked a cigarette, shot up, got into a fight, used drugs/alcohol nor had premarital sex since. To me that is nothing short of amazing. I used to deal dope and ruin lives, now I deal hope and share recovery to those who do not have it so that they may use my testimony to gain faith that they too can overcome their personal habits, hurts and hang-ups. My relationship with God allowed me to change. WIthout faith I was mired in addiction and crime.

Here are two examples of faith that I see in my daily life. First, I work in the substance abuse industry. Depending on the study you look at for methamphetamine, recovery occurs in only 5-10% of cases. Those odds make the idea of recovery disheartening at best, and unattainable at worst. Yet I have seen many people who in the face of these odds still have faith that they will succeed. I was in addiction and every one that I knew that tried to quit drugs always came back. Today, I have faith that those same people can and will change.

Second, I have seen on several occasions a car in front of me get t-boned going through a green light by a car running a red light. In one of those instances two people died in the accident. Many people have seen a car get hit by someone running a red light. I would further estimate that most people have at least witnessed a near miss. Therefore, we have logical proof that people run red lights.

So if I believe that people run red lights and cause injury to those who don't stop at green lights than I operate on faith every time I go through a green light without stopping. I have logical proof and material evidence that people run red lights. If I operate on logic and reason I would slow down if not stop at green lights. I assert that if we were not operating on faith, we would slam on our brakes before going through a green light.

So, how many of you stop at a green light?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Reason Rally: Atheists, Agnostics and Secularists Oh My

I just felt that with the upcoming gathering called the Reason Rally I should put in my .02 worth. After all, they are having it on my birthday. It is amazing that we both have chosen the 24th as the day to have a celebratory gathering. There will be much talking, laughing and music on my birthday. In that the two events will be very similar. That is where the similarities will probably end. We will both be celebrating on the same day, but for a very different reason.

I am having a gathering to celebrate something that I have knowledge of. I know for a fact that the day I exited my mother's womb and took my first breath of fresh air was on March 24th. I have knowledge of what happened. There is no uncertainty or disbelief in my birth or the date that it happened, therefore the gathering of like-minded individuals to celebrate my creation.

The Reason Rally, on the other hand, is gathering to celebrate several things. If atheist, then by definition they are rallying around lack of belief that there is a God. If agnostic, they are gathering to celebrate lacking the knowledge to prove (or disprove) something exists. If secularist they believe that public education and politics should be without religious influence.

I can actually see the gathering of secularists based on the definition. They have an agenda. I cannot for the life of me understand the gathering of atheists and agnostics, and I was for 25 years of my life an agnostic. I would get together with fellow atheists and agnostics to make ourselves feel intellectually superior and to point out the evils of Christians, but not to celebrate all the good that we did. We never really rallied around our beliefs, but instead used our time together to belittle those of "faith."

Hopefully that's not the reason for Reason Rally. According to their site, it will not be. In fact, on the about page the question is raised, "Are we just going to use this opportunity to trash religion?" With the answer given being, "No. This will be a positive experience, focusing on all non-theists have achieved in the past several years."  I wish that were the truth, but I have trouble believing that for several reasons.

For starters, look at the list of speakers they are featuring. Among those speaking are Bill Maher, Paul Provenza  and Richard Dawkins. I dare say that they have hate for Christians. That would be based on the vulgarities they use as well as the names they call Christians. How can you have a positive experience focusing on all that non-theists achieve when you have people featured who use their bully pulpit to call Christians idiots and worse?

Secondly, how is one of your sponsors formally inviting Westboro Baptist Church to the Rally fit in to your expressed agenda? You are claiming that you want to have fun and talk about what non-theists have achieved. Those are mutually exclusive goals. That is sensationalism and media seeking at it's very worst.

Imagine my brother in the Army died in combat. I let everyone know the funeral is a celebration of his life and we want to recognize his service to country. Later that day I send an invitation to WBC asking them to join us in showing our respect to the deceased. It would appear that the expressed purpose in inviting everyone to the funeral was dishonest based on the invitation extended to WBC. Just like the expressed reason for the Reason Rally is sullied with the invite to WBC.

I feel this was done so that the Rally can film two segments. First, here are the non-theists. See how we are polite and speak nicely to each other. We are kind, loving people. Now look at the Christians, how they shout hate speech and wish us ill. We are so maligned by Christianity. Poor us, we are so mistreated and the Christians are so mean.

That is sad! Pointing to WBC and saying that is how Christians are is like me pointing at Mao Zedong, Joseph Stalin, Pol Pot, Benito Mussolini  or Jeffrey Dahmer and saying that is how non-theists are. It would be completely unfair of me to make that blanket accusation. Hope to see those who claim to have reason actually show it at the rally and in the subsequent discussions that they have after it is over.

I truly hope that the Rally helps non-theists figure out ways to improve living conditions around the world. I hope that they discuss all of the humanitarian efforts that they are involved in, and how they can come together for relief efforts and to provide services and basic needs after natural disasters and in areas of high poverty. I would have loved to see tents and semi-trailers from non-theist instituations manned by non-theist volunteers giving out supplies when I was giving psychological first aid in Joplin, but I did not.

Hopefully, that is what Reason Rally is about: helping those less fortunate, struggling with physical and mental illnesses, funding/staffing humanitarian efforts and showing love for their fellow man. Unfortunately, based on the speakers that are there and  the invitation to WBC that was made I am led to believe that they have a completely different agenda.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Tactics by Gregory Koukl Chapter 1: Diplomacy or D-Day

What is apologetics? It is by definition to "defend the faith, defeat false ideas, destroy speculations." These descriptions make apologetics sound very much like a full scale conflict, won by using feuding words! That is not what apologetics is for. It is not there to win by confrontation, but through diplomacy. In Tactics you will learn the Ambassador Model, which "trades more on friendly curiosity than on confrontation." How does the Ambassador Model work?

For an example, Gregory Koukl uses a discussion he started with a Pagan. In that conversation he asked the Pagan specific questions that:
  1. Started the conversation.
  2. Gained information.
  3. Revealed the weaknesses in the responses.
  4. Challenged the inconsistencies and contradictions
  5. Looked at the logical consequences of the Pagan's beliefs.
He did all of this without being combative. You can use reason while being thoughtful instead of using your emotions. When you see contradictions and inconsistencies in someone's views, you are to challenge them gently, not forcefully. By paying attention you have the ability to steer the discussion in the direction you want it to go. You are in the driver's seat!

In Tactics you will learn how to get into the driver's seat of a conversation. A successful conversation requires two things, strategy and tactics. Strategy is the big picture. It is why you believe how you believe. Strategy is having knowledge to back up your beliefs. Strategically there are two types of apologetics: offensive and defensive. Offensive apologetics makes a positive case by offering evidence for Christianity. Defensive apologetics meets challenges to the Christian faith by answering them.

But the legal system show us that just having the facts (strategy) does not win the case. There have been many people who were found innocent of crimes, although the evidence was stacked against them. How did this happen? The client had an attorney who was a skilled tactician. The attorney could steer the jury towards the facts they wanted to address while poking holes in the prosecution's case. The purpose of this book is to allow you to "design particular responses to particular people so you can begin to have an impact in specific situations." This book will help you become a skilled tactician!

So as this series continues to review Tactics, we will look more into the techniques that will help you navigate the difficult conversations you get into. These techniques will be heavy on paying attention to the people around you and what they say. It is as simple as that. Only by being alert to those around you can you have an impact. If someone is not heard and understood they will not listen. You are simply clarifying their beliefs and engaging them in conversation, not combat.

You are an ambassador for Christ. You are not trying to be mean or abrasive. Instead, you get to educate those who disbelieve on why you believe. You can show them the errors that exist in their beliefs. Join me each week as we learn how to present the truth of Christianity both clearly and cleverly, turning dangerous situations into opportunities to share Christ with others.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

What is the difference between sobriety and recovery

I have many times had to explain the difference between sobriety and recovery to many people. It seems that to many people who claim to have never struggled with an addiction of any kind, they do not understand that the two are different. In one of the secular 12 step groups that I used to attend, they had a clever way of presenting the difference. 

"If you have a drunken horse thief and you sober him up, what do you have? You have a sober horse thief."

By this example, we see that although the alcohol is gone, the criminal lifestyle is still present. I have my own ways of looking at the difference. Even though I may have stopped engaging in whatever my life controlling issue might be, I still have behaviors that I engaged in that are not right. Some call them criminal behaviors, but I would call them moral issues that arise from self-esteem issues and not feeling that I deserve respect. When I do not respect myself, how can I show respect to others. 

I may have stopped cutting myself, but I still cannot tell the truth. I may not be struggling with my eating disorder, but I still cheat every time I am in a relationship. I may not be drinking, but I am still trying to start fights with every one who looks at me as I walk by them. I may not be doing drugs, but I can't complete a sentence without dropping an F-Bomb. I may not be sleeping with multiple partners, but I cannot stop watching pornography. The list could go on and on, but you get the point. 

Some of the most unhappy, angry people that I have ever met were at a 12 Step meeting. They claimed to have 15 years of recovery, but at best they were sober. They had never over came their moral issues. They are still wallowing in self-pity and selfishness. They have never gotten over the loss of the "one true love" of their habit of choice. They still reminisce about the good old days, reliving that high and hating that they can never allow themselves to have it again. 

So what can we do. First and foremost, get the big 4. Sponsor (mentor), meetings (small groups), accountability partners and work the 12 steps (live Christ-like). Those are the 4 that always need to be present in your life. Next, learn that community service is not something that your judge or a probation officer assigns you. The longer you are sober, the more you owe back to society. Be positive by always focusing on the positives and surrounding yourself with positive people. Start off each morning by making a list of things that you are grateful for to get the day started positively. 

So, to recap
  1. Sponsor
  2. Meetings
  3. Accountability Partners
  4. Work the Steps
  5. Give Back
  6. Be Positive
  7. Be Grateful
I did forget to add a few things, and to me these are what made the difference. I had the sponsor, meetings, accountability partners and step work. I was even giving back, but I had no positivity or gratitude. To be honest, I was pessimistic always. I was Agnostic, and it kept me from finding the hope needed to step into recovery. I was still engaging in most of my moral deficits. I only overcame them through Christ. So to the above list I would add a few more. 
  1. Pray without ceasing
  2. Read the Bible daily
  3. Listen for the still small voice of God to guide you and you will find that it is neither still nor small!!
Remember to stay eternally optimistic and lean on God, for He is great ALL OF THE TIME! After all, I can do all things through He who strengthens me!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Things I Do Not Understand About the Big Bang

To be fair, I am not a scientist. I am instead attempting to be a student and come to an understanding on the science behind the Big Bang. These are the questions that I am at the moment working to decipher. I have questions that I cannot answer without bringing in God to be a guiding hand. Personally, I do believe that God created everything. I once heard a Christian scientist say, "I believe in the Big Bang. I just know who banged it." If there is a bang, there has to be a banger. I am not saying I believe in the Big Bang, but I don't see creation of nature without a supernatural being. If there is proof otherwise, I would enjoy hearing what that proof is in the form of a comment. Either way, I need people to explain these questions to me with answers that make sense. That said, please keep the comments kind and void of offensive language or derogatory name calling. Those comments will be removed regardless of the side they support!

  1. What happened before the Big Bang? Did time and space exist?
  2. How did everything that exists at one time fit into one tiny spot? When I see millions of stars and billions of planets, I cannot believe that they all came from one infinitely dense area. Where did the matter come from?
  3. I do not as yet understand how it occurred at all. This would be the Cosmological Theory or the uncaused cause. I will talk about this at some point when I write a blog on the the Cosmological Theory. There had to be a reason that the Big Bang occurred to begin with. What caused that natural event to occur? The only thing that I know would be a supernatural being. All things natural have a cause.
  4. How do we explain the disappearance of the law (not theory but law) of conservation of energy?  I thought that energy could neither be created or destroyed based on the first law of thermodynamics. Where did the energy necessary to cause the Big Bang come from?
  5. How did the stars form to begin with. I have heard that gas clouds had to collapse under gravity in order to create stars. Yet physicists report that the clouds would be so hot that outward pressure would prevent collapse. In order for that not to happen, they would have to cool down. But the Big Bang created hydrogen and a little helium, with the other elements forming inside the stars themselves. The only thing to cool the hydrogen would be helium, which would instead increase the temperature, making the clouds too hot to collapse.
  6. If a tornado were to rip through a forest, I would not find a two story log cabin standing in the aftermath and imagine that the tornado constructed it. Yet in the Big Bang theory, we are basically believing that could happen. The universe is infinitely more complex than the log cabin, yet this destructive expulsion and expansion is said to have created the order that we see. That is what a galaxy is from where I stand, a complex unit of order. So, how did galaxies come into existence from the Big Bang? Since when does a chaotic occurrence bring about order and structure in nature?
  7. If it was not so much a Big Bang as an expansion, there should be an even distribution of matter that exists. What we see is random clumping of galaxies and planets here and there. Why are there clusters then vast expanses of empty space then more clusters?
  8. How are there galaxy walls, voids and globular clusters in space that appear older than the age of the universe itself? I guess another way to look at this question would be to ask, "How can I be older than my father?"
  9. How do we now know that dark matter exists, when the collision witnessed in space contained team members who said that "We've closed this loophole about gravity, and we've come closer than ever to seeing this invisible matter." If it is invisible and you have not seen it, that is pretty hard to imagine it exists. I know we have wind, but I can feel it and see its affects. The collision did not truly display dark matter and it was not felt, but only a reaction was seen that could make it a possibility. I even looked at pictures that were supposed to represent "invisible" dark matter, and I could see nothing. Am I missing something?
  10. How is the volume of space larger than the Big Bang? Is space infinite or finite?
  11. How do galaxies collide when they should be flying away from each other, with those furthest away from the epicenter (the first galaxies formed) accelerating faster than those which are closer to the epicenter (the last galaxies formed)?
  12. Why do all planets not spin the same way if we were created by expansion, there should be uniformity but there isn't. Why is this?
  13. How did globular clusters form at the beginning of the Big Bang? Could there be clusters of  100,000 stars that were able to bind together in the turbulence that occurred at the inception of the Big Bang?
  14. What is Hawking's principle of ignorance? How is saying that singularities are chaotic and unpredictable a valid argument for the uncaused cause to have occurred?
  15. Why is it that any time that I see an equation explaining the Big Bang do I see i, which is an imaginary number. If this is considered to be fact, it should not require an imaginary number to explain it. The scientific method is made up of multiple steps. You ask a question, then research the existing information. Next you form a hypothesis, conduct research and you either validate or invalidate your hypothesis. If you are wrong you then reconstruct your hypothesis and conduct new research, not invent fake numbers to validate it.
  16. If the open universe we see today is estimated back near the beginning, the ratio of the actual density of matter in the universe to the critical density must differ from unity by just one part in 1059. Any larger deviation would result in a universe already collapsed on itself or already dissipated. How can that and all of the other anomalies that had to occur for the Big Bang to have created what we see have happened without the guidance of a Higher Power?
  17. As I understand it, some of my questions above may be invalid since I have learned that Big Bang Theory is not about the creation of the universe, but the origin of the universe over time. That means that not only can we not agree on how the universe developed over time, we have no idea how the universe began at all. Is that me correctly identifying the Big Bang Theory, no idea about origin but instead attempting to explain development? If so, than what was before the Big Bang, because it obviously was not the birth of space and time?
  18. What are imaginary numbers and imaginary time? It does not seem scientific to invent things that do not exist to explain things that are not understood. How is that part of the scientific method.

How come we invent imaginary things in science (which is supposed to be based on fact) but as Christians are ridiculed by many in the scientific community for having faith in something. I propose a theory of God, just like you propose a theory that involves imaginary numbers, imaginary time, singularities, principles of ignorance, black matter and black energy. I operate, just like a scientist, as though my theory is fact.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Impact that "I'm Not Who I Was" by Brandon Heath Had on My Life

I was raised to believe in God by my parents. Then they split, and my mother sent us to live with her father. He was highly abusive, and at times would beat me to the point he would not allow me to go to school for a week so that my injuries would not be seen. I soon became angry and violent and lost my faith in God. I was in the 5th grade.

I spent much of my life in addiction. It started with cigarettes in 6th grade and advanced to marijuana, cocaine and mini-thins in 7th grade. When I moved to Missouri my senior year I was introduced to methamphetamine. I used methamphetamine for the next 12 years, in and out of jail and prison. I also had a severe car accident that left me addicted to opiates. I quit methamphetamine and opiates when I was 29 and started college. I began drinking a few months after I started college. I drank for the next 7 years, becoming an alcoholic and drinking to black out almost every night.

In February of 2008 my father committed suicide. In July of 2008 I broke up with my son’s mother and and she would not let me see my son for the first several months after our break-up. I struggled and did not know what to do. I was out of hope and was beginning to feel the same depression that I felt when I had attempted suicide in 1995. I started to look at the people that I knew who were always happy. The ones who no matter what kept their hope, and it turned out to be a couple I knew who were Christians.

I went up to my friend Nate and told him what was going on and he invited me to come to Church. I told him no. The next week he invited me again and I said no. Then his wife invited me the following week for church and BBQ. The food got me. I came, and the first thing I remember seeing was the tattoo wall that hung up in the Church. It was the tattoos that members of the church had and the reasons why they had gotten them. People were dressed in shorts and t-shirts and I did not feel judged for who I was or how I was dressed. Then I heard that they had a recovery meeting, and the next week I checked it out.
I went to church one or two times a month for the next 5 months. I got to hang out with a couple people that I really liked and was surrounded by happy people. But I was still an Agnostic and struggled with the concept of God. Then I had a night that started the turning point in my life.

I had been drinking one night, heavily. As I pulled out of the bar to go home, I had a police car pull out behind me. I immediately began to pray. “God, if you let me not get pulled over, I will go to church every Sunday.” I turned and the officer turned with me and I prayed again, “I promise, if you let me not get pulled over I will go to church every Sunday and I will never drink again.” I turned and the police officer turned with me again. Every time that happened I added something else. By the time I turned onto my street I was going to start going to church every Sunday, quit drinking, smoking, cussing, fighting and having premarital sex.

As I turned onto my street, the police officer continued going straight. I pulled to my house and sat in the car thinking. I guess that I passed out in my car. I remember waking up in the morning and going to bed. I woke up late that afternoon. I had plans to go to my friend Josh’s house to watch the Super Bowl. I remember getting up and laying in bed trying to piece together the night before. I would generally black out and not remember the previous night, but this time I did. I remembered making the deal as I prayed, and the police car driving by after following me half-way across Springfield kept playing over and over in my mind. 

I sat and thought about what I was going to do. I had plans to go to my friend Josh’s house to watch the Super Bowl, and I got into my car to go. I can remember thinking that there was no way I could go to Josh’s house and keep my part of the bargain. I headed over there anyway. I knew that I had made a deal with God, and that God had kept his part of the bargain. I also knew that I had smoked cigarettes for almost 26 years and been addicted to either drugs or alcohol for 24 years. I could not say no.

As I was driving to my friend’s house I was flipping through radio stations when I heard a song start that I had never heard before. As it played, I started to cry. I had to pull over due to the tears. I could not see to drive. As soon as I heard the words, “I wish you could see me know, I wish I could show you how I’m not who I was,” I knew that I would never smoke again. At that moment I knew that I would never drink or do drugs again. God spoke to me, and I heard a voice in my head start repeating over and over again, saying, “You are not who you were yesterday. You are changed. You can do this. You never have to be who you were again.” 

The song turned into my anthem and has remained my anthem. I have not drank, smoked a cigarette, had premarital sex or gotten into a fight since the night I prayed to God and bargained with him. I have been able to do that because I’m not who I was. I have begun to relate to the song more and more as my life has changed. When he says, “I used to be mad at you, a little on the hurt side too,” I see the way that I feel about myself and others. I was mad at myself and was hurting. Due to that, I was mad at everyone else, too. I would do whatever I could to keep people away from me, because I knew that if they got to know me, they would hurt me.

When he says, “I found my way around to forgiving you some time ago,” I remembered how hard it was to forgive myself. Long after everyone else had forgiven me, I still struggled to forgive myself for the choices in my past. Then I got saved and turned my life around, and I stopped focusing on hating myself and began looking at how I could use my past to help others. I also forgave the people that I hated in my addiction. Many of them I will never see again to tell them that all is forgiven.

I have ended friendships out of anger when I was really angry at myself, or I was tired of seeing disappointment in their eyes that might or might not have been imagined every time that they looked at me. I was mean and hateful because I was coming down, or I had just gotten out of jail, or just gotten hurt  by somebody else and took it out on them. There are so many reasons......................

Later in the song he says, “I wonder if you ever loved me just for who I am.” That line breaks my heart, because it is so true. I see the people who were my “friends” in my addiction and I know that they did not love me for who I was. My friends were my friends when I was an addict because of several reasons: I had money, I had drugs, I would give them drugs for free or cheap so they could get a hustle on, I gave them a place to sleep, I would buy them food and cigarettes, I would let them take advantage of me, I had a vehicle, they were scared of me/intimidated by me, they wanted to sleep with me or they wanted to sleep with my girlfriend. Never for who I was, but what was in it for them. Sad, sad, sad, but oh so true.

When the pain came back again
Like a bitter friend
It was all that I could do
To keep myself from blaming you

Even though we make changes in our lives, we still have things that have happened in the past and things that happen today that will hurt us and cause us pain. In my past, everything was someone else’s fault. I would feel pain and it would make me strike out at others. This changed in my recovery, as when old situations would arise (new ones too) I would look at the part that I played in them. This was progress. My old friend was blame. Not accepting responsibility kept me sick. If I did not do it, I could not change it. When I accept responsibility, I can then make positive changes!

I reckon it's a funny thing
I figured out I can sing
Now I'm not who I was
I write about love and such
Maybe 'cause I want it so much
I'm not who I was

I was the exact opposite of this. In my addiction I thought that I could sing. I found out in my sobriety that I could not. It was kind of embarrasing when I realized that I could not sing nearly as well as I thought that I could. I had always been encouraged to sing, but those people were as out of it and as fake as I was. I can carry a tune, but it is done with a voice that cracks at all the wrong places. Sobering reality!

The second part of this verse shows the difference in some of us in our addictions. I wanted no one around me when I was an addict. I would chase people away. If someone told me that they loved me, I would break up with them. If they were sick enough to love someone like me, I wanted nothing to do with them. Now, I know that I am worth loving and I have something to offer a partner. No doubt, I am not who I was!

I was thinking maybe I
I should let you know
I am not the same
But I never did forget your name

I have a lot of people in my past that I feel I owe apologies to that I will never see again. I have not forgotten them, nor how I have wronged them. I have instead thought that living my life well and trying to help other’s live their lives well is the best way that I can make amends. I also think that they may read my blogs or my upcoming book, or see me giving my testimony and see the changes that I have made. I do not regret what I have done, because it has made me who I am. That said, I have done things that were messed up and wrong. I just have realizes that I cannot beat myself up about the past. I cannot change the past, I can only make positive changes in today. Therefore, today is where I stay.

Well the thing I find most amazing
In amazing grace
Is the chance to give it out
Maybe that's what love is all about
My favorite line of the song! Amazing grace is truly that, amazing. Grace is both unmerited favor and being given the ability to carry out the will of God. I realized that in my recovery and in my relationship with Christ, I found that I was undeserving of the grace that I received. I surely did not deserve favor from God. At the same time, I realized that I deemed others as unworthy of getting grace. I would look at many with animosity and would not forgive them when they wronged me.

As I grew, I found that if I were given favor by God and the ability to carry out His will, then surely that would mean I needed to forgive others and give others favor that were undeserving in my eyes. As I began to give other’s the grace that I was blessed to receive, I stopped seeing others as undeserving and gained an ability to see others for who they could be. That is what love is about, giving people the compassion, hope and faith they need. This allows them to become who they were meant to be, instead of remaining who they are. God blessed me, and to thank Him I should follow what He deems important. He said that love never fails! So I share my success with others and believe that they too can make positive changes.

This song has seen me go from addiction to working as a substance abuse counselor. I am currently writing a book called Spiritual Spackle, about how my life was as an agnostic struggling with addictions and mental illness and is now by the grace of God, as well as the concepts that got me sober. I am also currently creating a non-profit called Better Life in Recovery to take the message of recovery into Junior High, High School and colleges as well as churches, youth groups, small groups, seminars and conferences. I also speak about what God has done in my life any chance I get. I have spoken at recovery groups both secular and faith based, at churches, colleges and at conferences about how I am not who I was.

This song is also regularly shared with the clients that I work with when they are feeling defeated, hopeless and unable to change. I talk to them about the change being possible, but not if they do not realize that they are not the same person they were when they were in active addiction. I have found this song gets that message across to people better than simply telling them.
I met Brandon Heath at a concert in October of 2009. I did a meet and greet with him and the other entertainers that performed with him. I was excited to tell him the impact that his song had on me. I talked to him for maybe 2 minutes and told him where I was in my life while in addiction and that I was now sober and saved and his song was my anthem for recovery. He told me thanks, that it meant a lot as a song writer to hear that his songs were actually making a difference and having an impact. 

I would love to actually have the opportunity to talk to him for twenty minutes and give him my testimony. I would tell him about the things that have happened to me in my life, and where I am now. To share with him the impact that “I’m Now Who I Was” has had on me. To talk about the projects I am currently a part of. To let him know how his song has been the fuel that has helped me advance God’s Kingdom by sharing the amazing changes Christ can make in your life if you accept Him into your life. I’m not who I was, and the confidence to step into recovery was given to me by Brandon Heath’s song. This song was the catalyst that  let me know that I could change and I was no longer a failure, but could become an inspiration. I went from dealing dope to dealing hope.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Tornadoes, Recovery and My Faith

I know this might sound weird, but my faith was bolstered last year when I went to Joplin to do crisis work and psychological first aid for those who survived the tornado as well as those who were volunteering to help. That may not sound like the place for faith to gain strength, but it is. I have been thinking about the opportunities that present themselves for many, not all, that have been affected by the recent tornadoes in Branson half an hour from where I now live and Harrisburg ten minutes from where I grew up to grow in their faith.

I had a friend that lost a family member due to the Joplin tornado and she was devastated. I also provided support in my role as a counselor to several people that had lost family, loved ones, homes and businesses to the EF 5 tornado that ripped through Joplin. They were struggling with the severity of the damage and the senselessness or the losses that occurred when I first met them.

I agree with them, it is difficult to see why bad things happen, and to feel pain. That said, the worst pain that I have ever experienced brought me into a relationship with Christ. When I was not able to see my son and my father had just committed suicide, I was completely out of hope. I found that hope in Christ, and with that faith I will never be brought down again. I was still unprepared for the sites that I witnessed in Joplin. I am not sure if anything prepares you for a sight like Joplin.

When I went to Joplin, I was astounded at the carnage. I was in shock, but as I looked around when we got into town I saw tent after tent set up. Every single tent that I saw as I walked among them was giving out food, water, blankets, clothing, etc. They had what the people of Joplin were in dire need of. They asked for nothing in return, and were sharing not only supplies, but compassion, smiles and hope. Every tent that I went into was sponsored by a church. When I began talking to the people handing out the supplies, every one of the people that I talked to was a Christian.

Convoy of Hope brought up semi-trucks full of supplies. Convoy of Hope is a Christian ministry. Every where I went I saw Christians helping those in need. They were being Christ-like: loving, feeding and clothing those in need. It helped restore the part of my faith that was getting jaded by the judgmental, hateful people I run into occasionally who are Christian in name only. I saw that the church still comes together to help those who are hurting; whether they are Christian, Atheist, Agnostic or Jewish.

I also noticed that of the people that I talked to, there were two groups that seemed to have an advantage. The Christians that I talked to were doing better at coming to terms with why the devastation and loss had happened. They could look to the sky, even though it was sometimes out of anger or frustration, and say that at least the lost loved ones finally got to go home. "They are in a better place." Several Christians also stated, "I may not understand what is happening or why, but I do know that God has a plan."

The second group that I saw doing well were those in recovery. While many of the people that I talked to did not have a support system to help them or mentors/sponsors to talk to, those in recovery did. They were not searching for someone to talk to or people to help them, they already had the system in place that they needed. That, and I think that already living through hell had prepared them for going through it one more time.

I know that this will not make the loss any better for those who are hurting. What I do know is that when I am struggling through crisis, I have developed a support network that will be there to assist me. I also know that I have a God, an awesome God, that has taken all of my hurts and allowed me to grow from them and use them to help other people. I went from dealing dope to dealing hope, and I owe it all to Christ!

I hope that your faith gives you the insight and strength  that mine has. I also hope that the prayers being sent to you will give you the serenity to stay rational when confronted with adversity, the courage to face it, the hope that life can get better and the optimism to use your faith to make you stronger and overcome any obstacle that this world throws at you. Remember, this world is only temporary!