Wednesday, June 27, 2012

All Alone

I started watching a movie called The Beaver that I figured would be cheesy. Instead, I found myself with a tear in my eye at the end because it reminded me of something. As the father and son hugged at the end, it made me remember that I will never again be able to hug my dad. He is gone, and has been for several years now. What the movie did was remind me of my own father. There were some similarities.

My father was mentally ill. He was Bi-Polar, and he would go from beyond happy to morbidly depressed. There was seldom an in-between. He did not have good or bad days. He had great or horrific days. I guess that over time it ate at him. Eventually it destroyed him. You can not live long as a Yo-Yo. Eventually your string breaks.

My dad had a habit of coming down from the happy highs and crashing immediately into great depressions, then he would shoot back up to the highs. He cycled like this for years. He would crash into the depression or his high would be so intense that he would have to be institutionalized. While in the hospital, my dad would get stabilized on medication. He would get out and do great on his medication. Life would be great and he would be normal, or at least as normal as a mentally ill Superman can get. After all, to me my dad was Superman!

Every time his world would come crashing down and they would rebuild it with medication and let him out. He always did great for a while. Then he would begin to believe that he did not need the medication, so he would stop taking it. He would do okay for months, then he would start the cycle all over again. Whether up or down, his roller coaster would begin and over the next year or two he would race up just to crash down until eventually he would get institutionalized. There his roller coaster would come to a stop.

Just to start all over again

And again

And again.

His last episode was not very different than all of the previous ones. He was on a manic episode and he came up to see me in Springfield from Florida. He came up for my graduation from college. The first of his kids to graduate and he wanted to see it. Not only was I graduating, but my girlfriend was on the verge of delivering his first grandchild. A grandson. Dad was excited.

Being excited while in the midst of a manic episode is a recipe for disaster. Not just for him, but for every one and everything that he was in contact with. He had bought a car in California after he flew out there to see his brother, and tried to drive it to Springfield. He was oblivious to anything extraneous. All that he knew was to keep gas in the car. He never checked the oil, and the engine blew. He left the car where it died and got a ticket on a Grey Hound. I came to pick him up at the station when he got to Springfield.

As I walked up behind my dad at the terminal to pick him up, he was in a group of 5 or 6 guys talking. The group was black and latino. He was the sole white person. The entire group was laughing as my dad was telling jokes in a fake accent. He turned and saw me, still speaking in this over the top Texas drawl.

He told them it was time to go, and they seemed to hate seeing him leave. All of the guys hugged my dad goodbye. That was my dad, he never met a stranger and everyone liked him. He was not just Superman to me, but to a lot of other people. When he was on his game you felt better just for talking to him. They had.

As we left he told me that he had faked the drawl the whole time he was on the bus, and everyone was convinced that he was from Texas. That was when I knew that I was in for a show. As he proceeded to talk to me in rhymes, I knew that the mania was bad. When it was bad he was always going, always. He stayed with me and my girlfriend, and he was always busy. Shopping and jogging, spending and running. That was my dad manic.

He was also stressful because when he was around he did not know when to stop. He would talk and take everything to far. If he was asked to stop, he would just keep on going. When depressed he would never start. When manic he would go for for eternity, or at least that was how it seemed. And he was manic. Don't get me wrong, not all was bad, though. His visit was a mixed bag.

He was there for my graduation. I was glad.

He was there and I was no longer on drugs. I was glad.

He was there and I was still drinking. He was not very happy about that one.

He was there and I was smoking cigarettes. He was not happy about that either.

He was there and I was still Agnostic. That may have been the worse thing I was doing in his eyes.

He asked if he could stay with me until his grandson was born. I told him okay. After all, we were only 10 weeks away. But he started to get worse. He was up constantly stressing me out. Starting fights with me over absolutely nothing. He would agitate me. That was hard for me to deal with, but he was my dad. I could take almost anything.


Then he began to annoy and agitate my girlfriend, who was in her third trimester. I talked to him about not stressing her out, and he continued. Finally, I had enough. I told my dad that he had to go. I let him know that he was stressing out the mother of my unborn child, and I would not stand for that. I told my dad that he was leaving now. His suitcases were packed and waiting at the door.

"You are no longer welcome in my house." That was the last sentence I said to him that day. Today, those words still bounce in my head and ring in my ears. Little did I know, those would be the last words I would every speak face to face to my dad.

He listened.

He left.

He ended up taking a trip around the country. First he went to see his brother. He made him mad enough to tell him to leave. He visited his sisters, who he also enraged and subsequently they told him to go. He visited good friends all over the country, and he made all of them angry enough that he wore out his welcome everywhere. Even his wife divorced him, and she took the dog.

One night I got a call from him. It was February 11th. He sounded really down, but he made sure to let me know that he was proud of me. We talked about his grandson, who was born premature but was doing fine. We talked about his son, his ex-wife that he still talked to a lot and the debt he had amassed over the past year.

I let him know how depressed he sounded, and he told me that he was really down. He never left the house. All he did was lay on the couch and watch the television. He told me that he was having trouble pulling out this depression. He said that he had thought about suicide but that he did not have the means to do it.

He was upset that he had never gotten to meet DJ, his grandson. He was feeling overwhelmed because he had ran up lots of credit cards on his last manic episode. He was over $100,000 in debt and he was on disability. He would never get it paid off. He did not have a vehicle or the money to get one. He missed his dog, and he missed my little brother Tyler who was living with his ex-wife. He got to see him but not as much as he used to. Finally, he hated that he was living in a trailer. He said that he felt like "white trash."

I tried to cheer him up. I talked to him about getting a puppy. It would give him another dog, and walking it daily would get him out of the house. I reminded him that when my first year of grad school was over in 3 months that we were flying down to Florida and he would get to meet his grandson. I talked about when the next time Tyler was coming over and what they would do. We talked for an hour, and at the end he told me that he would leave the house the next day and get outside for a while.

"I promise."

The next night I was woken up by a county sheriff. He told me that something had happened to my dad. I needed to call a detective in Florida and talk to him. I asked the sheriff if he knew how my dad had killed himself. He said that he had no details, but I knew. I knew my dad had killed himself. I replayed our conversation and wondered what I could have done different. I should have made him promise not to kill himself. Instead, he had promised he would leave the house.

He didn't lie.

He did leave the house. He left and went shopping. He got two different kinds of insecticide and Tang drink mix. He came home and he mixed the two insecticides together with the drink mix. He used it to wash down several bottles of pills that he was prescribed for sleep, depression and to stabilize his mood swings. When the pain became too extreme he slashed his wrist. His game was finished, he was done.

He was ready to die.

You could tell that when the detective showed me the pictures from the security camera. They  were of my dad buying the Tang and insecticide. He was smiling. He knew that the roller coaster ride that had been his life would be over soon. He was retiring his car. He could have peace, and that was all that he ever wanted.


Looking back I see that the entire year was orchestrated. He saw everybody that loved him and infuriated them to the point of them telling him to leave. That way, he could justify what he did at the very end. He could feel that he was all alone and no one cared. I tried to screw that up in our last phone call. It didn't work. My little brother loved him and would come over to visit. That did not work either.

It was simply not enough.

My dad forgot something, though. He forgot that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. My baby brother was 13 when he walked into my dad's house and found him dead in the kitchen. That will live with him forever. I have family members that are still angry at my dad for taking his own life. There are still tears cried by a lot of us 4 years later.

Me? I am constantly haunted by the last words I ever said to my dad's face. They pop up with seemingly no provocation. Why? Because YOU NEVER GET A SECOND CHANCE TO MAKE A LAST IMPRESSION. I am jealous of my niece because she got to meet my dad. My son never did. In fact, my son and soon to be born daughter never will. I will never have pictures of them together and they will never get to meet the coolest guy I ever knew.

Plus I am haunted by our last phone conversation. After all, I had a Bachelors in Psychology and Sociology and was in my second semester of grad school for Social Work. I should have known better. If it was a client I would have put him in the hospital for a 96 hour observation.

But he wasn't a client, he was my dad.

I have worked through it. I will never agree with suicide, but if he was that miserable I am glad that he is no longer suffering. I know how I am supposed to act in this situation, and what I would tell friends and clients. In fact, I know what I have told them. But that was them, this is me. It's different.

Over time I have come to see his death as another tool that I can use to help others. It gives me an empathy that I did not have before. I know what loss and horror feel like when you are sober and not doing drugs. I also know how it carves a hole in your heart when you work through intense loss sober.

I realize that I cannot change the past, and beating myself up over it does me no good. Not one time travel movie that I have ever seen impacted the person positively. Real life would be no different. Instead we learn to take those experiences and they make us stronger and wiser. We assimilate them into our very essence and grow.

My dad's death ended in my drinking spiraling out of control. How I stayed in graduate school and still maintained a 3.8 I will never know. I do know that my drinking led me to greater depths. In the end it combined with my break-up to leave me hopeless and void. Being hopeless led me to searching for purpose and meaning.

I found hope in Christ.

I found purpose and meaning in God. Out of my father's suicide I found life. I have been able to use that experience and many of my other past life experiences to help some find hope and to lead others to Christ. Out of his tragedy, great things have and will happen. Life's experiences make us one of two things, bitter or better. I choose better.

But as I watched the movie, the father's sanity returns and he realizes that his children do love him. He is not all alone. Tears of joy roll out of his eyes as he hugs his son. That is the part of the movie that made my eyes well up with tears. It hurts that in the end my dad felt all alone, like no one loved him. Plus, he left casualties. His entire family was forever impacted. From my brother who found him to his wife who divorced him to the son who told him that he was no longer welcome in his house.

He not only hurt us but he hurt himself. The kind of hurt that makes you take your own life. I would say that I cannot imagine that kind of pain, but I have slashed my wrists before too. Luckily, my sister found me passed out in a pool of blood while there was still time to save me. My father was found much too late.

All alone

In a pool of blood

My dad died on his terms.

It  will forever impact my life.

Friday, June 22, 2012

It's Hard to Stay Clean When You're Standing in the Mud

So now you have decided to get clean. You realize it is not going to be easy, but you are going to go to a residential rehabilition center for 20 days to start your sobriety off right. Then when you complete residential you are going to go to Narcotics Anonymous (or Alcoholics Anonymous, Celebrate Recovery, Living Free, Reformers Unanimous, etc.). You are going to work the 12 steps with a sponsor that you will find, or maybe already have.

"I am going to have a sponsor, a mentor, accountability partners, go to recovery meetings, church and work the 12 steps," you tell yourself and anybody that will listen. "This time, it is going to be different. This time, I am going to stay clean and sober when I get out of rehab!"

As a substance abuse counselor, I can't tell you how many times I hear this said by people who completely mean it. They are done with drugs and alcohol for a myriad of reasons. They might have had their children removed by Children's Division,  or they have been arrested. Sometimes they are in drug court, or they have come to the realization that the next time they relapse will be the one that kills them. Maybe they just want their old life back.

Having these reasons listed in the last paragraph coupled with the supports in the paragraph second paragraph would seem to be enough to accomplish long-term sobriety. Nope!! For some reason, many people fail after leaving residential and they almost all tend to have the same thing in common. In fact, I know that a lot of my clients will relapse before they even leave residential treatment. I even let them know. A lot of times the other clients even let them know what they need to change, but yet they still do it.

So what is it? What is this thing that time and time again causes people to relapse, even after they are warned multiple times about it? I call it mud. And it is hard to stay clean when you are standing in the mud! So what is it that I call mud? Some would call it love, other's familiarity. Basically, it is the relationships that we have in our lives. It could be your best friend since kindergarten. It could be the person you have been dating for several years. It could be your spouse, your sibling or even a parent. It could be their house or the bar.

It could be anyone or any place, but they all have one thing in common. They are bad for your recovery because they are still engaged in substance abuse, alcoholism or criminal activities or they are happening there. You have got to get rid of these people. Family, you can love them from a distance. Friends and significant others, you just have to let them go.

There is a reason for this. Your addiction is in the back of your head: lifting weights, running on a treadmill and doing research on a computer. It is getting stronger and smarter, just looking for a way to get back into the front of your head. It will use any means necessary to get you to relapse, especially our old playmates. If you are around it, you will do it. The question no longer becomes whether or not you will relapse, but instead WHEN WILL YOU RELAPSE? It is inevitable.

The Bible says bad association spoils useful habits. I think of a song by Rascal Flatts called "Moving On." In the song they say, "I've lived in this place and I know all the faces. Each one is different but they're always the same. They mean me no harm but it's time that I face it, they'll never allow me to change. But I never dreamed home would end up where I don't belong, I'm moving on!" If you want your life to change, you have to change it. You have to move on, staying rooted to people and places spells doom!

If you continue to live in addiction and chaos you will get caught up eventually, guaranteed. Like the program says, if you sit around a barber shop eventually you're going to get a hair cut. I say, if you sit around the mud long enough, eventually your going to get dirty! The reason is that your addiction is strong and it just gets stronger. It never takes a day off! Drugs and alcohol are everywhere, and if you stay around people who are still using or go to places where people use, eventually you will too.

If you want your life to change, you have to change everything about it. You cannot hold on to any one part of your life, or the Devil will use that to find a way back into your life. So how do we combat our addiction? There are a few steps that we have to take. If we take them, I have never seen anyone that was doing all of these fail:

  1. Put God first in everything that you do! This means we pray, read the Bible and meditate daily!
  2. Attend recovery meetings consistently (NA, AA, Celebrate Recovery, Living Free, etc.)
  3. Get a sponsor or mentor
  4. Work the 12 steps with that sponsor/mentor 
  5. Apply the 12 steps to our lives (Knowing and doing are 2 completely different things!)
  6. Get accountability partners 
  7. Get rid of your old playmates 
  8. Stay away from your old playgrounds
  9. Find positive playmates and new playgrounds to frequent (We need to fill our lives with positive people and things, or the negative people and activities will find their way back into our lives)

Friday, June 15, 2012

Tactics by Gregory Koukl Chapter 9: Sibling Rivalry and Infanticide

Ther are many reasons that someone point of view can self-destruct. So far, you have covered two of them: Formal suicide and Practical Suicide. Today we will talk about two more self-defeating views: Sibling Rivalry and Infanticide. When someone has two objections that conflict, you have the Sibling Rivalry. If, on the other hand, someone's view is built upon a previous concept that disqualifies their view, then you have Infanticide.

In conversation sometimes, you will hear something that sounds strange. You will hear objections used by the same person that are not consistent with each other. Since they cannot both be valid, you only have to do half the work. A reasonable person will concede on at least one of their arguments, when they are pointed out to them. Sometimes they will silence both of their arguments when they are shown to be in conflict.

An example of Sibling Rivalry would be someone who looks at the world today and is angered. They read about someone who has abused children or a dictator killing innocent people and say, "A good, loving God would never let this happen." Yet when those same people hear that some will be judged by God say, "A good, loving God would never send anyone to hell." By their very arguments, if God does not act against evil, He cannot be good and loving. Yet when he does act to punish sin, his goodness and love are put into question.

Sibling Rivalry is also the issue moral relativists run into when objecting to evil. A relativist will argue that we all have our own morality. Right and wrong are the business of the individual, who are we to judge. Therefore, they cannot really define evil. Evil only means that something is wrong for them to do. If you label something as evil, that means that it is not the way it is supposed to be. Unless things are meant to be different, this is a senseless word. If the world is unjust, than there must be a higher justice.

What the moral relativist is saying is, "If God were really good and loving, He would only allow things that I like and wouldn't allow things I find displeasing." Gregory says, "The belief that objective good and evil do not exist (relativism) is i conflict (rivalry) with a rejection of God based on the existence of objective evil."
Infanticide is harder to understand. Imagine a father ending a letter with; "Son, if you didn't get this letter, please let me know, and I'll send you another. I made a copy." This is illogical because the son would have to receive the letter if he knew to ask for a copy, but if he got the letter he would not need the copy. There is a dependency here that is the very heart of Infanticide. Another example is saying "vocal chords do not exist." That statement in and of itself is not contradictory internally, but it requires vocal chords to speak the statement. So the parent concept (vocal chords) invalidates the child (claim there is no vocal chords).

The best example of Infanticide is when objectivists argue that God cannot exist because of evil. The atheist must first answer the question, "What do you mean by evil?" They will probably give examples: rape, murder, racism, child abuse. Those are good answers, but they miss the point. Where does their concept of evil come from. Before you can give examples of evil, you must know what evil is.

So, how do you know the difference between good and bad? Let's look at bowling. In bowling, good and bad can be measured by pin count. A 300 is supremely good, and rolling all gutter balls is supremely bad. Even in sports that you cannot be perfect in, such as golf, we still keep score. When we use the word evil we have a moral scoring system that we depend on. Evil means that when put on the goodness scale, we are on the low end. C.S. Lewis saw this same problem:

My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I gotten this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call something crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line.

This is the problem atheists will run into. Where have they gotten their concept of good that allows them to label something as evil? How can there be a moral scoring system if morals are nothing more than a product of chance. In fact, why obey them at all if that is the case. Who is it that establishes how things are supposed to be? In the movie The Quarrel, Rabbi Hersh says:
If there's nothing in the universe that's higher than human beings, then what's morality? Well, it's a matter of opinion. I like milk; you like meat. Hitler likes to kill people; I like to save them. Who's to say which is better? Do you begin to see the horror of this? If there's no master of the universe, then who's to say that Hitler did anything wrong? If there is no God, then the people that murdered your wife and children did nothing wrong.
So why do we need a God? What purpose does God serve in the argument about morals and morality? A morally perfect God is the only plausible standard for a moral scoring system that contains at the bottom end evil. If God's existence makes evil intelligible, then evil cannot be evidence against God. In fact, it is great evidence for God. So morals actually prove that God exists!

When it comes to morals, sometimes people think that atheists can't be moral. That is very untrue. They can be very moral, but they generally canot make sense of morality without God. Just because you can't explain gravity does not mean it does not work. The question for them is what grounds morality? Atheism creates a physicalist universe and morality is a nonphysical thing.

I would get into scientism as he does and how it commits suicide now, but that will take an entire blog. Look for a blog entitled Scientism Self-Destructs coming in the next week or so. See you next time when we look at Chapter 10!

Monday, June 11, 2012

From Shack to Temple: Week 6

I realize that it has been 4 weeks since I wrote a blog in this series as I talk about my weight loss. The truth is, I got sick 3 weeks ago and went off the diet. I finally was feeling better by the beginning of the week. I am a male, and not to stereotype us, but I am the biggest baby when I get sick. If I have to get stitches, not a big deal. If I am sick, I moan and groan and whine all of the time. It is actually pretty pathetic and you should pray for my wife......she is a saint for putting up with me!

To continue with my illness, I eat comfort food when I am sick. The great thing was that through my eating poorly over several weeks I never got back to eating at the level that I generally do. I was bad, but not to the extreme that I as an addict generally go to. I weighed 234 on the 4th when I last weighed, and this week I weighed 228.4 so I lost 5.6 pounds this week and I am down 19.2 pounds.

I find losing almost 20 pounds amazing. I have switched over to the paleo, or caveman diet. That means that I am eating meat (free range chicken/eggs, wild fish and grass-fed beef), vegetables, fruit and nuts. There are no chemicals or preservatives and every thing is all natural. I love their motto, Just Chew It!

The first week was not so bad, but there was some definite cravings that I had to deal with, especially when you have a break room that looks like this last week. Another day it was 6 dozen donuts sitting in there.

I feel that I have been more successful this time and will continue to be so. I felt that a large part of the reason I was struggling in the beginning of this was depriving myself then having a splurge day that gave into my eating issues. With the paleo I will allow myself 1-2 cheat meals a week, not an entire day of gorging that I found myself doing in the first couple of weeks.

Internally I feel better this time, and although it says I am 6 weeks in I am actually 4 weeks in when you take away the 2 weeks I was sick. Either way, I will be down over 20 pounds by next week and that makes me happy. I am feeling great energy wise and internally, which is also good. Look forward to letting you know where I am at next week.

From Shack to Temple Week 3 - Down 14.8 pounds

Just so you know, this was a very disappointing week for me. It should not be, after all I am down almost 15 pounds after 3 weeks. The problem is that my goal was to lose 3 pounds this week and I only lost 1.8 pounds. This would be troublesome, but I would rather look on the bright side.

I do feel that this is not working, as my immune system is not doing very well. I will be looking to implement a new plan for my diet when I begin eating right again. I cannot stick to this while I am sick, I know that!

That said, since I am sick I do not really feel like writing more. I will continue this when I am feeling better. I am actually publishing this several weeks late. This should have been published on the 22nd of May and it is getting posted on June 11th.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Are You Grateful for Your Addiction? or Why I'm Glad To Be A Pickle

Have you ever wondered, "When will I feel or be the person that I used to be?" It could be because you struggle with addiction, you lived through a natural disaster, you were abused as a child or you lost a child. You want to get over it, to forget it and to move on. You want to forget that it happened so that your life can return to normal. I often have clients that I work with ask me the same question, "When do I get to be the person that I was before this happened?"

The short answer is, NEVER! Before you shut me out, hear me out. I was abused as a child, my parents separated and I blamed myself, other family members were abused and I blamed myself, I went to prison, I dealt drugs, I attempted suicide, I was involved in manufacturing methamphetamine and I was addicted to drugs and alcohol. There is nothing that I can ever do to change what I did in the past. No time machine to hop in and undo what I had already done.

Along the way I found that no amount of anger, anxiety, self-loathing, denial, depression, bargaining or escape will change my past. I wasted a lot of energy on that in my past, and yet everything that I had done remained done. I never was able to change the choices I made in my past. I beat myself up for years about it. I hated myself! Every time that I looked into a mirror I saw a convict, a junkie, and a dope cook. I was miserable, and I saw no way of ever escaping my past. I had not shot up in a decade and I still thought about it sometimes, and I still judged myself for doing it.

Then I heard an example that changed my life. I will share it with you know, and in the way that I now share it with others. We are all born cucumbers. That is not a bad thing, there is nothing wrong with a cucumber. It may be a little bland and tasteless. I cannot eat a cucumber all by itself. I generally need to dip it in ranch, or eat it with other things in a salad. As a cucumber, it is okay.

Know, take that cucumber and add some spices and vinegar and let it soak all that up and simmer in it. You know have a delicious pickle. That bland, ordinary cucumber has been transformed into something awesome! Just as we as humans are transformed by the things we experience and overcome in our lives. We have to soak in all of the negative things that happen to us, whether they are done by others or by our choice, and then use those to change us.

Before my addiction I was a cucumber, now I am a pickle. I have more flavor, so to speak. Thanks to my addictions, mental illnesses and abuse I have gained strength and wisdom that can only be gained through overcoming! Without my past, I am just like everybody else. I am normal. That is not a bad thing, the world needs normal people. That said, the world also needs pickles. Who better to help someone overcome an addiction than a former addict?

I do my job as well as I do for two reasons. One reason is that I have gone through extensive training in college and continuing education training. I have read countless books and listened to multiple experts in the field talk. The second reason is that I also have lived as an addict and by the Grace of God overcame my addictions. That gives me empathy that many do not have. It has allowed me to stay positive and hopeful when working with clients and friends who are struggling with life controlling issues.

In Celebrate Recovery we call them hurts, habits and hang-ups. We do that because it does not just have to be addiction. In fact, it seldom is only addiction! I was abused as a child, grew up in a split home, my father was an alcoholic, I have been diagnosed with Bi-Polar Disorder as well as many other mental health diagnosis, I felt like I never fit in as a kid, attempted suicide, my father committed suicide, I have seen multiple people die, etc. Recovery is working through all of those issues and finding that a better life exists.

Without my past, those who I help would not listen nearly as much. They would not find the hope that they do, if they could not relate to me. Research shows that the therapeutic alliance is the single most important indicator of success! I can build that alliance because I am a pickle. Someone in the pickling process can talk to me or hear my story and know that they too can eventually step out of their addiction.  As pickles we can impart hope to those who are still struggling that one day they too can be a pickle!

Now, if you wanted to take that pickle and turn it back into a cucumber could you do it? Of course not, once a cucumber is pickled it can never be unpickled! It has now underdone a permanent change and become something totally different. That said, why would it ever want to be a cucumber again? Now that I have some flavor (experience, wisdom and strength), why would I want to give that up?

When I think of people who save other's lives, there is a list that comes to my mind. I think of fire fighters, nurses, doctors, paramedics and addicts in recovery. All of those people have had to go through specialized training in order to save others. Some people go to college, or an academy to learn how to save lives. We lived life, and then either through the 12 steps or Christ (or both) we have overcame our issues and now we are willing to share our strength, experience and hope with others.

Since I have began to use my past to empower others, I have come to peace with my past. I went from dealing dope to dealing hope and I would never change what I do today. I not only get to talk to addicts, I also have the privilege of talking to pastors, chaplains, missionaries, college students, professors, substance abuse counselors, probation officers and the families and parents of addicts.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Tactics by Gregory Koukl Chapter 8: Practical Suicide.

Last chapter you learned that some people's objections you do not have to defend. Instead, you show that their point commits suicide, meaning all you have to do is ask questions about the point that is being made and it will fail. Some views can also be self-defeating, just in a different way. One of those ways is practical suicide.

In this type of suicidal view, "you can hold the view, but you can't promote it." I used to say that I could not stand prejudiced people. In saying that about a certain type of people, I was showing myself to be prejudiced. So although I may dislike prejudice, saying that I do not like prejudiced people made me a prejudiced person.

Others say that apologetics is not adequate, because it uses reason to discover truth. "In fact, I will give you three good reasons why you can't use logic to find truth." Another view that commits practical suicide is  "condemning condemnation." This is where you state your belief that someone is wrong for doing something. In turn, someone tells you that you are wrong for condemning people like you just did. All you have to do now is ask them why they are condemning you.

When you share with others about Christ, you are following the command that Christ gave us with the Great Commission. You may have others of a different faith tell you that it is wrong to try and change their religious views. In saying this, they are telling you to change your religious views. They want you to abandon your views of evangelism and instead adopt their views.

A moral relativist will push their morals on you, whilst telling you that it is wrong to push your morality on them. Greg Koukl says: The only consistent response for a relativist is, "Pushing morality is wrong for me, but that's just my personal opinion and has nothing to do with you. Please ignore me."

Hopefully through these examples you can see exactly what a practical suicide view is. It is another view point that will self-destruct. It will not self-destruct due to internal contradiction. Instead, it is a view that one can believe, but they cannot promote it or act on it because they will violate their own convictions, for example, "It is wrong to say people are wrong."

See you next time when we introduce a couple more self-destructing points of view.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

The Joplin Tornado: One Year Later

So over the weekend I went to Joplin for Restore Fest. It was a year after the EF 5 tornado ripped through Joplin. It had winds that were estimated to reach 250 miles per hour and was on the ground for 22 miles while reaching a width of almost a mile. It leveled houses, businesses, schools, the hospital and churches. It left 161 dead in its wake. To say the least, it was a traumatic experience for many and left most of the residents of Joplin in shock.

I was in Joplin soon after the tornado hit to do psychological first aid to those who had survived the tornado as well as those who were there volunteering. The pictures and video that I had seen on television as well as the prep that we got on the way to Joplin from someone who had already been there left me ill prepared for the devastation that I was to see. Almost every vehicle that I saw people driving was without windows. The tornado had blown them out.

I met many people who were demoralized and down, and it looked like nothing I had ever seen. Every where you saw destruction. Joplinites had lost their jobs, homes, vehicles, pets and families. It may have left over 160 dead, but from looking at Joplin I would have thought that thousands had perished. They did not feel lucky, but they were. I was actually shocked that so few people were dead, based on the carnage that I saw.

This past weekend I came back a year later, for the first time since I had volunteered to counsel those who were left confused, scared, angry, depressed, desperate, etc. Most were experiencing a wide range of emotions a year ago, and a lot of those emotions they were feeling all at once. But you could sense their will and strength.

When I came back for Restore Fest, the survivors had regained their hope and pride because of their will and strength. It was amazing to see all of the construction that was occurring and the places that were in shambles just a year ago, now rebuilt and doing business. Joplin was back, slowly but surely.

I ate at the Chik-fil-A that a year ago had everything sucked out of the window and was completely bare inside. The Burger King that had only the play equipment intact with the building demolished was again in business. The houses may not have been rebuilt, but the carnage was cleaned up. New construction was going on every where you looked. I saw people driving cars that had windows in them. I saw people smiling, laughing and holding their heads high. They had overcame, and over 7,000 people showed up for Restore Fest.

Convoy of Hope was there and they partnered with many other agencies and organizations to do what Convoy does best. Give aid and hope to those who are struggling from disasters and poverty. There was a free event that provided groceries, a health fair, hair cuts, family portraits, lunch and a kid zone with rides and inflatables.

Then Restore Fest kicked off, with amazing worship by some amazing groups. There was Jeremy Camp, Mandisa, Sanctus Real, Andy Cherry (who is a great guy and has a heart for Christ), KJ-52, Rema Soul, Stars Go Dim and many others. It was amazingly fun and inspirational. I saw and heard some people's stories that had felt defeated just a year ago and now had hope.

My last stop on the way out of town was the Spirit Tree. It was strong, beautiful and stood strong when everything around it was blown away. It may have lost all that surrounded it and all it once knew, but it was still there inspiring hope in others.........just like the people of Joplin.