Monday, April 29, 2013
You know, just tossing back some bottles...
When day after day offers yet another seemingly hopeless story of abuse, neglect, maladaptive behaviors, emotional disorders, etc., holding this beautiful baby boy, raised in the home of a beautiful family, is magical.
Knowing he will be loved.
Raised to know the Lord.
It's like a drink of ice-cold water after days of wandering through the desert.
*Mr. Landon, son of my good friends Matt and Amy.
Sunday, April 28, 2013
Gathering and gawking.
Offended by the reality of this world.
The real world. Or the world thats real to many.
The signs weren't placed as a flag for volunteers looking for the site. The site itself is it's own flag.
They plastered their work area with posters, celebrating their monthly service project. They seemed to feel mighty holy, spending the weekend swinging hammers instead of golf clubs.
I should be ashamed, bringing judgement down on them. After all, the semi-mega church was providing much needed service to our outdated and underfunded group-home facility. But I just couldn't help but notice a boastful attitude; boastful of their own benevolence instead of the God of mercy who teaches such love.
And then the offense, thats what really got to me. If you volunteered in a third-world medical clinic, would you complain of being exposed to sickness? I was completely thrown for a loop when the volunteers made a complaint to upper-management, simply appalled at the foul language of our residents. After all, their children were present.
It can be unsettling, to say the least, to see an emotionally disturbed adolescent being... emotionally disturbed, but that is the reality of the world we live in. Outside our cozy homes are the people we see on the local news, the people that make us lock our doors and draw our curtains at night.
And those people, at one point, were children.
Emotionally disturbed children.
Maybe they were misled, maybe they somehow believed this would be a family-friendly environment, a safe and happy placed for their privileged children to get a dose of good 'ol hard work and service...
There is a world outside our safe Christian bubble. The dark corners and pockets of our towns are probably a little bigger than we might think. We might see these people at gas stations or in the check-out line in Wal-mart occasionally, but we don't live where they live. We don't shop where they shop, or go where they go. Our children don't attend the same schools as their children. Our problems and their problems aren't quite the same...
I'm not insisting that all upper-class mega church volunteers don't know this stuff, and I'm definitely not implying that there aren't Christians living in this other world I'm referring to. But I am suggesting that we serve with the unconditional love of Christ, with Him as the focus instead of ourselves.
"...whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God." 1 Cor 10:31b
And I am suggesting we develop some cultural competency before stepping onto any mission field, even if its just a few blocks from home. Apostel Paul is a good example of a culturally competent evangelic.
"To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, thatby all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings." 1 Cor 9:18-23
If you were going to Africa with your church to serve on a missions team, you'd probably start off by learning a little about where you're going and the people you'll meet. You would want to know what to expect from the people and how to respond appropriately.
There is a culture of poverty. A culture of mental illness. Of crime and delinquency.
Planning on serving a community? Learn a little bit about it first.
If its just not for you, leave it for someone else.
Serving with the wrong attitude is counter-productive.
And this concludes my rant.
Saturday, April 27, 2013
It was actually one of the best weekday mornings I've had at work in a while. Everyone got out of bed within a reasonable number of prompts, made their beds and tidied up their rooms, took their medications, ate their breakfast, did their chores, went to school without any acts of aggression or major displays of defiance...
Considering this motley crew in question, it was quite a fantastic morning. In fact, it was a boys'-home miracle! Again, company considered...
So when they left for school, when I started straightening up the kitchen, and when I somehow managed to carry a box of cereal upside-down to the office, when it spilled out and scattered as far as the dining room walls would allow...
It remained to be a wonderful weekday morning.
It took a moment for it to sink in; I wanted to catastrophize it, a mess that only took one minutes' worth of sweeping to clean up. I wanted to go 'all or nothing' and decide the morning had been ruined. Then reasonableness set in...
Why cry over spilled
And 'all or nothing' thoughts are just a waste of effort.
Friday, April 26, 2013
Thursday, April 25, 2013
Imagine yourself open to all experiences; having a positive attitude, not denying negative feelings, but working through them. Imagine living in the moment without prejudging or having preconceptions, fully appreciating the present as a new and exciting experience. Imagine living with confidence, trusting your gut-feelings and honoring your ability to make the right choices. Imagine how creative thinking and risk taking could change your life. Imagine yourself happy and satisfied, always looking for new challenges and experiences. Imagine yourself... as a fully functioning person. That is, self-actualized.
Self-actualization is one of the key concepts in person-centered therapy and can be summed up as the achievement of one's full potential through creativity, independence, spontaneity, and a grasp of the real world. So how does one achieve this? According to Carl Rogers, American theorist and psychologist, the answer is congruent concepts of self. Within Rogers' theory, a person's self-image includes how a person sees themselves and how they believe the world sees them. This is also sometimes referred to as the actual self. An ideal self is the person we want to become. Our hopes, dreams, expectations, social pressures, stereotypes, etc., all comprise the ideal-self.
When a person's self-image and ideal self are not aligned, they are considered incongruent. A person's development, and ultimately their contentment, are halted by incongruence. The person will begin to experience what is, essentially, an existential crisis; meaning they feel uncertain of who they are and what they're doing in life. When an individual is in a state of incongruence, their self-image, ideal self, or both, must be altered before progress can be made. This concept brings to mind a quote by Mahatma Gandhi, "Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony."
What does your self-image look like? Who is your actual-self? Who would you like to be? Is your ideal-self realistic? And is it really what you want, or just want you think you should want? When a person can evaluate these things with accurate insight, adjusting as necessary, they're likely to self-actualize, meeting their full potential. And then what? Goals change. People change. Our ideals change. All providing an opportunity to start all over again...
And I'd like to build on Roger's theory, adding another concept of self. I call it the ultimate-self; the person God created us to be. Ephesians 2:10 tells us, "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." God's Word paints a vivd picture of who He wants us to be: our ultimate self. When this becomes our ideal-self, and our self-image falls in line with it, we not only actualize, we eternalize.
Wednesday, April 24, 2013
She quietly watched in anticipation, just waiting to see the look on her step-sisters' faces.
"Oh, their disappointment when the prince turns them away! They will be simply green with envy as he whisks me away in his great carriage!"
The royal servant kneeled before the chair, the slipper sitting atop a cushion adorned with tassels and fine embroidery It was the most beautiful thing Cinderella had ever seen, the crystal glass shimmering in the light like diamonds. The mere sight of it made her want to dance, just as she had the night of the ball. For a moment she lost herself in the memory of gliding across the ballroom floor, as though the slippers were wings upon her feet.
Lady Tremaine, Cinderella's step-mother, hovered over the servant with hungry eyes. "How devine!" she thought, "Me! The mother of a princess!" Cinderella surveyed the scene with disgust, thinking her step-mother to resemble a vulture just waiting to feed.
First, the servant motioned to Drizella to sit before him. Cinderella muffled her laughter at the sight. Drizella's foot was nearly twice the length of the slipper, though she was determined to cram her foot inside. Cinderella noted the expression on the prince's face as he watched from the lounge. He almost looked relieved. "And why shouldn't he?" Cinderella thought, "She is, after all, quite homely."
Lady Tremaine scowled down at the servant as he announced, "It does not fit!"
Drizella rose begrudged as the servant ushered her from the chair and gestured to Anastasia to replace her. Anastasia could hardly contain her excitement, stumbling as she approached. She then nearly tipped over in her seat when the servant lifted the slipper towards her foot, giggling and snorting like a pig; Cinderella thought it no coincidence, as she compared Anastasia's girth to that of a barnyard creature. Cinderella desperately hoped the slipper wouldn't shatter when it fell to the floor. "After all," she thought, "her stubby foot resembles a hoof! Most certainly unfitting for such a shoe! Surely it will slip off and she will be so embarrassed for believing it might have fit."
Cinderella rose proudly from behind the stairs where she had watched in hiding. She stepped forward to present herself as the love of the prince's life, ready to accept her new life of royalty.
But no one noticed Cinderella's grand entrance. All eyes were fixed on the magical transformation taking place before them. Cinderella turned to see, in complete shock and horror, that the slipper had not fallen from Anastasia's foot as she was so certain it would. A brilliant blue light swirled around Anastasia and her gaudy clothing became the elegant gown Cinderella had worn the night of the ball; the very gown that her fairy godmother had conjured up for her.
The silence was broken with Lady Tremaine's joyful shrieks and clapping. The prince ran to Anastasia and embraced her. "My love! My love! Marry me and I will make you a princess!"
"Cinderella!" Lady Tremaine called shrilly. She jumped with a small yelp of fright, startled to suddenly notice her step-daughter already standing nearby. "Oh, you wretched thing! How long have you been standing there gawking? Have you no manners?" She flailed her arms dramatically as she spoke, "Ah, no matter. I called you to fetched the finest wine from the cellar. We must celebrate Anastasia's engagement to the prince!"
Cinderella stood frozen in disbelief and heartbreak, hearing her step-mother's words but not quite comprehending them. "Go, you lazy thing! Wine! Fetch the wine!" Cinderella turned and walked to the cellar in shock, moving as though in a trance.
In the privacy of the cellar, Cinderella was overwhelmed by raw emotion. She began to cry in torrents, clasping her hands tightly over her mouth to muffle her uncontrollable sobs, for fear Lady Tremaine and her step-sisters would hear her.
Suddenly, a familiar blue light emitted from seemingly no where, then faded to reveal Cinderella's fairy godmother. Cinderella looked at her with deep pain in her eyes, unable to speak. "I know," the grandmotherly woman said warmly,"I know, child."
"You see, I came to you, drawn by the purity of your heart. But it became clear, with just that one night of splendor, that you, my dear, are weak. The hope of a brilliant future in the arms of a prince, the promise of gowns and jewels... it changed you. You succumbed to it, allowed it to taint you. The mediation of your heart and thoughts are not what they once were, and this, Cinderella, is a terrible offense to the gift I presented you."
"But.. but.." Cinderella manage to stammer, "but I..."
"Lets not complicate this, my dear. The punishment for your crime is this. And you shall remain in servitude to this family. You will watch your step-sister and the prince live happily together. You will wait after them and care for their children and their children's children. After you regain your meekness, you may fall in love with another servant, or perhaps a commoner from the village, but together you will remain in servitude and live in great humility. Farewell." Fading into the same blue light that she appeared in, the fairy godmother vanished.
In anger and bitterness, Cinderella never again loved. She allowed her heart to harden and died many years later in solitude. Anastasia, however, wandered from the wicked ways taught to her by her mother; the purity of the prince's heart had changed her.
And so she lived happily ever after.
Monday, April 22, 2013
It's a residential treatment facility serving children rescued from abusive homes. I've asked around a little and did some research. Overall, this program sounds a lot like the one I work in now, but with a larger, nicer facility.
It also sounds like, overall, this program has the same issues my current employeer has, issues that have made me desperate for change over the past couple weeks. I consider myself a profesional childcare specialist, not a babysitter. This is my career, not just a paycheck. I'm dedicated to my clients and I have a difficult time tolerating inconsistent and inadequate therapeutic services. Dealing with a high turnover rate and poor staffing is tiresome, and I believe admitting clients with needs beyond the facility's capacity to address in order to meet financial demands is unethical...
But thats the name of the game, and thats one thing thats unlikely to ever change. I guess a struggling profitless industry has to make ends-meet somehow. I'm just not sure if I want to be a part of it anymore.
The program I currently work in is notorious for housing some of the most challenging kids in the whole organization, maybe even in the whole North County area, so most of the days I've worked over the past three years have been battles. The last few months had actually been somewhat smooth, considering, but that was only a lull in the madness. The past four weeks have been progressively awful and I've begun dreading my job again.
I'm unsure whether or not I can make it through another series of battles. I'm just over it. Over daily restraints. Over being spit on. Over being cursed at and shoved... But is change the answer? Especially a change that will inevitably look strikingly similar to where I'm at now? Change does have it's benefits though; new insight, renewed motivation, new scenery...
I've sent in my résumé, contacted the manager, and requested an interview. All very tentatively.
I'm going to check it out and explore my options. Its something to consider, something to pray over. But I'm not going to worry about it.
And that, in itself, is a change.
"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:6-7
The eccentric yet lovable mastermind behind the prehistoric amusement park, John Hammond, spares no expense to leave his mark on the world. In fact, he says, "Spare no expense," at least five times throughout the film. Little does he know, the expense may be his grandchildren.
At what cost will we pursue our own glory? We may not be engineering extinct species, but we're all a little like John Hammond. The illusion of success is exhilarating, especially in an individualistic culture like ours. So in a sense, we begin playing God; taking matters into our own hands in hopes of accumulating praise.
Its a risky business. In Matthew 16:26, we're asked a question, and the answer is of eternal consequence. "For what does it profit a man, if he gains the whole world, and suffers the loss of his own soul? Or what exchange shall a man give for his soul?"
God cannot be destroyed. He is alive and all-powerful, just as He's always been and always will be. When man lives to make a mark on the world instead of making the marks on Jesus' hands known to all, the expense spared is the man.
Man destroys, not God, but himself.
Man destroys, not God, but himself.
*And Jurassic Park 3D? Totally worth sparing the expense of a movie ticket!!!
Saturday, April 20, 2013
Friday, April 19, 2013
Not big on the seek, though.
My favorite Easter candy.
Sugary, gritty, yummy goodness.
I haven't had them in years.
Hence the hiding.
But I got a package from my mom for my bday last week containing four bags of these heavenly poofs of goodness!!!
Four bags! Gone in two days :-)
Thanks, Mom, for the sweet gift!
I felt so loved!!! And full of candy...
Tuesday, April 16, 2013
Because I'm ancient now...
You know, like a dinosaur.
My wife may be a bit of a smart-ass :-)
Yep. That's 30.
I've enjoyed my birthday celebrations.
And they're not even over yet!
More b-day goodness tomorrow :-)
Man, I'm lucky!
Saturday, April 13, 2013
All the birthday wishes on Face Book today made me feel über special, but this one takes the cake. I was a childcare specialist working with this young man about seven years ago. I eventually became his primary staff and was later appointed a member of his family support team by his social worker. Since, he's grown up and matured, and I've moved on from that employeer and moved away, but we've kept in touch.
God crossed our paths for a reason. We made an impact on one another; an impact that continues to motivate me. And yes, my friend, God has blessed me. Tremendously.
Thursday, April 11, 2013
The power of prayer... GOD is immeasurable. I'm feeling the best I've felt in seven months, just four days after asking for prayer.
"Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working." - James 5:14-15
Depression: 0 Anxiety: 2
"Most people can't do it; cover up their true feelings, pretend they're something they're not. But it doesn't change who you are. Or what you are. If you hate what you are you'll do anything to deny it. You'll feed the line until it becomes real. But who you are doesn't go away. It waits for you. We put so much work to cover up whats there. A new coat of paint on rotted wood. Creative accounting. The comb-over. But then you realize that lie you spent so much time crafting... in the end, the only person your lie ever fools, is you."
Being Human (U.S.) S2: E4, Aidan
Wednesday, April 10, 2013
Tuesday, April 9, 2013
Slavery exists, not as a thing of the past, but as blot on the face of humanity. 27 million sons and daughter, fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, live as cattle; a resource to be used selfishly and nothing more.
All at the cost of $90 or less.
That's the going rate for a human being these days.
And it's not just a third world crisis either; 17,500 people fall into slavery here in a country that abolished the very industry back in 1865.
Creating awareness is the first step, but awareness alone saves no one. The video below is beautifully done, but I do disagree with one statement it makes, "Indifference is not an option." It shouldn't be, but it is an option, and its an option many choose.
I have no clue what the solution is to end slavery, or even how to rescue just one person, but I have worked with children who have somehow made it out. I've looked into the eyes of a boy who grew up being prostituted to support his uncle's drug addiction. I've comforted a young man who was sent away by his own mother to be a sex slave for monthly compensation, essentially renting her son out. I've worked with a child who was once kept in a crate when he wasn't being exploited by his abusers.
And these stories, these pools of pain, cannot compare to the insurmountable despair felt all across the world. It's overwhelming to consider.
Watch the video. Put a red X on your hand if you'd like. Raise awareness. Most importantly, consider how God might use you, your skills, and your resources to END IT. At least for one person. Visit this site HERE and click on the link "action" to see how you can help!
Carlos Whittaker loves God. He writes about life; all aspects of it, including the seemingly sensitive topic of mental health.
He has a way of stimulating online conversations that need to be had somewhere.
So, here's Mr. Whittaker's take on some things near and dear to my jacked up brain. Copy/pasted from HERE.
We were singing Charlie Hall’s Salvation. It was the 2nd song of the set. All of a sudden I felt my heart skip a beat. Literally I felt it flutter.
WHAT WAS HAPPENING?
Then it happened again. Everything started spinning. My chest got tight. I remember almost blacking out. I put my guitar down and stumbled off stage. The band kept playing and Nathan ran up to me with eyes wide open. “I think I’m having a heart attack. Get a doctor please.” They stopped the service and asked if there was a doctor in the room. After 5 minutes with me he looked at me and said, and I’ll never forget it…“Carlos you aren’t having a heart attack, you’re having a panic attack”
That was the sentence that began a LONG road for me. A road littered with me not being able to leave the house for days at a time because I would start perspiring profusely and my heart would race out of control. A road where I would scream at myself in the mirror and curse God for giving me this thorn. A road where I would have to pull over driving and sit for an hour because my body would randomly go into terror mode.
That was 10 years ago. Through counseling, medicine, and everything short of traveling see the Wiz at the end of the yellow brick road, I have gotten my panic and anxiety under the illusion of control. The truth is that it pops up at the most inopportune of times. And what used to be strictly panic and anxiety has morphed into it’s ugly cousin called depression. Depression is newer for me but very similar. The idea that I can’t control my mind and my body. It’s all the same. Zero Control and the fear of it overtaking you.
Over the weekend, after seeing twitter explode with opinions and thoughts on mental illness, my own struggle came pressing her face up against my conscious again. 3 years ago I told my friend Eric, “I can see why people commit suicide. I honestly can. Not because I am near that, but this last bout of depression was the first bout where the fear of the what was coming was greater than the fear of anything else.” I’ve never been suicidal. Or at least I don’t think I have. I don’t even know what that really means. But I do know this… I have prayed for God to take this away. I have fasted for God to heal me of this. And guess what. I still have it.
Yesterday when I got to Crosspoint to lead worship I had to sit in the car for an extra 5 minutes and do breathing exercises to slow my heart rate down as it had been palpitating all morning. Was it because I was nervous about leading worship? No. Was it because I was anxious about anything that was going on in my life? No.
It. Just. Happens.
So let me dispel some common myths the church has when it comes to mental illness.
1. A person struggling with mental illness needs to have more faith.
My faith and my seretonin levels have nothing to do with each other.
2. A person struggling with mental illness should forgo medicine and pray harder.
You wouldn’t tell an asthmatic to pray harder during an asthma attack. You would tell them to suck on that inhaler. Same thing.
3. A person struggling with mental illness can’t lead in ministry.
Read the Bible. It’s filled with cray ppl like me killing it for God.
Oh. And you are crazier than you think you are.
Listen… It’s not easy. I wish God would take it away. I wish I could go more than 5 days without a day I don’t have a mild or major episode of anxiety or depression. But as of now I can’t. And the church needs to get over it and stare this dirty little secret in the face. Because when they do… It will unleash a whole army of Christians who, at the moment, feel like they don’t have enough faith to lead.
It’s better that way…Los.
And your a dude.
But in the words of Hannah Montana, "With a new attitude, everything can change. Make it how you want it to be!"
I think I rock this hair. Who's pumping up the party now, Miley!?
*BTW, I didn't actually know any Hannah Montana quotes, I just Googled one for kicks :-)
Monday, April 8, 2013
Sunday, April 7, 2013
Saturday, April 6, 2013
"Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you."
Friday, April 5, 2013
Wednesday, April 3, 2013
“There’s a reason monsters hide under the bed: we’re more scared of you than you are of us. That look on your face, that scream on your lips when you eventually see us? It’s enough to make us forget we were ever humans at all. It’s that shred of humanity that makes us eventually crawl out from under the stairs and show ourselves to you. Because even a monster can be afraid of the darkness.”
-Being Human (US), S1: E7
"We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies."
- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
If you haven't, you're either perfect or completely oblivious.
And I'm guessing you're not all that perfect. Nothing personal.
A person's willingness to apologize is a true reflection of the value they place on their relationships. An apology, with the intent of reconciliation, has little to do with the placement or acceptance of blame.
A majority of life is experienced within the context of human interaction and relationships; that means you're important to someone. Several someones, if you're lucky. And those several someones would like to be as equally important to you.
Honor that. Honor them. Honor yourself. Honor the power of an apology.
"... everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment... Let love be genuine... Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor... Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep... Live in harmony with one another." Romans 12: 3, 9, 10, 15, 16
Tuesday, April 2, 2013
Of course, I didn't have many answers at that moment...
But I've done a little research since.
Over many centuries, pagan rituals and Christian celebrations have merged and become what we now recognize to be many of our own holiday traditions.
Eostre was a pagan goddess worshipped by the Saxons. She was known as the goddess of spring and fertility, and was sometimes sought after for blessings of luck. She was highly celebrated at the Spring Equinox.
It was customary for pagan deities to have patron mascots, such as Athena's beloved owl. Athena was known by the Greeks as the goddess of war and wisdom. Because she was believed to have a special affinity for owls and thought to sometimes disguise herself as one, owls have become a symbol of her wisdom. Although faith in mythology has faded, the old saying "wise an an owl" is still engrained in our culture.
In ancient images and stories, Eostre often appears with rabbits and was associated with eggs and newborn animals, symbols of new life and spring. And so, naturally, these things were all highly integrated into how her believers worshipped her. Because of their proximity within the year and somewhat similar themes of new life, the resurrection of Christ and the celebration of Eostre began to merge over time.
Henceforth all the fluffy stuffed bunnies, colored eggs, and those chick-shaped marshmallows that give us all sugar-highs every Spring. So if you didn't know, now you do!