Archive | December 2012

Tongue Disorders

When working with inmates, I’d occasionally ask what profession they’d like to practice if they weren’t into criminal activity. Here’s the top three: Lawyers, Police Officers and Preachers! Do you notice anything unusual about those choices? They’re all positions of power and use speech to affect or influence people.

A few weeks ago, I heard a preacher talk about what he’d say to people who’d like to be professional or lay counselors. Now that’s getting a little close, but here’s what he said. “Before anyone considers being a counselor, they have to ask themselves whether they want to control people or not.” Ouch, but the guy was right!

Hey, whether it’s about criminals working in a responsible world or about anyone being in the counseling community, a couple of things are for certain. Do a gut-check on motives for being in those professions and use the tongue for healing, instead of indulging in speech for personal power trips.

In James’ letter to believers, he has already addressed the use of the tongue 4 times (1:19, 26; 2:12, 16). He mentioned we should be swift to hear and slow to speak and that our religion is vain, if we’re not disciplining the tongue. Now, he writes concerning would-be teachers who’ll have high visibility roles in the church and expounds on the subject of what a healthy tongue or speech looks like.

I am reminded of what a preacher said of another young man who had just started out in the ministry. When someone pointed out his prideful attitude, the preacher said of the young man, “Yes, he thinks he is the fourth person of the Trinity.” There are times when I study the Bible that my ignorance is revealed more than my knowledge of it. I’ve got a long way to go but I don’t ever want anyone to imply that I think I’m the fourth person of the Trinity.

So, I’m starting out the new-year with one of the most important discussions I think we can look at, and it’s about diagnosing tongue disorders. Look where James starts with this.

Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. James 3:1 NIV

It’s so easy for a preacher or teacher to become proud (High Profile Positions). Within the text, James’ reference is to would-be teachers, but what he has to say about speech is for every believer.

Truthfully, I don’t know of anything as powerful as the tongue. In the Bible, God marks this as a premium issue and in fact, “bugs” or puts a listening device on our speech. There isn’t a word that doesn’t go unrecorded nor that He’s unaware of. The right use of speech is very important to God for our modus operandi.

I’m curious, do you have any thoughts about James’ starting out this discussion by focusing on would-be teachers?

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas


Thank you everyone for following Mind The Gap in 2012. Judy and I pray your   Christmas is blessed, filled with the hope and substance that Jesus brings to us, while pursuing reasonable and responsible thought.

We’ve all been shaped by many things in life but I have to tell you that Judy has been and is a wonderful life partner who has been a huge part of how God has shaped me. Her heart is all about relationship and having three adult children and eight grandchildren along the way has kept me focused.

I thought you might like to see Joziah, my seven-year-old grandson whom I’ve written about in some blogs this year, express his art skills in making us a Christmas ornament. Enjoy.

Again, thank you for following along with Minding The Gap. My desire is to assist you in maintaining a view that people matter and there is something we can do to love others better. Merry Christmas. I’m looking forward to being with you all in 2013.

Joziah's Christmas Artwork

Joziah’s Christmas Artwork


Emptiness, Troubled Times and Christmas

Have you noticed or experienced how Christmas seems to tap into the soul’s emptiness for many, if not all of us?

We are living in troubled times, world-wide! Something happened to our nation’s psyche because of what happened in Newtown, Connecticut. Yes, we saw and heard encouraging stories of compassion pouring out to the families of children that were slain by a mass murderer. As appreciative as the families are of the support, I know you know that the parents, families and their friends will have a profound emptiness that makes Christmas seem hollow this year. I felt that over twenty-seven years ago when my father died. I thought, “Will there ever be a new normal where joy to the world is meaningful again?

In my counseling work, this is the time of year where those who’ve encountered broken marriages and homes have a hard time making sense of faith and the Christmas story. I don’t mean intellectually, but in an emotional, painful way.

Then there are those who have not. They want so bad to be able to give something to love ones that can say “You are worthy and I’m glad to have you in my life.”  There are sales lowering product to get us to buy so we can do that, but then, it seems like the prices aren’t low enough and a cloud of sadness prevails over many.

Religious talk doesn’t get the job done if what we want is to feel full again. To be alive! James said to believers “…it isn’t enough just to have faith. Faith that doesn’t show itself by good deeds is not faith at all—it is dead and useless.” James 2:17 NLT We’re all looking for a connection and a fullness that only Jesus can supply but he wants believers to express their good deeds as evidence and not the energizer of a sincere faith.

I applaud anyone out there in our world making a difference for the better. Today, Ann Curry, a CBS News correspondent asked, “What can I do after the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre?” She came up with an idea that went viral. Perform 26 acts of kindness in honor of those who died at the school. That is something which embraces emptiness to make something meaningful happen and it came out of Ann Curry’s heart.

I think that’s the Modus Operandi Jesus is about. He embraces the emptiness in our lives due to sin in this world, to come up with the one act of kindness where anyone can have a relationship with him. And in our souls, we can still be full, even when we have a hard time with the idea of Christmas due to so much pain. Only Jesus can do that through his birth and then resurrection from death on a cross. Without that, nothing makes sense or ever will in my view. Hope is kept alive because He is alive!

Newtown Connecticut School Murders 12-14-12

Such horror once again witnessed! Children and guardians at Sandy Hook Elementary School shot dead.

The news media is trying to figure this out. Some are already calling for gun control. Some are talking about how important it is to identify a troubled person early on. Other authorities are saying 98% of mental health with people is non violent. Some are trying to define this as a mass killing and not a school shooting. Why? There’s reassurance that schools are still some of the safest places in the USA for children to attend. Others are trying to say the shooter came from a broken home and his mother was rigid as if that’s the cause for this crime.

I understand our world is confused and shocked about this. If you listen closely to attempts to explain this tragedy, Psychologists are saying they’re very frustrated that we couldn’t stop something like this before it happened. They say prevention has to be, and here’s that phrase again, “early on.”

Talk about how to protect the children with a system of entry to schools can be better done. Some are saying we can’t turn our public places like schools into fortresses. Some are saying let children question parents instead of forcing the conversation about the murders on them. Some Psychologists say we can’t provide a silver bullet to guarantee something like this won’t happen again. Everyone is trying to cope. We live in a fallen world!

Instead of seeing this as a mental health problem and how to catch that early on, as if that will prevent another mass killing in this country, I would like to direct the question in a different way.

I’m not sure why the authorities aren’t addressing how important it is to detect twisted thinking early on, whether a person has mental health issues or not. How do we identify twisted thinking and can that be okay to do, even if we see it in children? What happens in any persons mind is the place to start. Let me illustrate.

Some elementary schools address the behavior or misbehavior of kids with a color card system. Blue and green cards are good and show exemplary behavior. Yellow, orange and red cards are not good. Progressively those colors show behavior becoming more irresponsible.

My 7-year-old grandson is in a school like that. A while back he came home two days in a row with the yellow card. His mother did a great job engaging with the teacher about this. Then I asked if this old papa could have a talk with the teacher.

I thanked the teacher for being involved with him and being willing to follow-up with a call to his mother. Then I said, “As his papa, this is where I’m going with my grandson. You’re addressing his behavior and that’s good. I’m addressing the thinking behind his behavior because if that doesn’t change, color cards alone won’t help. I’m talking to my grandson about where his thinking is going and when he gets a yellow card, I treat it as if he’s headed to red. So a yellow card is serious to us in this home.

Now, we’re not talking about a mental disorder or if the boy has ADD. We’re talking about any twisted way of thinking that results in irresponsible decision-making. So I want to support you as his teacher on the home front so my grandson understands he can’t be two different people in two different places. He’s one person in two different places and if he acts out in class, it’s as if he acted out in this home. If he wants to be stubborn in school or act like he doesn’t hear or won’t obey you, it’s as if he’s done that to me, his nana and his mother. We will continue to address the way he thinks and train him to be consistent in his thinking wherever he goes.”

After the phone call, my daughter said the teacher stated that in all the years of teaching – over 25 – she has never had a grandfather say, or do something like that. She was appreciative and felt support. She was given the authority to be a part of our family system.

How does this relate to Newtown, Connecticut? First, the early on thing that Psychologists are talking about starts with me! I mean, I must be aware of my own twisted thinking and see how it puts me into a direction where, if not arrested and changed, will find its way to hurting others, even if it’s a yellow card. None of us can escape that fact.

Second, as adults, parents and authorities in the lives of our children, we must be aware of how they are thinking and making decisions, not just what they are thinking. The how and the why are more important than the what, of their thinking. If we don’t get that, whatever changes we think the color card system with bring won’t last. Once we understand where they are going in their thinking and how they get there, we can begin preventive measures to offset the potential of being habitually irresponsible – early on.

We can’t do this alone, which is why we need good school teachers, like the one my grandson has; good Sunday school teachers; good community organizations for children with adults who understand this concept, and solid loving families where kids have structure.

Let me say this is not about thinking of our children as criminals, but as children who are bound up with foolishness and have to learn how to be responsible adults. Kids still need to be kids but I think we often sell them short about their ability to think responsibly.

One more thing: A friend of mine said you can’t take God out of the schools, the Bible out of schools and expect that humanity has a better way. I believe he is right.

Let’s mourn with those who mourn in Newtown. Let’s do what we can to shore up how we can protect children. Let’s not forget it starts with the way we think and where we’re going with that thinking. Let’s renew our minds on this matter about addressing twisted thinking with our children, and may I say, invite God to be a part of the process.

Stunning Gestures of Love

Tina Turner’s song What’s Love Got To Do With It says love is nothing but a sweet old-fashioned notion, because who needs a heart when a heart can be broken? There’s so much self-protection in this world. Where’s the room for a stunning gesture of love with that type of thinking?

Then there’s the thought from the Melodians, who sang love is what makes the world go around. That was qualified to mean only as long as you feel the same way I do. Then you know love is for real. Really? Where’s the room for a stunning gesture of love with that type of thinking?

A couple of weeks ago I asked about our altitudes versus our attitudes. My whole point was to push back against being a respecter of persons. In his letter, James spends a good part of chapter two by focusing on the issue of poverty and riches to make the case.

The writer of Proverbs 30:8 says, “….give me neither poverty nor riches.” Have you noticed that throughout scripture there seems to be a war on either one? Leviticus 19:15 weighs in on the matter by speaking to the nation of Israel and saying, “You shall do no injustice in judging a case; you shall not be partial to the poor or show a preference for the mighty, but in righteousness and according to the merits of the case judge your neighbor.” Amplified Bible

Caring more about a person’s money or position of power and not seeing them as made of the same mud as anyone, poor people included, is sin. Frankly we can turn that around. Caring more about poor people and seeing rich people as the “Grinch” is a favorite or popular thing these days. Neither one impresses God. He’s about community and showing the love from above – stunning gestures of love.

I saw that happen in a prison chapel meeting once. Four black men weeping profusely prayed beside me “God be merciful to me a sinner for Jesus sake.” On my other side, I heard another voice praying the same prayer. It was the voice of a white prison guard. Amazing! The gospel of Christ stuns us with God’s love.

Through Jesus Christ we can love our neighbor as ourselves, instead of dividing over race, riches, or perceived rights. Now there’s a stunning gesture of God’s love!

Duplicity & Double Standards = Devastation

The tragedy involving the Kansas City Chiefs and linebacker Jovan Belcher stirred up a number of emotions and thoughts for me. Would you allow me to editorialize a bit longer than usual in this blog?

We know that after the shooting and killing of his girlfriend, Kasandra Perkins, Belcher drove to a location near the team’s main campus and took his own life. I felt a profound sadness for the team and others close to Belcher, like his mother and daughter; now left without parents. Then I had concerned for how the story will be told in the media. Let me explain.

One portrait of Belcher emerging in the aftermath of his murder/suicide was as a 25-year-old man who had a history of making adult choices like joining a campus group called Male Athletes Against Violence. Even beyond that, Belcher majored in child development and family relations at the University of Maine.

But, according to one report, the couple had argued over relationship and financial issues for months before the tragic events unfolded. On that Saturday, his mother heard her son say something along the lines of “You can’t talk to me like that” before pulling the trigger.

Here’s my concern about the story.

There is no question Belcher had good behavioral things that could be said about him. The media, society and pundits out there are going to want to emphasize that. They’re going to want to find what it was that made him snap and go from a good man to a common run of the mill criminal thinker who shot his girlfriend and then himself.

Some will want to emphasize that as a pro-athlete, he struggled with entitlement. In so doing, they’re going to miss that being a pro athlete didn’t cause this. Some will want to blame the Chiefs or Pro football being more interested in his production as a football player than they were about him as a person. If they do, they’ll miss that it had nothing to do with his crime. To the NFL’s credit, they will support Belcher’s and Kasandra Perkins’ daughter through college. Then, there are some who will want to play the “concussion card” and look for an outside source as the cause behind his criminal behavior.

This crime didn’t happen suddenly or overnight! Don’t hear me say Belcher planned on murdering Kasandra Perkins and then himself as if he was a murderer his whole life. Also, don’t hear me say this was a moment where he was beside himself and just lost it.

May I say that overtime, Belcher’s criminal act – among other things I haven’t the space to write about in this blog – was more about hiding the way he thought about being superior to others; something we already saw before he killed Kasandra Perkins when he told her, “You can’t talk to me like that.”

I deeply believe the focus shouldn’t be on good behaviors or that some outside source was responsible for his horrific criminal act. What was wrong was really on the inside of Belcher, which obviously, he kept from others. Why does the society we live in never seem to want to go there for the reason behind any criminal or irresponsible behavior?

I think one reason is because we are extremely uncomfortable to think we can’t control what’s going to happen. So if we talk about a man’s good stuff or that there’s some “outside of the man” cause for what happens, then some people think they’ll be alright. That’s sort of like living in a perpetual state of denial while bombs are dropping on us from everywhere.

Here’s a biblical thought about this. “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he. As one who reckons, he says to you, eat and drink, yet his heart is not with you [but is grudging the cost].” Amplified Bible Proverbs 23:7

That verse shows a modus operandi that’s committed to duplicity and double standards. Double standards promote paranoia because instead of doing unto others as we would have them do unto us, we do unto them before we think they’ll do it to us. That’s one story I see in this tragedy. How sad! Will we (society) ever realize Duplicity and Double Standards = Devastation?

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