ten years ago today I almost ended my life. i was celebrating my 21st birthday with my “friends” and family in Las Vegas; i mean, what could be more fun than that, right? i spent a substantial part of the day hiding in the stairwell of my parents timeshare, crying uncontrollably as my then fiancé, now wife, tried her best to console me and convince me life was worth holding onto. to this day, i still wonder why she would marry someone like me. she’s always there, you know? i think if we could just communicate to the world how much it matters to have a friend who’s always there, more would get married, and more would stay married. i could never forge a bond with another as strong as the one i have with that woman, and i could never want to break it. her friendship has literally been the difference between life and death time and time again.
as a kid, i always loved my birthday. my parents made my sister and i feel like it was your own personal holiday. we never had a ton of money, but money was the last thing mentioned on your birthday. i remember going to Benihanas year after year for my birthday; we always got to choose where to eat for our birthdays, and that was the place to pick for a season. as an adult, i wonder if my parents secretly liked us choosing it, as i now know you eat there free on your birthday; no matter, really, because the feeling can’t be erased. not from my memory anyways.
i started to sour on the idea of my birthday in college, but the trip to Vegas helped to push me over the edge. when i was 20 i had friends that were fun, but by 21 i realized all i really had was some people on a similar adventure who had agreed to travel together for a season. in Mexico i tolerated my birthday. on the one hand i felt guilty for being so much younger than my friends, and my birthday only seemed to remind us all of that; on the other, i was always on edge, looking around the corner for that thing that would simply prove my point, that my birthday was no longer meant to be a time of happiness for me.
i am told my grandfather doesn’t celebrate his birthday really. i am told this is because the two men he loved and respected the most died on his birthday: Martin Luther King Jr., and his father. that always sounded so sad and romantic to me as a child. the idea of romance has been grossly adulterated in the modern mind. romance is not sappy love stories with Fabio on the cover; romance is an intense appeal to intellectual introspection in the light of overwhelming emotional influences. to lose your heroes on your birthday is romantic. four years ago was the last time i was truly excited about my birthday. i have the fortune of being born at the very same time that future physicians of America find out if they will or will not be hired on to finish their training and move forward in their careers. it is referred to as Match Week, and every year my birthday is either days before or in the middle of it. that first year i was sure, i would be moving on. that birthday in my mind was a culmination of so much hard work and a celebration of what lie in store. but four years hence, i have never again been hopeful on my birthday. i feel sorry for my wife. she loves me more than any other human on earth, and i her; i love pouring over her in love and showering her with affection, especially on her own special day. but she doesn’t get the same luxury. every year as my birthday approaches, i grow more guarded, more reserved, more difficult to give a gift to. i put on a show for my kids, they deserve to feel like their love is received by their father; but i don’t hide my heart from my best friend. in days like these, it often feels like she’s my only friend.
i had a follow up visit with a neurologist yesterday to discuss the results of my MRI and whether or not we had found a reason behind my debilitating headaches. no real answers, though my sinuses are quite inflamed. no tumors, no polyps, nothing to explain it. the doctor wrote me a prescription for a medication that is useful in migraines. i was initially excited, but then bummed. the medication is also used as an antidepressant, and i have determined in my heart to allow my Depression to be an instrument which brings me closer to God in service to Him. not only do the side effects of antidepressants scare me (and yes, when you’ve seen patients struggling with lifelong physical problems from these drugs, they will scare you), but the spiritual consequences do to. if i rely on this pill, will i rely less on God? will this change who i am? are these headaches really so bad to warrant such drastic measures? i almost feel like it’s a trick, like my primary care doctor wrote a note asking for help in getting me on antidepressants. remember, i’ve been behind the scenes, i know this goes on far more often than most realize. your doctor wants you to take something, but you refuse, so they send you to a specialist that comes up with some excuse for a similar one, and bam! they tricked you into doing what they want, not what you want. i don’t know, maybe i’m just paranoid. Match Week is next week.
in my life I have had a few birthdays and received a handful of gifts, but God gives me the best. He gave me my wife 14 years ago, my son 8 years ago, my daughter was in transit 4 years ago, and another kid, baby p, is cooking now. i don’t like my birthday; well, that’s not fair. i do. i hate Match Week, and i pray that one day soon either i’ll get that Residency, or God will have moved me to a different place in my life. then my birthday can be as it ought, no spectre of fear hanging overhead, no dread, no worry, just enjoying my family and real friends worth having, being thankful for my God who both created and saved me, and loving the fact i am a Spring baby, so the weather is almost always awesome and the sun usually shines. now if only i could no longer have allergies, so i can actually enjoy the weather without sniffling and sneezing all day.
“pride and luxury are the twins of prosperity… the common mercies wicked men have, are not lodestones to draw then nearer to God, but millstones to sink them deeper to hell. their delicious dainties are like Haman’s banquet; after all their lordly feasting, death will bring in the bill, and they must pay it in hell.”—Thomas Watson (a Puritan minister) in the book “All Things for Good,” where he spends 127 pages to expound on Romans 8:28. an inspiring and challenging read, to be sure.
“You live in a world where your soul is in constant danger. Enemies are round you on every side. Your own heart is deceitful. Bad examples are numerous. Satan is always labouring to lead you astray. Above all false doctrine and false teachers of every kind abound. This is your great danger.
“To be safe you must be well armed. You must provide yourself with the weapons which God has given you for your help. You must store your mind with Holy Scripture. This is to be well armed.
“Arm yourself with a thorough knowledge of the written Word of God. Read your Bible regularly. Become familiar with your Bible… Neglect your Bible and nothing that I know of can prevent you from error if a plausible advocate of false teaching shall happen to meet you. Make it a rule to believe nothing except it can be proved from Scripture. The Bible alone is infallible… Do you really use your Bible as much as you ought?
“There are many today, who believe the Bible, yet read it very little. Does your conscience tell you that you are one of these persons?
“If so, you are the man that is likely to get little help from the Bible in time of need. Trial is a sifting experience… Your store of Bible consolations may one day run very low.
“If so, you are the man that is unlikely to become established in the truth. I shall not be surprised to hear that you are troubled with doubts and questions about assurance, grace, faith, perseverance, etc. The devil is an old and cunning enemy. He can quote Scripture readily enough when he pleases. Now you are not sufficiently ready with your weapons to fight a good fight with him… Your sword is held loosely in your hand.
“If so, you are the man that is likely to make mistakes in life. I shall not wonder if I am told that you have problems in your marriage, problems with your children, problems about the conduct of your family and about the company you keep. The world you steer through is full of rocks, shoals and sandbanks. You are not sufficiently familiar either with lighthouses or charts.
“If so, you are the man who is likely to be carried away by some false teacher for a time. It will not surprise me if I hear that one of these clever, eloquent men who can make a convincing presentation is leading you into error. You are in need of ballast (truth); no wonder if you are tossed to and fro like a cork on the waves.
“All these are uncomfortable situations. I want you to escape them all. Take the advice I offer you today. Do not merely read your Bible a little – but read it a great deal… Remember your many enemies. Be armed!”—
got this in an email from Alistair begg. awesome. challenging. awesome.
so i broke a pair of headphones just now while playing with my son. not a big deal, since they were free for me, right? but still. it reminded me of what it felt like when i broke my Bose headphones that Laura got me, really the last pair i’ve had similar in cost to these. i was minding my own business, calmly walking home from class when a random license plate edge caught the cord perfectly and sliced it in two. this time it was while picking up my son into the air, catching cord on a foot or something and snapping them clean off. ironic, too, since we all got a free pair thanks to me investigating the matter and publicizing it to everyone, though now everyone else has a nice set and mine is lying in the trash. ironic is a term we use far too often; it isn’t ironic. ironic is when something happens and makes me laugh, or at least feel a slight rise in mood internally; no, this is tragic, because tragedy make me quiet, reserved, sullen, or fatalistic. “oh well,” i said, “no big deal.” how often have i wished that merely saying those words would make it true, as though speaking my own mood into existence. “let there be happiness! and i was happy. and light, and dark, and kamarr rested and declared it good.” then i wouldn’t need to write. then i wouldn’t feel like i do. but i do.
i need to tell you something, but i am afraid that if i do, the words will come out all wrong. sometimes it is better to address words to someone, rather than come up with words for them. so forgive me having to quote/paraphrase someone far wiser than i, but here is what i would like to say to you:
humble yourself under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may lift you up, casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you; and you will remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you. don’t be scared, stand firm, see the salvation of the LORD, which He will work for you today. you need not worry about those horrible people anymore because the LORD fights for you, and you have only to be silent. God is our refuge and strength, our help when trouble seems to surround us; so we won’t be afraid, even if the earth opens up beneath us, or the mountains crash into the oceans, or the waves crash at our feet, because the fear of man lays a trap for him, but if we trust in the Lord we are safe. see, God knows the plans He has for you, plans for your good, not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. so go and eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a happy heart, for God has already approved what you do. your clothes will be clean and new, and even your hair will look awesome. enjoy life with me, the husband you love, all the days of your life that God has given you. 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 heart and your mind in Christ Jesus. remember that He is always with you, even to the end of all time. that’s why in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us; for I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
most of my really good stuff comes to me while i’m driving. i wish i had some sort of system where i could just dictate these essays that float across my consciousness as i drive; i guess just give tech a few more years and we’ll be there, right? well speaking of technology, that’s actually what got me thinking. tomorrow my family heads to Las Vegas to be in town for the start of CES, the biggest tech show on the continent. every year we go, and it is always a ton of fun. this year my wife’s parents are coming too, the plan being they’ll help with watching the kids and also enjoy the venue. my father in law, however, does not do well with crowds, and yes, it will most certainly be crowded. what caught my attention, though, was that i do. as i thought, i realized that a fact of myself is probably peculiar to most: i hate suburbs, but love cities and the country almost equally. i love being in the middle of nowhere, nothing but plants and critters for miles, and i love delving deep into the concrete jungle, surrounded by civilization and convenience. epiphanies are funny in how they are so similar to a slap to the face; not always painful or surprising, but always jarring. i realized that i love the country and cities for the same reason: they remind me of what i imagine Heaven will feel like. Heaven, a place where i am eternally isolated from anything not directly created by and praising the LORD; and Heaven, the place where we will be surrounded forever by innumerable crowds of the saints gathered together.
my sister has a nickname for me, as do i for her; i am mouse, colloquially referred to as mouser pouser or just plain mouser for shirt, and she is kitty. i have no idea when this started or why, though knowing us it is likely related to a cartoon somehow. but the funny thing is, i am not the country mouse, only at home in the field and lost in the crowd, nor am i the city mouse, perplexed by the simpler life and only content in chaos; no, i’m just plain mouse.
you hear that? tell me you heard that. tell me i’m not going crazy here… … …there it was again! if you tell me you didn’t hear it that time i swear i’m gonna… ok, that’s what i thought! see, i’m not crazy; you can hear it too. it’s like i’ve been telling you, the world’s gone to crap and we’re all doomed, man! doomed!… what? you don’t know?! you mean to tell me you don’t know what’s going on?… ok, i’ll tell you, i guess, but i can’t believe i would need to. i mean, how’s a guy make it this long and not know? well it all started with the dryer sheets… yes, you heard me, i said dryer sheets. see, for years we all used them to make our clothes smell good and whatnot; no one ever thought they would be something devious, something evil to the core. but they were! they were phase one of the invasion plan; first they make us smell a certain way, then they make us taste a certain way- that’s where the shampoo comes in… yes, shampoo! am i stuttering here or something?! see, once we smelled and tasted the way they had always wanted, they began to show up. first it was just the random odd celebrity, like that Michael Jackson dude, and the sad guy from Seattle, what was his name?… yeah Cobain, thanks. so these bums from the planet Crumbum – or whatever it’s called- show up and start setting up stores for their cronies. they say they’re just making music, but actually they’re starting specialty shops, kinda like how when you go into a grocery store the veggies aren’t with the bread? yeah, well they identified the angst flavors and the pop flavors; then came the Britney Spears and the Jay Z’s …. yeah, i’m getting there, hold your horses! so anyhow, by the time we get to last month, any visiting alien can just check in on what you listen to and know what you taste like; so when the space ship landed in Times Square two weeks ago, i was like “oh man! we’re doomed now!” but no one listened to the crazy homeless guy, after all, he doesn’t shower or wash his clothes; he doesn’t listen to the radio or have a My Book Face page! but who’s laughing now! ha! see, to them, i don’t taste good! i taste like cold, stale rice on a hot July day, or lukewarm flavorless Jello. and that’s why they leave me alone. so if you wanna stay alive it’s simple really: ditch all that crap you brought with you, put on this old jacket i found, and forget the words to every song you ever knew. they can smell the music in your brain… what? no, i’m not crazy! you said you heard the sound! that’s them flying around looking for more people to eat. they got a big feast coming up tomorrow; it’s like their Thanksgiving, but they call it the VMAs. i think that stands for Volumes of Man Appetizers, or something like that… yeah they want you to think it’s all about music, but that’s just the seasoning; that’s like saying your Kobe filet mignon is all about the pepper… … but you saw the space ship! everyone saw the space ship!… … …ball? what ball?… why the hell would someone drop a crystal ball from the top of a building on New Year’s Eve with everyone standing around?! that’s crazy talk! it was a space ship; that’s why all the tv’s were talking about it and people were cheering!… … well what about the sound then? … mosquitos?! no, that’s them! look, one’s eating you now! … get away before they find me, i don’t taste good, but i’m sure they’ll eat me anyways! HELP! ALIENS! RUN FOR YOR LIFE!
i know it is not a unique sentiment; nor does it occur in my mind in some preternatural, almost überman kind of fashion; but still, but still, i long to check out of life, if not the world, but don’t go calling me suicidal or immature, for i am neither. i am not going anywhere, and i am most…
i enjoy working in a middle school office for a number of reasons, not least of which is the new found insight into the inner workings of our “educational” system, as well as having a virtual finger steadily on the pulse of the changing youth culture. one worrisome trend was brought back o the forefront of my mind in reviewing some notes from a doctor today; the source of the title of this little rant, and the source of much trouble, not just today, but certainly in what lies in store for our nation.
when i was a boy, a trend which began really before World War 2 started to pick up momentum. this movement sought to redefine the ills of mankind, not as sin or evil, but as mere variations in intellect and psychological temperament. the belief was that “bad people” were not so much bad, as they were psychologically flawed, and if we could merely correct their train of thought we could in turn cure the species of ills. this is not anything new, though the “brilliant” men behind it would like to claim so. Jesus Himself addressed this issue on multiple points, reminding people that it is their heart that is the problem, not what they put into their body (Matt. 15:11, Mk. 7:15), and that the heart of man is rotten to the core (Jer. 17:9, Matt. 15:18, 19). after all, He came in the midst of the Roman Empire, crossroads of the Roman work ethic and the Greek philosophical might; if any system could right the man from outside, it would be them. but the truth was that you could not clean up the mess of man from outside, you had to get in.
in all fairness, this is precisely what made the “modern” psychological approach so compelling and promising; after all, how much more “inside” could you get than the very thoughts and intentions of the man? but the Devil is a liar, and he is a genius when it comes to burying the point beneath mountains of honey-coated rhetoric. in the Garden he sold us on the idea of “did He really say…?” and today, he gets us with “well the real problem isn’t that he’s bad, he’s just…” another example. last night as my wife and i taught the counsel time for AWANA, we were talking about sin and examples of some really devastating sins that took place in the world. as we talked about Hitler and the Holocaust, one student said something to the effect that Hitler was crazy, but i told them i think not; he was methodical and exact, and meant to do everything he did. the horror of what Hitler did is in the very intentional nature of it; he meant to do what he did, and then did it. this is the problem at the heart of the psychoanalytical movement. they seek to label and identify pathologies and behaviours, and in so doing, relieve the patient of the burden of sin, and simply re-educate them and rehabilitate them; but the sinner is not a sinner because they have sinned; a sinner sins because they are a sinner. no amount of labeling, no amount of therapy, no amount of medication or counseling will deal with the heart of the matter, because the mind and its thoughts are not the heart, but manifestations thereof. in this way the ancients had a far superior understanding of the human creature. they never mistook the mind for the heart. they always knew that there was the body, there was the mind, and there was the heart; but in our modern, or rather post-modern, brilliance, we have come to reject the notion of the heart as being as ridiculous as the notion of a soul or a tooth fairy. no, there is naught but mind and body, we say; and all of that can be boiled down to pathways and chemical reactions.
getting back to the impetus for this particular diatribe, the note i received was a simple one from a student’s psychiatrist stating that after evaluation and a thorough treatment, he has been found to suffer from anxiety issues, and not ADD or ADHD. i laughed at this. i remember the huge fight between administrators and the student last school year essentially forcing him to take medications for ADHD swearing it would resolve his behavioral issues; obviously it did not, as he continued to be a problem through the end of last year, and on into this one as well. now they were deciding on a new pathology, a new label to excuse his sinful intents. but when will they stop and ask themselves if the way to deal with an unruly and willful child is to give them pills to shove down their throat? or maybe, just maybe, there’s a different way; maybe even a better way? maybe instead of labeling the children, excusing their sinfulness, and then drugging them for the rest of their childhood, we should instead advocate on behalf of correcting them when they are wrong, teaching them about what is right, and loving them with the love of Christ until they are converted, and then empowered by His Spirit, reborn and able to live with their new heart. the answer to sin is not found in a bottle, in a label, or on a couch; it is found in Christ Jesus, cured in Christ Jesus, and overcome in Christ Jesus.
“ok, so maybe i messed up, maybe i didn’t; but hear me out first officer, and then see what you have to say. see, i was minding my own business, right? just gliding through the glades, when suddenly this snorglag jumped out at me! now, i’m as chill as the next dweeb, but snorglags are another story. so i shifted into high gear, floated up a few meters, and proceeded about my day. no biggie, right? wrong! some oldie decided that was the perfect time for her morning floats, and as soon as i maneuvered into the 4 meter space, here she comes invading my zones! now, i coulda got mad; i coulda said some choice words, or buzzed around her to remind her there’s a difference between dweebs and oldies, mainly dweebs can still see, but i was too frigid for that. so now that my zone had been invaded by a snorglag, followed by an oldie, i forfeited the venture and just beemed home. now, my folks live on the 832nd floor, and i live on the 831st. as i’m sure you know, officer, the beems don’t always take you to the right floor, and sometimes drop me in my ‘rents place instead of mine. again, no reason to get your follicles all flustered. when i finished downloading in the space and saw the décor was certainly not copacetic like my own, i assumed my ‘rents had simply re-upped their scheme and looked through the pantry; i mean, a dweebs gotta eat, right? yeah, so i was munching on some cals as the shaft took me down a level, then blammo! i mean seriously, that’s what i heard “blammo! who you be dweeb!?” for reals, officer, who says blammo? a day like today happens like once a cycle, i swear. yeah, so i look down and see some strange dweeb is talking on a vid to some other dweeb, but i’m like “what’s really going on here? why is this dweeb in my house?” so i shout up to the guy “what’s going on here!? what’s this dweeb doing in my house!?” and the guy turns to me, eyes bug out, and then blammo- oh, i get it now; blammo does make sense! anyways, blammo, the dweeb beemed out; no disk or nothing, just on the spot. so i look around to make sure none of my stuff is messed over, but like, none of my stuff is there. i check my vitals, and the com tells me i’m on floor 831, but i’m not in Corsa, i’m in Bryn! so i’m like trying to get an idea of how that happened, i go to the disk and start to beem over to my place, and as i’m fading out, some GIANT grunt, i mean like almost 3 meters, man; i’m talking knuckles on the floor and forehead staining the ceiling big, reaches into my beem and starts choking me. next thing i know, i come to in this holding program with the Justice saying i’m held for B&E, theft, attempted murder, slander, and indecent exposure; the first four i get, but the last one?”
“well, dweeb. funny you should ask, because your story aligns with the facts as much as my butt crack does with the moon. see while you were being re-integrated, we checked your vitals ourselves, and guess what we found? first, the snorglag you mentioned didn’t jump at you; no, it was patrolling its assigned territory when you decided to assault it with a kidney bean. now, why a dweeb would go gliding around with a kidney bean in their hand is beyond me, but that’s what you did. snorglags are genetically bred for only two things, dweeb: protection and attention. so when you throw something, anything, at a snorglag that is in the process of protecting, yes, it will come after you. according to your vitals, after 5 minutes of taunting, you abandoned your sport and began surreptitiously following an oldie named mrs. jensen for a few blocks. when she finally stopped to ask you what you wanted, you laughed at her, called her a ‘dehydrated, rehydrated, reanimated corpse,’ and then jammed her signal making her careen in loops 4 meters in the air. we checked with mrs. jensen, and she is fine, and surprisingly enough, refuses to press charges, stating ‘he seemed like a nice dweeb, just a little bored is all.’ still going off your own vitals, it seems you then proceeded to the nearest habitation tower, jacked into their console, and beemed yourself into the first open frequency you found, which happened to be floor 251 in Corsa, not 832 in Bryn. from there, we can verify these accounts with the internal records of Corsa, but let’s just say there’s a room of broken things on 251, and there’s a very unhappy newlywed couple on 250, and an angry groom with burns to his hands from defending the honor of his new bride. all that’s left for you dweeb is a decision: you wanna be shipped to the asteroids, or you wanna do time in the trenches?” …
“… and in other news, yet another group of dweebs are being shipped off to space tomorrow for the detention asteroids. since the inception of Policy B649 6 months ago, more than 18,000 dweebs have been sent off for rehabilitation, with a 200% decrease in dweeb-related crime being reported across all districts. the Pontiff says ‘the policy is working; dweebs will be productive members of society, one way or another.’ the policy was implemented after the famous Dweeb Donnie incident, where an oldie was found strangled in his own domicile…”