Rescued from Addiction

fatherembracingsonWith all of the headlines lately regarding the opioid crisis, it is nice to get to see some good news. Working with patients who have problems with addiction is challenging, but there are rewards that come with seeing success stories. Such is the case with a young man who decided that he needed to get help and came many months ago to get started on a program to get free from addicting behaviors that were ruining his life.

The wide array of substances that people use to get away from reality is an insidious evil plaguing our country. While people are different and some do have predispositions toward addiction that other people do not have, there is still the choice that must be made on the part of the user to take a substance or medication against the advice of their physician and/or the law. Once that choice is made, for many it is a seemingly never-ending, downward spiral. For those with little or no support to help them when and if they want to seek recovery, the chances of making it be free from the chains of addiction are slim. Watching someone slowly deteriorate as this evil takes their life away from them, to hear their heart cry deep from within to be free from the dungeon encasing it while darkness swirls about them trying to keep them from hearing the truth, to see them reach out and then fall back discouraged, to look at those children who don’t have their parent(s) anymore because they are dead from an overdose is to feel some of their pain. It is more than enough to drive me to my knees in prayer.

For this young man, he was traveling down the road of his life when he came upon a detour that took him places he had never been and wondered if he was ever going to find his way back. For him, it was his mother who came with him the first time, and many times after that, as she was not going to sit idly by while her son’s life was taken away from their family. His wife had left him a while back, but his children still needed him as their father. His parents still needed him as their son. God still loved him just as He always did, if he could just see the light shine through. As time passed and changes occurred, the real person beneath the chains began to emerge more clearly. The medication used to help him slowly get away from the illegal substances was being withdrawn from him a little at a time until on this last visit, he was written his last few doses to finish his treatment with this medication. While this achievement, with God’s help, is encouraging, he faces many temptations ahead and must continue to be dependent upon God to help him daily.

The best reward for me was to get to see his father come with him on this most recent visit. As his father sat in front of him and told his son that he would have given his right arm to see him saved, tears streamed down both of their faces. It was a heavenly scene as this son seemed to realize more than he ever had before of his own earthly father’s love for him and to experience from him love, grace, acceptance, and forgiveness. I will never forget watching that unfold and I told him how blessed he was to be able to have that relationship because so many do not. They got up and were leaving to check out when I happened to come back down the hallway and right in front of everyone were embracing one another in the nursing area in a way that made me recall the story of the prodigal son being received by his father who had run to meet him. Despite all of the bad news, the Good News of the Gospel is still the answer for what ails many in our land.

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Less is More, Loss is Gain

whatsyourstory“Losing my leg was the best thing to ever happen to me.” 

I was going about my usual fast-paced day at the clinic recently and trying to keep up with the schedule. Like many people, the routine gave way to a full face confrontation with reality. It was one of those encounters that makes you slow down, think deeply, and then remember it is not always that you are teaching someone else. Those kind of encounters teach you, if you take the time to listen.

Upon entering the exam room, it was not a scene too uncommon at all. A man was sitting in his wheelchair, but not the usual more advanced age person. This forty-something year old sat there as we talked about his medical conditions. He looked a little tired, but had a smile on his face throughout the discussion and examination. As we talked, he then tossed me this surprising statement: “Losing my leg was the best thing to ever happen to me.”  I sat there for a few seconds as I contemplated what he had just said and was trying to decide what would be the best way to respond to this heart moment.

Many times people who have been through traumatic circumstances find it hard to find anyone who understands their life’s journey. Their plight has been one in which they have been in such a bind they either get bound up or get freed from the chains that tried to lock them up for good. It makes you think of when Peter was in prison (Acts 12) and then his chains fell off and he was released by an angel. The very people who were praying for Peter did not believe that he was released when he showed up at their home. How many times are we the same way when the very thing we have been praying for is right there in front of us? Do we do as these early Christians did and not open the door to someone knocking who wants to share with us that very thing we prayed for earnestly? When we hear that heart moment in front of us, do we leave the door still yet unopened while the knocking continues trying to get us to listen?

When there is an inclination detected that a listening ear is near that might understand, a nugget of truth slips out to test the environment and see if their heart can be safely shared. If that knock on the door results in it being opened, then real truth can be heard that can do both the speaker and listener some good. It also does the person a lot of good who is sharing to feel and know that their condition is not without some benefit to someone else. As all of us are walking, or sometimes running, done the road of lives that may be shorter than we think, it pays to take some time to sit on a bench with a friend and share.

This man shared about his journey of working hard and going about the routines that many of us take for granted when one day tragedy struck.  He was left with one good leg and an amputated one. The loss put him in a wheelchair as prostheses were not tolerated well by him. He shared about how this sudden slow down of his routines had changed his life not in a harmful way, but had resulted in him having a deeper walk with God than he had ever had before. He had a demeanor that reflected what he said with a worn, but settled and peaceful look about him. His time of being thrown in a jail did not last long as he had been set free through the experience and then came to knock on my door that day in the clinic. I’m glad I opened the door.  Many times, less can be more and loss can be gain.

Target Accommodates Muslims, But Not Christians

Target Accommodates Muslims, But Not Christians

With all of the publicity given to Target lately for their support of men being allowed to go into women’s restrooms and vice versa, and their support for the latest assault upon conservative, Christian values, it would be interesting to delve into what drives a company that is obviously committed to losing millions, if not billions, of dollars of revenue to support their adopted agenda. With a boycott that has gained over 1.2 million adherents now, Target is not going to benefit from their new policy for sure. Certainly if there is that level of commitment to a cause, one would expect some consistency in their policies. Even if one disagrees with a position taken by another, if there is sincerity present, there is still some degree of admiration for being committed to something, although being sincere is not everything because it is very easy to be sincerely wrong.

Target recently issued an April 19, 2016, statement1 to reaffirm their policies: “we welcome transgender team members and guests to use the restroom or fitting room facility that corresponds with their gender identity.” According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune2, “Molly Snyder, a Target spokeswoman, said it is not a new policy, but the retailer wanted to clarify its position given questions it has received from both customers and employees amid the national debate. Executives sent an e-mail to store leaders earlier this week to convey the message. ‘It’s a restatement of a policy,’ she said. ‘It’s just us being very overt in stating it.'” They are very committed to what they consider “equality” and “inclusivity”: “Inclusivity is a core belief at Target. It’s something we celebrate. We stand for equality and equity, and strive to make our guests and team members feel accepted, respected and welcomed in our stores and workplaces every day.”3

Target is putting forth statements to appear to be so gracious to anyone, no matter what they believe or do; customers of all types should just come in their stores because they just don’t want anyone to feel offended or out of place in their stores. That is how they are trying to publicize their position. Just back in 2007, Target took a position of accommodation when it came to Muslims who work in their stores and do not want to handle pork.4 According to the NBC News article, “The Star Tribune reported this past week that some Muslim cashiers at local Targets had declined to scan pork products such as bacon because doing so would conflict with their religious beliefs. They would ask other cashiers to ring up such purchases, or sometimes customers would scan those items themselves, the newspaper reported. Minneapolis-based Target Corp. has now offered its local Muslim cashiers who object to handling pork the option of wearing gloves while cashiering, shifting to other positions or transferring to other nearby stores. ‘We are confident that this is a reasonable solution for our guests and team members,’ Target spokeswoman Paula Thornton-Greear said in a statement e-mailed to The Associated Press on Saturday. … Suhara Robla, who works at the SuperTarget in St. Louis Park, told the Star Tribune that more than a dozen Muslim cashiers were asked Thursday to do other jobs.

‘They told all of us who don’t touch pork to go to the sales floor,’ she told the newspaper. ‘They really didn’t say why. They just said it was a new policy.’”

However, that same equality and inclusivity does not seem to apply to anyone who just wants to be able to go to the bathroom or fitting room and not have a male voyeur next to them filming them or worse567. Target is causing much worse inequality and loss of inclusivity with their policies which do nothing more than promote immorality while attempting to shove it down the throats of conservative Christians who they do not mind shutting out of their stores. Target can figure out a way to accommodate Muslims and their faith practices, but according to an August 2014 article from OneNewsNow8, “Target is filing legal briefs in court cases intended to win marriage rights for homosexuals and lesbians.” Target wants to put forth that they just want everyone to feel welcome, but actively are working toward tearing down conservative, Christian values. If Target cares so much, then why not just have a third bathroom for those who want to claim a different gender or don’t care while accommodating the vast majority of people who want to feel safe in a bathroom. They now have policies that make many people feel very unwelcome and if objections are voiced, they just don’t seem to care, unless it is possibly from someone of a different faith other than Christianity.

Mississippi and North Carolina Democracy versus Liberal Totalitarianism

Mississippi and North Carolina Democracy versus Liberal Totalitarianism

Totalitarianism is defined as “a political system where the state recognizes no limits to its authority and strives to regulate every aspect of public and private life wherever feasible. Totalitarian regimes stay in political power through an all-encompassing propaganda campaign, which is disseminated through the state-controlled mass media, a single party that is often marked by political repression, personality cultism, control over the economy, regulation and restriction of speech, mass surveillance, and widespread use of terror” (Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Totalitarianism). This definition actually describes the type of actions desired by those who want to punish Mississippi and North Carolina for wanting to let their citizens be able to decide for themselves what they want to think and do with their own lives. These liberals want a totalitarian government, not a republic, and not a democracy. They seek to force their viewpoint upon everyone any way they can.

Most of these companies who are voicing public objections to the laws passed by states, which want to allow religious freedom, are solely acting to protect their bottom line financially as they see it and will shift their actions to whichever way they think the wind blows if it will make them money. The same activists who threaten Mississippi and North Carolina also threaten these large corporations if they don’t comply with their demands. If it is okay with people to demand adherence in such a totalitarian fashion, then some other questions should also be asked.

Should Teva Pharmaceutical Industries be boycotted and people be asked to do no business with this company because they refuse to allow propofol to be sold for executions? They are discriminating against what their product is used for on the basis of their belief system even though the death penalty and executions are legal. If Christians should be forced to participate in matters that conflict with their belief system and violates their conscience, then how can one argue that these companies should also not be forced to sell their products without “discriminating”? If it is okay to sue Christians who solely don’t want to perform a service out of moral objections based on their faith, then should not the states who cannot get the medications sold to them for legal executions be able to bring lawsuits against these companies and force them to do what the law states is okay?

Should physicians who have moral objections to participating in abortions be forced to perform them since abortion is legal and physicians who refuse are “discriminating”? How about pharmacists who won’t fill a prescription for an abortifacient drug and are “discriminating”? Should all of these physicians and pharmacists be labeled as promoting “hate”, and boycotted for their “discriminatory” practices?

What about the pastors who refuse to participate in a homosexual “wedding”? Should they also be labeled and treated in the same way? Are these pastors to be listed on a “hate group” registry and hounded for just not wanting to participate?

What about Muslims who will not sell pork, or prepare it for sale, to others based upon their religious beliefs? Should all the pork-loving people all get together and bring boycotts and lawsuits to force the discriminatory Muslims to participate in what they deem objectionable based upon their faith practices?

Should Jewish owned businesses who choose to close their doors on Saturday be forced to stay open and not “discriminate” against those who want to shop on Saturday? Is it offensive to those who don’t hold those beliefs and places undue burdens on those who only can shop on Saturdays since it is possibly their only day off from work?

It is not people of faith who are bringing lawsuits and attempting to ruin others through tactics of fear and intimidation. These are the actions of the liberal, totalitarian activists who people of faith need to be protected from. Should peaceful non-participation be now made illegal also? That is also what totalitarian governments do. No dissent is allowed without retribution.

People of all faiths should be allowed to follow their conscience and faith practices as their traditions commonly dictate and not have their belief systems trampled by totalitarian demands. The pharmaceutical companies should be allowed to followed their conscience while the states are free to pursue other options without forcing adherence. Physicians and pharmacists should be free to practice in ways that do not violate their faith while those who want something different are always free to seek to have services they legally want elsewhere. Pastors should continue to be free to choose whom they will agree to marry as they always have. Jewish people should be free to practice all aspects of their faith as there are other options for those who live under different practices. Muslims should be free to practice portions of their faith practice as they desire to do so and people who want something different can do business with others. Those who want to label these laws as hateful only reveal their own heart toward those whom they disagree. For people of faith, it is about protecting their own conscience by not participating and it is not about doing anything to hurt anyone else. It is about having respect for other people’s faith choices in their lives and giving them the freedom to live their lives with having a conscience intact, unlike those within totalitarian regimes who historically could be argued to have lost any conscience they might have had.

NY – Y’all come on down to MS

For those in our country who proudly declare themselves “pro-choice”, there are clear indications as to how truly “anti-life” they really are. When New York Governor Andrew Cuomo recently stated that “extreme” conservatives “have no place in the state of New York”, he revealed his own lack of tolerance for others while also displaying a lack of consideration of the value of each human being. It should not be surprising for him to say such a disrespectful and demeaning statement. It is the natural result of having an “anti-life” worldview in which not all humans are viewed as equally valuable and worthy of being protected.

Even New York City’s Mayor de Blasio chimed in stating, “I stand by that 100 percent,” to reporters at the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Washington, D.C., on Thursday. Mayor de Blasio then added, “I agree with Governor Cuomo’s remarks. I interpret his remarks to say that an extremist attitude that continues the reality of violence in our communities or an extremist attitude that denies the rights of women does not represent the views of New York State.” The mayor must not have given much thought to his statement regarding “violence in our communities”; there is a lack of logic. What in the world does he think he is approving of happening in his position of violence toward unborn children? What about the right of the unborn children who never live to see the light of day? Has the “anti-life” position become such a protected issue that logic has been thrown out the window? There is no denying the fact that areas with the most “gun control” have the most gun violence; just look at Chicago. The same areas of the country that proclaim they are against violence promote it more by taking guns away from the law-abiding and then allowing a plague of ruthless thugs who also do not value life while robbing and killing others. The “anti-life” folks obviously cannot see the contradictions in their own statements.

For those New Yorkers who feel devalued and unappreciated just because they support the worth of everyone and care enough to speak the truth as they see it, come on down to Mississippi, the most conservative state in the union. Mississippians would be glad to have you just as much as anyone who has enough sense to respect the fact that everyone is valuable and has inherent worth solely because of the fact that they are human. Mississippi has learned from its own jaded past when people were not valued equally and now those with differing opinions generally get along well. Just think about where you hear about all of the racial problems and it isn’t in the state with the largest percentage of African Americans. Mississippians get along better now than at any time in the past because of learning respect for each other which is something lacking in New York’s elected leaders presently.

Not agreeing with someone should not cause one to have such a cowardly position to want to push them out of your way. If your arguments for your own position hold water, they can stand up on their own. People who start feeling threatened and honestly have no true way to defend their positions typically resort to personal attacks and attempts to gag the opposition such as these statements from the New York governor to deflect attention from the fact that they have no facts upon which to base their selfish and disrespectful opinions. If all of the pro-life people left New York to the anti-life people, it would certainly be a state that would slowly die – physically and spiritually. Hopefully, that will not happen if those liberals who usually are ones claiming such tolerance would learn to practice that which they preach.

Who Will Want Your Chair?

ImageAs I sat listening to my pastor’s Sunday morning message, he spoke of an old recliner that he used for many years and had seen its days of burping babies, kids piling up in it, and all of the usual relaxing moments that most people have in their recliner that becomes a reflection and somewhat of a commentary about its main occupant.  Pondering that example, I could not help remembering special chairs in my own life.   My own father’s chair is one that I remember climbing into with Dad and my brothers.  I do not have that chair, but I wish I did.  I have the first recliner I ever bought when I was just starting medical school and I spent untold hours in that chair reading and studying; it is now in my office at work.

Another chair that came to my mind is this old greenish colored La-Z-Boy that sits in my library at home.  The arms have been reupholstered to match the original color as much as possible.  This particular chair was the first recliner that a very special pastor in my life many years ago had given to him by a church he pastored.  He had kept that old chair for many years until the arms had been worn thin and there were holes in the arms from what was undoubtedly many years of time spent with studying, family, and even counseling his flock.  The times witnessed by that chair were innumerable and special.  Since that old chair had gotten into such bad shape, it was about to be discarded because a new chair was about to be bought.  When I saw that old worn out chair, I hated to see something like that not be repaired and then used again.  After getting agreement with the pastor’s wife to let me have it, I took that chair to get it fixed and have had it ever since then.  What was valued and special to this pastor was even more valued and special to me because of who owned it, used it, and even wore it out so much it has a mild tilt to it.

I’ve got a chair that is conforming itself to me over time and gets a lot of use.  As I started thinking about my own chair in my living room, I could not help wondering if anyone would ever think of a chair I used as being something they would want.  Am I making enough of a positive difference in the lives of others that what I might see as just a chair would be cherished and thought of as being inspiring, like I think of that previous pastor’s chair every time I sit in it?  I know this humble man thought no one would want his old chair, but I did.  Do I inspire others enough that there might be a similar thought in someone else’s mind one day?

Another direction in this vein is to think about the chair itself.  The chair which conforms itself to my form, my image if you will, could be thought of as the life of each individual whom God Himself wants to use.  If I allow myself to be used by Him, I am then transformed into His image.  In the process of being used, I’ll get to squeaking as time passes, my arms will get thin and worn out, and I just will not move as quickly as I used to move.  However, just as an old chair that is made well, it will keep fulfilling its initial purpose.  Each chair is made with a specific function in mind just as each human is also.  We all will eventually reflect our owner and whom we choose to be owned by is really only between two choices.

Saying Hello

helloIf you have lived very long, you have had those whom you have loved to depart from life as we know it.  Many times, when there is the blessing of having time to do so, we struggle with trying to say goodbye, while sometimes it is instead like saying hello.  We typically say hello when greeting someone and especially if it is someone whom we have just met.  A lot of things that should have been said much earlier sometimes remain unspoken until the last moments of life.  It is wonderful when people do have the time to make clear what was muddy.

This last week a patient came in for a visit and took some time after we had addressed his medical concerns to talk about a discussion he had with his ill father recently.  The two had a history of disagreeing about many things over the years and their relationship had been strained continually.  The father had gotten older and the inevitable problems of aging had taken its toll on his health.  The son knew his father was ill and went to visit with him.  As they sat and talked, the son recounted the major areas of strife over the years with his father with what previously had been relationship shattering issues then becoming seemingly ever so minor.  An apology was offered from the son to the father.  The son was then surprised somewhat when his father slowly looked over at him and motioned with one of his arms an aw-don’t-worry-it gesture much like Bill Cosby used to do a lot on his program when brushing aside something that just was not important.  The father was telling his son that those issues didn’t matter anymore and that it was okay.  That wave of the arm and hand was signification of forgiveness and it touched the son’s heart so much that he had a small tear in his eye when relating the story. The son finally left after giving his father a hug and started heading back toward home.  An hour later, the call came that his father had passed away.  What had been a visit to say goodbye had become a visit to say hello, for what was old was gone and there was a newness that was granted by that father to his son.  There was no better way for them to depart from one another – although that is only temporary anyway for those who know Christ.

There are many health benefits seen in those who make forgiving others a way of life.  There are hundreds of studies which have linked forgiveness to improved physical and emotional well-being with researcher Robert Enright of the University of Wisconsin Madison stating, “Forgiveness works.”  Among those who practice forgiveness, there are fewer cardiovascular problems and stress-related conditions along with a general feeling of greater happiness.  In 2008, the journal Mental Health, Religion and Culture reported that people who forgave had decreased risk of depression.  A study involving 213 Vietnam veterans found that those who had trouble with forgiveness also had more problems with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  Mayo Clinic reported in 2008 that holding grudges caused people to have increased blood pressure and heart rates.  A study of more than two thousand twins in Virginia showed that forgiveness was related to less nicotine dependence and drug abuse. That chip on the shoulder might sound like it is small, but it is one of the heaviest things you can carry.  For better health, it makes a lot of sense to say goodbye to those things of the past and say hello to what can be the new you that is found when you practice forgiveness.