Wisdom

I’m going to take a minute to brag about my wife. I’ll call her George, because that’s what I’ve called her for years. Her kids call her Preuss. At first, I was offended. It seemed a little too forward, too familiar for the student – teach relationship. But I learned that they loved her and it was out of affection.

It didn’t start out well. A friend of mine, her cousin, tried to match us up on St. Patrick’s day. I don’t like corned beer, I don’t like cabbage, and I didn’t really like her. After we ate, I suggested we go bowling. She wanted to sit around and talk about politics. So I went bowling.

A few months later we tried it again. Robocop at the drive in. Things worked out better after that. On December 31, 1988 we were married at the Hotel Del Coronado in San Diego. Quite the New Year’s Eve Party. The next morning we went down to the Crown Room for breakfast. The line was well out the door and into the lobby. Someone came and took us out of the line and sat us at a prime table near the windows overlooking the garden. Now, here we are.

Not only does my wife take exceptionally good care of me, she doesn’t subscribe to the Happy Wife, Happy Life way of thinking. You can see her post about that on her own blog here.

My wife is probably the wisest person that I have ever met. She’s really smart about things like history, English, and  grammar & composition. But that’s not what I’m talking about. What I’m referring to is her ability to look at life and see what’s really going on.

She’s been called a prophet. Not the kind that foretells the future. A prophet is also someone who speaks forth truth.

I believe I’ve mentioned before that we ran a private Christian school for a number of years. (Thank you Barak Obama and merry band of Democrats for running that into the ground.) It was small. We typically started the school year with about 25 kids in the 9th – 12th grades, with the occasional 8th grader. We ended each year with over 50.

My wife took the school over from someone who was operating it at a local church and ran with it. She quickly grew from having just one other teacher to hiring three other teachers, which she paid very well, plus a teacher’s aid.

The only advertising we ever did was to send a flyer to the area churches, announcing that we had a Christian high school and gave them the web site where they could read our mission statement and so forth. As far as we could tell, we didn’t get a single student out of that effort.

What averaged us two new kids each month was my wife’s reputation. Word of mouth spreads quickly and it’s the best form of advertisement you can’t buy. The kids would constantly tell my wife that they had a friend who wanted to come, never having set foot in the building, but just hearing about how great it was. Or a parent would call and tell her that they needed to put their kid with her because a friend or relative told them Preuss really cared and could help.

George wasn’t popular with kids and parents because she catered to the students whims, gave them whatever they wanted, or because she was a pushover.

Quite the opposite, in fact.

She didn’t beg parents to send their kids to our little school. George went to their house and met each one personally. It was a reverse interview. Not, “Here’s why you should give me your kid.” It was, “Why should I take on the responsibility of teaching your child?” And the kid had to be there for the discussion. It didn’t go at all like the child expected it to go. She talked to them, asked them questions, showed an interest, and gave them a voice, which some of them were terribly lacking. Kids weren’t sent to her, they came to her. She was like the Pied Piper.

The structure and discipline that George provided was sometimes all that the child received. They weren’t getting those things at home. They respected her because she set a standard of behavior and held them to it. She set boundaries, and like teenagers will do, they pushed those boundaries to see how far they could go. They act like they want to break you, but in all reality, what they want is for you stand your ground, to hold firm, and stay true to your word. They want to respect you. She wasn’t unreasonable, and she allowed them to have certain freedoms. As long as they were respectful,  produced, and learned.

She didn’t beg for them to stay, either. If they got out of line she would say, “If you’re not happy here, you can go somewhere else. You don’t have to stay. Nobody’s making you come here. Go on, follow your rainbow, if that’s what you want.” I can count on one hand the number of kids who left because they were genuinely unhappy.

Over 300 children passed through our little school. Some came to get their grades straightened out, several left in their senior year and went to a public school because they wanted to graduate with their friends. Of those she had, for whatever length of time they were there, she says that her success rate was about 98%. There were some she couldn’t help. They were just too angry, or didn’t want to be helped. It was quite the revelation, and a very big disappointment, when she realized that she couldn’t help them all.

But of those successes, some are quite stunning.

One particularly angry student came to her who was self-admittedly borderline Columbine. It took some time, but that student eventually went to Bible school and has a close relationship with God. Another received a full ride scholarship to medical school. Her plan was to become a medical missionary to Africa.

George had a no homework policy. If you didn’t get your work done, you didn’t go home. There were many nights we were there well past 6 PM, sometimes as late as 8 PM. I hung around, cleaned up, and helped grade papers. He was griping, as teenagers do. One day, one of the other kids who used to have some trouble with the same thing, but turned herself around, finally told him, “If you just give her what she wants, you won’t have any problems.” It was like a light bulb came on. He finally got it.

She treated them like adults. Have an opinion. Disagree with me. Argue and debate me. Have an original thought. Establish a conviction upon a firm foundation. She taught them critical thinking, something that is terribly lacking in today’s educational system.

She wore boots and stomped up and down the length of the room, pounding on tables, and teaching in such an animated manner it drew the kids into the story she was telling. They wanted to learn and they wanted Preuss to teach them.

And she forced them to treat each other with respect.

If they mistreated one another or were rude, she called them on it, hard. If a skateboard or iPod came up missing, she’d tell them that she was going to pray to God that the thief would suffer ten times the loss. Only one time did the object not appear on her desk within hours. The one time it didn’t, we found the skateboard among the buckets in a storage room when we closed down.

She taught them to fear God, but she also taught them that God was their Father and that he wanted only the best for them. They could go to Him and he would answer their prayers. They went, and He did.

Parents weren’t always right. George taught them how to respond to an unreasonable parent. What to do if a parent doesn’t believe you. How to regain lost trust. How to react when you’re being treated unfairly.

It wasn’t just the kids that she counseled. Parents often came in to talk to her, or called her on the phone. George was straight up with them and told them what, if anything, they were doing wrong, or guided them on how best to handle a particular situation.

One of the students she had went on to become and Eagle Scout. Not a small deal. He asked her to attend his ceremony. He received a single Mentoring Pin which he could present to anyone he wanted. He chose Preuss. I was very proud of her when she brought that home.

We closed the school down about four years ago, but to this day, she gets phone calls, e-mails, Facebook friend requests, instant messages, text messages, and invitations from her kids.

They call Preuss because they know she’s going to tell them the truth. She’ll dig out their hidden motives and agendas and get to the heart of the matter. She’ll give them an honest appraisal of their choices and suggest a course of action. They know they can count on her. Preuss will know what to do, she’s going to help me.

We’ve been married almost 30 years and she still likes me.

Proverbs 31:10-31 10 Who can find a virtuous woman?
for her price [is] far above rubies. 11 The heart of her husband
doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil.
12 She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life.
13 She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands.
14 She is like the merchants’ ships; she bringeth her food from afar.
15 She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household,
and a portion to her maidens. 16 She considereth a field, and buyeth it:
with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard.
17 She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms.
18 She perceiveth that her merchandise [is] good:
her candle goeth not out by night. 19 She layeth her hands to the
spindle, and her hands hold the distaff. 20 She stretcheth out her
hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy.
21 She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household
[are] clothed with scarlet. 22 She maketh herself coverings of tapestry;
her clothing [is] silk and purple. 23 Her husband is known in the gates,
when he sitteth among the elders of the land. 24 She maketh fine linen,
and selleth [it]; and delivereth girdles unto the merchant.
25 Strength and honour [are] her clothing; and she shall rejoice
in time to come. 26 She openeth her mouth with wisdom;
and in her tongue [is] the law of kindness. 27 She looketh well
to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness.
28 Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband [also],
and he praiseth her. 29 Many daughters have done virtuously,
but thou excellest them all. 30 Favour [is] deceitful, and beauty [is] vain:
[but] a woman [that] feareth the LORD, she shall be praised.
31 Give her of the fruit of her hands;
and let her own works praise her in the gates.

I did far better than I ever thought I would. I know that I could have done no better.

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Movin’ On Up!

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I see that it’s been nine months since my last post. No apologies, I warned you.

A lot has happened during that time. The thing that interrupted my flow was a promotion. It was almost a last-minute thing. I decided just days before the deadline to apply. There was a lot of studying to do, and a competitive interview over the course of a few days. About seventy-something people went in for the auditions, roughly two dozen made it to the list. I was number three.

I received offers for additional interviews to promote to other shoppes within the Company, but I was holding out for an in-house move up. One other person in my House interviewed. She was number two. Our scores were only a few points apart.

We were both turning down one offer after another, banking on the possibility that we hoped was more probability, that a current supervisor was going to transfer out. When that person did, all we had to do was hope nobody transferred in. When this supervisor did go, and nobody transferred in, we both accepted the invitation to interview.

I felt much better going into this one than I did the first one. Why? What made this one so much different than the last?

The first interview was virtually a regurgitation of facts. Did I know what to do if someone came in drunk, or engaged in sexual harassment, or was constantly late for work, or was injured on the job. That kind of thing isn’t really my strong suit. I never tested well.

This was going to be more personal. I’m not necessarily more comfortable talking about myself, but I’ve been in enough promotional interviews to know that I had to sell myself. I’d given a great deal of thought to the questions I’d thought they’d ask.

There was one question that I was anticipating that was never asked the first time. What is your greatest strength and your greatest weakness. That question is almost always asked, yet I find that most people haven’t given a single thought about how they will answer it. Coming up with something that sets you apart is easy. Everyone is good at something that could be applied to virtually any position.

But what does one say about a personal flaw or failing? You certainly don’t want to say that you have no flaws. That sounds arrogant, and anyone who can’t admit to having made a mistake is a liability. That kind of person can leave a team, or an entire corporation, in a real lurch.

What do you say? Do you go all out about the worse thing that comes to your mind about yourself? “My memory sucks.” How will that look when retention and recall are vital to the position? “I can’t stand fat people.” Whoops, your potential boss is 300 pounds. “Gay people give me the willies!” Um, right. “I hate the color purple. Barney terrorized me as a toddler.” Don’t forget to shiver.

What I told them was, “Quite frankly, I’m a social dork.” And I am.

I have a hard enough time keeping up with conversation in a loud, public setting, I don’t need to compete for air-time. There are enough people present who are trying to talk louder than the next guy, the last thing I’m going to do is add to the cacophony. I can’t stand it when Sean Hannity does his thing with thirty people in his studio. Everyone thinks that they have something more important to say, or they want to shout down someone who disagrees with them. I can’t hear what any of them thinks.

This gets in the way when my wife and I end up at a dinner with a table full of people we don’t know. My poor wife ends up taking up my slack.

Now, if you ask me about something I care about, or know something about, I’ll jump right I there. Not a problem. I don’t even mind a good debate, as long as everyone can be an adult about it. But I’ve learned that when it comes to religion or politics, you’re not going to change anyone’s mind, and more than likely, they aren’t going to change yours, either.

What does that have to do with my desired supervisor position? I took the chance that it would make me appear weak. What I was counting on was that they had talked to my peers and former supervisors to find out I’m not a wilting wall-flower or just shy. I was not afraid to be heard if I had something to say. The thing I had to learn was where, when, and how to interject myself into the conversation in order to be heard.

The rest of the interview was more about my experience and style of supervision. It was very conversational and went better than any previous promotional interview I’d ever had. Probably because I was older, wiser, more mature, and had three decades of experience and history to back me up.

I don’t really know how well the other person who was vying for the same job did. She said she felt pretty good about it, but wasn’t sure. She’s much more personable than I am, and I’m sure she presented herself well. I think that my extensive time in the field is what ultimately put me over the top. I do think that the other person would make a great supervisor, and had I not gotten the job, I’m glad that it would have been her.

Here I am, eight months after my official promotion. Things have gone about as well as I could have expected. I am enjoying my job. It offers a lot more freedom than I had before. When I fill in, doing what I used to do, like today, I’m reminded do some of the reasons I decided that now was the right time to advance. Perhaps I’ll write more on that later.

There is a school of thought that I should have promoted into another House, then come back after a year or three. I don’t completely disagree with that. But I am not in a place in my life where that would be possible.

God has blessed me tremendously. Everything fell into place exactly as it needed to for me to slide behind the desk I now occupy. Had things gone another way, I would have decided that God did not want me to do that job. At least not here, or not right now. I would not have blamed God, or gotten mad at Him for taking it away from me.

God doesn’t do things on our clock. He may do what we ask Him to do, but don’t look for Him to do it our way or within the time limit we establish. What is supposed to happen, will happen. When it is supposed to happen. No more, no less. Not before, nor after. We have to adapt ourselves to God’s time table and methods, not try to restrict Him to ours.

The Near Death Experience

In coming posts I’m going to discuss my views on things supernatural. These topics tend to generate a lot of disagreement, and therefore some vociferous debate. Fine, I can deal with that.

My first subject is the Near Death Experience (NDE).

If you do a search for near-death experiences on Amazon, you’ll get over 35,000 hits. Granted, some of those are going to be duplicates of one sort or another, but even if you remove those, it’s still going to be a whole lot of matches.

Raymond Moody, MD was the first to coin the phrase near-death experience in 1975 in his book Life after Life.

The International Association for Near-Death Studies describes an NDE as follows:

iands

near-death experience (NDE) is a distinct subjective experience that people sometimes report after a near-death episode. In a near-death episode, a person is either clinically dead, near death, or in a situation where death is likely or expected. These circumstances include serious illness or injury, such as from a car accident, military combat, childbirth, or suicide attempt. People in profound grief, in deep meditation, or just going about their normal lives have also described experiences that seem just like NDEs, even though these people were not near death. Many near-death experiencers (NDErs) have said the term “neardeath” is not correct; they are sure that they were in death, not just near-death.

Near-death experiencers (NDErs) have reported two types of experiences. Most NDErs have reported pleasurable NDEs. These experiences involve mostly feelings of love, joy, peace, and/or bliss. A small number of NDErs have reported distressing NDEs. These experiences involve mostly feelings of terror, horror, anger, isolation, and/or guilt. Both types of NDErs usually report that the experience was hyper-real—even more real than earthly life.

The IANDS web site is very informative and worth exploring. www.iands.org. There are many others that also deserve a look.

Opponents of NDEs say that they are just a natural part of the dying process. The neurological connections and chemicals in the brain going haywire and everything that the person experiences is an elaborate hallucination. This is an easy thing for someone who does not want to believe in a life after death to grab and hang on to. Especially for non-Christians.

proofofheavenI’ve read a lot of books on NDEs. The best one I’ve come across is by Dr. Eban Alexander, MD. Doctor Alexander is a neurosurgeon who did not believe in God. He thought that NDE’s were not real. Not that the people who experienced them were lying, but that their brain was simply enduring the dying process. He was a scientist and a surgeon. He specialized in the body’s brain and neurological systems. When you say, “It isn’t brain surgery!”, to him, it is. He knows how everything works. He knew for a fact that NDE’s were not out of body experiences of the realms of heaven and hell and encounters with angelic and demonic beings.

His own NDE changed his mind.

The name of the book is Proof of Heaven. When you search Amazon for NDEs, this book is at the top of the list. It’s well worth the read. There are a lot of video presentations and interviews of Dr. Alexander available on YouTube. His web sit is www.lifebeyonddeath.net.

Now, before you go expounding on Esquire’s article by Luke Dittrich debunking Dr. Alexander, read this rebuttal to his editorial by Robert Mays. Mr. Dittrich is less that honest and forthright in his own treatise of Dr. Alexander’s experience. He is someone who is so biased against NDE’s that he will resort to the most underhanded methods in an effort to disprove them and discredit Dr. Alexander.

Near Death Experiences aren’t all light and love. Some of them are dark, tormenting, painful, dismal, and utterly hopeless. Proof of Heaven is the story of one such hell experience. One of many. Some of these are saved from their torment and a heavenly experience follows before they return to their bodies. Others are brought out of hell and only experience the light and God’s love before their bodies are reanimated.

Some of the most interesting and convincing accounts are called veridical NDE’s. These are accounts of NDErs who see and hear what is happening on the earthly plane during the out-of-body experience, can remember what they experienced, and their stories can be verified. Some of them are outlined here at IANDS. These most dramatically prove that an NDE is not just the brain hallucinating while it is dying. Maria’s Shoe is Kimbly Clark Sharp’s story. She was a nurse in Seattle and one of her cardiac patients in CICU had died for some time and returned. She told Sharp she had experienced an NDE and told her there was a shoe on a ledge outside of the hospital on one of the upper floors on the other side of the building. Clark’s own NDE account, as well as Maria’s Shoe story, are described in her book After the Light.

On the other side, whether in heaven or in hell, time has no meaning. Some people are out of their body for only a few minutes, but reading what happened to them, you would think that it could not possibly take place during that time frame. Others are gone for an extended period of time, but their experience seems to last only moments. They arrive in heaven, are greeted, and immediately sent back. The spiritual realms exist outside of our own time and space, or dimension, if you prefer.

Although the details vary widely, the one thing that is common throughout them is that God’s ever-present, unconditional, greater-than-ever-experienced love is pervasive throughout. God knows our sin and loves us anyway. He doesn’t judge us, He lets us judge ourselves, and we are honest about our own condition. The love God has for us is expected to be practiced by us towards everyone else. Not just people we think are worthy, because we are not worthy of God’s love. To everyone. That’s consistent with what Paul tells us in I Corinthians 13:13, “The greatest of these is love.” Without that, you have nothing.

This is a very light touch on the subject; much more could be written.

I believe in them. Why? I see sufficient evidence to show that they are exactly as they are presented – Out-of-body experiences and subsequent journeys to heaven and/or hell, complete with encounters of heavenly and demonic beings. I do not have any reason to doubt the veracity of their claims.

What do you think?

Is Christian Gamers a Contradiction in Terms?

addphb35No.

But some won’t believe it.

Ask most Christians about Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) and they will tell you that it’s a tool of the devil. That you’re opening yourself up to demon possession and untold evil will befall you. That only Satanists play D&D.

I used to think that way. But twenty years ago I made friends with a new coworker. He talked about his younger days planning D&D and the fun they would have sitting around the table solving puzzles, defeating monsters, and falling victim to some incredibly funny traps. I was rolling on the floor laughing.

Some time later we visited the local gaming store. We live in a county larger than some states, but the population is really quite small, so it was the only gaming store within a hundred miles. The people there were incredibly friendly. They were starting a new D&D campaign that would meet once a week and they were looking for players. We signed up, I bought the Wizards of the Coast Player’s Handbook 3.0. It’s actually called Advanced Dungeon’s and Dragons now. My friend helped me roll up my character.

A bit of background for those who are not familiar with AD&D. There are three basic alignments – Good, Neutral, and Evil. Within each of those there are more specific labels. I wasn’t going to play an evil character and chose good. I’ll save you the rest of the character’s attributes. For the purposes of this discussion the alignment is the only thing that is important.

A few weeks later we went to our first session. Everyone there had a Good character of some type. No Evil baddies in the group. I was glad to see that. If you’ve ever played AD&D, or seen some of the comics about groups of players, you’d recognize our party’s stereotypes. I was the noobie. I got my character in all kinds of trouble. We had our Rules Lawyer. His job was to question any ruling by the Dungeon Master (the guy running the game) that went against our party. He also maximized rules and stretched interpretations if they would help. There were people playing cross-gender characters. The quiet one who just wanted to have fun and went with the flow. One who just wanted to fight and kill monster. One who got deep into character, complete with funny voices. You name it. They were a blast. And they were very patient while I learned the game and laughed themselves silly when I got my character into trouble. They became friends.

I could see where a young skulls full of mush could become involved in the game and be influenced by the forces of darkness. However, I would have to say that there was something about that person that likely gave them that particular bent to begin with. You would create an evil character because you already had the desire to be evil and do evil things. The door is already open in your heart. I will concede that the game could then be used by the powers of darkness to strengthen their hold on the person, but the game itself is not evil.

But I also recognized where the game could be used to help teach someone how to become a better person and lead a more productive life. A Paladin is, by the rules of the game, a Lawful Good character. He does not commit any evil or questionable act, even if he could justify it by a good outcome, nor does he consort with any character that is not good. It is strictly against the rules. Paladins think about others before themselves and will make sacrifices in order to help another person. A thief is a thief and restitution is a must. Redemption is possible, but must be proven. Paladins seek out other like-minded individuals to associate with.

My argument is that the type of character selected is indicative of the kind of person the player is. The character is evil because the player is, or wants to be, evil, not the other way around. This may be a very simplistic explanation for some more complicated game mechanics, but the principle still applies.

For the most part, I believe that Christians are trying to do what’s best, and their hearts are in the right place. I’m with them on Ouija boards. They have one purpose and one purpose only – to contact the dead, evil spirits, and demons. They have no redeeming qualities whatsoever. They are capable of opening portals that just can’t be closed.

My best advice is, if you think that it’s bad, then you should stay away from it. If your parents think that it’s evil and tell you to avoid it, then do what your parents tell you to do; that is your obligation under God. The game has been around for decades and will still be then when you are an adult, if you’re still interested.

Thoughts?