School of Joy

I’ll never forget the day I was told by my parents that I would be attending a new jr. high school.

I hoped against hope that I would be sent to a private school, or even the older jr. high school just one suburb away. But my worst fears came true when my Mom said, “Honey you are going to go to the new jr. high school next to our church!” I was not excited.

Why?

Hmmm. Maybe the fact that this new school was notorious for brutality, violence and lots of bullying. I was told the scary stories by some of my friends who were a year older than I. Some of them even had the scars to prove it. This school had 7th, 8th and 9th graders together.

Also, you know – I was the firstborn; for those of you who think that’s a great benefit or something, think again. What that really means is this – I got no one to watch my back. I didn’t have a bigger brother who had already cleared the way for me. I had to pioneer the trail myself – my two younger brothers would benefit from the path I trod. It was up to me to start things off. Sure, I had my dad. My dad could beat up anybody’s dad, right? 🙂 Well, that was not too far from the truth. But why would I put myself in the position of being constantly tormented for being a tattler? No way. I basically never told my parents my junk. I just told them the good news.

Just days before my first day of school, my nerves were frayed to the breaking point. I might have even been having a mild nervous breakdown. My stomach was acidy and taught. My appetite was gone. I counted down the days, hours and minutes. Finally my dad realized how hard it was for me and encouraged me that most likely my fears were in my mind, and this could be the start of a wonderful future.

That was a soothing thought.

Still I was unsettled.

The first day at the new Middle School finally came. Well, I got on the bus that morning with a growing feeling of hope and confidence. I looked around and analyzed each student. They all seemed pretty tame to me.

The bus arrived at the drop-off area, and we all got out. One at a time, we sauntered single-file toward the entrance of the school. The first thing that struck me from the outside was how nice and clean it was. The building, I mean. Lots of glass. And a huge gymnasium – as big as most college gymnasiums. I was impressed. I always loved gym class.

As we got about 30 feet from the door, the line suddenly took a sudden left. We were now being directed to a side entrance door. No worries. There were several entrance doors.

I looked back and saw that in actuality, a few of us got diverted by some crazy kid up ahead. I was maybe the 3rd kid in a line of 5. The rest still entered through the main entrance. I didn’t give it a second thought and reached out for the door handle.

Now the deal about this entrance was that there was a “breeze way” style set up with inside doors and outside doors. I had reached out for the outside door handle, and began to enter this “breeze way” area. The next few moments were all a blur, I must confess. I vaguely recall the person in front of me jumping up and then screaming. I didn’t know what he was so worked-up about. Maybe he was just so excited to walk into that school.

It was then that I felt – it. Oh, I felt it!

A burning sensation suddenly pierced my right tricep. I could feel a massive clamp pinching down on my clothing and my flesh. I shouted out loud – pretty much exactly the way the kid in front of me had done.

And then, I saw – him!

This crazy 9th-grade kid was standing there between the inside and outside doors with a large firewood scissors/clamp. It shrunk to about 2 feet when retracted, and when extended, it would reach out to 6 feet or more! And even worse, at it’s full extension, the two ends would come together like a gigantic clamp.

I couldn’t believe my eyes! I wasn’t even in the school building and already, I was bleeding!

Bleeding! My first day of school! My first moment of school! Bullies so advanced and trained, they were located at every jr. high orface – probably with walkie talkies all in sync, just waiting to beat me up! Turns out the rumors about this school were not only true, they were horrendously under-played!

The first thing that entered my mind was this question, “Where is the nurses’ office?”

Throughout that first day, I witnessed people getting slammed into walls, getting their books kicked out from under their arms and scattered across the hallway floors, only to be further kicked and punted down the hallways by the rest of the crammed throng of jr. high youth. These kids were so mean, I wondered why didn’t we send junior highers into war to fight for our country instead of innocent 18-year old boys?

I wondered what those poor kids felt like when their books were kicked out of their hands? But not to worry – before long I was soon to find out for myself time and time again.

As a 7th grader, I got straight A’s my first semester – and it all went downhill from there. I was getting C’s throughout the rest of my years at this school. And the biggest reason for my scholastic decline was most definitely the numerous bullies who made me their main target.

The adults in the school were not unlike teachers anywhere. They would sometimes stand up for me, but most of the time they just stayed with the other teachers in the teachers lounge.

And so it was, my first day of school was complete. I had three more years of this treatment to look forward to. When I got off the bus, I walked up the driveway and into my house, where my mother greeted me as she asked,

“How was your first day of school, Jeff?”

“It was… great.”

Ha ha.

Tell you what, I will tell you PART II of MY EVIL SCHOOL! There are many, many more horror stories believe me!

See you next time!

Jeff

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Don’t get offended.

“I mean this in love and in no way intend this to come across as negative or critical, but…”

Ever have someone start out a conversation this way? Not the easiest statement to hear someone else say to us. Well, don’t feel too bad, it’s only natural to put up an emotional wall, or get verbally defensive when someone we know well confronts us with an issue.

Whether they say it in love or not, or whether it is even well-intended or meant to hurt us, I think we can learn to glean value from any kind of confrontation, rebuke, even attack.

Granted, some verbal attacks are purely worthless and should be discarded immediately. In fact, I sometimes think the reason many of us get defensive when spoken to this way is actually because of a lack of GOOD DEFENSE.

Now hear me, I am not saying that it is good to “get defensive”… not at all. What I propose to you is this: If we have built healthy boundaries (read any book from the amazing series BOUNDARIES by Henry Cloud and John Townsend) in our Circle of Relationships (ask ME for a copy of this helpful tool ), we won’t have to “get defensive” when bombarded, attacked, or lovingly addressed in a proper way.

You see, if you have built healthy DEFENSES ahead of time, you don’t need to GET DEFENSIVE at the spur of the moment!

You can listen to that person, chew any meat they may have given, and spit out the bones. And if someone gives you ALL BONES, well then you can spit the entire mess out and get a good breath mint later!

Jesus didn’t need to get defensive when verbally attacked by his critics, because he already had healthy defenses built before hand.

Some of these defenses relate more to a healthy view of ourselves and a confidence of who God is in us and the fact that if He is for us, we have nothing to fear.

In fact, if you find yourself getting defensive often, that indicates you probably have not built good DEFENSES up in your inner man. And in fact, you may find inside your soul many conflicting sources pulling and pushing you to really fly off the handle emotionally, psychologically, physically.

God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of love, power and a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7)

Now I would be a hypocrite to make it sound like I am such a well-adjusted human being that I have never, ever become defensive. The exact opposite scenario is closer to the truth. You see, I found so many unhealthy emotional triggers inside of me when I first started my spiritual journey – I was one of the most defensive people on the planet. I discovered part of the reason had to do with being a very caring person – I was sensitive. But sensitivity without a healthy defense system on the inside will produce a lot of pain. I had to “toughen up” as others say.

But truthfully, it had nothing to do with getting tougher, but with getting fortified with a good set of boundaries and inner foundational truths. It took years and still I am growing in that area even to this day.

I wish I could go into greater detail with this, but if I did, this would not be a blog entry, but a book. And for more detail, you are going to have to wait for THE BOOK – “The Life” ha ha.

So all I can tell you is this – you and I need our source to be God inside of us in order to build healthy defenses on the outside. Then and only then, when the time comes for someone to “share a personal word” with us, we won’t get defensive anymore, but instead, with peace and calmness we can gently listen to the person(s) and filter the information properly with a smile, and even say, “Thank you so much for sharing that with me. I will take it into consideration. Have a great day!”

Sounds easy, of course it is not. But with His Life inside of us, it is more than POSSIBLE!

Until next time,

Jeff Saxton

A Loyal Friend

Let’s be honest – loyalty isn’t exactly considered to be the unpardonable
sin in 21st century America. It would seem that people value and promote
occasional calculated acts of disloyalty as needed for, say… a job
promotion, a romantic interest, getting an “in” with a higher social group –
even in the church community.

There seems to be a disconnect in the minds of many “Christians” who claim
to love God and yet wouldn’t think twice about betraying a close friend.
Disloyalty is even considered a “moral” in and of itself – if it leads to a
so-called “greater good.”

It seems way too easy to betray another person. All you have to do is open
your mouth and talk. Proverbs 16:28 says, “A perverse man stirs up dissension,
and a gossip separates close friends.”

The Bible clearly condemns stirring up dissension through gossip or any other
means. The fact is, Proverbs says anyone who would do this is a perverse
person.

Truth be told, it is hard not to betray others. It’s easy to be disloyal. It
takes effort to remain loyal – especially when you may have a good excuse for
not remaining loyal. We have all been guilty of hanging with close friends
and then suddenly finding ourselves running the gossip train all night long.
It feels good, it makes us happy about ourselves, and let’s face it, talking
about others can be hilarious – in the “right” company.

A great friend sees you at your worst, and still thinks the best of you.  If
we look down on someone for whatever reason, we have just entered the
hypocrite zone – a place we dare not enter, and a place once entered that is
nearly impossible to ever leave without a serious reality check and a deep
work of spiritual contrition.

Next blog entry – I will continue with A LOYAL FRIEND –  PART II

In or Out?

Are you IN or OUT?

What I mean to ask is, are you in the “in” crowd or the “out” crowd? If you answered “in crowd”, then you might want to re-adjust your focus and priorities. If you answered “out crowd”, ironically you may also need to re-adjust your priorities.

Have you noticed that cliques and certain social groups kind of naturally “pop up” in church? This is sad, but inevitable of course. I think most visitors today feel comfortable in churches where this kind of “vibe” is kept at a minimum.

But if you are trying to be part of the “in” crowd, what does that really mean? There is a balance of being open and vulnerable and wanting to have fellowship with God’s family, and yet also not wanting to create a closed social group that basically looks down on other people for not being “good enough” or “cool enough” or “spiritual enough”. I have found that whatever the variety of the clique, it ultimately becomes a negative and dangerous element within the life of a church.

Jesus said, “Watch out for the leaven of the Pharisees!” (Luke 12:1) His disciples didn’t get it. But Jesus saw them begin to compete with each other and desire to be greater than each other. Jesus lifted up a little toddler and told everyone that “if you want to be great, you must become like this little child.” (Matthew 18:3)

At the end of the day, Jesus is not at all impressed with how stylish and put together you appear on the outside – he cares about your humility and purity of heart on the inside. Hypocrisy is that leaven that Jesus warned about.

It is hypocrisy to think you are “better” than anyone. God knows your heart. We are all the same at the foot of the cross. And we need to live that way if we are to avoid becoming leaven – which is like a really bad infection. Is that how you want to appear before God and all the hosts of heaven today? You want to look like puss is oozing out from within you? Yuck!

Here is a sure-fire way to tell when you are becoming part of a badly infected clique – if anyone in that clique tells you who you should hang out with, and who you should not, it’s time to run!

If you are part of a group that consistently invites only certain people, and at the suggestion of inviting someone new or different (not including someone who would of course actually be unhealthy to relate with) , you sense a negative reaction from them, it is time to find a new group ASAP. Whatever the social motivations, be sure that they are not motivated to be like Jesus. Because Jesus was the opposite of exclusive and pompous.

Jesus would leave that group, go hang out with that person, and begin inviting other people to hang with that rejected person.

We all KNOW that is what Jesus would do. But then why do we find these other desires inside of us that want to be part of a “higher class” of people?

I watch “THE HOUSEWIVES OF————” from time to time, I will admit. But they are pitiful to watch. They constantly ooze jealously and envy and pompousness. They always let us all know how great their social groups are and how this makes them more impressive as individuals. And then they tear apart one another on live Television with the most petty and immature behavior that you might ever see on TV.

Is that how you and I want to appear on God’s TV in heaven? We are surrounded by a GREAT CLOUD of witnesses! (Hebrews 12:1)

Guess what, you are in the biggest REALITY PERFORMANCE ever! And you have a wide audience, including the only important viewer – GOD!

I hope you and I can continue to keep relevant in our outward appearances, but within that we must keep our hearts humble and not simply hang with the “in” crowd.

After all, our Savior didn’t fit with the “in” crowd (Pharisees) of his day, and was rejected by them repeatedly and eternally.

Too bad for them.