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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Who knows?

Sooner or later, all drivers are forced to make a decision. We asks the question in our minds, “Which road do I take?”

I was on a two-week trip to England many years ago. As it happens, I was given a car by some friends and was able to drive all over the location where we were staying. It was great, but two things you will learn quickly when driving a car in England: First, the driver side is on the right side of the car. You can imagine the confusion that initially grips you when you are turning left and you realize you normally would be dozing off, people watching or staring out at the scenery. And then it hits you – YOU ARE DRIVING, NOT YOUR PASSENGER! Secondly, when driving in England there are many nooks and crannies and roads, none of which look wide enough to fit a motorcycle, let alone a vehicle. And you have to get your map out and figure it all out!

If you don’t have a map, you a re in trouble. If you are male, you are even in more trouble because you will not get out of the car to ask someone for directions. But if you do, take care – if you have just arrived from American soil, you might have a hard time understanding half of what they tell you! (Contrary to what you have heard, English spoken in the “mother tongue” still qualifies as a foreign language!) When all is lost, we throw up our arms and say, “Who knows?” It is then that we have to say a prayer and hope for a miracle. Funny how we eventually get where we need to. Coincidence? Divine Providence? Hmmm.

Someone knew. They guided us all the way.

I remember the shear terror that gripped me when I graduated from High School. “What am I gonna do now?” I asked this over and over in my head that whole post-graduation summer. I had virtually ZERO aspirations, being a very talented procrastinator, party animal extraordinaire and carefree / no-thought-for-tomorrow kind of guy.

I played the fool all through high school. And the most foolish of all things – I actually thought I could live this way indefinitely. But God knew differently.

That’s the thing; God knew.

When I was at the end of my rope, my back against the proverbial wall during my first year of college, I couldn’t take the despair and fear anymore. I needed God to show me. I needed God to tell me my future.

You know what’s funny? He didn’t tell me anything about my future… except that I was going the wrong way! It was as if that RED SIGN on the Freeway Exit Ramp that says “WRONG WAY” was placed in front of my face. God called out to me and told me it was time to grow up, get up, and get going with my future – His way.

I don’t know where my path will lead me in the coming days. I would guess, if I did know, I would probably freak out anyway.

Tarot Cards? Palm Reading? Horoscope?

Really?

I think it’s much more fun to trust God and know as LITTLE AS POSSIBLE of my future. That’s me. If I was told when I and where I would meet my wife exactly, I probably would have messed it up somehow. I may have tried to speed up the process. Or worse yet, I may not have felt the necessary freedom to make the right choice in the first place.

All I can tell you is this – I STILL don’t know where I am going! I STILL don’t know my future. God knows. I guess, that’s really all we need to know.

Who knows? God does. And because of that, you can trust Him to guide you every step of the way.

Until next time,

Jeff

Photo used by permission. Flickr / Creative Commons License

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

Now & Later – Part 3 of 4

So where was I?

Oh yes! Now and Later candy. Yummy. Can use, re-use… even re-re-use.

Only thing is – it will screw up your dental work! Man I could tell you stories of when our mouths would lock up during a Now & Later chewing episode. I remember I used to get scared as I would be chewing away and then after stopping for a rest, my teeth would suddenly bond! I tried and tried to re-open my mouth. But to no avail! The Now & Later candy had fused my teeth together! Lowers stuck to uppers forever and ever AMEN!

I remember in my wonder years that this would almost send me into panic attack – wondering would I ever be able to eat again. Or would I have to get a pry bar and rip it all apart and sort my extracted teeth out later!

I think they could use Now & Later candy as a NASA commercial-grade glue on the space shuttle. Or maybe as a fastener for high speed engines in NASCAR. The stuff is beyond sticky. I could take you to my parents home where we grow up and show you the Now & Later spots in their carpet where that stuff fell, never to be retrieved again. Once it sticks, that’s it until Jesus comes back!

So likewise should great friends stick together.

Friends are to be friends forever (as the Michael W. Smith song says), but many times we just move on to the new friends. Right? “Old friends, meh… what do we need them for? Their OLD!” We want NEW everything in America.

The value of old friends however, goes far beyond the “honeymoon phase”…

Proverbs 17:9 says “Whoever would foster love covers over an offense, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends.” (New NIV)

I recall a time I was struggling with an offense that a very dear friend had done to me. It was quite severe, at least to me and how I experienced it on the receiving end. But at the same time, the close friend that committed this act against me very likely didn’t realize it, and possibly was going through enormous pressure with other things that were tearing their personal life apart at that time. Even though I knew this, the offense still was very real and raw and I pulled away from this friend for a couple years. We didn’t even speak; which was mostly on my end, since the friend would sometimes try to reach out in small ways.

But I wanted them to apologize.

Then I read this verse in Proverbs 17:9 (CAUTION: Beware of just randomly reading your Bible on a given day! You will get hit with a truth bomb like a submarine running into an enemy depth charge! Ha ha. Just kidding. That’s the goal, right?).

I thought about my friend immediately as the Holy Spirit brought… not really conviction, but just a very sweet reasoning. “So Jeff, you and this person were amazing friends for a long time, right?” I had to admit we were. “This person has done more for you than almost anyone has in your entire life.” I thought, yes that is true. Then this douzy hit me – “Jeff, this friend will never ask for forgiveness for this sin. It was way off their radar screen at the time. You do need to forgive them. They did sin against you. But it was more of an unconscious act on their part. They won’t ever understand your side. And it happened several years ago. They wont remember the details of it. Is it worth it to let this sin separate you two forever?”

I had to admit that I valued the friendship much more than holding on to the offense. So I contacted my friend.

To this day we are good friends and our relationship is back on track. I think I would have lost that friendship forever. And NO – I did not bring up that offense!

Maybe you are not like me, maybe you cannot forgive sins that are committed against you by someone close to you. Some sins are obviously much more severe in consequence. But also it is true that EVERY GREAT RELATIONSHIP will be tested by potential offenses on both parties. No one is perfect.

The skill of friendship lies in being able to forgive, as well as communicate offenses in a loving way when its appropriate. This verse suggests as well that their are some offenses that should not even be communicated, just forgiven and forgotten.

We can talk about boundaries and earning the right to be brought into a closer circle of depth in regards to friendships. But for certain kinds of issues, we sometimes need to just move on, and love, and forgive and just – DROP IT ALREADY!

Tune in next time as I address NOW & LATER – PART 4 of 4!

Jeff

Transformation Fuel

I admit it – I have run out of gas before.

One time my wife and I were driving home after a late night and I noticed that my fuel gauge said I was getting close to empty.

Now first a word about fuel gauges – I look back on the vehicles I have owned through the years – all of them had fuel gauges that indicated when you were exactly empty! Ha – you know, like when the red is at the top of the empty dash, and when it goes all the way below the dash to “actual empty”. (Are you laughing yet?)

Seriously, there is really an actual empty and a technically empty on your vehicle.

But this night when Sylvie and I drove my car till we ran out of gas, my indicator has changed now and no longer goes below the empty line. It gets stuck at just above empty!

Now I know – once I get near empty, I must get gas because once it hits just above empty, that’s the last point I know when the last gallon of gas is available!

It’s so important in life to know when we are getting close to empty – if we stop being able to know how much fuel we have, we won’t know until its too late and we find ourselves stranded , frustrated and isolated.

In order to experience true personal transformation in your life, you need fuel to get you there.

And in order to make sure you have enough fuel, make sure to constantly watch your levels and indicators – the Bible is our indicator and gauge . The Spirit of God is that fuel you and I need in order to be ready for our transformation journey – be filled every day!

More about TRANSFORMATION next time!