Thursday, October 25, 2007

Today's worldly wisdom - this too shall pass

I got a comment on my exchange of letters with Stutz Artiano suggesting that I ought to try drugging Stephen and see what happens. That's out of the question because the last thing he needs is to be drugged coercively. People used to think that was improper in Soviet psychiatric hospitals, and laws in California designed to protect people from such a fundamental violation of their persons show that the legislature thinks that applies here too. But the belief in drugs is a specifically American problem, why the US is the biggest consumer in the world of every kind of dope, as well as non-chemical dope like pornography, besides being the principal purveyor of pornography and tobacco to the world. I think this issue is worth addressing in a separate post.

I can think of instances where psychotropic drugs are the way to go, just as antibiotics are appropriate in certain cases. But both are grossly abused, with serious consequences both for individuals and society.

This is an extremely drug-oriented culture, the problem called by Paul the apostle "sorcery," in Greek "pharmakeia." It's a variation of living by the sword - who needs intelligence and careful analysis with patient listening, if you can dope somebody up or throw a few billion dollars or a cruise missile at the problem?

Over a long time, Stephen has demonstrated that he is inclined to be despondent and desperate in connection with school, and not otherwise. He needed to be assessed for his school phobia and any related learning problems, not hopped up so that they don't have to bother finding out about that. The assessment we have now gotten through West End SELPA has in fact turned up plenty worth looking at, and nothing that ought to be masked with dope.

Masking your problems with a bottle of booze, a joint, a line of cocaine, or a Wellbutrin prescription is all the same thing. Its character is not changed because someone with a degree prescribes it, who in Stephen's case couldn't be bothered to learn the history of head injuries that completely rules out Wellbutrin. Indeed Wellbutrin is a norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor, exactly like cocaine except for its seizure potential, which makes it hard to use like cocaine without becoming an epileptic for sure. In other words, to get exactly what you want from Wellbutrin without the risk of seizures and a lifetime of epilepsy, chew coca leaves!

We all easily perceive grave stupidity and wickedness being highly honored in the world at other times and places than our own - white supremacy in 1915 Mississippi, pouring hot oil on battle wounds in 16th century Europe, or bleeding George Washington to death for his bad cold. But we never seem able to smell the stink in the outhouse we happen to be sitting in, which those that follow us will find obvious.

Just as we should not bet on a horse that never wins, we should not put much confidence in worldly fashion that always proves in the end to be folly in some way that from within our world we could not perceive. We need to be skeptical and think things through, never allowing worldly authority and fashion to stand in for straight thinking. That's always stupidity, and so it must always lead to stupid results, with hideous consequences to real human beings.

When Paul wrote, "Be not conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind," and when Jesus said, "If you continue in my word, you shall be my disciples, and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free," this is what they were talking about. By being conformed to this world we will never know the truth and we will never be free. Looking around, the results are obvious.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

"Lord, my heart is not haughty . . ." (Psalm131)

A Song of Ascents. Of David.

Lord, my heart is not haughty, nor my eyes lofty.
Neither do I concern myself with great matters,
Nor with things too profound for me.

Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul,
Like a weaned child with his mother.
Like a weaned child is my soul within me.

O Israel, hope in the Lord, from this time forth and forever.

- Psalm 131

How can we boast that our hearts are not haughty or our eyes lofty, without being haughty?

Well, we can't of course. It turns out here that the needed humility must include realizing that we don't have it in ourselves to humble ourselves. The last word here is, "Hope in the Lord." Most immediately, that means to hope in the Lord to free our hearts from the bewitchment of reaching beyond our proper measure, to calm and quiet ourselves as his wisdom calms and quiets us.

I've seen lurking under the high-mindedness to be avoided here the fear of being insignificant and blown off by the world if I don't concern myself in great matters or in things too profound for me. I'm finally starting to see that I don't have to sweat that. What counts is if God approves and takes me seriously - as John the apostle says, if Truth approves me. So long as the world is dissing the God of truth, it's my shame if the world doesn't do me the same way, at least sometimes.

Am I known by the God of truth, or do I hide myself from him? Do I honor and approve the truth, so that Truth may honor me? That's really all that matters, all the humility that God calls for.

If I really calm and quiet my soul as written here, it is a kind of death. That's why I've run from it so many years. But to those who do that, God can reveal the mysteries of his kingdom, even himself. These are for sure great matters, and far too profound for me - but revealed by God instead of grasped at by me, they're OK and don't poison me.


Saturday, October 13, 2007

Humor break!

"And, behold, you are to them like a sensual song . . " (Ezekiel 33:30-32)

Marty Soldier Mom from Texas posted an awesome commentary in word and video on these words of Ezekiel. May we lay them to heart and wise up!

The link:

To acquire wisdom and take warning, follow her instructions and watch both videos carefully.

In praise of gentle cops

Gayle and I were walking along Bird Farm Road in Los Serranos late this evening when up the street we heard a couple of thumps and saw a car going nowhere. Then Stephen called to be picked up and we had to hurry back to get him, and so we arrived at the scene just as the San Bernardino Sheriffs did.

A young kid, very drunk, had hit a car, then slammed several times into a wall, and then tried to flee the scene. Four cop cars arrived.

The striking thing was how they arrested the kid. They had cuffed him of course, but the cop took care to help him gently into the back of the car, as though helping a frail old lady to her seat. I was greatly moved by the wisdom in this.

This kid is in a lot of trouble. The cops had the sense to remember that, though a fool, he remains a human being. They didn't pile on. Without actually being brutal or violating any rule, they could have frogmarched him up and thrown him in the back of the car, instead of carefully and respectfully placing him there.

Besides remaining human beings, by such gentleness the cops avoided becoming the issue. The kid won't have any folly but his own to remember. They didn't offer the kid or his parents any distraction from reality by any bad behavior of their own.

"I looked and received instruction," says the proverb. I want to learn some of that wisdom for myself. Like those cops, I will sometimes have the duty to handcuff somebody and deposit him in the back of a car for a ride to a cell. But if so, I need not to pile on, not to throw him in the back of the car, not to forget he's a human being, or even to forget that God will sometimes need to have me cuffed and hauled away. When that's so, may I be handled like that kid, having learned to do likewise to others.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Lots of news, just this once

I talked to West End SELPA, and we have an educational evaluation scheduled with Jose Fuentes in Loma Linda November 5-6, paid by the taxpayers. CVUSD calls it the one assessment I'm entitled to because I disagree with theirs, which they never performed and refused to give us on terms that anyone could agree to. I call it the assessment they owe me which they wouldn't do when I asked them for it, done by an outsider because Stephen can't trust the people who already deceived and traumatized us. Since they did no assessment, what assessment is there for us to disagree with? As their lawyer said, we'll cross that bridge.

I am also getting an assessment from Kyle Pontius of Meier Clinics. and he will be billing CVUSD.

Because the statute of limitations was running out. we spoke of a tolling agreement and were having some problems with the wording. His latest would have allowed them to kill it with 60 days notice and then prevent me from suing for 60 days, which means I couldn't at all the moment they decided to kill it. When I pointed this out and sent him a revision, he said I'd hear from him today. I didn't, and I retained a lawyer who specializes in these matters. We will be suing the district shortly, along with their agents in a separate action.

They evidently intended nothing else but to try to run out the clock while seeing if they could get me to fall into an ambush. I would have too, if my God had not kept me from walking in my conceit. Narrow escape.

From now on, I will be giving a lot less news here about this matter, since I now have a mouthpiece, and I need to keep my mouth shut.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

"If you, Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?" (Psalm 130)

A Song of Ascents

Out of the depths I have cried to you, O Lord.
Lord, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications.
If you, Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?
But there is forgiveness with you, that you may be feared.

I wait for the Lord, my sould does wait,
And for his word do I hope.
My soul waits for the Lord more that the watchman for the morning.
O Israel, hope in the Lord, for with the Lord there is lovingkindness,
And with him is abundant redemption.
And he will redeem Israel from all his iniquities.

- Psalm 130

In the world, the high ground gives the advantage, but God hears best when we cry out from the depths, not when we speak from on high in the world. I was thinking about this psalm today, and I realized that if this were not true, I would never believe it. I've learned on my hide through many years how unavailing my advantages have been.

Here, specifically, he's in the depths because of his iniquities, because his hope is that if God should mark iniquities, then no one could stand. So his hope is in the forgiveness of his iniquities, not in his lack of them.

That's humbling himself. If we're expecting to be heard because we're better than someone else, we're walking in pride and in confidence in ourselves. God abases the proud, quite ready to do that by making us fall by the hand of those more wicked than ourselves. There is forgiveness with God, that he may be feared. If that were not so, the well-behaved would be feared instead.

Instead of making sure that he's more righteous than others, the psalmist waits for the Lord, because he hopes in the Lord's word. We don't stand before God by not having iniquities, but if we hope in what God has to say to us, God will redeem us from all our iniquities, as we read in Isaiah 1:16-18.

In the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector (Luke 18:9-14), the tax collector cried to the Lord out of the depths - "God, be merciful to me, the sinner." So he didn't stay in the depths. He went down to his house justified. By humbling himself, he ascended, just as we read in this song of ascents.


Thursday, October 04, 2007

Interesting book review

Today, I checked the blog of Imad Moustafa, the Syrian ambassador to the US, as I do now and then. He often has interesting things to say, especially about music, art, and literature.

A couple of weeks ago he reviewed The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards. In order to spare his family the pains of raising her, a father gives away his newborn baby girl born with Down's Syndrome and says she died at birth. He thereby wrecks the lives of everyone involved.

Unlike Ambassador Moustafa, I haven't read the book, although I plan to, so I'm only reviewing his review. He makes the point that in trying to protect his family from harm, the father achieves the opposite. I don't know about the book, but it sure works that way in real life. This is what Jesus referred to when Peter tried to protect Jesus from the cross and earned for himself the name Satan - right after Jesus had told him, "Your name is Peter." Satan comes to steal, to kill, and to destroy. And yes indeed, when we try to keep people from harm at the expense of pursuing truth and letting God be their rescuer, there's no telling what anguish and destruction we bring on them and ourselves, just as Satan does - whether as individuals or nations. No wonder, too, since overseeing God's business is at least as dumb as overseeing anyone else's.

Moustafa's review is at

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

"Many a time they have afflicted me from my youth" (Psalm 129)

A Song of Ascents

Many a time they have afflicted me from my youth, let Israel now say.
Many a time they have afflicted me from my youth,
Yet they have not prevailed against me.
The plowers plowed on my back;
They made their furrows long.
The Lord is righteous;
He has cut in pieces the cords of the wicked.

Let all those who hate Zion be put to shame and turned back.
Let them be as the grass on the housetops,
Which withers before it grows up,
With which the reaper does not fill his hand,
Nor he who binds sheaves, his arms,
Neither let those who pass by say,
"The blessing of the Lord be upon you;
We bless you in the name of the Lord."

- Psalm 129

Gayle was talking this morning about what a little tick she was when she was little, so that she got thoroughly bullied and picked on. And when she wised up, for instance not making a point of reporting rule violations to show what a good girl she was, they kept right on plowing on her back. She learned that people are merciless, never forgetting what you've been.

But she was much wiser than I was in the same place. For her, it wasn't about how wrong they were; it was about how she had brought this on herself, but also to learn not to be merciless like that herself.

In short, she humbled herself, and the result was that she was delivered from her folly. She learned wisdom, and so God cut in pieces the cords of wickedness in her life. And what's more, he did so by means of those making long their furrows on her back, turning their malice to good, just as he did for Joseph in Egypt. When she got to high school the persecution abruptly stopped, just as it is written, "The wrath of man will praise you" (Psalm 76:10).

She didn't know Psalm 129 in those days, but she humbled herself and so found the way of ascent that it describes. Indeed, it's God's mercy that I get to learn from her about it. I still don't have this down by any means.