Thursday, August 26, 2010

I'd Rather be Broken

I Would Rather Be Broken Than Crushed
By Brenda Black

My brother was only eight years old when he broke his arm riding a bull in a junior rodeo. His elbow snapped under the pressure of holding tightly to the flat braided rope wrapped around the bull's girth. The break was clean and doctors pinned bone and ligaments back into place and counseled their young patient to give it time to heal. In a matter of weeks, the arm was nearly good as new. And almost 40 years later, he thankfully retains full use of the limb, even if he still bares the shrunken railroad track scar as a reminder of his young rodeo days.

Though my mom was distressed over her boy's injury, she didn't have to worry about complications. Her biggest concerns were keeping the cast dry, and preventing my sister and I from bumping our brother on accident or on purpose. She felt certain Brent's injury would mend and he would be better. It did; he was.

Had the calf fallen on my brother and crushed his arm, the risks would have been much different. While crushing injuries don't appear life-threatening, they can result in death, making them far more alarming than a fracture. Such is the case with victims of earthquakes or mining cave-ins. People pulled out alive from rubble, under which they have been pinned, risk a medical emergency that occurs subsequent to the trauma. Days after an accident, crush injuries can cause kidney failure, then death. The condition is known as rhabdomyolysis and occurs when muscles have been crushed. The muscle ruptures, releasing its cellular content, including particles called myoglobin, into the body. These particles get caught in the kidneys. They can jellify and block the kidneys. If not hydrated regularly, the person is unable to flush out the myoglobin, leading to systemic toxicity.

If that's not bad enough, crushed limbs can also cause other medical complications. The release of potassium and phosphate from the ruptured muscle can result in hyperkalemia -- too much potassium in the blood stream which causes heart problems -- and sudden cardiac death.

The remedy is harsh. For the most extensively damaged limbs, amputation may save a life.

So, which would you rather suffer -- a blow with immediate pain, but a promising outcome if you follow the physician's orders, or a slow and silent side effect from a crushing injury that has left you numb to its deadly danger?

I'd rather be broken. Jesus taught his disciples that brokenness was better than being crushed pertaining to the spirit. “He who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed.” (Matthew 21:44)

The stone is the infallible truth that Christ is the Son of God and the Savior of the World. Those who surrender to that truth will be chipped, chiseled, possibly shattered, and certainly altered from their present state. There will be scars that mark the change and it takes time to be fully useful for God here on earth. We have much to learn. But we will heal and we will be better.

I'd rather be broken by truth than damned by a stubborn denial that leaves me thirsty and bruised and destined to die. If I'm not willing to go to the Rock of Salvation, or part with the sin in my life that is slowly killing me, I will be crushed by Truth. For one day every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. I want to be one who bowed willingly.

The only way out of eternal death is to cut off that which is polluting the body. Recognize the silent enemy that steals and kills and destroys. Denounce him in the name of Christ. Fill yourself with life-giving refreshment from the Word of God. Sever your ties with worldly wisdom. Fall on the Rock in order to live.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Leopard Frog Vs. Lawnmower

Leopard Frog Vs. Lawnmower
By Brenda Black

It takes guts to be a leopard frog, often more guts than sense. The aptly named amphibians depart their aquatic habitat during warm, summer months and venture into fields, pastures and backyards to forage. How silly to leave cool, clear waters in the middle of August scorchers and head to hot turf. Still there's another reason they'd be better off in the pond than in the pasture. In their quest for spiders and other insects, they forget to factor one giant enemy – the lawnmower.

What should seem to be horrifying to them, marginally stirs the brown-spotted species. They barely escape with zigzag hops away from the frog-squishing rubber tires on cast-iron front axles. They, narrowly dodge whirring, razor-sharp steel blades that just demolished their green grass cafe. One would think it would freak out a frog! But they seem no more shaken than if they had just jumped in front of a lily pad.

I wonder if that isn't part of the problem with people these days. They think they're invincible and do not fear true threats. Is it self absorption that blinds humans to danger? Or are people so arrogant to think that they can save themselves at the last minute.

Wake up America! There's a big freedom-chopping movement taking place in our nation. And if we don't take the danger seriously, we're hopping right into a death trap. Piece by piece, law by law, one mowed down path at a time, we are flippantly acting like leopard frogs, out of water and oblivious to horrible threats.

In about an hour of yard wacking, I spied at least a half dozen of the froggy rebels. And every one of them behaved predictably. They escaped by a frog's hair on their wee chins. I pray that's not your attitude in matters of freedom in our country or matters of eternity. There is an urgency to safeguard our nation and to ensure our eternal destiny.

“As dead flies give perfume a bad smell, so a little folly outweighs wisdom and honor. The heart of the wise inclines to the right, but the heart of the fool to the left. Even as he walks along the road, the fool lacks sense and shows everyone how stupid he is.

“There is an evil I have seen under the sun, the sort of error that arises from a ruler: Fools are put in many high positions, while the rich occupy the low ones.” (Ecclesiastes10:1-3, 5-6)

Solomon's words from the Bible basically say frog foolishness reveals stupidity. Quite frankly, I think we are being weed-whipped with some “folly that outweighs wisdom and honor” when it comes to the leadership of our nation. With all due respect to the office and utter disappointment with the one who holds it, a fool is wining and dining and smoking in the White House, while those rich in common sense are working desperately trying to stay afloat. As we veer ever farther from the safe and sensible statutes of a Christian nation and the attitudes and wisdom that evoke God's blessings, we run the risk of being totally mowed down!

God won't tolerate this sort of nonsense. He cannot bless where there is blatant and foolish, self-imposed moral ignorance and other gods are worshipped. God doesn't change. Go read his resume. But since I'm not a doomsday sort of gal, I do want to offer a sliver of a silver lining. So, here's the upside of all this stupid, legalized immorality and insensitive face-slapping: Judgment is coming! Stand for God through it all and we shall see glory!

“'So I will come near to you for judgment. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive aliens of justice, but do not fear me,' says the Lord Almighty.

“'I the Lord do not change. So you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed. Ever since the time of your forefathers you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you,' says the Lord Almighty.” (Malachi 3:5-7)

Look before you leap, my fellow citizens. And if you are still enamored with change for change's sake, then I hope you know how to hop really fast.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Slippery Slope of Retaliation

The Slippery Slope of Retaliation
By Brenda Black

I'm feeling better about walking away from an arrogant computer salesman since reading about a disgruntled airline steward who stomped out of the room with a far greater fit. Though I'm not sure I condone JetBlue Fight Attendant Steven Slater's libation or swearing, or his dramatic exit down the emergency slide, I certainly agree that courtesy is a lost art. And there comes a time when enough is enough of being treated like a door mat. What's our way out if not down an airplane chute?

He experienced meltdown following an altercation with a rude passenger. I came close after listening to a pompous, pushy store clerk repeatedly treat me like an infant and elevate himself to superiority. Everything in me wanted to give the oversized, but under-mannered toad a swift kick in the rear, but instead I just told him I didn't appreciate his tactics and would be doing business elsewhere. Then I walked. I think he thought I was bluffing, but discovered differently when he stepped out the front doors of his famous office supply store and scanned the city parking lot. I stayed my course and pulled away. He lost a sale, but I kept my cool -- thankfully, so that I didn't end up in the headlines the next day.

I wish I could say that I've never caved to the rude and slid down the slippery slope of retaliation as Slater did. Life would be grand if I could claim a perfect record for patience when people really rubbed me the wrong way. The reality is I've lost it more times than I care to recall, but I always regret that feeling of being out-of-control and rue the things said or done in anger.

The difference between rude indifference, retaliation and regret might best be defined by the testimony of an out-of-towner. I met this woman last weekend, one day after my computer confrontation. She was a transplant to the Midwest from Maryland. We visited briefly and she volunteered her cultural assessment of the Heartland. “People are so friendly here. Back home we're not. We're just rude.” What a sad claim to fame, but what a transparent confession. Maybe she didn't even know what courtesy was until she saw it in action.

By and large, I think folks around our parts are pretty good natured. When we meet a car, it's country protocol for an index finger or whole-hand wave, whether traveling black tops or gravel roads. I always acknowledge a farmer when he cautiously maneuvers a massive piece of farm equipment just off the shoulder then waves me around, first checking for oncoming traffic from his bird's eye perspective. Our banks still offer suckers and bubble gum to kids in the drive through. And how about those Wal-mart Greeters! People, for the most part, know what nice looks like around here.

But do we practice hospitality in public on a regular basis? Do we offer courtesy when we're in a hurry? Are we patient and kind even when someone treats us like dirt? Those are the times when courtesy counts most. While melting in the heated fury of the offender, are we able to walk away and not fall prey to anger?

“A fool gives way to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.” (Proverbs 29:11) It may at the very least cost Slater $25,000 to fix the deployment chute on the plane, $2,500 to post bail and who knows how much more to fight his pending battle in court. That's a high price for losing your temper. Yet a higher price is paid when we disregard what's right in the sight of God.

“My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.” (James 1:19-20)

Courtesy counts. The way you treat another may lead them down a slippery slope of unrighteous behavior. Self-control pays off. When you are the offended, take my advice – walk away and don't turn back.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Have a Ball and Beat the Heat

Have a Ball and Beat the Heat
By Brenda Black

Lucille Ball once said, “I'm not funny. What I am is brave.” I understand what she meant because it took every ounce of nerve I had one time to portray the Queen of Comedy. With hair tinted red, piled and pinned in an up do, I not-so-gracefully danced my way into a chorus line of high school girls during a variety show. In a blue polka dot dress, I mimicked Lucy's exaggerated antics darting among the youthful, practiced performers, a half-beat behind and having a blast. The reward for my bravery was hearty roars of hilarity from the audience. Ball knew that to make people laugh took a lot of hard work. I learned it was worth the humiliating stunts to hear such a delightful sound.

Laughter is good medicine, from belly chuckles of tiny children to bellowing cackles of good ol' boys. Wise old Solomon even once said, “A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit.” (Proverbs 15:13) From the experts who take laughing quite seriously, there is ample evidence that laughter is beneficial not only for the spirit, but for mind, body and your social life.

According to an article by Melinda Smith, M.A., Gina Kemp, M.A., and Jeanne Segal, Ph.D. - “Laughter is a powerful antidote to stress, pain, and conflict. Nothing works faster or more dependably to bring your mind and body back into balance than a good laugh. Humor lightens your burdens, inspires hopes, connects you to others, and keeps you grounded, focused, and alert.”

Tickle your funny bone if you want to feel better – Laughter relaxes the whole body. A good hearty laugh relieves physical tension and stress, leaving your muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes after. Laughter boosts the immune system by decreasing stress hormones. The shortest distance to the body's feel-good chemicals, endorphins, is paved with giggles. And nothing circulates blood like a big guffaw.

A good crack-up can keep you from becoming a crack-pot. For excellent mental health, humor helps you keep a positive, optimistic outlook through difficult situations, disappointments or losses. Jokes add joy and zest to life. Silliness eases stress, anxiety and fear and enhances resilience. An upturned face provides more than a face lift. It improves mood on the inside and will keep you from going mad, literally.

So – you think you can laugh! Chances are, if you are a laugher, more people will want to hang around you. Laughter dissolves distressing emotions, it heightens energy and actually can make you more productive. Socially, laughter knocks down walls of inferiority. With a humorous perspective, everything and everyone seems less intimidating. Humor and playful communication strengthen our relationships by triggering positive feelings and fostering emotional connection. When we laugh with one another, a positive bond is created.

Right now, as we melt into the dog days of summer, is as good a time as any to beat the heat with a little comic relief. Watch something funny. Seek out funny people. Goof around with your kids. Count your blessings and smile every chance you get. To jump start your laugh track, here's a pool-side joke to give you a break from hundred degree, hot, humid air and heated campaign races this week.

A CEO throwing a party takes his executives on a tour of his opulent mansion. In the back of the property, the CEO has the largest swimming pool any of them has ever seen.

The huge pool, however, is filled with hungry alligators.

The CEO says to his executives "I think an executive should be measured by courage. Courage is what made me CEO. So this is my challenge to each of you: if anyone has enough courage to dive into the pool, swim through those alligators, and make it to the other side, I will give that person anything they desire. My job, my money, my house, anything!"

Everyone laughs at the outrageous offer and proceeds to follow the CEO on the tour of the estate. Suddenly, they hear a loud splash. Everyone turns around and sees the CFO (Chief Financial Officer) in the pool, swimming for his life. He dodges the alligators left and right and makes it to the edge of the pool with seconds to spare. He pulls himself out just as a huge alligator snaps at his shoes.

The flabbergasted CEO approaches the CFO and says, "You are amazing. I've never seen anything like it in my life. You are brave beyond measure and anything I own is yours! Tell me what I can do for you.

The CFO, panting for breath, looks up and says, "You can tell me who pushed me in the pool!"

Still not laughing? Then I dare you to dye your hair red and pull a little slap stick somewhere today, in honor of Lucille Ball's birthday, Aug. 6. Even if you don't make others laugh, you'll learn how to laugh at yourself.