PROPaganda, Part 2 of 2

•August 9, 2018 • Leave a Comment

The Rambling Soapbox

A 2018 documentary called, “Do No Harm: An Opioid Epidemic,” featuring Dr. Andrew Kolodny (to whom I recently wrote an open letter) and “working closely with Dr. Kolodny and PROP“, is a classic propaganda film that’s been influencing a lot of viewers and, therefore, a lot of lives. I viewed this film a few nights ago, and 90 minutes and 9 pages of handwritten notes later, I began writing this series of posts. View part 1 here.


Bad Science Leads to Bad Policies

One of the goals of the film is to blur the lines between legally prescribed medications, illegally obtained/used prescription medication, and heroin, along with abuse of medication and appropriate (responsible) use of medication. Dr. Kolodny wants all opioids (except his favorite, bupenorphine) eradicated, unless a person is actually dying or for immediate post-surgical pain.

Once again, however, the evidence and…

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Dear Robin Williams…

•August 11, 2014 • 1 Comment
Dear Robin Williams,
I’m so sorry. I’m sorry that we never got a chance to meet in person. I wish I could have run into you somewhere and bought you a coffee or a bagel, or maybe even one of those pet monkeys with the cute little hats that clang cymbals for change. Despite the fact that we never sat next to each other on a plane mimicking William Shatner’s famous scene from The Twilight Zone by screaming, “There’s something…on…the wing!! Some…THING!” Or never being invited to your birthday parties (I’m sure my invitations were simply lost in the mail…EVERY SINGLE YEAR?!), I still feel as if I knew you intimately. I always felt that we shared a deep connection, one that transcended the usual “stalker fan” connections I read about in The Onion. Now I know that I was right…more right than I ever wanted to be.
I literally just found out that you died. I also just discovered that thirty-one seconds ago your Wikipedia page had already been updated and then updated again to reflect this tragic event. I’m sure you would have quite a few witty one-liners to spin off over that! You always had a way of making even the most tragic things in life a little humorous. I think that is one of the reasons I fell in love with your movies as a boy. You see, I went through quite a few tragic things as a child and your ability to make me laugh while also showing your own vulnerability always reminded me of what it truly meant to be human. You showed me that things were never as bad as they seemed and if I didn’t give up, no matter how many times I was called weird, strange, or stupid, that things would get better. You taught me that I could use my sense of humor to make people laugh with me, not just at me.
In many ways, Mr. Williams, I owe you my life. I do not necessarily mean my physical existence upon this earth (although I do not discount the notion either), but the paths that my life has taken as a result of the talents you taught me to use so effectively. For instance, I know how easy it must have been for you to assume the characters you imitated and also played on television and in the movie roles you chose. I battle depression as well and I know the relief of being able to be someone else, even for just a short while. It is a therapy and an escape, a help and a hindrance, and it is something which fills you up even as it leaves you empty inside. You can only escape for so long before the dark beast covers you in shadowy, smothering nothingness.
The fight is never easy, but it is easy to hide… at least for awhile. I am sorry that your fight has ended. I am sorry you felt that you had nothing else to live for on this earth. I am sorry that, despite your death, many will still refuse to see the sometimes desperate cries for help those of us living with depression display in unique and shameful ways. It is very hard to admit that you are struggling in finding reasons to live. However, it is even more difficult, if not impossible, to explain exactly why. I wish you could have seen the hands that I know must have been there reaching out to pull you from the pit of despair that eventually ended your life.
Thank you, Robin, for being real. For allowing countless souls a few blessed hours of laughs and sometimes tears before they entered back into the world that was their lives. Thank you for giving me something that you could tragically never find, peace within myself with simply being who I am. Finally, thank you for putting a face to this monster known as depression. You have made it human to many who do not understand it and were an inspiration to those who understand it all too well. I am praying for those you left behind and for those of us still daily battling to keep our heads above water. May we all be reminded of just how precious life is and that giving up this life before our time only succeeds in forever scaring those we never, ever wish to hurt. I end this letter, Mr. Williams, with the only fitting words I can muster, words spoken by you as one of my favorite characters in one of my favorite movies.
“Thank you…for gracing my life with your lovely presence, for adding the sweet measure of your soul to my existence.” 
― Robin Williams playing Richard Matheson in What Dreams May Come.
Yours Truly,
Larry Roy
A Saddened and Grateful Fan

 

What Dreams May Come

 

The Siren’s Song

•May 18, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Leslie A. Lamb

There’s a pain, a numbness, a vacancy left inside one who is molested. It doesn’t matter so much the degree to misuse or abuse… The hole presses in with the smallest infraction. There’s a shame that comes with the wounds made then that make the scar now that much more noticeable – a guilt that says this should be over, these feelings gone. And for the most part they are, until they creep back in like a movie in jagged frame.

Some hurts you can’t erase, there are just some memories you can’t forget. Just like that child that over-acted and made a point to be in a crowd, entertainer of the year, the limelight to cover the dark secrets. The pictures didn’t surface there.. They couldn’t find their entry point. But, you weren’t better, only masked.

Be someone else, fill another’s shoes, escape this life and live another… Be…

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Why Winter Jam 2014 Made Me Cry

•March 9, 2014 • Leave a Comment

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I will cut right to the chase…Winter Jam 2014 made me cry. There were plenty of moments for that during this year’s event. From Nick Hall’s appeals to let God into every area of your life, to Michael Tait’s touching tribute to his late mother, to Lecrae reminding us that not only did he NOT deserve to be there, but that each and every person who had stepped upon the stage battled brokenness, heartache, and disappointment…just like every person in every seat in the packed out Century Link Center. Any one of these mentioned moments (and tons more not mentioned!) would have been tear-worthy and considered my moment of the night. The moment that spoke to me was an unexpected and unwelcomed one. It wasn’t the lyrics of a song that got to me. It wasn’t the carefully crafted words of hope meant to genuinely prompt the lost and hurting to step up, step out, and taste God’s healing grace. No, the moment which brought me to tears was seeing the excitement of a mentally handicapped man enthusiastically rejoicing with his favorite artist of the night, Lecrae, and the harsh reactions of judgment, condemnation, and mocking behavior from many behind him.

The man in question sat almost directly across from me the entire night. I had noticed that he seemed to enjoy each performer and was often on his feet with eyes closed and his hands raised in worship while he sang unashamedly in praise to and adoration of our Father in Heaven. It wasn’t until Lecrae hit the stage that my new friend (hey, anyone who praises God like that is a friend of mine!) really let himself go. He ran like his last name was Bolt down the lengthy steps which led to the railing of our second floor section overlooking the stage. With his hands raised in fists, or sometimes placed upon his thighs, he rocked and danced in his best imitation of Lecrae. I found myself smiling as I watched this man, unconcerned with what anyone around him thought,  giving God absolutely everything he had!

I wish the story ended there. I wish that I could say, “I got teary over such a joyous display of child-like worship, enjoyed the rest of the concert, and then rounded up my youth group for the hour plus trip back to West Monroe.” But the story didn’t end there. You see, there were other people who noticed my friend and his unique attempts at mimicking the moves of a guy he probably considered a role-model of the Christian faith. It wasn’t long before some began to laugh and point him out to others. A few found him quite hilarious, going so far as having to sit down in their seats until they could compose themselves.

It wasn’t until one girl a couple of rows in front of me started mimicking him in an almost cartoon-like fashion that I felt my heart fully break and the tears begin to form in my eyes. I cannot adequately describe the warring emotions inside of me at that moment.  Instead, I will paint the scene a little clearer…

Lecrae had just finished talking in-between songs about his past, his need to find redemption in the only place true redemption is ever really found…in Jesus Christ. He had just reminded us that we all had a past filled with regrets and sins, but that God wanted our present to be filled with Him. Lecrae had just finished laying out the need for unity, grace, love, peace, and healing within the Body of Christ so as to live out the life God had for us! He had no more begun another song when the very attitudes he had spoken against, the very hate he asked us to fight, the very flesh he admitted should still be condemning he, himself to hell…roared into existence and made itself known.

I think what completed this moment for me was when I noticed that the young lady who had been so animated with her actions against our dancing, singing, praising friend, who was even then on the railing overlooking Lecrae as he lifted our Daddy God higher and higher with each word and beat, this young lady was proudly wearing a t-shirt with the words Winter Jam 2014 on the back for all the world to see. The moment was too much. My chest was burning, my throat was constricted, and my eyes were filling with tears.

The hurt from a past filled with similar scenarios with myself as the target, the present being surrounded by many teens I knew and suspected to be on that “borderline” every youth pastor knows so well. All I could do was pray and silently cry for my new friend, those who were so dissatisfied with themselves that they had to obey the flesh instead of the One who created it, and for those among us who had been invited to this concert by friends, co-workers, or maybe family members who were so excited to see a lost soul finally giving God a chance and were being confronted with actions they thought were supposed to only happen outside of places like this one.

Winter Jam reminded me of the things I love the most and despise the worst about where the Spirit meets the flesh. I was reminded that many times those we consider to be “less” than us actually have more of the qualities, desires, and passions of our Savior than we do. One thing that Winter Jam 2014 richly blessed me with personally was the ability to see firsthand the attitude we are urged to approach God with as stated in Mark chapter 10 “…Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”

Which “side” do you find yourself on? Do you ignore those in need? Remember, sometimes meeting needs requires more than we really want to give. Do you have people in your life who you think you are “better than,” whether you wish to admit it or not? Are you, in your area of responsibility, truly doing all that you can to live, love, and sacrifice as Christ did? Is your faith child-like, or do you act out in front of God “like a child?” I have found myself looking into the mirror asking these same questions with much more sincerity than I ever have before. I pray that reading my experience leads you to do the same. Who knows, maybe we will find ourselves dancing together in child-like faith at Winter Jam 2015 🙂

Philippians 2:3 (NLT) “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.”

The Duck Dynasty Chronicles: Project Parking Lot

•August 29, 2013 • Leave a Comment

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Duck Dynasty.

No definition needed. Duck Dynasty has quickly become one of the hottest, most watched and most promoted shows in the world. In fact, as I sit here typing this, my family is tuned in watching the Robertson clan sit outside of Phil and Kay’s house talking, laughing, and eating as another episode comes to an end. From the enlightening wisdom of Uncle Si to the down home dinners of Mrs. Kay, the Robertson’s have made faith, family, and fun a way of life again for a dark and uncertain world that could use a little light.

Today I discovered yet another way that the Duck Dynasty family is touching lives, and it is in a way that they have probably never considered. Like many who live in and around West Monroe I do not often frequent the Duck Dynasty headquarters. It is not so much the lack of enthusiasm as it is lack of room! The place stays packed with tourists and fans all wanting to take a picture in front of the famous Duck Commander sign, snag a t-shirt or a hat, and are always on the lookout for even a glimpse of one of the beards. However, today as I was on my way to one of my favorite places, (incidentally another Duck Dynasty made tourist favorite) the Corner Coffeehouse owned by Pastor Jerry and Pam Hendrixson, I heard from the Holy Spirit.

“I want you to pull into the Duck Commander store.” The words were little more than a whisper in the back of my mind. I have been led to do some fairly strange things over the years in the Name of Christ so being prompted to pull into a place of business before it opened was by far on the tame end of the scale. As I approached my turn I couldn’t help but wonder if this might finally be the moment I had waited for so long. I am not typically the type of person to get “star-struck” but being a youth pastor, one of many “left behind” as a result of a loved one’s suicide, and being the host of a local weekly webcast geared towards teens and young adults (TCM LIVE!), I very much wanted to share my passion for helping our young and, if possible, assist them in doing the same more effectively. 

The parking lot was empty save for a truck unloading camera equipment and two gentlemen on motorcycles taking pictures (selfies for you young, hip folks) in front of the iconic Buck Commander/Duck Commander sign. I exited my vehicle and asked the guys if they wanted me to take a picture of the two of them together. After a few pics and some small talk about the popularity of the show, I discovered that the men were close friends from Virginia who had decided to take a road trip that allowed them to see “Duck Central.” 

It was a blessing to discover that they were Christian men who, as time and circumstances allowed, enjoyed travelling around the country spreading the Gospel through their actions and passion for the open road. As I was saying my goodbyes to my new friends, another bike pulled up with Texas plates and a car from Mississippi, if I remember correctly. The newcomers soon joined the bikers in picture-taking and the making of acquaintances. 

The conversations changed a little as the new arrivals began to talk about driving all night to get there after getting off of work. They “religiously” watched the show, and visiting the Duck Dynasty store was a bucket list line item ranking near the top. I slowly made my way back to my vehicle and had no sooner pulled back onto Thomas Road when the full reason for my unscheduled stop became crystal clear. I have met families who planned entire vacations around coming to West Monroe just to walk into the Duck Dynasty store. I have seen pictures galore of people posing with Si, Willie, Phil, or even the workers at locations made popular by the show. But what if the majority of these fans (and you and I for that matter) are missing the point? What if, in our pursuit of fleshly desires and bragging rights, we are missing out on the One who made it all possible in the first place?

I had inadvertently stumbled upon vital truths! I had discovered a “new” mission field. Now the Book of Ecclesiastes 1:9 reminds us that there is “nothing new under the sun,” but what about doing something mostly forgotten? Talking, ministering, praying with visitors and tourists in the parking lot before the store opens. Not the most glamorous job to consider. In fact, some days it would probably be a thankless one. But aren’t such circumstances pointed towards as great strides when viewed in hindsight? In Acts 8, when Phillip was walking along a desert road on his way to Gaza I am quite sure he didn’t expect or even make a big deal out of teaching the Ethiopian official about Christ and then baptizing him in a puddle on the side of the road! But,  because of Phillip’s faithfulness Ethiopia was introduced to the Gospel of Jesus Christ! 

What if each new season of Duck Dynasty isn’t the destination at all? What if the Robertson’s “empire” built by the human hands, and Daddy God’s Provision, is merely the vehicle to something even greater? What if many of us, without fully realizing it, are still trying to build our houses on sand even though others are trying to teach us to build upon the rocks? Maybe Phil’s famous three word phrase, “Happy, Happy, Happy” actually refers to how real life can be lived when living in harmony with every member of the Holy Trinity? 

What if Duck Dynasty fans world-wide vigorously pursued Jesus Christ as passionately as they do His servants, the Robertsons? Picture whole families planning vacations around Bible studies and Godly instruction, friends starting each hunting trip, fishing excursion, or even every ordinary day with prayer and the goal of touching at least one person for Christ. Unrealistic? I’m sure Phillip would disagree. Unrealized? You bet! The empty parking lot at Duck Headquarters and the plethora of cars still in driveways on Sunday mornings can attest to that! 

Please don’t think I’m asking you to stop visiting my beloved West Monroe, planning trips to visit the places of Duck Dynasty fame, or that you not thoroughly enjoy the show. All I’m suggesting is that we change our focus from “the beards” to the One who knows how many hairs are on each Robertson’s chin. That we take the time to learn the real storyline behind every episode…that Jesus Christ is Lord and we should share Him daily while joyously living life for Him. Afterall, as I have heard it said before, “It is about the journey AND the destination!”

Memorial Stones

•August 27, 2013 • Leave a Comment

We ALL have days that we never forget. Days that, for better or worse, shape and mold us into the type of people we eventually become.

What was one of your days? Perhaps it was ten years ago, or just today.

September 11th 2011 was one of mine.

This will sound like a broken record to some, but please, hear me out. If you have someone, anyone you care about, hear me out.

I am a Youth Pastor and I had a teen in my youth group die. He committed suicide to be exact. I was the last person he contacted and I wasn’t even given a chance to say a word. Are you picturing the aforementioned loved one? I hope so because it could have been them. Yeah, I know, but I never thought it would be mine either. It always happens to some other family, community, or church…until it happens to yours.

His family would have never in their wildest dreams (nightmares) imagined such a thing was even remotely possible, not really. But it did happen. It happened to our church, our West Monroe, LA community, our friend, brother, cousin, and son. One tragedy was enough but he wasn’t the first nor the last. Soon terms such as “suicide epidemic” and “a tragic rash of suicides” gripped the hearts and minds of parents and grandparents. It seemed as if it would never end…and for some it never will.

I have often heard people say that you cannot live in the past. I have also heard it said that those who forget the past are doomed to repeat the mistakes they made in it. I have come to the conclusion that we must not live always looking back, as if all of our best or worst days are waiting to be relived again or are seeking to never let us move forward, but we also cannot be foolish enough to forget the past or block it out as if it never happened. We erase reminders, sell belongings, sometimes even move states away.

In Joshua the fourth chapter, God instructs Joshua to have twelve men (one from each tribe of Israel) from his crew choose twelve stones and place them in the middle of the Jordan as a sign, a memorial of what God had done for them there. His purpose was for generations upon generations of children to say, “Daddy, what do those stones mean to you?”

The TCM Live! webcast was begun a month after the death of my loved one. It is one of many “memorial stones” in my life. It also helps me to balance the past, present, and future in a way very few other things can. You see, this ministry, Teen Christian Ministries Inc., is more than just myself and a group of people you may or may not have ever heard of. It is you, your community, your school, your church, and your home. The stories we tell, the guests we welcome…they are life! Life unscripted and in your face! Hope when there is none, love when you cannot feel it, and a small voice in the back of your mind whispering over and over again, “You Are NOT Alone!” TCM was started to make a real difference literally around the world. We were ignorant enough about what we were getting into that we never knew that it wasn’t suppose to work! But, the very first broadcast filmed in horrible lighting on my old Toshiba laptop somehow placed us on this path that is now not quite two years traveled, watched all around the world, and is knocking on it’s 100th webisode. Simply put TCM has and continues to, against all odds, make a difference.

I hope that you are not too busy or too scared to make a difference. I pray that you search until you find the way(s) you are meant to help. Sometimes that is starting a webcast, saying a prayer, or doing what so very few actually do past the “I wish I could” phase, they actually give to an organization that ministers to teens and young adults. Lest you think I am hitting you up to support TCM only, take a look around your area for those desperately trying to raise funds to meet the ever increasing and ever changing world of our young. If you believe that our kids deserve hope, help, and life…give up the expensive coffee once a week, donate that money towards a ministry you trust, and encourage (with EVERYTHING IN YOU!!) others to do the same.

I pray that you are finding your memorial stones. Those things that truly make a difference in every aspect of your life, and the lives of others. I hope that you are encouraged in discovering your part in helping to shape and mold the young minds that will inevitably ask you, “What do those stones mean to you?”

http://www.tcmlive.com “You Are NOT Alone!”

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Face Down in the Water

•July 31, 2013 • Leave a Comment

awaterphoto

“So this is what it feels like right before you die.”

I will never forget that thought, or the peace that accompanied it.
I was around eight years old on that fateful day in June  when my mom, on a whim, decided to load up the family and head to a local lake in an effort to escape the full heat of a typical Louisiana day. The miles seemed to fly by as we neared our destination. At eight years of age, the world still held endless mysteries, and nothing was impossible. Each bridge we encountered, each deserted barn we spotted, and every shadowy treeline we passed, contained the possibility of endless adventures or dangers.
Danger.
It was a word I had heard and seen a million times.
I saw people in danger on television everyday. I had heard songs about the dangers of life. I had even listened to my dad and his friends talk about the dangers of war and marriage, but I had never, ever experienced danger in a personal way.
I didn’t realize when I left my house that morning that I would never be the same. I had no idea that death was pacing me every mile I traveled, waiting and watching for its moment to pounce. I was blissfully unaware, as only an eight year old can be, that I would come face-to-face with the realization of my own mortality.
The water was waiting.
Perhaps I read too many Stephen King books as a teenager or maybe it is a result of the wisdom gained since that fateful day so many years ago. Whatever the case, I know what I know, and I know the water was waiting. Like a snake biding its time nestled in what appears to be a harmless pile of leaves, or that new neighbour four doors down who, for reasons you cannot fully explain even to yourself, causes you to turn around as he passes you in the hallway and double-check the locks on your doors before bed…an inexplicable feeling that you have caught the attention of something best left interested (distracted) in anything, everything else but you!
I can close my eyes and still vividly picture my younger self  slowly walking towards the water. The anticipation (fear) of actually being in something with which I had always been respectfully fascinated. Water covers 71% of the Earth’s surface. Some say that the waters of the world remain the only truly undiscovered “country” within human reach. A substance that is absolutely vital in sustaining life but also a stealthy taker of it as well. I am reminded of Ananias and Sapphira in the Book of Acts and how God smote them (I LOVE that archaic word! Go ahead, try using it in a sentence today!) for lying about shady real-estate dealings (Acts 5). While not specifically stated word for word in the Holy Writ, the popular statement “God gives life and He can take it away!” carries a lot of psychological and theological weight!
Lying to or about Daddy God may get you as dead as a door nail (just ask Jim Jones), but so can lying to yourself. You see, we humans have this almost insatiable need to convince ourselves that we are the ones in control. However, even the very elements we shakily claim to have mastered continue to strike back at us in such ways that cause us to remember that we do not even control or command the next breath we take. My younger self was about to discover just how fragile and precious life actually is.
It happened so very fast! I was slowly walking into the chilly waters, each small step causing shivers and goose pimples to cascade over my body. I didn’t know how to swim, but I was a very careful child. After all, if something  was going to happen, it would surely happen to my daredevil, younger brother. He was the one who always pushed the envelope when it came to stunts sure to land you in the ER, or worse yet, grounded! One shuffling step at a time I moved forward. Yep, that has always been my style.
I was captivated with the sights and sounds around me. The sound of the water striking the shore, the magical shrills of laughter and the fake indignation that only comes from teen girls being splashed by their “crushes” of the day. The colourful boats in the distance resembled sentries stationed at their assigned posts. The fishermen aboard were lookouts ensuring the safety of the kingdom they dutifully served. My imagination was in full swing. The beautiful life around me was intoxicating. I walked and smiled, drinking in the emotions and festivities of a carefree day of Summer.
Darkness.
It took a minute for me to figure out exactly what happened. I had unintentionally overstepped my bounds…literally. The colours were gone. I was completely submerged under the water, desperately clinging to the last, precious breath in my lungs. The previously joyful sounds were muffled and distorted turning them into seemingly mocking tones; tones produced by those just above the surface of the water who, unlike me, were enjoying mouthfuls of rich, life-giving oxygen. I couldn’t swim, and for some reason, I wasn’t panicked despite my predicament. On the contrary, I had never felt such peace! I felt more alive than at any other point I could remember!
I started thinking about God and Heaven. I reflected on the last time I had seen my papaw in his work clothes, standing in his yard smiling. I was supposed to ride with him that morning, but he had inexplicably changed his mind before driving off to get into a wreck that eventually led to his death, ironically crashing into a bridge and plummeting into the raging waters below resulting in a deadly case of pneumonia. I thought about the opportunity of being able to once again feel his strong arms around me and hear him say, “Good job, Kojak!” (My nickname after the Telly Savalas character because of my being born with a head as bald as a cue ball!).
I relaxed my body and closed my eyes as I settled in to face my inevitable fate.
“So this is what it feels like right before you die.”
The thought brought with it no alarm or sadness, only feelings of peace, joy, and hope. I prepared myself for the moment that my body would involuntarily gasp for oxygen in a last ditch effort to feed starving muscles and brain cells. Just as I was getting ready to inhale, I felt a hand grab the back of my hair and yank me up out of the water. The colours returned, the sounds once again became playful banter, and more importantly, I inhaled the sweetest, most tantalizing gulp of air I would ever remember enjoying. My mom, having seen me floating, had quickly come to my rescue.
My life went on as everyone’s must, but I have never forgotten the peace that filled me that day. The oh so close smell of my papaw’s aftershave, and how rapidly I was willing to leave all of this behind in order to see God face-to-Face. I suppose that is why I have a slightly different take on death than most people. Being a pastor, I have seen the sadness and despair it brings. I have witnessed the way it forever changes those left behind. However, I have also seen the strength and unity it brings with it… if allowed. I think of the revival of previously made commitments to Daddy God and the lives I have seen rise from the ashes to accomplish the seemingly impossible.
One song states it succinctly I think, “Every new beginning comes from some other beginnings end.”
At least, that is my thought. My opinion from a life lived in joy, triumph, severe pain, and tragedy. A life lived never, ever forgetting what it was like to be face down in the water.