Thursday, July 5, 2012

Me: The Man That DOESN'T Have it All Together

WARNING: This blog post may alter your opinion of me DRASTICALLY. I have struggled with deciding whether or not to put these thoughts on such an open canvas, but after weeks of prayerful consideration, I have decided that my transparency will bring glory to the Father, which is something that I cannot dispute.

The beginning of this year started off very promising.I had high expectations and lofty goals. I knew that the challenges that I would face at my job would be tough to face. Every business has to be aware and inspired during these troubling economic times. Speaking of inspiring, I had felt the Lord speak to me at the end of 2011 and tell me that 2012 would be the most exciting year of my ministry ever! Yeah, that was something I was looking forward to! Even my home life seemed to be heading towards an all-time high. Em and I had grown closer and closer every year and mix that up with a little 3 year old girl that seems to be getting smarter and smarter everyday and you've got a reason to look forward to 2012. But the challenges that I would face would be unlike anything that I have ever faced before. These challenges would confront me and stretch me in ways that I never conceived and they would take me to a place that I never knew could exist in my own mind.

It all started the day before New Years Eve. I worked all day long with a severe pain on the right side of my upper back area. At times the pain became so bad that I became nauseated. People at work said that it might be my gall-bladder.  I went to the doctor. He thought that I was basically having muscle spasms in my back. He recommended a heating pad and a prescription for muscle relaxers. But over the next few days the pain got worse and worse and neither the heating pad nor the prescription would phase the pain. I finally broke down on a Friday night and told Emily to drive me to the hospital. Surprisingly we didn't wait long and I saw a doctor promptly. The doctor thought that I was actually passing a kidney stone and sent me down for X-Rays and a MRI. Later the doc said that the results were negative for me passing a stone but that I did have 3 kidney stones that were basically hanging out in my kidneys. But they were not the cause of the pain. He, like my physician thought that I was having muscle spasms in my back. They gave me a shot of morphine and a prescription for Lortabs and sent me on my way. What would transpire over the next 3 months would be a life and mind-altering experience that would change my views on so many different things.For the sake of not boring you with to many details, I will shorten the story...just a little.

I began having weird reactions to the prescriptions that I was taking. My body was not functioning in all aspects like it should. My mind became jaded, confused, worried, and paralyzed. As one symptom would progress, I would notice others and begin to obsess over them. Before I knew it, I was spending hours online researching symptoms and connecting them with chronic illnesses. It was like something out of a crazy House episode! WebMD was constantly on my iPhone and all I did was wonder what the next symptom would be. I didn't just obsess over symptoms, I thought that every odd feeling that I felt in my body was somehow connected to some life-threatening illness. I drove Emily crazy. I told her that I thought that I had cancer, Lou Gehrig Disease, never disorders, liver disease, tumors in my brain, kidney failure, and a plethora of other illnesses and diseases. Everyday was something new. She would scream at me and tell me that I was fine and I would scream back that I wasn't fine and that I was dying. I never slept. I laid in bed throughout the night entertaining the thoughts of my demise and wondering what was going on inside my body and if it could be cured. I began having pains in my stomach. I quit eating. I would go all day long only eating a banana and a few saltines. I would go to work and do my job but come home and begin obsessing again. My days off were horrible. All I would do is sit and think about what was killing me inside.

Eventually I went back to the doctor. I had lost 14 pounds in less than 3 weeks. The pains in my stomach were from ulcers- a product from my worrying and lack of food in my stomach. The doctor asked me if I was depressed. I still remember saying, "I don't think I'm depressed....but all I do is sit and think that I'm dying.....I don't know why..." The doctor told me that he thought that I was battling a bad mix of depression and anxiety. He said that he wanted to start me on Zoloft, an anti-depressant and anti-anxiety drug. I was immediately against it. I had always quietly thought to myself that the people of God should have no need for anti-depressants if the joy of the Lord was truly "our strength." He encouraged me to give it a shot just as a boost to my psyche but not as a long-term fix. I still had my reservations. I went ahead and filled the prescription but let the pill bottle stay unopened in the medicine cabinet for four days. My breaking point came one night when I was again obsessing over a symptom and telling Emily that I thought I was dying. She broke down and cried like I had never seen her cry before. She told me that my paranoia was hurting her and Rylee as much as it was me and if I loved them then I would do whatever it took to get myself back to normal.

That's when I knew I HAD to change. I had prayed for weeks that God would heal me of whatever ailment that may have plagued my body. Now I prayed that he would use a drug to help heal my mind and give me peace.  I decided to take the anti-depressant. I felt guilty for taking it, like I was somehow less of a man of God. I only told a few people and begged for their understanding, which they of course offered without hesitation and with support. As I began to tell only a few trusted people that I was taking an anti-depressant, I found that I wasn't the only Christian that was taking a prescription for anxiety and depression. In fact, I found that several people that I looked up to and respected as men and women of God had either taken a similar drug at one time or were currently taking one. These revelations were inspiring! I wasn't alone in my fight to control my mind. This encouraged me and after many, many, many prayers, much time in God's Word, and 3 months of Zoloft, I finally decided that my mind was stable enough to quit taking the drug altogether. My brain is not always free of worry, but I have developed a quick defense mechanism in my mind that swiftly moves all fear-causing-crud out of my thoughts. Praise be to God!

I have shared this very personal story for two reasons. For one, if you are a child of God that is struggling with the decision to either trust God or accept what man can offer to help, then I encourage you to do both. God has given us brilliant minds on this earth that have the ability to heal in ways that were not possible even 30 years ago. Our technology is advanced and our doctors are well-educated. But we cannot give man the glory. That belongs to God. Believe that God can use your doctor and his or her treatment for your problem to give you a testimony of how much your Savior cares for you. If you were diagnosed with cancer tomorrow, would you just refuse to do anything medically to be cured? No chemo? No radiation? No healthy diet and exercise? Maybe you would, but many of us would take the treatment and do the things necessary to prolong our life. But remember that God is behind the scenes at all times. All glory given to him and not man. Give man the pat on the back but give God the praise!

Finally, I told this story so that you could see a real picture of me. I have people all the time that tell me that they follow me on Facebook and that they are inspired by some of things that I say and do. Of course I think that is ridiculous but I am flattered. But as my story shows, I am not a strong man. I am a broken man in DESPERATE need of a Savior. Christ living in me gives me strength, power, wisdom, and discernment. I don't have those traits on my own. So it is my prayer that you NEVER see Ryan Summers as a man that "has it all together." You would be fooled if you do. But since I have Jesus living in me, I have relevancy.

Be relevant. Live for Jesus.

"Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;"
2 Corinthians 10:5    

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Lessons in Latin, Not the Pig Kind

"Repetitio est matre studiorum"
I can still remember seeing Mr. Rhodes write those words on the board on the first day of Art class. This is Latin for "repetition is the mother of education." There is no deep philosophical message behind this phrase. It means what it looks like it means. The best way to educate is through consistency and repetition. Mr. Rhodes himself did not become the artist that he was (and still is) without hours of working in an art studio to perfect his craft. Think about a guy like LeBron James. Even though James has been blessed with amazing athletic ability, it would be all for nothing if he hadn't spent most of his lifetime shooting hoops in a gymnasium. "The Chosen One" chose from a young age to dedicate himself to becoming the best basketball player on the planet and he got there through hard work...repetition.

You're probably wondering where I am going with this. Here lately I have thought quite often about that simple lesson that Mr. Rhodes taught me. Most of the time when thinking about the phrase, the word "repetition" is what sticks out to me the most. But I have found myself thinking more about the word "education" than anything else. The fact that Em has been teaching first grade full-time for the last month probably has a lot to do with my educational pondering. It's also hard to miss how my nearly 4 year old daughter seems to learn something new everyday. She has learned how to count to ten and can now recite all seven days of the week (maybe not in order but hey, I'd like to leave Monday's out if I could also).

Rylee's education is as important to us as I'm sure it is to most parents. Em and I talk about saving money for Rylee to go to college. We enrolled her in a 3 year old pre-school this year so that she could get an early feel for a classroom setting and hopefully develop social skills to help break her shyness. Em has a plethora of degrees and the education of our daughter is one of her main passions in life. Even though I've only got one and a half semesters at Shawnee Community College under my belt, I still understand that parental involvement in education is the key to success.

I believe that this is true in all types of education. Unfortunately, I think that we consider more the scholastic element to education and think little of the spiritual education of our children. Think about the message of our society: "go to school, get a diploma, go to college, get a degree, start a career, make lots of money, big house, nice car, happy ever after." We emphasize a message that says that as long as you have the knowledge of the scholastic world, then you will be set for life and everything will just fall into place.

I feel that our pursuit of earthly knowledge has led to our deficiency in spiritual wisdom. Christian students know Math formulas but they cannot recite the 10 Commandments. Christian students can memorize the ABC's, the Preamble, the Gettysburg Address, and lines from Romeo and Juliet but they cannot memorize and recite life-giving verses from God's Word.

So who are we to blame for the inept spiritual education of kids today? Clergy and Sunday School Teachers? I don't think so as long as they are teaching truth and not personal opinions. Government? Part of the blame can go to them especially since it has been government that has removed the 10 Commandments and prayer from our school systems. What about school teachers? Little blame can go to them being that they are required to teach a certain curriculum even though the curriculum itself may be non-factual (ie Darwin's THEORY of Evolution). But just like my wife, there are several teachers that I know in our school systems who still find ways to impart spiritual truths into their weekly curriculum. These teachers are to be applauded.

I believe that PARENTS are the motivators and enablers of education in a child's life and therefore I believe that it is Christian parents who must take the responsibility for the promoting or lack thereof in spiritual education. I've never understood why parents make their kids stay home from church so that homework can be finished. A child spends about 8 hours a day at school. A church service will last anywhere form one to two hours at the most which means that they have an additional 14-15 hours in the day to get their homework completed. I'm not sure how much homework kids have these days but that seems like plenty of time to get assignments finished.What if you made sure that your child had spent some time in devotion and prayer everyday in the same way that you monitor their school work? Family Bible study, what a crazy thought! :)

 I've known kids who have gotten into major trouble with mom and dad just because they brought home a B on their report card. Seriously? Encouraging a child to always give their best is one thing, but showing them that their best is not good enough for your approval is something totally different. NEWSFLASH: maybe your child isn't as smart as you think they are. Maybe they actually struggle with subjects that you excelled in. Maybe they really do have a hard time understanding what the teacher is trying to teach. But we don't want excuses right?!? We want good grades so that you can go to college and get a degree because then you will be happy....or will you?

I'm not here to tell you not to go to college. I wish I had finished my degree and I do intend to one day. But the point that I want to make to parents is that your child's scholastic education will only take them so far in life and it will not guarantee them happiness and joy. I know some really smart people with big educations and  they are actually really unhappy people with big time problems. The message that I'm wanting to convey is that it is our job as parents to teach our children spiritual truths first and foremost. I'm not talking just learning Bible stories. I'm talking about teaching spiritual disciplines like Bible study, prayer time, tithing, giving, worship, and church attendance and involvement. Don't just leave it up to your Senior Pastor, Youth Pastor or Sunday School teacher to teach them. In reality, your child only spends about 4.5-6 hours a week at church, and that's if they are at church for all three services during the week. You make the difference mom and dad. It's up to you.

It is my goal to see my daughter do in life what I have not done, and graduating from college is one of those things. But I would find it hard to disapprove of her if she decided to be a missionary or worship leader instead of a doctor or lawyer. But if she wants to be a doctor that serves God and is able to take care of her old dad one day, then that is ok also! What is important is that I teach her to be who God has made her to be in this life, and not what I, or anyone in this world wants her to be. Because ultimately, she was created by God and only He knows for what purpose she is here. So remember this mom and dad, "repetition is the mother of education." Educate in the ways of God first, and then repeat.

How much better it is to get skillful and godly Wisdom than gold! And to get understanding is to be chosen rather than silver. Proverbs 16:16

For this world's wisdom is foolishness (absurdity and stupidity) with God, for it is written, He lays hold of the wise in their [own] craftiness. 1 Corinthians 3:19

But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. James 3:17