God Lifted My Veil

God Lifted My Veil
I was born in Jordan to a Muslim family.  My uncle, who’d moved to Chicago, told my dad about the wonderful  opportunities in the U.S., so my dad moved our family here when I was eight years old.  While he was excited about providing for his family, my father worried that we’d grow up “Christian.”  So while my siblings and I went to a public school during the week, we attended Islamic studies on the weekends.  The only friends I had were the Muslim children who attended Islamic studies with me.
As I grew older, my dad became more concerned about the possibility I’d become “Americanized.”  So when I turned 14, my father decided I should return to Jordan to live with my grandmother.  I wasn’t thrilled about living so far from my family, but when I arrived in Jordan, I loved the people, the culture, and Islam, so I was happy to stay.
More than 90 percent of Muslims are of the Sunni sect—those who strictly follow the Qur’an and the Hadith (the sayings of Muhammad).  Since my family was Sunni, I prayed five times a day, fasted during the month of Ramadan, read the Qur’an daily, wore the veil (covering my entire body, and showing only my hands, face, and feet), and tried to imitate the prophet Muhammad in every way.  But no matter what I did for Allah, I felt I needed to do more to avoid his wrath.  I tried to earn his favour so I could go to heaven.
I spent three years in Jordan, but missed my family so much that I asked my dad if I could return to live with them in the U.S. Once I returned, I stopped wearing my head covering because I didn’t want to look like an “oddball,” but I still kept strong in my prayers and my faith.  And I was content—until my father decided it was time for me to get married.
Arab culture dictates men and women are not allowed to date.  When a man finds a “suitable” woman, it’s usually through family connections.  The man and his family visit the young girl’s home to meet her family. The “couple” are allowed to speak to each other, but only in the presence of both families.  After several similar visits, the couple decide if they want to get married. In Islam, a woman has the right to say no, but in the culture, the family usually pressures the girl to say yes.  In both the culture and religion, a woman can marry her first cousin.  So when I turned 23, my dad pressured me to marry my first cousin who lives in Jordan.  While I was against the marriage and certainly didn’t want to spend the rest of my life married to someone I didn’t love, I didn’t feel I had the choice to go against my father’s wishes.  My father flew there ahead of me to prepare for the wedding.  The rest of my family couldn’t afford to fly to Jordan, so my father would be the only immediate family member at the ceremony.
A week later, my elder brother took me to the airport to ensure I got on the plane. Because of tight security on international flights, my brother was unable to take me directly to my gate, so he dropped me off at the main terminal and went home.
As I waited for my flight, I thought about my future.  I didn’t want to marry my first cousin.  But if I didn’t, I’d disgrace my family.
In Arab culture, when a woman disgraces her family—or is even rumoured to have done so—she deserves to die.  I knew if I left the airport and ran away, my family would come after me to kill me for disgracing them.  But the longer I thought about how miserable I’d be married to a man I didn’t love or respect, the more angry I became. “I’ve fasted for you; I’ve prayed five times a day to you; I’ve even studied the Qur’an for you,” I inwardly screamed at Allah. “And this is what you allow to happen?”  Right then, on February 10, 1990, I stopped praying and worshipping Allah.
I grabbed my luggage and escaped to the nearest hotel to hide.  I didn’t have much money and desperately tried to think of what to do next.  I didn’t have many American friends because my father wouldn’t allow me to be influenced by their “Satanic ways.”  But I did know one American woman whom I called from the hotel.  I told her briefly what had happened and asked if I could stay with her for a while.  She came immediately and picked me up.
When the plane landed in Jordan 16 hours later without me on it, my father became furious.  He called my brother and told him to find me.
I stayed with my friend for a few weeks, until one day my brother showed up at her office with a gun.  He told her, “I know you have my sister.  Give her back before anybody gets hurt!”  A co-worker called the police, but my brother left before they arrived.  My friend got home that night and told me it was too dangerous for me to stay with her any longer, but recommended I stay at a shelter for women suffering from domestic violence.
When I arrived at the shelter, they told me I couldn’t stay there either because they’d seen two men showing my photo at a nearby restaurant.  They sent me to another shelter an hour away.
After several weeks at that shelter, and only after I began to feel safe, did I allow myself to feel any emotion.  Everything I’d bottled up burst out of me, and I sobbed as I mourned the loss of my family and my way of life.
Because I had a naturalised U.S. citizenship, I joined the National Guard for the government’s protection.  After my training, I returned and found a job.  Miraculously, I hid from my family for four years. I missed them so much.  I finally gathered my courage, contacted my mother, and met with her and my younger sister.  We spent most of our time together in tears.  The rest of my family had little to say to me.  But slowly over time, my family and I began to make peace, and I was amazed at how they finally accepted me back.  I thought, “Allah didn’t neglect me after all”, and returned to my faith.  I didn’t pray five times a day or worship him the way I had in the past, but I thanked him daily and did good things I thought would please him.
In February 1998, I accepted a job for a company based in Texas.  Three days after I moved, I met Robyn who was walking her dog in front of my apartment.  We started talking and became fast friends.
When she invited me to go to her church, I agreed.  “It’s probably okay,” I thought.  “My faith believes that Jesus was a messenger of Allah, too.  I’m sure Allah won’t be upset if I go to church.”  I enjoyed the pastor’s sermon—except when he talked about Jesus.  Sometimes he’d say Jesus is God, and sometimes he’d say Jesus is the Son of God.  How could Jesus be both God and God’s Son?  But I continued to go to church with Robyn until one day the pastor said the church was supporting missionaries in Muslim countries where they don’t know Jesus. I thought, “Of course Muslims know Jesus.  I need to set the record straight.”  After the service, I introduced myself to the pastor, Pete, and said, “I’m a Muslim, and I do know Jesus.”  I was thoroughly convinced the prophet Muhammad was the last messenger and the Qur’an was the last book sent by Allah.  The Qur’an clearly states Jesus was a messenger born of a virgin mother, Mary.  He performed many miracles such as bringing the dead to life, healing the sick, speaking when he was a baby, and creating a bird out of clay.  Allah loved him so much that when his enemies were preparing to crucify him, he sent someone who looked like Jesus to be crucified instead.
Muslims believe Jesus never died, but was raised to heaven to be protected from his enemies. Jesus, in the Qur’an, claims He never told anyone to worship Him but to worship the one true God, Allah.  According to Muslims, the Bible has been changed—and Christians and Jews don’t really have the true books.
When Allah gave Muhammad the message, Allah preserved the Qur’an and made sure no one changed it.  The more I attended church, the more I wondered why Christians had different beliefs than Muslims; both the Bible and the Qur’an couldn’t be right. As I wrestled with Christianity, I asked Robyn and Pete: “Was Jesus crucified?  Did Jesus die on the cross for our sins?  Is Jesus God, or the Son of God?  What is meant by the Trinity?  Is the Bible really accurate?”
I read different books on Christianity and Islam and discovered the Bible hadn’t changed; its books were accurate.  Then Pete introduced me to a Bible professor, Dan, who took me through the messianic prophesies of the Old Testament and showed me how they were fulfilled in the New Testament.  At that point I was able to believe Jesus was crucified for our sins. But I still wrestled as to whether or not Jesus was God. In Islam, to believe in any god other than Allah is blasphemous and unforgivable.
On Sunday, August 2, 1998, several months after I started to investigate Christianity, an Iranian Christian pastor named Iraj, whom I met through Pete, called and said he’d like to meet to discuss our beliefs. 
That evening I visited with him and told him I believed in Jesus’ crucifixion, but not in His Deity.  I also told him I’d studied the life of Jesus and no one in history compares to Him. Iraj said, “Well, if you think Jesus is that wonderful and that He died on the cross for your sins, will you confess that before God?” I agreed, and we prayed together.  That was the day I received Jesus as my Saviour.  After that, God’s Spirit began to open my eyes to the truth of Jesus’ deity.
It’s been almost four years since that day. My dad and elder sister refuse to speak to me.  I maintain a relationship with my mom, who doesn’t mention my conversion. My brother rejected me.  The rest of my family tolerates my new religion.
One of my deepest longings is to see my family and all Muslims accept Jesus as their Saviour and to see Christians burdened for the Muslim people, especially the ones living in the U.S.
I’m so grateful Jesus led me to Himself. He’s been there for me when I needed Him—even when I thought I didn’t need Him. In Islam, I had to work to earn God’s approval. Now I’m free to bask in God’s unconditional love. Above all, I’m amazed He loves me so much that He died on the cross for me—so that now I’m a daughter of God.
There are more than 1 billion Muslims in the world, and more than 5 million in the U.S., making Islam one of the fastest-growing religions in America—quickly emerging as the second-largest religion behind Christianity. Here’s what you can do to make an impact.
1.   Pray for them.  The only way a Muslim will ever come to Christ is if the Holy Spirit works in their hearts to draw them to the truth.  Pray specifically that:  Muslims would be open to reading the Bible and would believe the Bible is the preserved, authentic Word of God; they’ll believe Jesus was crucified for their sins and resurrected from the dead; God will remove any misconceptions they have about Christianity; God will give them courage to surrender to Christ.
2.   Know your faith.  It isn’t as important to a Muslim what you know about Islam as it is important for you to know about your own faith.  Steep yourself in God’s Word so you can address any questions a Muslim may have about what the Bible and Christianity teach.
3.   Remove any misconceptions about Muslims.   Not all Muslims are extremists, such as the Taliban. Not all of them hate Americans or Jews.  Basically, they want the same good things from life we want.  Many Christians assume all Muslims know Islam and the Qur’an very well.  The fact is, however, most Muslims are Muslim in name only; they know little of their faith.
4.   Befriend them.  The best way to reach out to a Muslim is to show her Christ’s love. Sharing the gospel isn’t enough to reach a Muslim.  She has spiritual blinkers on (2 Corinthians 4:4) that require time, prayer, and the outpouring of Christ’s love working through you.  But the results of your persistence will be worth it (Galatians 6:9).

Hijacked! My Traumatic Experience

Hijacked! My Traumatic Experience
South Africa may not experience tsunamis, hurricanes or devastating earthquakes, but we do experience other life-shattering tragedies such as fires,  HIV/AIDS and…. violent  crime!   “It always happens to others!” people are wont to  say … until  it happens to you!
IT HAPPENED TO ME THREE YEARS ago, on the night of 17 September 2003. I was returning home after presenting a late lecture to engineering students. I was tired. It had been raining. I was looking forward to relaxing at home with my wife and son. I stopped my car outside the gate at home and was opening the gate, when I heard a voice behind me saying: “Get back inside your car”.
I turned slowly to see a man standing there pointing his gun at me. I looked quickly towards my house but nobody was in sight. I had no option but to obey. With that, two accomplices emerged from the shadows and forced me into the back of the car, one on either side of me. 
The gun toting man got behind the wheel and we drove away. I had no idea where I was being taken at that time of night. I was swiftly relieved of my belongings – my wallet (with R70.00 cash in it), my gold watch, my cell phone, my wedding band,…all the while I was being sworn at, cursed at. I remained calm, knowing that God had His hand on me.
I told them to drop me on the side of the road telling them they could have my car. In reply I was told they did not want my car, only money! As we drove on they forced me to lie down on the seat so that I could not be seen and put a dirty cap over my face so I could not see where I was being taken. I just prayed: “God confound them.” This happened, as they soon lost their way and had to stop and ask directions; but I was not afforded an opportunity for escape. I did manage to see some lights as we drove along and I recognised the route they were taking. I had no idea what to expect next.
After another ten kilometers or so, they turned into a smaller road and finally down a steep, rough track into a clearing and there I was accosted by the gun-wielding man who demanded to know where my laptop was. I had been doing research for an M.Sc. in Electrical Engineering and had left some discs on the back seat. They were now in disarray as I had been forced to lie down on them during the highjacking journey. While trying to explain that I did not possess one, the man punched me in the face and repeated his demand. He then threw me down onto the ground outside the car and tried to kick me in the face with his boot. I caught his foot and protected my face but he then started shooting, pumping four bullets into my left leg and two into my right thigh. He pulled the trigger once more but the gun just went “click”. As he walked away from the car, I decided to try and escape. I could not use my legs – they were simply not responding – so I decided to roll away. I rolled off the edge of the clearing and down the steep slope for about 30 meters through long weeds and muddy ground full of stones and roots. I decide to lie there with my head down so that blood would stay in my head. There was a street lamp nearby. In the dim light I could see the bullet wounds in my legs and the blood oozing from them. I lay on my back looking up at the stars thinking, “Nobody even knows where I am – Am I going to die like this?” I prayed to God saying I was totally in His hands. It was now up to Him.
After lying there for about ten minutes, I spotted a young African boy walking along a nearby path. I called out to him in Zulu asking him to phone the police, get an ambulance and phone my wife to let her know what had happened to me. He said he would call his mother to help me – it turned out that she was a qualified home nurse! She arrived soon after, equipped with rubber gloves and a first aid kit. She took off my shoes and asked permission to remove my long pants, quite blood-stained by now. There was no time to feel embarrassed so I said, “Go ahead”. She cleaned my wounds and slowed the bleeding. With that an African man appeared and said: “Do not be afraid. I am here to help you.” By now my legs were shaking uncontrollably. He then left and returned with a sleeping bag which he placed over me to keep me warm. He placed his jacket under my head then returned home to phone the local police. They were reluctant to come and investigate so he became angry and phoned his boss, whom he knew “would make a plan”. His boss (who did not even know me) threatened the police and demanded that I be attended to. Within fifteen minutes there were four police vehicles at the scene. One of the policemen phoned my wife telling her I had been shot several times and that I would be taken to Crompton Hospital. My wife made two phone calls and by the time I arrived there were thirty family, friends and church members waiting. Even in the state I was in, I was emotionally moved and touched by this overwhelming support.
I was wheeled into Emergency, given an x-ray and, not needing surgery, was taken to a ward where my blood was tested.  My veins had collapsed and they had to take arterial blood to establish my blood type. I needed two and a half pints of replacement blood. I overheard the nurses talking and saying that I probably would not live – then the doctor commenting that I was strong and would pull through. A day later I was well enough to move to a normal ward – one of the many miracles to follow. My left leg was in plaster from top to toe with a small window cut in the plaster to enable the dressing of my wound to be changed regularly. Two days later I was visited by Nickolas Ntanjana (who covered me with the sleeping bag) and his boss, Bruce Dickson, and that is when I heard their side of the story (about the calls to the police).
These two men and the home nurse, Winnie Ngcongo, are the real heroes of my story – I owe my life to them. It is just so encouraging to meet people who make a difference by acting on their convictions -even on behalf of a perfect stranger. Wow!
My week’s stay in hospital was incredible. I was placed in a private ward, received first class treatment, was visited by the local newspaper reporter (my incident was reported on the front page), received three visitors at the same time (one each from Uganda, Kenya and Nigeria) as well as numerous staff members from the technikon. My entire final year class of students came to visit – though they were only allowed in six at a time! It was very special to me – they had dressed up for the occasion, had organised the school bus and bought me special gifts. Many church friends visited me and prayed with my wife, my son and me. One family in particular prayed for my legs to heal. Thereafter I did not feel any more pain from my wounds. The following day I was asked by one of the nurses: “On a scale of one to ten, how would you rate your level of pain?” When I said, “What pain?” she stood there looking at me in total disbelief. I told her to stop giving me morphine as I did not want to become addicted. My worst pain was caused by lying in the same position for several days. I requested a handgrip above my bed to ease the pain and allow blood to circulate. While lying awake in the early morning, trying to make sense of what had happened, I sensed in my spirit that God had been with me in this “baptism of fire” and wanted me to yield to Him in future as the broken “alabaster box” letting the perfume of His life flow unhindered to others. I also had time from my normal busy schedule to rest literally, figuratively and spiritually.
I had the privilege of leading one of the nurses to Jesus. My wife and son came to visit me every single day without fail. They went through almost as much trauma as I did but were not getting the special treatment that I was. My mother and three sisters (and brother-in-law) drove 380km to see me. They announced that two VIP’s were coming to see me the next day but would not say who.
To see my brother and sister–in-law walking into the ward the next afternoon was such a surprise! My wife, son and I couldn’t believe our eyes! All the way from England! We were all in tears and just hugged one another, and laughed and cried. When they heard of my bad news, they said they just had to come and see me.
At the end of that week, I was pronounced fit enough to return home. I was wheeled out to the car in a wheelchair. A physiotherapist helped me cope with getting up and down, walking on crutches, etc.; even simple everyday things became a mission to accomplish – we take our health for granted. Everything had to be planned in advance. Two days after returning home, I experienced excruciating pain in my back. I thought I was going to die! My muscles began to seize up suddenly. In spite of the muscle spasms I was able to cough and cough I did. Blood came pouring out of my mouth.  Alarmed, my wife phoned our family  doctor. I was told to come in first thing the next morning for an x-ray. It was confirmed that I had two cracked ribs and that my left lung was filling up with blood. It was back to hospital. I needed to take things easy and let nature take its healing course. Another week in a hospital bed. 
With church groups in three different provinces around the country praying for me, I had no option but to be healed. Again I was back home and recuperating in the company of my loving and very supportive family. I was off work for the rest of the year. This led to some serious financial losses as I received no compensation from either the Road Accident Fund nor from Workman’s Compensation.
I lost tens of thousands of rands due to not being able to give extra lectures. There is no fund to cover one in the event of a highjacking.  A case of attempted murder was opened by the local police but to date no arrests have been reported. It is sad that criminals and the syndicates supporting them, can just force themselves into your life, violently ruin it and get away with it. Governments who pride themselves on removing the death penalty will have to answer to God as to why they have subjected their law-abiding citizens to the death penalty instead! Not only do you and your immediate family suffer but also the community that you serve – there are vast, rippling (negative) effects. Medical expenses, counselling (by psychologists or psychiatrists), protracted battles with insurance companies or debtors, security measures to be upgraded, etc. I have lost my ability to concentrate for extended periods on technical type work and hence have had to give up my research. I was determined not to become a victim and was elected as chairman of the South African Institute of Electrical Engineers, KwaZulu Natal Branch, last year. Nevertheless my reserves of energy have become limited. I suppose being over the age of fifty also contributes to this.
I would like to emphasise that having been through a traumatic, near death experience, it gives one a new set of values. One of these is the importance of communicating  appreciation and love to those around you. Say it and say it often. Love is the only thing I know that grows as you give it away! Life is really very temporal and fragile. Live it by loving those close to you. Allow Jesus into your life; then you will know everlasting life and love of the highest degree – after all He did lay down His life for you. Who else loves you that much? I conclude by thanking all those people who supported me either by visiting or through praying. There is no better family than the family of God in Christ Jesus.

80% of hijackings take place in home driveways. Check your driveway and street before you leave or enter your premises. Be on the look out for suspicious vehicles/persons.
Always be cautious and aware of surrounding obstructions and shrubbery that may conceal a hijacker.
At road junctions, leave enough space between your car and the one ahead of you to allow you to escape.
If a car has driven into the rear of your car, and the impact is fairly light, wave to the driver to follow you to somewhere safe to trade necessary information.
When approaching your vehicle, always have your keys ready but not visible. Be aware of your surroundings & if you notice any suspicious behaviour immediately walk away from your car towards a safe area.
When approaching a red traffic light at night, slow down so that you only reach it when it turns green.
Do not stand by your car if you are waiting for somebody & never sit in your parked vehicle without being aware of your surroundings.
Once in the car, lock all your doors & leave your window only partially open. Keep any valuables, briefcase, handbag & cell phone out of sight.
If you suspect you are being followed, take a different route home. If you still think you are being followed, drive to the nearest police station. Do not stop your car for any reason as this will give your pursuer the ideal opportunity to hijack your vehicle.
Avoid driving through high crime or unfamiliar areas as well as late at night/early hours of the morning when the roads are quiet.
Drive in the centre lane away from pedestrians where possible.
When you are a victim of a car-hijacking, don’t put up a fight. Do exactly as told by the hijackers. Do not reach for your purse or valuables.
Gather as much information as possible without posing a threat.

Bullying – A Biblical Perspective

Bullying – A Biblical Perspective
THE TRAGIC DEATH OF A 16 YEAR OLD, Grade 11 pupil, has highlighted the problem of bullying and violence in schools. 
 High School student, Shane McCarroll, died tragically in hospital after a fight at a friend’s 18th birthday party in Amanzintoti.  Shane’s jaw was broken in two places and his right cheek bone was fractured.  An artery in his neck ruptured, and a clot formed starving his brain of oxygen.  He suffered a major stroke and was declared brain dead.  According to a report in the Sunday Times (23/07/06), some of the youngsters had drunk alcohol before arriving at the party. 
In Randburg, a group of teenagers tortured a mouse with burning cigarettes, doused it with a flammable aerosol spray and set it alight.  Giggling hysterically, they filmed the death throws of the mouse on a cell phone camera.  Now they face criminal charges and up to 4 months imprisonment, or a fine of R20,000 if convicted.  The SPCA reports that incidents of children treating animals with alarming cruelty are on the increase.
In Kwa-Zulu Natal, two teenage girls, aged 13 and 16, were arrested in Cato Manor on charges of assault. They had attacked a Grade 10 pupil with a school belt, slapped and kicked her and allegedly tried to kill her.  The victim later attempted suicide by slashing her wrists. 
In Rustenburg, a 17 year old boy ended up in ICU with a fractured skull after being beaten up in the school toilets.
Last year, Chadah Rowley, a 15 year old pupil at Bosmansdam High School in Bothasig died after a fight in which he was savagely beaten.  Days before his death he had told his mother: “I am scared mom, you don’t know how bad it is at school.”  Members of a gang had told him that they were going to kill him. 
According to a study published by the Free State University, more than 32% of learners said that another pupil had hit them in the past.  Most people said they were targeted by bullies in buses or taxis on the way to school, or in toilets and showers at school.  Others were bullied by teachers.  According to the study, 50% of teachers admitted to physically bullying their students.  6% of teachers confessed that they were guilty of acts of “sexual bullying” at least once a month.  Only 5% of teachers and 16% of pupils interviewed at secondary schools believed that bullying was “not a problem”. 
Educationists are reporting that violence amongst school children is increasing.  Many teachers are complaining about the violent character and destructive habits of so many of the children they are assigned to work with.  As one put it: “They come saturated with the popular culture, foul-mouthed language, resentful attitudes toward anyone in authority and arrogant disdain for learning.  Their parents give them no support…”
As Norman Cona, the headmaster of Thembalethu High School in George said: “Not a day goes by when a fight doesn’t break out.  Children no longer respect their parents, teachers, one another or even animals.”
Reports have defined bullying as: “Repeated and systematic harassment and attacks on others.  Bullying can be perpetrated by individuals or groups… and can include: physical violence and attacks, verbal taunts, name calling and put downs, threats and intimidation, extortion or stealing money and possessions, and exclusion from the peer group.”
Studies show that while boys are more likely to be the perpetrators of direct physical attacks, girls are more likely to use: “indirect, subtle, social means to harass other girls…social exclusion, manipulation of friendship relationships, spreading rumours, etc.”
Dr. Harriet Klopper, a criminologist in Pretoria, has concluded that the media is playing a key role:  “It is estimated that children see more than 8,000 murders and 100,000 violent acts on TV before they reach high school.”  Up to 80% of computer games aimed at youngsters between the ages of 8 and 14 realistically portray blood, beheadings, mutilation and death in graphic colour, with all of the associated sound effects. “And heroes who die in these games come to life again, which teaches children that violence has no consequences.”  
Do you approve of adultery and fornication?  Would you enjoy watching criminals beat their victims senseless?  Could you regard graphic violence or brutal murders entertaining?  Would you want your children to learn from immoral or occultic teachers? 
Of course not!  We would be indignant at any such suggestion. 
Yet, how often do we spend time unthinkingly watching such evils on TV?  And how often do our children sit in front of the TV and watch such vile and violent programmes?  Have you noticed how many of the children’s cartoons depict graphic violence, immorality and occultism? 
Which of us would allow a stranger to come into our home and rearrange the furniture?  Yet, daily we allow strangers on the television, or through magazines and music, to reorganise our thoughts.   Strangers have become the greatest influence on the mental and emotional development of our children – through TV  And superficial, sensational and immoral material predominates in the modern entertainment industry.  It is producing an increasingly selfish, superficial, mindless and immoral society.  All of this is most valid and needs to be faced up to and dealt with, along with the violent videos, computer games and angry, rebellious, aggressive rap, rock, and hip hop ‘music’.  One also needs to look at the role of the state schools themselves.
“A tree is known by its fruit”  (Matt. 12:33).  By the time the average child completes high school, they will have spent 15,000 hours in school, watched between 15,000 to 30,000 hours of television and listened to over 10,000 hours of music. 
The influence of parents and churches in the upbringing of most children today is declining at an alarming rate.  The disintegration of many families, absentee parents and a general absence of discipline, have created a vacuum.  Violent and immoral films and videos, throbbing pulsating noise masquerading as ‘music’ and pornographic magazines, websites and SMS sites are filling the void in the aimless and meaningless lives of all too many young people. 
What we see influences what we think and what we think influences what we become and what we do.  Ideas have consequences.  Actions flow from thought patterns.  What form of education is molding your child’s thought patterns?  What entertainment and news media is filling their minds?  “Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.”  Eph. 5:15–16
The selfishness and short sightedness of modern society is seen in litter strewn, graffiti-vandalised communities.  The filth, pollution and destruction of the environment in which our children play and grow up is also reflected in the self-mutilation and body-piercing of a growing number of confused young people.   Pierced noses and eye brows, tongue studs and belly rings, along with acid rock and rap should be a wake up call to any parent.  But, incredibly, all too many parents seem oblivious to the sullen, self-destructive, rebellious attitudes that go along with this kind of body-mutilating, mind-rotting and soul-destroying sub-culture.
In the face of these threats to our young people, how have the schools responded?  Have they taken the opportunity to shape minds, morals and characters to love their neighbour as themselves, doing unto others as they would want to be done unto?  Are our schools teaching respect for God, respect for parents, respect for people and property?  Or have our schools been pouring fuel on the fire by teaching that man is a product of evolutionary chance?  By replacing Bible education with sex education, removing prayer and tolerating pornography?  Teaching that violence is an acceptable solution to the problem of an ‘unwanted pregnancy’ by killing the pre-born baby through abortion?
By promoting situation ethics, values clarification, alternative lifestyles, self-actualization and sexual experimentation?  Effectively – to use and abuse others for our own convenience? 
In a sense, the violence confronting us in our schools today is an inevitable result of rejecting the truth of Creation, absolute standards of right and wrong, the Ten Commandments, the teachings and golden rule of Christ, and the meaning, purpose and ethical foundations that comes from Christian education. 
Evolution, with its “from goo to the zoo to you”, “from mud to monkeys to man”, “a whole of time and a whole lot of nothing made everything” and the science fiction fairy-tale with its “survival of the fittest” breeds bullies.  Educationalists today are saying “At school kids should be taught exactly what is acceptable and unacceptable behaviour, how to treat others with respect and how to insist on their rights without infringing on the rights of others.  All schools should have psychologists to help…kids who have become involved in crime or violence often need intensive, long term therapy…emotional intelligence tests…” They are deluding themselves if they think that this can possibly work.  It is secular Humanist education with its “you come from nothing, you are going nowhere, life is meaningless.  There are no moral absolutes”, philosophy, cannot possibly even understand the problem of bullying, let alone deal with it effectively.  “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.” Colossians 2:8
Dr. Olweus (in ‘Bullying at School: What We Know and What We Can Do’ Oxford, 1993) describes the typical victim as “children who become repeated victims of aggression and bullying  tend to be quiet and shy in temperament, and tend not to retaliate or make any assertive responses to the initial aggression, which is then repeated by the bully.  Children who become victims typically lack friends and social support at school, and they are often not confident in their physical abilities and strength…are very unhappy children who suffer from fear, anxiety and low self esteem as a result of the bullying…some victims of bullying are so distressed that they commit, or attempt to commit, suicide.”  Dr. Olweus also reported that “most students who are bullied either do not report the bullying to adults or they wait a very long time before doing so.  The reasons include feelings of shame, fear of retaliation for reporting, and fear that the adults cannot, or will not, protect the victim in the settings where the bullying usually takes place: the playground, the hallway of the school, or on the way to and from school.”
Studies have also confirmed that “bullies tend to become aggressive adults who stand a much higher chance than average of obtaining multiple criminal convictions.”
Another important, but often over looked aspect of bullying, are those bystanders who are neither the perpetrators nor the victims, but who “follow a bully’s lead and help to harass or victimize a particular child in their class or school…the bullying may cause anxiety or fear in bystanders.  The learning environment is poisoned by bullying…”

Look for signs such as: fear of going to school, lack of friends, missing belongings, torn clothing and increasing fearfulness and anxiety. 
Ask your child directly if he or she has been a victim of bullying.
Work with the school to ensure that they are providing good supervision for the children, particularly in the playground, and providing effective consequences to bullies.
If the bullying is happening on the way to and from school, arrange for your child to get to school by alternative transport or with older, supportive children who can protect them.
Help develop your child’s social and defensive skills.
Work with the Parent Teachers’ Association to ensure that the school implements a comprehensive anti-bullying programme and restores discipline at all levels.
This must include restoring the ethical and spiritual foundations to education, bringing back Bible Education and prayer, Bible reading and hymn singing at school assemblies.
Supporting and developing the Scripture Union or Students Christian Fellowship group at the schools and bringing in Christian guest speakers to deal with the spiritual and moral character development of students.
Recognise the danger of violent video games and aggressive, angry rock, hip hop and rap ‘music’ in providing fuel for the fire of aggressive bullying behaviour.
If you become aware of incidents of bullying behaviour intervene immediately.
Pray regularly with your children.
Teach your children God’s commandments and the Scriptures.

When silence is golden

Stop talking. We mean it.
  Having a tug-of-war with your partner about where to go on your next date? Whether to relocate for a new job opportunity? How to discipline your kids? Ask anyone with an opinion and they’ll tell you the same thing: “You’ve got to talk it through.”
  Yes, there are times to talk. But there are times when conversation isn’t necessary, and is even hurtful.
There can be power and wisdom in not talking – in biding your time, walking away, or simply shutting up and getting on with things. So try not talking during these times:

Wife: “We need to figure out how we’re going to handle childcare for Thursday night.”
Husband (while balancing the cheque book): “What?”
Wife: “Sara can’t watch the kids, but Amy can. But the boys are never well behaved when Amy watches them. Don’t you think we should pass on Amy?”
Husband (eyes still on the cheque book): “Umm, what’s this about now? Amy who?”
Wife: “Sarah can’t watch the kids.”
Husband (making eye contact): “When?”
Wife: “Why don’t you listen to me?”
He may not be listening because you’re talking when he isn’t ready. I (Leslie) have learned and relearned the price of this mistake. I can’t count the times I’ve tried to converse with Les when he was in the middle of a task, and I ended up getting my feelings hurt. So take it from me, if you have something on your mind and your partner isn’t ready to discuss it, clam up. Let him or her know you want to talk. Say something such as, “I need to talk to you about childcare when you’re ready. Will you have some time before dinner?” That’s all it takes to make sure your partner’s mind is in a receptive place.

If you’ve been telling him for eight years not to put his jacket on the dining room chair, or you’ve been suggesting ways to curb her tardiness since your honeymoon, it might be time to take a permanent break from the conversation. Spewing endless critiques or advice in a vain attempt to change your partner isn’t going to provide the solution.

This isn’t about giving up.  This is about nagging. If you’ve asked, cajoled, threatened, and analysed your man on the subject of hanging his coat in the closet, and he never does, you have some options: (a) you decide to hang it for him and say no more about it; (b) you leave it there and say nothing; or (c) button your lips and pray about it.
      The bottom line is that you need to give up the conversations you keep on having over and over and over. They’ll grind both of you down.

Recently, we were talking with a friend who works as a management consultant. He told us that “power stalling” is common practice in every company, and he asked if we used it in our marriage work. We were intrigued.
    “On the job,” he said, “if someone runs a new idea past me in the hall, I say, ‘That’s interesting. Let me think about it.’ But somehow if my wife runs one past me, I’m apt to snap, ‘No, I don’t like that.’ It’s as though I become a five year old at home.”
      We immediately knew what he meant. The idea of reining in feelings is anathema to most couples. If he proposes a whitewater rafting trip, you come back immediately with a tirade of how you’ve had your heart set on a resort. If she proposes an outing to a friend’s barbeque, you hurl protests that you’ll be bored, and you don’t even know her friend.  But wait. Instead, why not say, “Let me think about that and get back to you”? This buys you a cooling-off period, time to weigh how you feel about something without the pressure of having to give an immediate reply. And it gives you time to compose a thoughtful response.

Maybe she had a bad interaction with the children. Maybe his boss yelled at him. Whatever the explanation, you’ve initiated a discussion about finances, and he starts to complain about your attitude and how you’re attacking him. “You always criticise me, and you never appreciate what I do for you.” At this point, the wisest tack is to discuss neither the new budget nor his behaviour, but to say as calmly as you can, “I’m going to give you some space right now.” You don’t need to be judgmental. Just set a boundary by clamming up until things calm down. 
    Of course, the same holds true when the shoe is on the other foot. When you’re feeling a little insane and your emotions are like a ticking time bomb, you need to give yourself some space. Too many couples try to have rational conversations when one of them is in an irrational place. It never works. The next time one of you is being unreasonable, hold off on conversing and provide a space for sanity.  Once you’ve both taken a bit of refuge from each other, you’re bound to have a more reasonable conversation.

Les and I were having a reasonable conversation about how to arrange the furniture.  With the addition of a second baby and soon-to-be-toddler to our family, we both agreed it was time to convert the formal living room into a play space.  As we jockeyed the furniture around, we realised some pieces would have to go.
“I’ve never really liked that antique table we put all the photos on,” said Les.
“You’re kidding?” I responded.  “That’s my favourite piece of furniture.”
“You like it because you like the photos on it,” Les protested.
“Excuse me – I know what I like, and I like the table.”
“Well, we can keep the table and put the toys on top of it,” Les suggested.
“Why don’t we get rid of your book shelf?” I countered.
“Suddenly it’s my bookshelf?”
“You know I never wanted it in here.”
“Well, what about the painting upstairs I can’t stand?” asked Les.
“The one your parents gave us? 
That’s your issue…”
“Okay, you want to bring parents into this discussion…”
“Wait a second, time out, what are we doing?” I asked.  “What are we even talking about?”
Ever have one of those?  We’ve all had conversations that get derailed.  You start out talking about what colour to paint the kitchen, and suddenly you’re fighting about ice-cream and the proper temperature for the freezer.  When you can no longer remember what exactly you’re trying to decide.  When you have to ask, “What are we arguing about?” take a time-out and cool down.  We have a phrase we use to help us stay on track:  “Let’s cool our heads and warm our hearts.”  This simple reminder keeps us from being swallowed by a conversation that’s turned silly and is bordering on becoming vicious.

Whenever we talk about something we need to do instead of actually doing it, we may believe we’re getting closer to taking action.  But we aren’t.  We’re in denial.
The subject of sex is a good example.  When partners talk about why they’re not having much sex in their marriage, their very conversation can keep them from acting.  It creates more pressure.  Their lack of sex has now become an “issue.”  And issues need to be explored, right?  So they examine every side of the problem and become more inactive with each conversation. They fall victim to the “paralysis of analysis.”  Their discussions lead to terminal inaction.  In the time they spend talking about why they’re not making love, they could be making love.  So if you’re using your conversation to avoid action, don’t delay.  Stop stewing and start doing.  William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania, was imprisoned during the fifteenth century for Quaker beliefs.  While in prison, he wrote, “True silence is rest for the mind.”  Indeed it is.  A moment of quiet reflection at the right time nourishes and refreshes the spirit of communication.

Reprinted from Marriage Partnership (Spring 2005), published by Christianity Today International, Carol Stream, Illinois, USA. Used with permission.