June bug or Junebug?

About two and a half years ago, my supervisor asked me to consider producing a newspaper for the prison. He specifically said, “I do not want another newsletter. Think more in terms of a newspaper.” Because the men live in units called pods, my clerks and I decided to call our new project The POD-Cast. Get it? Pods? Cast (people)? I write a column every month called Lesson from the Porch which is based on the concept of sitting around on the front porch of a home just talking and exchanging ideas. As you read, keep in mind that the writing is constructed to be a blessing to those who are incarcerated, but maybe (just maybe) it will bless you, too. Here is my June column!

June holds an array of possible topics for the POD-Cast. There is the obvious recognition of Father’s Day. We have Juneteenth, which is the Texas celebration of its official emancipation of slavery on June 19, 1865. Our third (but not final) option is to discuss a pesky creature commonly known as a June bug. That is not its official name. For the scientific among us, you know it as rhizotrogus majalis or the European Chafer Beetle. Some of us have friends or family who bear the nickname Junebug. After reading this article, you may be able to identify some Junebuggers who live in your housing unit or perhaps you will find one looking back from the mirror. Let’s walk through its description as you decipher who qualifies for Junebug status.

June bugs are nocturnal (night) creatures. They are not aggressive. They do not bite; however, they have prickly spines on their legs. The feeling that you have been bitten by a June bug is actually being poked by their spiny legs. June bugs are attracted to light and will exhaust themselves spending the night flying into a light. June bugs are usually round and plump, or as comedian Gabrielle Iglesias would say, “Fluffy.” The next part is my favorite description of a June bug. They are lazy flyers which means they bump into objects on a regular basis. They fly in large arcs that seem to have no specific destination. It reminds me of a guy I knew many years ago that admitted when he learned to ride a bike, he never mastered the brake. When he wanted to stop, he just ran into a curb.

Maybe you are thinking, “What is she talking about” or “Chaplain Williams has finally gone over the edge because this doesn’t have anything to do with anything.” Hold on! Read a little bit further. It is intriguing that the compelling attraction to light becomes the death sentence for the June bug because long-term exposure to light kills them. Oh my goodness! Did you hear that? The same thing that becomes the compelling attraction is the thing that kills the June bug (or the Junebug). According to a report by the National Association of Drug Court Professionals,
• 80 percent of offenders abuse drugs or alcohol.
• Nearly 50 percent of jail and prison inmates are clinically addicted.
• Approximately 60 percent of individuals arrested for most types of crimes test positive for illicit drugs at arrest.

Perhaps our June bug is suddenly making more sense? In the years that I have served this facility, I cannot tell you how many times I have heard, “Chaplain, if I wasn’t (drunk or high), I would have never (fill in the blank).” Did you know the Latin root of the word addiction means “enslaved by” or “bound to”? Addiction exerts a long and powerful influence on the brain that manifests in three distinct ways: craving for the object of addiction, loss of control over it’s use, and continuing involvement with it despite adverse consequences (Helpguide.org). As a bit of trivia, did you know that reading emails releases dopamine in the brain? Consider how many people you know that seem to be chained to their smart phone (not in here, of course).

It is clearly not my role to sway the readers that addiction is an “either, or” scenario of either being a matter of will power or a matter of neuropsychology. It is neither the objective nor will it be the outcome. With every diagnosis comes a treatment plan. For example, I have high blood pressure. It isn’t my “fault” that I have high blood pressure; however, it is my responsibility to participate in a treatment plan that keeps me in a healthy state. The agenda of finding fault has never been productive for any of the parties involved. We have not lost sight of our June bug!

This is not a presentation about addiction but about people. I have a condition of high blood pressure, but I am not my condition. The June bug merely personifies our point. Multiple research studies scientifically examine the benefits of humor. Have you seen the movie (true story) about Hunter “Patch” Adams? He wore a clown nose and giant shoes to visit the cancer ward while making balloon animals. Do you remember the older woman that he took to a pool of noodles? Laughter has been shown to reduce stress, boost the immune system and enhance brain chemistry through the release of serotonin and endorphins (Psych Central website). There is a release that comes when we can interject humor to our tragedies. Humor is language. What words do you use to describe the addictive struggle in your life?

Words matter. They determine how we understand and perceive our world. They carry power, for good and for ill. Stigma is driven by the pejorative words, the labels that are used to describe us. This is not a matter of political correctness. Until we are seen as people, until we are provided the same respect and dignity as everyone else, we will continue to die. We have to change the cultural perception . . . (Broken No More website). The U.S. is considered a low-context culture, which means we say what we mean and then we repeat it, not for the hearer’s benefit but for our security that we have been heard. High context cultures have a much different approach.

There’s this word in French, which is sous-entendu, and the word means “don’t listen to what I’ve said, listen to what I meant.” So, don’t listen to the literal words; listen to the message that I passed to you between the lines. Japan is the highest context culture in the world, and there is an expression in Japanese, which is kuuki yomenai. It means someone who is unable to read the atmosphere, or someone who is unable to read the air. So, in Japan, a good communicator can pick up all of those subtle messages in the atmosphere, and a poor communicator is kuuki yomenai (Erin Meyer website). Words matter.

What is the point? Sometimes it isn’t about how others describe us, but the question needs to be asked, “What words do I use to describe me?” Perhaps, we also need the question, “Am I a Junebug?” When there is a separation into two words, June bug, then it is a distant and annoying creature of nature. When there is no separation, and it is one word, Junebug, then we need a mirror to check for similarities to Rhizotrogus majalis. Am I Junebuggy or Junebuggish? Do I keep searching for and banging into the very thing that can destroy me?

Junebugs, be encouraged! It’s not over for you! The primary rule of recovery is within your reach! You don’t recover from an addiction by stopping using. You recover by creating a new life where it is easier to not use (Addictions and Recovery website). Your option of a do-over in creating that new life is happening right now! Have you ever heard the expression “take a chill pill”? Studies prove that relaxation (removal of tension) is the number one influence to maintaining your new life. We deceive ourselves by believing that participating in the addictive behavior is relaxing, but NO! Relaxation is providing health care for the mind and body; therefore, relaxation defuses the addiction cycle.

What is the closing thought for June? What if I don’t know? What if you are supposed to write the end of this article? Perhaps it can only be written after you check for Junebuggerly attributes? Maybe our goal is not to find an ending but to begin writing a script for our new life—the one that is replacing our addictions.

References:

Force, N. (n.d.) The hidden power of humor. Retrieved on May 21, 2018 from https:// psychcentral.com/blog/the-hidden-power-of-humor/
Meyer, E. (2018). Mapping out cultural differences. Retrieved on May 22, 2108 from www.erinmeyer.com
Recovery skills. (n.d.) Retrieved on May 21, 2108 from https://www.addictionsandrecovery.org/ recovery-skills.htm
The power of words: Changing the language of addiction. Retrieved on May 21, 2018 from http://broken-no-more.org/power-words/
Understanding addiction: How addiction hijacks the brain. Retrieved on May 21, 2018 from https://www.helpguide.org/…/how-addiction-hijacks-the-brain…

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Ditching but . . .

I have been thinking about how often and how easily we use the word but without recognizing that it becomes a disclaimer or disannuls everything that was said prior to its presence in the sentence.  The definition of the word as a conjunction means that it is used to introduce something contrasting with what has already been said. In stronger terms, it is used to indicate the impossibility of anything other than what is being said after the word.  What if we made a conscious effort to remove the word but in our vocabulary and replace it with the word yet?  Yet simply means up until the present or specified or implied time.  Yet means an emphasis of increase or repetition.

“I like your new haircut but . . . .”

“I appreciate your thoughts but . . . .”

The word but is almost a knife that chops off the first half of the sentence.  The word yet extends the sentence to include increasing options.

I am making a conscious effort to ditch the but and adopt the yet. Care to join me?

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Sacrificing your roof

I think that many times we overlook characters from the scripture that can serve as important role models.  There is nothing wrong with the idea that we respect the washing of Jesus’ feet by Mary Magdelene or consider the woman at the well for worshipping in Spirit and in truth, but what about other background characters?  For instance, I have been thinking a lot about the homeowner in the story of the man who was let down through his roof.

17 On one of the days while Jesus was teaching, some proud religious law-keepers and teachers of the Law were sitting by Him. They had come from every town in the countries of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem. The power of the Lord was there to heal them. 18 Some men took a man who was not able to move his body to Jesus. He was carried on a bed. They looked for a way to take the man into the house where Jesus was. 19 But they could not find a way to take him in because of so many people. They made a hole in the roof over where Jesus stood. Then they let the bed with the sick man on it down before Jesus.20 When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the man, “Friend, your sins are forgiven (Luke 5:17-20, New Life Version).”

We know about the man.  We know about his friends as we use them frequently in teaching about being healed by the effort and faith of others.  What about the unnamed homeowner who sacrificed his roof?  Sometimes our spiritual journey is like that.  We are the one who no one ever knows or considers has made a sacrifice of something important to us so that their life can be better.  This man never filed a claim or asked, “Hey, who is going to fix my roof?”  We could do some research and determine what season of the year this event occurred in order to be more specific about his sacrifice, but whether it was a rainy season or Middle East heat, it cost that man something to have the covering of his home damaged in order to better someone else’s life.

Are we willing to sacrifice our roof for someone else to be touched by Jesus?

24K Leadership

Dr. Kathy Williams

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Bandaids and Duct Tape

When I was a child, we played outside daily unless the weather was unreasonable.  It was a philosophy in our house that, “The fresh air is good for you.”  Between bike riding, tree climbing, tetherball, basketball, and so on, the bumps and scrapes were sure to come.  It was a badge of honor if the scrape qualified for my mother to apply a bandaid.  I remember crying in pain and pointing out a scrape to my mother.  When she applied a bandaid it miraculously eased my suffering.  There was something about a bandaid that represented covering and comfort and an assurance of healing.

When I think of our society and the overall condition of our world, I think there is a great need for the revival of a bandaid.  It seems that we prefer to cover our wounds with duct tape which not only does not allow the wound to breathe the healing of fresh air, but it comes with a removal that is a ripping exposure.   We have become heartless.  When we see the wounds of those around us, we would rather apply duct tape so that we don’t have to be involved in the process.

When I see the plague of sexual offenses that is afflicting our nation, I wonder if there would have been a better outcome if we had used bandaids instead of duct tape.  I am not talking about lessening accountability but altering the intent of the response.  Our sexualized morality is destroying our nation.  We collectively turned our heads and accepted the “good ole boy” dominance as an acceptable hierarchy.  That mindset has permeated both the religious and secular realms.  Now that the duct tape is being ripped off, we want to turn our heads from the irritated area.

We have multiple areas of wounding in our nation that are being exposed from tearing of the duct tape.  Racial prejudice, discrimination,corruption, violence, addictions, broken families, abandoned generations, and political hypocrisy, are al being exposed on a daily basis.  There is a difference between a covering that will result in healing and hiding for purposes of denial.  Perhaps our society would do well to leave the duct tape behind and go back to the comfort of bandaids.  W

Dr. Kathy Williams, 24K Leadership

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God is not mad

About six months ago, I started to get a serious wake-up call about being overweight.  I began making some changes in the way that I was eating and made a conscious effort to drink more water. After a few months working on the changes, it was time for my six month check-up with my doctor. When I got on the scales I was completely devastated to see that I had gained weight. I struggle to get through the day at work. On my drive home, I returned a call to a friend that I had not heard from in several months. She said, “How are you.”  I responded, “I am fine.” She said, “Why don’t I believe that.” I broke down and cried and told my friend how I felt like my weight issues are a spiritual issue. I said that I struggle with the spiritual implications of being overweight because it feels like that is an area of my life that I have not learned to trust God.  I kept crying, “How have I learned to trust God for so much and yet I am such a failure in this part of my life.” My friend listened and then quietly said, “Do you know that God is not mad at you?” Her question melted my heart completely. I cried even harder, but this time my tears were cleansing the pain. Simple truth is that I am not a perfect person, and I am very dependent on grace. As I continue to struggle with my flaws and imperfections, I at least have the peace of mind of knowing that God is not mad at me. 

God’s daughter,

Kathy

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Letting Go

Life has taught many new lessons to me in the past month or so. A little over four weeks ago I was in excruciating pain and unable to take a single step. It is as if that pain embedded itself in my mind.  When it is time for me to stand up from being seated on the side of my bed or from a chair, I find that I am hesitant and internally bracing myself for the pain.  The difference is that I am no longer actually experiencing pain and have not had pain for about a week.

I think that many of us live in the memory of emotional or spiritual pain. We haven’t actually been in pain for a long period of time, but we have a embedded trigger that says “just in case.” Perhaps today would be a good day for letting go of triggers that are actually empty and have no influence on our present life.

Dr. Kathy Williams

24K Leadership

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Fourth Watch

For as long as I can remember, I have been a night person. When I was raising my children, I disciplined myself to be a day person. When my grandchildren were younger, I made myself be a day person so that I could support them in their sporting events and other school activities. For the last few years, I have returned to my routine of being up in the night, particularly during the fourth watch. The scripture supports that when we hear and see God during the night then we become rulers of the day. I have tried to describe to people what it is like to be a fourth watch person. For me, there is a peace that comes when daylight breaks. There is a sense that everything is all right, and we can go forward with the day. We have a right to ask God to let our health spring forth at the breaking of day. Isaiah 58:8 says, “Then your light shall break forth like the morning, your healing shall spring forth speedily, and your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.” The fourth watch is particularly notable as a time for the Lord revealing his glory. The fourth watch is the darkest part of the night, but it also precedes the brightness of day.

In leadership, we have to know our identity and our assignment. Do not allow your identity to become subject to the rituals and traditions around you, either by denomination or organization. I am not suggesting that you should not be faithful to your responsibilities with your local body, but I am encouraging you to understand who you are by kingdom identity. If you are a night person, ask God what his purpose is in you. Take time to study the watches and ask for guidance with your specific assignment. Understanding the watches places us strategically within God’s timeframe. When we become strategic, we are not just a presence but a force to be reckoned with.  Blessings, Dr. Kathy Williams

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