Friday, November 14, 2008

FCA Speech

Several years ago, I gave a speech to the school FCA. It addressed my thoughts to the young students who were present. The ideas I presented then still apply now. So then, to my students, all of them, from the year I started teaching to the wonderful young teens I have now, I present the following text of the speech I gave that day.

I have decided to discuss 4 things: I am going to talk a little bit about life, being a Life Science teacher. I am also going to talk a little bit about me, a little bit about you, and a little bit about God.

All life, in my opinion, reflects the nature of God in its beauty, complexity and design. How many of you have pets? There are numerous accounts of dogs, who, when separated from families who have moved across the country, travel 1000’s of miles to be reunited with their human families. How can they travel so far, never having been there before? Scientists don’t have an answer, but I do. It’s love. And GOD IS LOVE. And that, my friends, is beautiful.
All physical living things are made up of cells. Our cells make proteins that make up our bodies and the structures of all plants, animals and less complex organisms. So, is that all we are, is just chemicals that came together by accident? No. There is a spark of life in all living things. And that spark comes from God, for He is the author, the originator, the One whose spirit gives life to all things. GOD IS LIFE.

I have lived a really imperfect life. More than you know. Please don’t look up to me or put me on a pedestal, because if you knew everything there was to know about me, you would be supremely disappointed in me. I am fallible. I am not Super-Christian. I am more like Super-Flunky. Tada! Time for me to make the wrong decision and screw something up! It’s time for me to hurt someone’s feelings, trying to be funny. It’s time for me to blow it again. Perhaps, at times, you have felt the same way. Here’s a little secret: God does not see us the way we see ourselves. He sees the invisible part of us. He sees our hearts. God uses imperfect people who make themselves available to Him. God’s not looking for Super Christian to do His work of showing love. He’s looking for you, and for me. Just the simple act of looking up to God and saying, “Please help me to show your love to someone today” is all it takes.

There was a young man who gave me fits as a teacher last year- absolute fits. He interrupted class, got me mad, blew off his grades completely, got kicked out of my class every day. Laser beams were coming out of my eyes, smoke coming out my ears. His only joy was making teachers upset, which can be kind of fun if you are the one doing the disruption. So here I was facing this situation. I decided to start praying for him. “Oh Lord, please bless him. Please help him. He is so angry and mad and upset, and he doesn’t even know it. He makes very poor choices. Please be with him. Let him know your love.” And that marked a beginning of a difference in the war of the classroom. Why? Because he could tell that I cared. My prayers were answered in an unexpected way because I was the one who was changed through prayer, not him. I have not stopped praying for him to this day, and maybe someday, my prayers on his behalf will be answered. You see, prayer changes things, because God loves us.

If there was any piece of advice I had to choose for teens in middle school and high school it would be these 2 things:

First, be careful who you choose to be your close friends. Why? It’s because you will become just like them. You all are in the process of trying to find out who you want to be. You want to have friends. If it has not started yet, you will want to identify with a peer group. The jocks, the cheerleaders, the band kids, the nerds, and the skaters- you name it.

I was a mess, a complete mess as a kid. I was alone. I was unpopular. I was just this sort of stupid, nerdy immature person who wanted to have some friends. And there were these other guys. They were outsiders too, but they were troublemakers. They used bad words. They encouraged each other to make fun of folks in order to feel better. So, I hung out with them for a while.

Now, there was this other student, a quiet guy I will call Mike. He kept to himself, didn’t bother anyone. He was a nice guy- had this cool watch which was the first type that had glowing numbers that lit up to show the time. I started teasing this guy mercilessly, calling him gay, etc. I was a real jerk, and I did it so I could go brag to my new “buddies” about it. Well, eventually Mike had enough and confronted me about it and I backed off because I knew I was wrong.

10 years after high school I went back to my class reunion and guess what I discovered? Mike was gay. I went up to him, and I said, “Mike, in the 8th grade, I teased you mercilessly. Please forgive me.” And he looked up at me, and he said, “Glenn, I forgive you.” It didn’t matter whether he was gay or not- what mattered is that I had wounded his spirit. It all started when I began to hang out with the wrong crowd.

Secondly, how many of you are offended by the fact that slavery was once legal in this country? Good. I am too. Slavery was absolutely horrific. Families were torn apart; people were bought and sold like pieces of cattle, their lives subject to the whims of someone else. Moms and Dads were separated, sons removed from fathers; daughters from mothers. If you tried to leave slavery, they would whip you until scars crisscrossed your back.

There is a form of slavery that is alive and active right now, today, in America. I am talking about illegal drug use. You see, drugs release dopamine from certain cells in the brain, and that makes you feel good. It chemically squeezes all the dopamine from the cells that produce it. Now, dopamine gets released naturally at a very slow rate. However, when it is released by drugs, it KILLS the cells that produce dopamine, and they don’t regrow. Eventually what happens is you have a person who will never be happy another day in their lives, and they need the drug simply to feel normal.

There was a guy in my church who was a cocaine addict. He would go to a wilderness treatment center for 6 months and then come back clean and immediately turn around and begin using again, lying to everyone. This happened over and over again. His family recently split up and separated, because he was a slave to his addiction. He blew his families lifelong savings to get high- his life was subject to the whims of his addiction- nothing was more important. When he tried to quit, he was lashed with the pains of withdrawal.

Recognize the spiritual issue for what it is, not with judgment but with understanding. Realize that when one uses drugs they are holding up their hands for the shackles. It’s slavery- pure and simple.

God’s love is so great, we cannot begin to understand or comprehend it. It is something that transcends knowledge, and this goes against the science teacher in me, because I desire to understand and comprehend. God’s love is shed in our hearts spiritually, and God’s love changes us. Just to say “God, help me know your love” every day is a beautiful thing. “Thank you for making me. Help me, despite my problems, to be the person you want me to be.”

Here’s one final story: I was in high school in 1979. As we prepared for football practice gearing up, I was the last one out of the locker room. Now this was during summer practice and the heat was like one of those unbearable Georgia days. It just sort of shimmered there. There was the smell of dried cut grass and there was an inaudible humming it was so hot. So I stayed behind in the locker room to pray for rain. As I was praying, of the guys, Scott Ladd came back in and saw me there.
He said, “What are you doing, Houtchens?”
I replied, “Praying for rain.”
He ran back outside to tell the others and they all laughed at me as I came out. Well, the heat and the sun that day were absolutely brutal, and here we were in pads running around in it. About a half hour later, clouds started to gather overhead. Thunder was heard rumbling through the ground. To make a long story short, coach had to cancel practice and we did a walk through in the gym, which was considerably cooler now that we were soaked.

God loves us. God will never leave us. I spent many years after college without going to church. I was mad at God because of the actions of his servants ( people). God never left me, though. I told God to get lost, but He stayed right there with me, just waiting for me to look up and talk to Him. This I know for true: if He never left me, as poor an example as I have been, He will never leave you. He’s waiting for you to look to Him, you see, His patience and His love endures FOREVER. God loves YOU.

armchair coach
amateur historian

1 comment:

Mary Jane Gilleland said...

This was so awesome. I wish I could go back in time and have been a nicer person in high school. I guess time heals and makes us into hopefully better people than how we started out. And you turned out awesome. :) I've really enjoyed reading your blogs. You write so well. Keep it up.