Purpose Lost: Nikolas Cruz, Shooter at Douglas High

(We decided to give you two in one day.  As stated in previous post, there are so many challenging things happening in society.  We can choose to either take these moments to learn from them and do better, or do nothing and let things get worse.  In this blog, we touch on a tragic shooting that happened at a high school.  What great purpose can come from this?  We have yet to see.  What we do know is that many lives were lost.  And even though many may hate the shooter who did this, he's a broken young man who's purpose got lost.)

"To longtime friend, school shooter Nikolas Cruz was lonely, volatile, ostracized"

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By Julie K. Brown *article partially reposted from The Miami Herald

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School is the jewel of Parkland, graduating top-notch students and athletes who grow up in a dignified affluence far removed from the gritty urban sprawl of Miami.

Many live in vast gated communities enveloped by horse pastures and pristine nature trails. Rated among the best high schools in Florida, Stoneman Douglas has won five national math championships, has the state’s top marching band and boasts science and engineering programs where students fly weather balloons and drones.

But Nikolas Cruz never felt a part of this warm nest of promise and achievement. The warning signs of a simmering danger brought on by his mental illness were documented by his school, his fellow students, his family, the police, child welfare agencies, the FBI and even by his own hand, on social media.

Cruz’s Valentine’s Day rampage at Stoneman Douglas that ended 17 lives came after months and years of violent, erratic outbursts that often frightened fellow students and others who came in contact with him, records show.

To Cruz, the campus’ sun-splashed courtyards were a dark place where he was mocked and ridiculed for his odd behavior, according to interviews with close family friends, students and recently released police and mental health reports.

“Someone could have approached a faculty member, a guidance counselor, a teacher and said, ‘This kid gets bullied a lot, someone should do something,’ ” said student Manolo Alvarez, 17, who had history class with Cruz. “I regret definitely not saying anything.”

Cruz, 19, is charged with entering the school near dismissal time, armed with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle. He then strolled through the halls, firing into classrooms. Fourteen students and three staffers were killed, and more than a dozen others were injured.

On Saturday, Broward County State Attorney Michael Satz described the crime as “the type of case the death penalty was designed for.”

Yet there have been reams of reports, replete with one red flag after another, detailing Cruz’s violent descent, events that were mostly dismissed, downplayed or filed away by many of those in society entrusted with recognizing the potential danger that he posed to his family and to his community.

Cruz — at 5-foot-7 and 120 pounds — was scrawny, and rarely, if ever, felt comfortable with other kids, either in his Parkland neighborhood or at Stoneman Douglas, according to Paul Gold, who lived next door to the Cruz family and remained in touch with Nikolas up until his mother’s funeral in November.

Cruz had been diagnosed with the neurological disorder autism. Michael Alessandri, a clinical professor of psychology at the University of Miami, cautioned that Cruz’s diagnosis of autism should not be viewed as a cause of his attack at Stoneman Douglas High.

“It is a social communication disorder, not a violent disorder,” Alessandri said.

“He was ostracized his whole life,” said Gold, who said he was one of only four people, including Nikolas, and his younger brother, Zachary, who attended the funeral of his mother, Lynda Cruz, in November.

Cruz was treated for depression and attention deficit disorder, and his mother found it increasingly difficult to control his behavior from the time he was an adolescent, despite periodic interventions by mental health counselors and law enforcement authorities, records show.

“His mother made a major push to have him lead a normal life,” Gold said. “But toward the end of her life, she really had given up.’’

BSO deputies were summoned to their Parkland home more than 30 times in the past seven years, records show. The complaints ranged from petty domestic disputes to a time Cruz threw a vacuum cleaner at his mom.

Gold said Lynda Cruz was strict with her sons, and was not averse to striking them when they misbehaved. At least one time, DCF investigated her for possibly abusing the boys and inadequately supervising them. The case was closed. Nikolas Cruz was getting treatment at Henderson Mental Health, the DCF report said. Still, they concluded he was not enough of a threat to be hospitalized or committed to a facility.

To read the rest of the article, visit: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/community/broward/article200754714.html

Purpose Found: Golden Conversation

(There are a lot of bad things going on right now in society.  We can either take these moments to learn from them and do better, or do nothing and let things get worse.  This blog is a first posting about something happening on a large scale, but a greater purpose found in the world of Hollywood and sexual abuse.)

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By Allie T. Robison

   A recent conversation with my mom allowed for some reflection. Often times, I wish I had more of a platform to speak out about the things I am passionate about and believe that people would actually hear me. As I expressed to her my concerns about this, she brought up a few examples of when people with a platform spoke out about something, and it did not go over well. I answered her by praising the fact that they were using their platforms for something in the first place!

    I would like to think that if I ever made it “big,” that I would use my name for good. I could not guarantee it, though. It happens far too often that someone with immense talent “makes it” and becomes exceedingly famous, and all that comes of it is fame and money. One of the strengths of the millennial generation is their tendency to speak out about important issues. Millennials who are “making it” to fame are beginning to speak about issues that have been in the shadows in the past. Now more than ever, folks are realizing that things do not have to be swept under the rug anymore, and uncomfortable topics are being brought out into the open.

   One of the most astounding results of this new “speak your mind” movement is the infiltration of strong opinions into the 2018 Golden Globes. The Golden Globes is star-studded awards show highlighting the talented actors and actresses of the year. This year, it had a different twist. All along the red carpet, famous women seen in cinema walked out onto the red carpet dressed in black. This is a prime moment for designers to show off their new clothing and for the celebrities to have their fashion moment. However, as more and more women stepped onto the red carpet to pose in front of the cameras, the media and audiences back home began to take note.

   Despite the spectrum of reactions, it cannot be denied that the Hollywood stars achieved the result they wanted: attention and conversation. Contrary to the usual tradition of soaking up the flashes alone, actresses came together and took many group pictures to symbolize their solidarity.

The women’s decision of dress was attributed to an anti-sexual harassment action plan which “includes a $14 million legal fund to help victims of sexual harassment nationwide, legislation to push companies that tolerate it, and a push for gender equality among executives at talent agencies and studios.” (Buckley, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/03/movies/times-up-golden-globes-red-carpet.html)

Reese Witherspoon describes the gesture as, “a statement that women are deeply unified.”

   Whether or not you agree with what these women did or how they chose to bring awareness to this cause, there is no denying that the women used their platform to bring awareness to something, especially on a night that is centered around themselves and their own accomplishments. It takes a lot to deflect the attention off of yourself, especially at an event that is made to celebrate those in your profession! It is almost like spending the day at a soup kitchen on your birthday… hey, not a bad idea! It is a change of mindset, but it makes an impact.

   These talented actresses came together to use their special night to create a national conversation about sexual assault. What change can you make in your everyday words, actions, thoughts, and behaviors to create a conversation? Think about it and #beaboutsomething.

 

Case Keenum's Right Priorities

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By Allie T. Robison

     During these past few weeks of both college and NFL football madness, there have been some standout moments where players refused to take their well-deserved glory and instead reflect it back on their Heavenly Father.  One of my favorite moments, though, was after a playoff game on Sunday, January 14th. The New Orleans Saints traveled to Minnesota to play the Vikings in their hometown. After a hard fought battle, the game went into overtime and both teams stepped up. The Vikings got the ball first, but went 3 and out giving the ball back to the Saints. The Saints drove down to kick a field goal and left less than a minute on the clock for the Viking's last chance at advancing in the playoffs. On the last snap of the game, Viking’s quarterback Case Keenum threw a perfect pass to his receiver near the sideline. The Saints’ defensive back missed the tackle to then make a bad read causing the Vikings’ receiver to go all the way. It was absolute chaos in Minneapolis, and the Vikings won.

     Case (@casekeenum7) rallied his team, rallied Vikings fans, and stepped up where it counted. When the interviewer approached Case after the game, he could have expected Case’s answers to sound like this: “This is the best day of my life. Man, I love football. I’ve been working so hard for so many years, and it’s finally paid off. I deserve this. I can’t wait to go further in the playoffs and then maybe to the Super Bowl! What a personal goal I will have accomplished!” He could have talked about himself the whole time because he did make a game-winning play and did an excellent job.  Instead he took the time to look at his life and compare this moment to a few others. This is what Case said:

“This is probably going to go down as the third best moment of my life behind giving my life to Jesus Christ and marrying my wife.”

     In the biggest moment of his football career, he made his priorities clear.  He let his entire audience of millions know straight up that his life does not revolve around football.

     See, this is the thing about walking with Jesus: the moment we give our lives to Him, our entire world changes its course and begins to orbit around Him. He is the Life-Giver, the Sustainer, the Father, and Sovereign God. Nothing else gives us what He does. In our “orbit” around our Creator, God calls us to accomplish things within the skill set and passions that He designed us with.

     God designed Case to glorify Him, to love his wife, and to play football. What Case told the media showed that he has realized the significance of each of those things in his life, and the order they take.

     What is your purpose? What fires you up? What is in your skill set that God specifically designed when creating you? If it’s using your musical talents to glorify God, your time on the basketball court or soccer field, or how speedy you are with figuring out those tough math problems, realize that what you are good at always comes second to how much your Heavenly Father loves you. Your purpose is found in Him first, but he loves you enough to encourage you to go for your goals and aim high.

     Case Keenum knows his purpose. He knows what he was put on this earth to do, is doing it, and is pumped about accomplishing a huge goal in his NFL career. There is nothing wrong with being overjoyed at the success God brings you, as long as you know that it is Him who is giving you the success, nd not your own efforts.  Find what you’re good at and find a way to glorify God with it. He takes such pleasure in watching you thrive!

Watch Case’s post-game interview here: https://www.foxsports.com/nfl/video/1137078851770

Let's Start Over in 2018

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By J. Grow: jonathandgrow.com

"Starting Over" is one of my favorite songs from hip hop artist, Macklemore. It details his experience of having relapsed and coming clean to his friends and family. He spoke about how hard it was for them to hear what happened. 

So what does start over really mean, though?  When I think about it, it can mean to come back from bad things done to you, or that you did to other people.  In my experience, starting over is like a fresh start. You just experienced something that devastated you, broke you, and you thought it would crush you.  Yet, you are still here with an opportunity to start over.  I'm not saying it will be easy because it never is.

In my personal life, I have had to start over many times.  Mostly because of my own doing.  Some of the things I have started over from are being abused, devastating break ups, and personal failures.  Each one affected me differently and took different amounts of time to overcome. 

When you get ready to start over, you have to first get off the metaphorical ground and dust yourself off.  You then have to assess the damage at some point and determine how much healing you need (which has honestly been hard for me sometimes).  Then you take one day at a time to correct the damage that has been done. 

Last word of advice: find someone you can vent to. Someone who knows you and you trust. Often times just talking about it, without being judged, does a lot to alleviate how you feel and will bring more peace to you.  I'm far from having this perfected.  There are moments where I don't get up for a while or I won't assess how I feel, but day by day I improve and that's all its really about. 

So this New Year in 2018, try starting over.  #HappyNewYear

 

The Candy Cane's Great Purpose

(*Borrowed from "The Better Mom" Blog)

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According to the legend of the candy cane, this candy was first created back in the 18th century. At that time, in certain areas of Europe, there was said to be a ban on public displays of Christianity. Christians were oppressed and no Bibles or crosses could be owned at the time. One man found this oppression distressing and wished he could share the love of Jesus and the joy of Christmas with the rest of the world. When Christmas came around, children didn’t get to see nativity scenes or enjoy learning about the truth of Christmas. As a candy maker, this man prayed to find a way that he could offer local children a Christmas gift that would allow him to communicate the real story of Christmas. 

His prayer led to an idea--The Candy Cane.

  • The Shepherd's Staff: He chose to make the candy cane in the shape of a shepherd’s staff. After all, Jesus is the shepherd to his followers and the Bible notes that the “sheep” would hear His voice and follow him (Psalm 23:1, John 10:11, John 10:27-30, Isaiah 40:11).
  • The Letter J for Jesus:Not only was the candy cane in the shape of a staff, but when held upside down, it formed a “J,” which stood for Jesus (Luke 1:31, Matthew 1:21).
  • He is A Rock: The candy maker chose hard candy for the candy cane, which was done to remind children that Jesus was our “rock,” dependable and strong (Psalm 31:3).
  • By His Stripes: Wide red stripes were added to the candy cane, representative of the crucifixion and the blood Jesus shed for our sins.
  • Red-His Shed Blood: Through his blood, we are given salvation and life (Revelation 1:5, John 3:16, Luke 22:20).
  • White-Purification from Sin: There are also white stripes on the candy cane, which represents the holiness, and purity of Jesus, who was sinless (I John 1:7).
  • Sweet Fragrance of Christ: Peppermint was the flavor that the candy maker chose for the candy cane. Peppermint was very similar to hyssop, which was used for sacrifice and purification in the Old Testament, reminding us of the sacrifice that Jesus made for us.  It also reminds us of the spices brought by the Wise Men when they came to visit Jesus (Psalm 51:7, John 10:29, Matthew 2:11).
  • Broken For Us: Of course, when the candy cane is eaten, it is often broken, which the candy maker meant as a reminder that when Jesus was crucified, his body was broken (I Cor. 11:24).
  • Love of Christ: The candy cane was also made to be given as a gift, representing the love of Jesus when he gave us the gift of salvation.

Although no one is quite sure if the legend of the candy cane is really true, the beauty of the legend is such a reminder of God’s love for us around Christmas. In this legend, it was a way that the candy maker could tell the children the story of Christmas and still today, we have candy canes as a reminder of the real reason we celebrate Christmas.

So grab a candy cane and have a Merry Christmas!