Saturday, December 31, 2011

Let's Hang Them Purity Balls

My friend Lewis wrote an excellent critique of a video series lauding the virtues of "purity balls".  No, stop thinking of them shaved and washed, this type is where the dad takes his daughter to a dance and they look lovingly on each other and pretend to be married for a while.

Ok, maybe a bit of a stretch, but not much.  Lewis does a much better job.  He goes through the series point by point so you don't have to. 

Give it a read: The Purity Movement - Life in a Jar

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

My Sister's Story

My sister has begun to blog her story of her childhood.  It's sort of in a snippet format.  Little memories here and there that make up the weave of her life.  Some of the content is new to me.  Memories that she has that I don't.

Please read it and weep for those who may still be living this life and go forth in training those that can do something about it.

My Childhood Saga, Unleashed

Chapter 2 - Night Terrors

Chapter 3 ~ No Appetite

Chapter 4 ~ And She Cried

Chapter 5 ~ Won’t Somebody Please Help!?

Chapter 6 ~ Hatred’s Hidden Dead End

Chapter 7 ~ The Final Straw

Chapter 8 ~ Broken Chains

Chapter 9 ~ The People Who Healed

Keep following as she writes more chapters, as well.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Letters From Mama: Christmas Debt

Many moons ago, we cut Mama out of our lives.  She made one too many public gaffes and it was time to remove the tension and frustration from our lives.  After 10 years, we finally were able to breathe freely.  We no longer had someone trying to insert themselves into our relationship.  Our life was our own.

Since the day we cut her off, we have received one note saying that she thought of us while eating a bowl of mac n' cheese.  Not steak and eggs or caviar and pickles, but mac n' cheese.

Until today.  We received a package in the mail from Mama.  On the "envelope" which was nothing more than recycled packaging tape, was inscribed, "VERY, VERY BEST THING NOT TO OPEN UNTIL CHRISTMAS MORNING :)."  Oops...   In it was the following:

To Me:

Joseph,

The nature of the gifts to your children are such that if they receive them soon, they will love them, and the memory, all their lives.  But, if too much time goes by before they receive them, the gifts will seem too childish and have lost their magical gleam.  So, come soon.....soon.....

Love, Mama

[Again, as you will see over and over again in these letters and others I transcribe in this series, she enjoys the power of control.  Holding gifts hostage until she gets what SHE wants.  But wait...it gets worse.]

To my wife, Kristine:

Love you, daughter, Mama Mary.

[She has been trying to get my wife to call her that for years.  It's uncomfortable and will not happen.  A sane person would accept anything.  But, don't focus on that.  Zero in on the fact that she sends my bride a one-liner and then never mentions her again in any of the other kid's notes.  I don't know why.  Curious.]

To Renaya, my 9 year old daughter (in which she folds a $1 bill):

Dear Renaya,

For you I have a cat (a kitten :)).  Not a real one, but a statue that sits on your dresser and you can rub its smooth coolness just before you hop into your bed each night.

And Renaya, can you tell your little brother Jack that for him I have a white and cotton-candy-pink trike airplane with pedals, that he can ride down the sidewalk on?  And for your baby sister Analisse, a red, white, and blue trike airplane, a smaller one that she can sit on and push herself along with her feet.  But the two trike airplanes are buried under the wall crumbles at the back of the basement, so when yourr family comes we'll need to dig them out and clean them up in the bathtub, or if it is Spring, outside with a hose.

Here is a dollar for you, Renaya, as earnest on the promise.  But the promise will end sometime.  You can ask your Daddy when that will be.  I wrote it in his letter. :)

Love, Grandmama, XO!

[WOW!  She tells my 9 year old that she can have a statue to rub every night and then begs her to come over and dig out some old toys in a crumbling basement, clean them up and give them to her sister and brother.  Worse yet, she gives the girl a dollar but puts a guilt trip on her, stating that the dollar is only a bribe IF she gets her dear old daddy to bring her over.

How sick.  Actually, I think she is sick.  Something has or is going to snap soon.]


To Laura, my 8 year old daughter (in which she folds a $1 bill):
Dear Laura Rose,

For you I have a cat (a kitten :)).  Not a real one, but a statue that sits on your dresser and you can rub its smooth coolness just before you hop into your bed each night.  There is a black one, and a cream-and-brown one, and you and Renaya can decide which one each of you would like as your own.

When your family comes, we can wrap the kittens well, so they will not break on the way home.

Here is a dollar for you, Laura Rose, as earnest on the promise.  But, the promise will end sometime.  You can ask your Daddy when that will be.  I wrote it in his letter. :)

Love, Grnadmama XO!

P.S. Here is a kiss and a hug for Jack XO! and for Analisse XO!  Will you give them to them for me?  Thank you.

[Quite repetitious.  Another bribe.  Another guilt trip.  And a bald-faced lie.  She never gave me a specified time.  She said "soon".  That's pretty relative.]

To Frederic, my 6 year old son(in which she folds a $1 bill):

Dear Frederic,

For you I have a puppy, not a real one :), but a statue that sits on your dresser so you can rub the cool smoothness of its head before you jump into bed each night.

When your family comes to my house, we can wrap the puppy up real good so it will not break on the way home.

Here is a dollar for you, Frederic, as earnest on the promise.  You can ask your Daddy what "earnest" means. :)

Love, Grandmama XO!

[Fred.  It means "bribe".  She gives you a dollar to get something back.  We're calling her bluff.  Enjoy the Christmas money.]

To Felicity, my 4 year old daughter (in which she folds a $1 bill and tapes a quarter):

Dear Felicity,

For you I have a horse (a pony :)).  Not a real one, but a wooden one like your cousin's that sits on your dresser, and before you hop into bed each night you can rock it while it sits on your dresser, and listen to it go "clickety clack, clickety clack", as if it was trotting down the street!

[Perfectly fine note for a 4 year old.  But it isn't the gift she is focusing on, as you'll see when I finish this note, rather, it is the power she wants when she sees us walk to her door.  It's sick to use kids as pawns.

Now, back to the letter to Felicity...]
When your family comes to my house we can put it in a box for you to carry safely home to put on your dresser.

Here is a dollar for you, Felicity, as earnest.  You can ask your Daddy what "earnest" means.  :)

And Felicity, can you give this quarter to Jack so he can put it in his piggy bank?  Thank you.

Love, Grandmama XO!

*****

Note:  All punctuation in the letters was hers.

Well, there you have it.  She's bat cap crazy.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Snipped! The Series

I am writing my story for No Longer Quivering.  The editor there (not sure if she wants me to name her) aptly named it "Snipped!"

Check it out.  I hope you enjoy it.  The first installment is is found here.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Story of Libby Exline, Installment 2 - System Immersion Must Be Good


In Installment 1, Libby Exline detailed the rules of the Allegheny Wesleyan Methodist Church and what they meant to her.  Installment 2 will begin her story of complete immersion in this abusive church.

*****

At first, it was normal.  Ok, not as abnormal as it would become.  When I was very young, while my parents were very into the church, we had a semblance of a life outside it.  They still did want us to be Bible (Church) oriented, and that showed up in some weird ways.  I remember listening to a tape called “The Adventures of Luju", a story about a boy in Africa who disobeyed his parents’ order to not light a candle.  The result of this was Luju's little friend was killed in the fire he started.  Do you know how scared I was to disobey my parents after this?!?  I was just 4 when Luju's adventures were introduced to us.  Not only could disobedience result in death, but obviously, enlightened (white, American) children would know enough to not disobey.  Disobedience was no doubt the result of witch-craft, or whatever Africans were practicing.  Racist much?

One more thing that you should know, before I really get into my story, is that abuse was rampant in my house.  Not because the church dictated it, but because my father was a monster.  My older brother was beaten regularly.  I was raped regularly.  My twin, who is mentally retarded, escaped most of the physical abuse, but was subject to emotional stuff just as scarring.  I think these details are important to my story because it helps to explain why I was so willing to drink the Kool-Aid and, in fact, mix batches of my own.  I was damaged to my soul, ripe for the picking when it came to having a formula that would cause god to hate me less than he was already inclined to.

It also must be said that in the church, there were degrees of how “into the rules” the pastors were.  While the rules were the rules were the rules, and everyone considered them good rules, there were differences in how important they were. Maybe the difference was how some pastors taught the rules, or how much mercy they showed to their congregations.  I'm not sure, because as luck would have it, as I was growing up, we had a rather sadistic pastor.  The other thing I need to explain was that in our house, the pastor was infallible, God's second son, as it were. Just as important as Jesus, if not more so.

Somewhere between 3rd and 6th grades, we got the sadistic pastor.  Every year, the church voted on whether or not to keep the current one.  I don't know if the one we had got voted out or retired, or what.  Up until now, church was what happened on Thursdays and Sundays.  We had moved to the country, and I was busy playing and being a kid (as much as the dynamics of my family allowed, at any rate).  Terrible things were still happening, but not yet in the name of God.  As a child, I didn't need to worry about my eternal soul.  Life was as good as it could get in my family.

That changed the summer before 6th grade.  We got the new pastor, and gee wow!, the change was drastic.  The church had its own school about half an hour away from where we lived.  I don't know when it was started, or why it wasn't even considered for us kids at first.  My mother had a couple teaching degrees, and taught in the public schools for years before we were born.  She taught mostly special ed classes, which makes the irony of what is coming even more ironic.  So from K-5, my siblings and I went to public schools.  Sometime after 3rd grade, after we got our new pastor, the pastor's wife began pressing our parents into enrolling us in the church school.  I mentioned that my twin is mentally retarded, and the pastor and his wife used that as a reason for us to switch. 

The church school used the ACE system.  As an educational tool, it is laughable.  Kids teach themselves out of workbooks, and move at their own pace.  (I've had, in my whole school career, Algebra I).  My twin was struggling in public schools, and the pastor's wife was vehement about the church school.  My mom wanted to put my brother in special ed.  My dad, however, was afraid he couldn't handle that. Told you it was ironic!  So, against (I want to think) my mother's wishes, in the 6th grade, we enrolled in the church school. 

The school was K-12, and grades were split K-1 in one room, 2-6 in another, and 7-12 in another.  We worked in cubicles called offices, and did the workbooks.  We had supervisors, who answered questions about our schoolwork, and monitors, who gave us permission to get out of our seats as needed.  It's funny to me now, but then, there was no questioning allowed, and so I didn't.  Even in the secret places of my own mind, I obeyed the rules – for now, anyway.

I want to take a minute to say all things good about the principal.  He was a gentle, loving man who just loved kids.  His love helped me survive a lot of what was going on at home.  The unfortunate thing was he'd drunk the Kool-Aid.  I don't blame him. (Ya kinda had to drink it if you wanted to go to heaven, after all).  He also was answerable to the board of the school, and ultimately, the president of the church conference, so there were certain things required of him.  While he never had to discipline me, beyond the occasional demerit, I saw his disciplining of the older, “rebellious” kids.  He had, after all, been trusted to help kids make it to heaven! Because we were in the same room, it was impossible to miss.

The church believed in corporal punishment.  Extreme corporal punishment for stupid things.  So now, fear of breaking the rules entered my life in a real way.  There were rules that the breaking of didn't warrant corporal punishment.  Things like not pushing a chair in got us a demerit (to this day, I push chairs in!).  Three demerits meant you got detention.  That was the punishment for non-spiritual rules.  Broken spiritual rules were met with swift and painful punishment.  And spiritual to them was...If a boy didn't wear a tie during the revival meetings, he was warned at the beginning of the week.  If by the end, he still wasn't wearing one, he got paddled.  Anything at all that could be construed as rebellion was met with the paddle.  Girls, too, were paddled, but the vast majority of the paddlings went to the boys.

I don't remember specifically when it went off the tracks for me.  I was ripe for the picking, I know that.  I was being abused at home, I'd entered naturally turbulent adolescence, and now the importance of the rules and the keeping of them were in my face every day.

Installment 3 will detail the speeding up of my life’s downhill slide.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The REAL Story of Rudolph


Once, there was a group of Christian reindeer.  These reindeer did everything for God – everything!  Their whole existence was made up of pulling the weight of the kingdom for God – their taskmaster.

Not only were these reindeer focused on doing what was right, but they looked the part, as well.  Their hair was always trimmed perfectly.  Not a wisp was out of place.  Their horns were filed down to perfectly rounded points.  Hooves were trimmed and the shoes were gleaming – every day – and didn’t show any part of the bottoms of their feet.  These reindeer’s noses were always wiped and they were careful not to lift their tails for fear of causing other reindeer to begin the rutting process.  When they chewed their cud, these reindeer made sure to keep their lips closed and not speak a word until they had swallowed every last…er…glob.

The same couldn’t be said for a certain other reindeer.  His name was Rudolph.  He could never get anything right.  His hair went all over the place and was never laid nicely against his hide.  His horns hadn’t been trimmed in months, maybe even years, and came to dangerously sharp points on some of the ends, while the other ends were split or cracked off.  His hooves had a bit of deer toe fungus on them and his shoes showed signs of an attempt at being shined, but had some rust spots on them.  They didn’t fit right either.  One of them was hanging by a loose nail and the back left shoe was missing entirely. 

Rudolph would chew his cud with abandon, enjoying every last bit of the digestive process.  He figured, “If I get to eat today, I might as well enjoy the hell out of it!”  That’s another thing.  He had a foul mouth AND he would lift his tail to air out his rear on many an occasion.

Rudolph thought he was happy, except for one thing – nobody liked him.  They wouldn’t hang out with him during their free time when they didn’t have to help God out.  Rudolph was ignored and, when he asked if he could hang, they shoved him away and said mean things about how he looked and acted. 

Rudolph had a hard time understanding why they did this.  Sure, he didn’t look as nice, but he worked so much harder for God than the other reindeer.  He not only worked harder, but he was happy doing it.  All the other reindeer grumbled and complained every second of their workday.  Rudolph was loud and boisterously happy – increasing the others’ disdain.

One day, he was fed up with it and cleaned up his act.  He brushed his hair so it lay perfectly on his hide.  Trimmed the hair to perfection.  He filed his horns to rounded points.  Then, he went out and spent his life savings on a new pair of shoes, shined them up, and put them on.  They fit perfectly.  He taught himself to chew with his mouth closed and didn’t lift his tail – ever.  He even went out and bought some drugs to kill the toe fungus.  Everything the other reindeer did to look good, he did better.

And they noticed.  Rudolph’s transformation had taken a few days and had stuck for already two weeks.  The other reindeer had never noticed his hard work before and now saw it more than ever.  They were shocked!  Here, this little Rudolph had always been such a horrible Christian and now – now! – he was really getting it!

They made Rudolph their leader, let him into their circle, and everything was good.

But Rudolph was no longer happy.

THE END

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Story of Libby Exline, Installment 1 - The Only True Church


Hi!  My name is Libby, and I found this blog while researching the Duggars.  Before watching the show, I'd never heard of “Quiverfull”, “patriarchy”, Bill Gothard...any of it.  I was raised in a legalistic church that strangled any freedom, grace, and love even, so these blogs stirred up a lot of stuff for me.  I reached out and was asked to share my story, so here goes.

I was raised in the Allegheny Wesleyan Methodist (Original Allegheny Conference) Church.  (Gotta get the name right; the church sued for the right to use it after a VERY IMPORTANT split with a part of the church that began disagreeing about some of the rules.)  It's wrong to sue people generally - says so right there in the Bible - but over the name of the church, well, that's different!  Especially when it's the One True Church.  Only the members of the Allegheny Wesleyan Methodist Church (AWMC) will get to go to heaven.  Everyone else is lost.

AWMC was built on the teachings of that great and good (*snort) John Wesley.  I'm 43 years old, and it has never dawned on me until just now that the very name of the church is basically Wesley's methods.  Methods to bring salvation, keep it, keep the people submitted and bound up.  Maybe you'd think The One True Church should be built on Jesus' teachings, but you'd be wrong. The one I was born into was built on John Wesley's.  Just an accident of birth, I guess.

I'm going to share the beliefs of the church, then get into my story:

AWMC believes in two works of grace: First, salvation. When you confess that you suck, and always will suck...I mean…when you confess your sins.  This is best done at the altar at church, where you get to parade your “suckiness” in front of everybody.  Salvation can be lost with a sneeze, by the way. 

The second work of grace is sanctification.  This is where the roots of sin (the very thing that makes you sin) are removed.  After this you'll be a holy robot…er…person.  The roots of sin are evidenced by anger (the big one), jealousy, pride...all the negative emotions we exemplify as humans.  To be sanctified, you have to "be willing."  While sometimes you are given specific things you have to be willing to do, for the most part, it means denying all of your natural feelings, denying your person-hood, and denying any rights you have to that person-hood. Since this isn't easy to do, you'll be encouraged to "pray clear through", which was never really explained.  Basically, you have to make yourself miserable in prayer any way you can.  Self-punishment, if that is what it takes, is encouraged, also.

While the church was vaguely patriarchal, women did have rights – as long as we stayed in our place. The husband is the head of the home, and women really have no thoughts worthy of being expressed, but it wasn't the blanket oppression I've found while reading other stories of ultra-conservative Christianity and patriarchy.  It was expected that young women get married, keep house, and have kids, but we could choose to do something else without endangering our souls.  The church also didn't care how many kids we had.

The big oppression was the outer standards, and the denial of the right to be a well-rounded, feeling person.  According to the church's standards, the Duggars are LIBERAL.  The church I was raised in took the Duggars' standards and ran with them.  Yes, we had to wear dresses or skirts.  We had to have long hair, but it had to be up in a bun.  Sleeves had to come past our elbows.  Just the women's.  Men were exempt.  Back in the day, somebody, John Wesley maybe, declared that our elbows looked like breasts.  There must be something wrong with my breasts!!  Or maybe it's my elbows, I don't know.  At any rate, they look nothing alike!!  We weren't allowed open-toed shoes.  We had to wear panty hose.  We weren't allowed to wear any kind of stretchy material for shirts without a blouse underneath.  Those pesky elbows…er… breasts, had to be bound at all costs. 

These standards became our "fruits", and it was the way we knew whether or not others were going to heaven.  This wasn't considered judgment because doesn't the Bible say "by your fruits you will know them"? 

Speaking of Bibles, God Himself wrote the King James Version, and other versions were of the devil.  The fact that maybe the KJV was harder to understand added to its appeal.  If it was harder to understand what god wants of his children, we'd have to work harder, and works are where it's at, after all.

So now you know a little of the mindset of the church I was born into.  In the next installment, I will begin to tell you how it started to affect me – from the age of three.
 


Monday, November 21, 2011

Pending Series: The Story of Elizabeth (Libby) Exline

Out of the blue, a wonderfully dynamic woman contacted me.  She relayed a short version of her "life story" in the Allegheny Wesleyan Connection.  She told of how she endured physical, sexual, and spiritual abuse and came out on the other side.  The short version was simply spellbinding and I requested that she share the long version with me.

While growing up, she fostered some excellent personal qualities and later, when she was dramatically pulled out of the spiritual mess, used them to catapult her into a new joyful life.  I feel I hold a sort of kinship with her, being that one of the ways I would cope in my growing up years, was through the use of humor - lots of it.

I will be posting her riveting story in parts and we will see a dark side to accepting a fundamentalist view of Christianity and even learn a thing or two of how to cope.

One truism to watch for is the one or two people in Libby's life that were "there" for her and carried her on in her journey, allowing her to keep pressing on and not ending it all.  I send out a note of gratitude to you who did that.  You, my readers, and I will be better for it  - I guarantee it.  And I dare say, Libby is grateful too.

I hope you enjoy the series.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Response to Greg Koukl's, Ancient Words, Ever True - Part 1

Greg Koukl founded, and is the current leader of, Stand To Reason.  He teaches those he considers Christians how to reason in their faith.  The Bible states that a Christian is to give answer to that which they believe at a moment's notice.  Greg's ministry is to equip them with good reason and logic to do just that.


Greg published the article Ancient Words, Ever True, which asserts that the Bible is supernaturally written.  He sees it a road map for life today and hits on six points to build up his premise. 


I will be responding to Greg's article in a series of 6 - 7 posts.  This post will address his introduction to the topic while subsequent posts will address each one of his five individual points, with a wrapping up of my conclusions on his article, Greg's outlook on life, and how his relates to mine.


You can find the full article here.


*****


Greg immediately jumps into the topic by quoting a passage from a very famous book - Mere Christianity by the renowned C. S. Lewis.  I respect Lewis as a writer and more importantly, as a thinker.  While we differ in some of our final conclusions, the fact that he asked questions and wrote about them, as well as lived a life that was much different from what would be considered, in many circles, a "godly" life, causes me to feel a sort of warm kinsmanship with the fellow.


The quote:


"Being aware of God while gazing on the ocean is all well and good,  but if you want to go anywhere on that sparkling sea, you must have a map".


There are a few problems with this quote that are not apparent if you just read Koukl's material.  First of all, the quote is not found in Lewis' writings at all.  It is merely a paraphrase.  One of my readers may ask, "Why even mention this issue then, if it is indeed, just a paraphrase?  If Koukl proves his point with a correct paraphrase, then its fair game, right?"


You would be correct.  Except for the fact that Koukl is squeezing the exact opposite intent of Chapter 23 in Mere Christianity that Lewis was putting forth.  Koukl says that the words of the Bible are the map and uses Lewis' quote as an apt pointer to that end.  C.S. Lewis, was rather speaking of the importance of experience in life and theology.


He tells a story of a man who experienced God in a desert and later found theology to be dry and meaningless.  He agreed with this man and then surmised that theology was a collection of the experiences of hundreds, even thousands of men and women and thus, the collection of experiences could potentially make theology palatable to this desert character.  Koukl, on the other hand, asserts that the paraphrased quote is proof from a great writer that experience was worthless and should be discounted. 


To start out on this footing is a poor foreshadowing of what to expect in this article.


Koukl moves on to explain why experience cannot be trusted.  He sources experiences from three religions he considers to be in error - Mormonism, Jehovah's Witnesses, and the "fun to beat on" New Agers.  What Koukl doesn't do is to cite people he may consider to be real Christians.  He never cites stalwarts like George Meuller, Elizabeth Elliot, or even Amy Carmichael - who wrote many books about pain and suffering experiences that taught her about who God was, to her.  This is a classic way to use facts to skew your argument toward your agenda.  Perfectly legitimate experiences by real human beings that give them an extrabiblical sense of who God is - for THEM!


Koukl goes further by stating that if the three hatchet religions have different experiences, then they all can't be right.  This is a fair point, until you realize that Koukl is asserting that only HIS idea of who Jesus Christ is is the correct one.  Koukl does not allow for the possibility of his religion being incorrect, nor does he allow for the unexplainable possibility that maybe, just maybe, religion is decidedly personal, and God reveals himself to mankind, individually, with different manifestations, fitting perfectly into that person's life.


Greg attempts to answer those questions I just posed by making a simple point.  "Classically, Christians have turned to details recorded in Scripture as authoritative, objective grounds for truth. God has spoken in the ancient words of the Bible."


What Greg doesn't say is that the Bible was not what the early Christian church used as their authoritative text.  They had God experiences, Jesus’ words as reported to them through a game of telephone, as well as the original Jewish texts.  They had experiences like the tongues of fire at Pentecost, as well as angels opening prison doors in answer to their prayers.

In fact, the Bible, as we know it today, was not completely put together until 1546, 1563, and 1672.  These were just over-arching councils and meetings of men (no women involved, of course).  Other editions of the Bible were put out as history marched forward.  Many translations have come about and not one person agrees completely with another on all of the verses in any text.  Hardly a map set in stone to reveal the TRUE idea of who God is or what he wants for our lives.

Koukl then adds to his premise that the Bible is a road map of life by saying that, after all, God said "Thus saith the Lord..." hundreds of times.  This is obviously problematic because that road map would not work for us today.  As human beings, we have progressed well beyond the understanding of primitive cultures (not that we always act on our enlightened understanding).

Let me illustrate my point by paraphrasing some "Thus saith the Lord..." quotes from the Bible:
1 Chronicles 21 – God gives David three choices because of his sin and ends up killing 70,000 men.  Why?  Because David counted his armies.

Deuteronomy 3 – God orders the destruction of many cities, including the murder of all men, women, and children.  The Israelites get to keep the plunder.

 Joshua 6 – God orders the full destruction of Jericho including all men, women, children, and livestock.  After the totality of destruction and murder, Joshua curses the city saying that any man who rebuilt it would have his firstborn die.

Exodus 21 – Slavery is mandated.

Exodus 21 – If the master provides a wife to the slave, when he is allowed to go free, the wife and kids are the masters.  If the guy does not want to be freed, the master mutilates his face and owns the slave forever.

Exodus 21 – Hitting a father or a mother means death.

Exodus 21 – Cursing your father or mother means death.

Exodus 21 – Beating a slave is perfectly fine, as long as they end up recovering in a day or two.

Exodus 21 – If the owner of livestock has been warned that he has a dangerous animal and that animal causes another person harm or death, the owner should be killed.

Exodus 21 – If this same livestock causes harm to or kills a slave, the owner needs to just pay a fine.

Exodus 22 – Raping a virgin makes her your wife by default.

Exodus 22 – Witches must die.

Exodus  22 – Worship of any other god means death.



Some of those, you may agree with.  But, put them all together and then try and make a case that we should follow all of them as a road map of life.  I don't think anyone would succeed in doing that.


Then, Koukl moves on to prophecies where the New Testament writers affirmed things prophesied or written in the Old Testament.  This is also problematic.  Many prophecies quoted in the New Testament simply do not exist in the Old, are misquoted, do not say what the New Testament writer says they say, or are elsewhere in the text and not where the writer stated they were.


For instance, when Jesus stated that it was written he would rise on the third day, as Paul stated was also written, it just wasn’t true.  It isn’t found in the Old Testament, anywhere.  And, worse yet, extrapolating that prophecy from Jonah in the belly of the whale is just too convenient and doesn’t make any sense.



Also, Matthew says that Jeremiah predicted the thirty pieces of silver fiasco in the Passion Narratives.  But, Jeremiah never said anything of the sort.  Some have said that Matthew actually meant the words of Zechariah applied here.  But wait, the road map?  Can there be a mistake and it still be a perfect road map?  Worse yet, the Zechariah piece is a specific story about something that happened at the time of Zechariah.  Pretending it is a prophecy does not make it a prophecy.

Matthew also stated that Jesus was prophesied to be a Nazarene (from Nazareth).  But, not only has the town of Nazareth never been found, the words and this prophecy also do not exist.  How can a perfect life road map be missing a key ingredient of prophecy that it states it actually DOES include?



There are more, but I digress.

Then, Koukl states the well known verse where Paul says that all scripture is given by inspiration.  But Paul was not and could not have been speaking of his very words he was speaking at that moment.  In fact, several times, Paul says, “God doesn’t say this…I do!”  Did Paul really think he was speaking or writing God’s words?  By his own confession, he did not. My best guess is that, in this letter, Paul was merely speaking of the Jewish scriptures as they knew them (which is decidedly NOT the same as the Old Testament as we know it today).

Koukl: "Of course, just claiming it’s so doesn’t make it so. How do we know? Do we have any evidence God has spoken in the Bible? The challenge can be reduced to a simple question: What kind of book is the Bible? I submit there are only two plausible answers.
The Bible is merely a book by man about God, or it is a book given by God through man, to man."


I disagree with there only being two possibilities.  Isn’t it plausible that SOME of the Bible was given to man through God and the rest is poppycock?  Or, maybe some of it was written by man and little bits of God’s wisdom was injected into it.  Or, it may be plausible that all of the Bible is the writer’s best idea of who God is with their own spiritual experiences that validate those assertions.  That makes it true for that individual, but it doesn’t necessarily make it true for all of mankind.

Koukl then answers his own questions by stating that, if the Bible was human, it had human limitations to it, but if it was supernaturally written by God, "then God is the ultimate author and His
word is the last word."


Really Greg Koukl? So, slavery is ok?  Women are to be subordinate to men?  Homosexuality is wrong?  Casting the evil eye at your parents is grounds for being stoned?  If we don’t believe in God, we must be put to death?  Hellfire is reserved for those who do not believe in God or who reject him, including those who never had a chance because they weren’t privy to this perfect road map?

Koukl finally sums up his introduction by stating that he sees six evidences of the Bible being supernatural.  I will address his first point in Part 2.

I realize this is a bit technical, but bear with me.  I think it is an important discussion to have.  Is the Bible inerrant?  Infallible?  What does it mean for mankind if it is not?  And, if it is not, is it probable that Christianity is simply another religion, dreamed up by ancient peoples when they didn't have explanations for all of life's unanswered questions?






Thursday, November 17, 2011

An Open Letter to Those Who Smashed My Pumpkins

Dear you,

The night before Halloween, I gushed to my wife about how much I was looking forward to smashing pumpkins after the Halloween and Autumn festivities were over. 

I told her how I wanted to take a pumpkin, put it in one of my large hands, rear back, and throw it in a high arc, like they do to the shot put in the Olympics.  I imagined watching that orange round ball of hard shell and soft flesh fly through the air, soaring in a smooth round arc toward the midnight moon.  Then, as the arced descent began, I saw my heart begin to race faster and faster.  In vivid color, I watched as the gourd hit the middle of the asphalt intersection and burst into hundreds of pieces, some large, some small.  I even saw the point of contact - the stem of the pumpkin lodged deeply in the tar.

Then I imagined the cursing street sweeper.  I read his thoughts.  He was yelling at young men who were obsessed with destruction.  My evil side laughed.  Little would he know that it was a 31 year-old gentleman who secretly wanted to be a kid again.

You see, I hadn't ever been able to do that as a young boy.  We were too straight-laced.  Other kids got to carry pillowcases that they filled to the brim with candy.  We had teacups.  Others were able to beat up little children and take away their pillowcases.  We had to give them hugs.  Those others were also able to throw every pumpkin they came across, into the street, smashing it to bits.  We had to re-light the candles inside and walk away with a smile.

A few years ago, I worked up enough courage to try this stunt with a large green gourd we had purchased at a pumpkin farm.  The thing was half the size of a winning pumpkin at the Minnesota State Fair.  I was able to throw my arm back and loft it halfway down the street.  The arc was perfect and the thing headed toward the ground at a destructive speed.  Then it hit - and bounced.  It bounced half a block into the path of a car that swerved just in time to miss an insurance bill. 

I never tried again.

Then, this year came around.  We purchased eight pumpkins.  One for each one of us in the family.  We carved them carefully and put a tea-candle in each one.  I watched as the days progressed and the pumpkins looked progressively more sad - rotten.  Tonight was going to be the night.

And then I woke up this morning.  I wiped the frost off of one of my windows to see the rising sun and was greeted with the view of scattered pumpkin pieces all over the road. 

My autumn - and winter - for that matter, is ruined.

Of course, I am grateful, nonetheless.  More than likely, with my luck, I would have been caught and arrested on the spot.  At least this way, I am able to live vicariously through you.

I guess I thank you.  But, next year....,

Incongruous Circumspection

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Penn State Fiasco: My View

Let me preface this by saying that I don't know all of the facts.  I wasn't there.  I am relying on news reports and reports on legal proceedings from hearings in 2002.  I do not know Mike McQueary, Jerry Sandusky, nor do I know Joe Paterno.  Regardless, I will voice my opinion as a father of boys and as a citizen of humankind.

The main story here is that Mike McQueary walked into a locker room shower, heard slapping noises, and stated that he saw Jerry Sandusky forcibly sexually violating a 10-year old boy.  According to 2002 testimony, Mike was distraught and called his father.  His father told him to come and see him.  The next day, he went to Joe Paterno who told him to let him deal with it.  Then Joe Paterno went to his superiors and it pretty much died there.

Why did Mike not call the police right away?  Sure, that question has been asked and Mike has tried to do some damage control after receiving multiple death threats.  He now says that he jumped in to stop the rape and then contacted police.  What he fails to give us is a timeline of when he allegedly contacted the police.  There isn't a record of him doing so immediately after the incident - the right time to do so.

But, all that aside, Mike worked on the sidelines right alongside Jerry Sandusky, following this incident FOR YEARS!  According to all the reports, Jerry Sandusky went right on raping boys in the showers and there never is any mention of tension between the two coaches.  Not to mention, Jerry Sandusky was widely considered to be the most obvious choice to succeed Paterno, meaning, the football program showed complete disregard for any wrongdoing.

How is this even possible?  If you, as a young man of 28 years (Mike, in 2002), witness something as vile and disgusting as Mike did, and as he stated, necessitated quick and tough decisions during the 30 - 45 seconds of realization of what was happening, how can you go years, closely working with this person as a colleague, knowing that the said colleague still had complete and unfettered access to the same facilities with the same boys?  How is that possible?

What would drive a man to do this?  Was his job worth more to him than doing what was right?  Did he want the coaching job for Penn State?  For another school?  Was Mike so worried about upsetting the vegetable cart that even a raping of a young man was acceptable in order to climb the ladder the right way?

As a father of young boys, no amount of explanation would give me reason to empathize with Mike if the violated boy was my son.  I wouldn't be able to.  I would expect that my son, being assisted by a charity, run by people that I implicitly trust, would be helped by those same individuals, blowing the whistle if he were being abused.  Everyone that could have done something good here failed.  It all started with Mike.

Then there is Mike's dad.  What did he say to Mike?  Why didn't he call police?  Why didn't he tell Mike to call police?  Did he counsel Mike to go to Joe Paterno instead of the proper authorities?  Was this father so invested in his son's coaching career that he counseled his son to do what he could to deflect the report?  Worse yet, did his father counsel Mike that the 10-year old boy probably brought the sexual violating on himself?  Was the victim blamed rather than the victimizer?  Where is the protection for the vulnerable here?  Why is a coach of a revered and worshiped football team more worthy of respect than those he has been given authority over?  After Mike, the responsibility to save this boy's life was Mike's dad.  He failed.


Then there is Joe Paterno.  Why didn't he contact the police right away?  How could he keep giving unfettered access to the facilities to Jerry Sandusky with the same sort of boys that he had violated in 2002?  Jerry says that Joe never talked to him about the subject - ever.  Of course, we can't really trust Jerry, or anyone involved here, now that they have all lawyered up.  But Jerry says it and that premise has not been debunked because there is no official record of it ever happening.  Why is that?  How could Jerry continue being one of Paterno's right hand men on the field for years?  Joe Paterno failed.

The rest of the crew did worse, lying to authorities and downplaying the facts or even failing to report the incident altogether.

God help my sons if this is the status quo when football worship is involved.  Do people really care more about their future careers where I cannot trust anyone around my children, ever?  I sure hope not.  I want to believe that this series of incidents was simply an anomaly.

God help us all if it was not.

Monday, November 14, 2011

I'm Sick of This Meager Existence

I'm tired.  Tired of being lazy.  Not only am I tired, I am sick and tired of my life of procrastination.

I blame it on my childhood.  I don't take that stance as an excuse to keep being who I know I am, I merely acknowledge the source of my lazy procrastination.

Growing up, I was a hard worker.  I could finish two sinks of dishes in ten minutes flat.  It didn't matter if there was an inch and a half of kidney beans and rice burnt onto the bottom of the pot.  With no steel wool, ever, I accomplished that task as if I was born for it.  I could shovel a corner property's sidewalks and a few neighbors driveways in an hour.  I'd soak myself in sweat and yet I enjoyed it.

In the summers, I used to work fourteen to twenty hour days, ripping off roofs and putting them back on.  I'd tear into a demolition on a house like a madman and go all day with nothing but a Mountain Dew.  If I struggled with some school work, I would weep all my tears clean out of my head and then settle down and work toward a solution. 

I felt like I was preparing myself for a life of opulent success.  I received junk mail for running my own business.  It didn't matter what it was, I was convinced that working for the man was the wrong thing to do.  You had to work for yourself to get rich.

Then I grew up.  People stopped telling me what to do, and I lost all my desire and resolve.  Sure, it was still bottled up in my head.  All my friends and relatives can attest to that fact.  Every few months or so I dream up a great idea and spread it around to the world.  Anyone within earshot for two weeks straight gets to sit through my animated detailing of my newest business idea.  I have started more businesses in my head than Rockefeller has dollars.

But, I've never stepped out and done any of them.

Look out world.  I'm about to do something - or ten things - crazy!  Laziness and procrastination be damned, life is about to begin.



The Rogue "pastoral" Team: Act Thirteen - Zach Pulls a Fast One

Start from Act One
Incongruous Circumspection was threatened by Mark and Annah's Henchman! 
Aww...the Henchman Apologizes...Sort of 
Mark Reid Tries to Preach Out of a Jam

In Act Twelve, Annah let Zach know that trusting in God or listening to God was a stronghold.  Essentially, full and unquestioned obedience to every whim of your "pastor" is pure religion to these clowns.  As we have come to expect, Mark Reid attempted a few words but his presence was summarily dismissed as unnecessary.

Let's listen in as the discussion goes further downhill, as if that is even possible.

*****
Zach: This is religion (meaning Freedom Christian Center)

Annah: No it isn't!

Zach: Religion is what – the visible manifestation of the body of Christ.

Annah: No, this is not religion. This is your freedom, Zach.

Only in cults like this does bondage and being completely controlled equate to "freedom".  Most outsiders would look at this and raise an eyebrow and call a news agency to get a screen writer on the case.  Not the sheep that belong to Mark and Annah Reid and those like them - they eat this stuff up and actually believe it.
Zach: That's just religion, that word's not bad.

Annah: This is your freedom!

Tell a lie enough times and people will just start regurgitating it as truth without thinking.

Zach: Religion is what we DO. A relationship is what we HAVE.

Annah: Zach, this is what God says, “You are placed here to learn submission.” That's the key. That's your key.

Where, Annah?  The God of the Bible says nothing of the sort.  Nowhere.  In fact, that God is VERY jealous.  He wants ZACH all to Himself, and not Zach fixated on Mark and Annah Reid.  That is clear throughout the Scriptures.
Zach: That's what you're saying...

Annah: Yep.

Zach: That's not what God's saying...

Annah: No, not what I'm saying, what I know!

Whew!  Good catch Annah!  Without that clarification, Zach might have thought you were creating your own religion.  Oh wait....nevermind.
Mark: Zach, you can leave here and maybe get a big job as a worship leader somewhere...

Annah: Yeah...

How's that?  When Zach disagrees with Mark and Annah Reid that God does not call men and women to submit to any old peeps but rather...well...he never got to say the "but rather"...they decide he cannot be controlled and can easily be dismissed.  A sure sign of serious control issues.
Zach: I don't want to be a worship leader (Zach: this is where I reveal my decision to stop leading at FCC)...

Mark: But – You don't want to be a worship leader? You're done with it? Now is God telling you that too?

Um, Mark...your stepping in your own hole.  You were about to dismiss Zach and he preempted you by telling you it was his desire anyway.  Now, you can't rain fire and brimstone on his head, thinking you are crushing his dream.  Bummer, dude.
Zach: Two months.

Mark: Huh?

Zach: By the end of June.

Mark: You're going to be done being a worship leader?

Zach: Is that alright?

Mark: Huh?

Mark is completely caught off guard here.  This is one place he has rarely been - the guy NOT in control.

Zach: I want to transition out.

No, Zach!!!!  Don't give them an inch!  They'll capitalize on it.  Oh well...too late.

Mark: That's fine.

Annah: I think you – that's, that's... that's okay.

What???!!!  Annah Reid is stuttering?  Hilarious.  She's caught off guard worse than Mark.  This is killing them!  Don;t worry though, they'll collect themselves and give us more for our viewing pleasure.

Mark: But anywhere you go, if you want to be a worship leader, you're going to have to submit to the authority in the place where God puts you.
What did I just say?  Oh, right.  They would collect themselves.  Am I wrong or am I wrong.

Unfortunately for Mark and Annah Reid, Zach could have chosen to go to many a church and be a worship leader and practically LEAD the church.  But, they have to hold the facade together for a little while longer.  Giving Zach a small taste of freedom may mean they would lose control altogether.


Annah: Mhmm.

Zach: We'll see.

Mark: Huh?

Zach: We'll see.

Annah: Yeah.

Mark: Or what, do you think? What's the difference?

Someone questioned Mark's view of the world and he's not happy.  Maybe he's not buying it.  Maybe he doesn't really know what REAL life is really like on the outside.  What a sad existence.

 

*****

So Zach decides to leave and Mark and Annah are slightly shocked.  In Act Fourteen, they will quickly rebound, as I said, and begin teaching Zach a thing or two about life.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Rogue "pastoral" Team: Act Twelve - All Truth Only Applies to Others

Start from Act One
Incongruous Circumspection was threatened by Mark and Annah's Henchman! 
Aww...the Henchman Apologizes...Sort of 
Mark Reid Tries to Preach Out of a Jam 

In Act Eleven, we watched as Annah pretty much summed the meeting up by telling Zach, in no uncertain terms, that Mark and Annah Reid, as "pastors", were to be between Zach and Jesus Christ.

Let's keep listening in as the discussion drags on. 

*****

Zach: I'm all of a sudden not submitting to somebody that's telling me to submit for whatever reason

Annah: Zach, I hope it is – I hope it is putting you between your Father and Jesus and saying, "What is it in me..." like Satan, he was so rebellious, he couldn't honor the Father and Jesus, but he was an excellent worship leader. But what was it in him that got him kicked out of the kingdom? Not that you're going to get kicked out of the kingdom. It was his pride, Zach. He's not humble. That's the spirit of the antichrist. Opposite – it says, "Humble yourself in the sight of God, and I'll exalt you in due season." But if you rear your head up and say, "I don't have to work on submission." ZACH! You're deceiving yourself. We all have to grow up. ALL of us have to grow. EVERY PERSON IN THIS CHURCH has to be challenged to grow up.

Mark: You're turning it into a bunch of rules.

Zach: I am?

Annah: Yeah, you are. You ARE!

Zach: Because that's how it's being represented.

Annah: That's your mindset.

Mark: You've got a legalistic mindset.

Zach: What?!

Annah: Uh huh.

Zach: I have a legalistic mindset because I'm saying no to something I don't agree with?

Annah: Yeah! You do. You have, like, - because, if I was talking to somebody else, Zach, okay? Just, say, somebody that I work with, okay, and they go, "Gah, you know, we're just called to submit and honor you guys. It doesn't matter, we don't need our lives." It's kind of like Shelly (Mark & Annah's oldest daughter)
and Brenda (Shelly's co-manager) owning a shop, and the little girls in there (referring to the underling employees) thinking they should run the shop instead of Shelly and Brenda. And they're just fighting against everything they say. Because, "Nobody's going to tell me what to do.", "I'm going to go to God, and I'm not going to listen...." and I think it's time for you to listen, Zach. I think it's time for you to say, "You know what Annah and Mark, I don't know everything. And I've got Christ in me, but I'm at your feet to learn. TEACH ME." But you're not willing, Zach. 'Cause you've got the hand up (gestures), and you go, "Well then, now you're saying I don't have Christ in me." Who said THAT? WHO said that, Zach? Nobody said you didn't have Christ in you! We're saying you need to learn. You need to humble yourself and get at the feet of Christ and learn through us what you aren't going to learn by being stubborn. BY BEING STUBBORN. Yeah!

Mark: You'd agree that it says, "The greatest of all is the servant of all." Right? Is that what the Scripture says? "The greatest in the Kingdom is the servant of all."

Zach: Jesus said that about himself to the disciples.

Mark: Yep, and so being the servant of all can enable you to be the greatest in the Kingdom. So being a servant, which means you're going to be submissive to somebody, or some program or plan, actually promotes you in the Kingdom. And it's totally compatible with being saved. So this has nothing to do with being saved or having Christ in you; it has everything to do with a servant attitude and a humble attitude. Which I don't think you have right now. I think you're questioning everything about us, whether you trust us, whether you want to submit or not...

Annah: And that's part of wounding and hurt and rejection and (Zach: referring to our past conversation about my childhood, which somehow is the reason for my attitude here), that's all those walls...

Mark: We recognize that...

Annah: We recognize that. We're not ignorant to how the enemy has operated. And what you need to know, is, yes, you have Christ in you. Yes, we believe that you are called to lead worship, but we've also thought that there's a lot of broken [ . . . ] in you. And I think that Mark's right, you have a legalistic mindset. 'Cause you put us in that box of rules and regulations. That's not what we're saying. We're not even that – and I remember one pastor saying to me – that critical spirit, and I got so offended. I'm like, "Who does she think she is that she can tell me that I have a critical spirit?" Really, I rebelled against it. As a matter of fact, their going to be speaking in our church in two weeks. As a matter of fact, they couldn't minister to me at all, Zach, because I knew more than they did.

Zach: Mhmm

Annah: Uh huh. At 26 years old, or 29. And I remember the Lord saying, "You know what Annah? I didn't ask you if they were perfect. I told you to submit under their authority. THAT is what God said He said, "You get back and you submit back under their authority." 'Cause I was rebellious. And stiffnecked. Stubborn. And thought I knew everything. Mindset!

Zach: I'm sorry that had to happen to you at that point in your life.

Annah: Yeah! And do you know what, Zach? It doesn't have to happen to us. We can humble ourselves and say, "You know what? What do you think I need to learn, Annah and Mark?" Not, "Now I don't have Christ in me. Now you're setting a bunch of rules and regulations down on me." That's not what we're saying at all.
We're just saying that GOD wants to work in you, Zach, humility. So, therefore, He's going to help you learn submission in the house of God (referring to FCC), just like Jesus did. I think He was 30 when He went into ministry. Did he live under His mom and dad until He was 30? UH HUH! Did He honor authority? YEAAH! He was even teaching in the church and He...

Zach: That wasn't about that.

Annah: ...He, wait, a minute, He was even GOD. And He knew more than they did (meaning His mom
and dad), and they said, "You come. And you come home with us." And He stayed with His parents
and learned. And He submitted under their authority. Oh, yes He did! Oh yes! Jesus stayed with His
parents until He was 30. He didn't sit there and say, "I'm not going to...

Zach: So I'm a spiritual child that must submit to my spiritual father and mother (pointing to Mark and Annah).

Annah: Yes! YEAH! You need to grow up!

Zach: My spiritual Father is God himself.

Annah: No! Your spiritual...

Zach: ...I'm submitting to Him and His Word and what He's told me in my life.

Mark: Okay, Zach, Zach...

Annah: Zach, that's religion! Okay? Do you know that that's a stronghold!

*****

Had enough?  It keeps going.  We'll pick it up again in Act Thirteen.  Seriously, how twisted can your religion be if you say trusting in God for those who are under you rather than listening to YOU is a stronghold!!!???

Annah is a piece of work.  Mark, I think, got a few words in here, but its becoming more apparent who is REALLY in charge of this cult.

And, by the way, Mark mocked this blog in one of his sermons by putting a crown on his head and sunglasses on his face and asking the congregation if they thought he looked like a king or a cult leader.

They didn't get the joke.

Letters From Mama: Don't Get Married!

If you have read my blog for long, you may know that I grew up in an abusive environment.  I learned to cope quite well until I was 19 years old.  At that point in my life, the heat got too hot and I was ready to be free.  I will detail the circumstances surrounding that event at a later date. 

Anyway, I left and went to live with my dad to get on my feet and expose myself to the real world in full color, rather than a world through sheltered and well defined, paranoiac lenses.  My freedom came with many bumps in the road as I discovered that I was truly lazy when I wasn't being yelled at to accomplish a task.  I also had much maturation to build.  Life moved very fast and I needed to jump in and roll with it.

One day, I went on a weekend trip to Spirit Mountain in Duluth, Minnesota and met a girl.  She was struggling to set up her tent and I, being the machisimo man I was and the endeavor of all women that ever came in contact with me, squirted over to help her.  The rest was history.  We fell in heat...er...love.  I proposed less than two months later and we were married one year after, to the day, we met.

Let's back up to July 17, 2001 - the day the love of my life and I decided on the date of the wedding.  Mama sent me a letter.  Remember, I had escaped out of her world nearly two years prior and she would leave no stone unturned trying to get me back.  Using religion and false warmth was her favorite tactic.  This letter was no different.

I left in all the punctuation (she seriously overuses it) and the capital letter screaming is from the original text.  I will be inserting comments in between her words as emotion drives me.

*****

Dear Joseph,

[I had been going by "Joe" for years.  Ever since I left her home, I never went by my full name.  She knew this.  Therefore, she used my full name, at every opportunity.  This won't be the last time in this letter.]

Forgive me; all the issues I obtained for you of This Old House, I'd thought I was giving you the most precious gift; I looked through the last one I'd gotten, and found I'd been giving you a magazine that had liquor, smoking, and more and more sensuality being slipped in.  I am so sorry.  I trust that my prayers for you had kept your discernment muscle strong.

[Several things here.  First of all, you knew when Mama started out with an apology that she wanted something.  Mama was never wrong.  She would admit to wrongdoing, beg for forgiveness, then do it all over again. 

The other thing you may notice is that she read my mail.  But, don't dwell on that.  That is normal for a control freak.  What she was referring to here was the fact that she ordered a subscription to This Old House for me, then had it delivered to her house, so I would have to come and pick it up. 

I never picked any of the issues up.  So, she brought this into the light in this weird way.  I wouldn't put it past her to have required me to come back to her home to live, before I could get the magazines - that I didn't even want , anyway.

Finally, my father had smoked for many years.  Who did I go to heal with when I escaped her home?  My father's house.  She knew full well what she was doing in writing this.

And, to set the record straight, I love women and liquor.  Smoking, not so much. But women and sometimes liquor...bring them on, as much as possible!  Mama misses what is best for her boy every time she considers only herself.]
Joseph [I told you...], my precious son, I have been young, and now I am old(er).  All of my discipling (sic) since I have been saved has been right down this line - relationships and how God allows them to work or not work.  HE DOES NOT ALLOW IT TO WORK IF YOUR PARENTS HAVE NOT GIVEN THEIR BLESSING.
 
[My mother has actually been up on Mount Sinai and spoken to God herself.  Moses has nothing on her.  Moreover, she was thorough in her research before she wrote this letter, insomuch that she interviewed several billion couples that had tied the knot and believed in her god.  (If they didn't believe in her god, well, then they were kinda screwed).

Every couple that told her their relationship was perfect (I interviewed all of those couples afterward and they revealed to me that they were lying anyway) also let her know that they had received a full blessing from both sets of parents.  Those couples that had eloped or had gotten hitched where at least one parent's consent was not solidified, had either gotten divorced, murdered each other, or became lesbians.

My mother was listening to the wrong people.  Those who COULD have been giving her therapy and teaching her about REAL life were not the ones she was listening.  Rather, she was surrounded by enablers.

But wait...she has more! ]


Please do not set yourself up for misery, Joseph.  Please wait until Papa releases you, deeming you fully mature in his eyes.

[Now that went a bit too far.  Mama had refused to have a relationship with Papa since the divorce unless he met her every demand (Exactly the reason why he divorced her.  She would actually beat him into submission.).  So, if that was the case, how the heck did she know what his desires for my life were?  Not to mention, he did exactly as a father should - gave me great counsel in life and kicked me off the branch, believing I could fly.  He was an awesome dad.

Frankly, if I had turned out gay, my father would have been happy.  If I decided to marry a dog, he would have raised an eyebrow and handed me a coupon for Puppy Chow.  If I decided I was going to move to Mongolia and have twenty wives and three cats with no kids, my dad would have sent bags of Qwikrete across the Urals so I could live in a big hut like a king.  He was a DAD!  He loved his son and stayed out of his business.

But that isn't the worst part.  Mama's religion was a set of formulas.  If you broke one, you're toast.  I needed to pass all of her tests...I mean, God's tests, before life would open up for me and success would be mine.  Now THAT is misery!]


I love you so much, and I would take the anguish you are going to go through, upon myself if God would let me.  He cannot contradict Himself, Joseph.

[Seriously?  Well, how about this, Mama!  Your god can't contradict himself here because he NEVER SAID ANYTHING of the sort!  God never said that a man had to ask his parents to get married and only then would his union be blessed.  This is found NOWHERE in the Bible - the purported source for her god.

Sure, there are descriptions of marriages where the father chose the bride for his son.  That isn't quite the formula she is referring to, but details don't matter much to her.  But, if we must get technical, the Benjamites lost a ton of chicks in a war that God brought upon them so the dudes ran to another tribe and grabbed some chicks for wives - also sanctioned by God.  Or, Hosea went and bought a prostitute as a wife - also sanctioned by God.  David had wives and not ONCE did he ask his dad's permission in the text and yet he was considered a man after God's own heart.  Her assertion is pure poppycock.

But, the worst part is that she sees her god as an evil being.  He MUST dole out my punishment to ME when I don't get the rules exactly right and has no mercy.  What's more, the supposedly all powerful being is handicapped, where he is unable to pass the punishment on to another person that is BEGGING him to do so.  There is something more powerful than god in this case - his own set of rules that he himself designed.  How horrid.]

Please ponder Hebrews 13:8.

[Hebrews 13:8 says: "
Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever".  Huh?  It's funny she uses this verse.  Verse 7 would have worked toward her point SO much better.  Her loss.]
In tears of anguish for your sake, yet, even so He gives me John 14:27,

Mama XO

*****

You see the thinly veiled spiritual scare tactics and the manipulation?  Oof!

Anyway, more letter to come in this series.



Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A Devastated Little Boy

Halloween came quickly this year.  Our family rustled up the last of our costumes around the time we were supposed to go out the door and start terrorizing the neighborhood.

As we knocked on every door with a light on, the kids got more eager to grab the candy offered them in the bowls.  The owners of each house ran the gamut of love for children or simply doing the deed out of hapless irritation.

One elderly couple made an evening of it, genuinely enjoying every youngster that crossed their threshold.  They had dragged an old television and a space heater out to their three-season porch and sat on two rocking chairs with the light on, waiting for that footstep on the stairs and a knock on the door.

When my squirts ambled up, knocked and weakly whispered "Trick or treat!", the old woman jumped into action.  She was out of her rocking chair in a flash with a gigantic metal bowl, filled with candy, under her arm.  The old man smiled from ear to ear, loudly praising the children for their costume choices and getting them to slap his hand many times.  Handfuls of candy went into each pillowcase with Jack (2) begging loudly for the only candy he really cared about (any food, for that matter) - a sucker.

Then Frederic stepped up.  He had on a cheap Incredible Hulk costume with a thin plastic mask.  The teeth on the mask were bared, revealing bloody gums.  It looked gruesome, but fake enough to allow a dog to look once and slink away without growling.

When the old man caught sight of him, he let out a whoop and said "You're ugly!!!"  Frederic's frame immediately stiffened and he stopped in his tracks.  Nothing.  No words, no movements.  Nothing.  The old man chuckled and said again, "You're really quite ugly!!!"  You could see the wind escaping from Frederic's body and the devastated hunch of the shoulders began to show.  Then, slowly, his right arm moved upward toward his mask.  His hand lifted the mask off his face and up onto his hair.

Without skipping a beat, the old man loudly declared, "Wow!  Now you're cute!!!" 

Frederic's transformation was real.  His whole body softened, the shoulders became loose, and his beautiful smile beamed across his face.  You could read his mind and knew that he understood that the old man was just talking about his mask - which he already knew was ugly - not Frederic himself.

The rest of the evening was uneventful.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

I Am on a Need to Know Basis

A friend at work mentioned to me the other day that a few of our colleagues were deeply religious.  Ten minutes later, I had listed all forty fellow employees' religious leanings.  Yes, every single employee!

Now, why would I know that information?  It's not like I make a point to extract it out of them over time.

As many of you already know, I grew up in an Independent Fundamental Baptist church that worshiped Bill Gothard and later, Vision Forum.  These organizations are very strict in their religious dogma and require that all members, friends of members, and everyone else (the lost - those that are destined to go to hell) adhere to the same.

In order to require adherence, these organizations emphasize, heavily, the education and training of their victims.  The victims need to understand the exact formulas for salvation and religion, which includes all life decisions.  Thus, just like the Amway representative sees all of his friends and everyone else as potential dollars, the IFB/BG/VF person sees everyone through their fundamental lense of religion.

And that is how I lived for nearly thirty years.

I actually cared what people believed.  It allowed me to slot others into their religious boxes and identify myself "correctly" amongst them.

I'm ready for a different classification.

What beer do you like?  No, not the brand - the type!

How about, do you enjoy mowing the lawn?  Yard work?  Do you care about weeds?  What about raking the leaves after they fall?

Yeah, that should begin a good new habit.

Classify away!