Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Story of Liz Franklin, Installment 4 - Unreachable Sanctification

In Installment 3, we left off finding Liz trying as hard as she could to be perfect. Perfection was very necessary.  Without it, there was no chance of sanctification.  Without sanctification, you went to hell.  Let's continue this train wreck.

Before I could be sanctified, I had to Remain Saved.  So I had to examine myself for sins, known and unknown.  Sometimes I want to reach back through time and snatch my younger self out of there.  Sometimes I want to slap my younger self up side the head for being so....mindless.  Unknown sins?  Um, okay.  Sure I got 'em, so I'll go before the lord to see what they are.  And that I did.  In spades.  And wouldn't ya know it?  I had SINS!!  Yes, mine were capitalized.  One known sin that I really focused on was lying.  I'd heard a sermon about it.  The Bible was pretty specific.  Liars shall have their place in the lake of fire, where the worm (me) dieth not, and the fire was not quenched.  So, above all, Do Not Lie.  It had become less about going to heaven than not going to hell.

There were two kind of sins, I was taught.  The sins of commission and the sins of omission.  So, the sinning could be the actual lie, or it could happen if I just let people assume things that weren't true.  That people were responsible for their own assumptions wasn't a concept that was embraced by the church, or me.  So for at least a year, I got tied up trying to not lie.  I could not hold conversations without doubling back to make sure the person I was talking to totally understood what I was saying. 

The ride to school was a long one.  We had a station wagon, so we became the school bus for the people near us who also went.  Those rides became excruciating for me.  I wanted to talk.  I was a social butterfly.  I loved talking!  But I couldn't.  I might inadvertently lie.  As far as that went, if I looked out the window for an extended period of time, I might be leading people to believe I was watching something when I was just gazing.  Another lie!  In fact, one time at home, I was hanging laundry outside, and was just gazing into the distance.  when I came back in, I made sure to tell everyone, whether they had seen me or not, that I was looking at nothing.  At the worst of this, and shortly before I just gave up, I became cruel in my truth telling.  We had gone to McDonald's, and I had fries. Mom hadn't ordered fries, and wanted some of mine.  I grudgingly gave them, and I was afraid that if I didn't say something, she'd think I was happy to give them to her.  That would be leading her to believe a lie, wouldn't it?  So I told her the truth; I don't want to give you these, but here you go.  I really wasn't trying to be mean.  I was trying to tell the truth! 

I talked to church people about this, too.  About my inability to not lie.  I even went into specifics.  I was told to pray harder, to deny myself.  It just didn't work for me.  Eventually, I did talk to someone who kindly lead me through the definition of lying.  Nothing I was doing was a lie!  But by then it was too late.  I was convinced I was a liar of the worst kind.

This was just one of the sins I couldn't quit committing long enough to get sanctified, but it wasn't the only one.  There were a lot of vague, general sins of the soul that were addressed in the church.  These were the Unknown Sins.  If I was having trouble staying saved, or couldn't get sanctified, it was because I wasn't willing.  The only concrete thing that was ever said to me about being willing happened when I was around 10.  I'd made yet another trip to that (god-forsaken ) altar (it should be burned!).  The mean pastor was praying with me.  I could not get saved, or as they put it, pray clear through.  He kept asking me if I was willing.  I said "to do what?"  He then gave me the test: was I willing to become a missionary, have my husband and kids eaten by the natives, and contract leprosy?  I'm not making this up!  Eventually, specifics were moved away from, and Being Willing became the vague whip they hit me with.  I think in the back of my mind, I was always afraid that if I said I was willing, I'd suffer that fate.  At any rate, my sin, declared the church people was that I Was Not Willing.

So life went on, one soul-murdering day at a time.  I'd go to school, hear messages there about how fallen I was, so I'd go to the altar.  On the way home, or to church that night, I'd inevitably sin again, and have to go back. In addition to all that praying at the altar, I began spending all my free time praying, imploring god to make me willing.  I quit eating, I quit sleeping.  I quit laughing.  I thought if I were miserable enough, god would surely break my will in answer to my prayer.  I thought I could stay saved for maybe 5 minutes, then get sanctified.  Then I would be completely empty of myself, and full of the holy spirit, and he would make my being a non-person easy and natural.

I became, in a way, the church sweet heart. Like I said, there were 4 of us young people there.  The future of the church!  and I was the only one who was So Serious About God.  My older brother tried as hard as I did for awhile, but I was the only one who hung in for a long time.  They quit asking me how I was doing.  They instead inquired as to the state of my soul.  How's your soul, Liz?  If I didn't go to the altar every Sunday, they became concerned that I was in rebellion.  More than once, if I hadn't gone to the altar within 5 minutes of the "altar call" the pastor's wife came to me, in front of the whole church, bawling, and asking me to go to the altar.  "You're not saying no to me, you're saying no to Jesus", she'd bawl.  Every summer, the whole church conference would hold camp meeting in PA.  Thousands of people came.  I'd go there, thinking that in the midst of all these people fervently seeking the lord, and being willing, I couldn't help but be, myself.  I usually went to that altar at every opportunity, and in fact, would go there to pray between services.  If, however, a service went by that I didn't go by myself, she'd seek me out there, too.  How she found me in the crowd is a question I still have.  I'm sure she'd say god had led her to me.


Stay tuned for Installment 5, where we watch a camp meeting in more detail.

Another Request for Darcy

I am going to be asking for money again for Darcy.  As many of my readers know, it wasn't much more than two weeks ago that I posted this.  At that time in history, Darcy was excited about looking for a lawn mower to replace her old beater.  You know the story.  We raised almost $450 for the family to purchase a brand spanking new machine.  When the campaign finished, I had determined to rarely use this venue for charity campaigns, though I loved the response.  Many of my readers are repeat visitors and people get tired of being asked for money over and over again.

That being said, I have another urgent request for Darcy.  You can get to know her and what a special person she is by perusing Darcy's Heart Stirrings.

Here is the story:

On Monday morning, February 25, 2012, Darcy's husband took their daughter to school.  Their daughter begged to sit in the front seat, buckled of course, rather than sitting in her car seat behind the driver seat.  Darcy's husband gave in to the pleading because, after all, school was only two minutes away. 

About halfway to school, Darcy's husband was driving through an intersection and a pickup truck, traveling 55 miles per hour t-boned them - right behind the driver's seat.  That part of the Ford Explorer folded over their daughter's car seat crushing the area where she would have been sitting.  Darcy's husband's head hit the window, causing lacerations on his face, knocking him out, and giving him a concussion where he does not remember the accident at all.  Their daughter was found, outside of the vehicle, when the paramedics arrived, walking without a scratch.  She chatted up the paramedics until Darcy arrived in a panic. 

Darcy's husband was rushed to the hospital and spent the night.  His memory was so shot from the concussion that he would repeat himself every few seconds when having an incoherent conversation.  He is now home, recovering, with no broken bones.  Darcy is very grateful that her family is safe and healing.

Now for the financials:

Due to financial constraints (Darcy's husband was recently laid off from his trucking job), including only liability on the car, the current determination that the accident was Darcy's husband's fault, a medical benefit of only $1000 on the insurance, the family is in dire straits.

A friend of Darcy's started another ChipIn and requested that I put this up on Incongruous Circumspection.

Here is the ChipIn link:  Darcy Saffer Relief Fund

Even a small donation would help them get through this rough spot in their life and back to living. Again, I realize this is the second time in as many weeks that I have asked for donations for this family - except, this time, it is much more important.  It isn't a practical need like a lawn mower.  It is just a need to get the family over this hump to the other side of life.  Please consider it.

Thank you,

I. C.

The Formula Problem: Why Duggarizing Your Marriage is Not Recommended

Baking is one of my favorite pastimes.  I make a killer banana bread.  I love baking cookies and many times, like Marie Barone, bake a cake just because.  I follow recipes very closely but always add vanilla even if it is not called for.  I can follow those recipes to the letter for one simple reason - I live 900 feet above sea level.

Those who live 2500 feet above sea level cannot enjoy the ease of baking I take for granted.  When a recipe calls for a certain amount of flour, they have to add a bit more of the liquid ingredients.  If baking powder is needed, the elevated baker must reduce the amount by as much as half.  Baking temperatures must be increased.  And it isn't as easy as following specific directions for a perfect cake either.  In order to find the perfect balance of everything, copious testing and many failures must ensue.  But, just as the elevated baker is finding the correct balance, a thunderstorm hits and their angel food cake comes out of the oven in the shape of a discus.

Such is life in the baking world and such is the idea behind marriage.  What works for one couple will not necessarily work for another couple.

Everyone in the world is familiar with JimBob and Michelle Duggar.  They are all over television with their TLC program, as well as having been on numerous talk shows and the subject of many a news story.  They tow the line of an organization called Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP) and their home schooling program Advanced Training Institute (ATI). 

IBLP/ATI is run by a chronically unmarried man named Bill Gothard with a storied past, full of scandals.  This gentleman has propped himself up as an expert on marriage and everything to do with family life.  He is quite the guru with millions of direct and indirect adherents to his ideas.  Yes...ideas.  Bill Gothard has seven steps to this, fourteen steps to that, twelve steps to everything except alcoholism, three steps to whatever else.  The material he puts out is so formulaic, a follower of his has nothing to do but reference any of his hundreds of manuals for any question in life.

As was put forth in ATI material that Michelle Duggar handed out to women at a conference she was speaking at, the formula for marriage is very simple.  The wife must worship her husband at every turn in life.  She must stand behind him in all his decisions and respect his leadership.  She must look at him lovingly whenever he speaks and not interrupt.  She cannot argue with him or disagree unless she follows a formula to make a "godly" appeal.  All financial decisions are his.  All final decisions are his.  Her husbands vision must be her vision and absolute unquestioning trust and faith must be placed in the man she married.

This seems to work well for JimBob and Michelle Duggar.  JimBob appears to be an ambitious man and has started numerous businesses.  Currently, he is successful at real estate, not to mention the large amounts of money involved in any television show.  Trusting a man to make good decisions is very easy when that man works hard, efficiently, smart, and enough to more than enough money is rolling in. 

The problem is that two people living together is never a cookie-cutter situation.  JimBob and Michelle Duggar, as well as all adherents of IBLP/ATI practices, have a favorite line that you will hear whenever they give public interviews or are backed into a corner, defending their ancient and outdated belief system. 

"This is simply our conviction."

No it isn't.  If you dig into the reality of IBLP/ATI/Duggar, you will see what they portray as their conviction is really much more.  They posit that, due to their convictions, they have been blessed by God.  The obvious conclusion is that if others do not have the same convictions, then God is obligated not to bless them.  Thus, the "simply our conviction" line is really a translucent lie. 

In 2011, I played on a church softball team.  This league was unique in that most of the families showed up to watch their husbands and fathers make fools out of themselves.  (Ok, it was really just me making a fool out of myself).  A highlight of the game was the after-party where the home team would bring snacks and drinks and the families enjoyed meeting everyone.  My wife and I met a mother of eight children.  These children were very poorly dressed and had obvious, easily treatable medical problems (rashes, etc.).  We asked the mother how many children she had and she hesitated before she "remembered" that she had eight.  The children were well behaved but the older girls, around eleven and twelve, were very exasperated while taking care of their younger siblings.  The father was nowhere to be found.

I record this scenario here to portray a different side of formulaic marriage and family life as put forth by IBLP/ATI/Duggars.  The church league I played in was heavily involved in this mindset and they lived it, even to their detriment.  My wife and I went home and began asking the following questions.

Why is it right to have as many children as God gives you if you cannot support them?

What if the husband doesn't listen to "godly" appeals and railroads through all his decisions, no matter the detriment to the family?

What if the husband is abusive?

What if the wife has a superior financial mind and makes better decisions in that area?

What if the husband has no marketable skills?

What about inflation where one income is not enough?

What if the wife is not educated enough to sufficiently school the children and money is too scarce to get assistance?

All of these questions, and many more can be easily answered when you watch JimBob and Michelle Duggar.  They don't have to worry about them because everything appears to work for this family.  But this rosy, happy Hollywood story, is far from reality. 

Not everyone has a husband who works hard and "gets lucky".  Many marriages work better when all parties handle everything equally.  Many marriages work very well when the partners have extended arguments and constructive fights.  Disagreement is good in life. Many families struggle to make a living and need all parties to be gainfully employed.  Sometimes the spouse needs to sleep on the couch overnight to reboot the romance.  I cannot even begin to list all the real life differences from the perfect life formula that the Duggars portray as absolute and necessary.  There are hundreds - and they grow exponentially with every passing hour of life.

Happiness in marriage is what the two married parties make of it.  It will look different for every marriage.  Don't let anyone tell you that your marriage would be better (or even worse, truly blessed by God) if you only followed their principled life.  It just isn't true.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

My Kind of Righteousness

I don't like much of the god I find in the Old Testament.  There is a lot of death and murder that is undeserved.  The many stories remind me of a jealous two year old fighting over his toys. 

Sure, I understand the theology behind it.  Trust in the Lord and he will bless you.  Don't have any other god's but the god of the Bible.  Among other reasons to not get the ole' sword in the belly.  I just don't buy it.

A reasonable human being would not listen to an imaginary or unseen presence that told him to kill his son.  Today, we would arrest them on the spot and institutionalize them for insanity.  I would argue that that insanity decree would be well deserved.  People do not kill children unless they are evil - even if they claim god told them to, no matter what the Bible says.

And yet, in the Bible, god tells Abraham to kill Isaac.  And when he blindly followed the order, god miraculously saved Isaac by giving Abe a male sheep to kill instead.  I see Abe wiping his brow and letting out a shrill whistle and I see Isaac letting out a loud "WTF!?  Are you kidding me, daddio!  You were going to kill me and you only stopped when god provided an alternative?  I'm out!"

If someone told me to kill my kid, I would call the police.  Actually, I would get it on tape so that the police would have something to work with.  But, since god can't get on tape, it would be easy to conclude that a crazy, nutty order like that would be simply from a loose screw in the brain.  I imagine the person who tells me that to be one with hollow eyes, growing frightening whiskers, male or female.

No, I won't do it.  If god, himself, came down to earth, walked right up to me and ordered me to kill my kid, expecting me to trust him to resurrect the blood of my loins, hoping beyond all hope that he would repeat the crazy Abe exercise and save my kid from sure death just before the knife slit his throat, I would tell him to shove it.  Go find some other idiot who would do something that stupid.  But if he does, I would have him (god) arrested.

And it would be counted to me as righteousness.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

When Good Men Are Bad

When I was younger, I knew a very good man.  He was dear to my heart and still is.  This man took over the job of another man who seemed to be well respected by my dear friend and so, naturally, as a young man, I respected this other man, as well.  I saw him as good.

Then I grew up and my life helped me to drift away from this dear old friend of mine.  As a matter of course, being that this dear friend was my only real connection to this other man, I lost all of my connection to where he was or what he was doing.  I heard he had left the state and that was all.

Until tonight...

I found out some very very bad things about that man.  Not my dear friend, but the other guy. 

From the day I could muster my first thought, I have seen people as good when I first met them.  I love people.  In fact, I love people so much, I open my home and my life to everyone and anyone.  Rarely has it hurt me.  When it has, it brings me down hard.  When I am used or trodden upon by very bad people - those I previously viewed as good and kind - I literally weep.  I don't really get angry.  I just cry, inwardly mostly.

The potholes in life are beginning to add up and I feel as if I am becoming calloused.  The last thing I want to do is to start thinking of people as bad, initially, rather than good.  It is not who I am.

Then this happens.  I discover the worst in a person that I used to respect.  This very bad man who used to be very good in my eyes has now become the newest catalyst for the pressure cooker that is my suspicious self. 

Bad man.  I hate you.  I want to love.  I want to see everyone as worthy of love and respect.  But again, I cannot.  I despise the ground you walk on, the name you have made for yourself, the people you have hurt, the lies that you have become, the false goodness that you have portrayed, the many people that you have hurt behind closed doors, and your smiling face, as if the world is right.  There is now a new pothole in the happiness of my life and it has your name on it.

Shame on you.  Shame on you.

I find comfort in one thing.  There will be justice on this earth for you.  You have no idea of the force and breadth of the storm that is coming your way.  Your life, as you know it, will be changed forever.  You won't keep your untarnished reputation and you will be viewed by many parties as the evil, filthy, man you are. 

But that doesn't have to be the end.  When or if I assist in bringing you down, and down hard, I will be the first to teach you how to move on with your life, repent of your wrongs, truly reconcile with those you have hurt, and become a better, unrecognizable man.  Lies are not worth living.  Truth is better, even if it hurts to begin with.

I do not love you.  But you will write the last chapter.  Make it count.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Darcy Needs a Lawn Mower


I am going to be asking for money for a very dear friend of mine.  Many of you know her by her blog, especially this post that garnered oodles of attention all over the online world.  Her name is Darcy. 

Darcy comes from a background that was heavily patriarchal and has catapulted out of it into a beautiful marriage, soon expecting her fourth child.  The family has struggled with meager means, living through their home burning down, then getting foreclosed on after a job loss, and pulling through on the other side, whole again.  They are a testament to those that have been ostracized by former friends and yet forge an awesome life of their own.

But, living meagerly tends to ignore the practical, at times.  The things that many of us take for granted are simply a dream for many others.  In this case, Darcy and her family have been using the same used lawn mower for years.  It is currently being held together by duct tape and a bale of twine.  Sometimes Darcy has to kick it over and over to get it to start.  A mom of three - no, a pregnant mom of three - does not need to have that stress.

The family has scraped together a measly $100 to get a used mower at a pawn shop and have, as of yet, been unable to find one.

My desire is for Darcy and her family to get a brand new, walk-behind, self-propelled, gas-powered, lawn mower.  One with a mulcher (which doesn't add much to the cost).  One of those mowers cost around $350.00.  I also want Darcy to keep her saved up $100.00 and spend it on the kids.

Please consider chipping in some funds for Darcy and her family.  Even $1.00 would help us get there.  You can chip in your donation at the following Chip In site:

Darcy's Lawn Mower Chip In Site

Thank you in advance. 

Incongruous Circumspection

We raised a little more than $400!!!!  Thank you to everyone that helped!  You can still contribute until 3/3/2012 if you want.  A little more will enable Darcy and family to not only purchase the mower, but also an extended warranty.  Again, thank you!