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For the Love of the Game

grandson at toledo mud hens game 2013

My grandson Levi with Muddy, the mascot for the Toledo Mud Hens 2013

In the early 1960′s, my Dad moved us from rural NW Ohio to San Diego, California. My grandmother had moved to San Diego a few months before. Dad hoped to find the pot-of-gold at the end of the rainbow but all he found was poor paying sales and truck driving jobs. While living in California, my grandmother, Jeanette Rausch, bought me a baseball glove, a baseball, and took me to a San Diego Padres baseball game. (The Padres were a AAA minor league team at the time) I believe this was for my 6th birthday. From that day forward, I loved the game of baseball. The next time I attended a baseball game was in 1968, when my grandfather took me to Briggs Stadium to see the Detroit Tigers play the Cleveland Indians. This was the year the Tigers won the world series.

After we moved back to Ohio, I played Little League baseball for big city teams like Harrod, population 417, and Farmer, population less than 100. I am decidedly left-handed, so I threw and batted left-handed. I was an average player, not a good hitter, but quick on my feet. I developed a bad habit, called stepping in the bucket, where I would step back and away from the plate as the pitch was being thrown. Several coaches tried to fix this problem, but due to being hit so many times in the head, back, and legs by pitchers who had a hard time throwing to lefties, I never was able to overcome stepping in the bucket.

The summer of my eighth and ninth grade years, I played Pony League (or city league) baseball for Jaqua’s Sporting Goods in Findlay, Ohio. I will still an average player who couldn’t hit. I had decent defensive skills, so I made the team. On a team of 15 players, I was player 14 or 15. I was glad to make the team, but I knew I wouldn’t get a lot of playing time. The stepping in the bucket problem was even a bigger problem for me because I was now facing pitchers that played varsity and junior varsity baseball for the various local high schools. I still remember the fear I had facing Kevin Spitler during batting practice. It seemed Spitler was throwing the ball a 100 miles per hour and I was bailing before the ball even left his hand.

Regardless of my lack of skill and playing time or my fear of getting hit with the baseball, I loved the game. For many years, I was an avid Detroit Tigers fan. When Polly and I moved to Newark, Ohio in 1979, I gradually became a Cincinnati Reds fan. One of my dearest friends at the time, Neal Ball, a fellow manager with Arthur Treacher’s, was a diehard Red’s fan, and he successfully converted me into a fan of The Big Red Machine and Pete Rose. The Ball and Gerencser family attended several games together at Riverfront Stadium, our last game being Johnny Bench’s final home game. (a game in which he hit a home run in his last at bat)

For many years we didn’t have a television, so every night the game was on I would tune in to 700WLW, a 50,000 watt AM station out of Cincinnati, and listen to Red’s broadcast. Marty Brennaman and Joe Nuxhall were the broadcasters, or as Red’s fans call them, Marty and Joe. When we moved back to rural NW Ohio, I spent many a night trying to position the radio and a metal close hanger so I could listen to the game broadcast from distant Cincinnati. If we happened to be in the car while a game was being played, everyone knew that we would be listening to 700WLW. No matter how much static there was, if the game was on I listened to it. Why? For the love of the game.

One of the biggest regrets I have is not allowing my children to play organized sports. My oldest son played Little League baseball for a few weeks but had to quit when the practices began conflicting with prayer meeting.  The church always came first and that meant that my children, particularly my three oldest sons, would never know the joy of playing organized sports like their father did. (I also played basketball) I have apologized to them for robbing them of a part of their childhood and they have forgiven me, but I still deeply regret putting God/church before them.

I soon will be 57 years old and I remain a diehard baseball fan. For over 50 years I have experienced the excitement of maybe this will the year that the Tigers or the Reds win it all. Most of these years, I have been sorely disappointed, but I have never lost my love for the game of baseball. Now that I am older, have more money, and I am blessed to have a bunch of grandchildren, I do my best to make baseball part of the ebb and flow of our family life. Since we moved back to rural NW Ohio in 2007, I have attended several Major League baseball games every year. Some of the time Polly attends the game with me, other times my son’s do or it is a family affair.

Despite being deprived of playing the game, several of my sons are diehard baseball fans. Several of my granddaughters have showed interest in baseball (softball) and I am doing my best to encourage my grandson to play baseball. So far, he seems interested in the game. Ney, Ohio is halfway between Toledo, Ohio and Fort Wayne, Indiana. This allows us to attend Toledo Mud Hens (the AAA affiliate of the Detroit Tigers) and Fort Wayne TinCaps (A affiliate of the San Diego Padres) games. We usually try to attend games when the Louisville Bats (the Reds AAA affiliate) or the Dayton Dragons (The Reds A affiliate) are in town. This year, between Cincinnati, Fort Wayne, and Toledo, we plan to attend 10 games. (Fort Wayne and Toledo ticket prices are quite affordable, $9.00)

The Major League season is 162 games long. If you want to know where I am from April 1st until the end of September, check the game schedule for the Reds. Most of the time, I will be in front of the TV rooting for or cursing my Reds. If I am out and about during game time, the radio will always be tuned to 700WLW. Why? Because I love the game. Listening to, watching, or playing baseball is very much a part of who I am. It is the only reason I continue to pay exorbitant satellite bills.  Well, that and NFL football, Ohio State football, Ohio State basketball, and…well you get my drift. Hello, My name is Bruce, I am a sports addict…

Published: April 24, 2014 | Comments: 0

Is the IFB Church Movement Christian?

god's word

Many people who leave the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement come to the conclusion that the IFB church is not Christian at all. If it is a cult, it can’t be Christian, right?  I find this especially true for former IFB church members/pastors who are now Calvinists. They often consider the IFB church a false religion preaching a false gospel. Of course, their new church is the true Christian religion, preaching the true gospel.

IFB churches believe what they do because of their commitment to a literal interpretation of an ancient text they consider given to them by God. The former IFB church member/pastor turned Calvinist is no different. They too are committed to a literal interpretation of an ancient text they consider given to them by God. Many Christian sects, especially Evangelical sects, adhere to a literalistic interpretation of the Bible. It is from this foundation that a cult is born.

So, when I am asked if I think IFB church members are Christians, I say absolutely yes. Their core doctrines are orthodox and they believe that salvation is found in and through Jesus Christ.  It is their literalistic interpretation of a small set of Bible verses, primarily dealing with ecclesiology, complementarian hierarchy, and sex that the seeds of cultism is found. These same cultic seeds can be found in countless American churches, so it is not an IFB church problem alone.

Many cultic IFB pastors are quite sincere. They believe that they are following the clear teachings of the Bible, the very same beliefs they were taught when they were young or in college. They are Christian in the same way that an Orthodox Jew is Jewish. Their literal interpretation is the problem, but this does not mean they are not Christian.

I wanted to be clear on this issue. Just because I think the IFB church movement is a cult or has cultic tendencies does not mean that I do not think it is Christian. Cultism can be found in the Christian church throughout its history. In fact, some people think ALL Christian sects are cultic to some degree or another. Christians themselves are quite willing to point out the cultic tendencies of other Christian sects but often seem unable to spot the same cultic tendencies in the sect they are a part of. Over the years, I have corresponded with a number of people who left the IFB church movement for what they called true Christianity. Upon examining closely their new church/sect, I have generally found that they have traded one cult for another.

Published: April 23, 2014 | Comments: 3

Is the IFB Church Movement a Cult? Part Five

boss-of-the-church.jpg
In part five of this series, I want to deal with the elevation of men in the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement. (If you don’t know what an IFB church is, please read What is an IFB Church?) In the IFB church movement, egalitarianism is strictly forbidden. According to IFB preachers, God, in the inspired, infallible, inerrant Bible, has decreed a hierarchy that must be followed if a church or a family wants to be blessed by God. Failure to follow the Biblical hierarchy could result in the judgment of God, along with failed churches, marriages, and rebellious children.

Last year, in a post titled Are You a Real Man, I wrote:

The Bible, they say, teaches a hierarchy for the family. The husband is the head of the home. He is the provider and protector and he is the authority God has placed in the home.  The wife is to submit to her husband. Why? Because the Bible says so:

Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. (Ephesians 5:22)

The Bible also says that the husband is to RULE over his wife:

Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee. (Genesis 3:16)

Not only are men rule over women in the home, they also are to  rule over them in the church:

Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you. (Hebrews 13:17)

In the instructions that Paul gives to the young preacher Timothy, he tells him that elders (pastors) in the church are to be :

one that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity;(for if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) (1 Timothy 3:4.5)

The family hierarchy found in the Bible is explicitly complementarian. (each sex have separate, defined roles in the church and in the home)

Why do women need to be ruled? Is there something inherently wrong with women that they need someone to rule over them? The Bible has this to say about women:

Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands…For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands: even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord…Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel… (1 Peter 3:1-7)

Why are women commanded to submit to their husbands, to be in subjection to them, to have men rule over them in the home and the church? Because they are the WEAKER vessel. Married women, women in the church, and daughters who live at home, all need men to protect them, care for them, and provide a covering for them. It is hard not to conclude, based on these verses, that women would perish from the earth if it were not for men.

The same kind of thinking applies to the church. In a post titled The IFB pastor, I wrote:

IFB pastors generally see themselves as a New Testament version of an Old Testament prophet. Called by God, given an inspired, inerrant Bible, the IFB pastor proclaims the Words of God. He is God’s mouthpiece. He has been given the responsibility to rule the church. He has been called by God to labor in word and doctrine. He is responsible for the care of the church. (deacons are given the responsibility of caring for the temporal needs of the church, Acts 6)

Next to God, the pastor is head of the church. As a man called by God, and as a man who God uniquely speaks to through the work of the Holy Spirit, the pastor is God’s authority in the church. (not much different from the Pope in the Catholic church)

Let me illustrate this for you. Here are a few excerpts from a noted IFB church’s constitution:

…The Holy Scriptures. We believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be the verbally and plenarily inspired Word of God. The Scriptures are inerrant, infallible and God-breathed, and therefore are the final authority for faith and life. The sixty-six books of the Old and New Testament are the complete and divine revelation of God to man. The Scriptures shall be interpreted according to their normal grammatical-historical meaning, and all issues of interpretation and meaning shall be determined by the Pastor. The King James Version of the Bible shall be the official and only translation used by the church (2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Peter1:20-21)…

…On becoming a member of this church, in addition to the Statement of Faith, each one further covenants to love, honor, and esteem the pastor; to pray for him; to recognize his authority in spiritual affairs of the church; to cherish a brotherly love for all members of the church; to support the church in prayer, tithes, offerings, and with other financial support as the Lord enables; and in accordance with Biblical Commands, to support through a lifestyle walk the beliefs and practices of the church…

…This congregation functions not as a pure democracy, but as a body under the headship of the Lord Jesus Christ and the direction of the pastor as the undershepherd with the counsel of the board of deacons. Determinations of the internal affairs of this church are ecclesiastical matters and shall be determined exclusively by the church’s own rules and procedures. The pastor shall oversee and/or conduct all aspects of this church. The board of deacons shall give counsel and assistance to the pastor…

…Membership in this church does not afford the members with any property, contractual, or civil rights based on principles of democratic government. Although the general public is invited to all of the church’s worship services, the church property remains private property. The pastor (or in his absence, an individual designated by the board of deacons) has the authority to suspend or revoke the right of any person, including a member, to enter or remain on church property. If, after being notified of such a suspension or revocation, the person enters or remains on church property, the person may, in the discretion of the pastor (or in his absence, an individual designated by the board of deacons), be treated as a trespasser…

…The membership of any individual member shall be automatically terminated without notice if the member in question has not attended a regular worship service of the church in the preceding six months. Upon good cause being shown to the pastor, this provision for termination may be waived in the case of any individual member at the discretion of the pastor

This church’s constitution states very clearly who is in charge of the church when it details the duties and powers of officers:

(A) The pastor shall preach the Gospel regularly and shall be at liberty to preach the whole counsel of the Word of God as the Lord leads him. He shall administer the ordinances of the church, act as moderator at all church meetings for the transaction of church matters, supervise the teaching ministries of the church, and tenderly watch over the spiritual interest of the membership.The Pastor shall serve as the president of the corporation. He shall publicly inform all newly appointed deacons of the particular function and the responsibilities of their respective offices and perform such other duties as generally appertain to such a position. The pastor shall be free to choose the means and methods by which he exercises the ministry that God has given him.(B) All appointments for public worship and Bible study and the arrangements thereof, including time and place and the use of the property belonging to the church for purposes other than the stated appointments, shall be under the control of the pastor.

pastoral authority

In most IFB churches, the church is under the control and authority of one man, the pastor. While some IFB churches have a deacon board or elder board, these boards often are little more than YES men for the pastor. This is especially the case in IFB churches where the pastor has been there for a number of years. (young IFB preachers are encouraged to pastor one church for their entire life)

Every major office in the IFB church is filled a man. It is men who have the final say on what goes on in the church. While women may be allowed to vote at congregational meetings, they have very little actual power in the church. They are relegated to  secretarial work, nursery duty, teaching children, playing the piano, singing in the choir, cooking food for fellowship dinners, or cleaning the church. Again, according to the Biblical hierarchy men are to lead and women are to quietly and submissively follow. (You might be interested in reading, Why Would Any Woman Want to be an Evangelical Christian?)

It should be readily evident to all but those blinded by their IFB beliefs, that this kind of hierarchical thinking leads to all kinds of mental, emotional, and, at times, physical abuse. Male pastors are given almost absolute control and power over the congregation. Husbands,following the teachings of their pastor tend to exert absolute control and power over their wife and children. In the church and in the home, women are often reminded that God put men in charge because they are a weaker vessel in need of a man’s protection. They are also frequently reminded that their role, ordered by God,  is to marry, bear children, spread their legs when their husband demands it, and keep the home.

Quite like the Catholic church, the IFB church is a male-only club. While women are tolerated because of the benefits they give to men, they are in no way equal or valued. While I am sure that most IFB preachers and leaders will strenuously object to this, all one has to do is sit down with former female IFB church members and ask them how they felt while attending an IFB church. Ask them about their preacher’s sermons on the home, marriage, pastoral authority, and God’s divine order. Their testimonies will bear witness to the truth of what I have written her.

Is this kind of thinking cultic?  Ask yourself, is it cultic to use a religious text to control, dominate, and demean others? Is it cultic to rob women of personal autonomy and self-esteem? Is it cultic to threaten church members with God’s judgment if they go against the pastor? Is it cultic for one man or a small group of men to control every aspect of a church member’s life?

I think you know the answer.

Note

What is hard for many of us to admit is that we were once a part of a cult or a church that had cultic tendencies. This is doubly so for someone like me who was an IFB church member and an IFB pastor. While I was not as extreme as some in the IFB church, I must admit that some of my preaching and tactics had a cultic ring to it. While I left this kind of thinking behind years before I left the ministry, I still must bear the burden of those I hurt through my preaching. I must bear the burden of wives and children who were emotionally and physically harmed by men who took seriously my preaching on men being the authority figure in the home. I must also bear the burden of how this kind of thinking hurt my own wife and family. While I was simply modeling what I had been taught and I was ignorant of the implications of my beliefs, I am still accountable for what happened as a result of my preaching.

Published: April 23, 2014 | Comments: 0

Duke Energy Threatens Higher Rates over Proposed Coal Ash Regulation

duke energy coal ash
Consider this scenario:

I have a business located near the river where your city draws the water you drink. This business of mine makes a dangerous, toxic product, which is stored outside, that would ruin your city’s water source. The safest course of action would be to require me, the business owner, the one who makes this dangerous, toxic product, to move the production/storage of it to a different place. I refuse, saying that moving it would be cost prohibitive and it would likely result in you paying me money for moving it.  Instead of moving the production of this dangerous, toxic product that is stored outside near the river where your city draws the water you drink, I want to put a plastic tarp over it.

Would you be OK with me just putting a plastic tarp over a dangerous, toxic product that could pollute and ruin your water supply? I suspect you would say NO and you would expect me to move this dangerous, toxic product away from the river so there is no possibility of it getting into the water. Since I put the product near the river, I suspect you would expect me to pay the cost for moving it. After all, it is my business and my product.

In February 2014, CBS reported:

North Carolina officials said Tuesday that groundwater containing unsafe levels of arsenic apparently leaching from a Duke Energy coal ash dump is still pouring into the Dan River, which is already contaminated from a massive Feb. 2 spill.

The state Department of Environment and Natural Resources ordered Duke to stop the flow of contaminated water coming out a pipe that runs under a huge coal ash dump at its Eden power plant. A nearby pipe at the same dump collapsed without warning two weeks ago, coating the bottom of the Dan River with toxic ash as far as 70 miles downstream.

State regulators expressed concern five days ago that the second pipe could fail, triggering a new spill. The water coming out of that pipe contains poisonous arsenic at 14 times the level considered safe for human contact, according to test results released by the state on Tuesday.

“We are ordering Duke Energy to eliminate this unauthorized discharge immediately,” said Tom Reeder, director of the N.C. Division of Water Resources.

Video taken last week by a robot sent inside the 36-inch-wide concrete pipe showed wide gaps between seams through which groundwater is gushing in, likely from the toxic dump above.

Tests on water from the pipe before it goes under the dump showed none of the dangerous contamination detected at the other end. The concrete inside the pipe is heavily stained around the numerous leaks, suggesting the contamination is likely not new.

A state inspector received the video recorded by Duke during a Feb. 11 visit to the site, but did not review it until Thursday.  On Friday night, the state agency went public with concerns about the pipe’s structural integrity.

Duke spokeswoman Paige Sheehan quickly issued a statement, downplaying the risk.

“After reviewing the videotape, we determined that no immediate action was necessary,” it said…

…Meanwhile, Duke Energy announced Tuesday that its fourth-quarter profits jumped 58 percent after officials in North Carolina and other states approved hikes in the rates customers pay for electricity. The company had revenues of $24.6 billion for 2013.

George Everett, Duke’s director of environmental and legislative affairs, told state legislators this week that the company is sorry for the spill and will be accountable.

Any costs incurred because of the cleanup will likely be passed on to ratepayers, not shareholders, he said…

The North Carolina legislature is considering requiring Duke Energy to remove all of its coal ash away from state rivers and lakes. To me, this is the prudent, responsible thing to do, but as we all know, prudent and responsible is not what Duke Energy is known for. Instead of acting in an environmentally and socially responsible way, Duke Energy is only concerned with maximizing shareholder profits.

According to state officials:

…all of Duke’s 33 unlined dumps at 14 coal-fired power plants scattered across the state are oozing out contaminants into groundwater. All told, Duke has more than 100 million tons of the ash, which contains potentially harmful chemicals including arsenic, lead, mercury and chromium…

CBS reported today:

Duke Energy told North Carolina lawmakers Tuesday that removing all of the company’s coal ash away from the state’s rivers and lakes would take decades and cost up to $10 billion, with its electricity customers likely footing nearly all the bill.

In a presentation to a state legislative committee, Duke’s North Carolina president Paul Newton suggested the company needs flexibility to consider more cost-efficient options. The company’s proposal is to remove the coal ash from unlined dumps at four of its power plants, but then leave much of what is stored at 10 other sites in place after covering it with plastic and soil…

…Earlier this year, Brian Williams, a conservationist with the Dan River Basin Association, took a CBS News crew 20 miles downstream of the coal ash spill at a retired plant in Eden, N.C.

“It was just giant, gray sludge pouring into the river,” Williams said. “It’s down here on the bottom and it’s mixing with the sediment and it’s constantly leeching out the toxins that are in the coal ash.”..

The company has said it will pay for the spill cleanup, but may ask state regulators to raise the rates it charges customers for any additional costs incurred as a result of new regulations or requirements at its other sites…

Molly Diggins, speaking on behalf of the North Carolina Sierra Club, had this to say:

“Despite being a Fortune 500 company, with profits of $2.7 billion last year, Duke Energy has successfully been allowed to manage its wet coal ash waste as if the clock had stopped half a century ago. Coal ash is a can that has been kicked down the road for far too long. The Dan River spill was a terrible disaster, but it’s opened all our eyes to the reality that we need to deal with our state’s coal ash problem now. “

Duke Energy should be required to move the coal ash and pay for it from their company profits. It is Duke Energy, not the people of North Carolina, that are culpable for the pollution and environmental damage done to the state’s rivers, lakes, and ground water. What remains to be seen is whether North Carolina officials have the backbone to stand up to Duke Energy.

The governor of North Carolina, Pat McCrory, worked for Duke Energy for 28 years, and from 2000-2012, received $98,000 in direct contributions from Duke. The Institute for Southern Studies reports:

…Other analyses have turned up even larger figures for Duke Energy’s giving to McCrory, in part because they included donations from North Carolina-based Progress Energy, which is now a Duke subsidiary. For example, a 2013 report by the campaign finance watchdog group Democracy North Carolina found McCrory received over $300,000 in direct contributions for his 2008 and 2012 gubernatorial campaigns from Duke/Progress-related donors. In addition, Duke/Progress gave an additional $761,800 to the Republican Governors Association, a major GOP committee that helped McCrory’s campaign.

And earlier this year, Democracy North Carolina released a follow-up report that detailed an additional $437,000 in contributions from Duke/Progress donors to Republican causes in 2013. Meanwhile, how much the company may have contributed to Renew North Carolina, a pro-McCrory shadow campaign committee, is not known because the 501(c)(4) nonprofit is not legally required to disclose its donors and to date has not done so voluntarily.

Duke Energy, which became the nation’s largest utility following its merger with Progress Energy, has also contributed over $1 million to the campaigns of North Carolina lawmakers. In addition, a recent analysis by Facing South revealed the company contributed $175,000 to a Washington, D.C.-based Republican super PAC that played a major role in a 2012 North Carolina Supreme Court race. Duke Energy is current embroiled in two legal controversies — one over cleaning up its coal ash and the other over its merger with Progress Energy — that could eventually end up before the state’s high court…

It remains to be seen if Governor McCrory and the North Carolina state legislature will put the safety and welfare of North Carolinian’s ahead of the campaign donations they receive from Duke Energy.

Published: April 23, 2014 | Comments: 0

April Blog News

blog news

It’s the time of month when I share what is new on The Way Forward and I remind readers of the various ways they can access this blog, contact me, or make a donation.

Health News

Two simple words this month, not good.

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I am always looking for people to write a guest post. Do you have something you would like to write about? Please let me know and I will gladly publish your guest post on The Way Forward.

You don’t have to be an atheist to write a guest post. Maybe you disagree with me on something and you want to set me straight. Write away… I am especially interested in publishing your deconversion story. If you need to, you can write anonymously.

Please use the contact form to send me your guest post.

Donations

Each month, a handful of people make a donation to the Bruce Gerencser Relief Fund. I appreciate each donation, regardless of the size. I view the donations as an act of kindness to me by my friends.

When I started blogging six years ago, I decided I did not want to have advertising on my blog. I don’t blog to make money. I blog because I need to write. Donations are always appreciated, but they will never determine whether I blog. In other words, you can’t buy me! :)

The donation form is on the sidebar if you would like to make a donation.

As always, thank you for reading The Way Forward. Your kindness and support mean a lot to me, and I know my life is richer because of it.

Until next month…

Bruce

Published: April 22, 2014 | Comments: 0

How Well-Intentioned Healthy People Hurt the Chronically Ill

new chronic pain chart
pain chart by Allie Brosh

People who are chronically ill want to be thought of as being “normal”,no different from those who are not sick. They don’t like the focus being on their sickness, pain, or debility. They want to be part of the crowd, part of the family. Yet, they know that their sickness, pain, or debility has changed their life dramatically, making it impossible for them to have a “normal” life. For the chronically ill, their life is dominated by their illness, by doctors, tests, medications, and the daily physical/social reminders that their life is anything but “normal”.

The chronically ill person wants to be perceived as “normal”, even though they are not. It is this perception that often results in well-intentioned healthy people hurting the chronically ill. Often a well-intentioned healthy person knows how things really are for the chronically ill person, but they let the person’s perception dictate how they respond to them. We see a similar situation with elderly people who want to give the perception of being self-reliant when, in fact, they need the help of their family.

My life is dominated, controlled, and ordered by the chronic health problems I have. I don’t have the freedom to have a “normal” life. My body is in charge of my life, and even when I fight back, it punishes me for my disobedience. While this is my battle to fight, it often becomes complicated by the expectations and demands of others.

Over the years, I have been tortured by medical professionals who had no regard for my physical condition. They had a job to do and the pain and suffering it caused me was of little concern to them. (even when small concessions would have greatly reduced my pain and suffering)

I must have blood drawn 4-6 times a year. A couple of weeks ago, I went in for what I call my big draw. Seven tubes of blood are required to do all the tests ordered by my doctor. I am hard to stick and I usually request a specific person, if they are working at the time of my appointment, to do my blood draw. She is very good, always hitting the vein on the first try. For my most recent blood draw, she wasn’t working so I had another phlebotomist draw my blood. For ten minutes she tortured me before getting someone else to draw my blood. She went to my hand to draw the blood, which is painful and very, very slow. When I got home, I was exhausted and had to take a nap. On top of that, the band-aids they used caused my skin to break out.

Could the lab have done things differently for someone like me? Sure. They could allow patients to schedule with a specific phlebotomist. They could also invest in a vein finder that would make it easier to find the veins on people like me who have thick skin and deep veins. They could also use Lidocaine to lessen the pain from the blood draw.  They did none of these things because they had a job to do and my personal suffering and pain did not matter.

On my part, wanting to be perceived as a “good” patient, I gritted my mental teeth and endured. No one wants to be considered a pain in the ass patient, so the chronically ill often endure great pain and suffering at the hands of those who have little concern about the pain and suffering they cause others. (it is a myth that everyone who works in the medical profession loves to help others) This is why medical professionals need to be trained to look beyond how the patient wants to be perceived and see how they can best help them. Sometimes, suffering and pain is a part of the process and there is no way to lessen it, But, in many cases, the suffering and pain can be reduced if the medical professional is willing to take the time to do so.

The same goes for family. The chronically ill person wants to be perceived as a good spouse, parent, or grandparent, so they will often do things for their family that they shouldn’t. Because their family is focused on perception rather than reality, they will sometimes ask their chronically ill family member to do things that hurt them. They don’t intend to do so, but regardless of intent, their actions can and do hurt the chronically ill family member.

chronic pain

Family members need to pay attention to what is REALLY going on in the chronically ill person’s life. In my case, if they KNOW that certain things are quite painful for me or cause me to bedridden for days, they shouldn’t ask me to do those things. I know when I bring this issue up with my children, they often tell me that it is up to me to draw the lines. If I say YES, they assume I can. What they often fail to understand is that I say YES because I want to rather than because I can or should. I don’t want to be left out of family events and  I am, at times willing to pay the physical price of admission, but sometimes my children forget how things really are for me. (and I can’t remember the last time a family member asked me how I was really feeling) They need to look beyond how I want to be perceived and see how my life REALLY is.

Sometimes I wonder if children really want to know how things are for their parents. I know it is hard for some people to watch their parents fall apart right before their eyes. Perhaps they see their own mortality in the lives of their parents.  Perhaps my children wonder if someday one of them will be chronically ill like me. They wonder if they too will someday have the dark passenger of ever-present pain.

I am not without fault. I want to be perceived a certain way. I don’t want my life to be measured by my suffering and pain. But, how can something that is so central to my daily existence not be a prominent part of any discussion about doing this or that?  Several of my children have told me that I need to make my needs known, and that if I just ask they will gladly help me. The problem, for me anyway, is pride. I don’t want to be a bother, a burden. My children have their own lives to live, so I don’t want to burden them with my problems and needs. So, most often, I say nothing.  Yes, the house might be on fire, but I don’t want them to be bothered with getting the hose.

When I was a pastor, I taught the church to pay attention to others. People aren’t going to advertise their needs, be it due to pride or embarrassment. Instead of waiting for the poor person to ask for help, pay attention to their life. Take a look at the tires on their car or how their children are dressed. Pay a visit to their home, paying attention to how they live. Enter into their life, helping them when and where they need it.

This approach can also be used when helping the chronically ill. Look beyond perception and see how their life really is. Take the time to find out how they really feel and what needs they really have. Don’t let my favorite word FINE stop your inquiry.  You might have to press them in order to force them to abandon their pride and admit what their needs really are. It is not easy for the chronically ill person to admit that they need the help of others. Like the “normal” person, the chronically ill person wants to pilot their own plane. They want to be the master of their own universe, needing nothing from anyone. But, their physical reality tells them that they need the help of others to survive and to live the best possible life.

If I had two words of advice to give to those who have family members who are chronically ill it would be, PAY ATTENTION!

Published: April 22, 2014 | Comments: 8

The Global Cost of Violence Containment

The Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) released a report detailing the worldwide cost of containing violence. According to the report, “the global economic cost of violence in 2012 was US$9.46 trillion, which represents 11% of Gross World Product.”

The IEP defines violence containment spending as:

economic activity that is related to the consequences or prevention of violence where the
violence is directed against people or property.

The percentage of GDP cost for violence containment:

violence containment gdp

biggest contributors to violence containment

per capita expenditure violence containment

According to the IEP report (page 18), in 2012 the United States spent:

  • 1.2 trillion dollars on national defense, including homeland security
  • 131 billion dollars on police, justice, legal, and corrections
  • 227 billion dollars on other public sector security
  • 602 billion dollars for private violence containment

Military and security costs in the United States have increased dramatically since 9-11. War has proved to be good for business, and I see nothing on the horizon that leads me to believe that this will change any time soon. The U.S. government operates under the illusion that military might and war bring peace, when in fact, highly militarized states are the greatest threat to peace and prosperity. Every tax dollar (and borrowed dollar) that is spent on violence containment is a dollar that is not being spent on infrastructure, education, health care, combating global warming, and improving the general welfare of the American people.

Listen to the war hawks in Congress, as they demand that the United States send military aid to Ukraine while ignoring the genocidal bloodshed in South Sudan. We should want nothing to do with a military provocation of Russia, which easily could result in WW III. On the other hand, we should be at the front of the line of nations helping to put an end to the slaughter of innocents in South Sudan.

I am a proponent of drastic cuts to the US military and homeland security budget. These cuts will make it hard for Congress and the President to hastily wage war. If they have to go to the American people to justify imperialistic incursions in countries like Afghanistan and Iraq and  the CIA’s involvement in a majority of the countries of the world, I suspect they would be less likely to meddle in the affairs of sovereign states.  Do we really need military bases and installations in:

  • Germany
  • Japan
  • Bulgaria
  • Isreal
  • Italy
  • Kosovo
  • Kuwait
  • South Korea
  • Afghanistan
  • Australia
  • Bahrain
  • Brazil
  • Cuba
  • Djibouti
  • Greece
  • Guam
  • Spain
  • United Arab Emirates
  • Greenland
  • Oman
  • Netherlands
  • Kyrgyzstan
  • Pakistan
  • Portugal
  • Quatar
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Singapore
  • Turkey
  • United Kingdom

Even more astounding is the fact that in some of these countries we have dozens of military bases and installations. The United States is the world’s policeman and other countries are quite willing to let the US be the world’s only superpower. Meanwhile, at home our streets are crumbling, our utility grid needs upgraded, our sanitary sewers are failing, and we live in denial of what we need to do to combat global climate change. We are too busy doing nation building and regime change to figure out a way to protect east coast cities and New Orleans from the next hurricane and flood that is sure to bring Sandy and Katrina-like destruction. Millions of people are out of work and declining unemployment statistics hide the fact that the reason they are declining is because unemployed workers are dropping off the unemployment insurance rolls and are no longer counted. Insanely, politicians demand cuts in social spending while demanding that the military and homeland security budget be increased.

It is time for the American people to demand that Congress reign in military and security spending, including the outrageous contracts granted to military-industrial complex corporations that fill their reelection campaign coffers with donations. It is time to demand that the Great Eagle retract her claws and reduce her imprint on  the world. While I support the right for every state to defend itself, the United States has not engaged in a military act of self-defense in over 60 years. (including Afghanistan, where we could have used specialized military teams to go after Al Qaeda rather than invading Afghanistan)

The path to world peace requires that the major powers of the world reduce the amount of money they spend for violence containment. Until we are willing to make world peace our number one priority we should not expect global violence to decrease.

Published: April 22, 2014 | Comments: 1

Email Subscriptions

mailchimp

A small number of people, 96 to be exact, read The Way Forward via email. The email subscription function has been a pain in the ass for me, but I am doing my best to make the email you receive is functional and easy to read. Originally, I used Feedburner to handle email subscriptions and then I used WordPress’s Jetpack plugin. Both proved to be quite unreliable and lacked the ability to customize the email or add/remove subscribers.

A few weeks ago, I started using to MailChimp to handle email subscriptions. As far as delivery and managing subscribers is concerned, MailChimp is working great. However, I am having some template design problems that are proving to be quite frustrating. For those of you that read the email with Gmail in a browser or with the iOS client, you might have noticed that many of the pictures were scrunched. It took me a week to finally figure out that there was a value in the code that was setting the maximum width to 300px. This means that when I posted a 600px by 400px picture, it was scrunched to 300px by 400px. Unfortunately, it took a week of email back and forth to MailChimp support to figure this out. I think they thought I knew what I was doing…

I have a working knowledge of CSS and HTML. I am self-taught, so there are some gaps in my knowledge base. I am doing what I can to become more proficient. I think I finally have a basic, no frills MailChimp email subscription template designed so that it will no longer scrunch the pictures. If you are an email subscriber, I would appreciate your feedback about the new design. (starting with the Tuesday, April 22nd mailing)  Please email me via the contact form.

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Thanks!

Bruce

Published: April 21, 2014 | Comments: 2