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Road Trip to Findlay, Ohio Part One

Yesterday, Polly and I took a short, 60 mile, road trip to Findlay, Ohio. Findlay is very familiar to me. I went to school in Findlay in the eighth, ninth, part of tenth, and eleventh grade. Here are a few pictures I took while we were in Findlay.

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Geese near the banks of the Blanchard River

great blue heron findlay
Great Blue Heron, Blanchard River

great blue heron findlay
Great Blue Heron, Blanchard River

great blue heron findlay
Great Blue Heron watching a Beaver as it swims towards the river bank, Blanchard River

great blue heron findlay
Great Blue Heron and Beaver, Blanchard River

turkey vulture findlay
Turkey Vulture north of Findlay

turkey vulture findlay
Turkey Vulture north of Findlay

turkey vulture findlay
One man’s road kill, another man’s fine dining. Turkey Vulture dining on dead rabbit north of Findlay

Published: April 21, 2014 | Comments: 0

Pussy Willow Attracts Pollinating Insects

It is a warm sunny day here is rural NW Ohio. The pollinating insects are out in force and they seem to really love our pussy willow. The catkins are in full bloom and will soon give way to leaves.

pussy willow

insect on pusswillow

insect on pussy willow

insect on pussy willow

insect on pussy willow

insect on pussy willow

insect on pussy willow

insect on pussy willow

Published: April 20, 2014 | Comments: 1

Gerencser Family Easter Gathering

For many years, our family gathered on Good Friday to eat some ham in honor of the Jewish Jesus. Several years ago, we added an Easter egg hunt for the grandchildren. This year, due to busy family schedules, we decided to move our Family Easter gathering to Saturday. Like always, Grandpa is out and about with his camera….

grandchildren

Our nine grandchildren. Last week, our next to oldest son and daughter-in-law informed us that they are expecting another child, Due date is November 1st. They are hoping for a boy. So far it is Girls-8 Boys-1.

grandchildren
Grandchildren + Bethany

karah
Karah

emma
Emma

guin
Guin

guin

Guin

levi
Levi

Published: April 20, 2014 | Comments: 8

Gone Until Monday

gone for the weekend

I will not be doing any writing until Monday. I plan to take a few days off, rest, eat some ham in honor of the Jewish Jesus, and spend time with the Polly and the kids. Polly is off until Monday, so I hope we can do a few things around the house and weather permitting get outside so I can work on my dermatologist’s future bill. I will make sure comments are approved, but there may be some delay.

Have a blessed Easter, whether you honor Jesus, Eostre, Ishtar, or just like having the weekend off. Yeah, I know, so sacrilegious.

Bruce

Published: April 17, 2014 | Comments: 7

Why Should I Care?

why should I care

When we are healthy, financially well off, have a good job, are married to a great person, or live in a country that affords us a standard of living most of the world does not have, it is easy for us to dismiss the plight of others. Years ago, my doctor was an old country gentleman who was quite overweight. He never said one word to me about my weight or my blood pressure. One day he had a massive heart attack and this changed his whole approach to weight and high blood pressure. All of a sudden he was preaching the eat healthy gospel.  Rick Warren cared little about the mental health of others until his son committed suicide. Until we are touched by infirmity or loss we often don’t give a shit about what others are going through. We might even think to ourselves that the reason such and such person is going through ________________ is their own fault. If they just lived their lives like we do, all would be well.

I notice a similar phenomena when it comes to homosexuality and same-sex marriage. Many of us were, at one time, fire-breathing haters of sodomites. What caused us to change our view? Did the Bible change? No. Did we read a book that was so persuasive that we swore off homophobia? Not likely. What changed is that we met a gay person and we were forced to see the inhumanity of our belief. Once we put a face to a belief, it is hard to continue to believe that our gay friend or acquaintance is a child molesting, vile, homo headed for hell.

For those who rail against the poor, food stamps, and government health insurance, I wonder how different their views would be if they lost their job or their spouse became sick and they must spend their life’s savings to keep them from dying? I have found that the best teacher is experience and having experienced pain, suffering, economic loss, loss of faith, and the suicide of my mother, I am much more sympathetic towards those whose lives are turned upside down. I am reminded of the oft quoted Christian cliché, there but by the grace of God go I. The Bible says, boast not thyself of tomorrow for thou knowest not what a day many bring forth. We don’t know what tomorrow may bring. That little pain in our chest might turn out to be cancer. We might go to work in the morning only to find out we no longer have a job. We might come from work early only to find our wife in bed with our best friend. This life we hang on to is fraught with danger and adversity. By all means we should consider ourselves blessed if we have escaped calamity or sickness, but remember, tomorrow, if you live through the night, is a new day. Who knows what tomorrow might bring?

I need to be reminded of these things when I find myself riding my high horse above the fray. I am married to a wonderful woman and I have six awesome children, three super daughter-in-laws, and soon to be ten reasons for living grandchildren. Life is good, but I know that in an instant, when the phone rings in the dark of night, that this good life of mine could be turned upside down. If I want others to understand my plight and suffering, I must be willing to understand theirs. I must understand that part of being human is suffering loss.

So much of our lives is beyond our control. Our political leaders can make decisions that possibly could fundamentally alter our lives. Parents and spouses can make decisions that will forever change the lives of those they love. A split second decision can have catastrophic consequences. We think we have power, that we control our own destiny, when in fact, the control we actually have is quite small. Yes, we are free moral agents, but there are human powers above us and beyond us who care little about the harm their decisions might cause us. To them we are an aggregate number on a chart. Cut billions from aid to the poor? Just a statistic. Until the person making such a decision actually has to face in their own life the consequences of their decision, it is unlikely that they will have much reason to care if someone in America goes hungry. Until a politician has to bury their own child who was killed in war, it is unlikely that they will think twice about sending young men and women to fight in distant lands. When it is their child’s blood that stains their hands, all of a sudden they are not so willing to beat the drums of war.

Indeed, experience is the best teacher. Until we have suffered pain or loss, it is hard to understand the pain and suffering of others. Young people look at the aged and they have no frame of reference. They see us as leeches sucking the life out of their future. But, someday it will be their hair that is gray, their body that is broken, and their life that has endured suffering and pain. Then they will understand. Perhaps this is the only way any of us learn empathy and compassion.

Published: April 17, 2014 | Comments: 3

God Abhors You

sinners in the hands of angry god

In his classic sermon on The Wonders of Self Esteem, Jonathan Edwards,an 18th century Calvinistic preacher who was an instrumental part of the First Great Awakening, had this to say about the human race:

The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked: his wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks on you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the fire; he is of purer eyes than to bear to have you in his sight; you are ten thousand times more abominable in his eyes than the most hateful venomous serpent is in ours. (excerpted from the sermon Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God)

This view of humanity is on regular display in countless Evangelical, Baptist, and/or Calvinistic churches. Is it any wonder that so many people who are involved in such churches need therapy after they break free? Their self-esteem is destroyed, having spent a lifetime being told what a worthless, wicked, vile, evil, sinful person they are. Even as a saved person, they are reminded that the only reason that God does not pour out his hatred and wrath on them and send them to hell is because of the substitutionary death of Jesus on the cross on their behalf.

Published: April 17, 2014 | Comments: 6

Is the IFB Church Movement a Cult? Part Four

fundamentalism 2

Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) churches are known for being sticklers about doctrine. Doctrinal diversity and difference of opinion is rarely tolerated and those who march to the beat of a different doctrinal drum are “encouraged” to leave and find a church that believes like they do.  In a post titled What is an IFB Church, I listed the following doctrines that ALL IFB churches/preachers believe:

  • The inspiration, infallibility, and inerrancy of the Bible
  • The sinfulness, depravity of man
  • The deity of Christ
  • The virgin birth of Christ
  • The blood atonement of Christ for man’s sin
  • The resurrection of Christ from the dead
  • The second coming of Christ
  • Separation from the world
  • Salvation from sin is by and through Christ alone
  • Personal responsibility to share the gospel with sinners
  • Heaven and hell are literal places
  • Hierarchical authority (God, Jesus, church, pastor, husband, wife)
  • Autonomy and independence of the local church

IFB preachers are certain that these beliefs are the “faith once delivered to the saints”, that these beliefs were what the first century church believed. It is not uncommon to find IFB churches/preachers that believe the early church, founded by Jesus, was Baptist. Landmarkism (Baptist Brider) can be traced back to the mid-1800′s and the teachings of Southern Baptist preachers James Graves and Ben Bogard.  Just like the Catholics IFB preachers love to hate, Landmark IFB churches believe they are the one true church.

While IFB churches/preachers demand doctrinal purity, it should not be assumed that they are well schooled on these doctrines. Church members, along with many pastors, do very little reading outside of the Bible. They proudly consider themselves people of the book, true Christians who are committed to believing ALL of the Bible. These fundamental doctrines are never questioned or challenged. You’ll never hear an IFB preacher preaching on the controversies that surround each of the fundamental doctrines. In the rare occasion that these controversies are mentioned, they are always shown to be  false, the philosophy of the world, or the beliefs of “liberals.”

From 1976-79, I attended Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan. Midwestern was a staunch IFB school, founded by Tom Malone in the 1950′s. The school demanded doctrinal purity from all of its teachers and students. Deviating from these doctrines resulted in immediate termination or expulsion.

While I was at Midwestern, there were two controversies that resulted the termination of a professor and the expulsion of several students. The first controversy had to do with Bible translations. In 1978, the NIV was released and several students asked their Greek teacher about the it. When the teacher did not endorse the King James Version Only position, he was immediately reported and it was not long before he was no longer teaching at Midwestern. Dr. Malone, in a chapel sermon, made it very clear that there was only one Bible, the King James version.

The second controversy had to do with Calvinism. In my sophomore systematic theology class, a student asked the professor about Calvinism. His answer was short…we don’t believe that here. I had no idea what Calvinism was. The professor made no attempt to refute Calvinism. A simple statement of, we don’t believe that here, was all that was needed to stifle any further discussion of the matter. Unfortunately, several students continued to discuss Calvinism in the dormitory. Their “heresy” resulted in their expulsion from the college and Dr. Malone warning the student body that any discussion of Calvinism would not be tolerated.

In the IFB church, doctrinal purity is all about control and conformity. IFB churches/preachers are certain that they are right and they expect every church member to conform to the stated doctrines of the church. Not conforming is a sure sign that the church member is being influenced by heresy, liberalism, the world, or Satan. I pastored a handful of people who did not have the same doctrinal beliefs as I did. They loved my preaching or liked me as a person, so they were willing to set aside their doctrinal differences and attend the church I pastored.  I was fine with this as long as they did not publicize their doctrinal differences. In almost every instance, their beliefs eventually resulted in conflict and them leaving the church. (one Arminian couple joined and left the church three times over doctrinal differences)

While many IFB churches have doctrinal statements or confessions of faith, the true arbiter of what the church believes is the preacher. As I will share in a later post, the pastor is the gatekeeper, God’s man. What he believes, the church must believe. Since church members airing doctrinal differences are a threat to the preacher’s authority and control of the church, “heretics” are quickly dealt with. While the pastor’s actions will be justified with words like “standing for the truth” or “defending the faith”, the real issue is the preacher’s need to control the church. If he does not insist on purity of doctrine, then it is impossible for him to control the church.

The demand for doctrinal purity shuts off intellectual pursuit. Church members are encouraged to read only books that are approved by the preacher or found in the church library. They are warned about reading the books of “liberal” Christians. (and in some IFB churches John MacArthur is considered a liberal)  They are warned that reading these books could lead them astray and destroy their relationship with God. Of course, for those of us who successfully broke free from the IFB church, we know that reading heretical/liberal books were tremendously helpful in our escape from the IFB cult. Once our intellectual eyes were opened we began to see that there was more than one way to look at most everything. Faith once delivered to the saints? No such thing. Doctrinal purity? No such thing.

The antidote for IFB cultism is education. Once an IFB church member is exposed to the broader writings and beliefs of Christianity, they will find it hard to continue to believe IFB dogma. Once they are exposed to non-IFB Christian church history books, they will find it hard to continue to believe that the Baptist church is the one, true church. Exposure to authors like Bart Ehrman, if read openly and honestly, will destroy the IFB belief about the inspiration, infallibility, and inerrancy of the Bible.

If you are trying to help someone break free from the IFB church, the best thing you can do for them is encourage them to read. Of course, therein lies the problem. Generally, IFB church members don’t read and study theology or church history.  They like the certainty of believing what the preacher believes. They like having all their beliefs settled. They like thinking that what they believe is exactly what the early church believed. It is this intellectual laziness that must be confronted head on. Until they are willing to look outside of the box they are in, it is almost impossible to help them. (see The Danger of Being in a Box and Why it All Makes Sense When You are in a Box and What I Found When I Left the Box)

Published: April 17, 2014 | Comments: 1

The Way International: Carol’s Story Part Five

guest post

What follows is the last part of Carol’s story about her involvement with The Way International and her journey out of it. I thought it would be interesting for readers to read the story of someone who journeyed out of a non-orthodox Christian religion. I hope you have enjoyed reading Carol’s story. (though it is hard to read this last post and say the word “enjoy.”)

In the summer of 2005, one of my counselors asked if I would write my health story to be included in a book. She asked a few of her clients this same request. She had specific topics she wanted covered…and thus the content of the following narrative, a rendition of what I submitted for the book.

It took me about nine months to write the narrative. At the time, varying factors made it an arduous tasks.

In the midst of writing it, I made the life-changing decision to exit The Way International to which I’d been a loyal follower for 28 years. I had gotten deeply involved with The Way in 1977 at the age of 18.

During my fourth year of Way loyalty, at age 22, I developed asthma and other symptoms of an over-responsive immune system. These symptoms worsened during subsequent years and continued for the following seventeen years. At the age of 41, I was diagnosed with Bipolar II, a diagnosis which was later questioned with evidence that a more accurate diagnosis would be PTSD or C-PTSD.

In 1998 during my twenty-first year of Way loyalty, at 39 years old, out of desperation, I began to journal. In 2005, seven years and over a dozen journals later, I left The Way; I literally wrote my way out. I had allowed myself to begin to understand that certain Way doctrines had played a major role in my emotional suppression which manifested as chronic illness.

The Way teaches a health and wealth gospel.

Seeking Life Along The Way: III John 2 ?

(Addendum to Parts 1 through 4)

[Originally penned in 2005, with later adaptations.]

At 46 years old I sat across from my counselor. She looked in my eyes and stated, “Carol, I want you to start thinking like a well person.”

The statement stunned me. I felt nebulously lost within it having no concept of what her words meant. Over the next few days I rolled the statement over and over in my head and heart. The ensuing story is part of the journey endeavoring to discover what it means to think like a well person.

I choose the 39th year of my life as the threshold for the following meandering, a snippet of my journey. It was in that year that I began to submerge myself in ink and page, writing my way toward wellness. Journaling changed my course from death to life, from despair to hope.

At 39 years old I was married with two children, ages 8 and 10. For the last 17 years I had suffered with severe asthma; numerous bouts of pneumonia; multiple sinus surgeries; environmental, chemical, food, and inhalant allergies; hives, welts, and various skin disorders; systemic candida; depression; anxiety; mood swings; chronic fatigue; body aches; and a myriad of other symptoms that go with an over-responsive and depleted immune system. I had been pumped with intravenous drugs, swallowed or inhaled a host of pharmaceuticals (including 1000′s of doses of steroids), been pricked with needles 100′s (if not 1000′s) of times for various reasons, and received a myriad of allergy antigens. Alongside with conventional treatments, I had utilized alternative therapies including homeopathy, oral and intravenous vitamin/mineral supplementation, strict dietary protocols, acupuncture, herbs, bodywork, and some psychological counseling.

Exhaustion and depression were constant companions. I was caught in a sticky, mucous-coated, stagnant, thickened, stringy web that felt like it morphed in every tissue and cell beneath my skin. I felt trapped in my own body. I craved to breathe freely. I thirsted for fluid energy and to move without pain. I dreamed of running like a deer, graceful and free through the woods. I hungered for freedom.

I often felt like a complete failure as a believer, as a mother, as a person. Shame coursed through my veins. My suicide plan was foolproof, but I couldn’t leave my children with the legacy that their mother had committed suicide. My children were my saving grace, my reason to keep drawing one more breath, to keep trying.

Life was not always dreary; I had stretches of hope, using affirmations to convince myself of improvement. Yet now my hope was depleted; it was time to quit hoping. I had clung to a belief that, according to the scriptures, God’s will for me was complete health. It was time to give up the dream that I could actually get well; death seemed the only alternative for release. Instead of a pistol for death, I chose a pen and began to write.

Emotions crystallized into words upon the page detailing the self loathing, the asthma attacks, the pain that racked my body, the exhaustion, the anger, the murky darkness of it all. I felt such deep, deep shame and self-hatred. Day after day I filled the pages; I held nothing back. I poured it all onto paper, including dreams and hopes. I wrote because I had to; I did not know what else to do. I never imagined that by putting pen to parchment my circumstances would begin to change, but they did in a most powerful way.

Within a few months of starting to journal I was hospitalized yet again (October, 1998) and connected with a doctor that discovered I was suffering with mercury toxicity, a typical cause for immune dysfunction. In January, 1999, I was again hospitalized and connected with a different doctor who confirmed the mercury toxicity. That same month I began an intense two-year detox regimen which included oral chelation therapy, intravenous and oral vitamin and mineral therapy, hydrocolon therapy, low heat saunas, and coffee enemas. I continued to journal profusely and began to re-educate myself on healing; I began to have hope again. My doctors believed I could gain wellness. Unknown to me at that time, I suffered my last severe episode of asthma attacks.

After six months from the last asthma attacks, I was able to start addressing more definitively other symptoms: fatigue, mood swings, hives that crawled on and under my skin. Aches and pains surfaced all over my body, like chained prisoners desperately crying for release. Yet I was hopeful; the asthma was curbed. I had new treatments to try. Maybe my body could get well; if I could learn better how to listen to what it was trying to communicate to me, maybe I could allow it to heal itself. Maybe, maybe, just maybe….

The next regimen on my agenda was a treatment known as Enzyme Potentiated Desensitization (EPD), a complex treatment that approached the reprogramming of miscoded T-helper cells. Every eight weeks, for 1-1/2 years, I would receive an injection containing over 200 antigens mixed with an enzyme to penetrate the miscoded cells; go into quarantine for five days; and eat only venison, tapioca flour with water, and sweet potatoes. My health improved with EPD: a “sore spot” in my left lung that had been present since my last bout with pneumonia cleared; some skin conditions improved; my sense of smell was restored; allergic reactions and energy improved. My hope was growing. Then the FDA abruptly stopped the use of EPD in the United States. My sense of smell was stolen again and some allergy troubles resurfaced. But I remained hopeful that other doors would open for me.

With the improvements and hope, I pulled out books I had previously read regarding healing and reviewed them. I was led to new books and devoured them. During this time I was diagnosed with a herniated disc, confirmed with an MRI. A friend loaned me the book, Healing Back Pain, by Dr. John Sarno. Within six weeks of applying what I had read, the back spasms were 80% better; after five months they were completely gone.

Due to the improvements gained from applying what I had learned via Sarno’s work, I was prompted to delve more deeply into the relationship between my emotions and my physical illnesses, the effects of the dance between the two. How many of my illnesses and symptoms could be due to suppressed emotions? Was I honest enough to be able to open up and see what really lurked in my soul? In late 2000, I began weekly psychological counseling. This soul excavation was a gruesome task at times, but in the end was more than worth the effort.

Over the following four years, as I delved deeper into this excavation, I developed a support network and program which consisted of journaling, bibliotherapy, and relationships with a handful of people and professionals that I could call upon. The support network was vital for me. I grew in my ability to open up, to peek within and see the ugliness and the beauty. Of course I saw more ugliness than beauty. But I began to understand that even what I perceived as “ugly” was okay; I didn’t have to fear it. My hope grew. My life was changing.

During these four years my symptoms became less intense and then plateaued. I lived managing mood swings; hives and sneezing attacks a few times a week; and a hormone dysfunction that would manifest in severe aches, depression, and cognitive impairment at least five days per month. I continued my search for relief through conventional means (including medications for the depression), bodywork, nutrition, homeopathy, and energy medicine. I took about 50 pills a day in the form of supplements. I continued with counseling and journaling. I began to think that this was as well as I could get.

Then, in latter-2004, I was introduced to a nutritional product that had more life-changing effects. Within nine months of consuming this product my hives completely disappeared. The mood swings and debilitating hormone dysfunction were probably 85% better. I was able to get off my daily psychiatric medications. My energy was more stable. I went from feeling I was hit by an 18-wheeler at least five days a month to being hit by a bicycle a few days a month. I was beginning to taste freedom.

It was during this time, when I began to taste freedom, that my counselor stated those unforgettable words , “Carol I want you to start thinking like a well person.” My adult life had revolved around sickness – a science of schedules and charts and foods and medications and tests and treatments. This new experience of wellness was scary. Oddly I found myself wanting to break down, but couldn’t. I thought I would run free once liberated from this tyranny of entrapment. Yet, I was in new territory, unfamiliar, uncomfortable. What was I to do with myself now? It took me six to eight months to become comfortable with being “well.”

In the fall of 2005 I was well enough to make some major religious/spiritual changes; after 28 years of involvement, I chose to leave, what I had slowly come to see, was an abusive religious organization. In hindsight, I have no doubt that certain doctrines and practices of this group were a major contributor to the chronic illnesses with which I had been ensnared. Without the wellness I had been granted by 2005, I don’t know if I could have made the break from that organization; it took much resolve and energy that I didn’t have prior to 2004.

Since divorcing the organization, personal relationships that were shunned from decades past have been renewed; crevices I had sealed have been exhumed; step by step hidden bubbles have surfaced and closet doors have opened. Certain of these exposures allowed my heart a resuscitation, new life. I came face to face with neglect and abandonment issues, grief, and loss. I see with greater clarity underlying emotional causes that contributed to those decades of illness from the age of 22 until I was 46. My relationship with my husband has been restored. Music and poetry have become integral parts of my life. I have been able to tap into my heart again.

What are my maintenance practices? Decent nutrition, medications as needed, rest; movement, nature, play; mindfulness, reading, writing; music, movies, laughter; and relationships. Relationships with myself, my environment, and loved ones are the fabric of life instilling hope and encouragement, even when times look dim and dark and when it seems the sun will not rise again. When I experience physiological symptoms or tumultuous emotions I endeavor to seek self-awareness and then to listen and follow the paths that offer relief.

What does it mean to think like a well person? It means I recognize that I am significant, worthy of love, fully human, and a vital member of the human family. I am not an appliance that requires fixing; rather, I am a yearning individual with an innate need for love, acknowledgment, and to know my value.

 Notes

The book, Healing Back Pain (mentioned above), prompted me to dig deeper for a specific program to help guide me in uncovering emotional causes for physical symptoms.  That search led me to MindBodyMedicine.com by Dr. David Schechter. Dr. Schechter, has a specifically designed journaling, reading, and education program that enabled me to better tap into emotional causes that had prompted certain physical symptoms, thus providing healing and relief in those areas.

Addendum to the addendum

  • In 2008, at age 49, I had full, left hip replacement surgery. Doctors speculate that my left hip bone degeneration was brought on by the high doses of steroids I consumed in the past – consumed to keep me breathing. That said, all in all under the circumstances, my bones are in good shape
  • In 2010, I contracted MRSA, which erupted 4 different times that year.
  • In 2011, I developed an “idiosyncratic serum sickness like response” to oral terbinafine.
  • In May, 2013, the “serum sickness like response” diagnosis was changed to drug-induced peripheral neuropathy, specifically polyradiculitus (inflammation of the nerve roots), which has produced nerve damage in all my limbs. My body and brain and heart are still coming to terms with the nerve damage as I continue to seek answers.

Published: April 16, 2014 | Comments: 10