Life

Mom Told Me He is God

loki

As many of you know, Polly and I have a 24-year-old daughter with Down Syndrome. Bethany is a wonderful girl, a delight to be around, but she, like many children with Down Syndrome, can be quite single-minded and bull-headed. Bethany tends to focus on one thing at a time, obsess about it, and refuses to retreat no matter what someone may say about her obsession. (yes, just like a fundamentalist)  If she finds a certain video or movie she likes, she will watch it over and over and over and…well you get the picture.

Over the last several months, Bethany has been fixated on Loki, a character she saw in Thor: The Dark World movie. She is so fixated on Loki right now that she told me that she doesn’t like Rascal Flatts any more. Rascal Flatts meaning Gary LeVox, the lead singer,  who she is certain she is going to marry some day, no matter how many times I tell her he is married and old enough to be her Dad. She has left off from her Rascal Flatts fixation before, so I am sure, in time, she will return to her one true love. For now, it is Loki, Loki, Loki.

Bethany’s fixations can be humorous, entertaining, and, at times, irritating. We bought her an iPod for Christmas. She has learned to navigate the iPod quite well, including using the Pandora, YouTube, and Rdio apps. There are other apps, however, that I don’t want her messing with, especially the app that controls the settings for the iPod. But, she is determined to investigate every app on her iPod. The other day I needed to do something on it and I asked her to let me see it. Immediately, her face got that caught with your hand in the cookie jar look and she said, I know you told me not to. I am sorry. I won’t do it again. The problem? She had EVERY app open. Evidently she had forgotten how to close them.

Last night, Bethany and I were watching the baseball game and I started singing what I would call Loki songs. Things like, Loki, Loki, He’s our man, if he can’t do it nobody can. After a bit of me ribbing her in song, Bethany got that, I’m fixing to tell YOU something look on her face and said, Well, Mom told me he is God!  (and Loki is a mythic God, just like the God we worshiped for most of Bethany’s life)

Boy, did I laugh. And then I thought, my oh my how far we have come.

It remains to be seen if Bethany will lose her Loki fixation. Every week she scours the library for Loki books. The librarians keep an eye out for Loki books or similar type books that might interest her. She can’t read, but she finds great delight in getting a bag full of books to take home to “read.” She knows how to write the word Loki and she is able to use Loki’s name in a YouTube search, so I am sure, sooner rather than later, she will have watched every video that mentions Loki.

Published: April 16, 2014 | Comments: 3

Please Don’t Touch Me: When The Pain is Too Much to Bear

pain

We humans desire to be touched by others. Whether it is the touch on the shoulder from a comforting friend or the touch of a lover…There is something about being touched. Yet, it is that very touch that often causes me great pain.

Some days, often many days in a row, the sensory nerves in my skin operate on a hyper-alert state. Even when I take narcotics, which I do every 2-4 hours, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, these sensory nerves, desensitized by the drugs demand that I pay attention.On days when they are in a hyper-alert state, any touch, any bump, any bang, no matter how slight, sends shock waves through my body. Let me illustrate this by briefly describing the last 36 hours.

It’s 7:00 A.M.

I stumble out of bed thinking for a moment that I should just tell them I can’t go today. They’ll understand. Come on, Bruce, you only live once, I tell myself.  I quickly go over the cost-benefit analysis in my head and I decide to pay the price of admission.

Today we are traveling 133 miles to the Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio. Five of my children, Polly, and five of my grandchildren will be there. They are all the incentive I need to ignore what my body is telling me.

We are in the car, headed for Defiance, 10 miles away. Polly is driving. I am in no shape to drive.

We arrive at my oldest son’s house and Polly moves to the backseat. My next to oldest is driving today. His driving reminds me of playing the DOS PC video game, Wacky Wheels, but I have no choice…

Down the road we go…near Lima we turn on Blue Lick Road and soon we take the on ramp to I-75.

My body is telling me that winter has been hard on the Ohio highways, with the snow plows opening up more potholes than I can count.

My son is trying to avoid the potholes but there are just too many of them. I know he is doing the best he can.

Bump, bang, thunk, thump. I feel every one of them. Countless times, like body blows during a boxing match.

We turn into the Museum…there’s a handicap space.

Polly is busy getting the wheelchair out of the trunk. I feel bad for her, knowing she plans to wheel my fat ass through the museum. Maybe someone else will volunteer to push me, but no one does. I don’t hold it against them. If I don’t ask, they won’t, but I won’t ask, so they don’t.

I can tell that the narcotics coursing through my bloodstream will not win the game today. Today is all about enduring.

For three hours Polly wheels me from exhibit to exhibit. I get my camera out, but I really don’t feel like taking many pictures. Besides, I left my flash unit at home, the lighting sucks…

The Vietnam exhibit. I wonder, will they tell the truth?

They don’t.

No matter how “smooth” the path seems to those who walk ahead, behind, and around me, I am feeling the slightest jar. Every seam in the cement floor is causing the sensory nerves in my skin to object. Once they start barking  they rarely stop. Today they are barking like a pack of hungry, feral dogs chasing a wounded deer.

Endure I must, but I have lost my smile. I grit my teeth, hoping that we will soon come to the end of the exhibits.

In the car now.

Stop.

Out of the car.

Dinner at Penn Station.

Back in the car.

133 miles, endure.

Do you want to stop at the park, asks the text from my oldest son.

No, replies Polly, but he decides to stop at the park any way.

I understand, it is a beautiful, warm spring day. I would want to be at the park too…

But not feeling like this.

My chauffeur son asks, do you want me to stop?

I feel guilty, wanting to take some pictures of my grandchildren, but…I can’t.

Beep goes the car horn as we drive by the park, continuing on our way back to Defiance.

Finally we arrive and after a quick stop at the local grocery to get milk, bread, and pop, we finally arrive safely at home.

It’s 9:00 P.M., hours before my bedtime, but I say to Polly, I need to go to bed.

I quickly fall asleep, awaking the first time around 1:00 A.M.

Time for some pain medication.

Back asleep, awake again at 6:00 A.M.

Time for some more pain medication.

Back asleep, awake again at 9:00 A.M.

Back asleep, awake again at 11:00 A.M.

Too early to take any pain medication.

12:30 P.M., I still feel like sleeping, but I know I need to get up.

I take some pain medication.

I know I must endure, soldier on, bite the bullet, put mind over matter, live for others, think of others who have it worse than me…

But, today…I just want to die.

And the only thing worse than today is tomorrow.

Published: April 13, 2014 | Comments: 9

The View from My Wheelchair

wheelchair

Since 2007, I have either walked with a cane or been wheeled around in wheelchair by my wife or one of my children. I am the human version of a slow-moving vehicle, the kind that irritates people in a hurry to get wherever they are going. I am cognizant of the fact that my slow pace forces other people to alter their path or to wait until I pass. I do my best to not get in their way…

Some disabled people think that they should be able to do anything, anywhere, and at any time, that non-disabled people do. I am not such a person. When I go out in public I try to pick times when I won’t get in the way of other people.  I don’t plow through store aisles not caring who I get in the way of.  I have seen more than a few disabled people who were thoughtless, not caring one whit about anyone else but themselves.  That’s not the kind of person I am. I am quite reserved in public and I don’t like drawing attention to myself. I prefer to blend in rather than stand out. (which is ironic since I spent 25 years as a public speaker)

It’s hard to not stand out when you are in a wheelchair and everyone is else is walking or running by. People look, people stare…I know what they are thinking. Pity. I wonder what is wrong with him?  Too fat to walk so they have to wheel him around. Their eyes, their looks, their aversion, tell me all I need to know.

On Monday, my two oldest sons were tasked with pushing me to and from Great American Ballpark. We had driven to Cincinnati to attend Opening Day for the Cincinnati Reds.  We arrived early so we could watch the Findlay Market Parade.  We parked about five blocks or so from Great American Ballpark, unloaded the wheelchair, and headed out to Fountain Square.

Much of the route to Fountain Square was up hill. My sons took turns pushing me up the hill and both were winded by the time we got to flat ground. I remember Polly trying to push me along a similar path a few years ago. She couldn’t do it, so I had to get out of the wheelchair, brace my body against the street front buildings, and walk to the top of the hill. I looked like a drunk man who couldn’t stand up.

While Cincinnati street corners are wheelchair accessible, their sidewalks are not.  The sidewalks were rough and there were many place where metal grates covered spots in the sidewalk. Rolling over these grates pounded my body from head to toe. We finally made it to near Fountain Square, I say near because a thoughtless UPS driver, there to watch the parade, had parked his truck on the corner, blocking the wheelchair access. For a moment, I wanted to give this thoughtless person a piece of my mind, but I decided not to. No need to ruin the day.

I really didn’t get to see much of the parade. People lined the streets, so I was forced to sit with my back to a building, away from the crowded street. Even then, every few moments or so, someone would walk by and bang into the leg rests of my wheelchair. A few people said sorry but most of them ignored the cripple in the wheelchair. In their mind I was just an inconvenience that they need to get around.

Several elementary classes were there to watch the parade. The children were overwhelmingly black, kindergarten/first grade age. Ironically, all but one of the teachers were white. As the children filed by my wheelchair I couldn’t help but notice their stares. Unlike adults, they have not yet learned to avert their eyes. I smiled back at them, said Hi, and a few of the children politely talked to the stranger in the chair with wheels.  Some of them even waved to me when it was time for them to go back to school. Their innocence and politeness warmed my heart.

After the parade, my sons wheeled me to Great American Ballpark. We couldn’t find the wheelchair ramps so I was forced to get out of the chair so I could walk up the steps. Again, I don’t like being a spectacle and I could feel the looks of those around me as I  slowly navigated the steps.  We entered the Ballpark via a gate that was made wider for wheelchair access, and in short order we made it to section 109 where our seats were.

At this point, I had to leave my wheelchair behind. I left it with the usher and asked him to make sure no one took off with it. He looked at me funny and then I told him about my last trip to the Ballpark when one of the ushers gave my wheelchair to a family so they could transport their elderly mother. Fortunately, one of my sons saw them doing this and stopped them from making off with my wheelchair.

Our seats were about 21 rows down, so I walked every-so-slowly, sideways down to our seats. Normally, I buy handicap seats, which the Ballpark makes me pay a premium for, but since my ticket had been given to my son by a vendor, there was no thought of one of the recipients being disabled. I was just glad to go to the game, even if it meant dangerously walking to my seat. My sons were nearby just to make sure I didn’t fall. (I have fallen several times in recent years at sporting events)

The Reds lost the game 1-0. Like I always do, I waited until most everyone cleared out before I made my way back to the Ballpark concourse. Other people in our row got tired of waiting and climbed over their seats and exited. This was one time where I thought, tough shit, if you don’t like it, go the other way.  Several kind people stopped to let me out but I told them to go ahead. I appreciated their kindness. I knew my descent to the concourse was going to be slow and I didn’t want to hold anyone up.

My wheelchair was right where I left it. I sat down in the chair and my sons began wheeling me out the Ballpark. This is usually the worst time for me…people are in a hurry and they don’t want to be slowed up by a fat man in a wheelchair.  Countless people walked in front of me, walked back into me, and bumped the side of my wheelchair. Out on the street it was even worse. Near the Toby Keith bar, five men looked at me, mentally flipped me off, and walked right in front of me. The last man saw how unkind the actions of his friends were, so he stopped. I motioned him on, telling him he might as well join his dumb ass friends. He said nothing and I suspect he agreed with my assessment of his friends.

By the time we got to the car, I felt like I had played 60 minutes of hard-hitting football.  I will feel the effects of my trip to Cincinnati for days to come.  I knew it would be this way, but I determined that I was willing to put up with the thoughtlessness of others and the beating I received so I could attend Opening Day. I know that I may never have this opportunity again.

Some of the beating I took was unavoidable. It is the price I pay for wanting to be alive, to experience life while I can. So far, the benefits outweigh the costs, so I continue to go to sporting events. I suspect there is coming a day when I will no longer be able to do these kind of things. I know that someday I will no longer be able to stand the beating I get at public events, that the physical price will be too high. But, for now, I can rest, take narcotics, and hope that the pain will return to its normal level.

 

Published: April 3, 2014 | Comments: 13

The Angry Atheist Podcast Interview

ney ohio and 1 atheist

Yesterday, I had the privilege to be interviewed by Reap Paden for The Angry Atheist Podcast. You can listen to the hour-long interview here. You can also download the podcast here.

I am going to make this post a sticky for a week so everyone has an opportunity to access the interview.

Enjoy!

Published: March 17, 2014 | Comments: 23

Jesus Ruins Everything

no jesus phil robertson

I am sure you wish that she hadn’t married that boy she met in college.

I am sure you wonder what might have been if she hadn’t met me.

If only…

If only is the game of fools.

She might have married Jim instead of Bruce but how can you know how life might have turned out for her if she did?

But look at how things turned out…

You are not on the ministry…

You don’t go to church…

You don’t even believe in God…

And you have that awful blog…

Little do you realize that she willingly walked away…

From the family God…

From the family Church…

From the all that she thought she would spend her life being…

So there is no value in wondering about what might have been.

All that matters is what is.

Why can’t you see this?

I know, Jesus.

You see Jesus ruins everything.

You can’t see how good life is for us.

Six grown children, all of them save one, gainfully employed.

Three grown children happily married with families of their own.

Nine grandchildren…

Maybe you will live long enough to see your great-great grandchildren.

In but ten years the oldest grandchildren will be entering college.

The marriage you thought would never last…

The marriage you thought be ruined because divorce is hereditary…

The marriage that has had plenty of ups and downs…

The marriage you prayed would last but doubted it would…

Has endured.

And we are happy.

We are in love.

Most of all we are friends.

Just think…almost 36 years we have been together.

Yet, the blessing of our life, all that we have, from our family, to our home, to our material possessions…

Leaves you with disappointment.

And I know why.

Jesus.

You see, for you, and others in the family…

Jesus is the beginning, middle, and end.

He is the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last.

Without Jesus life has no meaning.

Yet, right in front of you, what you can plainly see with your eyes, our life does have meaning.

Instead of being pleased and grateful that we have a wonderful family and a great marriage…

Your thoughts turn to…

Jesus.

If we only knew Jesus…

Then all would be well.

But, would it?

Would it be OK if we followed the Mormon Jesus?

The Catholic Jesus?

The Methodist Jesus?

The Presbyterian Jesus?

The Seventh Day Adventist Jesus?

The Quaker Jesus?

Don’t answer because I already know…

There is only one real Jesus and that is the Baptist Jesus…

If we would just return to your Jesus all would be well.

The family circle would be unbroken once again.

But that’s not going to happen.

Never.

Ever.

Can’t you just love us as we are?

Can’t you just rejoice over  how good our life is?

Can’t you?

Of course not.

Because of Jesus.

Because there’s a hell.

And knowing the right Jesus is the only way for us to escape your sadistic God’s eternal, never-ending torture chamber.

In a few years, if Jesus tarries as you Baptists like to say, you will be 80.

You know that death is right on your bumper.

You want us to meet you on the other side.

At least your daughter and grandchildren anyway.

Maybe you think I deserve hell for leading her astray.

You want there to be a big happy family reunion in heaven some day.

And so, you wish things were different…

Perhaps you will make one last plea when we come to visit you on your deathbed…

We have decided to lie if that will make your passing more peaceful…

Sure, we believe in Jesus…

But not your Jesus…

Our Jesus lived and died…

End of story.

Your Jesus ruins everything.

Your Jesus keeps you from embracing all that we are and being all right with it.

You see, we hope too…

We hope that some day you can see us as we are and not as what you think we should be.

We hope that some day you will see us in the present tense and not the past.

Remember, yesterday is gone, tomorrow may never come, we only have today.

What we are now is all that matters.

We hope that some day you will see how happy we are…

That our children and our grandchildren are the center of our world…

We would love for you to be the center of our world too…

But Jesus ruins everything.

Published: March 15, 2014 | Comments: 13

Abortion, Euthanasia, Hell, Marriage, and the Problem of Evil

question

A regular commenter by the name of Scott asked me to comment on:

  • Abortion
  • Euthanasia
  • Hell
  • Marriage
  • The Problem of Evil

Scott describes himself as:

Spoken by a closet unchristianising (??) Reformed doubter (sorry believer) of 40+yrs, who still gets something out of Christianity although I never tell those around me where I’m really at….

Those of us who have deconverted from Christianity can readily understand where Scott is right now. It’s like standing in the middle of a busy highway with traffic coming at you from both directions. Do I go this way, that way…if I go the wrong way I am sure to be hit by the traffic. The good news is Scott understands where he is and he continues to read, ask questions, and consider carefully what direction he should go.

While I will certainly not be able to give each of these subjects the time they deserve, I do want to take a stab at them. If I have written on the subject before, I will link to the appropriate post.

Abortion

I have written on abortion previously, Abortion Facts, Lies, and Contradictions.  At one time, I was an ardent life begins at conception, abortion is murder, pro-lifer.  As my politics became more liberal so did my view on abortion. While I agree with the pro-lifer that we should protect human life, I disagree with them on when that life begins. Does life begin at fertilization? The pro-lifer says yes and I say no. At the moment of fertilization potential life is created and if left undisturbed it may grow into a human that can exist outside of the womb of its mother.

The line for me is viability. Once a fetus reaches the point that it can live outside of the mother’s womb, then government should regulate when an abortion is permissible. This would mean that 1.5-5% of abortions would be regulated by federal/state government.

The bigger issue is making sure that there is no need for abortion, and here the United States we must put an end to the Christian/Political right’s incessant war on abortion. They want to prohibit all abortion, yet they are also against woman/teens having free access to birth control. Their religious beliefs get in the way of what should be sound government policy; free birth control, including morning after drugs, for all.

Euthanasia

My position on euthanasia (physician assisted suicide) is quite simple. I think a person who is mentally competent should be able to determine how and when they die. I do think the government should regulate the who, what, and why of the discussion, but every person should have the right to say, I don’t want to live anymore.

This subject became a real topic of discussion recently when we had to have our cat euthanized. I decided to let Polly and our youngest daughter handle Salazar and his declining health. For several weeks, I reminded them that he was suffering, that it was “time.” They just couldn’t bring themselves to make to the call. Finally, I realized they never were going to make the call so I said, call the vet, it is time. Once I made the decision, they were relieved and quickly acted upon my decision.

This taught me an important lesson and it caused me to rethink my end-of-life plans. If Polly can’t make the hard decision to euthanize a cat, how can I expect Polly to make the right call when it comes my time to die? (and I am not criticizing her here. I am simply being a realist)  While I have an advance directive, I have decided to add my two oldest sons to the list of those to be involved in my end-of-life decisions. Polly knows what I want, she knows at what point I no longer want to suffer with pain, but I don’t know if she can or will do what I want her to do. So, I think having my two oldest sons as part of the process will be a great help for Polly when the end of life comes for me.

I see no value, in fact I think it is cruel and inhumane, to require someone to suffer until the bitter end. I think Christian teaching on suffering, which permeates our society,  promotes needless pain and suffering, and vilifies those who want to end their own life. It is my life not God’s or the church’s, and, as a free moral agent, I should have the right to determine when, where and how I die. Because I write about chronic illness and chronic pain from time to time, there are a lot of sickies who read this blog. I suspect most of them want when, where, and how they die to be in their hands. They don’t want the government or religious do-gooders to get in the way of them negotiating their own death.

Hell

I have written several posts on the subject of hell, Do You Still Fear Going to Hell?, Dear Christian, If You Believe There is a Hell, Learning to Face Death.

The only hell is the hell that human beings and nature causes. Since I don’t think there is an afterlife, I have no thoughts of eternal life in hell or heaven. We live, we die, end of story.  The only hell and heaven we have is in this life, so my goal is to lessen the hell and expand the heaven.

I know that shaking thoughts of hell can be very hard for someone who no longer believes. Remember, these thoughts are just vestiges from your religious past. I call them a fundamentalist hangover. Over time, as our minds are cleared of mythical and harmful religious beliefs, thoughts of hell, heaven, and the afterlife fade away. What matters is now, this life, and the future of our children and grandchildren.

Of course, you need to decide this for yourself. I don’t want to be in hell someday and have a reader of this blog come up to me and say, So much for listening to you, Bruce!

Marriage

Polly and I will celebrate our 36th wedding anniversary in July. I am a happily married man 99% of the time and I think Polly and I are a great match for each other. I love her dearly and I don’t regret for one moment asking her to marry me. Our marriage is quite traditional, not much different from the marriages of our parent’s generation.

That said, what I may like about marriage or what I think is a good marriage might be different for someone else. So, from a legal and social perspective, I think marriage is a legal contract between two people. The government regulates the legal parameters of marriage. Culture, religion, and personal beliefs regulate the moral and practical structure of a marriage. I don’t think the government has any business, outside of setting the age for marriage and determining whether a person can marry someone they have a familial connection with, determining who can and can not marry.

35 years ago, Polly and I stood before our family and friends and said our vows. We made a commitment to each other and we expect each other to keep the terms of our commitment (contract). (though how we define these commitments has changed over the years) But, our commitment should not be the standard for anyone else. Each couple must decide what the terms of their contract is. Polly and I committed ourselves to a monogamous relationship, as I suspect most Americans do. But, different strokes for different folks. Some couples have an open marriage or their marriage is bound by economic, social, or political terms rather than physical/sexual terms.

The Problem of Evil

I think Bart Ehrman’s book, God’s Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question–Why We Suffer, is an excellent read on this subject.

The problem of evil (theodicy) is one of the primary reasons I deconverted. I came to the conclusion that, according to the Bible, God  created/allowed evil and that he capriciously holds humans accountable for what he alone is responsible. He could have created humans so they couldn’t sin. He could step into human history and stop evil from happening. If God is all that Christianity says he is, then he is quite the monster if he refuses to stop evil. Everywhere I look I see evil. I see sickness, disease, suffering, violence, starvation, and war. And what does God do? Nothing.

Of course, the reason God does nothing is because he does not exist. It is up to humans to stop evil and to help those who are afflicted. God is not coming to rescue us. There is no miracle fixing to happen if we just believe. It is up to us, as thousands of years of human history clearly show us.

Does evil exist? Sure, evil exists in the bad actions of humans, whether they act alone or as a political, social, or corporate body.  For our own sake and the sake of our species future, we must stand against evil.

Scott asks whether we should kill people who are mad or bad?  It depends. We must first decide what is mad or bad. All of us agree that getting drunk and then driving an automobile is a bad thing to do. Sometimes, people die because inebriated people cause an accident. Should we be proactive and kill every person that is inebriated? After all, if we did this we would put an end to people being killed by drunk drivers. I doubt many people would advocate preemptive strikes against people who drink too much.

But, what about the drone strikes that are now routinely carried out by the Obama administration? We know that terrorists can and do commit evil acts, but should we preemptively kill all suspected terrorists? Some might say yes, but I say no. Why? Because I think drone strikes are too subjective and they lead to innocent people being killed. (and I think they do little to decrease the threat of terrorism)

I strenuously oppose both the war in Iraq and the war in Afghanistan, but I would have supported the government hunting down and killing the men responsible for 9-11.  Punish those who are responsible for the evil, thus eliminating their ability to commit evil acts again.

I realize this is a complex issue and there are many nuances and shades of gray to consider.  While I am a pacifist, I am not so naïve to think that the US government can/should sit by when evil men do whatever they want. Unfortunately, the US government has often perpetrated their own evil, like the nuclear bombing of Japan, the fire bombing on Dresden, and the indiscriminate use of Agent Orange in Vietnam. Like an evil Dr. Jekyll, the US government has conducted evil experiments on blacks and the mentally handicapped. They have rounded up Japanese Americans and put them in concentration camps. They supported and profited from the subjugation of an entire race when they supported or turned a blind-eye to slavery.

I think the US government is quite hypocritical when it decides what evil it goes after. Evil terrorists, yes. Genocide in Sudan and Rwanda, no. As an aging man, I have come to realize that the US government can be evil and it can be good and often it can be evil and good at the same time.

Here’s what I know. Few people would object if we could go back to 1933 and put a bullet in the head of Adolph Hitler. In fact, I would abandon my pacifistic principles to do so myself.  Every one of us have the obligation to root out evil and promote good. Unfortunately, most people don’t give a shit, think they are powerless, or have a warped, shallow understanding of evil and good. (i.e. the people on Faux News who think Christians being persecuted in America, you know the “war’ on Christians, is evil. Their ideology keeps them from understanding what evil really is. We all need to be aware of this.)

Have I said enough in this post to piss everyone off? :) Hopefully, I adequately answered Scott’s questions. I am sure he will let me know if I didn’t.
 

Published: March 14, 2014 | Comments: 15

Rest in Peace Salazar

In the fall of 2005, A stray cat showed up at our house and we took him in. Laura, our youngest daughter, named him Salazar, a character in the Harry Potter books. Over time, as he aged and gained weight, he picked up other names like Tubby and Salad Bar.

Salazar was a pure bred Bengal cat that was very much a part of the day-to-day rhythm of our home. He and Joe Meower provided frequent entertainment as they roared through the house chasing each other. He was, if we dare pick a favorite, our favorite cat.

Several months ago, Salazar, who was about 12 years old, started sneezing quite frequently. We took him to the vet, and $600 later we still had no answers. They wanted another $1,000 to check some other things, but we simply could not afford this. Whatever it was that Salazar had, it quickly robbed him of his life. He stopped eating and started sleeping all the time. We knew the end was near. Today, Polly took Salazar to the vet again, but this time he didn’t come home.

Here are a few photos I took of Salazar over the past six years.

salazar

salazar 2

salazar 3

salazar 4

salazar 5

salazar 6

 

Published: March 4, 2014 | Comments: 21

Forsaking All

forsaking all

And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it. (Mark 8:34, 35)

If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.  And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple. So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:26,27,33)

Jim, an Evangelical Christian left the following comment:

There’s an acrostic for faith that I’m sure you’ve heard; it says Forsaking All, I Trust Him. My heart is grieved to read your profile and see that you have abandoned that faith. Billy Graham did say this; “The more a man learns, the less he knows.” It is my prayer that you will forsake the “enlightenment” of this world for the Truth of the Gospel and return to the One Who created you.

Evidently, Jim thinks I have become too smart for my own good.  While I could write on how inane the Billy Graham quote is, I want to focus instead on the acrostic for faith that Jim mentions:

Forsaking All, I Trust Him

Forsaking all, that is exactly what I did my entire Christian life. When I put my faith and trust in Jesus Christ at the age of fifteen, I was all in. It is not in me to be passive, to go at something in a half-ass way. The Bible says in Mark 1:17, 18:

And Jesus said unto them, Come ye after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men. And straightway they forsook their nets, and followed him.

When Jesus said to me, come ye after me, I straightway left my family, friends, desires, and ambitions, and followed him. From the age of 15 to the age of 50, I was a devoted, committed, sold out follower of Jesus. For 25 years, I was a full-time laborer in God’s vineyard. While I may have, from time to time, worked a secular job, I gave every church I pastored full-time attention. This meant years of working night and day for the sake of the gospel.

Over the 25 years I spent in the ministry, the Gerencser family took 3 vacations:

  • Boston, Massachusetts, so I could preach for the man who was my youth pastor when I was a teen
  • Staunton, Virginia, so our family could attend a Bible conference at Evangelist Don Hardman’s home church
  • Elmendorf, Texas, so I could preach at the annual Bible conference held by Community Baptist Church

That’s it.  A total of 20 days out of the 9,125 days I spent in the ministry. While the Gerencser family took frequent day trips, traversing the hills of SE Ohio and West Virginia, and Polly and I, towards the end of my time in the ministry, took a few weekend get-a-ways, for the most part I spent every waking hour doing the work of the ministry.

How could it have been otherwise? I took seriously the various verses that called on me to forsake all and follow Jesus. I believed hell was a real place where unsaved people would be in torment night and day, and since I didn’t want anyone to die and go to hell, I tirelessly worked to keep people from going to hell.

I cared deeply about the people who called me pastor. I knew I had been called by God to shepherd the flock, to care for their souls. I wanted every church member to be a devoted, committed follower of Jesus. I wanted every church member to have victory over sin. I wanted every church I pastored to be the shining city sitting on a hill, a bright light shining in darkness.

When Jesus said to his disciples, not long before he ascended back to heaven:

Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen. (Matthew 28:19,20)

I took seriously his words. When we sang the words of the song  I Surrender All:

All to Jesus I surrender,
All to him I freely give;
I will ever love and trust him,
In his presence daily live.

Refrain:
I surrender all,
I surrender all,
All to thee, my blessed Savior,
I surrender all.

All to Jesus I surrender,
Humbly at his feet I bow,
Worldly pleasures all forsaken,
Take me, Jesus, take me now.
(Refrain)

All to Jesus I surrender;
Make me, Savior, wholly thine;
Let me feel the Holy Spirit,
Truly know that thou art mine.
(Refrain)

All to Jesus I surrender,
Lord, I give myself to thee,
Fill me with thy love and power,
Let thy blessing fall on me.
(Refrain)

All to Jesus I surrender;
Now I feel the sacred flame.
Oh, the joy of full salvation!
Glory, glory, to his name!

I sincerely meant EVERY word I sang.

Whatever faults one may find with me as a person or my work as a pastor, my commitment and devotion to Jesus and the work of the ministry was never in question.

So, what do I think now, as I look back on the 25 years I spent in the ministry? I think my level of commitment was a big mistake. I should have been willing to be more like some of fellow pastors who played at the ministry, preached a few sermons, and spent the rest of their time with family, at the golf course, or at pastor conferences. I bitterly know I sacrificed the wrong things for the sake of the call:

  • My health
  • My bank balance
  • My leisure
  • The childhood of my three  oldest children

I am sure many of you know what I am talking about. I knew more than a few parishioners who were just as committed as I was. They inhaled and exhaled God, Jesus, the Bible, the Church, 24/7.  When preachers like me stood up and called on church members to do greater exploits for God, they were the first ones at the altar begging and pleading with God to fill them with the Holy Ghost and to use them any way he saw fit.

These days, I tend to psychoanalyze my past. I have a Type-A personality, I am a work-a-holic and a perfectionist. These character traits made it easy for me to be the kind of pastor I was. While I moderated some later in the ministry, I suspect this was due to age and health, rather than a diminished zeal.

So when an Evangelical questions whether I really forsook all to follow Jesus, I laugh and say, if you only knew.

Published: February 28, 2014 | Comments: 5