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Category: Life

Living with Unrelenting Chronic Pain: Just Another Day in Paradise

pain-looks-good-on-other-people

I begin each day with pain. No matter how much medication I take, pain, from the bottom of my feet to the top of my head, is ever with me. There’s never a day when pain is not front and center, demanding attention. Afternoon turns to evening. Hopefully, I have felt strong enough to sit down in my office and write a few words for this blog. As I type this post, my hands remind me that osteoarthritis is my ever-present “friend.” Someday, I will push the keyboard away and say to the pain, “you win.” Not today, but no promise that tomorrow won’t be the end of my run. I fear what happens to me when I quit; when I say, “I have had enough.”

By the time the clock says 10:00 pm in the eastern time zone, my body says, “enough! I shan’t go any farther!” Two decades of struggling with fibromyalgia have taught me to recognize when it’s time to surrender for the day. “Wave the white flag, Bruce, and live for another day,” I tell myself. As I slump into my recliner, turn on Pardon the Interruption, and adjust the sound, tears come to my eyes. “Why live another day, knowing that tomorrow will be no different from today?” No matter how much I try to think happy thoughts and “put mind over matter,” reality reminds me that it is a bitch, a taskmaster with no concern for my suffering and pain. “Tough shit, Bruce. This is your life, deal with it.”

I hear the front door open. It’s Polly coming home from work. The clock strikes 2:30 am. We trade pleasantries, ask questions of one another, eat a snack, and finish the day off with The Daily Show. Now it’s time for the final act of the day, bedtime. I drag my pained, fatigued body to my side of the bed, plug my iPad into the wall charger, put on my Bluetooth headphones, and run one of the video streaming apps — usually Hulu. Of late, I am re-watching the Los Angeles police drama Southland. Polly touches me gently on my back and says, “good night.” I reply, “I love you.” Polly will quickly fall to sleep, but not me. Sleep for me will not come until pain and sleep medications do their work — that is, IF they do their work. Some nights, this process takes an hour. Other nights, it takes two, maybe three hours for sleep to win the victory.

And then, I do this all over again. There’s never a day without pain and fatigue. Never. I am not sure my family and friends understand this. Oh, they try, but for people who have not lived with never-ending, unrelenting chronic pain, there’s no frame of reference for them. How can someone “understand” that which they have not experienced? I photographed a local high school basketball game tonight — the first game of the season. As I entered the building, a school official said to me (and Bethany), “how are you folks doing tonight?” His voice rang with happiness and enthusiasm. He was what I call “chipper.” Before I could “think” of how I wanted to answer him, I blurted out, “do you really want to know?” His face told me that he was not expecting THAT answer. I quickly rescued him from the uncomfortableness of the moment. “Let me give you the standard human answer, “I’m fine. I am always fine!” And with that, I made my way to the gymnasium. Of course, I am not “fine.” I am sure some of you might be thinking, “Bruce, if you are not “fine,” why did you shoot the basketball game? “Why not stay home, rest, and take it easy?” Truth be told, it doesn’t matter where I am or what I do, I can’t escape the pain. Might as well try to do something I love to do than sit around and lose a few more brain cells watching TV. I know of only two “solutions” for my pain: death or pharmaceutical fog, neither of which I am willing to entertain. At least not today, anyway.

Knowing that the pain will never go away does give me a sense of certainty. I can’t escape the pain. All I can do is to choose what to do and where to go. Well-meaning people will say to me, “Bruce, I saw you at the store today. You must be feeling better!” “No, I am not feeling better. I feel like shit. My body feels like it has been hit by a truck — twice,” I have said to no one, ever. Instead, I pretend the well-wisher is oh-so perceptive. That’s the nature of the chronic pain game. Better to live a lie than burden (and bore) people with the truth. Rare is the person who really wants to know and understand how you are feeling. And that’s okay. I really don’t want to know about your hemorrhoids either.

Tomorrow begins the holiday season for the Gerencser family. Polly, along with our daughters, daughters-in-law, and granddaughters, will gather at our home to make pies — pumpkin, cherry, apple, and pecan — for Thanksgiving. If anything can temper my pain, it’s food, family, and football. If anything can give me a reason to punch the time clock for another day, it’s Polly, my children, and grandchildren. For them, I’m thankful.

Addendum:

The girls popped the first four pumpkins pies in the oven today and started cooking them. Fifteen minutes into the process, the power went out! We were without electricity for eight hours. We’ve had high winds today, and this led to an outage. Pie day was moved to our youngest daughter’s home. Just another story to add to Gerencser family Thanksgiving lore.

I hope you and yours have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Are you on Social Media? Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Questions: How Would You Respond to Someone Who Rejects Your Advice?

i have a question

I put out the call to readers, asking them for questions they would like me to answer. If you have a question, please leave it here or email me. All questions will be answered in the order in which they are received.

Anonymous asks:

How would you respond to someone who rejects the advice on your About page?

Let me be honest with you, I found this question to be strange. Not sure what to make of it.

On the About page, I offer the following advice:

If you had one piece of advice to give me, what would it be?

You have one life. There is no heaven or hell. There is no afterlife. You have one life, it’s yours, and what you do with it is what matters most. Love and forgive those who matter to you and ignore those who add nothing to your life. Life is too short to spend time trying to make nice with those who will never make nice with you. Determine who are the people in your life that matter and give your time and devotion to them. Live each and every day to its fullest. You never know when death might come calling. Don’t waste time trying to be a jack of all trades, master of none. Find one or two things you like to do and do them well. Too many people spend way too much time doing things they will never be good at.

Here’s the conclusion of the matter. It’s your life and you best get to living it. Someday, sooner than you think, it will be over. Don’t let your dying days be ones of regret over what might have been.

What would I say to someone who rejects this advice, Anonymous asks. The short answer is “okay, be well, my friend.” I give this advice freely, and whether someone accepts it or finds value in what I have written is up to them. If they don’t, no skin off my back. I am not some sort of deity declaring his law. I am just a feeble, frail, fucked-up man who has learned a few things in his sixty-two years of life. The aforementioned statement reflects my experiences and the lessons I have learned as I motor through my oh-so-short existence.

I try each day to live by these words. I am certain that come the end of the day, I have, to some degree or the other, failed. All I know to do is try again.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Are you on Social Media? Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Dear Jesus

Jesus
Painting by Jessie Kohn

Dear Jesus,

I’m sixty-two years old, and there has never been a moment when you were not in my life.

Mom and Dad talked about you before I was born, deciding to have me baptized by an Episcopal priest. They wanted me to grow up with good morals and love you, so they decided putting water on my forehead and having a priest recite religious words over me was the way to ensure my moral Christian future.

A few weeks after my birth, Mom and Dad gathered with family members to have me baptized. I was later told it was quite an affair, but I don’t remember anything about the day. Years later, I found my baptismal certificate. Signed by the priest, it declared I was a Christian.

Jesus, how could I have been a Christian at age four weeks? How did putting water on my head make me a follower of you? I don’t understand, but according to the certificate I was now part of my tribe’s religion: Protestant Christianity.

I turned five in 1962. Mom and Dad decided to move 2,300 miles to San Diego, California, believing that success and prosperity awaited them.

After getting settled, Mom and Dad said we need to find a new church to attend. Their shopping took them to the growing Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) congregation pastored by Tim LaHaye. It was here that I learned that my tribe had a new religion: Fundamentalist Christianity.

I quickly learned that our previous religion worshipped a false God, and my baptism didn’t make me a Christian at all. If I wanted to be a True Christian®, I had to come forward to the front of the church, kneel at the altar, and pray a certain prayer. If I did these things, I would then be a Christian — forever. And so I did. This sure pleased Mom and Dad.

Later, I was baptized again, but the preacher didn’t sprinkle water on my forehead. That would not do, I was told. True Baptism® required me to be submerged in a tank of water. And so, one Sunday, I joined a line of people waiting to be baptized. I was excited, yet scared. Soon, it came time for me to be dunked. The preacher put his left hand behind my head and raised his right hand towards Heaven. He asked, “Bruce, do you confess before God and man that Jesus Christ is your Lord and Savior?” With a halting child’s voice, I replied, “Yes.” And with that, the preacher, with a hanky in his right hand, put his hand over my nose, dunked me in the water, and quickly lifted me up. I heard both the preacher and the congregation say, “Amen!”

Jesus, the Bible says that the angels in Heaven rejoice when a sinner gets saved. Do you remember the day I got saved? Do you remember hearing the angels in Heaven say, “Praise to the Lamb that was slain! Bruce Gerencser is now a child of God. Glory be, another soul snatched from the hands of Satan?”

After a few years in California, Mom and Dad discovered that there was not a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, and our family was just as poor in the Golden State as they were in dreary, flat rural northwest Ohio. And so we moved, a process that happened over and over to me throughout the next decade — eight different schools.

As I became more aware and observant of my environment, I noticed that Mom and Dad had changed. Mom, in particular, was quite animated and agitated over American social unrest and the war in Vietnam. Mom and Dad took us to a new church, First Baptist Church in Bryan, Ohio — an IFB church pastored by Jack Bennett. We attended church twice on Sunday and on Wednesday evening.

I attended Bryan schools for two years. Not long after I started fourth grade, Mom and Dad decided it was time to move yet again. This time, we were moving to a brand new tri-level home on Route 30 outside of Lima, Ohio. It was there that I started playing basketball and baseball — sports I would continue to play competitively for the next twenty years. It was also there than I began to see that something was very wrong with Mom. At the time, I didn’t understand what was going on with her. All I knew is that she could be “Mom” one day and a raging lunatic the next.

I was told by my pastors, Jesus, that you know and see everything. Just in case you were busy one day and missed what went on or were on vacation, let me share a few stories about what happened while we lived in Lima.

One night, Mom was upstairs, and I heard her screaming. She was having one of her “fits.” I decided to see if there was anything I could do to help her — that’s what the oldest child does. As I walked towards Mom’s bedroom, I saw her grabbing shoes and other things and violently throwing them down the hallway. This was the first time I remember being afraid . . .

One day, I got off the school bus and quickly ran to our home. I always had to be the first one in the door. As I walked into the kitchen, I noticed that Mom was lying on the floor in a pool of blood. She had slit her wrists. I quickly ran to the next-door neighbor’s house and asked her to help. She quickly summoned an ambulance, and Mom’s life was saved.

Mom would try again, again, and again to kill herself: slitting her wrists, overdosing on medication, driving in front of a truck. At the age of fifty-four, she succeeded. One Sunday morning, Mom went into the bathroom, pointed a Ruger .357 at her heart, and pulled the trigger. She quickly slumped to the floor and was dead in minutes. Yet, she never stopped believing in you, Jesus. No matter what happened, Mom held on to her tribe’s God.

Halfway through my fifth-grade year, Mom and Dad moved to Farmer, Ohio. I attended Farmer Elementary School for the fifth and sixth grades. One day, I was home from school sick, and Mom’s brother-in-law stopped by. He didn’t know I was in my bedroom. After he left, Mom came to my room crying, saying, “I have been raped. I need you to call the police.” I was twelve. Do you remember this day, Jesus? Where were you? I thought you were all-powerful? Why didn’t you do anything?

From Farmer, we moved to  Deshler, Ohio for my seventh-grade year of school. Then Mom and Dad moved us to Findlay, Ohio. By then, my parents’ marriage was in shambles. Dad never seemed to be home and Mom continued to have wild, manic mood swings. Shortly before the end of ninth grade, Dad matter-of-factly informed me that they were getting a divorce. “We don’t love each other anymore,” Dad said. And with that, he turned and walked away, leaving me to wallow in my pain. That’s how Dad always treated me. I can’t remember a time when he embraced me or said “I love you.” I would learn years later that “Dad” was not my biological father. I wonder, Jesus, was this why he kept me at arm’s length emotionally?

After moving to Findlay, Mom and Dad joined Trinity Baptist Church — a fast-growing IFB congregation pastored by Gene Millioni. After Mom and Dad divorced, they stopped attending church. Both of them quickly remarried. Dad married a nineteen-year-old girl with a baby, and Mom married her first cousin — a recent prison parolee. So much upheaval and turmoil, Jesus. Where were you when all of this was going on? I know, I know, you were there in spirit.

Mom and Dad may have stopped going to church, but I didn’t. By then, I had a lot of friends and had started dating, so there was no way I was going to miss church. Besides, attending church got me away from home, a place where Dad’s new and improved wife made it clear I wasn’t welcome.

One fall weeknight, I sat in church with my friends listening to Evangelist Al Lacy. I was fifteen. As is the custom in IFB churches, Lacy prayed at the end of his sermon, asking, “with every head bowed and every eye closed, is there anyone here who is not saved and would like me to pray for them?” I had been feeling under “conviction” during the sermon. I thought, “maybe I not saved?” So, I raised my hand. Lacy prayed for those of us who had raised our hands and then had everyone stand. As the congregation sang Just as I am, Lacy said, “if you raised your hand, I want you to step out of your seat and come to the altar. Someone will meet you there and show you how you can know Jesus as your Lord and Savior.” Much to the surprise of my friends, I haltingly stepped out from my seat and walked to the front. I was met by Ray Salisbury — a church deacon. Ray had me kneel as he took me through a set of Bible verses called the Roman’s Road. After quizzing me on what I had read, Ray asked me if I wanted to be saved. I said, “yes,” and then Ray said, “pray this prayer after me: Dear Lord Jesus, I know I am a sinner and I know you died on the cross for my sins. Right now, I ask you to forgive me of my sins and come into my heart and save me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.” After I prayed the prayer, Ray said “AMEN!” “Did you really believe what you prayed?” I replied, “yes.” “Then you are now a child of God, a born-again Christian.”

The next Sunday, I was baptized, and the Sunday after that, I went forward again, letting the church know that you, Jesus, were calling me to preach. I was all in after that. For the next thirty-five years, Jesus, I lived and breathed you. You were my life, the sum of my existence.

At the age of nineteen, I enrolled in classes at Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan. It was here I received training to become a proper IFB pastor, and it was here I met the love of my life, a beautiful dark-haired preacher’s daughter. We married during the summer between our sophomore and junior years. We were so excited about our new life, thrilled to be preparing to work in God’s vineyard. We planned to graduate, go to a small community to start a new IFB church, buy a white two-story house with a white picket fence, and have two children: Jason and Bethany, and live happily ever after. However, Jesus, you had different plans for us. Do you remember what happened to us? Surely you do, right? Friends and teachers told us that you were testing us!  By early spring, Polly was six months pregnant and I was laid off from my machine shop job. We were destitute, yet, the college dean told us, “Jesus, wants you to trust him and stay in college.” No offer of financial help was forthcoming, and we finally had to move out of our apartment. With my tail between my legs, I packed up our meager belongings returned to Bryan, Ohio. I had failed your test, Jesus. I still remember what one of my friends told me, “If you leave now, God will NEVER use you!”

What did he know, right? After moving, I quickly secured secular employment and began working at a local IFB church. For the next twenty-five years, I pastored Evangelical churches in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Jesus, you were my constant companion, my lover, friend, and confidante. I sure loved you, and I believed you loved me too.We BFF’s, right?  Sometimes, I wondered if you really loved me as much I love you. Our love affair was virtual in nature. We never met face-to-face, but I believed in my heart of hearts you were the very reason for my existence. When I doubted this, I attributed my doubts to Satan or to me not praying hard enough or reading the Bible enough. I never thought for one moment, Jesus, that you might be a figment of my imagination, a lie taught to me by my parents and pastors. I was a true believer. That is until I wasn’t.

At age fifty, I finally realized, Jesus, that you were a myth, the main character of a 2,000-year-old fictional story. I finally concluded that all those times when I wondered where you were, were in fact, true. I couldn’t find you because you were dead. You had died almost 2,000 years before. The Bible told me about your death, but I really believed that you resurrected from the dead. I feel so silly now. Dead people don’t come back to life. Your resurrection from the dead was just a campfire story, and I had foolishly believed it. I guess I shouldn’t be too hard on myself. Everyone I knew believed the same story. All of us believed that the miracles attributed to you, Jesus, really happened; that you were a virgin-born God-man; that you ascended to Heaven to prepare a mansion for us to live in after we die.

It all seems so silly, now, but Jesus, I really did believe in you. Fifty years, Jesus. The prime of my life, I gave to you, only to find out that you were a lie. Yet, here I am today, and you are still “with” me. My parents, pastors, and professors did a good job of indoctrinating me. You are very much “real” to me, even though you lie buried somewhere on a Judean hillside. Try as I might, I can’t get you out of my mind. I have come to accept that you will never leave me.

You should know, Jesus — well, you can’t know, you are dead — that I spend my days helping people get away from you. What did you say, Jesus? I can’t hear you. I can hear the voices of Christians condemning me as a heretic, blasphemer, and hater of God. I can hear them praying for my death and threatening me with eternal damnation in the Lake of Fire. Their voices are loud and clear, but your voice, Jesus? Silence.

Always silent, Jesus. Why is that?

If you ever want to talk to me, you know where I live. Show up at my door, Jesus, and that will be a miracle I can believe in. Better yet, if you can help the Cincinnati Bengals win their last six games, well, I just might rethink your existence. Not going to happen, I know. The Bengals are going to bungle their way to an 0-16 record.

If you can’t help my football team win a few games, Jesus, what good are you? It’s not like I am asking you to feed the hungry, heal the sick, or put an end to violence and war. That would require you to give a shit, Jesus, and if there’s one thing I have learned over the past sixty-two years, it is this: you don’t give a shit about what happens on earth. We humans are on our own, and that’s fine with me.

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About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Are you on Social Media? Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

The Man With No Butt

Bruce Gerencser, early Spring 2015
Bruce Gerencser, early Spring 2015

Originally written in 2015. Edited, corrected, and expanded.

Recently, I asked readers for questions. Ed asked:

As a person of similar age and girth as Bruce Almighty…… belt AND suspenders or suspenders/belt alone?

Some things are far more relevant to our daily life than institutionalized fantasies.

I thought the following post would more than answer Ed’s belt and suspenders question. Enjoy!

I’m a big guy. 6 feet tall, just north of 360 pounds. Thanks to my recurrent battle with only Loki knows what, I have lost 25 pounds since last September. No one who knows me has asked if I’ve lost weight. I have an odd body shape for a man my size, and unfortunately, weight loss or gain goes unnoticed. Unlike most men my size, I don’t have what is commonly called a beer gut. Instead, from my size 8 head to my size 10 feet, I am shaped like a fire hydrant. I do have some belly fat, but I am pretty much a cylindrical mass of human flesh. I have ruddy complexion and beard color to play Santa, so in recent years I have finally embraced my inner Claus. Come Thanksgiving, it will be impossible for me to go in public without multiple people calling attention to Santa-like looks.

Most men my height have a 32-35-inch inseam. Not me. I have a 29-inch inseam. Even worse, I have no butt. No woman has ever complimented me for having a nice ass, mainly because my shirt is usually hanging out the back. I have spent much of my life tucking in shirts that are not long enough. Buying XXXL shirts is a challenge because clothing makers assume that every XXXL man has a big gut. The shirts are long enough, but often they are way too big in the chest. I finally found a t-shirt that fits me well. Made by Key Industries, I can buy them for less than $14 on Amazon. (Short Sleeve, Long Sleeve) The t-shirts are well made, don’t feel cheap, and have a pocket on the front. This pocket works well when I need someplace to put my lens cap or cellphone.

Last year, my oldest son introduced me to Van Heusen no-iron Traveller (Flex) shirts. Nice shirts that never need to be ironed provided they are removed from the dryer on time. Polly wishes I had “discovered” these shirts back in the day when I was wearing white pinpoint cotton oxford shirts. Those shirts ALWAYS needed to be starched and ironed — another of the many reasons my wife is a saint. These shirts have longer tails, but I’ve found that I have to order one size larger than I normally do.

polly mom and dad 2018 (2)
Bruce and Polly Gerencser 2018

Even when I get shirts that fit, I still have a problem keeping my pants up. Most people have hips and a butt they can hang their pants on. Not me. Since I don’t want to make the local news, Atheist Moons Shoppers at Meijer, I not only wear a belt but I also wear suspenders. Wearing only a belt is an invitation for embarrassment, especially now that I have lost weight. I put two new holes in my belt so I can cinch it up tighter, but even then, my pants tend to work their way down. If you are a local reader and have seen me at Meijer with my hands in my pockets, it’s not because my hands are cold. When I feel my pants following the path of least resistance, I pull them up Grandpa-style and put my hands in my pockets to keep them from sliding back down.

perry suspenders
Perry Suspenders

A few years back, I found the perfect suspenders for a guy like me. Most suspenders have a clasp that is snapped on the pants. Over time, these snaps get weak, tend to come unsnapped, and smack the wearer in the face. Thankfully, I found Perry Suspenders. Perry Suspenders, which come in 2 widths and 2 lengths, hook on your belt, providing a second layer of butt exposure security. You can buy a pair of Perry Suspenders for $13-18 on Amazon. Since wearing Perry Suspenders, I no longer fear being the subject of a YouTube video shot by a local resident at Meijer. Nothing like fame for having your pants drop down to your knees in the middle of the store. It’s never happened to me, but I have caught them well on their way to embarrassing me.

I buy most of my clothing and shoes on Amazon. I am not a big fan of Amazon, but their selection of big and tall clothing is second to none. When it comes to jeans, I typically buy Levi 550s or 560s. When I find something that “fits,” I tend to stick with that brand. When it comes to shoes, I buy them either through Amazon or its affiliate Zappos. My snowboard feet take a 10-EEEE shoe. I buy two brands: Skechers and New Balance. Again, I buy what I know, what has fit me in the past. At my age, I have no interest in redesigning the clothing wheel. (I did learn several years ago, that I was washing my jeans way too often; that as long as they aren’t dirty or smelly, jeans can be worn for weeks at a time between washes. It took me a long time to buy into this idea. I was used to washing my jeans after every wearing. Now they last a lot longer.)

I buy well-made leather belts made by YourTack in nearby LaGrange, Indiana. So far, I have bought my belts online, but I do hope to visit their store someday. Last year, I discovered how much I love wearing fedoras. Depending on whom you ask, I either look like an Amish man or a mobster. We have Amish communities nearby, so I tend to get second looks from people trying to match my Amish-looking hat and beard with my English-looking clothing. After buying several inferior hats on Amazon, I decided to look elsewhere. My search took me to the Village Hat Shop in San Diego, California. When it comes to wool/felt hats, you get what you pay for. The Village Hat Shop carries a large selection of hats, in a variety of sizes. Shipping is free, and most orders are delivered in 5-8 days.

So there ya have it. All you ever wanted to know about the man with no butt.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Are you on Social Media? Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

What Andy Savage, Mark Driscoll, and Ted Haggard Have in Common

bruce gerencser 2002
Bruce Gerencser, 2002

Andy Savage, Mark Driscoll, and Ted Haggard are all Evangelical pastors who have checkered pasts. Twenty years ago, Andy Savage sexually assaulted a church teenager. While pastor of Highpoint Church in Memphis, Tennessee, Savage admitted his crime. Unfortunately, he was never punished due to the statute of limitations expiring. Savage later left Highpoint. (Please see Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Andy Savage Gets Standing Ovation for Admitting He Sexually Assaulted a Teenager and Black Collar Crime: Dominoes Continue to Fall Over Andy Savage Scandal.) Mark Driscoll was the pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Washington. Accused of having an autocratic management style, verbally/emotionally abusing congregants, plagiarism, and “squishy book-promotion ethics,” Driscoll resigned. Three months later, Mars Hill closed its doors. Ted Haggard was the president of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) and the pastor of New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Haggard, a closeted bisexual, used crystal meth, cavorted with a male prostitute, and had an inappropriate sexual relationship with a male congregant. In late 2006, Haggard was fired from New Life and resigned his position with the NAE.

All of these men were married, had children, and pastored multi-million-dollar churches running thousands in attendance. All of these men were Evangelical in doctrine and well respected by congregants and colleagues alike. All of these men traveled the Evangelical conference circuit, speaking to thousands of people. These men were widely considered to be preachers God was mightily using to advance his kingdom. Yet, Savage, Driscoll, and Haggard fell from their lofty perches and were drummed out of their churches.

End of story? Surely you jest! Evangelicals are quite forgiving and love a good comeback story. In 2010, Ted Haggard started a new church, St. James Church, in Colorado Springs, Colorado. In 2016, Driscoll birthed a new congregation, The Trinity Church, in Scottsdale, Arizona. And Savage? He is ramping up a new church plant, Grace Valley Church in Eads, Tennessee.

“Bruce, how can these guys do what they did and still be pastors?” Simple. Savage, Driscoll, and Haggard are independent contractors, free to do what they want, including starting new churches. There are no federal or state laws that forbid these men from setting up new non-profit churches (businesses). (Please see How to Start an Independent Baptist Church.) Anyone, including you, can gather a handful of people together and start a church. It’s really that easy. In 2015, comedian John Oliver proved just how easy it is to start a new church, by setting up a non-profit religious organization called Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption. Oliver later closed the church and donated the “offerings” to “Doctors Without Borders.”

Why didn’t Savage, Driscoll, and Haggard admit that they were no longer Biblically qualified to be pastors? 1 Timothy 3 gives the qualifications for pastors, and none of these “men of God” met the Biblical standard. Truth be told, I don’t know of any man who meets the qualifications. The Bible says:

This is a true saying, if a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; 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?) Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.

And let’s not forget about Galatians 5:19-21:

Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.

And finally, pastors should be expected to demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit, yes? Galatians 5:22,23 says:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

Taking these three passages of Scripture together, it’s clear that Savage, Driscoll, and Haggard have no business being pastors. In fact, no man is qualified to be a pastor. What about you, Bruce? Were you qualified? Absolutely not. At best, I was a “two out of three ain’t bad” kind of preacher. I really, really, really wanted to be a pastor, so just like every other man to ever pastor a church, I rationalized my shortcomings, telling myself that I would work hard to become a better man and preacher. All in all, I was a feeble, frail, fallible man who hopefully did more good than harm.

In the fall of 1995, I left the pastorate of Olive Branch Christian Union Church in Fayette, Ohio. I was at Olive Branch for seven months. A quick overview of my ministerial career reveals that I either stayed at churches for a long time or left after a few months — seven months to be exact. That’s right. I left three of the churches I pastored after being there for only seven months — started in the spring, left in the fall. I am sure there is some Freudian shit in there somewhere to unpack.

After leaving Olive Branch, I moved five miles down the road and started Our Father’s House in West Unity, Ohio. I pastored this church for seven years. One day, I received a letter from a ministerial colleague of mine. He and I met when I was pastoring Somerset Baptist Church in Mt. Perry, Ohio. Dick, at the time, was the pastor of an IFB church in nearby New Lexington. The previous pastor had left due to allegations of misconduct. This was Dick’s first and only church. The church had a lot of internal problems. I thought of Dick — a kind, decent man — as a sacrificial lamb. His congregation ripped him to shreds. After a year or so, Dick resigned and returned home to southwest Ohio, never to pastor again.

Dick’s letter was quite pointed. Due to my recent moves from church to church to church, Dick questioned my emotional stability and suggested I reconsider starting a new church. I remember how offended I was by his words. I thought, “Didn’t he know I was a divinely called man of God? Didn’t he know I was just following God’s will?” I never spoke to Dick again, but years later after a size sixty bit of hindsight, I concluded that he was absolutely right. I should have hit the pause button and reevaluated my life. It would be another decade before I stopped thinking that being a pastor was the sum of my life; that not pastoring a church was a betrayal of Jesus and all I held dear. It took me years after that to regain any sense of self. Jesus and the ministry had swallowed up Bruce Gerencser. I lost any sense of personal identity and self-worth. To this day, I see a secular counselor on a regular basis. Therapy is essential to me recovering any sense of mental wellness.

The title of this post is “What Andy Savage, Mark Driscoll, and Ted Haggard Have in Common.” Let me add my name to theirs, and the names of every Evangelical preacher. I am going to admit something here that most preachers will NEVER admit: preachers love the adulation they receive from congregants. They love being the center of attention. They love being the hub around which everything turns. And it is for these reasons fallen, disgraced preachers have a hard time quitting the ministry. Think of all the preachers you know who were drummed out of the ministry, only to start a new church or assume the pastorate of an established church months or years later. I could spend weeks detailing the stories of such men.

“Bruce, why can’t these men quit the ministry?” They are addicts. Standing before fawning congregants on Sundays and being thought of as THE MAN is like crack cocaine. Once you feel the rush, you want more, regardless of what you have to do to get the drug. Preachers need the thrill they feel when doing the work of the ministry. I am not suggesting that all pastors are bad men — they are not. But preachers need to be honest about the emotional and psychological “bump” they get from preaching and ministering to others. It is okay to admit this, preachers. You are human. 

I started blogging in 2007. Come December, this current iteration of my blog will celebrate its fifth anniversary. In many ways, this blog is my “church.” Thousands of people read my writing. I reach far more people now than I ever did as a pastor. When my work is well-received, it pleases me and spurs me on to continue writing. My counselor tells me that I am still a preacher; that I have just changed teams. Perhaps. I will leave it to others to make such judgments. I do know that I find writing emotionally gratifying. Whether one hundred people are reading it or five thousand, I am driven to continue to tell my story. That some people find my writing helpful is all the more reason to keep on preaching the humanist gospel.

That said, there are differences between the twenty-five years I spent in the ministry and being a writer. The Evangelical churches I pastored were captive audiences. I was an authority figure, someone given the power to guide, direct, and correct their lives. Today, I pastor a “church” of thousands, yet I have no authority over anyone. Readers are free to come and go; love me or hate me; praise me or ridicule me. Church members were required to tithe and give offerings. Readers are under no such compulsion. They are free to donate, or not. Either way, the “church” remains open for “whosoever will.”

I hope my honesty has not caused you to think any less of me. I know this post will give my critics more ammunition. There’s nothing I can do about that. It is far more important for me to give an open, honest, pointed accounting of my life. I trust you found my words insightful and helpful.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Are you on Social Media? Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Questions: What Happened?

i have a question

I put out the call to readers, asking them for questions they would like me to answer. If you have a question, please leave it here or email me. All questions will be answered in the order in which they are received.

Steve asked:

What was unanswered for me by your comments on faith and the loss of your faith in God, is what happened. I wrestle with confusing contradictions of definition and practice in my own life, but for me God never got lost in that ongoing struggle. In fact, my frailty and understanding of my human weakness has come clearly into view while the faithfulness and forgiveness of God is my only hope. I just want to understand what happened on the path from your faith in God to atheism. Maybe how did you come to faith first and what dissolved it?

Life has been very hard, but God is still real. What made that different for you?

Since December 2014, I have written 3,545 posts, totaling 2,963,575 words. Suffice it to say, I have written extensively about my journey from Evangelicalism to atheism. I have told, re-told, and told again what led me to file for divorce from Jesus. Yet, despite all of this, many Christians still don’t understand WHY I am no longer a Christian. Steve is one such person.

Why do some Christians have such a hard time understanding my story; understanding my loss of faith? The main reason, I believe, is their inability to wrap their minds around the fact of a devoted, committed Evangelical pastor turning his back on everything he held dear. Jesus is the everything of Evangelicalism. He’s a lover, savior, friend, and confidant. He is the alpha and omega; the first and the last; the beginning and the end. I am sure Steve wonders, “why would anyone ever want to walk away from Jesus; walk away from the forgiveness of sins and life eternal; walk away from a life filled with meaning, purpose, and direction?”

I pastored thousands of people over the course of twenty-five years in the ministry. More than a few people struggle with accepting that I am no longer a Christian; that I am no longer a pastor; that I am no longer the passionate lover of Jesus they warmly and lovingly called Preacher. These people reflect on my sermons, passion for evangelism, commitment to sound doctrine, and tireless labors and ask themselves, “what happened?”

What happened, as I have detailed numerous times, is that once I no longer believed that the Bible was an inspired, inerrant, infallible text, I was then free to re-examine the claims of Christianity. I spent countless hours pondering the beliefs I once held dear. Sure, there were emotional aspects of my deconversion, but ultimately my decision to walk away from Christianity had to do with one simple fact: I no longer believed the central claims of Christianity to be true. I concluded cardinal doctrines such as the virgin birth of Jesus, his resurrection from the dead, and the miracles recorded in the gospels could not be rationally sustained. (Please see The Michael Mock Rule: It Just Doesn’t Make Sense) Once these beliefs fell by the wayside it was clear to me that whatever I was, I wasn’t a Christian. So, on the last Sunday of November in 2008, I walked out of the back door of the Ney United Methodist Church, never to return.

Yes, Bruce, I get all that, but WHAT happened? And therein lies the problem for many of my interlocutors. They have convinced themselves that I am hiding a secret of some sort — the REAL reason I deconverted. What such people want is an emotional explanation for my loss of faith. Surely there’s a trauma of some sort buried deep in the recesses of my story. I hate to break it to people, but there’s no untold secret. I have done all I can possibly do to honestly, openly, and completely tell my story. I don’t know what else I can say to people other than to say, read my blog! (Start with the WHY page.)

Part of the problem for Christians such as Steve is that they compare their lives to mine. Steve speaks of living a hard life, yet knowing that the Christian God is real and ever with him. Surely, it should be the same for me, right? I am not one to compare my life to the lives of others. Life is complex and messy, and each of us has unique circumstances and experiences. Instead of trying to find the one thing that led to my loss of faith, I wish Christians would just accept my story at face value. Many Christians cannot square my story with their own stories and beliefs. That’s not my problem. All I know is this: I once was saved, and now I am not. I once was a follower of Jesus, and now I am not.

Christians often look for defects in my story. Steve asking about how I came to faith is a good example of this approach. If a defect in the conversion process can be found, then my story makes perfect sense. I never was a Christian! See, I didn’t follow the right steps. Of course, such thinking is absurd. In the twenty-five years I spent pastoring churches, not one congregant, Christian friend, or ministerial colleague ever doubted my salvation or commitment to Christian orthodoxy and the teachings of the Bible. It’s disingenuous to say I never was a Christian. Nothing in my frail, imperfect life suggested that I was anything but a Christian.

I can’t keep Christians from combing through my life, looking for glosses, weaknesses, and contradictions. I know what I know, and that’s all that matters. I have published enough information about my life for anyone so inclined to come to a conclusion about my faith and subsequent atheism. People looking for secrets are sure to be disappointed. Well, except for my “secret” life as a pole dancer and stripper. Coming soon to a strip club near you! (Please see the ABOUT page.)

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Are you on Social Media? Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Sunday Night Hymn-Sing

hymn sing

I spent the first fifty years of my life faithfully attending Christian churches. In the mid-1970s, I enrolled in classes at Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan. I spent twenty-five years pastoring Evangelical churches in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. I think I can safely say that Christianity has made a deep imprint on my life — good and bad.

Many of my posts deal with the negative aspects of Evangelical Christianity. Inherently Fundamentalist, Evangelicalism causes untold pain, suffering, and dysfunction. (Please see Are Evangelicals Fundamentalists?) It will be a good day when a future generation of freethinkers finally suffocates the life out of Evangelicalism. Already in the early stages of death, there is coming a day when the Fundamentalism many of us knew so well will no longer exist. Not today, not tomorrow, nor a year from now, but the signs are clear — at least to me — that Evangelicalism is rotting at its core and will one day tumble to the ground. All praise be to Loki!

This doesn’t mean, however, that I don’t have many fond memories of the time I spent attending and pastoring Evangelical churches. In fact, my good memories far outnumber the bad ones. I found the work of the ministry quite satisfying. I suspect this is due to the fact that I enjoy helping people. In another life, I might have been a social worker, aid worker, or done some other work that put me in close contact with needy people. I am what you might call a fixer — someone who loves taking on rehab projects. Unfortunately, this impulse led me to take on several broken, dysfunctional churches that didn’t deserve my labors. The best thing that could have happened to these churches — here’s looking at you, Victory Baptist — is that they died a quick death. They didn’t deserve to have me as their pastor. While I would like to think that I have gotten smarter over the years, truth be told, I am still attracted to helping others, even when it is not in my best interest.

Being a pastor gave me opportunities to be around likeminded people. I thoroughly enjoyed communal events. One such event was Sunday Night Hymn Sings. Several times a year, I would schedule a night where all we did was sing. No preaching, just singing. There was no agenda, no program. I would take song requests from congregants. If the pianist couldn’t play a song, we would sing it acapella. Sometimes, only the men would sing, or the women. Sunday Night Hymn Sings were always a highlight of the year.

I can read music, and there was a day when I had what others called a golden tenor voice. Unfortunately, years of preaching and throat infections ruined my voice. It saddens me to think that my grandchildren will never hear me sing, never listen to Grandpa and Nana sing a duet (Polly was a member of a traveling music group during our Midwestern days). Such is life.

Last week, I was listening to some Southern Gospel music on YouTube. One of the songs was a thirty-minute recording of a Baptist hymn sing. Oh my, the memories that came flooding back to me. As tears filled my eyes, ruined voice or not, I sang along with the church and its music leader. I have mentioned before how connected I still am to the religious music of my past. While I don’t believe its lyrical content, there’s something about the music itself that elicits deep emotional feelings from me. I suspect I am not alone in having such feelings. Ironically, Polly HATES religious music — apart from Christmas music. She’s even gone as far as to ask me NOT to play hymns, Southern Gospel, and Contemporary Christian music while she’s home. Some readers might be surprised to know that many of my posts are written while Christian music is playing in the background. Not today. I am in a The Band Perry, Dixie Chicks, and Shania Twain mood.

Our Sunday Night Hymn Sings would last anywhere from ninety minutes to two hours. We would sing, and keep on singing until congregants stopped offering up requests. I found these sings to be emotionally — and at the time, spiritually — satisfying. There’s something about music that reaches deep into our beings. I can’t explain it, I just know that music is an essential part of my existence. If I had to name several things I miss from my Christian days, one thing would be hymn sings — especially those from my days as pastor of Somerset Baptist Church in southeast Ohio. (The building was built in 1831, with oak floors and a 25-foot ceiling peak. The acoustics were phenomenal.)

Did the churches you grew up in have hymn sings? If you are an Evangelical-turned-atheist/agnostic/humanist/Pastafarian, do you miss the music? Do you miss belting out What a Friend We Have in Jesus or Amazing Grace? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Are you on Social Media? Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

The Good and Bad of Midwestern Baptist College

polly shope bruce gerencser 1977
Polly Shope and Bruce Gerencser, February 1977, Midwestern Baptist College Sweetheart Banquet

Recently, a man named Steven Tassell left the following comment:

I attended Midwestern from 1973-1979

I had my problems however I’m not trying to destroy anyone. If you had a problem with sex at school that was on you. I was a chaplin [sic] for USAF, taught school at Fort Knox and I’m a pastor with my Doctorate in counseling. So instead of telling the bad because any school has that tell the good.

Polly and I attended Midwestern Baptist College from 1976-1979. Polly’s father attended the college from 1972-1976. None of us knows a Steven Tassell. Now, that doesn’t mean he didn’t attend Midwestern. There were a number of married students who attended the college that neither Polly or I personally knew. We were dorm students for two years, marrying during the summer between our sophomore and junior years.

I attempted a cursory search on Tassell’s name. That, too, returned very little information, save a dated church listing, several funeral listings, and a Linkedin profile for a Steven Tassell who attended Midwestern, Faith Baptist College, and is currently a support supervisor at a Walmart Tire and Lube. I am uncertain as to why Tassell felt the need to recite his “important” work history, especially since it bears no relevance to the post he commented on. Tassell says he had a “Doctorate” in counseling. As readers know, most Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) preachers sporting doctorates either “earned” them at unaccredited schools or through online classes, or were given an honorary degree. (Please see IFB Doctorates: Doctor, Doctor, Doctor, Everyone’s a Doctor) I have no idea if Tassell’s doctorate was earned at an accredited institution. My gut tells me no.

Now, to Tassell’s comment. In classic passive-aggressive fashion, Tassell stated, “I had my problems, however I’m not trying to destroy anyone.” He, too, had “problems” while attending Midwestern, but unlike Bruce, the atheist, he’s not trying to destroy anyone. I find it interesting that, according to Tassell, by telling my story and sharing my experiences as a student at Midwestern, I am trying to destroy people. Tassell suggests that I not speak of the bad things that happened at Midwestern and only speak of the good that I saw and experienced. That I refuse to only tell half the story makes me, in Tassell’s eyes, a bad person. How dare I speak poorly of the college, Dr. Tom Malone, my professors, or my fellow students. Just tell GOOD stories, Bruce! Sorry, but I can’t do that. I decided twelve years ago to be an honest, open, transparent storyteller. If that meant casting a bad light of myself and others, so be it. How can readers ever understand my experiences at Midwestern if I only tell them the good stuff? Honesty demands telling the truth, as best I remember it.

I have many fond memories of the three years I spent at Midwestern. Dorm life, even at an IFB college, was a blast!  I will never forget the fun, crazy times I shared with my fellow dorm students. Three weeks after moving into the dorm, I asked a preacher’s daughter named Polly if she wanted to go out on a date with me. She said yes, and forty-three years later, we are still going on dates, loving one another’s company, and roundly irritating the Hell out of each other. Ah, marital bliss.

I could spend hours sharing stories about the good times I experienced at Midwestern. Doing so, of course, would make Tassell happy. Just focus on the positive. Unfortunately, the bad experiences left an indelible impression on my life and that of my wife. For the first time, we saw the ugly, nasty, judgmental underbelly of the IFB church movement. Should I ignore the gay teacher who groomed younger male dorm students? Should I ignore the affair between the wife of the dean of men and a teacher? Should I ignore the rampant illicit sexual activity by dorm students; people who are now pompous, arrogant moralizers? Should I ignore the oppressive rules and repressive disciplinary system? Should I ignore the weak academics and unqualified teachers? Should I ignore the teacher who taught an IFB form of eugenics? Should I ignore the racism of one of the church’s pastors? (All dorm students had to attend nearby Emmanuel Baptist Church, pastored by Tom Malone.) Should I ignore the fact that Tom’s Malone’s wife and children violated the rules the rest of us were expected to obey, under threat of expulsion? Should I ignore being forced to quit a well-paying job, all because the business owner and Tom Malone had a falling out? Should I ignore . . .  You see, it takes the good and the bad to tell a complete story. And as long as I continue to tell my story, I intend to look at the entire structure, and not just the facade that gives readers a false picture of my life, Midwestern Baptist College, and the IFB church movement. That’s the prerogative of the storyteller.

(Please see other posts about Midwestern Baptist College)

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Are you on Social Media? Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Bruce’s Food Eccentricities

expiration date

This is not a post about food in general, dieting, or the future of the world food supply. I certainly have opinions on all of the subjects, but in this post, I want to share a list of a few of my eccentricities when it comes to food and drink. Enjoy

Ice Cream

I love ice cream. When I want seconds, I always have to have a new bowl and spoon.

Expiration Dates

I treat expiration dates as if they are etched in stone. Yes, I know many expiration dates are “best if used by” dates. It doesn’t matter. Out the item goes on its expiration date.

Leftovers

All leftovers must be eaten within seventy-two hours. Out they go, regardless of freshness.

Eating Food Made by Others at Church Potlucks

I pastored Baptist churches. Baptists are known for their love of potlucks — where individual church members bring a dish to share with everyone. As a pastor, I visited church families at their homes several times a year. This allowed me to develop personal relationships with them outside of a church setting. Of course, this also exposed me to how they lived — including how clean they kept their homes. I have seen more than a few homes posing as landfills. Filth everywhere. Over time, I developed a phobia about eating food cooked by anyone except Polly. I just couldn’t bring myself to eat so-and-so’s food, knowing the condition of their kitchens.

I passed this phobia on to my oldest two sons. They hate potlucks.

Drinking After Others

I don’t drink after other people — ever. I dated Polly for two years before we were married. I have known her for forty-three years. We have swapped a lot of spit, but I have never, ever drank after her. Not one time. The same goes for my children, grandchildren, siblings, and parents. I would die of thirst before I would drink after someone else.

Eating One Food Item at a Time

Generally, I eat my food one item at a time. Every once in a blue moon — say at a steak joint — I will only eat part of my baked potato before moving on to my steak.

Cleaning the Table at a Restaurant

I always stack up all the dishes and clean the table before we leave. I don’t want the server to think we are pigs.

Bread Balls

On occasion, I will take two or three pieces of cheap white bread and mash them into a ball and eat it. The first time Polly saw me do this, forty-something years ago, she thought I was nuts. She should have followed her gut instinct and run.

Lukewarm Food

I like my food either cold or hot. I refuse to eat lukewarm food, be it at a restaurant or at home. Thanks be to Loki for microwaves.

Cheap Hotdogs

I rarely will eat cheap hotdogs. I know how hot dogs are made; what cuts of meat are used. Something that sells for $1 a pound can’t be good. Well, unless it’s a fried corn dog. The batter turns the hot dog into a sirloin steak.

Beggar Cats and Dogs

We have a cat and a dog. Both of them are twelve or so years old. They have been part of our family for over a decade. Much to Polly’s consternation, I give both of them table scraps. They have turned into vultures who sit at my feet, waiting for me to give them food.

Thirty-Eight and Zero

Our refrigerator and freezer have thermometers that are regularly monitored by yours truly. The fridge is kept at exactly thirty-eight degrees. Not thirty-six or forty — exactly thirty-eight. The freezer is kept at zero at all times. We plan to buy a new freezer sometime next year. Our current one is twelve years old and is manual defrost. Who is the dumbass who bought a MANUAL defrost freezer? The freezer has to be unloaded and manually defrosted every two to three months, depending on the weather. On the bucket list: new auto defrost freezer.

Do you have food-related peculiarities or habits? Please share them in the comment section.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Are you on Social Media? Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Bruce, You are a Liar

garfield liarLet me say from the start: I have, on occasion, lied. I am human, so it really would be a lie for me to say that I have never stretched the “truth,” told little white lies, whoppers, or an occasional big, fat black lie. (Why is it that black is the color always used for the really bad things in life?) I have lied on purpose, by accident, and told a few stories that were exaggerations I am sixty-two years old, and having lived on planet earth for 22,720 days, is it any surprise that I have told a lie or two or three hundred? Of course not. No one reaches the sunset years of life — including born-again Christians — without telling a few lies. That said, I rarely lie. In my day-to-day relationships with my wife, children, grandchildren, and my fellow homo sapiens, I do my best to be truthful and honest. I expect the same from others.

Over the years, I have developed skills that help me detect when someone is lying to me; when they are spinning a yarn; when they are regaling me with Grade-A bullshit. With family, I am pretty good at reading their body language. Polly, in particular, is not a very good liar. I can usually spot her untruths from a mile away. Me? I am not a very good liar, either. That’s why we rarely lie to each other. Oh, we might color the “facts” to present a certain narrative to each other, but generally we are plainspoken.

Now that I have that out of the way, let me address the Evangelicals who think anything I say that doesn’t fit within their narrow, defined theological and cultural box must be a lie. When it comes to telling my story, I try to be a truthful, honest storyteller. Granted, I don’t tell readers e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g. I have secrets; things I have never told anyone, including Polly and my counselor. No, I haven’t murdered anyone, molested children, or robbed a bank, but I have done embarrassing things in my life that I am not comfortable with sharing with others. That said, I do my best to be an open book; transparent and honest. Thus, it irritates the Hell out of me when Evangelicals question, doubt, and deconstruct everything I write. Instead of accepting what I say at face value, zealots are Heaven-bent on stripping my story bare and exposing me as some sort of charlatan or deceiver.

Several years ago, one Evangelical preacher told anyone who would listen that I had NEVER been a pastor; that he had talked to someone who lived in rural northwest Ohio during the time I was pastoring churches, and that person had never heard of me! In his mind, that meant I was a liar; that I had never been a pastor. I have had more than a few pastors attempt to discredit me, telling people that I was a liar. At first, such accusations bothered me, but not any longer. I have learned that two people can look at the same events and circumstances and come to different conclusions. My siblings and I have different views of our childhood. Sometimes, I wonder if we are even related!  People can see things from different perspectives, and this colors their understanding. I am sure that can be said of the people I pastored over the years. Congregants who loved/liked me generally spoke well of me. Those who hated me or really, really, really disliked me tended to say negative things about me. I’m sure it’s hard to believe, but I know several former parishioners who would accelerate, hoping to run me over, if they say saw me in a crosswalk. Such is life, right? I used to care incessantly about what people thought of me. Today? Not so much. If being a public writer has taught me anything, it has taught me that I can’t please everyone. Read my writing long enough, and you are sure to see something that will piss you off.

I have concluded that Evangelicals who call me a liar do so because it allows them to dismiss my story out of hand. What better way to not have to deal with the truth, than to attack the messenger and discredit him? There’s nothing I can do to stop people from attacking my character. That said, one fact remains: thousands of people read this blog, and that suggests to me, at least that many readers think my story is true and helpful. And that’s good enough for me.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

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Life with a Down Syndrome Child

bethany 2019
Bethany, July 2019

Several days ago, Polly and I, along with our 30-year-old daughter Bethany, were slowly traversing the aisles at the Defiance Meijer. As we walked down one aisle, a woman in her early 30s hesitantly said to us, “I don’t want to offend you. Do you mind if I ask you a few questions?” I said, “sure,” not knowing exactly what the woman wanted to ask. She replied, “I have a year-old daughter with Down syndrome. I see you have a child with it, and I have some questions.”

This is not the first time someone has stopped us in a store to ask us questions about Bethany. We have never thought such inquiries to be intrusive. We vividly remember when Bethany was a toddler and all the questions we had about Down syndrome. This was before the Internet/Netscape/AOL/Google, so information was hard to come by. We, of course, asked our primary care doctor, Bill Fiorini, a lot of questions, and availed ourselves to whatever books on Down syndrome were available from the local public library. Over the years, we have continued to educate ourselves about Down syndrome.

The woman proudly showed us a picture of her beautiful redhead girl. She asked, “how old was your daughter before she walked?” Polly replied, “seventeen months.” The woman said, ” I am in several Down syndrome support groups, and several people told me that I shouldn’t expect my daughter to walk until she was seven or eight.” I could see the pain in this mother’s eyes, pondering what the future might hold for both her and her daughter. I proceeded to tell her what I have told numerous questioning parents about living with a Down syndrome child:

  • Children who have Down syndrome vary greatly one from the other. On a scale of 1-10, one being the Downs children you see on TV who can read and write, drive cars, and marry, and ten being the children who are so severely disabled that they require fulltime institutional care; every child is different.  Be honest about where your child falls on this scale.
  • Support groups and the opinions of friends and relatives are often unhelpful and can be harmful. Listen to what medical professionals tell you, and follow the course of treatment prescribed by them.
  • Educate yourself about Down syndrome. Sometimes, medical professionals and social workers can suggest or demand things that are not in the best interest of your child. Bethany was born in the 1980s in rural Perry County — one of the poorest areas in Ohio. At the time, children with developmental disabilities were warehoused at a “special” school. Polly and I took one look at what was going on at the school and said, “our child will NEVER go to this school!” I told the social worker, “all I see is retarded children learning to be more retarded.” Harsh? Sure, but that’s what I saw at the time. (I never considered that they might have been doing the best they could with limited financial resources.) Every child with Down syndrome was running around slobbering with their tongues hanging out. Whatever our motivations might have been at the time, we wanted a better life for our daughter.
  • Push your child. If you have older children, get them involved in helping your child grow physically and mentally. Having three older and two younger siblings really helped our daughter. We will forever be grateful for their help and support.
  • Don’t baby your child. There’s a tendency to coddle a child with Down syndrome. You don’t want to see her hurt, so you become an overly protective parent. Doing so actually impedes the child’s developmental advancement. When Bethany was born, doctors missed the fact that she had Down syndrome. Her features are quite mild. Bethany was two years old before we learned through genetic testing at Ohio State University that she had Down syndrome. Bethany benefitted from this lapse in diagnosis. Her parents and siblings treated her as they would any other child. It wasn’t until she was sixteen months old that we began to wonder if something was “wrong” with her.
gerencser-children
Our three youngest children, late 1980s. As you can see our youngest daughter is as tall as Bethany. Many people thought they were twins. It didn’t help matters that they both had red hair, and we often clothed them with matching dresses.

The woman asked us if Bethany had any health problems. We told her yes, and then recited the list of health problems she has had over the years. I reminded the woman that health ailments vary from child to child. Bethany has few health problems when compared to other people with Down syndrome: heart murmur, hyperthyroidism, an obsession with Rascal Flatts and vampires. Bethany has had surgery several times, including the removal of cataracts from both eyes. We went on to tell the woman all the things Bethany learned to do. Yes, later than when children typically learn things such as riding a bike, BUT she did successfully learn to do many of skills children typically conquer. It was an exciting day at the Gerencser home when Bethany — at age ten — finally learned to ride her bike without training wheels.

We could see the young woman’s demeanor lighten as she talked with us. We were glad that we could be of some help to her. Before we walked away, the woman shared a story about running into a “friend” at Walmart. The friend looked at her daughter and said, “you know, you can get an abortion for that now.” I thought, “OMG, I would have eviscerated her “friend” for daring to utter such stupidity.” Yes, many women have abortions once they find out that their child has the chromosome 21 abnormality. I would never fault them for having an abortion. I know that no test can show a woman to what degree her fetus will be affected by Down syndrome. Many women don’t want to take the risk of having a child who is severely disabled. That said, this woman’s child is already born. A real friend would support her and ask if there was anything she could do to help.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Are you on Social Media? Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Fifteen Things I Learned as a Young Married Man

bruce polly gerencser wedding 1978
Bruce and Polly Gerencser, July 1978, with Bruce’s mom and dad

What follows are fifteen things I learned as a young married man. Polly and I married in July, 1978. We recently celebrated our forty-first wedding anniversary. What were some of the lessons you learned as a young married person? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

  1. Love doesn’t pay the bills.
  2. If you put gas in your car, it won’t run out.
  3. The balder the tire, the more you will need to use your car jack.
  4. A spare tire is of no use if it’s flat.
  5. You will have to teach your wife to drive a stick shift, check the oil, start the car with a screwdriver, and change a flat tire.
  6. Children change everything.
  7. If you pay the light bill, you will always have electricity.
  8. Living across the street from your in-laws is not a good idea.
  9. It is not a good idea to quit your job before you have found a new one.
  10. Having sex in a car is not as much fun as the movies say it is.
  11. Driving too fast is a sure way to get speeding tickets — lots of them.
  12. If you write a check with no money in the bank, it’s going to cost you.
  13. Guinea pigs, hamsters, and gerbils die.
  14. It’s a miracle any couple stays married.
  15. Giving substantial sums of money to the church is not a good idea when you can’t pay your bills. Contrary to what preachers say, Jesus will not provide.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Are you on Social Media? Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.