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In Defense of Disclosure

I think the main reason I write is because of the refreshing clarity that comes with being so much more honest than most people are willing to be. I hate to say this again but, especially in New Jersey. I am not against New Jersey. I actually love it here. But, did you ever love someone who didn’t know how to love you back?

What am I trying to tell you today? What is making me break from my normal routine to put fingers to keys and express my distress? It is mainly this; I have a disability.

That is very hard for me to say. Don’t get me wrong, I want you to know me. But I don’t want to be looked down on, or treated differently, due to something I can’t even help. If I say I’m having trouble catching onto something, I don’t want a certain teacher to say, “oh, that’s the slow one with A.D.D. Well I can’t make changes just for her.” When the reality is, due to my strong gifts of analysis and keen perception, I can see what the teacher cannot; everyone in the class is struggling.

I work with people with disabilities. I get them jobs. And figuring out how to approach this topic can be tricky. If they choose to disclose that they have a disability, they may get a break that they wouldn’t have gotten otherwise, because the employer will get a tax incentive. But many choose to not disclose that they even have a job coach because of the obvious discrimination that is out there. I’ve seen some of my client’s pitied also, and that’s not what they want either. They want to be treated normal just like everyone else.

The reality is, each one of us does have one or more disabilities, deficits, or shortcomings. We just go around acting like we don’t, and expect others to do the same. I don’t want to do this anymore, even though many won’t like me anymore. I want to be forgiven for who I am, rather than liked for who I’m not. I’ve never been pretentious. I can’t stand pretending, and I hate the sense that I’m supposed to.

The reason most of my good friends are people with mental disabilities is that I feel like I can be honest about the reality that I’m not perfect around them. I love them for that. I want to move in, hang out, do my laundry at their house, stay up to stupid hours of the night, eat the wrong food, say the wrong things.

I have difficulty with anxiety sometimes. I have to find a way to deal with this, or I am inclined to drink, spend the evening watching illicit movies, or both. I found that the one thing that was stressing me out the most was pressure being put on me by my boss. Once in a while she has gotten angry at me through email due to some stupid thing that I forgot to do. It seems I have hundreds of things I’m trying to remember all the time, and so it is not unusual to forget something, or mess something up. When I take a look around, others in my line of work make the same mistakes or worse. But feeling burdened beyond what I could handle, I wrote her an email. I told her that since I always did so well at my job, I never wanted to disclose this, but the truth is I struggle with some of my own mental health issues, just like our clients. I let her know how bad I felt when I let her down, and that I would continue to try and do my best.

She responded that I was doing a very good job, and I don’t make a lot of mistakes, but she is just frustrated that she sometimes has to tell me things several times. She is only telling me as it is how I will grow in my position. She said she understands that I may need extra support and I am a valued employee.

So, how do I feel about this? A little sad, tearful, humiliated or humble, or a little of both.

Can we ever conclude as a society that someone can have deficits in some areas, and at the same time be exceptionally gifted? What will it take for us to finally lay down our strict clocks, to allow an older cashier to take all the time she needs, to forgive the driver who is driving way too slow for the rest of us, with a handicapped decal hanging from his rear view mirror, to actually make friends with the lonely single man in the back of the church who seems strange to our societally tuned in sensibilities?

As for me? I see it as an act of rebellion to insist on being so imperfect. It is a fight to not let myself be looked down upon for my inherent human weaknesses. But I know my rights. And I am a big believer in self-advocacy, for myself and for others who are able to speak. For those who cannot speak, I will fight to the death for them, risking my job if need be, and I have. I’ve also failed to speak up for them, and carry that to my grave.

Being weak, cutting my hair in a defiant act against some inner insistence that I be beautiful enough to attract the right guy, having a “lower” job than my degree affords me, allowing myself to carry around a few extra pounds and not be less of a person because of it; or admit to my friends that I need a support group, and really should attend AA.

No doubt these things strengthen me in the long run. I thereby lend my resolve and strong will to a society that is painfully frightened to stand up and declare that it is also less than perfect, although deep down inside, each and everyone one of us knows for a fact, there really is no such thing.

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In Defense of Self-Love

How do I love me?

This is something I am thinking a lot about these days.

All my life I have been in churches that teach very strongly “self love” is wrong. This is something I want to challenge. But I feel condemned in doing so. This is clearly not from God as the Bible says there is no condemnation for them who are in Christ Jesus (see Romans Chapter 8).

Different events which have occurred while I’ve been in New Jersey seem to have been designed to cause me to question my faith, or worse yet, my self. For if I can not trust myself, how can I trust what this “self” believes in? And this concisely is the reason we need to learn to believe in ourselves! I will either believe in me, and therefore my faith, or I will believe in you, and your faith. If we agree in our faith, there is no problem between us, there is a mutuality in spirit, and there is communion. But when leaders preach, and live out that which goes against the Bible, there is clearly a problem. Doubting myself is not the answer!

If I don’t believe in myself, my impression of truth, my ability to sense God’s leading in me, and my decision to be saved; how can I be a Christian, except by someone else’s faith in something which they expect me to believe? This is not faith in God, this is faith in someone else’s faith. If I believe in myself and my faith, and what you believe is against the Bible, there is a natural battle between us.

And so, again, this is the reason loving oneself (trusting oneself, knowing who one is and is meant to be in God) is so crucially important.

How dare anyone tell me I cannot love myself, whom God loves? Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect?” (the Bible says) It is God who justifies (Roman’s 8)!

How can so many church leaders insist that I not listen to what is inside me, which confers with the Bible, and infers that I am valuable? As the Bible says, “I am the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus.” Doubting this is my entire problem! But self doubt is precisely what is expected of me in such churches.

You may have heard me say this before: “If I love God, I love what God loves. God loves me, so I love me.”

This takes me back to my original question, “How do I love me?” Let me attempt to answer (and keep in mind “God is love” (I John 4:8).

  • By doing things sometimes that I don’t want to do, because I know it is what is best for me.
  • Not by following the flesh, that is not “self-love.” Following my flesh will work against me. That’s not what true self love is about!
  • Getting drunk is not loving me, eating the wrong foods, smoking cigarettes or mind altering substances.
  • Being mean to others is not loving me, as I am surely bringing God’s judgment upon myself, or at least His blessed correction. But forgiving myself for such things, is.
  • Allowing myself to rest, taking care of me, not skipping important events which I know I need (unless skipping them represents something which I need more), being diligent at work in order to achieve better outcomes.
  • Acknowledging my feelings matter, and doing things which will ultimately make me feel good. Letting myself care about my own feelings, even in the shadow of a church system which insists on abusing and denying the feelings of my self and others.
  • Taking the time to clean my residence, exercise my body, or otherwise make something of my life.

With these examples I am just scratching the surface, especially on the issue of feelings. It is widely taught and accepted that our feelings don’t matter. But it could be argued that each one of us is ultimately only in pursuit of a good feeling state. Who in reality is not motivated by feelings? If you really think about it, what else is there really?

Deny a person’s right to feel, and you will open a whole slew of problems. Undoubtedly he or she will seek to get the need to feel good, or at least okay, met by some means in which he or she is in actuality hurting him or herself. Hurting oneself is the problem. And it is a problem we are left alone with in the shadow of a church claiming to love God, who in actuality does not love Him, or “itself,” nearly enough.

Stopping at Half Way (The Evidence in the Ache)

I try not to talk too much about my experiences with churches. I guess I’ve been conditioned to believe that in revealing what is wrong, I am somehow hurting God’s work. However, it occurs to me that addressing obvious issues (and not so obvious ones) would probably be a much better, and much more civilized way to advance the cause of Christ. After all, wasn’t that exactly what He did so long ago when He visited us here?

There is a Bible study I attend once a month. The people are very nice. Most of these New Jersey church operations are very nice at first. But when one needs a friend, a confidante, a mentor, a true leader, one is left empty-handed, and nonetheless goes home alone, with no true connection to the ministers. It is obvious the people who serve here care about serving God. But we, the ones being served, are intentionally kept at a distance. It is my nature to become committed and involved, and thereby to feel I am a part of such things. But this involvement has clearly been denied to those of us who are not a natural part of the family. I have not yet found out why.

I see a great error here, which I have seen before. Frequently in the body of Christ, a church organization is content to serve God, but seems to stop short of true self-sacrificial love. It reminds me of the Christmas present my sister and I received one year from someone who didn’t know us enough to even get us separate gifts. The duplicate gift, a cheap outdated hat which no teenager would actually wear, was to our keen and perceptive young minds an insult. It was not given to us out of love, or by someone who cared to find out what we would like, but by someone who wanted to appear to give us a gift, and thereby appease a connection with our mom. In short, this gift was an insult, and it hurt to have someone feign a connection for some other purpose, at our expense.

I recall a church fair where they had burgers for everyone, but no condiments, and not so much as a slice of cheese for the burgers. The receiver, while attempting tlonelyo be appropriately gracious, cannot help but to miss what more could have been.

Churches which “pretend” to serve, by only going half way, but not ever giving all, only cheat themselves out of the joy of full Christian service.

The Apostle Paul addresses an appropriate approach to ministry in I Corinthians Chapter 13:

“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profits me nothing” (I Cor. 13: 1-3).

In the Bible study which I am addressing, we receive a great message. We are given great food. They may even pray for us before we get there, and they always say “Hi.” But have they considered how they may get to know us individually, discover the call of God upon our lives, pray specifically based on the desires of our hearts, try to find a ministry in their camp which will help develop our gifts?lonely 2

Perhaps they have tried in the past and gotten burned, maybe we have proven to be problematic, maybe they have found our group of single people over 40 to be strange and non compliant. Maybe we don’t look or smell good enough. Maybe we are too odd.

I don’t wish to be guilty of not understanding where they are coming from. But I do believe a greater blessing could be had by giving more instead of less, by being bold rather than cautious, by not being content to give a little and consider it to be enough, carefully measuring out how much will be sacrificed. Perhaps a greater sacrifice is intended where we do ministry with all our hearts, thereby laying down our lives. For Jesus Himself, as we all know, laid down His very life. Jesus also said, “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).

Can a ministry really claim to be a ministry without having the approach of really giving up something? Will we stop at half way and think that God can be fooled into blessing us anyway?

I am in no place to judge, and of course have no idea what the leaders of any ministry are truly up against. But it is hard to not see what more could be done to embrace and nurture the recipients of such assumed church ministries.

The evidence is in the ache, the unfulfilled needs, and the nonchalance extant in those with the power to at least in part fulfill them.lonely 3

Not Unlike the Reich

An ominous pain still lingers.

I talked to 2 of my friends yesterday who also were effected by the same sketchy church system I had fallen prey to. I know this church well. I know it too well, but I didn’t know how it was effecting me while I was in the middle of it. This same effect I heard coming from my friends. They did not participate, or seek to participate in ministry opportunities any more, but had resigned themselves to being no more than “pew warmers.”

“Shame on them,” I said to my one friend, “for making you feel so bad about participating, and trying your best to serve God.” As it turns out, she had been “disciplined” by the church on many occasions, for things she had done wrong by them, and asked to step down from a leadership position. Based on what she told me, all matters could have been handled in a more humane and less discouraging manner.

I am the type to not stand for these types of things for very long. My friend whom I had the 2nd conversation with yesterday was of the same mindset, and we talked about the freedom we had now to be able to make our own adult choices, as we sought God for how to live the life we had given to Him, now that we had, thankfully, departed from this highly flawed and controlling church system.

But what about my other friend and the many like her? I could see clearly she was in the place where I had been. She was down-trodden, and did not understand her worth or her value to God. She had been saved at this church, and so felt loyal to it, but she was viewed by them as a disobedient child, who could not get it right. She didn’t see her leadership gifts and gift of hospitality as valuable to the church. Although, she was doing a great job entertaining Christian friends in her home on every possible occasion.

Like me, when I had attended this church, the ministry she sought to do had to be done on the down-low. If it were integrated with the church, the church system would seek to have too much control, and the Holy Spirit would not be allowed to move. The church leaders trusted the system, but not the members.

This was the problem I had with this cult-like church. I felt like a fugitive for being involved in my own ministries as I felt God was leading me. Being called to sing, I couldn’t wait while this church waited 6 months or more to even return an email, the end result being that I was not allowed to audition for their worship team, as they deemed me unfit. I was even told that I could not participate in the church at all, as they were unaware I was currently leading music in the nursing home ministry for them once a month. Apparently, they did not try to disallow this, since I had not in actuality done anything wrong.

The next church I attended, under the same name, began to show the same patterns of control, inappropriate judgment of the members, and simply lack of love (which is clearly taught in the Bible as the correct approach under God, and as followers of Jesus). I could cite many Scriptures about love from the Bible. Suffice it to say, the greatest commandment, according to Jesus, is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 32:26-40)

So what does it mean when a church reads scripture from the pulpit, and professes to follow it and be exemplary Christians, but does none of what the Bible says, in actuality? Can one believe her own perception, and move on? Or does one assume that somehow these people are more knowledgeable and stay put to her own detriment?

In my second conversation with a friend yesterday, it came to light that one could not exist adequately within the confines of this church system, and also be a faithful follower of God. To follow God in spirit and in truth, meant nothing more or less than to be a rebel in the eyes of such self aggrandizing leaders.

This I have felt to be strangely akin to trying to live for Christ during the reign of the Nazi regime in Germany, where they seemed to be so convinced that following Hitler as the great Father was the right thing. I always wondered how it could be that so many followed something so obviously false.

For the first time in my life, I have my answer. In order to be on the “right” side in such a society, one must accept an extremely negative judgment upon oneself, by this same society. But to attempt to exist in such a church is to accept a position of being stagnant and living below the joyful life which Jesus came for us to have (John 15:11).

I am still connected with this church in some ways, as I have friends who either attend now, or have attended services. I have a wonderful home group associated with this church, and I carefully am telling them what I know, and what I have discovered on the internet, but quietly as not to be disruptive to their fragile allegiance to a system where they do not know, or acknowledge all the facts. Slowly and carefully I am getting the truth out, like an underground worker during the 3rd Reich. I feel this is some kind of preparation for me, for the strange days we are living in, and the stranger days we are no doubt about to enter into.

Young and Stupid, Chicago Tormentors, a Reflection of Us All

First of all, it’s NOT okay. I don’t want anyone to make the mistake of thinking I’m saying that it is. All I’m saying is, I understand all sides. Every mother and father with a child, every warm-hearted caring person in America and beyond, felt for the sweet young man who sat helplessly tied up in a corner, unsure of his fate, threatened, tortured, humiliated, and ridiculed. To look at the various comments all over blogs and Facebook posts, it’s fair to say people were, and are, furious!

I don’t want to say these kids didn’t know what they were doing. That somehow seems to presume innocence. But maybe it’s fair to say they didn’t understand the gravity of what they were doing.

This boy, to them, was not one of them. No, it’s not right, it’s inflammatory, discriminatory, and a few other things. But it is, unfortunately, common. This was in some ways just another day. This young man was the brunt of their jokes in school. He was a reflection of a political candidate he, along with many others, supported. He was of a different race. And, he was developmentally disabled, and therefore weak enough to take the punishment for his other “crimes.”

Although I absolutely can’t relate to the brutality inflicted on this young man, I know the rest of the scenario well, because I was a high school kid once. I was both the child making fun of the other child everyone else made fun of, and I also had my turn as the one being bullied.

During our childhood days, my brother and sister and I had a mutubullyingal understanding of who did not fit in. It brought us together to make fun of that person, and it was fun. Even later in life, my sister and I would hang out together and have the same kind of fun. One day in our early 20s, we were swimming at her boyfriend’s apartment and a heavy set lady was trying to do laps in the pool. When she requested that we get out of her way, we together had a great time laughing and making fun of “Shamu,” as we came up with creative ways to try to avoid her, and made crude jokes at her expense.

She didn’t seem to mind, or even pay attention to us. And my sister and I had a fun time, and enjoyed our sisterly bond, as we took turns making the other one laugh.

Only a couple years ago, while I was in the Nursing Home visiting a friend’s father, I was surprised at the response of one of the patients with Alzheimers. I laughed quietly and pointed her out to my friend. It was then that the lady’s husband, who was there every day to take care of her after her disease took hold, looked at me with a serious mournful glare, and I was filled with remorse and guilt. Suddenly somber, I was struck with the realization that this was not a “funny, strange, old lady” but a loved and cared for person whom I had just insulted, along with her adoring husband.

The kids in Chicago are not innocent. But I understand their mentality. I have, I’m very sorry to say, participated in such inclinations many times along with my peers. I never physically harmed anyone. I can’t say I would have tied up and tormented one of my “victims.” But the reality is, to these kids this boy was not the same as them, and therefore, there was no empathy.

Bullying behavior is common because discrimination is common. It has been going on since the beginning of time. It is true that one should not be excused for such acts toward a mentally challenged adult. But what needs to change is a deeply ingrained mindset which is a prevalent part of humanity. The Chicago kids were demonstrating something so common, wars and political movements have begun throughout time, as a result.

The problem is buried down deep in our souls, but it is not only a problem of wanting to be cruel, it is one of wanting to belong, to have fun with friends, to take part in what is happening socially, to hang out and have a good time, and also to be hedonistic and uncaring, and carefree.

The fact that an actual person was hurt by the actions of these kids, I believe, will come as a surprise to them. In their minds he was simply an accessory to their fun. Their ignorance caused them to not see him as a real person. When this truth is realized is when rehabilitation will be a reality for them. When, and if, they realize he is as a loved, cared for cherished human being, they will feel sorry, and repent.

We as a society need to change as well. It is commonly understood today that our schools and workplaces need to be more inclusive. For this to happen, kids (and adults) need to understand that it is okay to stand alone and take a stance which is, at the time, not popular. It is okay to be different and to disagree.

Diversity means not feeling one has to be the same as a particular group in order to be accepted by them, or to not be afraid to be unaccepted.

When we as a society learn to use our God-given minds to see others with empathy and understanding; when we are able to forsake our urges for fun and belonging to choose a more contemplative route; when we are willing to stand our ground and set our own course, even when it means going against the crowd, we as members of a new and better day, will have grown.

Dear Church, I Am Breaking Up with You!

Dear Church,

I am breaking up with you.

Spending the last few months with you has been like being in a bad relationship. You seem like you want me around, but are not interested in taking care of me, or getting to know me. You never call. You don’t invite me to anything important you are doing. You don’t give me what I need, but merely count me in the number of people filling the seats in your congregation. Your smile and warm demeanor toward me are empty, not involving the depth which it takes to really know someone, and truly be involved in their life.

You will call me selfish, but, in all due respect, I have found you to be completely self-centered. You got my attention during an initiative where you provided sandwiches and drinks to newcomers, in an effort to draw in more people. But from the very start, I found it hard to talk to and connect with your people, as most seemed disinterested. I kept reaching out as the pastor seemed so friendly, and well-informed regarding the Bible. Some of your leaders even learned my name and said “Hi” when they saw me, but they never really got to know me, and I went home alone and empty Sunday after Sunday.

wallpaper-for-breakupAs I sought to become involved in your programs, I was always kept at a distance. Since no one knew me yet, I was treated with mistrust. The fact that I wanted to use my gifts, was regarded as my trying to “get ahead” in the church. I was required to try and prove myself, but failed. I resigned myself to being a nonparticipant and outsider. This also left me feeling empty, and utterly disconnected in your church.

The ladies who were leaders in the church did not take time to get to know me, or become my friend. When I tried to talk to them, they gave me advice that wasn’t pertinent to me. They did not see that I was just trying to get to know them and find a connection by sharing myself. I suggested an online group so that myself and other ladies could become better acquainted. But it seemed inappropriate that an outsider like myself would make such a suggestion, and my request was not taken seriously, and ignored.

every-break-up-is-opportunityI have really tried to make it work with you. But you have merely expected me to conform, without trying at all to conform to who I am. You are not a part of my life. After I am gone, you won’t call, or reach out to me in any way. Someone else will fill my seat and remain for a few months until they figure out what I have, feel empty, give up trying, and move on.

The Bible says to not forsake the assembling of yourself together with other believers (Hebrews 10:25), so I will continue to meet with Christian friends. But the Bible does not say I have to take part in an empty, unfulfilling church experience to help fulfill someone else’s needs, as they seek to build a church which feels good to them.

Breaking off from my relationship with you, I am now free to pursue my God in my way. I am free to make the Bible my own, and “work out my own salvation” (Philippians 2:12). I am more than just a tool for your purposes. I have my identity in a God who loves me more than I have ever known so far. Breaking free from you, I am filled with hope and anticipation. I will soon see there is more to life than the hurt and emptiness I have endured in your church.

No doubt there are some who can join you. There are many who can fit into your mold. This could be why your church is thriving. But not all of us are cut from the same cloth. Until a more innovative church develops, people like me will remain on the outside. But I will be fine here, charting my own course with the help of the Holy Spirit. This church experience has been a distraction which I don’t need. I am now free to focus on the things of God, and I am free.

I know that you feel I should be in church and need your direction in order to follow God. 4c7014c74f4effcad372faf00a78b5e9But since you have not provided enough direction, I have no choice but to be the chief executor which God made me to be over my own life. What’s more, the Bible tells me that God’s anointing abides on me and I need not that any man teach me (I John 2:27). It also tells me I have “an unction from the Holy One and know all things” (I John 2:20). You may judge me, and my decision to go on without you, but the Apostle Paul has stated, “It is a very small thing that I should be judged of you” (I Corinthians 4:3).

To be a full and satisfied person, someone who has joy and meaning in life, I must find it in myself, not in you. For I have a higher purpose in God, which I must now leave you to pursue. I am so much more valuable to God, and to God’s kingdom than you realize. Henceforth I will be alone, until I find a church that can help me lead my life, not give up everything I am called to be to become a part of its life.

So this is “good-bye.” You won’t miss me, as you never knew me. I will be free to focus on myself, as I should. Whether you approve or not is henceforth of little consequence. I am imminently accepted by the God who made me, and infinitely more valuable to Him than you will ever know.

Signed,

A former attender of your services

Churches Who Won’t Commit

by MK Bashlor

“Secularism and Religion are both all about your personal performance. The Gospel is the performance of another applied to you” Timothy Keller

I have spent a lot of time trying to figure out what exactly is going wrong with churches today, why people feel lost, and why there is so much turn-over. A big part of the problem, as I see it, is this strong notion that nothing is wrong. The implication of rebellion in even suggesting such a thing, causes a thinker such as myself to create even more distance. I don’t really want to be an outcast. I never wanted to be an outsider at all. However, when considering what is best for their church, especially in a particular very large church, which is attempting to grow larger, it was decided that I don’t fit into their program, and therefore could not serve there. To save myself, my self worth, my value, my motivation to go on every day, namely in the service of God, who did in fact put me here (I was His idea!), I finally leave. Yes, the same God they purport to be serving, this God is unarguably in favor of me. They are at odds with this.

But where is the focus here? What is the true purpose of such a church? Should not a person decide whether a church is right for her, rather than the other way around? Why such a focus on the church itself, as though an “idolic institution?” When did the church stop serving people? Such churches do not look inward at themselves to incite positive change, and merely ignore the mass of people coming in and out the doors, never to return, nor those of us who inhabit the building faithfully Sunday after Sunday for years, eventually leaving never to be heard from again. This kind of church embraces those who embody the fantasy that despite the things they will not look at, everything is going very well. And to the ones gifted by God to come in and turn over the rocks so that the leaders may get a first glimpse at all the bugs crawling underneath, it is assumed that such outcasts as do not belong at their church, simply put the diabolic forms there themselves.

There is a frenzy on the outskirts of such institutions, a confused muddle of truth tellers looking for support for what they have endured, and those trying to aspire unto a higher perspective of forgiveness, turning the situation over to God, and thereby refusing to gossip. With no constructive outlet ( ie. a method of confronting the church leaders), the talk continues outside the walls of the church, but inside it is the fantasy of perfection and righteousness which is upheld, by staying in denial, thereby keeping the truth on the outside, where it cannot touch and dispel the lie which the community lives by, and seems to thrive under.

One particular phenomenon I have observed in such churches as described above is a move away from the traditional idea of “church membershifantasy-churchp.” It is implied that such a church would rather regard everyone as a member. The problem with this is that instead it seems that no one becomes a member and a system of insiders conspires. The hired hands, and assigned offices become the only true members of the church, who set the rules, and basically run everything. Those who have no hired position, or place as usher or elder for example, are stuck on the outside. When these few positions are reserved for men, there is the additional issue of having a church that is run solely by men, and thereby missing the intuition, creativity and sensitivity, among other gifts that women have to offer.

On the issue of not asking for a commitment from members, not only is the church attendee set in a place of not being included (unless he or she manages to earn it), the church in turn is afforded the luxury of not having to feel committed (or responsible for) those who otherwise would have been members. Again, it is the politics of such a church which then determines who the true members are. Those who wish to be included play political games to try to get to the higher places of the church, and the true meaning of serving and loving people is all but completely lost. Scriptures are utilized in ministry as the Bible is set up on a pedestal, but there is a dire loss of application of such scriptures as center on humility, love, and servitude, at the same time as declaring such attributes as though they are automatically to be ascribed to the church leaders. Anyone who would dare question is out of place for rebelling against such authorities, and no one seems to notice the extreme pride in this, nor its contradiction to the implications of the Bible.

The failure of such a church to instill a method of church membership, alleviates leaders from their responsibility to members in a manner which is indicative of a man not wishing to commit in a dating relationship. Therefore the relationship of such a church to its members is reflective of a dysfunctional relationship where a couple perhaps moves in together, but not having made a commitment to bind them together, eventually faces the inevitable. One partner eventually grows wings and moves on from something which they must finally confess is not good for them.

This I propose stems largely from the lack of commitment, not on behalf of the church patron who comes to a seemingly wonderful church longing to serve God, desiring to please Him, and offering herself as a participant in the methods the church has established, but from the ostensibly larger member in this relationship. The church patron must accept a stance of accepting she is actually the bigger one, who knows more, and to preserve her integrity, must move on.

Exceptionally onerous is the fact that such an establishment purports to reflect the living God, but while refusing to commit to its members, alienates the ones who are different, refuses to face its issues, and seems to insist on a system where people are there to serve the church, rather than the church being in service to its people. Such a church does not even miss the “would be” members, as the leadership was so careful not to ever truly establish a relationship with them in the first place. As in a bad marriage, the one longing to commit must move on, count her losses, and carry the pains of the divorce alone, while the church remains on a spinning wheel of its own devices which, not unlike an intense addiction to a substance, really seems to be working for them.

Election Night 2016

I had decided the day before the election to go ahead and get on the “Trump Train,” though I believed this train could crash; I didn’t know where it may go; and I knew that it would travel fast. I wanted the risk, the excitement of something brand new, and the promise of a brand new day. Above all, I desired the security of knowing what was going on in Europe would not be permitted to happen here.

I figured out where I was required to vote from a website set up for this purpose. To vote in the last place I was registered required my driving an hour out of my way since I was working in Princeton that day. But the drive was more than entertaining, as I toggled between several different stations where excited talk radio hosts routinely discussed every detail of a most unconventional election. I wondered to myself what Trump’s next move would be if he did not win. Suggestions were offered by analysts on the same track.

No one seemed to have a clue what to expect. It was such an exciting time, culminating in a quiet evening at home with my cat, watching election results unfold via free web streaming on CNN.com. I always had a strong inclination this questionable Republican candidate would be the winner, though I wasn’t sure why. When the first results came in, showing he had won the first 2 states, I knew we were in for an interesting night. That interesting night is now history.

In the comfort of my New Jersey apartment, I created what I called a “republican party,” using the conversation mode on my handset, with a few other Michiganders I knew were alone for the evening, and were watching the election coverage as I was.

I found it quite amusing that Wayne county Michigan kept coming back into focus as a location with a great deal of votes to offer. Prior to this, I had seen my home town merely as the boon-dock place where I grew up. My brother made jokes via our makeshift texting group that the entire vote was hinging on the response of Melvindale.

Significant also in Wayne county in the last few years has been the town of Dearborn, a place where I have lived previously, and gone to school. It is a national center of interest now due to holding the largest concentration of Muslims in America. But for me it also conjures fond memories of rollerblading down Michigan Avenue and Oak Street, and holding the distinction of being the only person (I’m pretty sure) to ever roller-blade through the Dearborn Inn (at the dare of a friend who quietly waited outside). I was much crazier then. Later that evening we climbed up the wall surrounding the historic Greenfield Village and sat undetected on its pre-9/11 under-secured surveillance.

The excitement on election night in America, as it became obvious that our guy was going to win, was tangible. I shifted between several news stations, and could not sleep, resolving to stay up and see his acceptanceTrump prt sc.png speech, whereby he promised all our talents would be put to use. I wondered what “The Donald” would consider my talents to be. Between media announcements of states that he had won, I traveled over to Ebay to purchase Trump T-Shirts as Christmas gifts for my family and myself, scanning the merchandise as quickly as possible, as I was sure the prices would go up after tonight.

Suddenly it all seemed right. This unlikely candidate having rose to the highest level of leadership was like a divine appointment. There is a Scripture which says it is God who puts leaders in power (Rom. 13:1). As is often communicated through Biblical scholars, God has a tendency to use unlikely candidates in this world to do His work.

All that we have seen, which I assume will be made into a movie or very interesting documentary one day, was more than just coincidence. Our omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent God was behind it all. And no matter where this train may be headed, I for one am resting today with a sense that a midst a maelstrom of media chatter, Trump, even with his obvious flaws, belongs to God; the future is in His hands; and we who were alive to actively engage in this entire phenomenon, were born for such a time as this.

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19 Days Out

It is now only 19 days until the votes are cast. The whole country is unified and divided at the same time. We are all fixated on the upcoming election, and every voice seems like it matters. I listen carefully to the opinions of strangers as I drive around Central New Jersey to meet clients at various fast food restaurants and shopping centers, in my career as a Job Coach.

In the local ShopRite coffee area where there is a large screen TV which plays CNN 24/7, I engage in a humfocus-group-cnnane conversation with an outspoken black guy, and a self-identified Hispanic man, both of whom are in their early 20s. Along with myself, a single, college educated woman who is an independent voter, we make an exemplary focus group. Our conversation is as interesting as anything going on in the news room on the flat screen TV above us. We politely share different views as others in the room listen intently to our conversation, seeming to hold their own views as well.

I have always been very open-minded. I listen carefully to other people’s opinions, and consider carefully new pieces of information which may or may not be capable of being verified. All seems possible. And even the unlikely in this particular election turns out to be surprisingly true. Now, with the advent of accessible videos, I can see with my own eyes strange happenings like one of the candidates passing out and being dragged into a van by persons called “secret service agents” frighteningly void of emotion. The other candidate is shown in a now viral video speaking shockingly obscene language, which once had only been utilized in low rate 1980’s pornos.

I have on occasion been persuaded to vote for Trump. Most of my friends are from my home state of Michigan and are Republican loyalists. I totally get how they can like this guy. He seems warm and father-like, and you forgive his shortcomings the same way you would a member of your own family. Like a comedian, or your favorite character on Seinfeld, you feel like you gotta love him.

I want to vote for him too. But I learned while growing up, through my 20s, 30s and especially in my 40s, not to allow myself to accept the illusions men create, though I would rather believe them. To navigate relationships with charismatic men, while being as careful as possible, it is necessary to ask oneself “what is it I am not letting myself see?” I challenge my older single girlfriends to do the same.

Advocates of both parties are not seeing things that are crucial. Most of these things have been brought up at some point. But there are a few things I have noticed which have not been mentioned anywhere to my knowledge, as I have spent candidatesthe past year or so, and especially the last 3 months studying everything my friends have shared on my Facebook page from YouTube videos to various articles from all over the web, while doing my own research as well. The Trump crowd is particularly persuasive. They are adamantly against abortion, weakened borders, and concerned with who will be appointed the next Supreme Court justice.

My Trump friends use forgiveness as a blanket through which they can no longer see or hear what was on that tape. It seems best for good Christian people to not conjure up these words again anyway, but should we simply assume that such vile inclinations are not still with the man? What if they are? Is it for us to assess that the now 10 women who have come forward and accused him of groping them, are lying? If nothing else, we have seen one tape with our own eyes, so we know there is some truth to the claims. Yes, we are all guilty of sins. But should we not be careful to consider this a warning anyway?

Also extant with this candidate have been changing positions, name calling which only school yard bullies would usually use (thereby winning his place by dishonest means), and using a logical fallacy called “poisoning the well” to make everyone look bad who is against him. One more thing I have not heard anyone mention, which is obvious to me, is the fact that this man is not able to submit to anyone else’s authority. Could he ever have held any position other than president in our country? He likely could not ever be a governor or mayor, as he follows no one but his own self. I am not putting him down for this, as it is what we all like so much about him. Like our own fathers, we learn that things are his way, or no way. And this somehow feels comfortable and alluring for all who have decided to be on the “Trump Train.”

The Hillary camp is just as blind. When confronted with hard evidence of seizures, coughing fits, and video showing her passing out, as well as diagnoses made by doctors pertaining to her health, they won’t hear of it, even though it could not be made more obvious. Critics in the name of progressiveness, criticize every view but their own. I got thrown out of such a group online, simply for holding a different opinion. I don’t know how anyone can hold a discussion when everyone agrees and thinks exactly the same. I’m guessing it’s not a very interesting group. But I wouldn’t know, I was only in there until I said something that the room collectively disagreed with.

In keeping with the theme of my blog, I must now ask the question, and invite my readers to do the same, “Where is God in All of This?”

All of a sudden with this consideration comes a heavy cloud upon an otherwise fun and interactive moment in the country’s history. The mockery of the various candidates, the talk, the gossip, the endless news coverage, and thousands of different points of view from an endless range of varying professional perspectives goes on – but those of us who study the Bible know. We don’t know how or where exactly this whole thing is to be played out. But perhaps we have our Bibles open a little more these days. Maybe we are spending more time with our Christian friends. As days go by, maybe we hear more from the preachers among us, who have a stronger prayer life than most. Or maybe we soon will.

If the democratic candidate is elected, it seems, there could be an influx of foreign immigrants in the name of nationwide hospitality toward refugees in need of assistance from a benevolent land across a wide and welcoming ocean. I strongly believe such ignorant acts of permissiveness will be used against us. While the battle cry of the democrats is “tolerance,” Republican Christians are highly criticized for claiming Jesus as the one and only way to heaven. While embracing the religion that supports terrorism, the “progressives” discriminate against a strong Christians mindset. This seems to be happening more and more.

The other alternative is a crass leader as our greatest advocate. While we learn to accept and believe as he does about us as a nation, we become the biggest and baddest gang in the hood, boasting red white and blue as our colors.

This is the conclusion I have drawn; we, the wonderful people of America, are in checkmate. There is no right move and therefore we all stand to lose, no matter who the new president will be. From a Biblical perspective, we are closer to that end which the Scriptures predict. And for this reason I sit on the sidelines, and do not participate in that mandate that one should “exercise her right to vote.” In my own personal style of vehemently maintaining my rights as a human being, I retort, “I am exercising my right not to vote.”

And who can truly argue with this? A plethora of insights and artfully crafted perspectives from a myriad of different voices all across our land have brought us together in this game where either move is a losing move, and so I, like many others, sit frozen waiting for what will be the end result, no matter what choice I make at this time, claiming in all honesty; I am not for either candidate.

The time is short, so I am happy to spend it talking to friends and strangers about their different views, sharing jokes, and enjoying this rare time of heightened togetherness before the nation votes for the next president. We all have the same things in mind, we all care about the nation’s well-being in the end. And in spite of all the dissension, we are all in actuality on the same side, wanting to win peace, wanting to fix what is wrong, cheering from the sidelines together in support of life, liberty, and the pursuit of our country’s mutual well-being and happiness.

Reflection of Ourselves in a Controversial Candidate

A republic – if you can keep it – is about limitation, and for good reason, because we are mortal and our actions are imperfect”  ~Mike Pence

The first thing I saw was his apology.

Oh no, what was he apologizing for now? What crazy thing had I missed while I was busy out living my life? Up to this point, last Friday, I was finishing my work-week and looking forward not only to the 2nd presidential debate on Sunday, but the fact that the following Monday – Columbus day, was a holiday and I would be able to get some much needed rest and relaxation.

This was what popped up on my computer alongside a picture of Donald Trump, via an application that interrupts what I’m doing to bring me breaking news:

This was locker room banter, a private conversation that took place many years ago. Bill Clinton has said far worse to me on the golf course – not even close. I apologize if anyone was offended.”

I immediately did a google search to find out what this private conversation was he was referring to. It wasn’t long before I was able to see the whole tape.

I was not only in shock, but in disbelief, not that our potential new president had said these things, but that such pornographic words had crossed new boundaries so that now all could hear. I’ve heard them. I’m sure my friends have heard them. Once in a while, I have heard such words even in the presence of polite church company during a movie which I (we) probably should not have been watching.

At such times I had wished I could hide, as all present seemed to act like we didn’t just hear what we, without warning, were involuntarily exposed to. That inner place we as believers instinctively cover, the place of our deepest unknown sin which only God and ourselves know we are forgiven for, this place, exposed for one embarrassing, barely acknowledged moment, at such times, goes back into hiding immediately.

These words, which the parts of me perhaps not yet fully redeemed by God knew, were now catapulted before my biggest role models. No one on earth, except fortunate children protected by caring and cautious moms and dads, could escape them.

I went through a list in my head of everyone I knew must be following the presidential race. All my favorite pastors, they heard these words; The blessed Christian figures I looked up to in my own community, the wives of famous men, the president, his wife. These words no one dared speak in public had crossed a collectively assumed, invisible, artificial boundary of presumed righteousness, never to return again to their previous hiding place.

Among all the banter leading up to the 2nd presidential debate, which I followed like a hawk, and even instigated on my own facebook page, this one concern plagued me the most. I wanted to protect my heroes. I did not want them to hear or be exposed to the reality of the true depths of the sin in our modern day culture.

Late Friday evening, I saw Mr. Trump’s apology video and forgave him immediately. I suspected Mike Pence had advised him to apologize. Later, based on a New York times article I read, I found this to be the case.

All day Saturday I wondered how Trump was handling everything. I pictured the chaos surrounding the Trump administration. I thought about how embarrassed he must have felt around his children especially, and wondered how his wife responded. Many of my questions were answered in an article I found today in the New York Times, which was released on Saturday:

“What is God doing?” I had begun to wonder on Friday upon stumbling across this news which shook the nation. It could be one of two things, I thought. God could be giving us a warning, one final chance to denounce this man and try to get someone else in there instead. I wondered if Pence, now a hero following his well noted performance in his debate, could sit in Trump’s place. And many others suggested this as well.

Or, could God be directing us his children, to look inward at our own selves? I immediately posted on my Facebook page, “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.”

As I contemplated these things, I perceived that an artificial wall had previously stood tall in our public lives, ostensibly separating us from this sin which was a deep and very real part of us all. To know the teachings of the Bible is to know that all are guilty of sin.

“As it is written, there is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understands, there is none that seeks after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that does good, no, not one” (Romans 3:10-12).

According to the Word of God, all must repent to receive eternal life in Christ. And all of us are guilty of the same sins. In the book of James it says:

“But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors. For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law” (James 2:9-11).

I suspected that my new friend Mr. Pence would also take this stance, as he seemed so genuine in his proclamation of his own faith. I watched him carefully for the next few days. Perceiving in him the heart of a minister, and maybe even a pastor, I surmised that he would not be above it all. Those who did perceive themselves to be above such sin, and not capable of the same behaviors, had abandoned our GOP candidate. And this was likely the first response of many of us who decided to stay loyal instead, before stopping for a moment to take a look at our own selves.

But threatening to leave someone due to the vile nature which we are all born with, is to say that one does not possess the same tendencies, that one is above this disgusting reality which more than pervades our culture. To say one is not some how capable of such horrendous thoughts and actions, is to lie about who one really is, or was, before coming to Christ, and possibly to be reliant on one’s own self as savior.

To those of us who put our faith in something greater than ourselves, we were confronted this week, not only with a tape of a great leader that had fallen, but with a reflection of the true depth of our own sin.

To forgive this man means to begin to accept and understand God’s love, and His ability to truly forgive the most heinous of sins.

The reality is, when we humbly look at the deprivation of this society we have been placed in and learn to apply God’s grace and forgiveness, we are thereby conjuring more forgiveness and grace onto our very own selves. We thereby allow the truth of God’s mercy to flow into those desperate places within us where we need Him most.