Saturday, April 29, 2006

The complexity of life

I'm sitting at home on a Saturday afternoon, around 4:30. The Cleveland Browns drafted someone I've never heard of. I'm watching my son put dominoes in his mouth as if he is washing them, two at a time and then he swaps them out for some more. The rest of the family is napping.

My son visited the pediatric neurologist Thursday, Dr. Max Wiznitzer. Top of the heap in his field. We discussed the rituals my son goes through- he has to arrange his food a certain way, he has to touch the cracks in the pavement a certain way, he has to collect things and hold them all day- and the good Doc prescribed a small daily dosage of Prozac to counter his obsessive-compulsive tendencies. I'm not real cool with that, but there isn't any rainbow on the horizon so we're running with it. He also wants to have his blood tested for Fragile X Syndrome. This is a mutation of the X chromosome which is passed on from the mother, and leads to mental retardation and some forms of autism. If the first child is born with it then the second child has a 20-25% chance of getting it as well, and the third has a 50% chance. So if my son tests positive for this (and we won't know for a month, so don't ask), then the baby factory is closed, because we aren't going to keep raising babies for the state to financially support.

I am engaged in a process to find a new career, with the help of the Bureau for Vocational Rehabilitation. This process isn't going to lead to a new job in a week or two, more like a month or two, because first I have to talk to people in different fields and choose a career path, then find out what training will be necessary and get it, and then start the resume sending and Internet searching process all over. Eventually it will lead to something, but the challenge is in the getting there.

I now understand why people cheat the welfare system. They shouldn't do it, mind you, but I understand why they do it. We were getting $500 in food stamps for my family of four, which was plenty for the month. Then my daughter's SSI was approved, and Human Services cut our food stamps by $100. So now we don't have enough for a month. We end up short at the end of the month, meaning we have to spend some actual money on food; not a big deal, except that this month we had about $35 in the bank with a week to go. And I need at least $25 of that for gas for the week.

(And before someone asks me why I'm paying for the Internet in my home, I'll cut you off at the pass. I do job searching on the Internet. I get leads to jobs e-mailed to me from different sites, and it's sure a lot more convenient to do it from home than to run out to the library constantly where there's no guarantee that I'll even be able to get on. It's a business expense.)

So with all of that happening, I haven't blogged. I haven't wanted to. I don't care. I don't care about Barry Bonds and steroids, I don't care about the latest technological gadgets that have been acquired by the intercessory missionaries, I don't care to hear about what is cool. I don't care to hear the emergent church's whinings about how the established church doesn't get it; I don't care to hear the established church tell the emergents to grow up. Just shut the hell up already.

A five year old child died in Elyria this week from injuries sustained while he was playing superhero. He wore a cape, he jumped off the dresser to the bed, and his cape got caught in a hanging lamp. After reading that story I just can't get worked up about the blogging world. IHOP missionaries- quit kvetching about how you can't bring a latte into the prayer room and just pray already. Catholic apologists- there are times to talk about the faith and times to live the faith and shut the mouth. Learn the difference. Baseball fans- he who is without sin cast the first syringe.

I have to go. Anyone know some good hot dog recipes? Because I'll be eating a lot of them in the next few days.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

What Is Truth?

John Lennon
Ever since I started getting on the Internet regularly in 1999 I've enjoyed forums and message boards. One discussion group I was a part of for a long time, probably two and a half years, revolved around what is known as "Jesus Music", Christian music released between 1967 and 1979 which grew out of the Jesus Movement. I've traded recordings, I've purchased stuff, and in the process I've managed to build up a pretty sizeable collection on my computer.

The discussion centers around Jesus Music but isn't limited to it; for a couple of weeks near the end of 2005 we talked about John Lennon. The 25th anniversary of his death came and passed and people talked about what his music meant to them. Then someone claimed that John Lennon had become a born-again Christian a few years before he died. Proof? I asked. Sure, there's proof, he said, and provided a link to this story. Wow. The quoted lyrics of the unreleased song sure sounded Christian enough. That would be pretty cool if he had become a Christian.

But I couldn't bring myself to embrace the story. Not just yet. It has been my experience that a lot of Christians feel the need to interject themselves in every story about a dead celebrity or a national tragedy. When Johnny Carson died I saw the "Carson got saved" rumors pop up immediately. When James Cameron's movie Titanic was released, I heard a sermon illustration about the "real hero" of the Titanic, who supposedly ran around the ship preaching to people and even stood on some wreckage in his final moments to proclaim the Gospel. When a person dies there is really no way to prove or disprove some of these tales; it must help people to hold on to the belief that someone who they knew only through the media, never face to face, surely wouldn't be weeping and gnashing their teeth in a hell reserved only for really bad people like Adolf Hitler, the Starland Vocal Band and the guy who first decided that beets should be eaten.

If these lyrics were from a John Lennon bootleg, then I should be able to find some mention of them on a legitimate Lennon bootleg site. So I went on a quest. I Googled "john lennon born again". I Googled "john lennon TV preachers". When I Googled "john lennon you saved my soul" I hit paydirt. John Lennon most certainly did write a song called "You Saved My Soul." He did indeed write it in the mid-seventies after a long period of bad times. He wrote it... for Yoko Ono. Not for Jesus Christ. The lyrics that the Lennon sites had printed were nowhere near the lyrics presented in the article my Jesus Music buddy posted a link to.

When I presented my findings, you would have thought that I had killed John Lennon myself. I was subject to statements like "I don't know if this is true but I won't judge a brother". Arguing that I wasn't judging a brother because there was no proof that Lennon was a brother was like bashing my head against a brick wall. Finally the moderator of the group got ahold of the bootleg and posted it on his website so we could hear it for myself. I downloaded it, listened to it... and was proven right. I said as much, and the original link-posting Lennon fan told me to STFU. Figure it out for yourself.

Jack Hyles
In independent Baptist circles, the kind of churches that sell bumper stickers reading "1611: straight from heaven" and don't like women to wear pants, the kind of people who edit children's coloring books so Jesus doesn't have long hair, Jack Hyles is the Pope. Or was the Pope- he died in 2001. Hyles said it, they believe it, and that settles it. The man who could do no wrong. He pastored a church with 100,000 members (although only about 10% of them actually showed up for church on Sunday). His church baptized more people in one day than the apostles on the day of Pentecost. Jack Hyles- the icon, the showstopper, the main event in any arena.

In 1989 Robert Sumner published this series of articles in his magazine The Biblical Evangelist. The gist is that Jack Hyles had a secretary in 1971 named Jenny Nischik, a married secretary whom he took a liking to. He gave her an office next to his with an inside door connecting the two, a door which was disguised with a curtain. Jenny's husband has written his own book claiming that Hyles had an affair with Jenny and encouraged her to divorce him. Voyle Glover has authored a book going into detail regarding sexual and financial improprieties by Jack Hyles.

"It's all lies!" screamed the Hyles zombies. "There's no evidence!" When others replied that there certainly was evidence and here it is, the Hyles crowd shouted even louder that it was biased untruthful crap and they wouldn't read it. Robert Sumner was crucified for breaking the silence of fundamentalism and publishing what he knew. Even now, independent fundamental Baptists influenced by the Hyles brand of Christianity won't stand for anything to be said against God's man", and by extension the local preachers educated and ordained by "God's man". "If you criticize my preacher I'll rip your face off!" the sheep brigade will testify.

But wait... there's more. In 1993 Detroit Michigan Eyewitness News produced a series entitled Preying From The Pulpit. (The audio of the series can be downloaded at the link provided). Here are a couple of the major low-lights of the story, involving men directly involved with First Baptist Church in Hammond:

A.V. Ballenger, a deacon and bus route driver at Hyles' First Baptist Church Hammond, was convicted in March of 1993 (and sentenced in July of 1993 to five years in jail) of molesting a seven year old girl. (This crime occurred in a Sunday School room of the church! Incredibly, after conviction, but prior to sentencing, Ballenger was allowed to resume his FBCH bus route!) The highlight of the sentencing hearing was the testimony of three young women. Each was molested by Ballenger when she was a child, and in each case, before age seven. Jack Hyles, who testified on Ballenger's behalf, defiantly declared the outcome of the trial null and void, claiming that the courts had no jurisdiction in this matter. Hyles told the girl's parents, "Deacon Ballenger just likes little girls."

David Hyles, Jack Hyles' son, had affairs with at least 19 different women at Miller Road Baptist Church in Garland, Texas, during the time he pastored there. (He was dismissed when a janitor found photos of Hyles having sex with a deacon's daughter.) Back in the Chicago area (Bolingbrook, IL), and after David's divorce from his wife, David was cohabitating with a woman by the name of Brenda Stevens. Brenda posed for pornographic pictures in Adam and Chicago Swingers magazines (in an advertisement for group sex) during the time she and David wereliving together. After David married Brenda, Brenda's 17-month-old son by a previous marriage was found battered and dead at the Hyles' home. The police still consider the case a murder and continue to view David and Brenda as prime suspects. At the coroner's inquest in 1985, Brenda was a no-show, while David Hyles pleaded the Fifth Amendment. [In June of 2003, it was reported that David Hyles had been kicked out of another church (Pinellas Park Baptist in the Florida Keys), this time over a 9-woman sex scandal. Nevertheless, David Hyles still keeps a full itinerary of speaking to churches on Sunday School growth.]

I post these examples not to "expose" fundamentalism and blame Jack Hyles for all its failings, but to point out the head-in-the-sand attitude that many Christians take to avoid confronting the truth. (And believe me, there are many more examples. See The Fundamentalist Roll Call of Shame, the Preying From The Pulpit link, and this link to an ABC PrimeTime Live transcript, detailing the tragic story of Esther Combs.) When confronted with the evidence that they say doesn't exist, fundamentalist preachers who graduated from Hyles-Anderson College cover their ears, close their eyes tight and scream "I'm not listening! I'm not listening!" And then go on to prepare their Sunday morning sermon series on the pedophilia scandal plaguing the Catholic Church and how this proves that Catholicism is from the pit of hell.

The Catholic Church
And as I detail the sexual crimes of fundamentalism, Catholic apologists are licking their chops. If there is an opportunity to kick a Protestant to the curb quite a few Catholic apologists will polish their steel-toed boots and take a running start to give that kick an extra bite. Don't start rearing back just yet. You're next.

If anyone out there doesn't realize that the Catholic Church has had a bit of a problem on their hands recently, then they must have had one heck of a hangover to sleep that long. There have been crimes committed against youth by priests, crimes that were covered up for many years. When this story broke a few years ago, Bernard Cardinal Law was taking major heat for transferring priests to new parishes and giving them jobs with youth when they had abused young people in the past. The response online in Catholic forums was eerily similar to fundamentalists discussed above- "We don't know what really happened"... "We shouldn't speak ill of God's man"... blah blah blah. Anyone up for an ostrich egg omelette? Because I'm seeing a lot of heads in the sand.

Here's a thought. Perhaps a little humility would have gone a long way. Instead of defending Cardinal Law, or attacking accusers over the veracity of their claims, maybe, just maybe, someone could have apologized. Maybe, just maybe, some sorrow could have been shown. Often lost in the discussion of diocesan cover-ups and priestly sins, the flinging of Catholic Answers tracts at such situations, is the fact that a child was defiled. A crime was committed against someone's son or daughter. These occurrences are not a chance to make some college money in a court of law, nor are they a chance to stomp an apologetic mudhole in someone attacking the Church and walking it dry. I don't think that the pressing of charges against priests who are senile for crimes they committed 35 years ago is the answer to this scandal. Neither do I think that the answer is to circle the wagons and accuse any reporter covering the facts of the story as being a pawn in the liberal game. God will take some vengeance here.


I find it ironic that people who claim to serve the One who said that He is the way, the truth, and the life refuse to acknowledge the truth when it is brought to light. In these instances and many others, the confronting of truth head on could have prevented a multitude of other sins.

"And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

God or the Girl

Let's get one thing straight from the outset- I don't care for reality shows. I have watched four episodes of Survivor: Guatemala, and a few minutes of Amazing Race. When Extreme Makeover comes on, the channel gets switched. What Not To Wear- same deal. American Idol is as fixed as any pro wrestling match. Trading Spaces is banned from my house.

With that said, a show that premiered Sunday on A&E intrigued me. It is called God or the Girl and it follows the process four young men go through as they decide whather to enter the priesthood. It is very interesting, treating the priesthood and the Catholic Church with respect. Too bad it's only five episodes.

Dan is my favorite. He lives in a Catholic frat house near Ohio State University near Columbus (that's not why he's my favorite, but we won't go there). All of the men living there are celibate and engage in spiritual activities together in addition to normal "guy" things like beating the cr*p out of each other for fun :) Dan is a youth minister at his parish (I think it's his parish, it might be a local Catholic high school). This guy is bubbling over with zeal for his faith. Oh to be young again....

As part of the discernment process his spiritual director suggested that he carry a wooden cross to a neighboring parish 22 miles away as a means of meditating on the sufferings of Jesus. Dan picked out the wood, had his frat brothers help him build it, and ended up with an 80-pound cross which he did carry 22 miles with very little help. This man was in serious pain most of the way but he felt like he had to do it to impress upon himself the seriousness of Jesus' sacrifice.

During one part of the journey he trekked through a small town with plenty of curious onlookers. One of those onlookers was a Christian of a different faith who engaged Dan in some friendly discussion before he started unloading his guns. The arguments he put forth were the usual ones- in the Magnificat Mary calls God her Saviour so she wasn't sinless, there is one mediator between God and man so why pray to Mary, etc.- and it looked like Dan was at a loss. Although the editing of the show may have come into play here. He did tell the man that he wasn't prepared to argue intellectually with him. Dan may have felt like doing so would accomplish no purpose.

On a Catholic apologetics forum I frequent most people insisted that Dan needed to be more prepared. "Apologetics is just too critical to ignore," one poster wrote. I agree that apologetics is critical; I would also add that we don't know that Dan wasn't prepared. If we had the master tapes maybe we could see. But maybe Dan's statement that he didn't want to get into an argument is something we could all pay heed to.

When I returned to the Catholic faith I thought about turning this blog into a Catholic apologetics rant. I decided against it for a few reasons. One, there are plenty of apologetics blogs out there. Probably too many. My impression of apologetics blogs, and apologetics forums, and apologetics chat rooms, is that most people want to win arguments more than they want to win converts. Instead of their primary objective being learning more about the faith in order to live a holy life and partake of God's grace, their primary objetive is to be right and rub your nose in it if you happen to be one of those "ignorant, misguided Protestants" that cross their paths. I don't go to these sites very often because I don't like the attitude.

Another reason I decided against it is that I don't want to be pigeonholed. If I was only writing about specifically Catholic topics than I never would have written "A Father's Story," which has affected more people than I possibly could have imagined. I want to write whatever flows out of me. Sometimes I have a fully developed topic in mind, some times I have a rough sketch of a first draft. Sometimes the finished product is good, and sometimes it sucks and I delete it before too many people read it.

That's not to say that I will never write on Catholic apologetics. I have some ideas in mind. It certainly would have been simple to discuss "one mediator" with Dan's opponent using the same Bible that he used. For instance:

Revelation 5:8- Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.

Revelation 8:3-4- Then another angel, having a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, ascended before God from the angel’s hand.

You see? Simple. The elders offered incense, which represented the prayers of the saints, to the Lamb Who is Jesus. Same with the angels in chapter 8. I don't believe that the use of the term "saints" in these verses refers to those already in heaven but believers on earth. So we see that there are those in heaven acting as mediators. If they weren't mediators then the incense would rise before Jesus directly. The Bible may not directly spell out the doctrine of asking for the intercession of Mary and other saints, but it does suggest that the interpretation of "one mediator" that a lot of people have needs to be revised.

Apologetics is critical; living the teachings of the Church is just as critical. There are times to defend the faith and times to recognize a no-win situation, say "God bless you," and move on. As the philosopher once said, you gotta know when to hold 'em and know when to fold 'em :)

Sunday, April 16, 2006


Saturday, April 15, 2006

Take me out to the ball game

I put the Oakland A's game on the telly this afternoon, sat down at the table with my Replay baseball game, pulled out the 1978 Angels and the 2005 Angels, and I was immediately trapped in a time warp. The years started melting away...2004- the Boston Red Sox win their first World Series in 86 years...2001- Barry Bonds hits 73 home runs and the Seattle Mariners win 116 games...1998- McGwire and Sosa... the years are flying by faster now, and so are the players...1995- Cleveland Indians in the World Series...1980- will George Brett hit .400?.... The time machine is slowing down now- 1979, 1977, 1975...

1972. The beginning of the Oakland A's three year run as the champions of the world. On this particular day a 59 year old gentleman is sitting in the grandstand, his 29 year old son beside him, and his 6 and 4 year old grandsons along as well. It was batting helmet day, or t-shirt day, or some such promotion; the batting helmet would have shattered with one of Vida Blue's slowest pitches, but that didn't matter to the six year old; all he cared about was that he was there, at the ballpark, eating peanuts from a giant bag and dropping them gleefully on the concrete. Were we allowed to do that? he wondered. But it didn't matter- his grandpa was doing it, his father was doing it, so he did it too. The names of the players were magical- Blue Moon Odom, Catfish Hunter, Rollie Fingers. He laughed every time he saw Rollie's handlebar moustache. The field looked enormous and the players looked small from the nosebleed seats. The green and yellow uniforms may look hideous to those looking back from a vantage point of thirty years, but to that six year old, they were a fashion statement. He wore his souvenir helmet and t-shirt with pride.

Fast forward three years. In 1975 our protagonist was now nine years old and living in Ohio, as far away from the Oakland A's as they were from their next appearance in the World Series. The Milwaukee Brewers were in town, and that meant a chance to see Hank Aaron, the newly crowned home run king. This nine year old boy thought it would be a simple thing to walk onto the field, present Mr. Aaron with a paper and pencil and get him to sign. Get used to disappointment, kid. Whether Hank Aaron hit a home run that day or not is a fact lost to the sands of time, but to the nine year old, it didn't matter; he was there.

Have you guessed? That boy was me. I have been to many ballgames in the 34 years since I ground those peanut shells into the concrete in Oakland. I've lived through great Oakland teams, mediocre Detroit teams, and great Cleveland teams (although I had to swim through a lot of mediocrity to get there). Classic moments- George Brett's .390, my brother waking me up to tell me that Len Barker had pitched a perfect game, Jack Morris pitching a no-hitter in 1984, and the Detroit Tigers winning it all that year. And calling the action, whether he did so in real-life or not, is the great Ernie Harwell, a man who personifies class, a man who took time out of his day to write a letter to my friend Dr. Jeffrey Smale simply because I wrote to him and asked.

I am a baseball fan. I have seen a lot of teams and a whole lot of players pass through real-life on the way to my memories, some for a cup of coffee, some for a full-course meal plus seconds. For every Joe Charboneau there's a George Brett; for every Marvin Freeman there's a Roger Clemens. Well, maybe for every 100 Marvin Freemans :) There are good players and bad players, good times and bad times. When the players went on strike in 1981 I was heartbroken, but I stayed a fan, playing Strat-O-Matic and APBA baseball day after day, and several times on Saturdays. When the players went on strike in 1994 I wanted to turn away from the game completely. Then the Indians had to go and play their way into the Wold Series in 1995. Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.

And now Barry Bonds has brought the game to the brink of ruin. Or so we're told. I think the game has been on the brink of ruin for the past... well.... how many years has professional baseball been around? Let's say 135 years, since the National Association in 1871. The baseball cranks of the nineteenth century lived through the National Association, the American Association, the Union Association, the Player's League; they saw the National League expand to twelve teams and shrink to eight; they saw the arrival of the rebel Western League as it morphed into the American League and challenged the Senior Circuit for the best players. The twentieth century fan saw some of the best players in the game denied admission to the dance because of their heritage, the defiling of the sacrosanct World Series in 1919, the blossoming of a portly pitcher and slugger from Baltimore, Maryland whom veterans like Tyrus Raymond Cobb looked upon with disdain. "He has ruined the sport!" he cried, when in fact he helped to save it. The ball has been juiced more times than a mother's breast and spat on more times than a bartender's spittoon; the game has been proclaimed dead more times than Paul McCartney, yet it staggers on and even thrives.

I know, it's only baseball, but I like it.

The players haven't ruined the game. They can't. If a steroid-influenced ballplayer hit a juiced ball into the upper deck and no one was there to hear it, would it leave an asterisk? The players may play the game, but the fans make it live. If the fans hadn't taken a shine to Joltin' Joe DiMaggio, then a 56 game hitting streak would mean about as much as a three-dollar bill. Babe Ruth? Without a legend behind him people would just as likely remember Grover Cleveland's daughter more. When Kirby Puckett died this year, his legal troubles were relegated to a sentence or two, because he was so well liked. When Marge Schott died, her racism was still a story, because she wasn't well liked.

The game will live because of Dan Okrent. The game will live because of Topps. The game will live because of Ethan Allen and Richard Seitz, because of Hal Richman, Norm Roth, John Brodak and Pete Ventura, because whenever three or more children get together the candy wrapper can still be first base, the bookbag can still be second, the leaves can still be third and the tree stump can still be home. Mom may have been more powerful than Kenesaw Mountain Landis, but there was always tomorrow, always one more chance to be Gorman Thomas or Al Kaline or Ken Griffey Jr or Hank Aaron.

If you love it, they will come.

So if you will excuse me, I have to go. Slidin' Billy Hamilton and Amos Rusie await my presence at the ballpark.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Do You Hear What I Hear?

There is a breath of hope gushing forth from the voice of the prophet. They say we are standing at the threshold of another Great Awakening. In 2003, Kenneth Hagin, a father of the Charismatic movement, declared that 2006 would be a glorious year of “heaven on earth.” Earlier this year, Dutch Sheets had a profound encounter with the Living God where the Lord proclaimed that 2006 would be “the year that the lid comes off of the youth movement.” But perhaps the most crucial utterance for Boston in this hour is Derek Prince’s prophetic word in 1972: “Boston is the Jericho of America and when the walls of intellectualism come tumbling down, the Lord will pour out His Spirit upon the whole land.” A casual approach to these prophetic words could be the undoing of a generation that has grown up only reading and hearing stories of national revival, but never experiencing the in-break of the Holy Spirit for themselves.
---Lou Engle, posted on many blogs

This time last year, I was having a hard time celebrating my birthday when fully aware of how many babies had been aborted on my birthday - 60,500 at the time since 1993. It seemed wrong to celebrate my birth when two thirds of people born on February 26th wouldn't be able to celebrate. This year, I am faced with the same dilemma. I feel a heaviness that I think is from God, telling me to fast on behalf of all of those aborted since then. There are over 65,000 that will have been aborted by my birthday this year, and the way I see it, if I don't stand, I will be ignoring God's voice.

Over the last few weeks before the election, I was continually asked what the Lord had shown me about the election. My answer was that He was telling me to vote! Obviously this is what many of His people heard, and did, as the significant increase in Christians voting this time made the difference in this election…. There is a moral and spiritual awakening now taking place in America. Christians are starting to flex their political muscles again to the degree that the White House will probably not be won again by a candidate that does not appeal to Christians.

---Rick Joyner

The voice of the LORD is powerful;
The voice of the LORD is full of majesty.
The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars,
Yes, the LORD splinters the cedars of Lebanon.
He makes them also skip like a calf,
Lebanon and Sirion like a young wild ox.
The voice of the LORD divides the flames of fire.
The voice of the LORD shakes the wilderness;
The LORD shakes the Wilderness of Kadesh.
The voice of the LORD makes the deer give birth,
And strips the forests bare;
And in His temple everyone says, “Glory!”
---Psalm 29:4-9

In my travels I have run across many people who have heard the voice of God. Or so they thought. God tells them what church to attend, God tells them what slate of candidates to vote for… they can’t make a simple decision such as what shoes to wear or what breakfast cereal to eat without consulting the Almighty.

God bless Sam Kinison. The foul-mouthed screaming comedian, who died in 1990, had a great bit concerning Pat Robertson. Pat ran for president in 1988, presumably because God told him to. Kinison thought it was pretty whacked out that God would direct a person’s life in detail like that, so he had God playing practical jokes, telling Pat to get up in the middle of the night to go check the air in his tires and stuff like that. I always wonder if God doesn’t just get fed up sometimes with people taking His name in vain like that (and that’s exactly what it is). How do you know if you’re hearing the voice of God? And in fact, should you be seeking to hear that voice? Can’t we just take the facts, analyze them, and make a decision?

When I look back on my Christian life I can’t say that I’ve ever heard the voice of God giving me specific direction. When I asked my wife to marry me I didn’t have orders from the Almighty to do so. My wife is attractive, I loved her (and still do), and it’s not like the women were beating my doors down to get at me :) I certainly prayed about it, but lacking any sense of direction about it I just went with my gut. To this day I can’t tell you that God told me she was the one, and if I hadn’t picked her I would be SOL.

While I haven’t heard the voice of God, I have certainly felt His presence. That is a situation that is indescribable. I just knew. Mass at Franciscan University of Steubenville in 1990. Mass at the Cleveland Charismatic Conference in 2002 and again in 2004. Alone in the Eucharistic chapel of the Daughters of St. Paul. The prayer meeting of November 18, 1988. On all of these occasions I will swear to my dying day that God was there. So if I can feel the presence of God and “just know” that He is there, why do I have a hard time with people who hear His voice? Why can’t I just accept the fact that they “just know” and leave it at that? Because for every person that genuinely gets direction for their life there are 100 who speak things that are complete and utter crap, or they get (supposed) prophecies that are nothing but their own preferences wrapped in a religious cloak, or they say things that have a direct effect on my life and I can’t do anything about it because “God told them.”

Allow me to quote from my own blog:

Elizabeth had some very definite ideas about where her life was going and who was going to be involved in it, ideas she felt were from the Lord. And the Lord didn’t have me on her things to do list. The “just friends” speech reared its ugly head…. I have frequently heard Christian sisters claim that the Lord wants them in a “season of singleness.” That season usually begins out of dating frustration and ends when the cute guy of the moment finally gives her more than a passing nod.

Do I think Elizabeth really heard from the Lord? No. I didn’t think so then and I don't think so now. I objected to her using the Lord as a “human shield” of sorts to have something to put between me and how she really felt. I would rather have had her tell me point blank that she didn’t share my affection, maybe even tell me that the thought of my body repulsed her or something; that would have been painful but honest. I also feel that there may have been some self-esteem issues going on, and that it was easier to face the rejection of men by saying that the Lord wanted her single until four years after college. And I was proven right when she was dating three months after college.

Discernment, folks. That’s all I’m asking.

There is a whole movement in certain segments of Christendom today of people who believe that they hear the voice of God. Cindy Jacobs. C. Peter Wagner. Jim Goll. Rick Joyner. And although someone might tell me that I don’t have the right to judge these people, I would say that I have every right. Not to judge them personally, not to judge their relationship with the Lord, but to judge whether what comes forth from their lips as being from the Lord Almighty is so.

Let’s look at the third quote at the beginning of this article. Rick Joyner is honestly telling people that he believes many Christians heard the call to vote. Nothing wrong with that. I think people should vote their conscience because it’s the right thing to do, but what makes Rick Joyner’s comments different from my belief is that the proof of God’s voice being utterred, at least for him, was that the voting made the difference in the election. God was whispering in people’s ears “vote Republican…ooohh…ooohhh….” I resent that, not because of my personal political beliefs, but because it so smacks of manipulation. He’s a Republican, he believes that set of beliefs is right, so he projects that on God. And since many people spend beaucoup dollars to get his newsletter and his materials because they believe him to be a prophet, they start believing that to vote any other way is to stand on the wrong side of the line. (Insert eye-rolling smiley here.)

The second quote is from the blog of Jackson Bohlender, an intercessory missionary from Kansas City, Missouri, connected with the International House of Prayer. I appreciate a lot of the things the Bohlenders put on their blogs. Heck, I've even given money to support them, and I don't do that for just anyone. I attempted to comment on his blog back when he made this entry, but my comment was moderated, and any comment I’ve left on any Bohlender family blog since has been moderated. My feeling was (and is) this. If it is wrong to celebrate one birthday because of abortion, then by extension it’s wrong to celebrate any birthdays. And if birthdays are wrong to celebrate, then it must be wrong to celebrate Christmas, or Easter, or Father’s Day. I mean, it’s not like they are going to stop killing unborn children because you want to buy your dad a necktie or a set of monogrammed handkerchiefs. I ended by saying that if he thought he should fast on his birthday, fine, but if he really thought God was telling him to then he had better be consistent about it. And that’s what put me on the “Most (un)Wanted” list.

You also have to understand that the Bohlender family spent some time at the Justice House of Prayer in Washington, DC, founded by Lou Engle, where the anti-abortion message is pounded into their heads from morning to night. Have you ever seen the people with the orange “LIFE” tape on their mouths? That’s their schtick, their gimmick. Makes for a good photo op. Nothing wrong with being anti-abortion, I am anti-abortion myself, but it goes to prove my point that when people feel like they’re hearing from God, those thoughts aren’t formed in a vaccuum. If you are surrounded by people who are vehemently against abortion and will do anything to protest it, then it’s natural to think of ways to show people that you can do radical things to be against abortion too.

Here’s a site to check out- Bishop Mar Elijah Bernard Jordan . “FREE WRITTEN PROPHECY As seen on TV!” I thought “As seen on TV!” was a marketing scheme only used for vegetable peelers and George Foreman grills. Anyway, that free written prophecy is the end of the line for free stuff from Mar Elijah. Tool around his website. He’s doing very well for himself.

Let me reiterate- I do believe that certain people do hear the voice of God and even get direction from said Voice. Pope Benedict. Mike Bickle. Umm… maybe that’s it. Apart from those two I’m entitled to discern. Look over the history of the Christian church just in the past 20-30 years. The highway of holiness is littered with the roadkill from those “prophets” who trampled over people to get to the head of the line. I don’t intend to be one of the trampled.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Yeah, what he said

"Safety lies not only in forecasts and predictions, but in preparation as well."
- Discovery Channel man, in context of Hurricane Katrina

"Ditto what Discovery Channel man said."
-Jackson Bohlender, in context of the End Times

If this does not provoke you to go read Revelation, it could be argued that you are eschatalogically inept. The sad thing is, I don't feel provoked by this, either.

I think it's easy to get caught up in the prophetic aspect of the End Times, getting revelation and words, but preparation is the not-so-fun part of it. Preparation is the thing fewer people are and will be doing, and it's the most important part.

Every picture tells a story

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Why I am not now and likely never will be a member of the Lord's Recovery

I've written on past posts of my fondness for Witness Lee. I have a bookshelf devoted to his writings, I have his Bible commentaries on my computer, and I have 2GB of audio files featuring portions of his messages. His ministry has pointed me toward Christ and has helped me to grasp ahold of mysteries like the Trinity.

In 1985 I met a brother who said he attended "the Church In Cleveland." Church simply named after the city in which it resides. No denominationalism. That sounded cool,and again, exuberance was the key. I went to some of their meetings. They were as fired up as any pentecostal, and they talked about the Bible more. I dug it, so in my developing quest to "be biblical", I started attending their meetings. What did I like? The emphasis on the Bible, the friendliness of the people, the fellowship. They had regular conferences just on certain books of the Bible. What didn't I like? Most of the people acted like zombies.
---blog entry, April 22, 1985

I had the opportunity to attend a meeting of theirs on Christmas Day after I had already attended Mass that weekend. We shared the Lord's Table, prayed, and then it was testimony time. This is a regular part of one of their meetings; in an attempt to shed the clergy/laity distinction they open up the meeting for all to share.

The first guy popped up and spoke on and on about how "Dead, deluded Christianity" was celebrating the birth of a baby, but "He isn't a baby anymore." Well no spit, Sherlock. We all know that. He then proclaimed how "we" (meaning the Lord's Recovery) weren't like that; we focused on the living Christ. I began to squirm. A few testimonies later a woman popped up and spouted off in the same tone. "They" are dead, but "we" are beyond all that. Oh good Lord, could I get out of this meeting any sooner? At the end of the meeting I grabbed my coat, got into my car, cranked up some tunes and decompressed. I went to one more meeting in January but haven't been back since.

Most of the people acted like zombies. That sounds mean but they devoted themselves to the teachings of a guy named Witness Lee. They would memorize whole portions of his books and spit them out to each other. If I had an issue in my life, they had a passage from a book to share. Instead of being willing to invest their lives in a person that was hurting, they used Witness Lee's writings as a shield. That bugged me. No questioning Witness Lee. That REALLY bugged me :)
---blog entry, April 22, 2005

The believers who fellowship with the "local churches" (every church simply identified with the city in which it resides) take great pains to distance themselves from Christianity at large, all the while seeking the acceptance of the same Christians by syndicating a radio show, seeking membership in the Christian Booksellers Association, and handing out free Recovery Version New Testaments to everyone they meet. They proclaim boldly that they aren't a denomination, yet they have a headquarters- no publications other than those published by Living Stream Ministry are allowed to be disseminated in their meetings; they have a Bible School, the "Full-Time Training", where members are strongly encouraged to go after high school and from which full-time workers for the ministry are drawn; and they have a "leadership council", the seven "blended brothers", who lead conferences and make decisions. They don't want to be known as a denomination yet in every way they are.

I mentioned that they take great pains to distance themselves from Christianity. Let me offer a few verses from their hymnal, simply titled "Hymns". See if you recognize any of them.

Do come, oh, do come,
Says Spirit and the Bride:
Do come, oh, do come,
Let him that heareth, cry.
Do come, oh, do come,
Let him who thirsts and will
Take freely the water of life!

There is pow'r, pow'r, all transcending pow'r,
To the church, to the church!
There is pow'r, pow'r, all transcending pow'r,
Given to His Body, the church!

Jerusalem, the utimate,
Of visions the totality;
The Triune God, tripartite man--
A loving pair eternally--
As man yet God they coinhere,
A mutual dwelling place to be;
God's glory in humanity
Shines forth in splendor radiantly!

Now the words might not seem familiar, but if you answered "Do Lord", "Power In The Blood", and "And Can It Be", you would be right. Same tunes as the classic hymns, but different verses. In some cases the original song is in the hymnal as well. I never understood why they couldn't just write new hymns with new tunes.

What do people know us for? I've spoken of my admiration for Witness Lee in the past, but one of my huge beefs with his posse is that they make big spiritual issues over things like celebrating Christmas or having different types of music in their meetings. When the final chapter is written about the Lord's Recovery, will they be thought of as dedicated Christians who loved the Lord, or will they be known in history as the church who didn't celebrate Christmas and sued everyone? Sadly, I fear the latter.
---blog entry, February 6, 2006

And that's what keeps me from ever making a commitment to be "one of them." I love the brothers I've met there. I wish I could spend more time with them. I will have Witness Lee's books on my shelf until the day I die. But if the identifying mark of my Christianity ever becomes what holidays I don't celebrate or what instruments I don't want to see involved in church music, then just shoot me. That's not how I want to be known. Sadly, that's the legacy quite a few Christians will leave behind. Whether it's the Lord's Recovery, the emergent church, the house church movement, fundamentalism or the Blue Army of Our Lady of Fatima, if people know you better for what you don't do than what you do, then it's time to take a few steps back and reassess what you're all about.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Tiny Treasures

My dearest little children
My precious little ones
You are such a treasure from above
You were given to us to
Cherish and to love
I am truly thankful for the
Special gift of you

When Jesus brought you to us
We were filled with awe
As we counted your tiny fingers
And cuddled you oh so tight
Your precious beautiful eyes
And face reminded daddy and
Mommy of God’s abiding grace.

Little did we realize,what trials lie ahead
As we stroked your little curls
Kissed your tiny head.

You seemed to progress normally
Until you were nearly two
We realized you were no longer talking
Or doing things that children of two or three
Normally do.

Our hearts were deeply saddened
When months turned into a year
Then into two
When we finally heard the word
Rang loud and clear
Yet I could not shed a tear
For I was in denial
The word Autism I could not hear.
For my heart was filled with sorrow
Sadness and fear
Until I realized Jesus
Was standing right beside me

"Oh Master, Saviour, Jesus, Lord!” I finally cried
I know that you are with us always by our side
Would we ever hear the words
“I love you Mommy and Daddy”
From our precious children’s lips.
Would we ever see them run and play baseball
and other games kids play…

My heart was filled with wonder and dismay
Until I heard my Savior say
“Hush my child
Listen to my voice
For you have been chosen
For a very special task.
Though it won’t be easy
These precious children need you so.
I have a special plan for them you see
And need you to help Me help them grow.
Give them lots of love and tender care
And tell them about Me.
How I came to this world to die and set them free
From the bondage of sin and shame.

Though you may not think they’ll understand,
Leave that up to me
For I know their thoughts and feelings
Things they cannot express to you
Or to anyone but Me

For I am their Heavenly Father too, you see
Creator of all things
I have blessed them with a gift
That the world needs to see
A gift that will bring new life
And set souls free
If only you will trust me
And give them back to me"

My Saviour Lord and King
I give you every thing
These children we will raise
And give you all our praise

Help me to understand the hurting
Hearts filled with uncertainty and fear
Who look upon my children
As burdens of despair.
Help me to love them
With your perfect love
And show them that these special children
Are gifts from God above
Who need tenderness and love
For they have a voice that we cannot hear
Calling and crying for life so dear
Help us to show them
We care

Written by Laura L MacNair
Dedicated to my beautiful Autistic treasures
So dear
My Matthew and my Rebecca.
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
Matthew 13:44

Friday, April 07, 2006


At the bottom of the page you may notice a counter. That lets me know how many people have visited the blog since I set up the counter last year. I also have access to information such as the city, state and country of a visitor, as well as the link that brought them to my site and what they read while here. It's interesting to see how people find me.

The most common referral link has been the Google search. When someone is looking for information on Chaucer's Pardoner's Tale, they will inevitably come upon my blog in the results. But other searches will drag me into their list as well. Just today I've seen people looking for "vineyard cult church", "abundant life christian center elyria", and the most intriguing one to me, someone out there searching for the name of my aunt, Evelyn MacNair, who died five years ago this month.

I've also had people post links to something I've written from their own blog site. After I wrote about the largest churches in America Slice of Laodicea posted a link, and I've probably had 150 visitors from that site alone. I'm on several blogrolls, and I've been taken off several as well, depending on what my current topic of conversation is. I was the darling of Traditionalist Catholics for a short time, I made it onto a couple of evangelical lists, I think I was even on an Orthodox one. Only one time has someone given me a critical review of an essay of mine, and that was after Hurricane Katrina when I wrote What Would Jesus Flood? (Read his commentary here)

And then there are the unknowns, who don't connect from a specific link. My regulars come from this list. I would love to know who is checking in from Belmont, New Hampshire, because they visit every day. Whenever I post a comment on Randy Bohlender's blog he stops by. Doesn't mean he ever posts my comments, but I at least get a hit. Lansing, Michigan is my parents, even though they are several hours up the road in Mancelona. I even had one ISP in my list from Washington, DC, from a government office. My voting record from the last election must have made it to the big house :)

Blogging has been fun. I've read the good (Greg Burnett), the bad (any one of a number of Christian political blogs), and the geeky (anyone who whines about "Windoze" and how a Macintosh is SO MUCH BETTER- see an example of such at this blog here). I've gotten attention from my local paper, and I feel like I've sharpened my writing skills from doing it so much.

So what does the future hold for The Pardoner's Tale? You know, I can't really say. I don't have a plan, I just have an inspiration and then ramble on. You'll see more about my wife and kids, more about marriage, and more about autism. I would like to get some book reviews in. Apart from that... I guess you'll just have to tune in and see.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

A Tale of Two Movies

I saw two movies with my buddy Brian a few days ago. He has a large widescreen TV, surround sound- everything a tech geek would want in a home entertainment system. We've watched some really good movies (Network), some really boring ones (Memoirs of a Geisha), and some really bad ones (Starship Troopers II).

The first one we watched the other night was Brokeback Mountain. Yeah, the gay cowboy movie. Surely you've heard of it? Some Christians won't go near this movie because of the gay theme. OK, to each his own convictions. I think that there has to be room for a storyteller to tell a story off the beaten path, or have unlikeable characters, without wrapping things up in a happy ending. So I had no problem viewing this movie. Sure, two guys making out bothered me, but I have the same reaction when I rent a movie and there is a lot of gratuitous nudity in it.

This story was very well shot and very well told. My issue with this movie is not homosexuality. My issue is with the selfishness underlying Ennis and Jack's choices. This movie is being promoted as a landmark, a breakthrough, a story that needs to be told. "It's just a love story," supporters of the film tell us. "Simply judge it as a love story." OK, I will. Ennis was seeing his wife when he met Jack, but Jack met a woman at a rodeo, had sex with her, and got married when she got pregnant. Jack and Ennis knew they were gay and got married anyway, basically letting them eat their cake and have it too. (Anyone can have their cake and eat it. To eat it and still have it- that's the challenge.) They met in the mountains numerous times for their trysts and lied to their spouses about it. In the case of Ennis' wife Alma, she knew. She saw Jack and Ennis kissing and waited for her husband to do the right thing and tell her instead of confronting him about it. He never did. Finally, having reached the breaking point, she does confront him and later gets a divorce. As far as I'm concerned, Alma Del Mar is the hero in this movie for being a faithful wife while her husband was cheating on her.

Jack and Ennis end up reaching destructive ends. Jack pursues promiscuous relationships with other men, all the while staying married with his wife unaware, and ends up being beaten to death because of his homosexuality. At the end of the movie they hint that his wife finally found out, and his parents too. As for Ennis, he is left without a home, without a wife, living in a ramshackle house and working cowboy jobs that leave him unable to participate in his daughter's lives. To his credit, he does put one job aside to agree to attend his daughter's wedding. But the last shot sees him not staring at a family picture and regretting what he left behind, but caressing a shirt of Jack's and crying over the man he committed adultery with for 20 years.

Now let's take homosexuality out of the equation for a minute. If Jack and Ennis had been Jacqueline and Ennis, cheating on their spouses for 20 years, would people then consider them admirable characters? Would Brokeback Mountain then be lauded as a story that needed to be told? Absolutely not. So save accusations of homophobia for another man. I didn't care for this movie not because of a homosexual romance, but because the main characters are being shoved down our throats as deserving of our sympathy when in fact they are not so deserving.

The second movie we watched was The Squid and The Whale, an independent film which didn't see wide release but was still nominated for an Oscar for original screenplay, a well deserved nomination. I thought this was a fantastic movie. The plot involves two married writers, Jeff Daniels and Laura Linney, who decide to divorce, and the effect their actions have on their two sons. Daniels is entirely centered on self, so you might think that Linney would be justified in seeking divorce, but not so. We discover later that Laura Linney had been seeing other men behind her husband's back. Just from that short description you would think that my reaction would be the same as the one I had to Brokeback Mountain, but you would be wrong. In this movie we see adultery as an act of selfishness which affects not only the people involved but those around him/her. We are not asked to sympathize with the mother and father, or hate them for that matter; we are simply given a snapshot of the family and allowed to draw our own conclusions.

One of their sons, Owen, withdraws into himself; the other son, Walt, has a girlfriend who cares about him but he won't return the love, instead choosing to "play the field" (on his father's advice). He ends up in therapy.The title of the movie comes from a statue that the older son remembers seeing in a museum of a squid and a whale fighting. He tells his therapist that the statue always scared him as a child and he could never look for long. The squid and the whale fighting can be seen as a symbol of his parents torn relationship and the son not facing the effects on his life head on. The final shot is of Walt returning to the museum and staring at the statue as the screen fades to black; the message being that Walt has finally decided to confront the ugliness of life in a split family.

The Squid and The Whale contains some nudity, profanity and graphic sexual content, so it's not for everyone. But I would easily recommend this movie over Brokeback Mountain.

Monday, April 03, 2006


My son Matthew was born at 2:25PM on the afternoon of February 2nd. He came into the world via C-Section, so he wasn't as squished and pasty as most newborns usually are after passing through a dark alleyway. He was kind of purplish. And the loud cry which traditionally marks the time when a newborn announces itself to the world wasn't there. Instead, he bleated like a sheep. I can't explain the feelings I had when he was born, not because I don't want to, but because the words fail me. I could ramble on for 10.000 words and never get to the heart of the matter. I could get one look from him and that look would speak more eloquently than a thousand Shakespeares.

My wife had a fever of over 100 for a couple of days so she didn't get to hold him until he was three days old. He had taken in some fluid during birth, and his bilirupin level was high, so he spent his first six days in the neonatal intensive care unit underneath a lamp which was probably used to hatch chicken eggs when babies didn't need it. I spent a good portion of my time in that room, reaching through an incubator opening, stroking his head, stroking his cheek, and telling him how happy I was to have him in the world. For the longest time I bore a scar on my hand from the heat lamp. I think it was that experience, my bonding with him before my wife could, that caused him to be closer to me than her.

It's one thing to romanticize that little squirming bundle of joy; it's another thing when the picture becomes reality and that little bundle of joy decides that he's hungry at 2AM. Now I'm all for 2AM snacks, but it's not like I can order a pizza and split it with the kid when all he wants to do is drink from the fount of many blessings. I was thrown up on and smelled things that no human should have to experience, although I am proud to say that I didn't receive a shower of blessing until he was five years old. I developed a strategy- have your wipes laid out, have your clean diaper open, count to three, hold your breath and move. Minimize the time that the dirty diaper was off.

Life is difficult with an infant; it becomes more challenging when the infant grows older and yet remains an infant. I've written frequently about life with an autistic child; I don't need to cover it again. I have often wondered when I would get the payoff, the parenting reward, the moments such as the first word when your child says "Daddy!" or "I love you!" for the first time and the troubles melt away for the joy of the moment. I haven't experienced those moments, but I have my reward. My reward is simply this- I have a son. My reward is the look; my reward is the embrace; my reward is my son coming to me for comfort when too many things are crashing into his autistic world.

I am proud of my son. He may enjoy going to the store with me, or the library, or the gas station; he may take my hand because he knows the security that my grasp will bring; but when we walk through the doors, I'm the one who smiles. After all, look who I'm with. Even when my son withdraws into himself and doesn't want to do anything except count whole wheat spaghetti noodles or Kool-Aid packets, there is joy. This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased.