We Showed Up

There’s a huge advantage to living nearly halfway across the country from the rest of your clan when you are 21 and you are a brand new dad. This formative experience fosters deep bonds between you and the other two members of your unit.

Being so young and suddenly thrust into the role of parents forced the two of us to become really clear about our lives and our love for one another. Yes, I suppose we could have gone in the opposite direction, but what we lacked in money and resourceswe more than made up for in devotion to one another and our newborn baby boy, Mark.

When I look at photos of the two of us from the early 1980s, I’m struck by a couple of things. First, I’m amazed at how young we both looked. This was the stage in life when many people our age were getting started on a career, and contemplating what grad school to apply at. For the two of us, it was cobbling together enough cash to pay our rent, keep one of our two clunkers running and on the road, and later, how best to sync our dual work schedules so that Mark could have a parent home, spending time with him and nurturing his spirit.

On the steps of our duplex in Chesterton, IN (circa 1986)

After I fell out with the God people in Hammond and Crown Point, Indiana, I landed a job working in a prison. While Westville Correctional Center sure as hell wasn’t glamorous, it offered decent wages and even more important for our young family at the time—access to health insurance and our first HMO. Continue reading

Turning 31

Mark is 31-years-old today. It’s sounds clichéd to say it, but it feels like only “yesterday” that I was driving Mary to the hospital like countless other nervous fathers-to-be before. We were living in Indiana at the time, 1,500 miles from family and familiar surroundings. To a then 21-year-old dad-in-waiting, this was terrifying. It was also one of my high-water life experiences

Young Jim and Mark

Mark at 18 months (I think).

I enjoyed being his dad. I still do. Continue reading

Fear and Hatred

Thirty years ago, I thought I had all the answers. At 21, life seemed simple in some ways. Economically, things sucked—I was working at a job that paid 25 cents above minimum wage and I had a newborn son and wife to take care of. I was 1,500 miles from my family and support system in a post-industrial part of the country where the unemployment rate was hovering around 15 percent. But I was okay because I was in the center of God’s will.

It’s interesting when you believe that the answers to life’s questions are contained in a book that was written by men who lived 2,000 years ago. Whenever things didn’t go right for Mary and me, the solution offered by our spiritual leaders was to pray, give more money to Jack Hyles, and drag a few more converts down the aisle to get baptized at First Baptist Church of Hammond. Continue reading

Jesus and Maine Politics

In the world of alternative weeklies, topics covered aren’t usually the same ones that the mainstream dailies cover. If they are, there’s often more depth in reporting, or, a slightly different angle offered. Writing for an alternative weekly (or monthly) often allows a bit more leeway, also.

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A Demagogue By Any Other Name

Beware of wolves in sheep's clothing.

Beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing.

Since the government shutdown began, and the image of Ted Cruz began flashing across my television screen, I’ve been thinking about things that happened in my life 30 years ago. That’s when I learned a valuable lesson—one I kept trying to run away from. Those experiences taught me firsthand just how dangerous and delusional demagogues are.

It was thirty years ago that my young wife and I loaded up a U-Haul and journeyed 1,500 miles across the country to Northwest Indiana. She was pregnant with our son. I would enroll at Hyles-Anderson College, a fundamentalist, Baptist Bible college located in Crown Point. For two years, I attempted to correlate the inconsistencies I saw upon arrival, but kept tamping down, like a good little preacher boy. Continue reading

Zig zag

Zig Ziglar passed away nearly two weeks ago at the age of 86. I’ve been meaning to get up a post about Ziglar because I first encountered his personal brand of positive thinking at a time of my life when I wasn’t positive about much. In fact, being positive used to be something I never put much stock in. I had no truck with optimism, instead finding it easier traveling the paths of cynicism and negativity. When appraising any situation, I always saw a glass that was half empty.

Ziglar was part of a pantheon of 20th century positive-thinking gurus that included Dale Carnegie, Norman Vincent Peale, Napoleon Hill, Og Mandino, and W. Clement Stone, to name just a few. All of these men believed that people had the ability to change their circumstances as a result of the power of the mind and their attitudes. Continue reading