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

Papal Edict

I’m going to stay with the topical for this week’s Friday blog selection. Given that the big news this week is centered on the pope’s visit to the U.S., I’m throwing-in with that one for today.

There is the adage that religion and politics are deal-breakers for winning friends and influencing people, or something similar. Yet, both find their way into conversations, and they sure have hijacked our current news cycle. I think there’s a reason behind that, and I’ll spend some space delving into that aspect of “Pope Francis Goes to Washington.”

The president and the pope; on the same ideological page.

The president and the pope; on the same ideological page.

Did you know that Francis is only the fourth pope ever to visit our country? In fact, we were 189-years-old as a nation before Pope Paul VI dropped by in 1965. Since then, it was John Paul II in 1979, Pope Benedict XVI in 2008, and now, Francis. Actually, Pope John Paul II was a regular visitor, coming back for visits in 1984, 1987, 1993, 1995, and 1999. He always scheduled an audience with the sitting president  when he came calling, too. The presidents visited were Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan (twice), and Bill Clinton (three times). Francis is the only pope to ever address the U.S. Congress, however. 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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The Devil’s in the Details

The Devil depicted in the Temptation of Christ, by Ary Scheffer, 1854.

The Devil depicted in the Temptation of Christ, by Ary Scheffer, 1854.

There is a story about Martin Luther, the esteemed 16th Century Protestant theologian, where he was said to have turned from his desk, and hurled the ink well he was using at the Devil, who he thought was standing behind him, ready to cause him harm. This may actually be apocryphal—but it does indicate that for men like Luther, the Devil, aka, Satan, was so real that waging warfare against him and all his works occupied their waking hours. Continue reading

Viva il Papa!

Newly-elected Pope Francis, with Catholic cardinals. (NYTimes photo)

Newly-elected Pope Francis, with Catholic cardinals. (NYTimes photo)

I’m a lapsed Catholic. I have been since that fateful period when I left home, threw off parental shackles—and became a born-again Xian. I know, usually you leave home and get wild, right?

It’s a long story, and I won’t bore my readers with too many details. However, with a new pope on-board in Rome, I think a pope post is in order. 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