make a choice

they said it was right
i knew it was wrong
they told me to rethink
it didn’t change my mind

they made me choose between
community and loneliness
feeling part of a family and
standing on my own

i couldn’t stay and
let it erase who i was
no matter how painful
the decision proved to be

so I walked away
with my head held high
my friends left in the mire
of conformity and error

but i can’t be responsible
for who they choose to be
when my own identity is
in danger of disappearing

i won’t lie and say I don’t miss them
but I never really
fit into their crowd
always just on the edge of belonging

the truth is, though,
i’m better off living in the light
seeing the truth and living in it
instead of following the crowd

i’ve always been a loner
so readjusting was easier
than if I needed people to feel
whole or valuable

speaking the truth can
carry a hefty price
but i counted the cost
and paid the price

integrity instead of conformity
compassion instead of condemnation
love instead of judgment
empathy instead of scorn

when i stand before God
and answer for how i lived my life
i want Him to see my heart and know
i honored what He called me to do
more than what people thought of me
because that matters more
than all the money or power
in the world

9-10-2020
©plfreitag

Faux-vangelicalism and the modern mega-church

The current faux-vangelical movement posing as Christianity will use you up and spit you out on the other side like a chewed up peanut shell unless you happen to be related to the leadership in the particular cell to which you belong. I am still recovering from how I was treated.

My kids and I were active in choir, youth group, nursery, ushering, and other areas of service. However, since I was a fat single mom struggling to make ends meet, I was overlooked for many opportunities because I didn’t fit the image they wanted to project.

We were there every time the doors opened. We cleaned, did dishes, taught Sunday School, were involved in prayer groups, attended small group meetings, and helped any way we could. Even after years of serving, there was still a divide between the chosen few and the rest of us.

I was good enough to be on the worship team, but not to do special music, because I hadn’t been hand-picked by the pastor. If he spoke about someone needing help, people fell all over themselves to volunteer while others struggled to survive or feed their kids.

My daughter made friends with the pastor’s son and one Sunday I was approached by the daughter of one of the associate pastors, who informed me I needed to tell her to stay away from him. We were from the wrong side of the tracks because her dad wasn’t around.

I went through a crisis of faith and missed some services. I got a personal visit from a friend who told me an associate pastor wanted me to call her – she couldn’t pick up the phone & do it herself. They kicked my kids out of choir. Nobody checked on us. We were on our own.

They brag about how many people they feed on Sunday (you have to sit through a 4 hour service with grumbling tummies first) and then they drive home in their luxury cars to their multi-million dollar mansions where they’re unreachable by common people.

One person washes the pastor’s car & fills it with gas, takes his clothes to the dry cleaner & picks them up, and chauffeurs him to the airport for his first class flights. Someone else mows the yard (26 acres) and takes care of the animals. Their own family waits at home.

They raffle off Hummers and luxury cars while church members can’t pay their rent or clothe their kids. They accept donations from businesses and then brag about giving those items away as “gifts from the ministry” after keeping what they want.

If you’re not part of the inner circle, you can’t access the pastors. They have bodyguards and secretaries and people whose job it is to keep you away from them. These people who claim to operate under the power of God whine about being drained by the needy.

Jesse Duplantis “needed” a second private jet. Why? 1. Flying commercial was too exhausting because he had to sit near people with needs. (How did Jesus ever get anything done without a Gulfstream?) 2. To get up in the sky, closer to God. (What about omnipresence?)

They get up on the platform for the 1-hour offering teaching on Sunday morning and brag about giving Brother So-&-So a new Rolex, luxury car, or bespoke suit. How much does $5K to a fellow grifter really impact someone living in a $2M mansion? Seriously?

They ask us to give “sacrificially.” This means rent money. Your car payment. Your utility bill. If God doesn’t come through to replace it, you didn’t put enough faith behind your gift. In the meantime, they’re buying another vacation condo in some exotic locale.

Mom and Dad paying for your Bible College tuition? Young and attractive? Here, let us give you a scholarship for a full ride. If you’re a struggling single parent scraping together enough to afford the monthly tuition payment, tough luck. You should have planned better.

Bible? What Bible? Use your cell phone, and text, tweet, or post on FB between scriptures. They may say Bible College students can’t do that, but nobody’s enforcing it. Get pregnant from hooking up with another student in spite of the rules? Time for a quickie wedding!

It all looks good on the outside…fancy buildings, well-dressed staff, lights and sound and smoke during worship…but they’re rotten to the core. It’s all about money. It’s not about God, the Bible, living right, or showing the love of Jesus to others. It’s a game.

Like their puppet in the White House, these charlatans have stopped pretending to “do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God” as directed in Micah 6:8. Money is now their god, and Jesus sits in the back row when He’s allowed in the building.

God sits in the heavens and weeps over how far the modern evangelical church has fallen, supporting a treasonous, lying, hate-spewing fear-monger whose one desire is power and more power. Those who are called to shepherd believers will be held accountable for their betrayal.

Travels

I’ve done a bit of traveling in the last few years. Here are photos (in almost chronological order) of me in Sedona, AZ; South Rim of the Grand Canyon, AZ; White Sands National Park, NM; Big Bend National Park, TX; Arches National Park, UT; Hoover Dam, NV; Petrified Forest National Park, AZ; Multnomah Falls, OR; and Castillo de San Marcos National Park, FL.

I’d love to do more traveling as time allows, once the pandemic is under control. In the meantime, I’m working on writing a book based on my testimony in the hopes of inspiring other survivors of childhood and domestic assault.

The New Apostolic Reformation and Covid-19

The New Apostolic Reformation, which supports our current president, is a cult with its roots in the Prosperity Gospel/Word of Faith movement that began in the 1950s. As a defector, I’d like to help explain where these “Christians” stand on the Covid-19 crisis.

Brainwashing takes place over time, beginning with slightly twisted truths that appeal to potential cult members. The more you participate, and the deeper into the cult you go, the more distorted and perverted the truth becomes. Many people never realize what’s happening. “Jesus wants you to be well” devolves over time into “If you have enough faith, you won’t get sick.” If you get prayer and you’re not healed, the blame is on you. If you’re struggling financially, you haven’t given enough money to the church. This is not scriptural. By the time you get this far, if you hang around, the way you think has already been changed. When they tell you to call in sick so you can get to their revival meetings, it’s no big deal. Skip your mortgage payment to donate more to the church? That’s faith to them.

This is when the real garbage starts being shoveled into your brain. They are teaching that Christians in America are being oppressed & persecuted, and that it’s time for them to take the country back. In fact, they say it is their God-given mandate to do so. They teach that the wealth of the wicked is stored up for the righteous, that *they* are righteous, and anyone who’s not Christian is wicked, so it is not only their privilege but their responsibility to take money away from those they deem to be ungodly. Many of their Bible schools are also training people to enter and be extremely active in politics, including running for positions in government from local bodies all the way up the ladder. Their goal is a theocracy with no tolerance for anyone who doesn’t share their beliefs.

Because these organizations initially appeal to people desperate for hope and help, the indoctrination process is pretty easy. Once they have their claws in you, it’s hard to escape. Isolation, loss of community, no support system, and even shunning are commonplace. The more time you spend around it, the more “normal” it becomes. You function as part of the group because failing to do so has negative consequences. Eventually, you stop questioning even the most outrageous claims made by the leaders and accept them as truth. When they hand you that glass of Kool-Aid, the one that convinces you it’s okay to kill people, exercise racism, and embrace ideals violating every sense of morality you’ve ever learned, you do it because you’ve been taught to obey without question.

The New Apostolic Reformation movement is no less dangerous than radical Islam. Ardent believers are fully prepared to die for what they believe in if that’s what the ringleaders ask them to do. They also believe they are immune to the coronavirus because it is a punishment for unrighteous living, and will be exacted only on those whose faith is not strong enough to protect them. They believe the “righteous” will be the only ones left standing when this is all said and done, and they are part of that group.

I spent 45 years with these people in one place or another and have watched in dismay as they went from Christianity (with a twist) to a cult. They no longer respect the rights of others to believe what they want to believe. They are prepared to do whatever it takes to fulfill their mandate, using force if necessary. Many churches are now encouraging their members to arm themselves and get CCW permits. Don’t discount this. Don’t blow it off. In November, if, God willing, 45 is voted out of office, there could be riots in the streets and widespread violence — perpetuated by these so-called “believers.” I’ve already heard the rumblings. I may be out of their churches, but I’m not out of the loop.

In Search of Worship

I have been searching for a new church since I moved back to this area a year ago. I have had to leave several services early because the music was so loud it gave me a migraine. Is this really worship, or is it a concert? Does it enable the average church member or visitor to set aside the cares of the world and focus on God, or is it meant to entertain? Do we need a darkened auditorium, spotlights, and fog machines to proclaim the majesty of Almighty God? What I see from my seat in these environments is less and less participation, especially when the “worship team” chooses songs with too many words or a melody line outside the range of most average singers. It is becoming a spectator sport instead of a way of coming together as believers to give reverence and awe to the God who gives us hope in a lost and dying world.

I know this will age me, but I was taught that praise and worship served a purpose, and that was to bring us into the throne room of God and prepare us to hear what God wanted to say to us. It was a way of setting aside the worries and concerns of daily life, unifying us as a people, and focusing on the One who could give us hope when all hope was lost. It was, at times, a sacrifice, especially when we were struggling or hurting or angry. It was a way of declaring that even in the midst of our trials and tribulations, God was still on the throne, and we were going to set aside this time to focus on Him instead of ourselves.

Our worship team was seen not only as a vital part of the ministry of the church, but also as people who set an example for young believers and newcomers. We dressed appropriately, wearing modest clothes so as not to draw the eye of the weak to areas they shouldn’t be looking at. We were not seen as the focal point, but rather as vessels. Our goal was leading the church into the presence of God. Being on the worship team was a privilege and a responsibility.

I fear that in the search for contemporary relevance and relatability, and in an attempt to get more backsides in the seats, we have lost sight of our vision. We have watered down the truth of the Gospel to pacify people who want to come to church, but don’t want to change. They want to feel good about what God has done for them, but they don’t really want to do anything for God. They don’t want to alter their lifestyles, give up their sinful behavior, or make any significant modifications to their lives.

We have taken the phrase “Come as you are” and forgotten that an intense, sincere relationship with God will not leave you where you were when you began. Failing to challenge believers to become more holy, to be in the world but not of it, and to seek to become more Christ-like is falling far short of the mark of excellence we are called to as Christians. We should be different. We should be peculiar, odd, & seen as out of place on this planet where sin, hate, strife, and division are spiraling out of control. We should be a light in the darkness.

It is simply not enough to come to church on Sunday, sing three songs from the current CCM radio station playlist, listen to a feel-good sermon, and walk back out the doors unchallenged and unchanged. That is not worship…. It is entertainment.

Stop the Mommy Bus

(originally written in 2001)

What do you mean there aren’t any stops? Nobody told me that when I got on this bus. I thought when the children reached a certain age we could get off for a while at least. But no; not only are there no stops, there are no doors either!

No wonder we have children when we are young. If we knew then what we knew now, we’d think a lot longer, plan more judiciously, and be a lot more certain before starting something that has no end.

In case you haven’t noticed, it just hit me that mommyhood is a terminal disease with no cure. We never stop being moms. It’s something we will be till the day we die. We never stop worrying about our offspring. It doesn’t matter if they live next door or 1200 miles away; all we have to do is hear that certain tone in their voices and WHAM! there we are again, being mom. The connection is never fully severed, no matter what anyone says. Heck, if a marriage fails you can get a divorce, but you can’t do that with your kids. You can ignore them, avoid them, not talk to them, even take them out of your will if you want, but the simple fact remains that they will always and forever be yours. They were inside your body for about 9 months, give or take depending on the child, and they will never totally leave it. It’s like they leave a piece of themselves inside when they are born, one guaranteed to pull at your heart when they hurt, or fall, or go through rough times.

You pour the best of all you have and know into them, hoping somehow to end up with contributing members of society. Interestingly enough, the things you like least about yourself are the things they emulate, and pick up on, and do…the annoying habits, the things you wish you could stop doing but can’t, the bad coping mechanisms you picked up from your own parents, the language, the attitudes…why can’t they just do what you tell them to? ~laughing~

It most certainly doesn’t help that no 2 of them are alike. What worked with Junior doesn’t touch little Jack’s heart one bit. He really doesn’t care about the starving kids in Africa. Hell, he’ll even share his oatmeal with them if you want him to. You look at Anna and she collapses in tears at the mere thought of displeasing you; you can put Ashley in the corner till you’re blue in the face and she doesn’t give a rip. You finally resort to spanking her little behind {waiting for the calls to protective services now}, and she dances off merrily to put the neighbor’s cat in the washer. You take them to church, and they become practicing pagans, lose their virginity early and experiment with every drug on the market; you never darken a church door and have a live-in housemate, and they want to go to Sunday School at 8 on a Sunday morning, for crying out loud, abstain from any form of sex till they are 35, and make straight A’s in school.

It’s a conspiracy, I tell you. They put us on this mommy-bus with our hormones all a-raging, listening to the sounds of our warped little biological clocks ticking away…and forget to tell us the clocks are really bombs.

{collapsing in laughter}

C.S. Lewis on Christmas

Xmas and Christmas: A Lost Chapter from Herodotus

by C. S. Lewis

And beyond this there lies in the ocean, turned towards the west and north, the island of Niatirb which Hecataeus indeed declares to be the same size and shape as Sicily, but it is larger, though in calling it triangular a man would not miss the mark. It is densely inhabited by men who wear clothes not very different from the other barbarians who occupy the north western parts of Europe though they do not agree with them in language. These islanders, surpassing all the men of whom we know in patience and endurance, use the following customs.

In the middle of winter when fogs and rains most abound they have a great festival which they call Exmas and for fifty days they prepare for it in the fashion I shall describe. First of all, every citizen is obliged to send to each of his friends and relations a square piece of hard paper stamped with a picture, which in their speech is called an Exmas-card. But the pictures represent birds sitting on branches, or trees with a dark green prickly leaf, or else men in such garments as the Niatirbians believe that their ancestors wore two hundred years ago riding in coaches such as their ancestors used, or houses with snow on their roofs. And the Niatirbians are unwilling to say what these pictures have to do with the festival; guarding (as I suppose) some sacred mystery. And because all men must send these cards the marketplace is filled with the crowd of those buying them, so that there is great labour and weariness.

But having bought as many as they suppose to be sufficient, they return to their houses and find there the like cards which others have sent to them. And when they find cards from any to whom they also have sent cards, they throw them away and give thanks to the gods that this labour at least is over for another year. But when they find cards from any to whom they have not sent, then they beat their breasts and wail and utter curses against the sender; and, having sufficiently lamented their misfortune, they put on their boots again and go out into the fog and rain and buy a card for him also. And let this account suffice about Exmas-cards.

They also send gifts to one another, suffering the same things about the gifts as about the cards, or even worse. For every citizen has to guess the value of the gift which every friend will send to him so that he may send one of equal value, whether he can afford it or not. And they buy as gifts for one another such things as no man ever bought for himself. For the sellers, understanding the custom, put forth all kinds of trumpery, and whatever, being useless and ridiculous, they have been unable to sell throughout the year they now sell as an Exmas gift. And though the Niatirbians profess themselves to lack sufficient necessary things, such as metal, leather, wood and paper, yet an incredible quantity of these things is wasted every year, being made into the gifts.

But during these fifty days the oldest, poorest, and most miserable of the citizens put on false beards and red robes and walk about the market-place; being disguised (in my opinion) as Cronos. And the sellers of gifts no less than the purchaser’s become pale and weary, because of the crowds and the fog, so that any man who came into a Niatirbian city at this season would think some great public calamity had fallen on Niatirb. This fifty days of preparation is called in their barbarian speech the Exmas Rush.

But when the day of the festival comes, then most of the citizens, being exhausted with the Rush, lie in bed till noon. But in the evening they eat five times as much supper as on other days and, crowning themselves with crowns of paper, they become intoxicated. And on the day after Exmas they are very grave, being internally disordered by the supper and the drinking and reckoning how much they have spent on gifts and on the wine. For wine is so dear among the Niatirbians that a man must swallow the worth of a talent before he is well intoxicated.

Such, then, are their customs about the Exmas. But the few among the Niatirbians have also a festival, separate and to themselves, called Crissmas, which is on the same day as Exmas. And those who keep Crissmas, doing the opposite to the majority of the Niatirbians, rise early on that day with shining faces and go before sunrise to certain temples where they partake of a sacred feast. And in most of the temples they set out images of a fair woman with a new-born Child on her knees and certain animals and shepherds adoring the Child. (The reason of these images is given in a certain sacred story which I know but do not repeat.)

But I myself conversed with a priest in one of these temples and asked him why they kept Crissmas on the same day as Exmas; for it appeared to me inconvenient. But the priest replied, “It is not lawful, O stranger, for us to change the date of Chrissmas, but would that Zeus would put it into the minds of the Niatirbians to keep Exmas at some other time or not to keep it at all. For Exmas and the Rush distract the minds even of the few from sacred things. And we indeed are glad that men should make merry at Crissmas; but in Exmas there is no merriment left.” And when I asked him why they endured the Rush, he replied, “It is, O Stranger, a racket”; using (as I suppose) the words of some oracle and speaking unintelligibly to me (for a racket is an instrument which the barbarians use in a game called tennis).

But what Hecataeus says, that Exmas and Crissmas are the same, is not credible. For first, the pictures which are stamped on the Exmas-cards have nothing to do with the sacred story which the priests tell about Crissmas. And secondly, the most part of the Niatirbians, not believing the religion of the few, nevertheless send the gifts and cards and participate in the Rush and drink, wearing paper caps. But it is not likely that men, even being barbarians, should suffer so many and great things in honour of a god they do not believe in. And now, enough about Niatirb.

Change in the Wind

I’m considering going back to school to get my Bachelor’s degree. I’ve always wanted to do this but the last decade or so has been almost overwhelming, and it was a struggle to merely keep my head above water for a long time. I’m far from fixed, and I have my issues, but I think it’s time to fulfill this dream. It will probably be an online program because I don’t know if I can handle campus chaos, but hey — an achievement is an achievement, no? How we get to where we need to be may not be how we imagined it, but the journey can be fulfilling and satisfying anyway.

(I think the neighbor is rearranging, at 4:30 in the morning….don’t ask me why I’m still awake because I can’t say except to note that my mind won’t shut up again. I keep hearing scraping and moving sounds over on the other side of the wall,)

It’s getting cooler here and fall is definitely in the air. After 3 winters in Florida I have the feeling Missouri is going to kick my backside once again. Hopefully this will be my last year here for a while, if all goes as planned. I’m looking into getting a house with my daughter and her family in another state because they can’t afford what they need on their income, and I need to be around people whether I like it or not. Their family respects my introversion when I choose to be alone in my room or go on a trip by myself, but they also provide me with a sense of belonging and companionship I can’t get when I’m living on my own. Yes, they’re amazingly loud at times, but that’s what headphones are for, right? I stayed with them a bit over the winter and early spring and we did okay….as long as they respect my need for privacy when I shut my door and I give them space when it’s necessary, we should get along fine. Families in other parts of the world make this work all the time. We can do it, too. Multi-generational living has definite advantages. It’s not perfect, but life isn’t either.

God has been good to me. Bumps, bruises, pain, loss….it’s all in His hands and He can make something good from even the worst that happens to us if we allow Him to move in our lives. Yes, I’ve had it rough at times, but other people have gone through much more for longer and they survived. I’m tenacious, determined, and willing to go with the flow to get where I need to be. Hopefully I’ll be an inspiration to someone else who just might need to hear that our past doesn’t dictate our future if we can let go of the pain and stop the negativity that wants to pull us under.

I’m not perfect. I’m a work in progress just like everyone else. I have a bit of a different viewpoint than a lot of folks, but that’s part of who I am. I’m not tied to places or belongings, but to my God and what He has for me even when I have no idea what that is or how I’m going to get there. That’s faith. I trust that when He calls me to step out, there will be ground under my feet or He will help me fly. What more do I really need? He’s gotten me this far and He isn’t about to let go now.

Random Thinkerations

IMG_20190214_100117052

White Sands National Monument, New Mexico. Stunning!

Yep….I made up a new word. More than thoughts….progressive development of thoughts created by thinking about thoughts. Like it?

So today I’m sitting at the library in Waycross, GA. It seemed as good a place as any to stop and take advantage of power as well as free wi-fi. It’s been a week since I last made an entry; this one is more about me and less about others.

See, I’ve been learning a lot since I hit the road. God speaks to me in all kinds of cool ways through all sorts of neat things. I’d like to share some of them with you.

First off, we look at things not only through a mirror, as it says in 1 Corinthians 13:12, but we only see a teeny little bit of everything going on around as well as within us. For instance, I have some issues. (Yeah, I know – what a shock!) When I look at them, I see what appears to be a massive tree right in front of me. It blocks my view of anything else as well as shutting out the sun, rain, and anything else of positive note. All I can focus on is that silly huge tree blocking my way, with massive branches hanging over my head and threatening to fall on me, destroying who I am.

Well, guess what? That tree isn’t even really there. It’s more of a tumbleweed, really. It’s only part of what makes me who I am, but the reason I see it as being so big is because I’m limited by who I am, what I’ve experienced, and how I see the world. Everything I’ve gone through in my life affects how I view a crisis, challenge, or what I see as a failure. I take things very personally, partly because of how I was raised, but also because of how that upbringing conditioned me to see not only myself, but the world.

See, I grew up being compared to others and always, in my mother’s eyes, falling short of hitting the mark. I wasn’t thin enough, or active enough, or social enough. I had “a pretty face,” but this meant I was fat and needed to lose weight. This isn’t intended as a criticism of my mom, but an explanation of why I am who I am and the reasons I struggle with accepting my existence, weaknesses and strengths without feeling the need to justify everything or tear apart every failure. I’m great at criticizing myself, but not so good at accepting that I’m good or deserve anything positive.

Even though I came to a saving knowledge of Jesus at a relatively young age (14), I struggled then and continue to wrestle now with accepting His love towards me just the way I am. I can never seem to feel like I quite hit the mark. I make silly mistakes, jump off into deep water seemingly without thinking, and I can’t keep my mouth shut. I have no filter and very little in the way of tact. This causes crises that further reinforce my sensation of undeservedness and fuels my feelings of insufficiency. It hasn’t caused me to lose my faith; in fact, it has given me reason to cling even more desperately to the Father like His love is a life raft and I’m in the eye of a hurricane. Without my faith, I’d be dead. No doubt. However, this whole mess colors how I look at myself and my life both in general and in day-to-day situations.

I think we all suffer with this tunnel vision to some extent…..some of us more than others. I know people who appear to breeze through life without a trial, tribulation, or loss of anything that appears significant. They have good jobs, nice houses, and their kids are successful as well. However, what we see on the surface is only the visible. Who knows what they deal with inside their own heads? Do they doubt themselves as much as I do? Do they accept the love of God without fear? Do they beat themselves up every time they make a mistake? What about the pressure to keep up with the income, the possessions, the reputation? Do they ever want to do what I just did — sell everything and move into a van?

Anywho….to get on with my point…..when I was out west for my first frantic trip, I saw lots of cool stuff. One thing God used to speak to me was the desert. It looks kinda dry and barren, but things still live and even flourish there. Cacti absorb water when it rains to feed themselves and a wide assortment of wildlife in the dry season. Insects burrow into the sand in the heat of the day and come out at night. In the spring, there are flowers and fresh growth shows up everywhere. Lavender grows wild on the roadsides, adding a gentle beauty to the sand and scrub brush. What looks kinda desolate is actually teeming with life of a different sort — the kind that grows, propagates, and brings beauty to the environment around it.

So why do we complain when we find ourselves in the desert? Instead of bemoaning the lack of surroundings we’re used to, could we look instead for the hidden blessings and opportunities for growth? Could we garner something positive and develop our characters so when we were in seasons of drought, we’d still have resources to draw on? Could we become people who never stop looking to learn, reaching for the positive and the possible?

It’s the same with the northern climates…..yeah, snow is cold and wet and hampers movement and it can be as dangerous as the desert. However, its purpose is plain. It allows perennial plants to go dormant, preparing for the next season of growth. It provides moisture for forests and fields, enabling all kinds of life to be sustained. It even gives people the opportunity to rest inside by a fire, enjoy a day of skiing or sledding, and have some down time with a cup of hot chocolate while relaxing alone or with loved ones. John 12:24 says a seed has to fall to the ground and die before bursting into life; are humans the same way? Sometimes we need a period of rest and just being still before moving on to the next thing. We don’t always need to be doing things. It’s okay to sit at Jesus’ feet and just be.

So anyhow, those are the beginnings of my rambling thoughts. I hope maybe they make sense to someone and even possibly bring a blessing to another pilgrim struggling, like me, to make some kind of sense of life….or just to live and enjoy it and stop trying to figure everything out…..

because, yanno, we can’t. Only God can.

Blessings.

Travel Thoughts 2.0

So, here I am almost a month into my adventure. I’ve seen a lot of things. I’ve learned even more.

Since I sold my place and left Florida, I’ve put almost 7000 miles on the van. Of course, this included driving it back to Missouri and then back to Florida before officially getting started…..I’ve been in the following states on this journey:

  • Missouri
  • Illinois
  • Kentucky
  • Tennessee
  • Georgia
  • Alabama
  • Mississippi
  • Louisiana
  • New Mexico
  • Oklahoma
  • Arizona
  • Texas
  • California

I’ve been to the following National Parks or Monuments:

  • Carlsbad Caverns
  • White Sands
  • Joshua Tree
  • Big Bend

I’ll say it again, after all this driving and exploring, though I’m just getting started….People are in too much of a hurry (as a whole, not necessarily every individual). You see it on the roads with the traffic accidents caused by one car cutting in front of another or driving too fast to be able to safely stop. You see it in the way people speed on the highways – when the speed limit is 70, they often go 75 (and yes, I’m guilty of that at times myself). Increase the limit to 80, which is in effect on some Texas highways, and they go 90 (not me!). They’ll still get so close behind you that you could reach out your back window and touch their hood, and they hate to be kept waiting because it’s SO important to get in front of you or another car, only to be stopped in a traffic jam right up the road because someone was careless, or texting, or in a hurry…..

Another thing I noticed – and it’s ironic, really – is we are often so fixated on getting there, wherever “there” is, that we forget that “here” is part of there. We rush and rush to get to our destination, failing to take time to enjoy the sights and adventures along the way, and then when we do arrive, all we can seem to think about is moving on to the next place or attraction or city. Even in the National Parks people can’t seem to slow down. Now a lot of them are a bit off the beaten path, and they have posted speed limits. There’s a reason for this: they want you to take some time to appreciate the beauty of the landscape, notice the different plants and animals, and relax a bit. Many folks just can’t seem to to make that happen. If the posted limit is 35, you’ll have people going 45 or even 50 in their rush to arrive. If the limit is 45, and you’re going the limit, you’ll be passed by cars hurrying to get to the next spot so they can rabbit to the next one. I get this mentality in the city, though with a bit of foresight and thinking ahead it wouldn’t need to be a routine occurrence….what gets me is when they drive 3 hours from a town to get to a national park in the middle of nowhere and tailgate the cars in front of them or pass them like they’re sitting still. It’s not a contest, folks. We need to take more time to enjoy life instead of wolfing it down like a super-sized value meal after a day or two of eating nothing. There’s so much beauty in life, whether it’s in the landscape around us, the animals and birds, or the stars in the night sky; life’s too short to shoot through stuff at 90 miles an hour (down a dead end road) just so we can say we’ve been there and done that.

When you live in a vehicle, different things take on a special importance. These include showers, bathrooms, hot food, and quiet. Sleeping in truck stops and WalMart parking lots with the occasional treat of paying for a campsite so you can have electricity or visiting a friend or family member and taking advantage of their refrigerator, TV, and wi-fi is a real eye opener. I’m doing this kinda by choice….had I waited much longer, it could easily have become a necessity. I was in over my head. I had too many bills for my income, though I was being careful. Being the owner of a 40-year-old mobile home isn’t cheap. There’s maintenance; things break and need to be fixed; upkeep and replacement of old parts and components can get really expensive. I had a 40-year-old air conditioning unit, 40-year-old windows, and the plumbing and water heater needed help. Those items alone could have run into the tens of thousands of dollars had they all needed to be replaced, in addition to my monthly expenses. Yeah, I will have some costs associated with living in my van, but they’re a lot less than $5000 for a new AC unit, $3000 for windows, $10,000 for new flooring, and $500 or more for the plumber to unclog the washer drain. Heck, for that kind of money I could get a nice newer van or fix this one up to run another 200,000 miles. I got a Planet Fitness membership for exercising and showering. I use wet wipes between visits if I need to clean up. I have a bed, and food, and things to drink, and I’m dry when it’s raining. I have blankets to keep me warm, the kitties for company, and my kids call now and then to check up on me.

I’m meeting fascinating people here in our country….today I was at the Texas Flag Monument and a small group from a nearby church showed up with food, drinks, and clothes for the homeless in the area. They spent about an hour here just loving on those others might look down their noses at and judge for where they are, forgetting that many of us are only one missed paycheck, one lost job, or one injury from finding themselves in the same position. The volunteers don’t ask for anything in return or demand recipients go to their church or pray with them, but they do offer a ride to the Sunday service if someone wants to come. This is Jesus in action, people. Meeting simple needs in a simple way for those around us who just need a little compassion and love does more to spread the Gospel than all the preaching in the world from a fancy pulpit in a church with 300, 3000, or 30,000 members. It’s not about us. It’s about them and what we have to offer because of who we are and Who we claim to believe in.

I was reading in Luke last night about Lazarus, the beggar overlooked by the rich man. He basically learned that if you receive your reward here on earth – money, possessions, favor – then you’ve gotten your due. On the other hand, those who suffer in this life but still believe will be rewarded in heaven. How many of us have become so materialistic, so enamored by the shiny trinkets this earth has to offer, that we’ve forgotten they are only temporary? This will all pass. We can’t take any of it with us when we die. What matters is how we treat other people, how we show God’s love in our daily walk, and how we utilize what He’s given us (whether selfishly, to fulfill our own desires for the trappings of wealth, or as a means to spread the love and compassion of Jesus by allowing Him to use us to bless others). When I die, it won’t matter that I lived in a van. What matters is how I treat people. What matters is my character and integrity. What matters is if I live what I preach, love who Jesus loves, and give whatever I can to help those I can help – whether that’s finances, food, a smile, a hug, or words of support and encouragement depending on the circumstances. It’s not about my personal accumulation of stuff or what I’ve achieved as far as education, career, possessions, or accomplishments. It’s about what I do with what God has given me – talents, abilities, gifts, finances, possessions – to make this world a better place and to touch others. There’s an old song called “You’re the Only Jesus Some Will Ever See.” It’s more true now than ever, with so many people never having even darkened the door of a church. Too many have never heard of the love of God, instead seeing Him as a vengeful being sitting on a throne doling out punishment for real or perceived infractions. We have the capability to show the world He is real, He cares, and He wants to be personally involved in our lives regardless of our circumstances.

And that’s where I am today.