Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Another one bites the dust--friendship, that is.

Well, it happened again. I have said goodbye to yet another person I thought was a friend. This was someone I loved dearly and would have done anything for. Heck, I would have followed him to the gates of Hell (and then pull him back of course). But, none of this mattered to him. Eight years, down the drain!

(Sidebar: If you have been following my posts on Facebook, please don't think I am dragging this on; I am just talking it out.)

For some reason, I just cannot keep friends. Things start out well at first; we would be bosom buddies always talking and hanging out. Then, promises are broken. Then, the person is flaky. Then, I try to call them out on their flakiness or distance only for them to put a guilt trip on me. Then, they stop calling. Then, I wash my hands of the friendship and move on.

I used to think that it was me that caused people to abandon me. Sure, I could have outlandish ideas and can be quite emotional. I occasionally would worry that I would wear out the person I was friends with. In retrospect, prayer, and a pep talk from my lovely wife, I realized that the issue was not necessarily with me. I have almost always been good to my friends. I call them (even though I hate telephones), I write to them, I arrange gatherings to hang out with them, I celebrate with them when things are going well, I mourn with them when they are struggling, and I try to help them as much as I could When a friend was having financial problems, I gave (not lent) money to them. I have even done things I knew were wrong in order to help them. In high school, a friend of mine was struggling with her Grammar class, and I let her cheat from my test paper. Not proud of it, but I did it. All I ever asked from my friends was loyalty, devotion, and respect. I once told someone that if a friend would give me 40% of what I give them, I would be happy. The issue with me is, I keep picking the wrong people to be friends. It is often said that a girl who is abused by her father becomes a woman who only date and marry men who are just like their father. In my case, I seem to befriend people who are just like select members of my family. What most of these ex-friends have in common is that they eventually treat me like some kind of primate. They will put me on a pedestal at first, but then they will only play with me when they are bored and their true friends are not around. They will then try to put me in a costume and make it their mission to get me to think the way they feel I should think, rebuking me when I do not. When they finally realize I am a man and not a monkey, they back away.

With this ex-friend, we will call him Charlie, I thought it was different. I knew him for eight years, and we hung out together relatively often, going to each other's houses, going out for a beer, bike riding, and dining. I never thought I would say goodbye to him unless we were putting the other in the grave. I really loved him, and I told him that he was the best friend I had ever known, and he accepted this. I felt comfortable with him because he was a minister. Then this week, he told me that he felt that we had become too close and that our relationship never should have transposed from minister-layperson. He tells me this after 8 fricking years and all that we had been through together! Actually, I am proud of how I responded to his bullcrap; instead of pleading or crying like a punk, I mustered the courage, after hearing him out, to stand up and walk out the door--reserving my dignity.

A little background to this: almost a month ago, I became unhappy with my former church and decided to return to my old church. While he kept saying that the decision was mine, I knew he was displeased with my decision--even though he is not the pastor or have full membership with either of these churches. I tried to explain to him why I needed to leave, but instead of even trying to understand, he just said that I was being legalistic. When I called him on this and that I needed to be validated by friends, he said that a true friend tells the truth. Yes, but a true friend tries to understand first! He then said that the subject was closed, and he did not respond to my emails for weeks. When we met on Monday, he recapped what we were discussing and his opinions on it. When he paused and, shocked, I tried to speak, he picked up where he left off. After concluding, basically, that we should return to a minister-layperson basis, he then tried to change the subject with something lighter, such as whether the wife and I were planning to move.

Two things, beside the dagger in my heart, stuck out from that conversation. First, while he did not use the word "legalistic," he insinuated it to me yet again. Basically, for the years I knew him, every time I said something he disagreed with, he called me legalistic. He barely even asked follow up questions; he just called me legalistic. So quick to judge someone you disagree with! The word legalistic seems to be a term liberal Christians use to reprimand Bible-believing Christian. Year after year of being called this, I start to cringe when I hear it. In fact, legalistic is now a taboo word for me. Use it in my presence, and you will incur my wrath! (Sort of kidding) Another thing: he often accused me of not celebrating my faith and the freedom the Gospel brings. What?! Maybe I don't talk about it the way people do, but I certainly write about it--in my poems and hymns! I celebrate it by defending it from those who are nauseated by it. For him to know for so many years and still tell me that I do not celebrate my faith tells me that he wasn't paying attention and that he sees only what he wants to see!

It is now crystal clear to me that Charlie never wanted to be my friend; instead, it seems that I was nothing more to him than his project. He wanted to persuade me to be the type to lose trust for the superiority of Scripture in order to accept his ideas, and he must have been thrilled to see me disassociate from a man he loathes--a man whose principles, seemingly, are very similar to mine. Yet, when I told Charlie that I was my own person and to accept me as I have accepted him, he knew that his mission failed, and he told me that we were too close. If we were closer than he would have preferred, it is his own fault. I never asked to go to his house--he invited me. In fact, half of the things we did together were initiated by him. Then, when I will not think like him, he throws away 8 years of friendship? My love and loyalty meant nothing to him? Actually, this is not the first time a person tried to make me their mission, only to bail out when I discarded the bait. I am no one's project! I am a man who wants to be friends to people! If I feel I cannot accept a person for who they are, I never get too serious with them.

If I learned anything from this ordeal, it is this: no matter what a person's station is in their life, I will never accept a friendship with them at face value. I will be extra cautious with whom I allow into my heart. Plus, I will only befriend those who can give as much as they take. I will not be shaken again! I will implement the zero tolerance rule with my friends. If someone crosses the line or loses interest in the friendship, I will reach out to them and try patience. But, if they are relentless, that's it!

As for Charlie, he may have wounded my heart, but he did not destroy it. I will let no one destroy me, and those who try to are beneath me! Like Antaeus, the more I am pushed to the ground, the stronger I will become. All of us, especially I, will be judged at the Great White Throne. God will recall this incident, and Charlie will have to explain himself before he enters the Kingdom of Heaven. For now, I just hope that what he gets will be of greater value than what he gave up.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

A tribute to my mother

When people put me down, Mom showed me how to look up.
When people, even relatives, insulted and exploited me, Mom came to my defense and put dissenters in their place.
When I couldn't believe in myself, Mom always believed in me.
When I could trust no one, I could always depend on Mom.
When people earned my hate, Mom reminded me that children of God are supposed to love and forgive.
When people sugarcoated things so I could not understand, she was always blunt and direct. Sure it made me angry sometimes, but I always appreciated it.
When I was punished for not going with the crowd, she reminded me of the great things people accomplish by thinking for themselves.
She is one of the very few people who truly get me--and tolerate me.
She is my mother, and I love her dearly. Besides Holy Mother Church, she is the only woman who could give my wife a run for her money (sorry, Agaliha, but you know what time it is  )
I once told her that, if I must pass on one day, I would rather go before her. I still mean that. Without Mom, I would be nothing.
Happy Mother's Day, Mom!

Friday, May 9, 2014

Not getting enough people to accept you? Try bullying!

This is exactly what is going on in this country in the past few years. Because of political correctness, people who perceive themselves to be oppressed groups are given the license to destroy the lives of others simply because they disagree with their beliefs. Don't believe me? Just consider the following facts:

In 2012, Dan Cathy, CEO of Chik-Fil-A, when asked, stated that his Christian beliefs would not allow him to support same-sex marriage. In response, gay rights groups starting getting hot and bothered, planning to boycott Mr. Cathy's restaurants. Rey Colon, an alderman of Chicago (who does nothing for his ward), threatened to violate a city law by blocking the impending building of a Chik-Fil-A in his ward. Of course, he could not stop this work from happening.

This year, Brendan Eich, co-founder and CEO of Mozilla Firefox, was forced to resign because he gave $1000 of his own money to fund the campaign for California's Proposition 8 to ban same-sex marriage. Well, after that Proposition was thrown out, LGBT groups turned on Eich and started creating havoc because he donated money towards his personal cause. As icing on the cake, Sam Yagan of OkCupid was obnoxious and childish enough to block Mozilla Firefox users from OkCupid, giving them instead a message as to what Eich did. I can't believe I found my wife on that site.

Also this year, Mayor de Blasio, boycott New York City's (yes, his own city's) St. Patrick's Day parade, and Guinness, Sam Adams, and Heineken dropped their endorsements of the parade at the exact last minute. Why? Because the organizers of the parade did not allow gay rights and pride floats. Why is this such a big deal? Do they allow African-American pride floats? Do they allow people to march with signs for rights for short people or rights for women? This is about one specific culture--not gender or sexuality. We listen to all of these issues all year around on television, the radio, the newspapers, on the street, at work, and at school. Parades are a time for people to relax and have fun. St. Patrick's Day is a day for Irish pride and to celebrate the conversion to Christianity in Ireland. For anything other than this to be brought to the table is ludicrous.

Next, Donald Sterling made a private conversation on his private phone, in the privacy of his own home, expressing his distaste that his prostitute-on-retainer posed with Magic Johnson in an Instagram, and he told her not to bring blacks to his games. The POR recorded Sterling and sent the audio clip to the press. As a result, he had to pay a $2.5 million fine, is banned for life from all Clipper events, and will be forced to sell his ownership of the Clippers. So many African Americans cheered this decision, and a relative of mine called me disillusioned because I said that Sterling was the real victim for having a private conversation leaked to the press.

And finally, the big news since yesterday, David and Jason Benhan had their reality Flip It Forward cancelled from HGTV because they were outspokenly against same-sex marriage and abortion--thanks to a report given by the Right Wing Watch, or what they should more accurately be called, the Left Wing Nazis.

So, what we have here in nearly all of these cases, innocent people are being humiliated and destroyed--simply because their beliefs differ from those who are politically correct or those who benefit from expressing how oppressed they are.

I just have a few questions: Did Sterling, Eich, Cathy, the Benhan brothers, or the parade organization deny housing to gay people? Jobs? Are they members of hate groups? (By hate groups, I mean groups that deliberately talk about people as subhuman and joke about killing or enslaving people). Did these men even make a threat of violence against the African American and gay communities? No, right? Then why do you want to take away their livelihood? Why do you want to demonize them and make them lose face? If you think you are gaining acceptance, you are wrong. You are just making people hate you even more, and any concessions people give you will be because they are afraid of you. But if you look all over the internet in North America and Europe, that fear is starting to wear off (Who knows? Maybe the person who kowtows to you the most is spewing the most hatred against you online--anonymously). And when fear of a person who benefits from said fear wears off, hate and resentment are next. Don't believe me? Why is Tea Party membership growing?

Now, let's look at this from a practical perspective--one that I learned in high school: no one has to accept you. Did you just read that? NO ONE HAS TO ACCEPT YOU!!! A basic right endowed to us by God is free will. We can accept and reject anyone we want, and to punish people into accepting you is impractical for five reasons.

1. It is just childish. For watchdog groups to focus their energy tracking money people give to political campaigns and tracking and attacking those who are bold enough to express their personal beliefs is a travesty. If they put that much hot air in the economy, maybe we could get our national surplus back. They could find those 200 Nigerian girls kidnapped. Get my drift?

2. It is unhealthy. Think about it; can you spend all that rage against those who don't approve of your culture, DNA, or lifestyle day after day and still be happy? Can anyone be happy spending so much time looking for and destroying those who disagree with you?

3. It will not change the hearts of those who disagree with you. Sure, most will be careful what they say around certain people, but online or when they are in the company of similar thinkers, you can well believe that they will call outrageous or unmanly actions "gay" and they will joke about the three things a black man cannot get (a black eye, a fat lip, and a job). It is like my mother used to tell me: "You can stop someone from calling you a n*gger, but you cannot stop them from thinking of you as one."

4. Related to #3, it will only create more enemies. After all, when you harass a group of people for their beliefs long enough, all it does is make your group a thorn in their side--a thorn they will want to remove any way possible. Plus, you turn those you have ruined into heroes and poster children for a movement of real intolerance. History has shown us that when an era becomes so liberal that liberalism becomes a contradiction in terms, people become sick of it and the havoc is causes them. This is why I predict that, in 20 years, the mainstream will become so fed up with the PC police wrecking this country that they will elect any madman they can find to end it. When that happens, America will be flung into a Holocaust, in which the main targets of the regime will be the victicrats and their unwilling affiliates. When that day comes, the main ringleaders will be finished. Then what will become of the "progress" you have worked for? And if you don't believe me about the coming Holocaust, let me remind you that, in politics and social mores, the German Weimar Republic was practically identical to the way America, Canada, and parts of Europe are now--before Hitler came to power.

5. It neglects the fact that everyone has some "bigotry" in them, and that their bigotry shines when they are anonymous or in private. Yes, African Americans can be bigots. Just look at Khalid Mohammed, Louis Farrakhan, and Abasi Malone are racist against Whites, Jews, Mexicans, Asians, etc. And as for gay people, yes, even they can be bigoted at times. Don't believe me? Did you know that the lesbian poet, Gertude Stein, was a Social Darwinist? Did you know that Willie O'Keefe, the gay man associated with the group that opposed JFK, and was in prison for male prostitution, hated Blacks? Mike Jeffries, a gay man who is the CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch, has a problem with Blacks, Latinos, fat people, and anyone he deems unattractive? And let's not forget one more thing; those who cheered when Cathy, and the Benham brothers were denounced and humiliated are bigoted against Evangelical Christians. There, I said it. I will say it again: THEY ARE BIGOTED AGAINST EVANGELICAL CHRISTIANS!!! Open your dictionary. Look up bigot. Does it not say that a bigot is a person who hates or blatantly refuses to tolerate a person or a group of people for who they are, what they are, or what they stand for? When you target and disenfranchise a person because they are standing for what they believe in, you are a bigot. Eich, Cathy, and the Benham's are not bigots. They disenfranchised no one. Eich and Cathy did not investigate and fire people who worked for them who might belong to the LGBT community. The Benham brothers are not Nazis or Klansmen.

All this being said, it does not matter who or what you are; there will be those who will disagree with you or just not accept you. Still, why let it bother you? Why stoop to the level you have ascribed to them? There are people who do not accept me for being predominantly African American, just like there are those who will not accept me for admitted I have mixed blood. So what? As long as they don't try to stab me or keep me from working or living my life, they can reject me all they want.  I am married to a White woman. Some people will not accept our union as being valid. I don't care! Why? Because I know that our marriage is valid because we were married in the House of God and according to His Standards. I also know that this is the woman God has chosen for me. Even if the whole world opposed us, I am not going to even try taking on the world because I know that it will only exhaust me, and I will not win. Besides, while I do not know the hearts of the men I have mentioned, it is very possible that, while they do not accept or agree with some factors of the LGBT community, they can still accept an individual person who is gay. There are things about my wife that I disagree with, and vice versa, yet we can still accept and love each other as husband and wife--and we do. Therefore, if a person does not accept you, do not try to punish them with your proverbial fist; instead, try to win them with your love. For this, be fair, and do not dehumanize those who disagree with you. I might step on toes here, but for a gay person to go after an Evangelical Christian for decrying same-sex marriage is like an Israeli soldier who survived the Holocaust shooting a Palestinian for refusing to recognize the State of Israel. It is like Gandhi said: "You must be change you wish to see in the world." In other words, if you want acceptance, ACCEPT. If you want tolerance, TOLERATE. If you want respect, RESPECT. And if you want love, LOVE. Live and let live. It's as simple as that.

Sources (randomly listed):

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

McDonalds, Why can't I have it MY WAY?

Dear McDonalds,

I don't know what is going on, but it appears that your locations hire people who won't  follow simple instructions these days. For the past five or so months, I have gone to four different Chicagoland locations of yours and ordered a specific burger--either a McDouble or a Quarter Pounder, with no pickle or ketchup. I have ordered this at your North Riverside mall location, your Forest Park location, your Little Village location, and especially your northern Humboldt Park location. In all of these locations, they have gotten it wrong. The put the ketchup and/or pickle on anyway. Occasionally, the cashier would put the order in incorrectly (no onion or ketchup), but 95% of the time, the order I received incorrectly had the special order ticket on it with the correct specifications! There was a time, at the aforesaid Humboldt Park location, when I had to send the order back twice, and the third time it still came incorrectly! By this time, I was fed up with the game and demanded a refund. I complained about this specific location to your headquarters, and they called to apologize. You wrote me a letter to apologize, and you gave me a coupon for a free meal. And after all that, this location still could not follow orders! There was a time that I told them my order was "for here," and they bagged my food to go!

At first, I thought it was just this location, but I am noticing more and more of this. If one location is incompetent, there is something wrong with that location, but when four locations cannot get a simple order right, there is something wrong with the company. Please tell me, what is so difficult about NOT putting pickles and ketchup on a burger? And please, don't point out to me that there are immigrants at this location who cannot understand English. Down the street from that Humboldt Park McDonalds is a Burger King--also with immigrants for employees, whose first language is not English, yet when I tell them to hold the pickle and ketchup, they almost always oblige. Sure, they are very slow at completing orders at times, but I don't recall ever having to complain about them getting orders wrong. Besides, the word No is not just an English word; it is Spanish, Italian, Catalan, Galician, and Latin.

Either you are hiring people who cannot or will not read or obey orders, or this is divine intervention to discourage me from eating your food. Whatever the reason, you did not become the world's largest restaurant chain and a household name in several countries by not listening to your customers. Think about it: what if I were allergic to pickles or ketchup and I trusted your location to get my order right, only to find myself in a hospital? Can you spell lawsuit? It is getting to the point where I am losing my appetite for your food. If you care at all for your customers, please look into your restaurants and crack down on locations that don't listen to your customers. If not, there is always Burger King, Wendy's, Culver's, Five Guy's, Jack-in-the-Box, Carl Jr.'s, In-and-out, White Castles...get my point?


An unsatisfied customer

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Back with the LCMS!

So, my experiment with Grace Lutheran Church, an independent Lutheran church, did not go as well as I thought. Therefore, I have returned to the LCMS.

First, here are the things about Grace that I enjoyed:

a. Eucharist at every service
b. Sprinkling of holy water at special services.
c. Wood carved design of their nave and sanctuary
d. Bach Cantata Vespers once a month (even though I barely went)
e. They recite the Nicene Creed exactly how the Roman Catholics used to recite it before they changed it
f. Most of the congregation was very welcoming 
g. They have Stephen Ministry

Second, the reasons why I was not happy enough at Grace to stay are the following:

a. I missed the Anglican-style liturgy commonplace at St. John and other LCMS (Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod) congregations
b. The congregation is so big that I did not always feel needed. Appreciated, yes. Needed, no.
c. While the music directors at St. John, especially Paul Lindblad and Pastor Payton,  knew how much my hymns meant to me, they were willing to work with me and even allowed for some of my works to be used in church services. They were just proud that I had such desire, and my efforts were not beneath their education and experience. I had been sending my hymns to Grace for years even before I joined, but none of them were used or even taken seriously.
d. Out of the three pastors at Grace, I only received closeness and warmth from one of them. One, a decent clergyman, was always so busy, and the other one...while she gave good sermons, I felt no love coming from her. Cannot elaborate any more than least not publicly.
e. Grace, while independent, is getting too close to ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church of America). While the congregation voted against the use of ELCA's corrupted hymnal, Evangelical Lutheran Worship, to placate those who wanted Grace to be independent by politics only, they not only used service settings from ELW from time to time during the summer; they implemented a change in the service regularly. When the pastor says, in the Prologue of the Communion service, "Let us give thanks to the Lord our God," LCMS, WELS (Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod), and NALC (North American Lutheran Church) congregations typically say, "It is right to give Him thanks and praise." Grace and ELCA congregations say, "It is right to give OUR thanks and praise." Yes, they made this phrase gender neutral. If the word "Him" offends feminazis and people who don't believe in gender so much, why didn't they just use the Roman Catholic response: "It is right and just," or the old Lutheran response, "It is meet and right so to do?" What were they thinking? The phrase they chose sounds too awkward. When it comes to ELCA, this is only the tip of the iceberg. In their hymnal, they do not even say Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Since some people find it more important to impose their personal agendas than to preserve the infallacy and superiority of the Holy Scriptures, they instead say Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer. No, sorry, but Jesus said to baptize in the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and He did not call God his Creator (of course, that would suggest that Jesus was created, which is blasphemy). He called God his Father. Not only this, but many ELCA pastors openly stand for things, and post them online, that are immoral and unbecoming of a pastor, let alone a congregant. One pastor shamelessly posted online, for billions to see, having had worked for Planned Parenthood. That the leaders of ELCA see what their pastors are standing for, out in the open, and not call for an ultimatum to repent or be defrocked, I have lost all respect for ELCA and want nothing to do with them--until they repent. I apologize to friends who belong to ELCA, but this is how I feel. Also, accept for a few occasions, any guest pastors they had came from the Lutheran Theological Seminary of Chicago--an ELCA seminary. If Grace needed a new pastor, they would request one from ELCA. I know the senior pastor wants to keep Grace more "progressive" than LCMS, yet more doctrinally and historically sound than ELCA, yet with the changed climate of ELCA, how can he ascertain this when the only pastors they have considered are ELCA? They would be able to be confident in keeping GRace stuck in the middle, so to speak, if they would consider inviting NALC pastors to speak, work with NALC charities, if they have any yet, and putting Grace on NALC rosters for when they need a new pastor. After all, while the senior pastor is a great man, he will eventually retire like all people, if they are so fortunate, usually do. Then, they will need to look for a new pastor. If they look within ELCA, it is highly probable that the pastor they choose will stand for ungodly things, causing a possible split, driving the more moderate members away, and then Grace would look just like the stereotypical ELCA church.  

f. Whenever I went to Bible study, they began right on the button, and when they started the lesson, they shut the door. It was very embarrassing to open the door and walk in, gaining everyone's attention, even though I was only 30 seconds late. At St. John, the door to the Bible study room is typically left open so than anyone could saunter in unnoticed. 

The bottom line: as much as I wanted it to be, and as much as many of the people there wanted it to be for me, Grace just was not my home. I tried to be involved, within reason, but it just did not feel the same. 

In closing, I am going to quote something from Dietrich Bonhoeffer that I learned the hard way:

"One who wants more than what Christ has established does not want Christian brotherhood…. Innumerable times a whole Christian community has broken down because it had sprung from a wish dream…. But God's grace speedily shatters such dreams. Just as surely as God desires to lead us to a knowledge of genuine Christian fellowship, so surely must we be overwhelmed by a great disillusionment with others, with Christians in general, and, if we are fortunate, with ourselves. By sheer grace, God will not permit us to live even for a brief period in a dream world…. He who loves his dream of a community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial."