Hospital and sexism

I hate to write blogs like this one. But sometimes I have no other idea of what to do to effect change.

My wife works for a local teaching hospital. She has worked there since 2003 and for the most part, she has enjoyed working for them. Over the past year or two, things have taken a very dark turn and she is constantly being mistreated by her co-workers and management.

The hospital was a great place to work for in the beginning. The benefits were good, pay was ok and the work environment was good. Lately, her supervisor, with the blessings and help of the Lab management, has worked to make my wife’s life a living hell.

She was hired to work 3:30PM to Midnight 5 days a week and one weekend a month. Shortly after being hired, they asked her to take on an extra weekend a month to help with the shortage of staff. That was in 2003. She has never been moved from that every other weekend schedule. She asked for 4:00 PM to 12:30 AM because our son was in High School and sometimes she would need to pick him up before going to work.

They gave her that schedule, but over this summer asked her to take 3:00 PM to 11:30 PM because a co-worker was out with an injury. Now that the co-worker has come back, my wife asked to return to 4:00 PM to 12:30 AM as school will start soon. Her supervisor, a man, told her that he was not going to give it to her since she thought she was “owed” it. She never said she was owed it, in fact, she was merely asking for her old schedule back.

This same supervisor has male employees under him. He allows them to take long breaks, to sit and surf the internet when there is work piled up, and refuses to say anything to them when they make a mistake or fail to follow protocol. Yet, he will happily, almost gleefully, go after any female employee who make a mistake, who is as little as 1 minute late to work or back from a break, and will do everything in his power to hound them to work faster and harder.

This recent schedule issue is only the tip of the sexism iceberg. However, every time my wife goes to management about it, they report her interaction to her supervisor and then tell her to deal with it. Then, of course, he makes her life more difficult for daring to say anything. This is appalling!

Repeated attempts to resolve this issue have failed. She comes home upset, depressed, and exhausted. She cannot afford to quit, there are no local jobs in her field right now, and she is scared to death to talk to anyone else about this for fear of being fired. In fact, we both fear this attempt to blow the whistle on the labor violations and the sexism at her work will result in her termination.

However, I must say something. I cannot continue to keep silent about it. I am hoping that rather than punish her, the hospital will work to resolve these issues and correct them. I am hoping they will come to her and assure her that she is a valued employee and that they want to correct the illegal behavior of her supervisor, not punish her into silence.

I can hope. Please God, let them hear her.

Sprint: The nightmare that never ends

Update: The problem is fixed, but I still won’t see much in the way of compensation for my ordeal. See below. 

I am putting this in writing so that there is a permanent record of the nightmare that I have lived through. It is still on going as of this moment, but I hope to resolve it shortly via the courts if necessary.

On June 29, 2017 at about 1 PM EST, I learned that my Sprint account had been locked. I could pay my payments, and see my information, but I could not make any changes or upgrade my wife’s phone. I wanted to upgrade her phone as a late birthday present to her. Instead, Sprint has made this a birthday nightmare.

I immediately began to contact Sprint to see why my account was locked and how I could get it unlocked.

The first person I chatted with, “Katey”, said it was an issue with my browser. I used Opera and Microsoft Edge browsers to view the site, but she said I needed to use Firefox, Chrome, or Internet Explorer. I have Firefox installed, so I tried with it. No joy. I tried with Internet Explorer. No joy. I downloaded and installed Chrome and tried Chrome. No joy. She proceeded to tell me it was a cookies issue in Chrome. Mind you, I had just installed Chrome and there were no cookies!

When I explained this to her, she got rude and shoved me off to another person who hung up on me.

The next person I spoke to, “Jessica”, kept putting me on hold for long periods of time until I told her I wanted to talk to her supervisor. I think she kept putting me on hold hoping I would go away.

The next person was “Bridget”. She finally said there was fraudulent activity on my account and she could not help me. I would need to speak to someone from the Fraud Department. I asked her to transfer me to that department, but she said she could not. They would have to call me. Before I could say anything else, she hung up.

Four hours later, after waiting for the call from the Fraud Department, someone called with a very heavy accent. I did not get her name. She told me there was no way to fix it short of going into a Sprint store and showing them my drivers license and they could unlock my account. I said this is ridiculous. I asked to speak to her supervisor. She said she would have to call me back later and then hung up on me.

Thirty minutes or so pass and “Ladonna” called me. She was a supervisor in the Fraud Department. She said that there was nothing she could do to fix my account. I would need to take 2 forms of ID to the store and they could unlock my account. I asked if she was sure they could do it and she said she thought they could.

I asked to speak to her supervisor and she sent me to the Executive Support Staff. About 30 minutes later an “Ari” called me to help me from the Executive Support Staff. She said that I did not need to go to the store, that she could verify my identity over the phone and the Fraud Department would unlock my account. After an hour on the phone with her and a small chat with “Axel” to verify my identity, she said the Fraud Department would unlock my account and I would hear from someone in Executive Support the next day.

I hoped and prayed that this nightmare of nearly 9 hours was over. Boy was I wrong!

June 30, 2017 – 4:00 PM EST – Some one from Executive Support called. She did not give her name and when I asked she moved on to other topics. She said that Ari was wrong, I would still need to go to the store and show my 2 forms of ID to the staff and they would unlock my account. She promised me that they could do it and it would be cleared up if I did. I asked if the CEO could fix this, she said no. Asked if I could speak to the CEO, she said he could not be bothered with me. Told her I could get an attorney and court order if it would help get my account unlocked, she said go ahead their legal team is the best and they would be happy to take me on. I asked to speak to her supervisor and she said he would have to call me back. She hung up.

At 5 PM EST, I arrived at a local Sprint store. I waited for an hour to be helped. Once I was called up, I told the young man, who was very nice, what was going on and that I had been through the ringer on this. I laid out 6 different forms of ID for him to see that I was indeed who I said I was. Get this, he then had to call the Fraud Department because they cannot unlock the account in the store!

After 30 minutes on hold at the Fraud Department, he passes his phone to me because they need information from me. The lady on the line said that she could unlock my account if I could just answer some questions about my account. She said I did not need to go to the store, they could have done this over the phone. When I explained to her all I had gone through, she wanted me to tell my story to her supervisor so he could fix this.

I asked for him to call me back, so I could give the young man at the Sprint store his AT&T Cell Phone back and he could return to helping customers. “Farnz” called me and we discussed everything that had transpired over the past two days. He said he deleted my online profile and that in 4 hours I could register a new one and my account would be fine then. He gave me a $230 credit on my account. At least he said he did.

I cannot see if he did because 6 hours later and the online site still says I cannot register because there are too many profiles linked to my account. But, my previous account is unaccessible as well. So I contact support again and the Fraud Department is closed. I have to wait until tomorrow to chat with them. So I will have to deal with this a third day in a row.

Bottom line, so much is wrong with Sprint. Here is what I think:

  1. Each rep, all 9 of them, called me on my Sprint phone. The same phone listed in my account as the primary phone. That should be their first indication that I am who I say I am. But if not…
  2. I gave them my security pin, backup question answer, my date of birth, SSN, and address each time and they matched the account information. This too should have been an indication that I am who I say I am. But if not…
  3. Who in the heck would spend 9+ hours fighting to get an account unlocked just to steal a phone??? There are easier ways to steal a phone than to spend all this time fighting with Sprint.

I would also like to point out that at no time since the supposed fraud on April 7, 2017, did Sprint ever notify me of a problem. This is a violation of S.C. Code § 39-1-90, Kan. Stat. § 50-7a01 et seq., 815 ILCS §§ 530/1 to 530/25, and Federal Law 15 U.S.C. § 1681a(p). Each holds for fines starting the day the breach occurred until the date I found out about it (June 28). I will be writing complaints to the US Attorney’s General office, and to the Attorney’s General of each state Sprint does business in. I will also file complaints with the FCC, FTC, SEC, CFPB, and the BBB.

This is a nightmare. And of course, I am under contract so I cannot move my service. Not to mention my credit is still messed up, so no one will give me service. I am royally screwed. Such is life in my world.

July 1, 2017 – 1:15 PM – Update: Call from “Eldon” in the Fraud Department. He says, finally, it is not a specialized team in the Fraud Department, like the last 9 people told me it was, but actually an algorithm that blocked my account. And the issue is supposedly with the IT department now. They may or may not have anyone in that department on a Saturday, so it may be Monday before they can fix it. Lucky me! Oh, and Eldon does not work on Monday, so someone else will contact me on Monday from the Fraud Department to let me know what new lie they can tell me about why it is not working.

Supposedly, the Executive Support staff is going to call me to help me with the phone upgrade so that I don’t loose my grandfathered plan. That has never quite worked out in the past, but we will see what happens. Stay tuned for the next installment of How the Bishop Turns.

July 3, 2017 – 8:50 PM – Update: Day 5. Still no solution in sight. No one from the Executive Support Team called me on Saturday like they said they would. “Nora” called me at 8:50 PM and said she would try to help me. I told her I seriously doubted that she would be able to resolve any of these issues. She did not seem too nice. At least the website is no longer telling me there are too many profiles attached to my account. Now it is giving me the error of [MySprint : Register for My Sprint : mysprint_register_for_my_sprint_error_validation_modal : en_US]. This is after it sends a security code to my phone and I put the code in the box and hit enter. Five times I tried this process and all five times it gave me the same error. “Nora” had no idea what that meant and would have to “discuss it with her team” and get back to me within the hour. Twenty minutes left of that hour and we will see if she was telling the truth or just lying like the last 10 reps.

It is really sad that it has taken 5 days, 11 reps and over 25 hours of manpower and wasted time on my part and there is still no solution to be found. This is unconscionable. As big as Sprint is, they should be able to deal with these issues on a much more expedient way. Besides, it was an error on their part and an over zealous computer algorithm that causes the error to begin with. Yet, me the customer, has to deal with the headache and is punished for their mistake.

I hope they intend to do better than a $230 credit considering what a nightmare this has been.

July 3, 2017 – 9:47 PM – Update: with 3 minutes left of the hour she promised me, Nora did indeed call back. She walked me through the steps to get my new profile established and the account now works. It took 26 hours, 11 reps, and 5 days to get it working. I have to say, I appreciate Nora working to get it resolved.

I did managed to get a $230 credit on the account. While that is far from equal compensation for the ordeal I went through, I guess it is the best I can hope for.

Dana’s phone and Thomas’ phone are now upgraded. I am paying a fortune for 32 GB iPhones. They wanted $100 down to get the 128 GB version. They both have 64 GB versions right now. So I am not sure how happy they will be with the 32 GB versions. But such is life. If Sprint wants to make this right, I have a couple of ideas:

  1. Give me 3 months worth of free service. That should be compensation enough for all I went through. Or,
  2. Change my upgrades of Dana and Thomas’ phones to the 128 GB versions at the 32 GB version price with no down payments. Or,
  3. Clear all our leases out (except for the ones I just upgraded) and let us keep the equipment.

I think any or all of those would be a step in the right direction to truly resolving this horrible ordeal.

Issues with OpenDKIM

I spent the better part of two days trying everything under the sun to get OpenDKIM to work on our server. Finally found the solution.

No matter what I changed, OpenDKIM would not listen on port 8891. Finally, I discovered that in the opendkim.service file it was not loading it to 8891, but to a sock file.

// HTML CODE

ExecStart=/usr/sbin/opendkim -P /var/run/opendkim/opendkim.pid -p local:/var/run/opendkim/opendkim.sock

It needed to be changed to:

// HTML CODE

ExecStart=/usr/sbin/opendkim -P /var/run/opendkim/opendkim.pid -p inet:8891

Restart OpenDKIM and Postfix and you should be up and running again.

Zebras, ulcers, and me

A friend of mine asked me the other day if I knew why Zebras don’t get ulcers (a concept that also has a book written about it). I did not have a clue why they didn’t especially since they are hunted by so many predators.

Unlike us human beings, Zebras deal with the immediate danger by flight or fight, however, once the immediate danger is over, the Zebra continues like nothing happened. The Zebra does not revisit the issue, analyze the good and bad, or dwell on the hurt or betrayal. It moves on like nothing happened.

The Zebra also doesn’t worry about the next attack or predator. It does what it normally does until faced with danger again. It does not worry about its next meal or drink. It just looks for it like it always does until it finds what it needs.

We dwell on issues. Someone hurts us, then we dwell on it. We follow them, keep them close. Hence the old adage, keep your friends close and your enemies closer. In reality when we do that we continue to allow them to affect our lives, we keep reliving the past hurt, pain, frustration, and etc.

This is a hard lesson, trust me, I know! I am still trying to learn this. I go and visit the websites of people who hurt me. I look them up on Facebook to see what they are saying and doing. And by doing so, my blood pressure goes up, I get frustrated and angry. Or I get sad and depressed. Either way, it only damages me. It does not damage them. They could care less!

So my lesson for today is to learn to let go. Stop living in the past. Stop worrying about what was and what could have been. Instead, I am going to focus on today. I am going to focus on the future, free of the hurt and pain of the past. (And I am going to use the Facebook block people feature more often!)

Will you walk this path of letting go with me?

A mile in my shoes

It is hard to rise above the depression that so easily sets in when faced with the world today. I know this all too well. I have depression, anxiety, and PTSD. Many pastors will not talk about these types of struggles, however, more of them have these struggles than you will ever know.

Many people who are well meaning Christians, say that if I had more faith, if I prayed more, if I trusted God more, I would not have these issues. Some tell me to just lose weight, exercise, get out more. All these things are supposed to be a magic cure for what ails me.

It is not. It is not helpful for people to tell me all these things. It makes me feel even worse. You see, I don’t exercise like I “should” because, like most people with my conditions, there are physical issues involved too. I have arthritis in my spine. The better term, one used recently after my latest CT Scan, is degenerative disk disease. This causes an almost constant pain in my back and has at times affected my ability to walk or even sit for long periods of time.

I also have diabetes. Which means that I have to snack from time to time in order to keep from passing out. Which leads to people talking about how I would not be a fat slob if I didn’t eat so much. People who know me, who see me on a daily basis, know I actually eat very little. Lately, I have lost some weight; so much that my once tight pants are now falling off of me.

I had a lot of issues from my abusive childhood. Sadly, there were many people in my past who fed off of that and they too abused me. Thankfully, they are no longer in my life. However, more damage was done while they were in my life.

Three people sexually assaulted me, one a relative assaulted me repeatedly for many years. He is currently serving a very long sentence in prison for other sex related crimes. The others, I have no idea where they are or what their lives are like.

Recently I decided that I had finally had enough of living this way. So I decided to get some help in dealing with my past issues that caused the depression, anxiety, and PTSD. I decided that I no longer wanted to settle for living on medications when there is a chance that I could overcome my past, overcome the abuse I suffered, and live without having my emotions stunted by medication.

Mind you, this is not to be done lightly. I am suggesting that anyone should try this, let along try it alone. I have trained medical and psychological experts assisting me through this process.  Otherwise, I would be God knows where!

I have good days and I have bad days. I am trying to learn how to deal with emotions that I have not felt for years because of the medications. I am trying to learn to take 5 seconds to think before I react. Like I said, it is not easy. One of the greatest battles I am facing right now is a feeling that I am useless. I feel like nothing I do is enough. I have started volunteering everywhere in an effort to feel like I am doing something worthwhile.

I spend my days in prayer for my brothers and sisters in the church, for those who ask for prayers, for the whole world. I work to try to build a parish with no success so far. But I continue to try. Yet, it still does not feel like enough. Even as I write this, I feel like I am being a drain rather than a help. I don’t want sympathy, I just want people to understand what it is like to be in my shoes.

Remember one thing, I am not alone. Your pastor may be one of the thousands of pastors who struggle with the very same feelings and issues. They do not need your advice, they do not need your pity. They need your love and support. They need your prayers. They need to know they are needed. They need to know that they make a difference. They need to know they matter.

Take a moment to call your pastor and thank him or her. Tell them how much they mean to you. Tell them how much they have helped you. Build them up before it is too late!

The Middle (Followup Blog)

I must caveat this post as usual. This is my opinion and not necessarily the opinion of any church or organization I am affiliated with.

The Middle.

I posted earlier today on Facebook about the middle. I wanted to expand upon that posting.

The middle is often viewed with disdain. People say that if you sit on the fence, you are lukewarm or indecisive. The middle man is usually seen as being the one that gets the short end of the stick.

But I believe that in our current day, the middle is where we as clergy should be. There are so many people rushing to align themselves with causes that sit on the edges. Civility has been lost in our political and social discourse. It has become an “us” verses “them” narrative. But that is not the message of the Christ.

The message of the Christ is one of love. Love does not run to the extremes that exclude people, vilify people, marginalize people, or dismiss people. Love embraces all people. In love it is not an “us” verses “them”, it is a WE.

Don’t get me wrong. I believe we are called to stand against inequality, injustice, hate, bigotry, racism, and all the other forms of discrimination. I do not believe that we will be effective by vilifying those who disagree with us or who we view as opposing our views.

When I see videos on Facebook of police and Black Lives Matters protestors marching arm in arm, I am overjoyed. They have mastered the WE. They are living in the middle. They are not vilifying each other, but rather working together to rid the world of hate, anger, racism, and violence. That is what we should all be doing.

But when I see protestors at Planned Parenthood clinics calling women entering the clinics whores and sluts, telling them they are going to hell, despite the fact that the woman may only be there for a cancer screening, I am disappointed. When I see protestors calling for the death of people they view as opposed to their movement, saying that whole segments of society are going to hell because of who they love, or being violent in the name of forcing change, I am saddened. This is not what we as Christians, or we as clergy, are called to do.

We are called, as Saint Paul said, to become “…all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.” (1 Corinthians 9:22)

Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law.  To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.  I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings. – 1 Corinthians 9:19-23

We do not have to rush to the edges, we do not have to become extremist to effect change in our world. We can effect change by standing in the middle. We can be an anchor so that those who have drifted to the edge might have a lifeline back to the middle. We can stand, silent, prayerful, in the middle, with our anchor attached firmly to the Christ. We can effect change by being the lighthouse.

The lighthouse does not ride on the ship. It does not stand miles away from the coast. It does not drift in the water off the coast. It stands in the middle. It marks the point where the two major forces join. We can be that lighthouse.

It is time to set aside the rhetoric that divides people. It is time to stop with the “us” verses “them” mentality. It is time to unite people.

Here are some novel ideas on uniting people:

  1. Remain civil in your discourse. Online discussions are the worst about this. This is because it is hard to hear the tenor in which things are said. Someone’s short to the point response may not be them being rude, it might be them on a cell phone trying to type with a keyboard that is 2 times smaller than their fingers (trust me, this is me most of the time!). Their formality in their messages may not be condescension, but rather formality and an attempt at showing respect to you. It is always better to assume the best in someone rather than assume the worst. It will defuse so many situations.
  2. Stay away from politics. This is a hard one for me. I love politics. I love to discuss politics. But I live in the deep South. Here my politics are heresy. So rather than anger people, I try to take Saint Paul’s tact and be all things to all people. That means I have to sometimes grit my teeth and say nothing when someone is attaching my political views. I don’t go on the defense. I don’t even share that they are talking about things I support. I merely smile and bless them. That also defuses so many tense situations.
  3. Religion is not a weapon. As clergy, many of us already know this. But there are times it is hard to remember in the heat of a discussion. Our Christ taught us love. We can preach and live love if we are using the Bible as a sword. We should be gentle in our discourse on religion. We should show the love of the Christ to everyone, regardless of who they are, what religion they are, and who they love. If we cannot do that, we have missed the entire point. Christ calls us to love. It is time we as Christians start loving.
  4. Lastly, for all else, use the 5 second rule. I want to share with you a little tidbit about me. I have been on anti-depressants for 15 years or so. Rather than deal with my issues from my childhood and young adult life, I was given medications to mask the problems. Now 15 years later, I am working on those issues. As such, I have also been able to lower the doses of some of my medications. One of the things that anti-depressants do is they regulate emotion. So I experienced a very muted set of emotions for 15 years. Now that I am working to come off the meds, I experience more emotions that before. It is has led me to have to use the 5 second rule much more. It really works. When you read something, see something, experience something and you are tempted to react immediately, take 5 seconds to breath first and then ask yourself if this is something you should get worked up over. Is this something you should respond to? What would Jesus do? (In my case, I ask what a dear Bishop of mine and a priest of mine would do.) Only after that 5 seconds and a little thought, should you react. This will save you and everyone around you a lot of grief. It has for me!

These are not hard things. They are habits we should work to incorporate into our daily lives. Civility, love, charity, and understanding are not bad words. They are words that bring us closer to what the Christ taught. Let’s start living them.

Blessings!

X-Files: The two natures of man

Many of you know that I have a rather interesting taste in music, tv shows and movies. The recent announcement that Fox was bringing back the X-Files sent my heart aflutter. Most of the episodes have been ok. The cast is a little older and the writers a little less out there, but it is a good season nonetheless. I hope they bring it back next season.

That said, I was struck by a line out of tonight’s episode entitled “Babylon”.

‘I saw deep and unconditional love,’ Mulder explained.

‘I witnessed unqualified hate that appears to have no end,’ Scully retorted.

‘How to reconcile the two…the extremes of our nature?’ Mulder mused.

Anyone who knows me knows that this is a question I have been asking myself for several years now. And here we are in an election cycle that has shown that “unqualified hate that appears to have no end.”

One of the premises of this episode was that people are open to suggestion; that words and ideas have weight. When we support, either outright or by our silence, the verbiage of hate, we help it take root in the lives of those who look to us for guidance.

On the other side of that lies the issue of how to address such hate without becoming hateful ourselves. Sometimes it is not about what we say, but how we say it. As a pastor, I struggle with this all the time. Sometimes I need to say something about the actions or attitudes of others, but I must remember to do so in Christian love and charity so as to not become what I am preaching against.

I have had several people ask me if I have watched the political debates. The answer is no…no I have not watched them. I am not sticking my head in the sand or ignoring the political issues. Rather, I refuse to allow the anger, vitriol and hate that is being spread by some politicians to enter my heart or mind. It is bad enough that I have to see what they say on Facebook and on Internet news sites.

This Lent, I encourage you to help change the conversation. Use the power of suggestion to help brighten the world around you, rather than continuing the march of anger and hate.

In the final scene of tonight’s X-Files, discussing what we should do to reconcile the notion of hate and love and what God is trying to say to us, Agent Scully says to Agent Mulder: “Maybe we should do like the prophets and open our hearts and truly listen.”

That is my call to you this Lent. Open your hearts and truly listen to the unconditional, unending love of God.

Christians: Stop shooting the wounded!

A wise man once said to me that Christians are the one group that tends to eat their young. He also said that we tend to shoot our wounded. While that may be a gross image, what he meant was that we tend to attack and devour anyone in our midst who we disagree with or find to be odd.

And today, we as Christians continue that trend of devouring our young or shooting our wounded. We look at our brothers and sisters in Christ and if we do not like what we see, if they are not up to our standards of what a Christians should be, we tend to begin gnawing on them. We in the Independent Sacramental Movement are the worst about this. We forget that we are all wounded and imperfect individuals.

We look at our brothers and sisters and being to pick them apart: They are too prideful. They are too full of ego. They are too hard on people. They are weird. They have a history. They went to jail as a youth. They are too fat. They are gluttons. They dress funny. They talk funny. They smoke. They are always sick. They think they know everything. They…they…they…

We even being to assign tags to them: They are dangerous. They are vile. They are hateful. They are to be avoided. They are crazy. They are stupid. They are insolent. They…they…they…

And before you say it, if you are thinking, “But I don’t act that way.” or “I have a good reason to say that about so and so.” Then stop and realize, this message is for you.

Now let us ask ourselves a couple of very pointed questions. 1) What did Jesus say about such things? 2) How did he instruct us to live? and 3) Are we living that way?

1) The first question is the most important. What did Jesus say about such things. Many of you will immediately begin with the money changers in the temple. “Jesus threw them all out of the temple. He was justified in his assessment and anger. He even called the Pharisees vipers!” You are right. Jesus did. But we are not the Son of God either. When mortal men, like you and I, came before Jesus with the woman caught in adultery, what did Jesus do? Here, let me help you:

Now the scribes and Pharisees brought forward a woman caught in adultery, and they stood her in front of them. And they said to him: “Teacher, this woman was just now caught in adultery. And in the law, Moses commanded us to stone such a one. Therefore, what do you say?” But they were saying this to test him, so that they might be able to accuse him. Then Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the earth. And then, when they persevered in questioning him, he stood upright and said to them, “Let whoever is without sin among you be the first to cast a stone at her.” And bending down again, he wrote on the earth. But upon hearing this, they went away, one by one, beginning with the eldest. And Jesus alone remained, with the woman standing in front of him. Then Jesus, raising himself up, said to her: “Woman, where are those who accused you? Has no one condemned you?” And she said, “No one, Lord.” Then Jesus said: “Neither will I condemn you. Go, and now do not choose to sin anymore.” (John 8:3-11 CPDV)

The authorities were well within their rights to bring this woman up on charges. The Law of Moses said she should be stoned to death for her crime. However, Jesus did something unprecedented. He challenged the law and the authorities and offered a path of love, mercy and forgiveness. He gave her another chance to be different, to change her life, to live anew in freedom. How many times have we denied this opportunity to our brothers and sisters? Bishop, Priests, Deacons: I am speaking to you! How many times have we looked at our fellow brothers and sisters in ministry and immediately taken a dislike to them? How many time have we judged them through the lens of others gossip about them, or others opinions about them? How often have we decided that we are God and judges, sentenced and executed them all the while feeling justified in doing so?

2) How did Jesus teach us to live? This too is a good question we must ask ourselves. How many times have we been hurt by our brothers or sisters, how many times have we perceived a wrong being committed against us? And how did we act or react? How did Jesus instruct us to act?

But I say to you who are listening: Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you, and pray for those who slander you. And to him who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also. And from him who takes away your coat, do not withhold even your tunic. But distribute to all who ask of you. And do not ask again of him who takes away what is yours. And exactly as you would want people to treat you, treat them also the same. And if you love those who love you, what credit is due to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you will do good to those who do good to you, what credit is due to you? Indeed, even sinners behave this way. And if you will loan to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is due to you? For even sinners lend to sinners, in order to receive the same in return. So truly, love your enemies. Do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return. And then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and to the wicked. Therefore, be merciful, just as your Father is also merciful. Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you: a good measure, pressed down and shaken together and overflowing, they will place upon your lap. Certainly, the same measure that you use to measure out, will be used to measure back to you again.” (Luke 6:27-38 CPDV)

Wow! This is a far cry from what most Christians do today! We tend to label those that hurt us. We tend to shun them, talk bad about them, look for ways to attack them. But that is not Christ-like. That is not living the Gospel.

If anyone says that he loves God, but hates his brother, then he is a liar. For he who does not love his brother, whom he does see, in what way can he love God, whom he does not see? And this is the commandment that we have from God, that he who loves God must also love his brother. (1 John 4:20-21 CPDV)

Listen carefully to me, especially you pastors and teachers: If you do not love your brothers and sisters, you do not love God. Saint John makes this clear. If you say you love God, but hate your brother, you are a LIAR. A LIAR. Listen carefully to what else he says, “he who loves God MUST also love his brother. It does not say that we might love our brother. It does not say if we feel like loving our brother. It does not say if our brother has never hurt us or if our brother is our spiritual equal or if we believe our brother is worthy. NO, it says that we MUST love our brother.

3) Now let us look in the mirror. Are we living the way Christ instructed us to?

Before I get to that, go ahead and begin to rationalize your behavior and your feelings. I will wait.

Now, take a deep look into yourself. Do you love your brothers and sisters? Really? Are you willing to help them bear their cross? Are you willing to look beyond the superficial and see them as Christ sees them?

“But so and so is weird. Or they are dangerous. Or they have a history. Or they hurt my feelings. Or they looked at me wrong. Or their breathing on me. Or…or…or…”

But, before all things, have a constant mutual charity among yourselves. For love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without complaining. Just as each of you has received grace, minister in the same way to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. When anyone speaks, it should be like words of God. When anyone ministers, it should be from the virtue that God provides, so that in all things God may be honored through Jesus Christ. To him is glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 4:8-11 CPDV)

Look at that! Saint Peter commands us to have constant mutual charity toward our brothers and sisters. We cannot have that kind of mutual charity if we are always looking for the bad in each other. We cannot have that kind of mutual charity if we are always harboring anger, resentment and hatred toward one another. We cannot live that command if we are constantly looking down at our brothers and sisters.

And then Saint Peter says something remarkable. He says something I have seen happen time and time again. “For love covers a multitude of sins.” Saint Peter is saying that if we have love, we can overcome these little vices we see in each other. We can overcome the clouded perception we have of one another. We can overcome the slights, hurts and pains we have caused each other. If we only have love!

I want to close with this: We as clergy, we as Christians, have the great opportunity to minister as true mirrors of the risen Christ. We have a chance to love others as Christ does. We have the chance to effect real change in our families, our churches and our world. But if we really want to do that, we must stop focusing on the splinter in our brother’s eye and focus on removing the plank in our own.

Only then, can we truly see clearly enough to love as Christ loves us: unconditionally.

All we need is love

I feel compelled to write again and this time to share a secret about life with you. You may already know this secret. In fact, it may not come as a surprise at all!

Love. Love is all we have. In our daily interactions, we have nothing but love. We can have all the money in the world, but it will not bring us happiness. We may have every new electronic gadget or a new car every other day, but it too will not bring us happiness. Oh, you might be happy for a little while. But when it is all said and done, that happiness fades.

And yes, people walk in and out of our lives everyday. Some through the process of returning to whence they came and others out of various and sundry reasons. Regardless of why, when we love them, the loss may hurt for a while, but ultimately we are better people for knowing them and loving them. Even those who hurt us and try to damage us. We are better for loving them because we have shown that we are strong enough to love through the pain. It also shows that we will not be damaged by their behavior, but rather we will follow the Christ and his message of love.

Love cost us nothing. When we love others, we share a piece of ourselves with them. In return, we receive a piece of them. We do not diminish by loving others, rather we grow and expand. We become better people, better Christians by loving others.

I want to say to all my readers, friends, family and anyone else who wanders upon this post: If I have ever hurt you, I am very sorry. If I have ever ignored you or failed to help you in time of need, I am very sorry. If I have failed to show you the love of Christ, SHAME ON ME and I am very sorry. I pray that someday I may make it up to you and to show you the love of Christ, the care and concern you need and to be there for you.

Because all I have in this world to give and all I ever want to share with anyone, is love.

Update on Life

Let first caveat this posting with a couple of things. First, I am speaking only as myself. I am not speaking for the IOCC or any other church or organization. And second, it has been raining and gray for about a week now. This, of course, makes fighting my depression difficult. That said, here we go!

A lot has happened since the turn of the new year. In a lot of ways, things improved. In others, well, not so much. The size of our local parish tripled since the turn of the new year. My health has declined some, but such is life.

My son has blown this school year out of the water. Despite having a teacher that bullied him and all the drama and trips to the school that required, he has managed to keep an A average. He was given the chance to take a high school class via Virtual SC and although it was a half year class, he finished it in 7 weeks! And with an A no less!

My dear loving wife continues to work herself to the bone. As I type this, she is sick with a cold and has been coughing half the night. Thankfully, this is her weekend off. She works so very hard and that makes me feel so very bad that I cannot work to help her. I see her stress over the finances and such which serves to remind me that I have failed my family in so many ways. Of course, having to pay nearly $500 in taxes to South Carolina this paycheck just made matters worse. This is one of those weeks were we have a week to go and no money left. I don’t feel right about asking for help anymore, because it never seems to get any better. I know everyone is hurting right now and why should my financial burden burden others. And one temp solution offered to me I cannot bring myself to use. Only because I feel like it will be a burden.

I have been experiencing more pain in my spine than is usual. Of course, my doctor does not want to up my Celebrex, so I have to manage it as best I can without his help. Add to that the fact that I have a hemorrhoid that has been bleeding off and on for about 3 months now and you see the issues I am having. (I know, too much information!) Sadly, the hemorrhoid has not dropped enough to be removed…yet. And I too have had a cold since Holy Thursday. I am finally recovering, but it has been a daily struggle.

So why am I sharing all this? I have no idea. I felt inclined to let people see the very real struggles I face, that my family faces in the hopes that it may help others. People need to know that as clergy we are not super-humans. We are regular people, living regular lives. We bleed just like everyone else and we cry like everyone else.

Life is a daily struggle and some of us have it easier than others. And some of us have it worse than others. No matter what camp you fall into, you must always get up and put one foot in front of the other.