Category Archives: Current Affairs

Maybe I’m a racist and I didn’t even know it

I admit that it’s taken the killings of Mike Brown and Eric Garner for me to realize racism isn’t just a problem in America—it’s a significant problem in America. That sentence makes me shudder. It means that I am part of the problem. It means I have participated in the white majority culture that says All Those Race Problems were solved during the Civil Rights era and anyone who claims otherwise just has a “chip on their shoulder.” Whoa.

Am I racist? Maybe I am and I didn’t even know it. This makes me extremely uncomfortable. It also scares me. It scares me because I don’t even begin to understand what I don’t know, what I should have known, what I’m now beginning to know…

But maybe that’s the whole point. Maybe it’s time for me—as a white American—to feel extremely uncomfortable. And really, my discomfort is NOTHING in comparison to the daily discomfort of actually EXPERIENCING discrimination. I’ve had the PRIVILEGE of not realizing there was a big problem in America; mainly because it was a problem that didn’t affect ME.

God, forgive me. My fellow Americans, forgive me.

There was a time when I would have adamantly asserted that I was not racist. That I loved everyone.  As a Christian, I would have quoted Scripture about how in Christ there is no male or female, no Jew or Gentile, that God is not a respecter of persons… ….but what did that prove? Only that I could SAY I wasn’t racist. And doesn’t EVERYONE say that? I mean, I can sincerely believe I’m not racist while still thinking, speaking and behaving in a discriminatory way. I can SAY I’m not racist while still participating in an inherently discriminatory culture.

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It’s like I’m in a cult called White in America. I can’t see the problems of being Black in America because White in America is all I know and also, White in America is the majority culture. Which is to say, nobody inside a cult thinks they’re in a cult—especially if the cult IS the majority culture! I didn’t know I was racist because I didn’t have to see, engage or solve the problems. They weren’t my problems.

The very fact that it’s taken me this long to wake up is a a sign of my white privilege: I didn’t have to look at the racial problems in America because I had the luxury of not having to deal with it on a daily basis. Meanwhile, brown and black Americans have been dying and going to prison under horribly unjust circumstances and I could dismiss it as: “Well, they never learned how to respect authority.” Or: “They came from broken families.” Or: “They didn’t have morals.” Or: “They could have succeeded if they’d just obeyed the rules like everyone else, pulled themselves up by their bootstraps….”

Those excuses seem unkind and unloving (and racist?) to me now.

I’m sorry it took me so long but my eyes are open and this is what I see:

If racism isn’t a problem in America, then why do we call an unarmed black teenager a “thug” and an unarmed white teenager a “delinquent”? If it’s not about race, then why do we call it “looting” when people of color steal and “white collar crime” when an investment banker steals?

When a black person is outraged by injustice we call it “inciting a riot.” But when a white person is outraged by injustice we call it “expressing grief.”

Why is it that when a black kid commits a crime, it’s blamed on “bad parenting” but when a white kid commits a crime, it’s blamed on “bad friends” (who are probably black)?

When a black male is killed, we quickly forget his name. But when a white person is killed, we pass new laws and name it after the deceased.

This is what I see and I realize it’s only a fragment of a whole history and experience I have not heard nor to which I’ve given much attention.

I still don’t know how to understand all I’m starting to see. All I know is that I’m becoming aware and awareness is the first step toward change.

My eyes are open.

I’m listening.

#BlackLivesMatter

Why do Christian news outlets minimize abuse in Christian homeschooling?

Today, WORLD Magazine published an article tentatively exploring the “question” of whether abuse and neglect is a problem inside Christian homeschooling.

Here, let me answer that for you definitivelyYes. Yes, there is a problem. This is not a “question.” This is not a “debate.” Some of us have been talking about it for YEARS.

Look, I’m thankful this issue topic is receiving more exposure among large Christian media outlets, but I’m completely frustrated by the unfair slant of these articles. The sub-title of the WORLD magazine article says it all: “How to keep a few bad apples from spoiling the bushel.”

Right. This little “abuse problem” we Christians have? It’s just a few bad apples. It’s not widespread. Look! We have ninety-and-nine awesome homeschooled sheep! Let’s forget about that one lost sheep, k? She was a bad apple, anyway.

That’s totally how the parable goes, amen?

No, no it’s not. Minimizing abuse is NOT a Christian value and major media outlets should know better. Christians do not abandon the one lost sheep. Christians do not turn a blind eye to the “least of these.”

Sadly, WORLD magazine isn’t the only culprit, here.

Last year, Jonathan Merritt of Religion News Service wrote an article dismissing the impact of Mike & Debi Pearl’s To Train up a Child, saying: “while the Pearls may have some amount of influence, it is disproportionate to the amount of space many writers have given them in articles..”

So, once again: abuse within Christian homeschooling isn’t worthy of our attention unless it’s happening on a wide scale. My question is: how many more children must die before we start acknowledging we have a SERIOUS ABUSE PROBLEM within Christianity?

Because even though Merritt went on to agree that the Pearls’ teachings ARE harmful, his general conclusions match Daniel Devine’s dismissive attitude in today’s WORLD article; mainly, yes abuse happens but it’s not a BIG problem. Thank God we’re not like those other bad apple homeschooling parents!

This line of reasoning completely misses the point. By making the focus of their investigation a matter of breadth, the abusive experiences of current and former Christian homeschooled children are erased, minimized and dismissed. This is not OK.

Instead of asking whether abuse in Christian homeschooling is widespread, we should be examining its lifelong impact. 

Instead of asking how MANY are affected, we should be asking HOW DEEPLY.

So, what can we do? Well, for one, we can speak up. If you see or suspect a child is being abused, please don’t look away. Follow your gut instinct and say something! We can also support the good and important work of those trying to make a difference for the future of Christian homeschooling.

I’m so grateful for the hard work of those at Homeschool Alumni Reaching Out and the survey they’ve put together asking adult homeschool alumni to share their experience. If you’re a homeschool alumni aged 18 or older, please go check it out. Your voice is important!

Please also read and share the statement by HARO regarding their response to WORLD Magazine’s “Homeschool Debate” article.

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Acts 29 Network removes co-founder Mark Driscoll from membership, asks him to step down citing “ungodly and disqualifying behavior”

In a stunning move, Christianity Today is reporting that The Acts 29 Network, the very church-planting network Mark Driscoll co-founded, has removed Mars Hill Church from membership and asked him to step down from ministry and seek help. I am grateful that those close to Mark are finally taking action. Let’s hope and pray for true repentance, restoration and healing. May Christ have mercy on us all.

Does Jesus ask us to accept empty apologies? Some thoughts on what it means to forgive our abusers.

There’s been some talk about what it means for Christians to forgive our abusers–particularly those who abuse us in the name of God. Yesterday, Jonathan Merritt of Religion News Service wrote an article called “I accept Mark Driscoll’s apology..and you should, too.” In it he encouraged everyone to accept Mark’s most recent public apology because:

When Christians have grown so bitter toward someone that we can’t even accept their apologies, something has gone seriously wrong. If Driscoll had ignored these comments, his critics would have excoriated him for his silence. But when he says he is sorry, they criticize him still. We must refuse to create lose-lose situations for each other where one is damned if they apologize and damned if they don’t.

Let me be clear: Accepting Driscoll’s apology does not mean we excuse his reprehensible actions in the past, fail to call him to better behavior in the present, or ignore future abuses if (or when) they occur.

I absolutely agree that Jesus calls us to forgive. Indeed, as Merritt states, Jesus was “obliterating the ceiling on Christian forgiveness.” Merritt’s message urges us toward a posture of openheartedness and to refrain from becoming abusive toward abusers. I fully support this. I know how easy it is for my sense of “righteous indignation” to morph into full-blown rage. There really is no justification for me to indulge in vicious, snide or vitriolic attacks–especially against other Christians.

That said, as someone who experienced decades of spiritual abuse, I really think it’s important for the broader Christian community to actively stand up for those being harmed by religious authorities. To this end, there are a couple of things that trouble me about Jonathan Merritt’s piece:

  1. It isn’t our place, as outsiders, to accept apologies on behalf of those who are being directly harmed by Driscoll. That’s like an outsider coming to me and saying, “Hey, I forgive your grandfather for abusing you in his cult! You should, too!” Wait. What?! Outsiders have no place accepting apologies or forgiving an abuser on my behalf. That’s MY job. Outsiders do have jobs to perform; ie. provide support and safe places, help spread awareness–but telling everyone to “accept apologies” is not one of those jobs.
  2. By urging people to “accept” Driscoll’s apology, Merritt places the onus on the victim instead of on the abuser. The underlying idea, here, is that victims of abuse are supposed to Keeping Doing Things; ie. accept apologies, be supportive, not get angry, remain positive…and furthermore, do all this before the abuser stops the abuse. Is this what Jesus meant when He told us to forgive? I don’t think so. Forgiveness means I hold no resentment toward the person who hurt me. Forgiveness means I have no more desire for revenge. It DOESN’T mean I tolerate more abuse. It DOESN’T mean I must “accept” empty apologies. Accepting an apology is predicated upon the recognition that something has CHANGED. In Driscoll’s case, the apologies seem empty because he says he’s sorry and then proceeds to behave in the exact same way.

Forgiveness means I have no more resentment or the desire for revenge. It DOESN’T mean I tolerate more abuse. It DOESN’T mean I must “accept” empty apologies.

If this were the first time Driscoll had apologized, I’d be all on board with “accepting” apologies and giving him time to demonstrate changed behavior.

However, Driscoll has apologized multiple times and then proceeded to engage in the exact same abusive behavior.

So, just as it is not our place to tell insiders of Mars Hill Church what to do about their pastor, it is not our place to tell them to “accept” this latest apology.

Indeed, to insist they “should” accept this latest apology is to ask they participate in a false repentance.

True repentance is an expression of verbal regret coupled with matching actions. Saying “I’m sorry” when there is no fruit of repentance is an empty apology. It is a lie. A true apology must have matching behavior to back it up, to make it real.

Yes, members of Mars Hill Church can forgive Mark–within their own hearts. They can let go of resentment and the desire for revenge. They can pray for his repentance. They can advocate change and call for accountability. And from what I can tell, that is happening.

But outsiders like Merritt and I ought not accept apologies on their behalf. And we ought not insist they accept apologies that are empty. 

Let me provide an example of what forgiving my abusers looked like for me.

I forgave my cult-founding grandparents for the many ways in which they abused me. I let go of resentment and the desire for revenge. I committed them to God and prayed for their repentance.

I did NOT, however, continue a relationship with them. I did not DO anything else–accept apologies, continue conversations or otherwise tolerate their continued abuses. Why? Because there was no repentance. There was no changed behavior.

And in order for me to “accept” an apology–it needs to be real. A real apology is backed up by amending action. Yes, I can forgive–for the sake of my own soul. But a restored relationship can only happen when amending action has been taken by those who hurt me.

Yes, an apology is a good start. But it is only a start. More action is needed if the apology is to be true repentance.

Why calling for Mark Driscoll’s resignation isn’t helpful to those inside @MarsHill church

Through out my 25 years in an abusive church (you can read about it in my book, “Girl At The End of the World”), many people told me what I should and should not do. My whole life was dictated by “shoulds” and “should nots.” And when outsiders started telling me what I should do–even a “good” thing like “leave The Assembly!”–it just felt like another person trying to control me.

I’ve maintained for years that Mars Hill Church is a dangerous and abusive church. Recently, I went so far as to suggest it was a cult.

But I’ve stopped short of telling Mars Hill Church what to do. Why? Because Mark Driscoll isn’t going to resign just because an outsider tells him to. 

I mean, I understand the good intention behind the recent calls for his resignation. Those of us outside Mars Hill Church have become increasingly alarmed by the stories emerging from exiting members. We are trying to find a way to be helpful and supportive!

But I just want to issue a mild word of caution to those of us seeking to “help”: I remember what it was like to be inside an abusive church and outsiders telling us what to do only made that worse.

If outsiders had called for my grandfather’s resignation, I would have felt happy that the abuses were being brought to light. However, I also would have known that outsiders calling for his resignation wouldn’t make a difference in what my grandfather did or didn’t do. My grandfather wasn’t gonna resign just because outsiders said he should. Ultimately–when my grandfather refused to repent–I was the one who had to make the choice to leave.

I get lots of emails from parents, siblings, friends and lovers all asking me the same question: “My child/brother/sister/girlfriend/boyfriend is stuck inside a dangerous church. What can I do to help them?”

The answer is always the same: you can live your own life and be happy in it. You can be a welcoming, loving presence. But you cannot control, change or force a person to leave an abusive church or relationship. That’s not how life works. That’s not how freedom works.

Ultimately, I had to to make my own choice to leave The Assembly. I often feel that I stayed far too long. But that was my choice. The key to my freedom was that I chose it. And furthermore, I chose it when I was ready to choose it.

Freedom isn’t freedom when others force it upon you.

This is why I’m leery about bloggers and outside media telling Mars Hill Church what it’s supposed to do. Do I think Mark Driscoll is a dangerous leader? Yes. Do I think Mars Hill Church needs to drastically re-examine it’s systems and structures? Yes. Do I believe Mars Hill Church has engaged in spiritual abuse? Yes.

HOWEVER. It is one thing to provide information and quite another thing to start issuing orders telling Mark Driscoll to resign.

When people who are not a part of Mars Hill Church start issuing orders, we are doing exactly what Mark Driscoll does to his congregation: telling them what to do.

True freedom means giving those within Mars Hill Church the freedom to do whatever they believe is best for themselves and their church–even if we disagree.

I, for one, fully believe Mars Hill church members are capable of taking whatever action is necessary. Indeed, I believe their freedom to take action is profoundly necessary in order for true repentance to happen.

Despite the rampant abuses, members of Mars Hill Church can still exercise their free will and hold their pastor accountable. They can protest (which they are!). They can spark massive change from within. They can call for Mark’s resignation. And if that doesn’t work (which, in my opinion, it won’t work because the systems were set up by Mark to serve Mark), well, then they can leave. 

I believe the sincere Christians inside Mars Hill Church have just as much access to God as I did when I was inside my abusive church. God is big enough to find us anywhere. Mars Hill Church members have the same free will I had. I know they can make the right decisions. I trust them with freedom. I don’t need to tell them what to do.

And when/if they leave, they will discover there are many spiritual abuse survivors out here. They are not alone.

UPDATE/CAVEAT: One scenario I do think could be helpful is if an outside pastor or leadership team from a trusted, healthy church stepped in to help Mars Hill. If the broader evangelical community sees what’s going on–then yes, an experienced pastor with good credibility could offer some invaluable help. In my humbly bloggy opinion, Mars Hill could use some of THAT outside help right about now.

Agree with SCOTUS? Well. You’re a “far right” conservative whackaloon/anti-woman rape apologist who should “call it a day” and shut up about religious liberty already, amen.

It’s been a weird month. Two weeks ago when I called for a sexual predator’s post to be taken down, all the progressive Christians were like: YES! and PREACH! And “thank you!” and #Solidarity and #Sisterhood.

Today when I tweeted that I agreed with the SCOTUS ruling, suddenly I became an anti-woman rape apologist. Because of COURSE.

Among a plethora of bossy, angry tweets, I was accused of believing “that raped women should just live with it.” Another progressive Christian dude suggested I should “call it a day.” Because as long as he’s progressive, there’s nothing sexist about a man telling a woman to shut up, am I right?

To his credit, the guy apologized. But the women? Not so much. Here lies #Sisterhood, she died on Twitter.

Well, maybe the Internet just needs a nap. And a glass of wine.

Still, I gotta take responsibility. Twitter is a difficult place for in-depth discussions. Pretty sure nobody walks away from a Twitter argument and is all: Wow, that TOTALLY changed my mind. So, in that regard, I kinda asked for it because *I* engaged on Twitter and *I* argued on Twitter and *I* tweeted lots of stuff.

So MEA CULPA, MEA MAXIMA CULPA.

But now that we’re here on my nice, comfy blog, I can discuss in depth. Mwah-ha-ha!

So. FIRST THINGS FIRST.

A handy little Hobby Lobby Kerfuffle Timeline (all quotes from SCOTUS found in today’s majority ruling available HERE)

1.
ObamaCare becomes law

2.
ObamaCare requires contraceptive coverage. But Congress did not specify which types must be covered (generally speaking, for-profit companies must cover the 20 kinds approved by FDA)

3.
Owners of three, closely-held, private for-profit corporations believe that life begins at conception and thus, mandatory coverage of 4 types of contraception (which, according to current FDA labeling, may have abortifacient properties) are a violation of their religious beliefs.

4.
They sue HHS.

5.
They are denied, courts claiming for-profit companies cannot “engage in religious exercise.”

6.
10th Circuit Court reverses that decision, saying that under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, the government is prohibited from substantially burdening a person’s exercise of religion. Under this act, Hobby Lobby qualifies as a “person” due to it being a closely-held, privately-owned, family company.

7.
The Supreme Court agrees with the 10th Circuit court, noting that since HHS conceded that a for-profit company “can be a ‘person’ under RFRA” so can a for-profit company. In other words, just because a company MAKES MONEY doesn’t negate its “person” status when seeking judicial protection from the substantial burden of, in this case, the HHS contraceptive mandate.

8.
The Supreme Court further noted that “protecting the free exercise rights of closely-held corporations thus protects the religious liberty of the humans who own and control them.”

9.
The Court made clear that this ruling is for contraceptive mandate only and “should not be understood to hold that all insurance-coverage mandates, e.g., for vaccinations or blood transfusions must necessarily fall if they conflict with an employer’s religious beliefs. Nor does it provide a shield for employers who might cloak illegal discrimination as a religious practice.” In other words, THIS case is concerned with the contraceptive mandate and is not intended to set a precedent for other religious beliefs, which should be dealt with separately.

Reasons Why I Commend This Ruling:

1. I believe in religious liberty. Religious liberty is the source from which all other freedoms flow. I support religious liberty for EVERY religious group, not just the ones I happen to agree with theologically.

2. I grew up in a cult and I have a severe allergy to ANYONE–government included–telling me which religious beliefs I’m allowed to exercise and which I am not. Mandatory ANYTHING gives me hives. Also, my husband owns and operates a small business. We have employees. It would take me like five hours to explain how freaking DIFFICULT it is to own a small business in California. How insane it is to do taxes, pay 8 billion fees, insurances, coverages, workers’ comp, liabilities, etc etc. etc. We comply. But damn. Government makes it HARD. Our country was founded on the principles of small government and I still believe small businesses are the backbone of this country. Therefore, I’m just philosophically opposed to unnecessary government intrusion.

SIDEBARS, CAVEATS & DISCLAIMERS!!!!

A. Do I think Hobby Lobby is hypocritical for removing coverage of these contraceptives only AFTER ObamaCare is passed? Sure. Doesn’t change my opinion about this ruling. SINCERITY is not a qualifier for religious belief. It just needs to BE the belief. Our Courts are not in the business of determining whether someone’s beliefs are SINCERE or not. There is no litmus test for Sincerity. If there was, I’m pretty sure we’d ALL fail. Because nobody is a Perfect Believer. Amen and amen.

B. Should companies be required to cover blood transfusions and vaccinations despite holding contrary religious beliefs? YES. And again, THAT issue is NOT what this case was about.

C. Am I a crazy Tweeter? YES. But I love this stuff. I realize I’m totally just an armchair Constitutional scholar. I like to read. And I read a lot. I like big books and I cannot lie.

D. Let’s all go drink wine. Or not. If that’s against your religious belief. Kool-Aid will do. KIDDING! KIDDING! OH MY WORD, kidding!

E. Lastly, in the immortal words of my husband: “What have you been talking about all day? Handy-Dandy?” #NailedIt

P.S. MY HUSBAND SAYS YOU REALLY NEED TO READ MY BOOK! :) CLICK HERE! BUY! SHARE! LOOOOVE! :)

UPDATED! An open letter to Christianity Today & @Leadership_Jnl : TAKE DOWN THE RAPE POST. It’s not an “extramarital relationship.” It’s statutory RAPE. @CTMagazine

UPDATE: Leadership Journal has taken down the post. The CEO of Christianity Today, Int’l has apologized “unreservedly.” You guys, we did it. I am crying SO HARD right now. So much relief. There was a time when women like myself would have been IGNORED forever. But no longer. I am weeping with gratitude and pain and exhaustion. This was a hard battle. Mama Warrior is tired. Thank you to everyone for your support and for making this happen. I love you. I’m with you. I’m going to go take a long nap now.

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Today I read an article that made me tremble with anger. Written by an anonymous former youth minister now serving a prison sentence, the story details his predatory grooming and eventual rape of a child in his youth group.

Oh, but wait. That’s not how HE tells the story. Oh, no. He tells it as a mournful I’m-sorry-for-my-sins warning about his “RELATIONSHIP” with a young girl who “adored me” (his words). Oh, he’s very clear about taking 100% responsibility for his sins–except he never once admits that sex with a child is RAPE.

Instead, this sterling model of repentance urges his readers to repent if they are involved in similar situations and submit their lives to God. And make it known to “those who need to know.” EXCEPT THE POLICE, OF COURSE. 

Yes, confess that you raped a child to your accountability partner–BUT NEVERMIND SUBMITTING YOURSELF TO THE LAW for the CRIME you committed.

I’m APPALLED that Christianity Today even published this article. What a horrific lapse in judgment. What an irresponsible re-traumatization of the victim, her family and the wife and children involved. Christianity Today should have known better.

Can you imagine the OUTRAGE if a Catholic Priest was allowed to publish an article describing his “relationship” with an “adoring” altar server? And that outrage would be absolutely JUSTIFIED.

Why?

Because a predator loses the right to tell his side of the story right about the time he decides to PREY on a CHILD.

Because the ONLY story that should garner attention is the VICTIM’S story.

Because predators are usually quite good with words–which is exactly HOW they groomed their prey. A predator’s weapon of choice is words. WHY would a Christian publication give him that kind of power again? WHILE HE’S IN JAIL, NO LESS!!!!

Here’s the deal: once you use your freedom to abuse a child? You don’t EVER get to win sympathy points in public–even via a repentant confession.

TRUE confession and amends-making should be done PRIVATELY with the victims. TRUE repentance isn’t about page views via JUICY HEADLINES.

 

Publishing a post on Christianity Today does NOT make amends to the people damaged–it only brings FURTHER attention and adulation to the convicted sex offender.

Please join me in asking Christianity Today to take down the post. We are CHRISTIANS. We give voice to the abused child, NOT the predator. 

Apparently, sobbing into a pan of brownies waiting for God to fix my feelings DOESN’T WORK (p.s. this is SO unfair!)

Screen Shot 2014-04-29 at 10.57.26 AMOn Friday I received news that my grandfather–the one who founded my childhood cult (read the full story in my book)–had a stroke and fell. He is not recovering well. The doctors say he has 2-6 months to live. According to my mom who saw him in the hospital, he is not capable of coherent discussion due to increasing dementia. He is dying.

This is not how I hoped the story would end. I wanted a happy ending–or, at least, a happier one.

All these years later and he has not repented nor sought to make things right.

Even though I said my goodbyes eleven years ago when I left the cult and forgave them several years after that–today, I’m surprised by how sad I feel about all this.

To protect myself and my own children, I have kept the relationship with my grandparents closed. The sad truth is that my grandparents left a wide swath of destruction in their wake and cleaning up the wreckage is still a daily struggle for me. Quite honestly, the only way I would have wanted to hear from them was if they were ready to make amends.

They had ways of contacting me–should they ever have desired it. But they never did.

I knew the end would come inevitably, I just didn’t expect to feel so…deeply sad about it.

I also didn’t expect to feel so triggered, so anxious. On the verge of PTSD relapse. Whenever something yucky happens in my family, this sort of brain-scrambling thing happens to me. It’s like my brain fills up with static and I can’t think clearly.

I just cry. And have panic attacks. Or, you know, eat lots of food.

Upon hearing the news about my grandfather, my first inclination was to park my butt on the couch and eat cakes all afternoon. Because that’s totally how problems get solved, right? Here, God: how about I eat cakes while You Fix It, k??

And then I remembered: I’ve gained thirty pounds. Well, I remembered this AFTER I’d eaten half a pan of brownies but THAT IS BESIDE THE POINT, am I right? Point is: I remembered before I ate the whole thing. PROGRESS!

So, I decided to do something different.

There it is, my friends. The simple, little shift. If I could sum up my recovery in one phrase, that would be it: Doing Something Different.

And doing something different didn’t mean making some big, huge radical change. It was a small thing.

I went out and bought flowers.

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Then I swept my front porch and dusted cobwebs from the porch lights. Then I arranged the flower pots to create a welcoming entry. Then I went and bought pretty yellow seat cushions (on sale at Marshalls–woot!).

Once I got started, I was inspired. [NOTE TO SELF FOR FUTURE REFERENCE: it’s the getting started that’s the hardest! But once you’re going, you wonder why you waited so long. Just get started already. Start somewhere, anywhere. Start with pots of flowers!]

Before long, a virtuous cycle had taken over. Instead of gorging myself on the rest of the brownies, I was now engaged in life-affirming contrary action: nesting, decorating and cleaning up my little corner of the world.

The twins swirled around me, helping me hose down the stone walkway and hang a St. Francis of Assisi garden flag.

Penelope The Rescue Pit Bull happily watched me while I worked and even agreed to pose for me when I was done. I seriously think she’s smiling in this picture. (p.s. pit bulls are precious and lovable and it’s such a shame they have a bad reputation because she is the sweetest thing ever).

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Speaking of pit bulls, redemption is a thing. I believe in it. 

I believe in it because it’s happening to me. I’m still thirty pounds overweight, my family is still effed up in thirty-thousand different ways BUT! I’ve built a new life for myself–a life that I’m very happy to live!–a life that I intend on continuing to live with love and service to others.

Just for today, I’m not sitting on the couch sobbing into a pan of brownies.

And that gives me hope.

Shame of my hometown: Fullerton police acquitted of murdering #KellyThomas

Trigger warning: police violence, graphic picture. On a warm July evening in 2011, Kelly Thomas was hanging out at the Transportation Center near The Olde Spaghetti Factory in Fullerton. Someone called the police saying Thomas was looking in car windows and pulling on handles of locked cars. What happened next was caught on video: Fullerton police officers beat Kelly Thomas until he was bloodied and comatose. He later died of his injuries. [You can read the full timeline of events, here.]

Yesterday, the now former police officers, Manuel Ramos and Jay Cicinelli, were acquitted of the murder and manslaughter charges. They were found not guilty.

What a miscarriage of justice. How in the name of mercy can we look at the beaten, bloodied face of Kelly Thomas and ACQUIT these police officers?

kellythomas1

Full disclosure: I am not unbiased. Fullerton is my hometown. I used to work at The Olde Spaghetti Factory which is right next to the bus stop where Kelly Thomas was murdered. I walked by that spot every day on my way into work. And yes, I believe he was murdered. I have watched this trial from the beginning. And today, I am HORRIFIED.

The Transportation Center is an understandable gathering spot for homeless folks. In addition to the bus stop, the Fullerton train station is nearby. There is shelter, vending machines and the commuters are often generous. As a teenage hostess working in the restaurant right next to the train station, I never felt threatened while walking by the homeless folks. Sometimes I gave them whatever spare change I had. Sometimes I brought a box of leftover spaghetti.

The point is, these people are not violent. They’re homeless. And last time I checked, being homeless was not a crime.

And not to place too fine a point on it but peering into car windows is ALSO not a crime. Sure, maybe the police needed to show up and give Kelly Thomas a verbal warning but BEATING him? Until he’s unconscious? NO.

I read that the defense used Kelly’s mental illness against him–as if THAT justified the use of excessive force?! The defense also claimed he had a diseased heart from drug abuse–as if heart failure–NOT being beaten until unconscious–caused his death! (FYI: the cardiologist testified that Thomas did NOT die of heart failure). And anyway, how does ANY of THAT justify being beaten in the face?! Since when did we acquit murderers because their victim was schizophrenic? Or had used drugs? Apparently, if you’re mentally ill, you’re not really human.

Thomas’ last words were utterly heartbreaking. He called for help. He begged for help. Over and over. “Dad help me. God help me. Help me. Help me. Help me.”

Well, even if the jury didn’t come to his help, we can. Please sign the petition for a federal investigation.

What do you think? Is it EVER justifiable for police to beat suspects?
What other methods should the police have used with Kelly Thomas?
Why do you think the jury acquitted the police officers?

I like Dave Ramsey’s ideas but I’m not sure I like Dave Ramsey

A few years ago, the recession had taken almost everything: 40% of my husband’s income, 100% of our retirement, 100% of our savings. As a one-income family, we were staring down the barrel of mounting credit card debt and a house rapidly decreasing in value. Our home was still above water and so we decided to sell it and use the profit to pay off our debts and start over with a clean slate. Then we found Dave Ramsey. We went to a cash-only/envelope system, made huge cuts to our family budget and within a year, our financial situation improved. Most importantly, we were able to stay in our home.

Here’s the thing: I didn’t really know he was a Christian until after we’d been using his system. I didn’t really care whether he was a Christian. His little cash-envelope system worked and THAT’S what mattered to me.

Maybe I’m clueless but I never once thought Ramsey was teaching a get-rich plan. His advice was practical and accessible and for someone who hates all things money-related, Ramsey’s system was easy-to-follow.

I’ve had family members and friends in desperate financial straits for whom Ramsey’s system worked wonders. All this to say, I’m really grateful for Dave Ramsey and honestly, I find the criticism against him baffling.

A recent list of “20 Things the Rich Do Everyday” that was posted to his website has stirred up a bunch of controversy. I dunno. I read it and was like: huh, makes sense to me. Sure, I wondered where he got his stats. But for the most part, I didn’t see what was so crazy-awful about it. Reading books and exercising—these are good things, right? There are reasons successful people are successful and I’m not entirely sure I understand why stating these things is Horrible, Awful, Prejudicial and Shaming?

I did find Rachel’s piece on CNN helpful inasmuch as she pointed out that “Corley and Ramsey have confused correlation with causation here by suggesting that these habits make people rich or poor.” Good point!

Still, I’m not entirely convinced this means Ramsey is “wrong about poverty” as a whole. What am I missing? Someone explain it to me? (Long comments OK! Just don’t call me ignorant or immature, k? :) )

Speaking of name-calling, that’s when I started feeling uncomfortable with Ramsey. When he  started calling his critics immature, doctrinally shallow and ignorant and then failed to provide answers to honest questions about where he got his stats for that post (at least, I haven’t seen them anywhere), I suddenly felt queasy. Then he took on the martyr mantle by claiming he was receiving “abusive” criticism. Does he really not understand how social media works? 

To be honest, I couldn’t understand why he was so defensive. If he stands behind what he teaches, why stoop to name-calling? As someone who often gets criticized for her blog content, I understand how difficult it is to respond to criticism. The attacks often feel personal. I’ve made mistakes in how I respond and I’ve learned the hard way that responding with personal attacks; ie. name-calling, getting overly defensive, etc. only makes one problem into two.

I mean, I like Dave Ramsey’s system but now I’m not sure I like Dave Ramsey. His debt-elimination plan is awesome but he’s kinda acting like a jerk online. And these days, business is just as much social-media savvy as it is IRL practical advice.

I mean, if Dave Ramsey acts like this online, I’ve gotta guess he might be a meanie IRL, too. Something just smells fishy, is all I’m saying. What is going on, here???

Still, I like my little cash-envelope system. Excuse me while I go check my emergency cash fund.

UPDATED AT 12:20PM PST: I’ve been listening to Dave Ramsey on the radio this morning. And it’s just really sad. His posture is prideful. He’s refusing to engage the actual substance of those who have questioned him. He’s mocking. He’s mean. He’s only taking calls from people who agree with him. Just whoa. WHOA. Very telling.