February 27, 2006

-image-the worst person i’ve ever known

The other day, I stumbled across an online sermon by the worst person I’ve ever known.

It’s from December.

In it, he tells a terribly sad story and then speaks of the self-destructive life, detailing how it develops. I’ll share his points now and give the context in which they were said later.

I’m quoting from him directly. I was furiously writing and pausing the sound file to get this all down, I was so gobsmacked.

Here’s the evolution of “the self-destructive life”:

All you have to do is …..

— avoid worship, avoid singing and rejoicing in the Lord and when you do sing and rejoice, make it only for a moment, not a lifestyle

— avoid studying truth

— avoid praying with abandon

— stop thanking God for the things you have; it will secure a self-destructive life

— complain about what you don’t have; make sure that you focus on the inequities of life; it will guarantee senselessness and rebellion

— compare yours to others, focus on that every day

— don’t invest in people’s lives

— remove yourself from society as far as you can

— never give where you don’t have to give

— isolate yourself from the kingdom of God

— don’t enjoy the fellowship of brothers and sisters in Christ; avoid them out of fear or anger or whatever drives you; you will definitely become self-destructive

— embrace self-pity as an acceptable emotion

— see the difficulties of your life as the basis for your self-pity and let your world wrap around that emotion

— justify your rebellion because of your pain and live with it every day

— focus totally on the temporal benefits of life

— never see the power of eternity and the purpose of living for God

— as a lifestyle, choose temporal things — beauty, acceptance, material possessions; you will inevitably become spiritually in rebellion against God

— finally, let the world dictate your worldview; don’t accept God’s truth as final; accept whatever the world says

This is the development of a self-destructive lifestyle.

I won’t argue the points; that’s not my purpose here. It’s difficult for me to write about this man because he is, to my mind, literally, the worst person I’ve ever known. For a while now, I’ve meant to write about my destructive dealings with him; I’ve even started and abandoned a few half-written posts because I find it almost impossible to write coherently about such an abusive person.

And just a few years ago, he was my pastor.

I don’t know how those points above struck you as you read them. Perhaps you found yourself agreeing with them. Fine. They aren’t necessarily wrong. Actually, divorced from the larger context of his message, I pretty much agree with them.

But here is the context I promised:

He is speaking of his ex-wife, to whom he was married nearly 30 years.

His own ex-wife.

Who had killed herself exactly a week before.

Here she is, not cold in the grave, and she is made to be his public model for the “self-destructive lifestyle.” The mother of his children. A woman known by many people at the church. The pastor’s longtime wife, for God’s sake! The woman he’d spent the larger part of his life with. The woman who had stood by him all those years until — for whatever reasons — she’d left him about 5 years before.

She is dead and gone, but still useful fodder for some sermon points, I guess. Points that read like some callous litany of a dead woman’s supposed flaws, rebellions, and sins against man and God, even.

He is USING her flaws as a sermon outline. It is so cold-blooded, it made me gasp.

Whether they are accurate or not is MOOT. It’s moot. There can be no reasonable or compassionate context for such a violation.

She is dead.

These are for private consideration, not public broadcast.

He goes on to describe her death:

On Sunday morning, at about 12 o’clock, she took another stash of pills and this time added substance to it that would guarantee this time would work (ed.: she had tried to kill herself just the week before) …. and at 2:30 she went into the presence of the Lord.

The inevitable result of a life of drinking the poison of lies every day.

Wow. “Inevitable result”? Inevitable? Such compassion. So, uhm …. “that’s what you get,” I guess? You will inevitably kill yourself, then? If it was inevitable that’s what would happen, why was she left alone so it could happen?

“Inevitable”?

I won’t write about my interactions with this man right now. At some point, perhaps I will. It all takes a backseat, though, to what happened with his ex-wife, TO his ex-wife. I never knew her, but certainly knew of her. Somehow, though, I always felt a small sort of kinship with her. It’s arrogant even to say that, I suppose, but I felt through my comparatively short, but nonetheless damaging relationship with this pastor, I had a glimpse of what her life might have been like living with such a man. A man who lives too much for his public. A man who cares too much about image. A man of God, publicly committed to biblical truth who will not be privately swayed by it, even when put right in front of him. A man who expects bending to his will, not God’s. A man who will humiliate and verbally abuse. A man who sends people limping and broken from his church, at his hands, and cares not a bit to tend to their wounds. A man who will not apologize or seek forgiveness. A man who fits the clinical definition of a narcissist.

You may say I’m being judgmental. Go ahead. Say it. But we are called to judge, to have discernment. We are called to judge what is right and wrong, what is good and evil. A lack of conscience is a breeding ground for all kinds of harm. I speak from what I know of this man and I’ll wager I know more of him than many of the wiry-haired old ladies who’ve sat in those pews for years and see him only as they choose to see him — as the apple of their faithful, fading eyes.

Near the end of this sermon, he says:

Suicide is a horrible, horrible tragedy of human despair. It comes from a life that has been unable to assimilate truth and truth to become that which changes a life. (emphasis mine)

So she failed. She was “unable to assimilate truth”; therefore, she committed suicide. To suggest that the only reason a person commits suicide is because she is “unable to assimilate truth” is not only faulty logic; it’s cruel. There are plenty of non-Christians, unassimilated to the truth, who don’t commit suicide. Suicide comes from a place too dark and too deep for this man’s understanding.

I felt sick to my stomach listening to this and so deeply, horribly sad for her. The fate of this woman I never knew kept me up last night. I know she’s with God, free of earthly chains. But her life ……. I’m only left to imagine.

After I listened to this message, I poked around the archives and found the sermon from the previous week. Here’s the mental picture I could not escape as I listened to it and put the timeline together:

The pastor, up in his pulpit, speaking on this week of the failed suicide attempt of “a woman he knows and cares about” just the Sunday before, while at the very same time — because it happened on this very Sunday morning — she is at home, alone, recovering from her failed attempt, by making sure it succeeds this time.

As he speaks of her attempt and exploits her despair, she is all alone and dying. This man, who’s all about biblical “context, context, context,” seems utterly devoid of proper emotional context in real life, in interpersonal issues. This was a violation of his ex-wife, his dead ex-wife, someone despairing enough that death seemed the only escape. Trotting her out in front her former church as a negative example of how to live, well, it’s the work of an utter narcissist.

She died at Thanksgiving. Three months ago. Meanwhile, he seems to have a new girlfriend. My Beloved had recently seen him with a woman at a local coffeehouse. And yesterday, since we live in the neighborhood, we happened to be driving by the church as the late service was letting out and spotted him. There he was, this 50-something-year-old man, strutting along the sidewalk, laughing loudly, sporting a Ryan Seacrest-type shirt, having retired, I guess, the suit he stubbornly used to wear. I imagine because this look is more “cool.” He was towing a woman along behind him, hand in hand, the same woman MB had seen; I assume a girlfriend. If she’d witnessed this coldhearted sermon, how did she not bolt for the door? I don’t see how a person of any discernment could miss the cold and hostile context here.

Prancing down that sidewalk, the pastor seemed quite over the “intense agony” he’d said he had.

To the one who is gone, I am so sorry. I don’t know what else to say. I am so sorry that you died so despairing, so alone.

But I know — I know! — you’ve finally found the abundant love that perhaps you never felt here.

February 25, 2006

-image-lust

Lookie THESE from Superhero Designs!

So pretty, so full of light.

GimmeegimmeegimmeegimmeeGIMMEE!

(Oh, and go check out her site for more designs — earrings and bracelets, too.)

“grass and sky”

“cotton candy”

“champagne”

February 24, 2006

-image-but it doesn’t say “thou shalt not kick the snot outta someone who deserves it,” right?

For the last several weeks at The Beanhouse, money has been missing from people’s tills. One day — Groundhog Day, my anniversary — mine was short $93. The other day, nearly $200 was missing from someone else’s. There’s been another occasion or two, with the money missing totalling about $500 in 5 weeks. The same amount of time I — and the two guys hired with me — have been there.

My Beloved and I went out the evening of our anniversary and I was distraught over the missing money. I could NOT figure it out. I don’t steal. I HATE people who do. I had not done it, but I offered to reimburse the company for the money. The response was, “oh, no, don’t do that.” Still, I DID get WRITTEN UP FOR IT. Apologetically, but STILL. It seemed so bizarre — ALL of this — that I started thinking it was some computer glitch. Really.

(Oh, Tracey.)

Yeah — it was NOT. Yesterday, our little 40-year-old thief was FIRED. He was one of the guys hired with me. I wasn’t there when this all “went down,” but he was basically caught red-handed, so there wasn’t a lot of wiggle room for him.

I’m sorry, but I feel just ENRAGED that this jerk set me — and another person — up. That we were going to be his scapegoats; that he was hoping one of US would go down. His other target was the 20-year-old KID who was hired with us. The poor kid. He’s just trying to do his best, trying to get some autonomy from his parents. And he and I were looked at with suspicion, intially, because, I was told today, with the way it happened, they knew it had to be one of the “new” people.

I LITERALLY want to kick the snot outta this guy. Then kick whatever’s left!! He lives just up the street from me — not sure where, exactly — but I’m telling you, I’d better not run into him. EVER. I won’t actually kick any snot — because I’m all bluster on this point — but that’s the problem: I’m all bluster. I know myself. I WILL say something. I will probably regret it, but I WILL say something. On things like this — injustices and the like — I’m usually NOT silent. I sometimes don’t like this about myself, BUT on the upside, if you’re my friend, I WILL stick up for you if you need it, bulldog style.

I dunno. Maybe I should just resort to snot-kicking. It’s quieter. I could just quietly kick snot. I mean, think about it. One could potentially kick the snot of another with no words exchanged at all.

OR maybe I’ll just wait til My 6’3″ Beloved comes home and tell him the news. He’s mellow — until he thinks someone’s wronged me. Then, uhm, WATCH OUT!!!!!

Yes, let’s do THAT, instead.

Irish is comin’ for ya, jerk.

February 23, 2006

-image-high school angst meme

From Sheila:

1) Where did you graduate from and what year?
Um, what?

2) Did u have school pride?
Hmm. I dunno. Did u?

3) Was your prom a night to remember?
I went to two Senior Proms. Once as a sophomore; the other, as a Senior. They were both very icky experiences. So memorable, ah, yesss.

4) Do you own all 4 Yearbooks?
Yes. I even worked on the yearbook one year — junior year, I think. Was that it? Hmm. I’d have to check my yearbook!

5) What was the worst trouble you ever got into?
Trouble? Are you kidding?? I was eerily well-behaved. I was more of a freak than the freaks because of it.

6) What kind of people did you hang out with?

Drama people.

7) What was your number 1 choice of College in HS?

My #1 choice was where I ended up going. It was in Seattle, WA. It was NOT, however, my parents’ #1 choice for me. I bucked family tradition and didn’t go to the college that both my parents and both my siblings went to. My siblings had awful college experiences and I LOVED mine. SO glad I made the choice I did.

8) What radio station did u rock out too?
I honestly can’t remember.

9) Were you involved in any organizations or clubs?

Drama club and yearbook. Tennis team.

10) What were your favorite classes in high school?

Drama. Creative Writing. Spanish, actually. Man, I’m just remembering — I was a DEMON in Spanish! I mean, I won some kind of bizarre countywide competition in SPANISH, for God’s sake!! Who has competitions to see who’s best in SPANISH?? Who CARES??

11) Who was your big crush in High School?
9th grade: Ron B. He was on the wrestling team. He was this big-deal wrestler — made even more of a big deal because his right hand was deformed. It was frozen in a claw that bent down toward his wrist. He told me he’d had a surgery to “unfreeze” it and it worked for a while. Then it just went back the way it was. He seemed fine with it, actually. I remember watching him wrestle and watching his opponents look at that hand of his. You could almost hear them thinking, “Check this out. EASY win. NO problem.” Ron would act all nonchalant. They’d act certain they were going to win. Then Ron would proceed to kick their asses. Ended up 1st in the state in his weight class. Very cool guy. Too cool to be dating me — which I think he eventually realized!

10th grade: Tim S. A junior. A water polo player. Water polo was IT at our school, not football. Our football teams always sucked, but our water polo teams? Fuggedaboudit. We DOMINATED. So he was this dreamy, unattainable, popular guy. I’m not sure I ever spoke a complete sentence to him, breathless as I became at the nearness of him. I may have panted in his general direction. Which didn’t win him over, surprisingly. Months later, one of my best friends was dating him. We were not friends after that.

11th grade: Bob M. A senior. Much more in common with this one — we were both in Drama. He was THE star of our department, really a gifted actor. I remember watching him as Jerry in “The Zoo Story.” In that show, Jerry has an epic monologue where he describes in detail his attempt to poison his landlady’s dog. And listening to this monologue is when I KNEW I loved Bob M.! I mean, he was so believable, you see. And who wouldn’t swoon at a guy who could make you believe that he would poison a helpless dog — I was over the MOON, people! Hahaha. (But also sick.)

I remember he had to kiss me in a show we did — a mere chaste peck, really, and I nearly fainted with love for him! He, it turns out, felt that same way — about someone else. A guy. I was SO naive.

Sighhh …..

12th grade: I’d used up my whole heart on Bob M. the year before. I was too heartbroken to even allow for a crush.

12) Would you say you’ve changed a lot since high school?
(No, I still have a crush on Bob M.) Sheesh!! I hope so.

13) What do you miss the most about it?

I don’t miss much about it, honestly. High School was hard for me. I sometimes still pine for my college years. THOSE were the grand ones for me.

14) Your worst memory of HS?
Other than one of my best friends stealing my crush with her brazen hussy-ness and another crush being GAY??? I don’t know!

15) Did you have a car?
Yes. It was a used Ford Country Squire station wagon — you know, the kind with the elegant wood side panels? Clah-ssy. I shared it with my older sister. Well, that is, until I rear-ended some poor old man and basically totalled the thing. A station wagon! I TOTALLED a STATION WAGON! Luckily, the old man survived — somehow.

16) What were your school colors?

Ghastly orange — yes, ORANGE — and white.

17) Who were your fav. teachers?

Mr. Hagan. Mr. Mentas.

18) Did you own a cell phone in high school?
They didn’t exist — thank GOD.

19) Did you leave campus for lunch?
I think sometimes — during senior year.

20) If so, where was your fav. place to go eat?

The Yogurt Mill. The building used to be a pizza place called “The Leaning Tower of Pizza,” so you can imagine what it looked like. Really good frozen yogurt — which I always ate quickly because I thought the place was gonna collapse on me.

21) Were you always late to class?
Never.

22) Did you ever have to stay for Saturday School?
Nope.

23) Did you ever ditch?

No — except for “Senior Ditch Day.” I lived on the edge, man.

24) What kind of Job did you have?

Cashier at Costco.

25) Do you wish you were still in high school?
Does ANYONE answer yes to this??? Puhleazze.

All right. Anyone else care to share?

February 22, 2006

-image-may I please say

that THIS guy

is my new favorite on “American Idol”?

Some might say he needs to acquaint himself with the fine line of Just For Men products.

Some might say he needs to introduce himself to Jenny Craig.

Some might say he needs to put in an emergency call to the helpful fellows from “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.”

But I say, “Sing to me, baby! Just SAHHHNGG!!

-image-sasha

And Sasha Cohen was PERFECT! A tiny coquette. A dancing doll. Perfection.

She’s in first place.

-image-sk8ter grrrls

One of the women skaters last night wore yellow. You almost never see them wear yellow. It was so cheering to me, somehow. An errant, early daffodil. Lovely.

But Irina Slutskaya, the favorite for gold, wore a ONESIE! Apparently, the women can now wear THE DREADED SKATER ONESIE!! Irina’s was a smoky grey get-up with rhinestone fireworks exploding furiously across her chest. I sobbed at the sight of it.

I rather like her, but this, this new onesie concession, is a deeply disturbing development. Why, God, WHY? What does it all mean??

It should mean Instant Disqualification. Stripping of all titles. A Gillooly to the knees. And finally, demotion to a career lumbering around the ice in a bear costume as the very BEST Baloo “Disney On Ice” ever had!

Call me old-fashioned. I like the women skaters to look like women. And I like the men skaters to look like men, if possible. And I don’t like anyone to look like an ASS which is exactly what happens with The Onesie.

You hear me, Baloo??

February 21, 2006

-image-what I’m reading and watching

Oh, goody! Disjointed ramblings on what I’m reading and watching!

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. I’m embarrassed to admit that I started reading this years ago, when I know I was FAR too young for it and I think I was just freaked out by it. Because of that initial impression, for years I wouldn’t pick it up again. But now, I AM JUST LOVING THIS BOOK!! SO glad I picked it up again. SO. GLAD. I think I want to live in this book. (Now, shhhh! I’m sure many of you have read it, but I’m not finished yet! Don’t give anything away!!)

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I absolutely love his writing, but, well, here’s a list of some of the characters:

Jose Arcadio Buendia
Jose Arcadio
Arcadio
Aureliano
Aurelianos
Aureliano Jose
Aureliano Segundo
Jose Arcadio Segundo

“and the rest …..”

Does anyone else see the, uh, potential for confusion? Or is it just me? And if you say it’s just me, I WILL delete your comment. The man is just a genius and the book is so odd and sweeping and whimsical, but would it have killed him to name someone Bobby? And then to name a completely different person not Bobbie, but, say, Johnny? And then another completely different person, oh, Huey or something???

I’m constantly pep-talking myself through the book like this:

“Okay, Tracey, now remember: That’s the brother and then THAT guy is the uncle — no, no, the SON — and you just keep reading! — but walk over here and reward yourself with a cookie because on THAT page you understood who everyone was! Now just stay calm. You are brilliant. Just because you can’t keep the freaking names straight does not mean you are a sorry idiot. Not at ALL. And frankly, I SO agree with you that Huey is a great name and — wow, you make some REALLY good cookies! You just keep reading, girl! I’ll bet if that chick in the book had one of these babies she wouldn’t eat dirt anymore ….”

I love the book, his writing — I do! — but the name thing is DRIVING ME CRAZY! And I know I don’t have one hundred years of solitude to get through it!!

Please pray for Dumb Li’l Bunny.

Disappointment with God by Philip Yancey. I’ve read this book several times. It’s brilliant; Philip Yancey is brilliant. An absolute favorite. Everyone should read this.

(That’s about as many books as I can actually read at one time. On to the watching!)

“I Know Where I’m Going!” (1945) starring Wendy Hiller. A REALLY obscure little gem. Even I can’t remember how I heard of it. I’ll be watching it again before I have to return it and then doing a whole post about it. I can’t even begin to describe it right now.

One of the directors of the movie, Emeric Pressburger, said this to his partner and co-director, Michael Powell:

“I want to do a movie about a girl who wants to get to an island but is prevented by storm. By the time the storm dies down, her life is changed and she no longer wants to get to the island.”

Powell apparently said, “But WHY does she want to get to the island?”

Pressburger replied, “I don’t know! Let’s make it and find out!!”

I love that, the excitement, the sense of discovery about to be made, the innocence, almost.

More on this one later. Just ….. wonderful …. and you don’t realize just HOW wonderful until it’s over.

“Hustle and Flow” starring Terrence Howard. Howard is nominated for Best Actor for this. He was also phenomenal in “Crash” — an actor who WILL win an Academy Award some day, but, sadly, probably not this year, what with “Brokeback Mountain” and Heath Ledger and all.

In this movie, he’s a somewhat half-hearted pimp and drug dealer with a dream to make it in hip hop. A character you think you’ll hate, you begin to understand and cheer for. It’s a movie where the hero is an anti-hero and I love those kinds of movies. He’s complicated and volatile and not just washed all squeaky with goodness. His layers are maddening and beautiful, too.

There is a scene Howard does with one of his prostitutes where she gives him a gift and thanks him for something and it is SUCH a beautiful, real moment — that actress! Gah! I can’t even remember her name! I must find it out. I rewound it over and over again so I could watch that scene and see the wonder of this MOMENT and cry.

Some may be offended by the subject matter. I suppose from a Christian perspective, one could find ways to condemn many things, but I’d still say “rent it, watch it, enter that world as that person and see what choices you might make, see what hopes you might have, see who you might love.” I don’t know. I felt utterly moved by these people.

With certain eyes, I think there’s beauty to behold in their struggle.

— Lastly, we went and saw “The New World” with Colin Farrell. I do not generally care for Colin Farrell. I STILL do not generally care for Colin Farrell. But the young actress who plays Pocahontas is amazing, riveting, camera absolutely loves her face. And the beginning portions of the movie are visually stunning. You are THERE. You feel that snow. You nearly brace against the coldness of that water. You smell that grass, those trees. Cinematography, breathtaking. But then …. then …. well, I don’t know. I just got TIRED. Tired of the story and the length — and that actress is still so lovely — but I just didn’t CARE anymore. I think the movie swept itself off its feet and in the end, well, actually, My Beloved said it best in his exhausted, terse review in the car on the way home:

The New World, otherwise known as Nature is Pretty.”

(Hahahaha! Have I mentioned he kills me?)

Okay. Rambling OVER!

-image-update — or somepin’ like dat

All right. I’m ranting and typing furiously here.

So they skate and I guess they do all right — oh, and skating to “Prince of Egypt” about, you know, slavery and deliverance and other minor stuff like that, you whiny little piss-ants!

But they do all right, as I said; you know, there’s no fall, no butt zamboni, but I have to say that watching them HAVE to touch each other during the skate is weird. They are still SO mad at each other, it’s like both their bodies are screaming, “AHHHHH!! IT BURNS!! IT BUURRRRRNS!!!”

So they finish and …. the Italian crowd goes crazy and then — and ONLY then — she starts sobbing and clutching at him and stroking his hair. The ice melts, so to speak.

AND IT MAKES ME REALLY MAD, SOMEHOW.

I guess it’s just the notion that any forgiveness or reconciliation here was entirely dependent on how well they skated. If they’d fallen again — what? What would have happened? Would they never speak to each other again? Put out a hit on each other? WHAT?? After all that time together, there’s no grace?? I know it’s the Olympics and all, but it’s not real life, people. Your life will go on after the Olympics are done. Or at least, it SHOULD.

Can you manage to weigh your relationships as more important than one life event??

I say this:

If you guys win, Dick Button STILL gets to SPANK you.

But I do, TOO.

February 20, 2006

-image-that’s amore — or somepin’ like dat

I ‘m watching the Ice Dancing finals. WHAT the HECK is UP with that Italian pair? They were in first place before last night’s skate — and then they fell. Walked off the ice fuming. Sat in the kiss and cry, she fuming, plunging daggers in him with her eyes, he not even looking at her, looking COMPLETELY the other way.

It was massively immature and entertaining.

So tonight, here they are, getting ready to skate — (I think they’re now in 6th place or something) — and they made such a big ol’ DEAL about coming out of retirement to skate in the Olympics in their home country — but now their home country AND the whole freakin’ world gets to witness them being the absolute biggest BABIES I’ve ever seen. The cameras are following them backstage as they prepare to skate and they are literally ignoring each other — both having their little hissy pissy fits — STILL!! They walk past one another as if they are complete strangers and not partners who’ve struggled and fallen and competed and won and lost TOGETHER for so long. It’s one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever seen.

(And I can’t look away!!!)

But someday, when they see this footage, they will be embarrassed, as they rightly should be. That is, if they ever MATURE at all, they will be embarrassed.

I wish I could be like some old-timey Gramma and shake my head and wag my finger and warble “SHAME ON YOU! SHHHAME!!!”

Wait. Who says I can’t??

“SHAME ON YOU!! SHHHAME!!!”

They’re up next to skate.

I say this:

If you guys win, Dick Button gets to SPANK you.

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