Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Congrats to the Beavers!

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I just wanted to publicly congradulate the Oregon State Beaver baseball team. ALthough I didn't graduate from OSU I did live and attend college in Corvallis for three years back in the 1980's. What this baseball team accomplished this year in the college World Series was amazing. They faced elimination seven times and won all seven elimination games. I don't know college baseball statistics or folklore but suspect that amazing feat at least tied or broke some kind of record. Very satisfying to see the Beavers win the big one and while it doesn't completely make up for all the football routs I had to endure while sitting in the rain back in the 1980's it is gratifying to see the Beavers win a championship...so...I tip my hat and give a big congrats to the Beavers of Oregon State.....

Monday, June 26, 2006

Characteristics of the New Heroes

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Going through difficult times often forces one to change their perspective on alot of things. Ealier today I was reading my notes on a book I read a couple of years ago called Fire in the Belly by Sam Keen. The book was primarly written for men and I found it very interesting, thought provoking, and helpful in my own struggle as a man trying to live up to my own responsibilites and expectations ... Over the years alot has been written about heroes and the idea of the modern hero is generally not held in too high esteen, particularly, pop culture heroes. I am not hear to criticize modern pop heroes but I would like to pass along what Keen has to say about heroes because I find his notion of the "new hero" very appealing and relevant. I love some of the pop modern day heroes such as Superman, Spiderman, Batman, etc. but I don't find them particularly inspiring or easy to immulate. See what you think about what Keen as to say about heroes....

Characteristics of the New Hero

1. The new hero "is not" larger than life.

2. The new hero seeks to empower others rather than dominate and control.

3. The new hero seeks to live in harmony with others, if possible, and with nature.

4. The new hero is in touch with their emotions rather than constantly trying to repress or deny them.

5. The new hero is empathetic with others.

6. The new hero seeks equality with peers rather than heirarchy and pecking order.

7. The new hero is an intuitive man who is willing to explore the inner man.

8. The new hero is a man who realizes there is a mystery element to everything in life to one degree or another.

9. A new hero is not competitive to the point where he wants to eliminate or destroy the competition.

10. The new hero is morally outraged against the injustices of the world.

11. The new hero has a sense of wonder. Pays attention to nature, details of God's world.

12. The new hero acknowledges the importance of solitude and recognizes that solitude begins when a man silences the competing voices of the market, the polis, the home, the mass, and listens to the dictates of his soul.

13. The new hero must take time be with himself, to discover his desires, rhythums, tastes,gifts, hopes, and wounds and understands that one needs solitude to keep the relationship going between me, myself, and I.

14. The new hero finds ways to express his gifts and talents whether throught work or hobbies.

15. The new hero is able to restrict the daily excess of abstractions and revive his senses through bird watching, talking with children, visiting friends, preparing feasts, making love, reading, listening to music or sitting and quietly doing nothing.

16. The new hero takes advantage of the place where he lives and settles in and makes it a home.

17. The new hero is a man who nourishes and pursues friendships and does not insulate himself from the rest of the world.

18. The new hero is a caretaker of those children he has brought into the world.

19. And finally, a new hero is one who understands the need for wildness and wilderness experiences because they remind us that we are simply one species among many.

I wonder if I should email this to Marvel comics and what kind of new action hero could they come up with based on these new insights?

Saturday, June 24, 2006

The Final Chapter

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This is the final chapter and it covers the last three years of my life....on the personal front....Since my divorce I have been attempting to put my life back together and it has been a very slow process. While I believe I have made great strides in the self aware and healing department my living situation has been a slow go. I am still living at my mom's house but do hope to find more permanent living arrangments sometime next year. It has been very frustrating because I really don't like living at my mothers house but my options are limited because I am a casuality of the crazy real estate prices. Houses have tripled since my divorce and I can't afford housing. I feel best about my relationship with my two sons. We have drawn very close through these difficult times and I have the kind of relationship I never had with my own father. We spend alot of time together and we talk about everything. This is the part of my life that I feel most proud about.....on the religious/spiritual front....Despite my present self imposed exile from church I continue to read, discuss, and interact with Christians on a regular basis. I was a part of a church plant a couple of years ago but that fell apart. I have visited a number of churches over the years but I have yet to feel a strong connection. I don't blame the churches and admit my efforts have been minimum. My nuanced, pomo leaning, theology makes it difficult to fit in because the vast majority of churches in my neck of the woods are very conservative. I have posted this before but I live in one of the most political and religious conservative areas in the country. Bakersfield was ranked the most conservative city in California and fifth in the nation. There are a few mainline, left leaning, churches in my area but they are generally very small and the congregations tend to be older. Don't mean to imply I have problems with old people but, in my area, they generally don't keep up with what is happening regarding theology, philosophy, and the emerging church movement. I have do on occasion attend mass with my girlfriend but do find the various exclusionary practices of the Catholic church difficult to accept. Am interested in a much more inclusionary vision for the Christian church but these kind of churches do not exist where I live.... I have also tried to engage a number of people locally about what I see happening on the religious landscape but there just doesn't seem to be much interest. I even participated in a book discussion group on Brian Mclaren's book, A New Kind of Christian, but the interest in the book was lukewarm at best. I think we covered the whole book in only three meetings.... Living in Bakersfield is like living in a time warp. We generally are about 20 years behind everyone else and it is very frustrating which is why I spend most of my time interacting with others on cyberspace. I am currently a member on a number of different discussion groups but my group home is Pomoxian which can be found on yahoogroups. I have been an active member on this group for years and I enjoy the relationships that have been established and I find the daily interaction intellectually stimulating and helpful. I still continue to try to keep up with the lastest happenings on the various relgious fronts. Just finished a couple of Bart Ehrman books and am currently reading Elaine Pagels book on the Gospel of Thomas. I found the recent hoopla on the Da Vinci Code interesting because it opened a few doors to discuss the early church, documents, Christian tradition, which are all subjects I am very interested in........I honestly don't know where I will end up ten or twenty years from now but I am currenlty content with the journey I am on and I just try to take it one day at a time and hopefully grow in grace towards myself, my neighbor, and the world....and...hope and pray that the people I work, live, and interact with on a daily basis will feel loved by my actions and my words....May God help us all

Friday, June 23, 2006

The heat wave has arrived

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It's fryin and I am dyin. I don't know what the official temperature was today but it was as hot as I have seen it in a long while. Someone at Barnes and Nobles said it was 110 degrees today and the local weatherman said temperatures could approach 112 before the week-end is over and it currently feels like 100 degrees at 11:00 P.M. I don't know if it is going to make it to 112 or not this week-end but I'm not hangin around to find out. I'm heading to the coast with my son Wesley tomorrow morning and we won't come back until Sunday night...and....then I am heading to the Bay area with my other son Paul on Monday for four days....so...bring on the heat and let it burn, baby, burn, because I'm getting out of here.....

Thursday, June 22, 2006

The most difficult years: Chapter 7

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1998 was a very difficult year for me. My marriage went south and so did my 25 year relationship with the Evangelical subculture. My wife and I had struggled on and off for years and I still do not understand all the reasons why the bottom dropped out when it did, but it did. I also decided to stop attending church that year. I never left the church with the intention of staying away forever but I don't suspect I will probably ever return because I acknowledge I just don't fit in with the subculture anymore, I felt abandoned by the church during my divorce, and to be brutally honest, I really don't miss it. Oh, I do miss some of the relationships and the teaching and ministry opportunities but I really don't miss being subjected to a process that seems to emphasize conformity and exclusion. Don't intend to imply that others should jump ship like I have because I understand and acknowledge there are "many" reasons to hang in there and be a part of an institution bit I am at peace with the decision I have made and I really don't think God is angry or disappointed in the direction I have taken.... Sometimes a man just has to do what he has to do.... I also believe there is an important psychological angle to my decision to leave the Evangelical subculture. As my views and perspective changed over the years I felt increasingly alienated and marginalized and I have since become aware through years of therapy that I struggle with the fear of rejection and abandonment and these personal issues were being triggered big time the longer I remained and tried to fit in. It just wasn't going to work.....back to my marriage situation....My marriage situation continued to get worse and in the summer of 2002 my wife and I seperated and I moved in with my mother. We divorced about a year later....So, where was God in all of this? Some might want to assert or suggest that my exploration and ongoing flirtation with heretical/out of the box perspectives "caused" the breakup of my marriage and my self imposed exile from the Evangelical subculture...but...I really don't think so. I could write a whole chapter on how I feel I was mistreated by both my wife and the Christian subculture during this time of my life but I really don't think it would serve any positive purpose. What is done is done...bottom line...Alot of mistakes were made by everyone and the fears, insecurities, and inability to cope with the accumulation of continued hurt,unfufilled expectations, and unmet needs were just too overwhelming....

My spiritual condition and state of mind....

Spiritually I did not feel that the meltdown of my marriage and my estrangment from my religious roots had much effect on my relationship with God or my own perception of my spiritual condition, of course, others might disagree. During this most difficult time in my life some suggested I had gone off the deep end and created a god in my own image, while others interpreted my situation as a classic case of backslidding...and...a few even suggested I was never a Christian to begin with!...I guess the latter suggestion is possible but if it was, I propose I did one hell of a job fooling a lot of people for over 25 years and that should be worth something, eh?
I suppose I didn't have a spiritual meltdown or crisis of faith because I have learned over the years to not allow myself to be defined by others, especially when it comes to my religious identity. People can call me a backslider, heretic, or worse but these are human constructs that have been used to marginilize those who don't see the world as we do for thousands of years and we can choose to not accept the labels...and....I have chosen to not accept these labels....Well, I am almost finished. I have one more chapter to write and hopefully I will get it written before I leave town again.

Mythology and the Jesus Seminar: Chapter 6

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During my two years or so of lurking and participating on the Christian Postmodern discussion group the subject of the Jesus Seminar came up on a regular basis so I decided to explore the Jesus Seminar and find out for myself what all the fuss was about. My baptism into the world of the Jesus Seminar started with a book co-authored
by Marcus Borg and N.T. Wright. titled "The Meaning of Jesus". I really connected with what Borg had to say in this book, especially as it relates to his understanding and interpretation of myth. Over the years I have studied and read quite a few books on mythology, including many of the classic myths. My blog name is after all, Bilbo, and not Luther, Calvin, Tillich, Barth, or any other doctor of theology. After studying about mythology for a number of years now I have come to the conclusion that most modern people have both a misunderstanding and a bias against mythology which in turn greatly influences how they interpret many of the stories in the bible. Here is what Mircea Eliade has to say about mythology in his book: Myth and Reality. "In the modern world, myth and reality are commonly seen as opposites: we speak of myth or reality"...Borg explains that "Eliades point is just the opposite: myth and reality go together, myth being the language for talking about what is ultimately real. For Eliade, myths are true, even though not literally true...myth is a form of poetry which transcends poetry in that it proclaims a truth".... Borg also has this to say about myths...."In popular language, myth is a dismissive term. To call something a myth is to dismiss it: one need not take it seriously. A myth is seen as a mistaken belief, a falsehood." Borg goes on to say, "in the study of religion myths are not explanations. Myths are not primitive science. Myths are not mistaken beliefs. Rather, myths are metaphorical narratives about the relationship between this world and the sacred.....Myths use nonliteral language; in this sense, they do not narrate facts.".... The importance of this perspective by Eliade and Borg influenced me to remain “open” to the writings and conclusions of the various Jesus Seminar contributors because a significant amount of their work is suggests and asserts that "some" of the New Testament accounts are “mythical” in nature, particularly, the miracles stories of Jesus and the Virgin Birth stories….. Thus began my flirtation with the Jesus Seminar…. For the next two or three years I read most of the books written by Borg and a significant number of books by John Dominic Crossan. While I never became a full fledged apologist for the Jesus Seminar I have to admit I was greatly impressed by the writings and scholarship of both men. And, currently believe they may be right about a lot of things regarding Christianity, the nature of the Bible, and the life of Jesus. At first I tried to keep a low profile while reading these books and I seldom discussed the content or the conclusions of the Jesus Seminar with my wife or any of the people at church because I was afraid of what others might think because the likes of Borg and Crossan are considered heretics and enemies of the faith by most of the Christians I was fellowshipping with at the time. But, gradually I began to share some of what I was learning with my wife and members of the Sunday Class. These conversations were very difficult because even though I usually spoke in the third person when I talked about the ideas of the Jesus Seminar I suspect they felt threatened by the “mere suggestion” that there might be another way to interpret Jesus and the gospel …..So where did that place me in the eyes of my wife and my fellow Christian brethren? I can’t say for sure but the gulf between my wife and the people at church seemed to get wider and wider with each passing week and I didn't know it at the time but the bottom of my life was about to fall out....

The Postmodern Revolution: Chapter 5

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Eller’s Christian Anarchy opened a new world for me.I no longer felt bound to a particular Christian tradition, set of dogmas, particular Christian guru, or religious/political ideology therefore I now I felt free to explore the religious landscape and I soon found myself knocking at the door of postmodernism. If you have followed the discussion regarding postmodernism closely over the years you understand that there are as many interpretations of postmodernism as there are denominations. For some, postmodernism represents a new bogeyman, to others a breathe of fresh air, and for others it represents a new emerging perspective on the world. For me I saw postmodernism as a logical extension of Christian Anarchy. Over the years my studies, reflections, and experience had created a significant amount of internal angst, ambiguity, and uncertainty and postmodernism provided an explanation for what I had been thinking and feeling for years. I am not sure exactly when or how I began exploring Postmodernism but I do remember the first book I read on the subject. It was called A Primer on Postmodernism by Stanley Grenz a theologian from Regent College in Vancouver British Columbia. I don’t remember too much about the specific contents of the book but I do remember thinking to myself, that’s me! He’s describing how I think and feel. Now I know what I am. I’m a Postmodern Christian Anarchist!.....Not sure if there really is such an animal but if there is I certainly fit the bill. Shortly after I read my first book on Postmodernism I decided to do a search on Christianity and Postmodernism and that is when I discovered an internet discussion group from the U.K. that discussed the relationship between Christianity and postmodernism. For about a year I lurked and just soaked in the back and forth discussion between what I consider one of the most interesting and gifted group of Christians I have ever encountered. It was during this time I that I came to interact and get to know a guy named David Blakeslee. Often Dave would express on the discussion group what I was thinking or feeling and I eventually got up the nerve to email Dave off list. Dave was very gracious to entertain my questions and concerns but after a short time Dave encouraged me to take our conversations public on the UK Christian discussion group. At first I was reluctant because I lacked confidence in my writing and I felt intimidated by many of the participants on the discussion group. Not that anyone in particular was trying to intimidate me but there were some very, very, sharp people involved in this particular group which meant you couldn't get away with blowing smoke or making things up as you went along.....bottom line... I was afraid I might embarrass myself because I had never participated publicly with so many talented and gifted Christian thinkers and writers. I am not sure when I launched my first post but I do remember there were a number of gracious replies to my initial post and it marked the beginning of a series of online relationships that have grown and deepened over the years. The experience on this particular discussion group was critically important to my understanding of postmodernism because it put flesh and blood on what can otherwise be a rather abstract philosophical discussion. I read quite a few books during this time on Postmodernism but books have their limitations and I now consider my time on the various Postmodern discussion groups more important than all the books I ever read on the subject. Books often represent/portray carictures while online discussion groups represent real people who have integrated to one degree or another postmodernism into the various aspects of their lives which goes way beyond what one might read in most books on the subject....which....is why I tell people if you want to better understand what postmoderism is and it's relationship to Christianity, go online, and listen to what people are saying. Books can be helpful in giving a general understanding of what postmodernism is but the meat and potatoes is found on the discussion groups, IMHO...

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Christian Anarchy: Chapter 4

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Flirtation with Neo-orthodoxy

Although the tension and frustration was growing at home and church I didn’t blink twice and continued to explore my own spiritual path outside of the confines and influence of the Evangelical subculture. I am not sure why I continued down this path especially when you consider the great risk to my relationship with my family, friends and Evangelical peers but at the time I felt like I needed a faith grounded in “this world” and the Reformed tradition provided what was lacking in my evangelical experience. While Schaeffer served as an important religious mentor during the 1980’s a new mentor came to my attention in the early 1990s. I don’t remember who introduced me to the writings of Jacque Ellul but my interest in technology and it’s relationship to the modern obsession with technique would eventually lead me to Ellul. Like Schaeffer, Ellul was a prolific writer who had a fairly substantial world wide following. Ellul’s area of expertise is technology/technique but he has also written a substantial number of books on such topics as Marxism, prayer, propaganda, money,The Kingdom of God, politics and anarchy. In his writings Ellul sites Barth, Kierkegaard, and neo-orthodoxy as the major influences in his understanding and interpretation of Christianity and culture. Ellul had a tremendous influence on my thinking. Ellul’s writings explore the modern obsessions with technique, technology, money, power and allegiance to political ideologies. Personally I found Ellul’s writings fascinating, insightful, right on, and for the next four or five years I became an Ellul apologist and the gulf between myself and the Evangelical community widened because Ellul was a part of the neo-orthodox camp and the likes of Barth and company were suspect in the minds of many Evangelicals. In my personal life the tension and frustration was mounting in my marriage and my relationship with the leadership of the church because of my decision to embrace an egalitarian position in my marriage and in the community of the church. My decision to become an egalitarian created a lot of insecurity for my wife and brought into question my allegiance to an inerrant view of the Bible and this marked the beginning of the end for me in regards to leadership opportunities in the conservative evangelical subculture.

A Christian Anarchist is born

The last book of Jacques Ellul I remember reading was a book about Christian anarchy and while I don’t consider it one of his best books it did peak my interest in the subject of Christian anarchy. Over the years I have read my fair share of books but one of the most influential books I have ever read is Vernard Eller’s book Christian Anarchy. I still have a severely marked up copy laying around the house somewhere and from time to time I go back and reread all the highlighted passages. Christian Anarchy should not be confused with secular anarchy. Secular anarchy as I understand is generally associated with chaos/disorder but Christian anarchy encourages Christians to not make “absolute, uncritical alliances” to anyone, anything, any philosophy of life, any idea/ideology, or any institution, except God. Christian anarchists are not necessarily “against” anyone, institution, or any particular system of thought but rather emphasize keeping at arms length the powers and ideas of this world even those that explicitly wear the Christian label. This was radical stuff to me because my entire Christian life I had always associated myself with a particular person, denomination, tradition or set of ideas/beliefs and now I was challenged to abandon or at least reconsider my relationship with many of the allegiances that I had formed over the years. It was also a real challenge psychologically because I received a significant amount of emotional security from my various allegiances. The book really struck a nerve with me because it provided a comprehensive explanation for the angst I had been feeling for years regarding my own struggles and the growing estrangement from the evangelical subculture….In hindsight my shift to Christian Anarchy probably struck the nail in the coffin regarding my relationship with the Evangelical establishment because institutions are maintained, in large part, on the basis of the allegiance of it’s members and I was no longer willing to align myself with the institution of church and it’s particular vision of what a Christian “ought” to think and do. I don’t mean to imply that I wasn’t open to what my Evangelical brethren had to say or suggest. I just was no longer willing to go along with this or that simply because it carried an Evangelical label.

A quick update and a few notes to all

I have been out of town for the past three days and was unable to respond to any of your comments, Dave, Bob, and Catherine. I was able to post chapter three but the computer I was working on was so, so, slow. It out to be a crime to own an old computer that isn't hooked up to a DSL line...anyway...I am back and hope to finish the story I started before I leave again. It's going to be really, really hot next week so I might be leaving to get out of the heat and than next Friday I will be leaving for five weeks for my annual summer wilderness vacation, but before I go I hope to wrap up my religious autobiography and post a few other thoughts that have been on my mind these past couple of weeks. Hopefully I'll post chapter four later tonight or tomorrow but I do want to take a minute and respond to the comments made by Dave, Bob, and Catherine......Bob.....Glad you enjoyed the story so far but suspect it might make you feel a bit uneasy as the story unfolds. Not trying to undermine anyone's faith but am just trying to be honest and tell everyone what happened. Don't have a particular axe to grind or point to make. Just trying to tell my story....Catherine....I haven't ran across any YWAM folks for quite a while. Checked out your blog...Interesting name.....See you read Korten's book When Corporations Rule the World. Great book....Hope you and your family figure out your work and living situation...and....Hope you get to stay in New Zealand. Sounds like that is where your heart is....Was madly in love with a girl from YWAM many years ago who lived in Auckland.....Dave....Do hope you find the time to post your own story. Have read most of it and do think it would great if others could read it as well...Have always appreciated your friendship and although we live in different parts of the country have always felt connected to your story and your vision of life....by the way...your name comes up in the chapter on postmodernism. Hope you don't mind if I bring up your name in my story. Didn't ask your permission because I assumed you wouldn't mind. For those who don't know....Dave and I go way back...and as Dave's said, our stories have paralled at certain points along the way....

Flirtation with the Reformed Tradition: Chapter 3

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Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The End of an Era

The day Francis Schaeffer died of cancer was a very sad day for me…..I cried…. I cried because for years Schaeffer was my “intellectual and spiritual mentor” and now I felt all alone. During the “Schaeffer years” I had no local religious mentors despite the fact that I was very active in church on numerous fronts. I am not sure all the reasons why I was unable to make any local connections but suspect it had something to do with the fact that I was in a very different place in my spiritual journey than the Christians I fellowshipped with on a regular basis. The Christians I interacted with at this time in my life were predominately pietistic leaning Evangelicals who emphasized evangelism, Bible Study, prayer, and issues relating to family life. My interests in philosophy, history, art, culture, etc. were not the kind of subjects that were frequently or seriously discussed in my local church therefore I found myself gradually feeling alienated from the local church.

Flirtation with the Reformed Tradition

Schaeffer not only helped open up the world of art and culture but he introduced me to the Reformed tradition and after his death I began reading the champions of the Reformed tradition, Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, Erasmus, Jonathan Edwards and the Puritans. By the end of my serious flirtation with the reformed tradition I became somewhat of a lay expert on the history of the Reformation which probably furthered cemented my growing eccentric reputation with my evangelical friends and community. Eventually my studies led me to the modern era where I explored the writings of modern Calvinists. Most people associate Calvinism with the Sovereignty of God, election, theological hairsplitting, and the writings of popular Calvinists like R.C. Sproul, Boice, and reformed popularizes like James Kennedy. My flirtation with modern day Calvinism had little to do with conservative, traditional reformed issues or the likes of Sproul. I was drawn to the Dutch Calvinist, liberal leaning tradition which made it’s home in places like the Free University of Amsterdam, The Christian Institute of Toronto and Calvin College in Grand Rapids Michigan. My initial interest in Dutch Calvinism came about because of the writings of C.T. McIntire Jr. of the Christian Institute in Toronto. In an effort to prepare myself to teach history from a Christian perspective I began reading McIntire because he is considered one of the most respected Christian Historiographers in the world today and it was during this time that I was introduced to the writings of historian George Marsden. Marsden is considered one of the leading experts in the world on the history of Modern Fundamentalism/conservative Evangelicalism. Marsden played an important role in my journey because Marsden’s books, Fundamentalism and American Culture and Understanding Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism examine critically the “ideology” behind the Evangelical/Fundamentalist subculture. I had encountered a critical examination of Fundamentalism before in the writings of Schaeffer but Schaeffer and, particularly his son Franky, were ”loosely” aligned with the politics and ideology of the Christian Right which probably helps explain why he was so popular with the likes of Farwell and their followers. Marsden is also important because he introduced me to other religious and political Fundamentalist critics like Dutch Calvinist Bob Goudzwaard and Mark Noll. Their writings were critical to my journey because they seriously challenged my allegiance to the Christian political right and it was now only a matter of time until I would abandon and exile myself from the conservative Christian “ideology driven” subculture forever but that wouldn’t happen for years to come….because…..it is not easy to abandon and leave something that has been at the center of your life for so long.

Cracks in the dam

I spent the next couple of years reading and reflecting on a significant number of books written by Calvinist writers from Europe, Canada, and Calvin College. All of this reading and reflecting had a profound effect on my thought and my interpretation of the Christian subculture I had called home since I became a Christian in the late 1970’s and by the time I finished this part of my journey I could no longer honestly call myself a Fundamentalist/conservative Evangelical even though I still attended fundamentalist churches on the local level with my wife and family. This major shift in my thinking was not limited to some abstract aspect of my life because it signified the beginning of some serious personal challenges and problems on a number of different fronts. One of these fronts included the church. At one time I enjoyed a certain amount of celebrity status amongst my fellow Evangelicals. This “celebrity” status included guest appearances on local Christian radio, public speaking engagements , teaching opportunities, etc., etc…but as my theology and perspective began to change so did my ministry opportunities and this became increasingly frustrating because I really didn’t understand why because nothing was ever said to me explicitly about my views and the direction I was going. I also suffered during this time from a significant amount of cognitive dissonance which was extremely difficult to process because I had no face to face religious mentors on the local level. I also became increasingly critical of the local Christian subculture which didn’t help either. The home front wasn’t much better although at the time I didn’t see it because my ex-wife is a very introverted person who tends to repress things, but eventually I came to understand that the more I evolved and changed the more my wife became insecure of our relationship. My now ex-wife grew up in a fundamentalist home, attended fundamentalist churches, and graduated from Biola University which is considered one of the bastions of Fundamentalism on the West Coast. Personally I can’t relate to what my wife was going through at the time but I now suspect her insecurity became acute at some point because the devout fundamentalist man she had married was changing into something she did not understand and from her fundamentalist perspective she must of interpreted these changes as sure signs of classic backsliding….and…..something she hadn’t anticipated when we made our vows many years earlier.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

The Schaeffer Years: Chapter 2

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After two years of attending a small Freewill Baptist fundamentalist church I decided it was time to move on. The next stop on my spiritual journey was Genesis Bible College. Genesis was a “quasi” Assembly of God, non accredited Bible College that had close ties with YWAM and the Charismatic movement. The school was started by a couple of renegade Assembly of God pastors who were inspired and heavily influenced by the teachings and ministry of Juan Carlos Ortiz who was a major figure in the Discipleship movement of the 1970's. The reason I chose Genesis was because of the influence of a very dear friend who attended the school and recommended it highly. I was also attracted to the easy going non legalistic attitude of the students I met and the charismatic emphasis. I was particularly attracted to the lax and I do mean lax dress codes. At the time I attended the school there were quite a few Calvary Chapel refugees running around campus wearing long hair, “Holy” jeans and propagandizing the entire student body to check out the sounds of Christian rock. At any given moment one could hear the sounds of Keith Green, The Second Chapter of Acts, Barry Mcquire, or the Resurrection Band pounding from behind the walls of the dorms of the school.

I have a lot of fond memories of my days at Genesis. We were a very tight knit group of well meaning, if not naive at times, zealots who lived together under the same roof for three years. We all attended the same classes and were able to create a very strong sense of community that was a once in a lifetime experience. We ate,prayed,worked,hung out, and even fought together.I mentioned fought because during a "family" day trip a fist fight occured between two of the members of my apartment. Being in close quarters all the time sometimes also brings out the worst in people as well... The Big letdown…..I have alot of great memories during my years at Genesis but whenever a person goes through a very positive experience there is bound to be a letdown once a person has to finally leave this type of idealistic community. For me, the letdown hit especially hard because like the vast majority of the students I didn't go into "full time ministry" or further my education at seminary. Because I really didn't know what to do with my life at this point I hung around town for another year and worked full time at Burger King. My experience at Burger King was very difficult especially knowing that many of my close friends were now living in exotic places like Amsterdam, Nepal, and Australia...and...I felt embarassed and humiliated everytime someone from the school came into the restaurant. No one ever said anything to me but I couldn't shut out the thoughts that I was a loser for working at Burger King while the rest of the graduates were serving the Lord full time. After about six months working at Burger King I realized that I didn’t want to work at Burger King for the rest of my life so I decided to go back to college and further my education. I would have perferred to go to seminary or some other religious institution but I couldn't afford it so I enrolled at Oregon State, the home of the mighty Beavers!

Francis Schaeffer to the Rescue!

I was a fish out of water at Oregon State. After three years in a "convent like environment" I was not ready for the shock of a big time secular environment. While I really enjoyed the three years I spent at Bible College it did not prepare me for life and intellectual rigors of a secular University. In hindsight, one of the drawbacks to my Bible College experience was the “Pietistic/separatist/”other worldly” attitude and lifestyle of Bible College. For example, we only read Christian authors, listened to only Christian music and I personally don’t ever remember us seriously discussing “secular subjects” such as politics, education, or the culture except when a speaker was bashing the culture which was a frequent and often merciless, if I may say so. So, when I enrolled at Oregon State University in the fall of 1980 I wasn’t prepared to seriously discuss the issues of our culture and I certainly wasn’t prepared to defend myself or my beliefs but that would all soon change… Shortly after I enrolled in classes I picked up a book that radically changed my perspective on the fundamentalist subculture that had been my life and blood since 1975. The name of the book was called Addicted to Mediocrity and the author was a young upstart modern day Jeremiah named Franky Schaeffer. The book was a broadside against the Fundamentalist secular/sacred mentality that prevented most fundamentalists from becoming active in politics, the arts, and secular concerns in general. The younger Schaeffer’s book was critical to my own understanding of Christianity because it radically challenged my own allegiance to a distorted form of pietism and it introduced me to the ministry and works of his father Francis Schaeffer.... The first book I ever read by Francis Schaeffer was a book called True Spirituality which is one of the most influential books I have ever read. This book helped to completely demolish, once and for all, the sacred/secular split, and radical dualistic thinking that was a critically important aspect of my Christian worldview since I had become a Christian. Schaeffer opened up a whole new world to me and for the next 6 years I engrossed myself in reading all of Schaeffer’s books while also listening to hundreds of hours of cassette tapes from L’abri Ministries. I even went out and bought the expensive How Then Shall We Live and Whatever Happened to the Human Race video series which I hoped to indoctrinate anyone who listen. Eventually I became somewhat of an expert on Schaeffer but it really didn’t help my reputation on the home front because I lived in an area that was dominated by the ministries of Chuck Swindoll, James Dobson, Bill Bright, and Josh Mcdowell….. Why Schaeffer? In hindsight I suspect I was drawn to Schaeffer’s writings because he proposed one of the most comprehensive Christian worldviews of our time and he wrote with a style that was accessible and relevant to college students like myself who were trying to survive in the secular university and a secular culture. He wrote books on everything, the environment, art, culture, history, philosophy, theology and everything in between. No stone was left untouched by Schaeffer or L'abri ministries which could not be said for the rest of the conservative/evangelical establishment during the 1980s. For many of us Schaeffer was a god send in an otherwise religious intellectual wasteland… Even though I no longer consider myself a “devotee” of the teachings of Francis Schaeffer I still have great respect for the man because he was at least willing to talk about the culture at a time when most Christians were obsessed with bashing the culture and wishing Jesus would rapture them so they would'nt have to roll up their sleeves and do the dirty work of attempting to transform the culture for good. Schaeffer's writings were wildly popular with College students like myself because he provided an intellectual basis that helped us deal with the secular worldview that many of us encountered during our college years. I also appreciate Schaeffer’s perspective on spirituality and I still think his book True Spirituality is worth reading. Schaeffer writings not only shaped the way I thought but it also had a profound effect on many of the important choices I made during the 1980’s. For example, in the 80’s I got heavily involved in local politics and the abortion issue and eventually became a leader in the Bakersfield area. I was a frequent speaker in many churches around town and even made a number of appearances on local t.v. and radio. My decision to go back to school and get my history degree was largely influenced by my obssession with Schaeffer's book "How than Shall We Live. ….Even today, my interests in music, movies,philosophy,politics, and the arts in general can be traced back to the influence of the little, long haired, goatee man,who lived in the mountains in Switzerland.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

The Religious Adventures of Bilbo: Chapter I

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Recently I have been following the blog of a friend of mine who has been telling the story of their journey of faith and it has inspired me to tell my own story. Personally I find reading and writing stories of our lives very helpful, empowering, therapeutic and critically important to self awareness and the transformation process....so....without rambling any further here's the first part of the adventures of Bilbo

But before we begin....A quick reference to my nickname Bilbo, in case you were wondering...

The nickname Bilbo was first coined by my close friend Damon Johnson back in 1989 in reference to my “obsession” with anything related to the Lord of the Rings. Personally I really don’t mind because hobbits are so cute, cuddly, and likeable, for the most part, and sharing a little celebrity status with the hero of the The Hobbit is just fine with me. Now, if the film studios could just get their act together and start working on the production of the Hobbit I anticipate my reputation could reach new legendary status. Recently, thanks to Jackson's LOTR's masterpiece, my nephew Frodo has upstaged me in the hero department but that could change if Weta Workshop and the grand wizard himself, Peter Jackson, have thier way...afterall....before there was the story of Frodo's travels to Mordor and back there was own my adventure of encounters with Trolls, a dragon named Smaug, and those obnoxious dwarfs....


My story/adventure will chronicle and emphasize my journey of faith and my relationship with Christianity and the Christian subculture over the past 30 years. I will limit details regarding my personal "family history" because of privacy issues, except, when I consider it critically necessary for context and understanding.

The Beginning

I was born in 1957 in Santa Cruz California and was adopted by my grandparents when I was one year old shortly after my parents divorced. I don’t know any of the circumstances behind my parents divorce because I never really knew my father or my mother. Over the years, I saw my father only a handful of times and I have not seen or had any contact with my mother since 1975. Over the years,I never really thought much about the situation with my parents but I now realize that my parents abandonment of me has caused some long lasting determental effects on my interpersonal relationship with others and the Christian subculture, in general.

Both of my grandparents are from Oklahoma and they came to California in the 1940's to work in the fields which I guess makes me a descendant of the Okies which may help explain my homespun personality and writing style. Neither of my grandparents graduated from high school and I am not even certain if they ever attended high school to tell you the truth. I don’t remember too much about my childhood and I suspect it was pretty normal until I reached Junior High. During the 7th grade my grandfather was rushed to the hospital one day with a blood clot in his leg and 24 hours later he unexpectably died. This was a dramatic event particularly for my mother because she was totally dependant upon my grandfather. When he died she had never worked outside the home, had no education, and couldn't even drive for herself. She never did learn how to drive. To this day I don't know how she raised my sister and I. The death of my grandfather also had a dramatic effect on my life as well. When my grandfather died I was immediately thrown into the role as “the man of the house” and that’s when I began to identify myself as a caretaker, a role that I have carried on into my adult life and into many of my relationships. I was forced to become self sufficient and independent both physically and emotionally at a very young age. I started working full time in the summers when I was only 14 years old and I worked during the school year part time during all four years of high school. I mention all this to say that this probably helps explain why I have developed into a somewhat nuanced independent thinker. I didn't really have any authority figures to turn to for guidance or emotional support much of the time so I turned to the only resources at my disposal which was me...which...also might help to explain why I don't like people telling me what and how to think. Appeals to authority or systematic thought just don't work with me, especially if combined with manipulative tactics of guilt, shame, or appeals to God or country.

Introduction to Christianity

Although my parents did not attend church they did send me to church each week on the Sunday School bus so I was introduced and I guess you could say indoctrinated into the Christian subculture at an early age. I really enjoyed going to church for the most part, probably because of the social angle, and my interest in Church lasted until about my fresmen year in high school at which time I stopped going. Although I don’t remember too much about going to church as a young child I do remember that I did have a lot of fear and anxiety regarding hell. For years I used to have a recurring dream where the devil was dressed as an airline attendant. I could see him standing at the bottom of the steps of the plane waiting to take my ticket but somehow I intuitively understood that the plane was going to hell. I don’t remember ever boarding the plane but I do remember the devil working very hard to entice me to get on the plane and I always woke up before I boarded the plane. To this day I have no idea why I had this recurring dream but I now suspect it might have had something to do with the “hell and brimstone sermons” that were regularly preached in the Baptist/Fundamentalist churches I attended as a child back in the 1960’s. …By the time I reached the eighth grade I no longer wanted to go to church for some reason so I faked being sick so I wouldn't have to go to church. Eventually my mom stopped bugging me go to church and I don’t remember going back to church on a regular basis until my “spiritual” awakening” during my senior year in high school.

My first Christian Spiritual Awakening

Although I didn’t go to church during most of my high school years the vast majority of my close friends were Christians and some of them made a few feeble attempts to convert me from time to time or ask me to go to church but I resisted all of their sincere attempts to convert me although I did go to church with them from time to time. I don’t remember enjoying going to church with my friends and I suspect I may have intuitively associated Christianity with guilt, fear, and shame and I experienced enough of those feelings at home and at school on a regular basis so I probably saw no need for Christianity but that would all change in the summer of my senior year in high school…My initial Christian Spiritual Awakening or Born Again experience occurred about one week after my mom was converted by a door to door Pentecostal evangelist by the name of Brother John. Brother John was an enthusiastic evangelist who showed up at our doorstep one hot afternoon in August and I remember him as a very charismatic individual who was on “fire for the Lord” as we used to say. I don’t remember any of the details of how or why my mom decided to let Brother John into our house that hot day in August but my mom was a lonely woman who carried a tremendous burden of trying to raise my sister and I without much support and therefore she must have had a great need for God or something to comfort and help her through many dark times. One week after my mom’s conversion Brother John asked me if I wanted to pray the “sinners prayer” and I said yes, probably in large part, because I didn’t want to disappoint my mom. My mom’s approval meant the world to me at the time and I am sure that I intuitively understood that becoming a Christian would please her. Initially I really didn’t “feel” any different after I prayed the sinner’s prayer but as time passed I began to feel more and more deeply moved by the love of God as I read the scriptures and listened to Christian music. Christian music played an important role in my early development and I still have very fond memories of listening to Love Song, Evie, Chuck Girard, Larry Norman and the rest of the Maranatha gang....Shortly after my initial conversion experience I met a sweetheart of a Christian girl named Carol and we started going to a small fundamentalist Freewill Baptist church together and during the next 3 to 4 months I was on an emotional high like I never experienced before and I have many fond memories of feeling really loved unconditionally for the first time in my life but the deep love that initially melted me would gradually began to wane as I became more involved in the world of Christian legalism.

Me and Gumby, two peas in a pod

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Ever feel like you are being pulled in every direction?...or...that everyone wants a piece of you?...Now I know what poor Gumby must of felt like. Growing up a kid I used to love watching Gumby, Pokey, and his friends, along with my other favorite clay animation t.v. show, Davey and Goliath. I also remeber twisting and pulling on my own Gumby toy as I watched the show each week. Today I feel like what Gumby must of felt like, if he could have had feelings...getting philosophical for a moment...I understand that having others depend on you comes with the territory when you are 48 years old, financially secure, a father, and at least appear to be stable to most folks around you...and...I also understand that one does not need to give into every need/want or desire of those who ask for your help...and...I also understand that most of the time I just need to suck it up and be a man...but...sometimes...I just wish others could be a litte bit more considerate/appreciative and not throw a tantrum when you say no or ask that your'e needs and wants be considered....Just had to get that off my chest this morning...I won't belabor the point any further and will be back to my regular schedule programming later...today...or tomorrow...

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Monday, June 12, 2006

The author of the Apocalypse of Peter writes, "Others....outside our number...call themselves bishops and also deacons, as if they had received their authority from God....those people are waterless canals".....talk about throwing down the gauntlet... The conflict between the Gnostics and their orthodox rivals was no doubt, in large part over the question of authority. The gnostics believed they possessed authority within their own spirit and souls and therefore didn't believe they had to obey or submit to the Church leaders....while....the church leaders at the time saw the Gnostics as arrogant and a threat to what they believed was an established order based on the nature of the relationship of the Godhead.....This concludes my brief exploration into the world of the Gnostics. I hope this helps. I will be heading off to Yosemite in a couple of days so you can all chew on this last round of Gnostic teachings and history for the next couple of days.....

The Gnostics practiced a "strict form of equalitarianism" whenever they gathered outside of the normal orthodox gatherings. Apparently they would caste lots to see who would lead and conduct their meetings and everyone, including women, were eligible to participate in the drawings.

The Gnostics were portrayed as rebels and arrogant for refusing to obey the church hierarchy simply out of obedience to God...but...where does that place Luther, George Fox, and Paul Tillich who criticized both Protestant and Catholic churches for going along with nationalistic and fascist governments?

The Gospel of Thomas says: "For whoever will make herself male will enter the Kingdom of Heaven".....O.K., so some of the Gnostics weren't all that liberated, or at least they don't sound like it....but, other Gnostic texts conclude that God is both masculine and feminine because both men and women were created in God's image while others claimed God is neither male and female and these are just metaphors...

Many Gnostic authors attacked martyrdom especially when associated with the purchase for eternal life (Tertullian) or as a human offering to God. "Such belief makes God into a cannibal"

Heracleon, a popular gnostic teacher "considers the question, What does it mean to confess Christ? He expains that people confess Christ in different ways. Some confess Christ in their everyday conduct. However, most people consider only the second type of confession---making a verbal confession ( I am a Christian) before a magistrate. Heracleon points out, even hypocrites can make this confession. What is universally required of all Christians is the first type of confession. The second type is reserved for some, but not all."

The Gnostics were radical dualists and believed the material world is evil and the world of the Spirit is good which helps explain their asceticism and "the strict regulation and harsh treatment of the body. Their logic was that since the body is evil, it should be punished".....On this condition alone I would have made a bad Gnostic...but...apparently their emphasis on an inherently evil world, struck a cord with alot of people and their experiences.

The Gnostics are often charged as spiritual elitists, and they were, but Ehrman reminds us that "Christianity in all its forms has always had its spiritual elite, the insiders who have special insight into the true meaning of the faith, a cut above the rest of us in their nuanced understanding of God, the world, and our place in it." Do popular Christian writers, radio celebrites, and mega-church pastors ring a bell?

Many have asserted or suggested that Gnosticsm's elitism and esoteric teachings doomed them in the end...but...apparently the early church wasn't as confident of their predicted demise, otherwise, it is diffifult to explain the "massive expenditure of time and energy devoted to rooting out the Gnostic heretics, spurning their views, maligning their persons, destroying their writings, and elimanating their influence"

William Blake once stated, "Both read the Bible day and night; But you read black while I read write"...This accurately describes the great gulf between the gnostics and orthodox when it came to reading scripture....According to Elaine Pagels the orthodox tend to look for "morals" in the narrative stories while the Gnostics assume there are deeper meanings in the stories.

A Primer on Gnosticism: Part I

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Since I started blogging about a year and a half ago I have limited my entries, for the most part to, the latest happenings, personal pop culture interests, a little bit of armchair psychology and general ramblings about this or that. I have said very little about politics, religion, and some of my other intellectual interests because I talk about such matters on various discussion groups over at yahoogroups.com. After some recent reflection I think I will begin adding a few of my thoughts about religion, politics, philosophy, etc. because it is an important part of who I have become. If this aspect of my blogging interests you I would encourage you to leave a comment from time to time or visit http://groups.yahoo.com/group/pomoxian which is my home base where I discuss most of my thoughts on such matters. The folks over at Pomoxian have played a critically important role in my on going spiritual/intellectual development and they are just good folks to interact and hang out with...thanks Dave, Julie, the other Dave's, Rick, Kal, Chris, and all the other
folks who have participated and contributed to the ongoing discussions over the years....So, without further ado, here is something I posted over at Pomoxian recently about the subject of Gnosticism.

For most of my life I knew nothing about Gnosticsm. Gnostics were
heretics and that meant one need not learn anything more about
them....but....gradually I learned a little bit here and a little bit
there as I read a few books and watched a number of television shows
on the Gnostics. Recently the mysterious veil of Gnosticsm has been
lifted due to the discovery of their texts earlier in this century and
the popularity of Dan Brown's novel the Da Vinci Code. Brown's book in
particular has stimulated a plethora of books and television shows on
the Gnostics and therefore alot more is now known about this group of
people and their teachings that remained in the shadows, out of sight
and out of mind, for a very long time. Following are some of the
things I found interesting about thier teachings and history that I
hadn't known before. Personally, I have no particular interest in
becoming a Gnostic any time soon but I do find thierhistory
sociologically relevant, especially, for those who find themselves on
the outside looking in, and, I do think many of their ideas/teachings
are important and relevant for discussions about Christianity. Bear in
mind, the Gnostics were as varied as many denominational groups are
today so the following comments/quotes are intended to be general
statements which may not apply to all Gnostic groups or individuals.....

While the Gnostic texts that were discovered at Nag Hammadi in the
1940's have been dated to around the years 350 to 400, the original
texts themselves apparently are much older. We know this because the
early church fathers mention their writings as early as 120-150 A.D.,
and the Gospel of Thomas may be much older. "Some" believe it may be
as old, or older than the four Gospels.

We don't have very many copies of Gnostic writings, apparently,
because after Constantine's conversion in the fourth century,
"possession of heretical books was made a criminal offense and the
books were banned and burned"

The discovery of the 52 Gnostic texts at Nag Hammadi is important
because "we may have to recognize and now admit that early
Christianity is far more diverse than anyone expected"

Before the discovery in Nag Hammadi we only knew about the Gnostics
from the writings of some of the early church fathers. Some of the
early church fathers wrote volumnes upon volumnes attacking the
Gnostics and other heretics which suggests they were influential and a
serious threat to be taken seriously.

Some scholars, such as Professor R.M. Grant, has "suggested that
gnosticism emerged as a reaction to the shattering of traditional
religious views--Jewish and Christian--after the Romans destroyed
Jerusalem in 70 A.D."....and.....others now speculate that after the
destruction of Jerusalem, "many people felt profoundly aliented from
the world in which they lived, and longed for a miraculous salvation
as an escape from the constraints of political and social
existence."...which may help to explain thier "pessimistic world view"
and their attempts at "self-transendence"

Gnostics reject a literal interpretation of the resurrection and they
"interpret resurrection in various ways. Some say the person who
experiences the resurrection does not meet Jesus raised physically
back to life; rather, he encounters Christ on a spiritual level. This
may occur in dreams, in escatic trance, in visions, or in moments of
spiritual illumination"....If I understand this correctly, the
gnostics didn't deny the resurrection, but rather they believe the
recorded reports of Jesus found in the four gospels were the results
of visions, trances, and dreams. It is critically important to
remember that Gnostics and other ancient peoples did not "look down"
on such experiences as many modern folks do today. These experiences
were real and important in a way that is seldom acknowledged
today....and...the resurrection "symbolized how Christ's presence
could be experienced in the present. What mattered was not literal
seeing, but spiritual vision"...and..."what interested Gnostics far
more than past events attributed to the historical Jesus was the
possibility of enountering the risen Christ in the present"

Some historians now suggest that the battles between the Gnostics and
their orthodox counterparts involved some critically important social
and political issues. The orthodox emphasis on " I am God, and their
is no other beside me" and the belief in the Trinity help establish
and support the development of the Church heirarchy which included an
allegiance to ranking Bishops and the Pope. "One God, one bishop,
became the the orthodox slogan".Ignatius warns the laity to revere,
honor, and obey the bishop, as if he were God"...and...the development
of bishops, priests, and deacons, was established to mirror the
doctrine of the Trinity. The gnostic emphasis on inner knowlege and
self revelation was particularly threatening because it threatened the
authority and stucture that had evolved in the early church. No wonder
they didn't get along!.....

Friday, June 09, 2006

Magical Places and Magical Times

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In the summer of 1970 at the age of 13 I climbed close to 7,000 feet while carrying a forty pound backpack in less 36 hours while hiking with my boy scout troop in the High Sierras. It was the most gut wrenching,physically demanding and stupid thing I have ever done. I thought I was going to die, literally, and by the end of the six day trek across the High Sierras I had lost 22 pounds in six days. I lost so much weight because about 24 hours into the trip I got altitude sickness and did not eat for almost two days. Do you know what it is like to hike over ten miles a day carrying a heavy pack while not eating?.... Pure hell....I still can remember just concentrating on putting one foot in front of the other for hours while ascending 11,000 foot Cottonwood Pass. The hike was so tortuous because the boy scout leader started the hike in the wrong place. We were supposed to begin our hike near Horseshoe Meadow which is about 10,000 feet which means it was only about a 1200 foot climb to the summit but we started at another trailhood which was situated at about 4 to 5 thousand feet. Can't a leader tell the difference between 4,000 and 10,000? What an idiot! And, can you imagine the faces of six young men when they reached the parking lot where they were "supposed" to have started only to discover we now had to really huff it and puff because we were two days behind schedule?.....It's a miracle I ever went on another hike, but I did, again, and again, and again...No thanks to the Boy Scouts of America though.

The High Sierras

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I was fortunate as a young boy to have been introduced to camping, mountains, motorcycle riding, hunting and fishing by my two uncles. After my father died my two uncles took me under their wing and took me fishing and camping whenever and wherever they found the time which was generally quite frequent especially during the summertime. I have many, many fond memories of the numerous trips I took. I can still remember sitting around the campfire and listening to uncle Frank tell stories of seeing bigfoot as a child...and...seeing with my own two eyes a trout jump out of the water to hit a fly...and...riding in a four wheel jeep and crossing the mighty Kern River...and...freezing my buns off on the opening day of fishing season at Crowley Lake...and...walking on frozen lakes while looking for a break in the ice to drop our fishing lines...or seeing my two uncles flip their canoe in the Owens river after I told them they couldn't handle the shift current...and...all of us contemplating sneaking into the fish hatchery after midnight because we hadn't caught a single fish for over two days...and...watching a stick of dynamite explode in the desert after my uncle shot it with his rifle...oh enchantment...oh the fond memories...

Mount Jefferson

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Not all of my camping/hiking memories are fond...I have on more than one occasion risked my life and done some really stupid things...like...crossing a snow bridge at Convict Creek which would have killed me if I had fallen into the raging waters below while on a hike during Memorial Day about 12 years ago...or...hiking in pitch black conditions along a dangerous ridge, in a rain storm, on Mount Jefferson in Oregon...or... scaling a verticle cliff in Yosemite with my backpack on. It was so steep I couldn't make my way back down so I had to throw my pack from a ledge and climb down backwards on my hands and knees...or...walk out on frozen lakes on more than one occasion...or attack a Grizzly bear in Glacier National Park with only a stick in hand...just kidding...I have encountered numerous bears and two mountain lions in the wilderness...but...the only time I felt threatened was when I unexpectably came upon a mother bear and two cubs while on a hike in the early morning. Although I was probably less than 20 feet from the bears they never saw or smelt me. I backed away slowly with my heart pounding and headed back to camp...

Wind River Range

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As an adult I have some great memories as well and have been fortunate to have travelled to some of the most incredibly beautiful places in the western United States and Canada. I have been to almost every major National Park in the west at least once and most of the beautiful State Parks here in California. Although I have become somewhat jaded having been to so many spectacular places over the years I still get a rise everytime I go back to visit even though the initial enchantment has somewhat wore off over the years. There is still something magical about going to Yosemite Valley and seeing El Capitan, Half Dome and the waterfalls...and... standing at the top of Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park...and...sitting in my lounge chair atop Minaret Summit peering across at Banner and Ritter Peaks...and...walking through the magnificent Redwood forest near Eureka Ca.,...and...feeling the chill of the winter winds on my face at Joshua Tree National Park...and...scaling the slopes of Mt. Jefferson in Oregon...While I love all these places that I have been there are some special moments and places that are etched in my memory and heart forever...like...the time I stood atop Cascade Pass in Cascade National Park. Mountains on all sides of me, El Dorado Peak on one side and Torment Peak on the other. There were glaciers, ice and snow everywhere and a meadow of flowers bursting with all the colors of the rainbow...or...the first time I went hiking in the Ansel Adams Wilderness near Mammoth Mountain. I'll never forget the feeling of seeing Ediza, Garnet, and Thousand Island Lakes for the first time and the incredible sight of a hanging glacier that emptied it's ice into the waters of Iceberg lake...or...the sound of the crashing ice rumbling it's way down the face of Edith Cavell on a warm summer day in the Canadian Rockies...or walking on the sand while hiking the "Lost Coast" of California with no sight of humans anywhere...or...hiking through Titcomb Basin in the Wind River Range in Wyoming. I still can see the Milky Way and the millions of stars one night as I camped at 11,000 feet before the face of Fremont Peak. It was magical... These were magical places and magical times.....

Thursday, June 08, 2006

A History of my bikes

Why might anyone want to write a history about their bikes? We human beings are a strange lot because form some of the strangest bonds and connections with things, other living creatures, and some weird stuff I would rather not go into. Some people are animal lovers while many others form an almost symbiotic relationship with their cars, motorcyles, toys,clothes,hats,technology,shoes,job,funiture,house,cooking utensils,art, etc. Did I leave anything out?...I never intended to develop a "special" relationship with bikes, it just kind of happened out of necessity. My father died when I was in the sixth grade and my mom didn't drive and actually never learned so it was huff and puff around town on a bike or stay home and watch our three channel magnavox color t.v. I chose to huff and puff it rather than stay home with my mom 24/7. It was a teenage hormone thing I suspect. I've owned alot of bikes in my day but the first bike I reminder was the American Eagle powder puff blue state of the art ten speed I bought for 120 dollars during my eighth grade year. My mom couldn't afford that kind of money for a new bike but I was able to purchase the bike only after we agreed to not press charges on a neighbor kid who broke into our garage and stole my bike if his parents agreed to buy me a new bike. The deal was sealed and off I rode showing off my new bike to all my friends. During my high school years I rode my bike everywhere and was not afraid to ride long distances across town in traffic oftentimes and looking back it was pretty dangerous riding my bike across town but my options for transportation were limited and I really hated riding the public bus.

In 1976 my relationship with my bike began to change after I fell head over heals with a girl. For three months I would ride my bike to visit her and her family but that gets old after awhile so I decided if this relationship had any chance of making it to the next level I would have to learn how to drive and get a car, and I did. My bike spent the next four years in seclusion in my garage until it was time again to renew my relationship with my bike…

..fast forward to 1980……In 1980 I moved to Oregon to go to school and I could no longer afford the luxury of owning a car so I dusted off the cobwebs of my bike in the garage, loaded her into my roommates V.W. bug and headed down the road to Corvallis Oregon where my bike and I would attempt to renew our estranged relationship. These were not fond years for my bikes and I because of the weather in Oregon. Let’s just say the rumors about it raining, and raining, and raining, and raining, are all true. I rode my bike in the rain to school, I rode my bike in the rain to work, I rode my bike in the rain to go to the store, and on and on and on. I don’t think my bikes particularly minded that much but I sure got sick and tired of riding in an almost freezing rain storms on a regular basis in winter at two o’clock in the morning on my way home from work….and….after two years it was back in the garage for my bike after I was able to save up enough money for a VW bug….

.fast forward to 1984…..I got married in September in 1984 and my new wife and I could not afford to own two cars so I pulled the bike out of the garage for a second tour of duty and this time the relationship would blossom. In 1984 I had moved back to Bakersfield where the weather is very kind to bikes and their riders. It seldom rains here and except for the heat during the summer months it’s not too bad, except for the terrible air quality. During the first three years of my marriage I rode my bike to college or work almost every day. I figure I averaged about 20 miles a day plus or minus a couple of miles and these were special times between my bikes and I considering we spent so much time together.I didn’t particularly like having to ride my bike everywhere because it was time consuming, tiring, and a pain in the butt from all the riding, but it did keep me in tip top condition for the first three of my marriage. After I graduated, went to work full time, and started raising my two son’s it was all downhill in the keeping lean and mean department……

fast forward to 1997….Once I started my teaching career in 1987 we were able to get another car so the bike went back into the garage for the next ten years. I did get out and ride from time to time just to keep the relationship from completely dying but my life during these years was consumed with work and family obligations for the most part until 1997 when a new chapter of romance between my bikes and I would began…. In the summer of 1997 I walked into a bike shop in Bakersfield and rode around the parking lot at the bicycle shop on a red Cannondale Mountain bike. It was love at first site and ride. Up until 1997 I had only owned ten speed bikes and therefore never knew how comfortable and powerful feeling a mountain bike could be. The bike was rather expensive but after making sacrifices for my wife and family for over a decade I decided it was time I splurged a little money on myself. My life has never been the same. During the summer of 1997 I went crazy riding my new bike around the foothills outside of Bakersfield. It was like being born again….literally….I had so much fun riding up and down the hills and my confidence as a mountain bike rider grew leaps and bounds during that summer but that would all change one year later while on vacation in Redwood National Park and where my relationship with bikes would take a turn for the worst……

It was a cool morning on August 9th when I left Elk Prairie Campground by myself for a ride through the redwood forest. The mountain bike trail which leaves from the Campground will absolutely take your breathe away. The first Jurassic Park movie was filmed in this area. During my ride I came upon a bear eating berries on the side of the trail. I startled him and fortunately he headed up the side of the mountain rather than confront me for entering his space. A this point the adrenaline was pumping through my body at lightening speed as I raced through the forest. About ten minutes later I began going down a somewhat steep part of the trail which is generally not a problem except for the fact that at the trail at the bottom was covered with exposed tree roots. I hit the roots way too fast and crashed flipping over the handle bars into a tree. I tried to get up but could not. I tried to crawl to a dirt road about fifty yards away but could not even move because of the tremendous pain shooting through my body every time I tried to move. I knew something was seriously wrong, and it was. I had fractured my back and the next six hours were some of the longest hours in my life as I waited alone for someone to discover and rescue me. It took about an hour for someone to find me and another two and a half hours for an ambulance to haul me to the hospital where I would stay until I recovered……

Fast forward to the present….Up until about six months after my accident I honestly didn’t think I would ever ride a mountain bike again. The recovery was slow and frustrating as I made a Herculean effort to get back into shape to hike and bike but I was determined to get back on a bike again because I didn’t want to become a couch potato. It took a lot of therapy and hard work but I gutted it out. I am not nearly the hiking, biking, stud I was ten years ago but I am much more active and studly than most men my age. Today I presently own four bikes and have renewed my love relationship with my bikes. Next week, lord willing, one of my sons and I are going to go to Yosemite National Park for three days and we are taking our bikes. Biking Yosemite is the way to go. The bike paths are excellent throughout the entire park and you don’t have to worry about parking and the rubbing shoulders with the hoards of people who frequent the park this time of the year. I can’t wait….and….. I hope my son begins his own love affair with bikes…..

Kamikaze Bike

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All Time Favorite

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Beach Bike

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Oldie but Goodie

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Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The Last Chapter

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"If we believe that others are authority on our inner experience, we doubt ourselves and become subject to others definitions of us and subject to their control of us...and...when people tell us how we are or what we should do they are attempting to practice a dangerous kind of sorcery"....Patricia Evans.

This is the final blog entry on the topic of psychological abuse and the last chapter deals with "controlling people". We live in a society where various individuals, institutions, and groups want to assert control over others. Not all control and attempts to control is bad because a certain amount of order is needed and desirable, but when individual family members, colleagues at work, or perhaps even some of our closest friends attempt to control us out of fear or other insecurites than from my vantage point potential serious problems may follow, particularly if the control is a regular and ongoing part of the relationship.

Patricia Evans, the author of the book "The Verbally Abusive Relationship" has also written a book called Controlling People. The two subjects are interelated because when someone attempts to control you they most often will use some form of verbal abuse to accomplish their goals. Following are some of the things Patricia Evans has to say about how to recognize, understand, and deal with people who try to control you. All of the following comments are either direct quotes or general paraphrases of what she has written in her book. It is my hope that anyone who reads this entry will come away with a better understanding of the pathological aspects of certain types of control and will learn how to break the dangerous sorcery of control that may exist within themselves or the people who they may live or work with.....

When people encounter controlling behavior, they often feel "erased", as if, to the perpetrator, they don't exist. Trying to maintain this kind of relationship leaves one exhausted and subject to intense mental anguish and emotional pain.

Perpetrators usually believe that their oppressive/controlling actions are necessary, even right...but their attempt to control others eventually brings the perpetrators just the opposite of what they want or need.

People who lose their inner connection themselves usually try to take control of something/anything....even somebody.....

If we are taught to doubt ourselves,or to distrust inner knowledge in general, we may pay no attention to our intution which may have disasterous results such as the inability to recognize and resist those who try to control us.

One of the most common illusions people have about others and one of the most devastating to any kind of relationship is the idea of being of one mind with one's mate. This illusion opens the door for a "Pretend person" to be mistaken for a real person.

Being wrong is not an option for a controller. Their unconscious assumption is, If your right then I have to be wrong, but I am not wrong, therefore you are wrong and need to be controlled. It never occurs to them that both of you could be right at the same time.

When people resist controllers they become spellbreakers.

A healthy connection is one that recognizes the individuality of the other.

To the controller attempting to exert control is tantamount to working on the relationship and getting closer!

Controllers give orders and ultimatums and feel justifiably angry if their directions aren't followed and affronted, even enraged, if their mate shows a sign of separtness, or independence.

People who are coerced by a controlling spouse may give up and succumb to their mates repeated attempts to control or they may escape but often suffer great loss of children, home, money, etc.

Controllers reactions range from refusing to speak, as if the witness is non-existant, to a raging attack, even violence. All reactions are designed to silenced and control the witness....

Many people think that controllers are rational, but they are not, so it is not surprising that they believe they can be understood when they attempt to explain themselves. But explaining or trying to talk about it with a person who defines you ensures increased opposition and invalidation from a confirmed controller. Even people with excellent communication skills, sensitivity, and honesty can't get through...

Some psychologists attribute controllerws dictorial behavior to the controllers fear that if they ask for what they want, their request will be subject to negotiation and consequently the controller won't get their way. Asking suggests equality between the controller and the other...Asking gives aknowlegment of the others separatness and recongnition of separtness breaks the connection between the controller and the person they want to control.

One way to avoid giving up control is to avoid asking questions and give orders thus assuring compliance by instilling fear through threats and intimidation in the other. This may be accomplished by acting ferocious, loud, angry or by convincing the other that God is behind their imperious behavior. Or the controller may attempt to gain compliance in a more covert way by withdrawing....threatening the other with emotional abandonment.....

Controllers can be counted on not to do what they said they would do. It's not that they occasionally forget. It is that they consistently fail to do it. When witnesses repeat their requests, they often face accusation and denial. They're often told that they're nagging, or conversly, that they never made the request to begin with...

Some controllers persist without regard to means or consequences. This, in some cases, is a fight to the death.

Healthy groups are bonded together for, not against others. Unhealthy groups are bonded together against, rather than for, another person or group.

No one can prove themselves to a controller. These efforts alone do not break the spell. In fact, the more authenic and strong the witness becomes, the more the controllers feel threatened and are likely to escalate the attacks and tighten the grip...

Keep in mind that in some cases and circumstances, the spell cannot be broken...In other words...the controller will continue to attempt to control you no matter what you do....But the good news is....We don't have to accept the controllers demands and give into the controller. The controller is not unlimited in what they can do.

Arguing and explaining are generally wasted efforts expended on people who can't hear and accept what you have to say...

A few spellbreaking strategies

1. Recognize, acknowledge hte reality of your inner truth.

2. Be aware of boundary invasion, yours and others.

3. Do not respond to nonsense as if it makes sense.

4. Build your life on your own truth and not the truth, demands, expectations, imagination, or acceptance of the controller.

5. Speak up, when you need to, to break the control of the controller.

Well, that's it folks. The end of a three day journey into the world of psychological abuse......

The Best of Bakersfield

The central Sierra Nevada mountains recorded the largest snowpack in history this past year and that follows last years third largest snowpack. Translation....alot of water for the San Joaquin Valley, the cities and farmland from Sacramento to Bakerfield. In fact, there is so much water they don't know what to do with it all so for the time being they are allowing it to flood the fields just outside of town. For Bakersfield resisents like myself who love nature and like to get out and romp around it is an incredible godsend. We now have marshes,a running river,water lilies, green grass in June, and an abundance of wildlife which includes bobcats, rabbits galore, and an incredible variety of waterfowl. For most this might not seem like much so let me paint you a brief picture of what Bakersfield is normally like in June. No running river, not even a trickle, tumbleweeds everywhere, grasses burn't to the crisp,lizards, snakes and a few other critters which normally can only be found in desert climates, and nothing but a whole lot of dirt and dust everywhere. Got the picture?....Old timers say they haven't seen this much water in these parts since before the Lake Isabella dam was built way back in the 1940's. Bakersfield may not be a great place to live for nature lovers like myself but for now I am going to enjoy the present beauty while it lasts which probably won't be too much longer. The river will probably be shut down sometime in late June and by August we will probably go back to the usual scorched earth around here...so...in the meantime I intend to hop on my bike every couple of days like I did this morning and enjoy the beauty that God has bestowed upon the residents of Bakersfield. Even the poor deserve a few scraps from time to time!

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Monday, June 05, 2006

Verbal Abuse

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"Verbal abuse is, in a sense, built into our culture. One-upmanship,defeating,putting down, topping,countering,manipulating,critisizing,hard selling, and intimadating are accepted as fair game by many. " Patricia Evans, The Verbally Abusive Relationship..

A series of recent personal events has led me to re-visit the topics of emotional blackmail, verbal abuse, and people who want to control you. I have studied these various issues on and off for about six years running but have kept my experiences and comments about these topics to myself for the most part. Since I am currently not working and have a bit more time on my hands I thought it might be helpful to myself and anyone else who might stumble across this blog to share on these various topics. I intend to keep my personal experiences of verbal and emotional abuse to myself because individual privacy is a primary concern and unnecessary for my purposes. Besides, most folks I have discovered generally feel very uncomfortable when you start venting about your personal problems because I suspect it may hit too close to home or most often they just don't know what to say. Fortunately I have a few brave souls in my life who don't mind my venting about this or that from time to time so I'll refrain from naming names and personal situations and just stick to the topic at hand. At this time I feel compelled to write on this topic and I hope the following is helpful to all who read this blog...I have been profoundly effected by this problem for much of my life and I suspect others have been so as well and I feel it's time to come out of the shadow and speak up. I speak both as a victim and a perpetrator of verbal abuse and my goal is to educate us all so we don't enable the abuser or become the abuser ourself. May God help us all. Verbal abuse is toxic and sticks and stones may break your bones but words will hurt you and others if you are not careful......

The following comments are either quotes or paraphases from Patricia Evans excellent book The Verbally Abusive Relationship. Since all the following ideas come from Evans I am not going put into quotes the following comments. Evans gets all the credit. I'm just the messenger.

Obstacles which stand in the way of recognizing abuse

1. Denial, fear of rejection. You fear the inevitable confrontation between you and the abuser. And, no one wants to admit they have an abusive partner, perhaps out of fear of what that may imply about your decision making.

2. Allowing oneself to be defined by the abuser. In other words, you accept the abuser's definition of your character, thoughts, feelings, and general identity.

3. Confusion due to the abuser's intermittent acts of kindness and friendlyness. Abusers are not always abusive. Thus the partner may forget the bad times until they happen again.

4.Subtle abuse. The abuser's control gradually increases and your acceptance of the abuse gradually is accepted as well.

5. The abused partner has no basis of comparison. No non-abusive relationships with others to know what a healthy give and take relationship ought to look like.

6. The abuse is hidden, out of public so others cannot validate what the abused partner is feeling and experiencing.

7. The partner may have never considered the question, Am I being abused?

If you have been verbally abused, you have been told in subtle and not so subtle ways that your perceptions of reality is wrong and that feelings or thoughts are wrong.

Verbal abuse is an issue of control, a means of power over another. This abuse may be overt or covert, constant, or periodic.

It can be difficult to recognize verbal abuse because we are socialized to either doubt our feelings or repress them, thus we are unable to recognize the abuse. Feelings, however, are essential to our being, because they are the criteria by which we determine if something is wrong or unsafe.

Since verbal abusers need to have power over their partners, they cannot accept them as equals. They may, however tell them, that they do. Why can't they accept their partners as equals? Because they would experience their equality as inferiority. They would then have to ask for what they wanted. They would be open to rejection.

Sometimes a verbal abuser may pretend to not understand or to have forgotten what their partner is talking about because they simply do not want to acknowledge that their partner has opinions or feelings seperate from their own.

There are many ways to manipulate another person, including being "friendly" only when one expects to get something from the other....and...and acting as if something has been agreed to or decided that hasn't yet been agreed to or decided.

An abuser cannot control their partner and be intimate at the same time.

Because of their need for dominance and their unwillingness to accept their partner as an equal, the abuser is compelled to negate the perceptions, experiences, values, accomplishments and plans of their partner.

Verbal abuse, like physical abuse, most often occurs behind closed doors. Secrecy is a key to the abusers power over...and...going public with abuse is generally a serious sign of escalation and or impending physical abuse.

The abuser begans to communicate disdain for the partners interests, values, needs, wants and desires.

The abuser makes no attempt at reconcilation, in fact, they most often don't even seem bothered by difficult incidents...and...they never even attempt to reach an understanding.

The abuser continually attempts to define the other partner, the nature of the relationship, in ways that are foreign to the other partner.

There are basically three types of verbal abuse, witholding, countering, and discounting....

Witholding occurs when the abuser refuses to listen, consider or even attempt to engage the other person's feelings, ideas, or predictament. A confirmed abuser may go for months or years without attempting to engage thier partners emotionally or intellectually.

Countering occurs when the abuser sees the partner as an adversary. How dare they have a different view from their own. If their partner sees things differently they feel they are losing control and dominance.Consequently, they may choose to argue, disagree, or dismiss their partners perspective and point of view. Countering is extremely destructive to a relationship because it consistently denies their partner their reality. Counters usually don't allow others to finish their thoughts. When a verbal abuser counters thier partner they do not preface their response with phrases such as, "it seems to me, I think, I feel, they simply assert that what their partner says isn't so, or no that is not the way it is"...

Discounting denies and distorts the partners actual perspection of the abuse by using such phrases as, "your'e too sensitive, Your'e jumping to conclusions, you blow everything out of proportion, you take things too seriously, or they assert you are reading things into what they say.

People who are conditioned from birth to not trust their feelings often and most likely will not recognize the irrationality and danger of verbal abuse.

The great tradegy in a verbally abusive relationship is that the partners efforts to bring about reconcilliation, mutual understanding, intimacy are neglected out of hand and assumed to be adversial by the abuser.

If you and your partner are living in a different reality than it is important to understand that you cannot explain this to them because they will see your explanation as an excuse...a defense which abusers feel need to be challenged.

Verbal abuse is rejection....Don't ever delude yourself into thinking that you should have the ability to stay serene no matter how you are treated. Anger properly expressed is not abusive or destructive. Saying stop that to an abuser is simply a matter of protecting oneself.

While you are going through internal and external changes keep structure and constants in your daily life. Keep regular hours for eating and exercise and get enough sleep.

And finally.....All change, even the most longed for, have their melancholy. for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves: we must die to one life before we can enter another......

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Hope for the emotionally abused

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Living and submitting to emotional blackmail on a regular basis is destructive to both the blackmailer and the individual under the spell of the blackmailer. Responding and attempting to break the spell will be challenging and may lead to short term escalation particularly if one has repeatedly defered to the blackmailer over a period of time. Attempts to resist the demands of the blackmailer will be challenging because the blackmailer will no doubt initially respond by getting angry and resorting to increased heavy handed tactics in an attempt to control the situation....and....when the blackmailer is a family member it can be an ongoing challenge because there are no guarantees the blackmailer is going to change no matter what you do. People who regularly use blackmail tactics of manipulation need psychological/spiritual help because their need to control others through coercion is generally associated with insecurities,fears, and a past which includes individuals who blackmailed and manipulated them. These are learned behaviors which are modeled by family, friends, peers, spouses, and unfortunately many of our institutions which makes breaking the spell the more challenging. While we cannot change others no matter what we do there are some things one can do to preserve one's own dignity and peace of mind. Dealing with blackmailers may require professional help, especially if the blackmailer is a spouse, parent, or someone we rub shoulders with on a regular basis. Generally I am not a formula, 12 steps this or that kinda of guy, but here are some things to remember and experiment with if you find yourself in a relationship with someone who regularly attempts to manipulate, coerce, and pressure you into doing what they need or want.....

Tips to counter emotional blackmail

1. One needs to share there own needs and wants and this is not emotional blackmail. I mention this because a person who is attempting to blackmail you may try to confuse you by asserting you are being selfish or manipulative. It is only manipulative if you are attempting to impose your own needs/wants above others considerations. Relationships are a balancing act which requires all participants to compromise, sacrifice, and listen to and consider the needs of others. One sided relationships lead to resentment, burn out, and co-dependency.

2. If you are feeling pressured by a blackmailer use some of the following time buying statements in order to collect your thoughts and figure out what you want/need to do. If one has a history of defering to the pressure tactics of others it may require time to think about how you want to handle the situation. You can say the following:

A. I don't have an answer right now. I'll get back to you later.

B. Let me think about it.

C. Let's discuss this later. I am not ready to make a decision now.

By saying you need time you've shifted the balance of power in the relationship and put the blackmailer in position of waiting to see what you are going to do. Of course this doesn't apply to a situation where an immmediate answer is needed but this can be helpful when faced with critically important decisions. If the individual who is pressuring you doesn't respect your request you can gently or forcefully remind them you do not respond to pressure tactics. If they continue to press on you may need to hang up the phone or walk away and let them know why you are walking away. If they realize the connection between walking away and their manipulative tactics they "may" be back off next time...but...it also may escalate..but...if it does you may just need to cut off further contact for awhile.

3. "Give yourself permission to say, I don't want to or I don't feel like it without feeling that you have to give a justification or an elaborate explanation" Blackmailers may pressure you to justify your decision in an effort to question your character or attack your justifications but one does not need to justify anything to those who have no genuine interest in listening and taking seriously your needs and desires. Stand your ground...

4. If the situation with the blackmailer continues to escalate or you become extremely anxious you may want to consider writing a letter to express yourself. When we are very anxious we tend to forget what to say and do and are easy targets for the pressure tactics of a blackmailer. Don't feel guilty or beat yourself having to resort to such measures. Blackmailers have to take responsibility for their own actions particularly when it comes to the manipulative tactics they use therefore one does not need to blame oneself for the actions of the blackmailer. Think of it as a graceful means to a problem you did not create.

5. "Stand up for the small issues, at least, from time to time because it will give you an opportunity to develop skills you need to hold fast when the stakes are higher."

6. Standing up for oneself does not mean that you get defensive and make counterattacks, assertions, demands, character assinations, and resort to the manipulative tactics of the blackmailer because it will only provide fuel for the fire.

7. Do not feel the need to defend or explain your decisions or yourself in response to pressure....unless....you think or have reason to believe the individual sincerely is interested in knowing what you think or feel...because...blackmailers generally are primarily looking for any avenue to further coerce you and the more information you provide the more opportunities are given for manipulation.

8. When you have an important discussion with someone you find manipulative or difficult don't do it when you are tired...and...be sure to pick a place where you both might feel equally comfortable and at ease. "Remember...turf has energy"....

9. Don't expect blackmailers who use silence to take the first step to resolve conflict, or any step for that matter. You may have to keep after them, in a non manipulative way, of course, otherwise they tend to withdraw even more.

10. Remember you are dealing with people who most likely feel less adequate and powerless than you and may actually be afraid of you. Never refer to them as blackmailers or any other derogative label. They are human beings just like the rest of the human race and respect their own needs and wants and "try" to work with them unless they choose to resort to scorched earth psychological warfare which at that point you may need to remind them that this approach will not work with you, now or forever.

11. Try to enlist the blackmailer as an ally by asking for their opinion and suggestions to solve the impasse you currently face...and...solicit them for proposals. "Try" to barter and look for win, win situations, if possible, and other creative alternative solutions to problems.

12. Apologize, if and when, you allow yourself to resort to the level of the blackmailer. Try to model and live by the priniciple of non manipulation that you hold to. Don't make excuses or justify when you make miskakes.

13. Remind yourself that you have the right to feel, think, and behave differently than the blackmailer....and....you don't need to apologize for having different feelings, etc. because we all have different pasts, needs, wants, passions, and desires. Welcome to the nature of the human race.....