Ironman Chattanooga 2018: T Minus 30 Days

On October 10, 2015, I had one of the worst days of my life.

I DNFd (Did Not Finish) at my very first triathlon, Ironman Louisville–I was pulled at mile 17 of the run, with 9.2 miles to go, as I missed the cutoff time for the final turnaround.

I had spent 8 months, from ground zero, getting my swimming ready and that compromised me on the bike and run. I made the bike cutoff but trashed my legs. I had no legs coming out of T2 and bonked at mile 10. From there, it was a slow-motion train wreck.

The worst feeling was, after that, MrsLarijani bawling when I came up short.

I felt like the old Philadelphia 76ers after their 1977 NBA Finals loss to the Portland Trail Blazers. They blew a 2-0 lead, and lost in 6 games. It was bitter. The team took out ads: “We Owe You One!” Julius “Dr. J” Erving, the star of that team, was without a championship.

I was angry. No…angry is too soft. I was pissed.

Wanting to give MrsLarijani a break, I sat out 2016–did a half-Iron, some centuries, and an Olympic-distance triathlon. Last year, I planned on doing an Ironman, but Abigail and the Battle of NICU was my big endurance event last year. Abigail showed her Ironbaby creds.

This year, I signed up for Ironman Chattanooga. September 30 is D-Day.

I’ve been training like all get-out since April. 

I figured Chattanooga would be the fitting place to take care of business, as that is where I met MrsLarijani and that very area is where MrsLarijani and I spent plenty of time during our engagement.

As for the race itself, the swim is slightly easier than Louisville, the bike is about the same–not as hilly as Louisville, but 4 miles longer and hot temperatures can make it a killer–and the run is one of the toughest on the Ironman circuit.

This time around, I’ve been biking like crazy: 8 century rides so far, one of them 160 miles. I have 2 more planned (tomorrow and next Saturday) going into taper, with long runs on Sunday morning. (To put that in perspective: I had 5 going into IMLOU 3 years ago, but this time I’ll have double that. And a lot of long rides to go with that.) 

I haven’t been neglecting swimming or running, but Ironman–as I learned the hard way–is all about the bike. I’ve upped my swimming starting this week, and nailed a 90-minute swim this morning, adding a 15-minute transition run to it.

(Transition-running after every swim and bike has been a big part of my repertoire this time around. And my long runs have been the day after–not the week after–my long bikes. I’m not treating this like training for a marathon.)

My strategy going in is simple: take it easy on the swim and let the current be my friend, keep it steady on the bike to ensure that I have legs going into the run, and don’t get stupid on the run.

And when I’m going through Hell on the run, I’ll just mutter to Satan, “Yippie kiyay…”

It took the old Philadelphia 76ers team six years–which included two more losses in the NBA Finals and an embarrassing 7-game loss in the Eastern Conference Finals–to get their championship. And it was the one remaining player from that 1977 team–Julius Erving–who sealed it in game 4. 

That was a wonderful day: Doc had his championship, and the Sixers delivered on their “We Owe You One” promise.

My goal is to do the latter. And after that, to be able to stand.

I plan on being a “one and done” with the Iron distance. My back, neck, knees, and hips are reminding me to stick to activities that have little or no impact.

But like those Sixers of old, I have some unfinished business.

Here is the highlight video from last year’s Ironman Chattanooga.

Spiritual Abuse

A woman, who has commented on a couple blogs I enjoy, shared some of her story of physical abuse from her father growing up … abuse he perpetrated in the name of God, which elevates it to Spiritual Abuse.

Unfortunately, I understand Spiritual Abuse … from my own parents, from my first husband, and especially from my ex-in-laws, retired from a career in ministry.

I was pondering the story of this precious woman, whose experiences drove her to atheism …  and the things I experienced … and then swirled around to what my daughters experienced.

Separating God from Church

At this season in my life, where life is relatively calm compared to most all the previous years of my life, I have time to ponder the past, the choices I made, the things I did and didn’t do as a person, a woman, a wife, a friend, a mother. Some of that pondering is good, and some I just need to stop thinking about. One thing I often think about is when I pulled my daughters and myself out of church in the wake of the divorce. I did so because every Sunday something happened that left at least one of us crying all the way home, and I decided I did not want my girls to equate church and church people with Jesus and God. So we stopped church, and I separated God from church and those church people who do stupid, harmful things.

Contemplating the Past

Hindsight is not 20/20, as is often stated; rather, it’s distorted. We cannot recreate the past in the present. Much of the time I find myself deflated and critical of myself when I look back; some of it is justified, much is not. And this hovering question of whether or not I should have removed us from church wavers in and out of my conscious thought from time-to-time. Did I do the right thing? Was it best?

In light of this woman’s story … my personal experience … and pulling my girls and me out of church – and one other thing I will share last in this post – I have concluded it was the right decision. And here’s why:

The Store Incident

There was a pivotal incident years ago when my girls’ Dad tried to force them to do a terrible thing. My Aspie Girl fell into an autistic meltdown and was incapable of obeying him, causing him to become intensely angry. This was in a large store, and he was so angry he commanded Oldest to come with him and leave her sister, whom she knew was incapable of controlling herself or of helping herself. He left the premises and proceeded to leave all together (I do not know if he actually drove away and came back or simply went to his car and came back.)

Oldest fell apart. She was still young – middle school – and incapable of handling all of this but knew it was wrong to leave her vulnerable sister unprotected. She found herself curled up in a corner of the large store, calling me, crying, begging me to come get them right away because Daddy left them. I left immediately to drive the 45 minutes to get them. In that time, she was able to get her sister, tell her Mommy was coming, Dad came back in, they left, went to his place, packed their things, and met me at a restaurant parking lot. And this was when he did the unthinkable … this was when he told our Oldest, who had been a Daddy’s Girl since she was born, that he didn’t like her and didn’t want her and if she was going to be like that, then call her Mom to come get her; he didn’t want her.

Using the Bible to Justify Wrong Behavior

Two weeks later when he picked them up for his regular visitation time together, as he drove off he handed Oldest a sheet with Bible verses about children obeying their parents, chastising her for disobeying him and not leaving the store with him, leaving her sister alone. She threw the sheet back at him, told him she already knew those verses (and she did) and that she would never abandon her sister. Again he told her he didn’t like her and didn’t want her and to call her Mom to come get her, which I did.

A Pivotal Moment

As I thought of all these things – the woman who shared her story of spiritual abuse, my own spiritual abuse, and what I will share at the end of this post, I realized that it was for that one, pivotal moment, and the days and years that followed, that I believe God led me to pull us out of church and separate God from church all those many years earlier. If they related God to church people, and therefore related God to their own Dad – who never, ever missed a church service even to be with them, at that moment my Oldest would have turned from God.

The Funeral Incidents

Another incident ocured several years later at their Daddy’s funeral where their grandfather and uncle (both pastors) led the service. The things their paternal grandfather and uncle did and said surrounding his death and in that service and the days and weeks and months following were nothing short of deplorable. It was so bad that people of great respect came up to us later and told us they were sorry for what happened. It was so bad that the funeral director, even though she was bound by law not to reveal details, said to me, “It’s because of people like him that I do not believe in God.” They did terrible things and said terrible things, even of their own son/brother at his own funeral.

If I had not separated God from church people, my beautiful daughters would not be able to separate God from what these, who call themselves children and representatives of God, these who are biologically related to my daughters, did and said (and continue to do to them and me).

Oldest’s Thoughts

I shared these things with Oldest recently and asked her how that first experience would have altered her perception of God had she not already separated who God is with what her Dad and grandparents and uncle did and do … I asked her how she thought that would have changed the trajectory of her life from that point, and with realization she soberly said, “I’d be really messed up right now.”

Mama’s Gift

It is HARD to be a parent, and it has been super hard for me to face these things and these choices and the years we’ve lived after them … wondering if I did the right thing … hoping I did the right thing.

And then these moments of revelation come about. A gift from God. And I am grateful. So grateful.

Spiritual Abuse

Any abuse done under the umbrella of God: supposedly in the Name of God, for the supposed glory of God, to supposedly honor God, supposedly because of God, using the Bible to justify the acts and/or words, or done by a person who represents God … all of that then is elevated to Spiritual Abuse.

And I’m beginning to believe that of all the forms of abuse, Spiritual Abuse is the most severe. Why? Because, in the words of Andrew Klavan, “It destroys the pathway of faith to God.”

Andrew Klavan’s Thoughts

In all honesty, I do not know who Andrew Klavan is. A friend on facebook put up one of his video shows highlighting a totally different topic than I am addressing here (he covers many topics in the episode I am fixing to share). In the midst of this video, Klavan begins to talk about the sexual abuse in the Catholic church and says some very profound things.

I take this further and relate it to all Spiritual Abuse as I defined above, not simply in the Catholic church. All Spiritual Abuse has devastating effects because again, as Andrew Klavan states, “it destroys the pathway to faith in God.”

In Ep. 560 – Hell on Earth | The Andrew Klavan Show, Klavan talks about Sexual abuse in the Catholic Church from 15:00 – 21:49. Here are some quotes that struck me – which I personally relate to all Spiritual Abuse in any church and/or by any person who represents God or does anything in the Name of God or uses God for their own purpose:

(16:00) Andrew Klavan:

“What does it [spiritual abuse] do? It puts up a barrier …”

(17:00) Andrew Klavan: quotes Matthew 23:13-15 NLT:

13 “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you shut the door of the Kingdom of Heaven in people’s faces. You won’t go in yourselves, and you don’t let others enter either.

15 “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you cross land and sea to make one convert, and then you turn that person into twice the child of hell you yourselves are!

(18:35) Juliann Bortz (molested by a priest in her Catholic High School):

“The collar is still a trigger for me. They murdered something in me. Something died. Everything I believed, died.”

(18:40) Andrew Klavan:

“They took away her faith. They closed, did what Jesus said, they closed the door of heaven.”

(20:00) Andrew Klavan:

“If you are closing the door to the Kingdom of heaven, you are committing a sin against the Spirit that is immense.”

(20:23) Andrew Klavan:

“The enemy is the devil who is in your church. He is in your church. This has got to be pulled up, root and branch.”

(20:50) Andrew Klavan:

“Seventy years of taking away from people their path into the Kingdom of God.”

(21:15) Andrew Klavan:

“It destroys the pathway of faith to God.”   

Consequences

How this world thinks it will escape the consequences of their actions is beyond me because they are all through the Bible and history. Yes, His grace and mercy and love are great … but it is because they are great that we face the reality and consequences of sin.

If it were, as some claim it should be, that God excused such behavior because He is a God of love, then His grace and mercy and love would be weak and powerless. We know that this is not true and cannot be true because God is All-Powerful. Therefore His grace and mercy and love are powerful and come from a place of power, never of weakness.

Many times the Bible says, “Woe to him who … ” God is very serious about life and how we live it. And He is very serious about those who hurt others.

Then He said to the disciples, “It is impossible that no offenses should come, but woe to him through whom they do come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones. Luke 17:1-2 (NKJV)

“But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of offenses! For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes! Matthew 18:6-7

Help

There is help and healing for those of us who have been abused in any form, including Spiritual Abuse. I am not a counselor or expert of any kind, but please do seek out qualified help in your area if you’ve experienced any of this on any level. God really does exist, He really is God, He really is Holy, He really is Healer, He really is Love, and He really is Good.

Holy God, spiritual abuse is so overwhelming for me. I cannot think of it for long or it completely pulls me under into dark places. But You can handle it. You are God. Nothing is too big or too much for You. There is no place we can go that You cannot find us. Thank You. My heart is heavy for this woman who was turned from you because of the violent abuse of her own father in Your Name, but not nearly as much has Your heart is burdened for her for Your love for her is greater than all other. I lift her up to You, Jesus, and I pray that, in Your time, You will gently draw her back to You in ways that only You can. I pray for anyone reading this that has experienced abuse in any form, especially spiritual abuse. Draw them into Your loving arms. Lead them to places and people who can help them heal. May they know they are never alone and that You are God. Thank You for protecting my daughters and me. Thank You for loving us and caring for us and healing us. Thank You for being God. I need You, and I love You, in Jesus’ Holy Name, Ame

Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. I Peter 5:6-7 (NKJV)

About Debt-Free Virgins With No Tattoos

Fair disclosure:

(1) In my single days, I did not discriminate against women who had prior promiscuity or who had tattoos. I dated both virgins and non-virgins. The relationships that failed, failed for reasons having nothing to do with sexuality or body art.

I do not believe that virginity is the be-all/end-all.

Is it a bigger deal than our culture wants you to think? Yep.

Is your world over if you’re not a virgin? Nope.

Are your chances of enjoying sex when you get married over if you’re not a virgin? Nope.

Are your chances of having a good Christian marriage over if you’re not a virgin? Nope.

And as I say this, I also realize that there are women and men who are not virgins, and are not so due to circumstances beyond their control (i.e. sexual abuse). I’ve known very few Christian men who would have a problem dating or marrying a gal in that boat.

(2) Nor, in my single days, did I discriminate against women who had debt. However, looking back, I will say this much: if a gal had carried a higher debt load than I would have been able to support, it would have been a show-stopper.

With that out of the way, it would not be unfair to say that Lori Alexander made herself the mother of all lightning rods with this post.

The title alone struck a cord in the Twittersphere. I first noticed it when Ashley Easter linked to it. The condemnations were quick and unending. Most of my friends in that sphere attacked it.

My immediate thoughts, before reading the article, were “Well…duh…men tend to want their women to have minimal baggage, and the same is true of the women with respect to men.”

(I’ve always said it plainly: men and women each have their general preferences. It does not make either side mean or unfair, it just is what it is. As an example: women, as a group, prefer tall men. As someone who is more akin to Reepicheep than to LeBron James, that put me at a disadvantage in my single days.)

At the same time, while the title of the article–fairly or unfairly–generated controversy, I found the actual article to be a bit ridiculous in places.

Do you know how much more attractive debt-free virgins (without tattoos) are to young men? Unfortunately, there are so few of these types of young women anymore because of the high costs of college (debt) and sexual promiscuity even within those in the church. As believers in Jesus Christ, we need to live in a way that is pleasing to Him because His ways are the best. He calls debt a burden and urges us to live lives of sexual purity.

That’s true, and it is true of the men as well. When Paul gave his many admonitions regarding sexual ethics, he did not merely aim them at women.

OTOH, Alexander is not far from a point here that is worth mentioning: from the stats I’ve seen, the male virgins, in raw and percentage terms, outnumber the female virgins. Intuitively, I expected the opposite, but that is apparently not the case. And given that men–irrespective of how much you shame them–will tend to prefer a virgin over non-virgin, that does not bode well for the ladies, at least not on the margins.

Now, for some of the more controversial content:

There are many reasons why Christian young women should carefully consider whether or not they go to college, especially if they want to be wives and mothers someday. Secular universities teach against the God of the Bible and His ways. It’s far from what God calls women to be and do: it teaches them to be independent, loud, sexually available, and immodest instead of having meek and quiet spirits.

That depends on your major. If you major in any of the STEM fields–even biology, where evolution is a commonly-held belief among faculty–they aren’t going to bother you, as they are more concerned about your academic performance in fields that require hard analysis, than they are about your worldview. If you’re a Christian and oppose evolution, you may get some derision here and there, but if you can do the work, the static you get will be minimal.

In fields like engineering, it’s even better: no one cares if you’re gay, straight, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, or Hindu, but if you can’t calculate the shear, torsional, and bending stresses on the main spar of an aircraft under various loading conditions, then you’re going to have a problem.

One woman wrote to me and gave her opinions on why women shouldn’t go to college. (I have added my thoughts in parenthesis.):

“Men don’t want to marry a women with debt. Most of this debt comes from college. They would also prefer a woman who still lives at her parent’s house that has not had other relationships. Do those two things and you will be highly sought after.” (I’m not sure about men only preferring women who still live at their parent’s house and have had no other relationships since some young women have no choice but to live away from their families and some have had their hearts broken by men they thought was ‘the one.’ I would agree that most men don’t want to marry a woman with a load of debt! That isn’t right to bring into a marriage.)

Sure, men would prefer their women to have no debt. And this is rational: they realize that, as soon as the first baby arrives, her income stream is probably going to dry up, at least in the near-term. If she wants to be a SAHM, then he’s going to need to be able to cover for everyone, and that means he will need to support her debts as well as his. That’s economic reality.

At the same time, there is nothing in Proverbs 31 suggesting that a woman must forego college and take on no debt and live with her parents until her knight in dented armor shows up.

I would also suggest that men ought to be careful about the debt they take on in their single days. As they consider college or professional paths, they also need to think in terms of potential return on investment (ROI) as well as payback time. Not all college paths are prudent.

“If they go to college, they are unlikely to stay home raising their children to pay off the debt and use the degree they spent years on.” (I have seen this in many young women’s lives, sadly.)

What I just said about the men–that they need to consider ROI and payback time–applies to women, and for the reasons stated. If you’re coming out of college at age 22 and you want to get your debt paid down before you become a SAHM and that takes 5 years of all-out work, that puts you at 27 before you consider children. Your peak fertility years are now behind you. And if you’re not married yet, the most desirable men in your cohort are now taken.

(At that point, the best available men are going to be socially-awkward, short, geeky PITA types–like I was. :))

Calling me names won’t change the reality, because I didn’t create it.

“The husband will need to take years teaching his wife the correct way to act, think, and live since college taught them every possible way that is wrong.” (Sadly, most young Christian women wouldn’t listen to their husbands since they’ve not been taught to live in submission to their husbands. However, it’s the older women who are called to teach the younger women biblical womanhood and most husbands have never seen it modeled in their lives so they wouldn’t know what to teach.)

Lori, you lost me here.

“Teaching their wives the correct way to act, think, and live”???

Are you kidding me, Lori?

Where have you been for the last 50 years?

Let’s be honest here: neither sex is lighting up the world for Jesus right now.

From my own observations: the men need themselves to be taught how to love, act, and live in a Godly manner. They sure aren’t learning that at church, with all the half-baked and plagiarized sermons coming from the pulpits.

The men are downloading porn at such a rate that you now have men–IN THEIR 20s–who are getting married and cannot get it up with a real naked woman in the room.

The men are also racking up mountains of debt that they must take many years to pay.

And the men who are most desirable? They tend to be the “Alpha Males”, who themselves have a crap-ton of sexual baggage of their own.

Right now, as for church attendance, singles are largely falling off the map. When they graduate high school, both sexes often leave the church, but the men seem to be taking a longer time coming back. We can argue all day about why that is, but let’s be honest with ourselves: that is the situation on the ground.

There are lots of things to challenge about the culture, including the mantra that college is good.

There are good and bad reasons to go to college.

Good Christian women will go to college, some will even go on to law and medical school. Some will become doctors, lawyers, engineers, IT professionals, even businesswomen.

Good Christian women will also stay home, perhaps go to trade school, and forge different niches.

Good Christian women will move out, work on their own, and forge a path that is more independent.

None of those things, in particular, are evil.

As a Body, we need to have a larger discussion about debt. Especially student loan debt.

Fact is, college is not the marginal benefit that it was 30 years ago. There was a time when a 4-year degree in ANYTHING would guarantee a good job and a quick ROI, but that is no longer the case.

And when you factor in debt, the benefit of college CAN be dubious. Not just for women, but also for men. It may be for you, it may not be.

There is no hard “this is what you must do” plan for everyone, but rather teens and their parents need to make rational and sober decisions in this area.

As for the secular mindset of colleges, that is not a new phenomenon, although some departments may be more hostile to Christians than others. The larger issue in that regard is this: parents and churches need to do a better job equipping their children to deal with a hostile world.

At the same time, being marriagable is more than being a debt-free virgin with no tattoos.

While those are good things that would–ceteris paribus–make a gal more and not less attractive, they are not substitutes for Christian character.

Class dismissed.

Watered Down Teaching

My Aspie-Girl just got back from a week at church camp. She went with the church she attended with her Daddy and has grown up going to church camp with these kids. It was their last year as seniors, so it was a BIG deal for her to be there and to stay for the whole week.

The down side – she said all the teaching was very elementary and watered down and hugely disappointing.

And I’m thinking in my head as she’s sharing this with me … my daughter, whose severe dyslexia prevents her from reading much so she listens to audio Bibles … who hasn’t gone to church regularly in years … found the teaching to be elementary and ineffective.

We cannot depend on church to teach our children about God. We have to do it in the home. Talking and teaching about God, the Bible, and praying are an integral and normal part of our lives. It’s how life is in our home; how it’s always been. If this had not been our norm, she would have a very weak foundation, indeed.

It’s pathetic how watered down this teaching was to youth.

Welcome To The Party, [p]Al!

Dear President Mohler:

The title of this article is an adaptation of an iconic one-liner from the great Christmas classic Die Hard.

And yes, Al, you’re getting started a little late. That’s uncharacteristic of you, as you are usually quick off the blocks on so many other fronts of the Culture Wars. But, as that great philosopher, Bruce Willis, said, welcome to the party!

For years, many folks have been warning you about (a) the plethora of abusers in the evangelical and SBC ranks, and (b) their enablers at the highest levels, including the very NeoCalvinist circles that you frequent.

The abusers include pedophiles, sexually-deviant youth ministers, children’s ministers, pastors, and denominational leaders. The abuses included physical and sexual abuse, in addition to a toxic culture of church discipline reminiscent of the Shepherding Movement.

To be fair, I can understand much of your skepticism over the years. After all, most of the critics come from the left of you theologically and culturally, and they tend to criticize with agendas more in line with left-wing Social Justice Warrior (SJW) objectives that include waging war against all things Biblical.

I’m going to tell you a little of my story. You’ll find that our lives intersected at a critical juncture of your tenure.

I arrived at SBTS as an MDiv student in the Fall of 1993, just as you arrived as President. My first Sunday in Louisville, I attended Deer Park Baptist Church, which is on Bardstown Road not far from the campus. That Sunday, they stuck me into a Sunday School class with other SBTS students. The teacher was an MDiv student in his last trimester. The passage of study was 1 Corinthians 12, and the focus was on spiritual gifts.

After reading the passage, the teacher went into a diatribe about homophobia, insisting that “it is our responsibility to accept gays and lesbians into their rightful place in the Body of Christ.”

I decided to chime in: “Based on what we just read, and what you are saying, it seems that you are inferring that homosexuality is a spiritual gift.”

The rest of the class turned into a gang assault: them against me. I felt like a sniper taking on an entire platoon: I was getting good shots in, but I was outnumbered. I didn’t sign up for that, but–as you can attest–sometimes we end up having to fight battles for which we did not ask.

I had become, whether I wanted to be or not, a battlefield-commissioned officer in the Culture Wars.

That was the beginning of my baptism by napalm at SBTS.

During my time there, I saw–firsthand–your leftist critics assailing you for every offense under the sun. In their eyes, nothing you ever did, short of resigning, would be right. And they took it out on folks like me.

If you were pro-life, you were a misogynist.

If you opposed homosexuality, you were a bigot and a homophobe.

IF you accepted a high view of Biblical authority, you were a Fundamentalist (in the perjorative, not the classical, sense of the word).

If you had any Biblical reservations about women pastors, you were a sexist and a misogynist.

If you opposed bastardizing the Scriptures with inclusive language, you were a sexist and a misogynist.

They called you–and me by extension–everything short of a kitten-killer, seal-clubber, puppy-stealer, mattress-tag-remover…

All of this is to say, I understand your skepticism when their side raised accusations.

The problem is, while these types were hostile toward you, you made one mistake, and here’s what it is.

You see, during my time at SBTS, I got to know a good number of those liberals. I worked with some of them at the same side jobs. Almost all of them came from Southern Baptist backgrounds.

BC grew up in North Carolina. She had been sexually abused. While she was very intelligent, she had a number of male colleagues who wouldn’t even listen to her because she was a woman.

JK was from Louisville. She grew up in conservative SBC churches. As a college student, she was raped at gunpoint. Wanna know what kind of support she got from her church? She got BLAMED for it.

SK was from Louisiana. She grew up in conservative SBC churches. During her teen years, she was raped, at gunpoint, by a prominent church member who was also a police officer. Wanna know what kind of support she got from her church? She got BLAMED for it.

DW grew up in central Kentucky. She grew up in conservative SBC churches. In her childhood, she was sexually assaulted at church camps. No help from the church.

JD, a classmate of mind, was molested by a man during his childhood. He would struggle with sexual issues that led him to the pornography addiction from Hell. What kind of help did he get from the Church? They porn-shamed him.

These were friends of mine at SBTS. They’re still friends of mine today. As a conservative myself, their theology is not mine.

But what’s the point here?

They became liberals in no small part due to “conservative” churches whose leaders were either abusers, enablers, or simply failed to provide refuge from them in their pain.

And that brings me to a critical issue that YOU must address, because YOU are one of the champions for the model known as complementarianism.

(I believe complementarianism is a perversion of Biblical Patriarchy, and I’ll explain why some other time.)

But for the sake of discussion, let’s stipulate that you are a Patriarch. I don’t believe you are, but let’s assume that you and I are talking, Patriarch to Patriarch.

The problem is, your model of patriarchy provides no relief for those who are abused. How do I know that? For all the talk of the Biblical permanence of marriage–which is a perfectly legitimate view that I hold–your patriarchal allies have done NOTHING to keep victims safe, to ensure that offenders are prosecuted, to admonish and rebuke–even excommunicate–abusers.

If you believe in the permanence of marriage–and you should–then the Church needs to provide the resources to keep families together as they address very difficult and complicated baggage.

If you believe that children need to be protected–and I believe you do–then you need to be all over the evangelical world, pushing them to report abuses, provide relief to victims, and calling out leaders–some of them very popular–who are guilty of either participating in abuses or enabling the abusers.

I realize that you have gone to great lengths to defend your friend C.J. Mahaney. And I can certainly understand why: Sovereign Grace Ministries has put out some great resources over the years. My church uses SGM music, which is very solid.

At the same time, Rachael Denhollander–the Louisville attorney who blew the lid on Larry Nassar and provided a Gold Standard presentation of the Gospel at his sentencing–has provided a devastating assessment of SGM. Her husband, Jacob, is a PhD student in your school. They offered to reach out to you on this. You should take him up on that. You need to have them over for dinner and listen to them.

Cleaning up the mess in the SBC is no longer about liberals and conservatives. We won that front of the war.

Unfortunately, the SBC is infested with abusers and enablers. You didn’t ask for this battle–just as I didn’t ask for it on that Sunday morning in 1993–but it’s your duty to fight. Sadly, that is going to require taking on longtime friends, professional associates, and even popular ministers with letters after their names. It will be tougher than taking on the liberals.

But, recalling the theme at your inauguration, you are where you are for such a time as this.

Get ready for war, Al. And, once again, welcome to the party!

Does God Create Division in a Marriage?

“I came to send fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!  

But I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how distressed I am till it is accomplished! 

Do you suppose that I came to give peace on earth?

I tell you, not at all, but rather division. 

For from now on five in one house will be divided:

three against two, and two against three. 

Father will be divided against son and son against father,

mother against daughter and daughter against mother,

mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law

and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.”

Luke 12:49-53

I was reading this to my daughter the other day, and it struck me that the one major family relationship not mentioned is Husband against Wife and Wife against Husband. That got me pondering as to why this is because I do not believe it was an accident that it was omitted.

Remember when God created marriage in Genesis:

Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. Genesis 2:24

And then in Matthew 19, Jesus says:

And He answered and said to them, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning‘made them male and female,’  and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?  So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.” Matthew 19:4-6

When God joins a man and a woman in marriage ~

which I believe God does supernaturally when a virgin woman has sexual intercourse with a man and therefore a woman is married to the man who gets her virginity at the moment he gets it, regardless of any civil or religious ceremonies that have or have not taken place or will or will not take place before or after ~

When God joins a man and a woman in marriage ~ God does not separate them, nor does God create division between a man and his wife or a wife and her husband.

And if her husband is an unbeliever?

Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives,  when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear.  I Peter 3:1-2

No where does it say a Christian woman is to leave her husband if he is an unbeliever. Because her husband is the man who got her virginity … because God supernaturally married them when the man had intercourse with the virgin woman and made them one.

There is one place where a caveat is given for a Christian woman to depart from her husband. If there is reason for a Christian woman to leave her husband – I would place abuse in this category – then she is to remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband if it becomes safe for her to do so. Other than that, a Believer is not to leave their marriage.

Now to the married I command, yet not I but the Lord: 

A wife is not to depart from her husband. But even if she does depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband.

And a husband is not to divorce his wife. 

But to the rest I, not the Lord, say: If any brother has a wife who does not believe, and she is willing to live with him, let him not divorce her.  

And a woman who has a husband who does not believe, if he is willing to live with her, let her not divorce him. 

For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy.  

But if the unbeliever departs, let him depart; a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases. 

But God has called us to peace. For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife? I Corinthians 7:10-16

Superpowers, Trust, and the Value of Being a Parent

A little over a year ago we were praying for Amir and Mrs. Larijani’s baby Abigail who spent 49 days, many quite scary, in the hospital before she could come home. I am over-the-moon excited to report that this little one is doing exceptionally well! She is a very happy, well-adjusted, healthy baby girl. This Mother’s Day her Mama, Mrs. Larijani, wrote the following:

“I am a Mom because of this sweet one.

“Most days, I feel unworthy to be the one that can comfort her when she needs it. Sometimes, she gets so upset and screams so loud. She will reach or crawl frantically to me. I scoop her up and in a minute she calms right down.

“I get to be greeted by her smile each morning.She will crawl around saying “Mamamamamama” and not need anything.

“She gives me superpowers I never knew I had.

“I scan a room before leaving it to make sure she is OK.

“I can see what she is doing sometimes with a wall between us.

I can’t sleep when she is awake (unless I have the flu).

“I am learning to move faster than I have needed to move in several years.

“I can make her mad only to have her giggle 5 seconds later.

“I so often feel the weight of how much she trusts me.

“I wanted [my Husband] to have the opportunity to be a dad. I totally downplayed how important I would be.

“This one made me a mom. Her birth mother gave me the weighty gift of motherhood.

“How thankful I am for the both of them.”

I love this. I love so much about it. Her first Mother’s Day was amazing. This, her second Mother’s Day, was more reflective, and while still delightful because she’s a Mom, she’s had more time to ponder the weight of it all.

Superpowers

“She gives me superpowers I never knew I had.”

Isn’t that an amazing thing as a parent … the ‘superpowers’ our children give us? The power to calm their storm, to heal their pain, to empower them in weakness, to encourage them in anxiousness. But there’s also the power to hurt them in ways no one else can because we’re Parent. That gives us the power to teach them how to fail – hopefully with grace … how to admit our mistakes and take responsibility for our own behavior, choices, and actions … to teach them that we’re all sinners, even Mom and Dad … and how to ask for forgiveness.

Not long ago my sister, who has been jealous of me all her life, made a snide comment about me in front of my daughter. She said something like, “Your Mom always thinks she’s right.” To which my daughter immediately responded, “Actually, no. My Mom knows she’s not always right and is very humble about it.” Shut my sister up. I taught my girls from the beginning that I’m not perfect, that I make mistakes, that I am in need of forgiveness, and I’ve had to humble myself many-a-time to tell them I’m sorry and ask for forgiveness. The beautiful thing about that? My girls have always forgiven me. Wow. So very powerful.

Trust

“I so often feel the weight of how much she trusts me.”

Trust is such an incredible gift. We can easily think it’s a given … that it’s owed to us simply because we are the parent. But that is not true. Trust is a gift … a very valuable, weighty, gift. One we should show great respect and handle with great care.

My daughter recently shared with me part of a recent conversation she had with a friend. She told her friend that she’s learned over the last couple years how much I protected her and her sister as they were growing up, and she said that while she thought I was the best mom ever before she knew, now she knows I’m the best mom ever to eternity and back.

Wow. I am so eternally humbled. That is a gift. And a responsibility. I do not take it lightly, nor do I mess around with it. I respect it. I handle it with care. And I treasure it deep in my soul.

Value

“I wanted [my Husband] to have the opportunity to be a dad. I totally downplayed how important I would be.”

It is a very humbling place when we, as parents, realize the extent of our importance and value with our children. Our children are born with a Mommy-Spot and a Daddy-Spot hardwired into the very depths of their beings, of their very souls, and if we don’t fill them, they will forever remain empty, abandoned, unfulfilled … and longing. No one else can fill that spot. That is a huge responsibility,

Now that my daughters’ father has passed, and I’m all they have left, they say from time-to-time, “Mom, you cannot die! You cannot orphan me!” I assure them that I pray all the time that God would let me live a very long time just for them. Neither of our families cared to invest anything in our children, so they don’t have any aunts, uncles, grandparents, or cousins who care one way or another whether that they’re even alive. This is a heavy burden for me that I pray about all the time … that God would enable me to be and become the Mother they need now and tomorrow and for as long as God would let me live on this earth. I pray that God would enable me to pour so much of myself into my daughters that, when I do pass someday, they will have enough to hold them over till they join me on the other side.

That’s … wow. That’s … humbling. Me? I’m not anything exceptional. I’m normal. I blend in. I’ve not done anything out-of-the ordinary in my life. I’m average. Except … to my daughters. To them, I’m everything. They not only need me, they want me and long for me.

That’s power. That’s trust. That’s value.

That’s me.

That’s a precious, priceless gift from Holy God, and I never, ever, ever want to take it for granted or to give it a value less than what it is.

That means I have to believe in myself and my own value. And that’s … huge.

A Christian Married Woman’s Priorities

It has been stated that a married woman’s priorities should be:
1. God
2. Husband
3. Children

I think that needs to be a bit more defined in the church culture these days. Women tend to skip Husband in there thinking that God is all they need, so whatever they believe God tells them, that’s what they should do.

God never ever contradicts Himself. He never changes.

In the Bible, God says in Genesis 3:16:

To the woman he said,

“I will make your pains in childbearing very severe;
with painful labor you will give birth to children.
Your desire will be for your husband,
and he will rule over you.”

in Exodus 20, God says:

14 “You shall not commit adultery.

God tells the woman in Ephesians 5:22:

Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

In Ephesians 5:33 God tells wives:

and the wife must respect her husband.

and in 1 Peter:3, God tells wives:

Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, 2 when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. 3 Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. 4 Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. 5 For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves. They submitted themselves to their own husbands, 6 like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her lord. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.

Sooo … in order for a Christian married woman to honor God and put Him first, she MUST obey God’s commands which are clearly written in the Bible. If she ‘believes’ she’s ‘heard’ God speak to her anything that contradicts what is written in the Bible, then what she believes she heard is a lie.

Roundup — 12/20/2017

Is Trump a blessing or curse for evangelical conservatives?

David French, Ross Douthat, and John Zmirak discuss that here.

My take: so far, so good. In fact, for a pragmatic Republican, Trump is proving to be more conservative than Reagan, Bush I, Dole, Bush II, McCain, or Romney.

On abortion and guns, Trump has been sterling to date. His court picks have been very solid. On top of that, the DoJ is investigating Planned Parenthood. While prior attempts at a direct repeal of Obamacare have failed, the tax reform package–which just cleared both houses today–ends the “Individual Mandate”. Ergo, Obamacare is all but dead.

And while Trump lost in the Alabama Senate race, that had more to do with Roy Moore’s failures in the last two weeks of his campaign than anything Trump did or didn’t do. This is a small setback to Trump, as judicial confirmations will get dicey.

As for his past conduct, I find it reprehensible. OTOH, the difference is this: for all his faults, Trump is at least open about them, and–as far as we know–has not engaged in such proclivities as President.

As far as we know, he hasn’t deflowered teenage aides (like JFK did a la Mimi Alford), or kill his aide in a drunk driving accident (like Ted Kennedy did a la Mary Jo Kopechne) or ejaculate all over his interns (like Clinton did a la Monica Lewinsky) or enlist his wife to destroy the women who accused him (a la Paula Jones), or have sex with his secretary (which former VP Nelson Rockefeller was doing when he died of a heart attack), or have sex with children (which House Speaker Dennis Hastert did when he was a high school teacher and wrestling coach).

Trump may be a cad, but at least he’s an honest cad, and–to his credit–seems to separate his hedonistic pursuits from his professional work. That doesn’t make him a saint, but at least it shows that he has boundaries that have served him well.

And he is doing a remarkable job going after child traffickers.

As for the Democrats, particularly those in entertainment and media, they can go sit on a hand grenade and pull the pin, and the world would be a better place. ‘

They lectured us about Trump’s “grab [women] by the pü$$y” brags, all while they were busy groping subordinates, having sex with them, and pressuring them to do other demented, perverted things. I hope the women–and even the men–on the receiving end of those actions sue the living hell out of those companies, and the executives get bankrupted.

Book Review: The Last Closet

In another life, I am very good friends with a retired Marine Corps Colonel who served as a co-van (advisor) in Vietnam; one of my great privileges has been to help him tell his story. He is an advocate for the cause of POWs and veterans with traumatic injuries including PTSD. In the course of helping him, I became enamored with the heroism of a select group of POWs: James Stockdale, Jeremiah Denton, Sam Johnson, George Coker, Harry Jenkins, George McKnight, James Mulligan, Howard Rutledge, Robert Shumaker, Ronald Storz, and Nels Tanner.

These POWs resisted the threats, beatings, and other tortures of their captors, and–in some cases–even turned the tables on their captors. (Denton’s and Stockdale’s exploits are the stuff of legend.) They strengthened the morale of other POWs and, as such, represented a special threat to their captors. For this reason, they were isolated from everyone else.

They were the Alcatraz Gang.

They didn’t take their abuses lying down; they fought back to the extent that they were able. They would become the standard-bearers for POW conduct: Stockdale would receive the Medal of Honor; Denton and Coker would receive the Navy Cross. Denton and Johnson would even go on to political careers. Denton’s book–When Hell Was In Session–is a classic.

But what does this have to do with Moira Greyland, who–a year older than myself–never saw action in Vietnam?

Moira was every bit the badass as every member of that Alcatraz Gang.

For most of her life, Hell was in session. Her story–The Last Closet–is now in print.

Fair warning: if you have endured and form of ongoing abuse–particularly physical and/or sexual–this book can be triggering, although Moira does a splendid job of providing warnings about very difficult paragraphs.

The daughter of science fiction legend Marion Zimmer Bradley (MZB) and famed numismatic expert Walter Breen (WB), Moira–on the very top of the surface–had a good life. Like her parents, she is very intelligent: a member of Mensa. She has many talents from sewing to singing to fencing and especially the harp.

OTOH, to call her home life horrific would be charitable.

While MZB and WB were very intelligent and accomplished, they were incredibly perverted: WB and MZB were extremely libertine about sex. To them, inhibitions were the result of religious persecution. MZB called marriage “an outdated screwing license.” To WB, homosexuality was the natural state, and heterosexuality was a product of religion. To them, “anything goes” meant “have sex with whomever and however”, including with children.

In WB’s case, especially with young boys.

MZB was abusive both sexually and physically, in many cases using the physical abuse to force her children to provide her with sexual gratification.

To Moira’s credit, she provides about as charitable a presentation of her parents as anyone could. They each were themselves abused sexually and physically; WB was raised by a very abusive Catholic mother, and was bipolar and a paranoid schizophrenic; MZB was herself raped by her father; WB was molested by a Catholic priest. They each had horrid upbringings that undoubtedly put them behind the 8-ball.

At the same time, Moira, also to her credit, does not excuse their abuses, and in fact lets their record speak for itself: when they were victimized by their parents, that was their parents’ sins. But when WB and MZB chose to abuse their own children–and, sadly, other children–they transcended even the depravity of their parents.

They did this in no small part because each, after enduring their abuses, rejected God. In effect, they said, “God didn’t save us from our parents, so we want no part of that deal.”

Their resultant lives–aside from their professional successes–were a complete descent into the worst of sexual depravity, leaving a trail of damaged lives. Some of their victims, broken from the abuses, would die young from suicide or other forms of self-abuse. Others would fight off various addictions and hangups for years.

Moira struggles with complex PTSD to this day, and probably will for decades to come.

(I am aware of complex PTSD because a family member on MrsLarijani’s side, also a sexual abuse survivor at the hands of her father, described that form of PTSD to me recently, as she has undergone much therapy and has even started her own initiatives to educate people in her profession about PTSD issues. And some of her reactions to certain things are similar to what I know from a friend of mine from my SBTS days who–also abused in such a fashion–experiences the same reactions.)

Here are my takes:

(1) Moira is brutally honest, even about herself. I’ve always contended that, if you’re going to recover from abuses–no matter how terrible they are–you must be willing to face the truth. She shows a lot more courage in her honesty than she credits herself. That also is probably why, in spite of suffering more than even her parents did, she is a Christian today whereas her parents rejected God altogether.

She was not perfect in her life; the abuses she endured left her with thin, marginally-existent boundaries. That led her to a level of experimentation in her teen and adult life that could have led to disaster. It also weakened her ability to see which men had her best interests in mind when they pursued her.

Thankfully, she escaped from that with a comparatively moderate level of self-inflicted baggage. I’ve seen people suffer far less than she did and make far worse decisions, and never learn from them.

(2) Moira shows, in stark, stomach-turning detail, the telos of the Sexual Revolution.

Her father, WB, was one of the early movers and shakers in NAMBLA, which promotes “man-boy love”; i.e. pederasty. They were the ones who coined the slogan “sex before eight or it’s too late”. Their view: pederasty is the purest form of love, and will prepare boys for adulthood.

Her mother was herself very “uninhibited”: she was a lesbian, but had many liaisons with men, multiple partners, etc. MZB and WB were polyamorous.

There were no sexual boundaries in her home. Nudity was expected; any expression of affinity for heterosexuality was met with hard criticism and derision; orgies were common; and MZB molested both Moira and Patrick frequently.

Every time Moira brought a boyfriend home, her father would pursue him for sex.

Her parents, obsessed with sex, dehumanized their children. Emotional support was all but nonexistent, with MZB always living on the edge of rage and WB lacking the stones to stand up to her. MZB, rather than being supportive of her daughter and complimenting her on her singing skills, was always hitting her with hard criticism. Moira could never be right about anything. WB, in contrast, was passive and often distant, chiding Moira for being a prude.

Early on, when Moira tried to report WB to police, her complaints fell on deaf ears. It was not until the late 1980s when, with the help of a counselor, she was able to successfully intervene on behalf of a child that WB was molesting.

Moira does a wonderful job articulating the whole problem with the paradigm of “consent”, even among adults, and why, even in libertine arrangements, it isn’t as cut-and-dried as the word connotes.

(3) Moira does a great job articulating the problem with gay “marriage”, and masterfully destroys the notion that sexual orientation is unchangeable. While Moira does not condemn gay people, she does confront the profound level of toxicity and dysfunction that is inherent in that lifestyle. That has rankled many in the sci-fi community who otherwise supported her, but that is her strength: Moira is, if nothing else, a truth teller.

My only criticism of her book: I wish she had shared more detail with respect to the spiritual side of her journey. She does point out that she became a Christian in her teen years, and she does a good job quoting Scripture in context in describing various situations. But other than that, not a whole lot about that side of her life.

In fairness to her, though, it could be that it’s still too early in her recovery–and the wounds are still raw–for her to do an adequate assessment of that.

—–

In this review, I do not refer to Moira by initials or even by last name; I call her by her first name. There is a purpose for that.

One of the things Moira struggles with is the depersonalization that she suffered at the hands of her abusers. She was effectively a nobody. She wasn’t allowed to have a personality; she wasn’t even allowed to have a sexual identity: her father wanted her to look neither masculine nor feminine; her mother eschewed all semblance of femininity.

I will end this with a note to Moira:

Moira, you have a name. And, given that you are in Christ, you have a gift that no one can take from you.

That is important, as your parents failed you on just about every relevant front, not just sexually. While, through their successes, they were material providers, they failed to provide a stable, loving home life that even mediocre parents provide their children. Even worse, they subjected you to the most dehumanizing of abuses, stealing from you what was never theirs to receive let alone take.

Thankfully, in Christ, you have a reward that will never perish, nor shall any man (or woman) take it from you.

Some may ask why God didn’t stop the abuses. Almost every survivor of profound hardship will wrestle with that question. There are various theological answers based on particular schools of thought, most of which don’t rise to the level of useless.

My take: your experiences, Mark’s experiences, and every experience of every one of their victims, will be a witness against them on the day of judgment. There will be a day when they will receive the payback for their atrocities. And as the saying goes about payback, it is, in fact, a Biblical truth.

On the upside: your perseverance will also be a witness on the day of judgment. Jesus Himself said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. And I give to them eternal life. Neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.”

Your parents, having suffered a great deal in their childhoods, rejected God on account of what was taken from them. Their thinking was, in spite of their God-given intelligence, short-sighted and temporal. The results were tragic.

Your parents took a lot of things from you, including most of what was your earthly identity. You are recovering that, even if–at times–the progress comes in inches rather than miles, and takes years where you are used to accomplishing things in hours and minutes.

Having said that, the identity that matters most–the fact that Jesus has your name written on his hands–no one can take that away.

You were raised by two of Satan’s most devoted worker bees. Their abuses went far beyond sexual, although those alone were worse than horrid enough in their own right. They did everything they could to indoctrinate you in a secular paradigm that would gross out most hedonists. They tortured you like the Communists tortured American POWs in Vietnam.

But, by the grace of God, you fought back against your captors in a way that would have made James Bond Stockdale and Jeremiah Denton proud.

I know you don’t always feel like you acted with courage. But you did. In spades.

Hell was in session, and the gates of Hell lost.

You have fought valiantly, and have prevailed. There are still battles to fight, and there will always be times when those demons rear their ugly heads. But you will prevail, not because of great works you have done, but because you received Him who does great works.

Keep fighting the good fight!