UMC, With Help of African Blacks, Rejects SJW Agenda

Going into the Special Session of the 2019 General Conference of the United Methodist Church (UMC), American news outlets were ecstatic at the prospect of the UMC joining the ranks of other mainline Protestant denominations and endorsing the marriage and ordination of LGBTs.

The “woke” faction of the UMC, dominated by American progressives, was confident that their highly-touted “One Church” plan would cement the convergence of the UMC. The “One Church” plan basically said that, while many members didn’t agree with LGBT inclusion, the UMC would still allow everyone else to include LGBTs.

Instead, the progressives lost, twice.

First, the “One Church” plan failed to pass.

Then, conservatives–led by delegates from Africa–passed the “Traditional Plan”: an affirmation of Biblical sexuality that rejects any attempt to grant legitimacy to LGBTs, by a score of 438-384.

(A friend of mine, a longtime United Methodist, referred to the Traditional Plan as “Making Methodism Great Again”.)

On top of that, the conservatives passed a number of items that make it painless for the wokeists to leave the UMC. In other words, they not only endorsed Biblical sexuality, they held the door open for dissenters to leave.

What was poignant about the vote was that, for many years, American SJWs have long-insisted that white Americans must “check their privilege” and give more credence to perspectives of “oppressed” classes.

This time, blacks from Africa voted to reject what Nigerian pro-life activist Obianuju Ekeocha calls a “neocolonialism” that seeks to impose “new sexual ideologies and abortion into African nations, against the will of the African people who still largely reject these ideologies.”

What IS sad: the West, which has long been a fortress for a conservative theology that has been the backbone of Western Civilization, is in a severe decline that corresponds to the turmoil in the Church.

Catholics have a longstanding gay pederasty culture, evidenced by a horrendous amount of sexual assaults and coverups spanning the globe, encompassing at least half of the clergy.

Mainline Protestants have embraced theological liberalism that has made their message irrelevant.

Conservatives and evangelicals, however, have a critical mass of sexual abuse and coverups, fueled by shallow theology and a system that attracts, develops, and promotes a clergy who market themselves as Alpha Males but instead are dark, greedy, malevolent, perverted cowards who wouldn’t know the truth if it bit them in the nether regions.

Against this backdrop, Christians in AFRICA are leading the way forward.

While the Church may be bloodied and bruised, Jesus promised that not even the gates of Hell would prevail against Her. The Church is never out of the fight.

And if the Laodiceans in America won’t show up for the good fight, God has shown that He’ll raise some Smyrnans from the poorest region in the world to take up the full armor.

The Southern Baptist Convention Has An Existential Crisis

There is no pretty way to spin this.

The Houston Chronicle is reporting a damning collection of abuses that implicate Southern Baptists at every level of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC).

The abuses and coverups include volunteers, deacons, youth and children’s ministers, music ministers, pastors, missionaries, even foundational leaders in the SBC. Most of us who have been following these things are not surprised. And trust me, this is not even the tip of the iceberg.

The abuse/coverup culture precedes even the Conservative Era (1980-present), but it has snowballed during the Conservative Era. There are many factors that have led to this disaster.

(1) The Conservative Resurgence–in which many moderates and liberals were run out of key SBC seminaries and institutions and replaced with Fundamentalists and Calvinists–fostered an institutional arrogance.

What do I mean by that? Here is the story you will hear:

The SBC was hijacked by liberals who believed that the Bible was full of errors. Those liberals dominated the seminaries and Bible schools and fostered a culture that was dead: they didn’t really believe the Bible, and this reflected dead preaching and teaching, and that caused the SBC to descend into the same liberalism that has destroyed mainline Protestants.

The conservatives–led by a grassroots movement of faithful Baptists and the organization of conservative preachers and activists such as Charles Stanley, C.W. Criswell, Adrian Rogers, Paul Pressler, and Paige Patterson–saved the SBC from the onslaught of liberalism.

When it came to scandals, the conservatives never confronted the institutional culture that existed before; they just replaced a left-leaning structure with a right-leaning one, only with arrogance to boot.

Why do I say arrogance? The conservatives developed an “It can’t happen here” mindset.

Even worse, if a pastor or other worker DID sleep with a parishioner, it was treated merely as a “sexual indiscretion” rather than an abuse of power. (The liberals treated it that way, too. That’s how they addressed it at SBTS when I was there.) As a result, if a pastor had an affair, he was often allowed to quietly resign, move on to another church, and set up shop after a season of being under the radar.

What if a father rapes his daughter and she tells the church about it? They rally around him but show her the door. Ask me how I know.

What about the children’s worker who fondles a kid, and that kid reports it? The church tells the family “we’re taking the situation seriously”, lets the worker quietly leave and go on to another church, then he resumes his abuses. Ask me how I know.

When high-profile ministers cover up abuse in their churches, SBC leaders–who were financially-beholden to such churches–failed to confront those ministers.

Paul confronted Peter–“to his face”–over lesser offenses, but SBTS President Al Mohler could not find it in him to confront C.J. Mahaney over his coverup of at least one child abuser at Covenant Life Church.

(2) A culture that values and rewards charisma over character and competence, allowed a critical mass of narcissistic, sociopathic, Machiavellian personalities into the ranks of ministers, and then rewarded them based on metrics that are functions of charisma.

If you have winsome charisma and can regurgitate conservatism–and even better, do it with NeoCalvinist spin–you’ll go places in the SBC.

You have to make sure that you champion the hot products from LifeWay, preach inviting sermons that have enough conservatism to wow the masses but so soft that you step on no one’s toes. But if you play the game, you go far.

If you provide the requisite “fruits of your ministry”–growing membership, new baptisms, and, yes, more dollars going into the Cooperative Program–you receive great recognition. And as you get to know the right people, and say the right things at the right meetings, you get key appointments to the appropriate committees.

(3) A culture that throws victims under the bus to protect the institution.

This did not begin with the conservatives–truth be told, it’s a longstanding problem that goes back to the very foundation of the SBC–but it has snowballed on the watch of the conservatives.

Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President Albert Mohler and his protege Russell Moore are a major part of the problem. Why? They are years late and millions of dollars short, as they sat for decades on this issue. For decades, they failed to call out key leaders, they have failed to demand change where doing so would have yielded better policies.

For his part, Mohler has begun to repudiate his longtime support of C.J. Mahaney, whose Sovereign Grace Church is now in Lousiville and who has given The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary $200,000. Perhaps that will lead the way for other Big Evangelical names to start distancing themselves from Mahaney, whose heavy-handed leadership, probable coverup of several sexual abusers, and systematic attacks on all who questioned him, ought to permanently disqualify him from ministry.

And make no mistake: the abuses and coverups extend from local churches to particular arms of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Former missionary Mark Aderholt, who is on trial for his abuses of 16-year-old Anne Marie Miller while he was a 25-year-old youth minister and seminary student at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, went on to a distinguished career with the International Mission Board (IMB).

When Miller reported the matter to the IMB, their own investigation concluded that the abuses “likely happened” and that Aderholt was not truthful with them about it. What did they do? They allowed him to resign. Did they report the matter to authorities? No. Did they inform the next church he went to? No. Did they inform the South Carolina Baptist Convention, where he became a strategist? No.

(And don’t start here with the argument that the whole thing was consensual. He was 25; she was 16. Irrespective of what you think her issues were at the time, the fact remains it was on him to be the adult. If he wanted to eventually marry her, he could have steered her in the proper direction and exercised propriety. Moreover, given that he was in training for MINISTRY, it was incumbent on him to do the right thing.)

The SBC also has a storied history of saying they will look into this issue, but not doing it. Their fallback is always “but muh church autonomy!”

Fact is, if FBC Timbuktu ordained an LGBT pastor or deacon today, the SBC would move Hell to ensure that FBC Timbuktu was disfellowshipped as soon as SBC 2019 opened session.

If the SBC wanted to confront the abuse culture, they’d do it. But to do so will mean stepping on toes that are connected to very large amounts of money. It means that popular leaders–with big radio presences, book deals, and academic credentials–will have to face censure if not complete repudiation.

It will also require a total cultural transformation: from a culture of theological arrogance where predators operate under the radar to a vigilant, humble culture where victims are welcome and predators are not.

That is a tall order for the SBC. It is probably not the battle that new President J.D. Greear was hoping to fight. But this is every bit as serious as any fight that the SBC has faced in its history.

Greear had better be up to the call.

Abortion and Matt Chandler

A couple weeks ago, a friend of mine from my seminary days–she leans a little left politically but is otherwise pro-life on abortion–posted this meme on her Facebook feed:

Yes, she is a friend of mine, and we had an otherwise collegial, low-key discussion about this matter offline. I did this to keep other FB friends of mine from turning this into a foodfight.

First: a few stipulations:

(1) Abortion is murder. Period. Abortion kills a living human being. You don’t like that? Calling me names won’t change that reality, as I didn’t create it.

(2) Abortion, in spite of being a great evil, is sold in America with the best New York ad agency sloganeering and political posturing. For a woman in a crisis pregnancy, it is easy to see how appealing it can be.

(3) Abortion, like other sins, is very forgivable. And, contrary to what you might think intuitively, the pro-life crowd is a very merciful and graceful lot with women who seek mercy.

(If you have had an abortion, you will have a harder time showing yourself mercy than you will have finding it in the pro-life movement.)

Still, the Chandler quote sticks in my craw. And here’s why.

First of all, abortion has been legal in all 50 states, for the full 9 months of pregnancy, for 46 years.

(And yes, before you start saying, “THAT’S NOT WHAT THEY SAID IN ROE!”, just hold your pants on and read: abortion IS legal for the full nine months when you consider the ramifications of the Roe v. Wade decision AND its companion case, Doe v. Bolton, which SCOTUS ruled on at the same time on 22 January 1973.)

Because abortion is both legal and government-funded, Americans have killed about 60 million babies since 1973.

So let me ask you, Mr. Chandler: how high does the death toll have to be before we pass a law banning in utero infanticide?

Before we have any discussion about what pro-life is, and is not, on this issue, I’m going to lay the card on the table.

IF YOU BELIEVE ABORTION SHOULD GENERALLY BE LEGAL, YOU ARE NOT PRO-LIFE.

You think I’m being mean?

Think about it this way. if you believe that rape–which goes on nearly unabated in spite of laws against it–should be legal, we would rightly say you are NOT pro-woman, even if you otherwise support a myriad of rape prevention efforts.

Moreover, if you believe that child abuse should be legal, we would rightly say that you are not pro-child even if you otherwise support programs to prevent child abuse.

And consider our former national atrocity that was slavery. Those who supported slavery could not be reasonably considered abolitionists.

But back to Chandler’s quote.

On one hand, I’m all for the Church showing more compassion to women in crisis pregnancies, with couples stepping up to the plate to adopt and/or provide foster care.

At the same time, I can also tell you that, having been through training for foster parentage, and having spent two-and-a-half years on an adoption waiting list before we got picked and Abigail made her grand entry, Christians make up the overwhelming majority of adoptive and foster parents.

While we can reasonably argue that we need the Church to do more, it is also fair to say that Christians are hardly inactive on this front.

Perhaps if the Church spent more resources taking care of widows and orphans and less on high pastor salaries and building new churches in areas that are already inundated with them, you’d see more foster children receiving compassion.

The problem I have with Chandler here is that his statement is often used as a subtle form of blame-shifting for abortion, as well as a code-term used by people who wish to keep abortion legal. It fosters the “if only the Church reached out the right way, women wouldn’t murder their babies” mindset.

In point of fact, the waiting lines for adoption typically exceed 3 years. At Catholic Charities, the venue through which we adopted Abigail, the average wait is 3 years. (And they ONLY deal with infertile couples.) For many agencies, the average wait is about FIVE years.

There are at least two adoptive couples for every baby murdered in the womb in America. And most of those couples are Christians.

And while we are on the subject of abortion, I am going to make some hard statements here. Most of you aren’t going to like this, but I’m going to say it anyway.

(1) The death toll from abortion is proof that neither sex has a monopoly on evil. While we can all point to examples of “toxic masculinity”, the fact remains that toxic femininity is every bit as serious, even if pastors are scared to death of pointing to the elephant in the room that is standing on the blood of 60+million babies.

(2) Just as we rightly blame rape on rapists, it is fair to blame abortion on (a) those who make the decision to kill the baby and (b) those who carry out the act. Yes, there are some women for whom the abortion decision is made FOR them–ask me how I know this. Those, however, are totally in the minority.

My point here?

Yes, let’s extend the best compassion that the Church can offer for single mothers, foster children, orphans, and widows.

Yes, let’s extend the mercy and grace of Jesus to those who, for whatever reason, have blood on their hands due to their participation in the atrocity that is abortion.

Still, we must continue to call abortion for the evil that it is, and demand that our legal system right this terrible wrong by ending its sanction of the practice.

If you aren’t for that, then you aren’t pro-life. Period.

IKDG: The Final Repudiation

Joshua Harris finally KIKDGG  Here is the link.

Personally, I put less blame on him than I do the larger evangelical celebrity world for imposing his damnable grid on singles.

Shame on them for uncritically embracing the ideas of a whipper-snapper who had no formal theological education, and then using those ideas to shame singles and make the already-difficult world of singleness an order or magnitude worse.

At any rate, I am glad to see that Harris has seen the error of his ways and has shown the courage to repudiate them. That alone puts him light years ahead of Piper, Mohler, Keller, Mahaney, and the rest of his former Amen Corner.

Ironman Bragging Rights, Sort Of

MrsLarijani works for a private school at which Abigail is in the toddler class. It’s a really nice school.

Every year, the school has a 5K run as a fundraiser. Usually, most of the parents run it. The run is tomorrow morning.

One of the parents has a tendency to be a doúcheflúte. He tends to be kind of loud when he comes to pick up his kid, and he often gives other parents a lot of crap. MrsLarijani saw him chiding another parent for not being signed up for the 5K, as if trotting for 3.1 miles makes you some great athlete.

Me: “Are you saying you want me to wear my Ironman finisher shirt tomorrow?”

MrsLarijani: “YES! I WANT YOU TO WEAR IT!”

Me: “I won’t be the fastest runner out there, but leave us out there long enough and I could bury most of their asses.”

MrsLarijani: “True story.”

It had been my intention to retire that shirt, as I only planned to wear it to triathlon club-related functions. But hey…if it gets a loudmouth to shut up, it might be worth getting it out.

Beth Moore Goes Full SJW

I’ve never had any use for Social Justice Warriors (SJWs), leftists who gain power via threat, intimidation, bullying, and shaming. Their modus operandi is Marxist, their playbook written by Stalin, Mao, and Alinsky. They have targeted–sometimes successfully–academics, military officers, corporate CEOs, columnists, talk show hosts, and public officials.

In the Christian world, they have hijacked the mainline Protestant ranks and much of the conservative evangelical world. The Southern Baptist Convention is under assault both from the outside (#metoo and #churchtoo activists who are using this issue to promote a progressive agenda) and from within (SBTS President Mohler and ERLC PResident Moore, who are cozy with the LGBT-based Revoice Conference), by SJWs.

Of late, however, Beth Moore, the SBC superstar who has made Lifeway a powerhouse, has been the SJW poster child.

The issue here is not her disdain for President Trump; that is understandable, as his “grab [women] by the pússy” comments alienated many otherwise fine Christian evangelical women.

Nor do I take issue with her calling out of male leaders in the evangelical world for their treatment of her in the past, although her theological fluffiness makes it hard for top-flight theologians and scholars to take her seriously in those realms.

No…my issue with Beth Moore is her latching onto the Marxist tactic of shaming men in particular cases, crucifying them for the sins of others. Here is her most recent example.

What bothers me about this? As a man, I owe her no apology for anyone else’s sin against women. I answer for my own sins. If I’ve objectified Beth, then that’s on me. If I’ve dismissed her on account of her sex, then that’s on me. But if John Doe does either, then that is his sin, not mine.

And if any of you ladies don’t like that, then tell me: do you owe the world an apology for the more than one third of all women who’ve murdered children in utero? Yes or no will do.

And yes, Beth, given that you now have shamed men into getting on their knees and apologizing for the sins of their gender against women, perhaps you can get on your knees at your next conference and cry out for forgiveness for the 60+ million children your gender has murdered.

Over and Out.

Ironman Chattanooga 2018: Bittersweet Victory

Three years ago, I experienced a major setback: I DNFd* at Ironman Louisville 2015.

To say it was a disappointment would be the most charitable assessment.  MrsLarijani had been such a great sherpa, only to see me miss the final turnaround cutoff time and get pulled at mile 17 of the run.

As a result. I had unfinished business. I owed MrsLarijani a finish. 

Like Julius Erving of those 1977 Philadelphia 76ers–who blew a 2-0 lead to the Portland Trailblazers–and like Jana Novotna, who blew a lead in the third set against Steffi Graf at the 1993 Wimbledon, and like Goran Ivanisevic–who pumped a record 37 aces past Andre Agassi in the 1992 Wimbledon Championship, only to come up short in 5 sets–I had a score to settle.

No, this wasn’t the NBA Championships, or Wimbledon for that matter.

I had a score to settle with the Ironman demon that torments every athlete on the second loop of the run. I call that demon IronBitch (heretofore referred to as India Bravo, or Ms. Bravo).

She waits patiently, usually somewhere past mile 10 of the run. But she is sadistic. She fights dirty. She will charm you and then plunge that knife into your heart as you begin to run out of gas.

This year, I signed up for Ironman Chattanooga. It is a 2.4-mile downstream swim, a 116-mile bike (4 miles longer than a standard Ironman), and a 26.2-mile run that features one of the toughest courses on the Ironman circuit. 

In other words, I scheduled my appointment with Ms. Bravo for September 30, in the city where I met MrsLarijani. I decided I would settle my score with Ms. Bravo once and for all.

I trained for that meeting for 5 long months.

I rode my bike trainer religiously, and included transition runs after my rides. I blocked off Saturdays for long bike rides. In the 4 months leading to Ironman, I had 11 rides of 6 hours or longer, including the 160-mile Ride Across INdiana (RAIN).

I rode 3 times a week, I swam twice a week. And after my rides, I added small transition runs. I also did long runs the day after my long rides.

And in my long runs, I simulated long distances on tired legs, just to get mentally prepared for my meeting with IB on the back half of the run.

I also tapered for 2 weeks instead of 3: I wanted to make sure I was at peak fitness going into the race.

I felt very good going into race week: I had a minor stomach bug a week out of race day, but that cleared up quickly. Then, during race week, Chattanooga received the unexpected “gift”.

HEAVY RAINS. From Sunday through Thursday.

The runoff–and the necessary release of 100,000 cubic feet per second of water from the dam–made the Tenneseee River a fast-moving cesspool of sewage. On Thursday morning, three days before the race, Ironman officials cancelled the swim.

At the same time, they made our lives harder, not easier, by (a) going to a time-trial start on the bike, and (b) enforcing a modified cutoff time for the finish.

With that news, I felt that my finish would have an asterisk, as an Ironman triathlon includes all three disciplines.

At the same time, you can’t control the weather. I decided I’d make the most of what was now an IronBrick. Besides, that run is pure brutality.


I started just before 9:40 AM. Temperature was mild, in the 70s, and it was overcast. There had been rain, but it cleared out just as I started. The first 30 miles were uneventful. I was killing it. I was ready; I had slept well the night before–got a full 8 hours of REM sleep–and was jacked.

Then, at about mile 35 of the bike, the clouds moved out, the sun moved in, the heat went up, and so did the humidity. I started feeling tired.

During the bike, I started out consuming Gatorade exclusively at every rest stop. But I felt like I was bonking at mile 50–very unusual–so I cut back on the Gatorade and went to water.

Success!!!!

On the second loop of the bike, no one passed me. I saw athletes WALKING their bikes up what seemed like otherwise mild hills. I also saw a fair number of folks who had flats or other mechanical issues. They looked defeated.

Still, I felt good on the bike, although I haven’t figured out how to prevent chafing. Body Glide is good but is still short of the glory. Oh well, a little chafing won’t ruin my day.

I finished the bike in 7:37, and, other than the chafing, felt great. I would have finished faster, but I had to stop to pee several times. I haven’t perfected the art of peeing in my pants while biking.

My goal for the bike was to have my legs ready for the run. Mission Accomplished!

I was also well-hydrated.

In transition, I was methodical: dried my feet, changed my socks, put on my running shoes, put on my race belt and back brace, and downed some gels and some water. 

I figured I had 7 hours to do the run. Even in the Hell that is Ironman Chattanooga, this was doable. 

Did I say I had my legs?

I was ready to OWN IronBitch; er, I mean Ms. Bravo.

Coming out of transition, I started slowly on the run: I jogged the grassy part coming out, then walked the uphill leading to the first bridge. I made a strategic plan to jog the downhills, walk the uphills, and run/walk the flats at a 50-step run/50-step walk pace. 

I kept it very methodical, and paid close attention to my heart rate (HR). Coming out of transition, my HR jumped into Zone 4 too easily, so I made it a point to err on the side of going easy in the early stages.

As the sun started to set, and I started to get more shade in the park, my HR went down to Zone 3 on the jogs and Zone 2 on the walks. SUCCESS!!!!

When I reached mile 10, where IronBitch–er, I mean Ms. Bravo–stabbed me 3 years ago, I felt great this time, even as the hills of the North Shore were getting brutal. When I pulled into the halfway point–three years ago I was defeated–I was looking forward to meeting Ms. Bravo this time.

I was looking for her, calling her name!

Other than needing to poop–which I did at mile 15–I felt good, even though I was clearly getting slower. The fatigue was coming, but it wasn’t the pale dread of bonking. I had beaten back Ms. Bravo’s minions. I wanted to fight her.

Doing the math, I knew I was ahead of schedule, but I didn’t want to get complacent either, because Ms. Bravo will make you pay for complacency. I knew what pace I needed to keep, and I was still on my target. Coming into mile 17, where I got pulled 3 years ago, I muttered, “Yippie Kiyay!”

I was tired, but I knew I was going to finish. I was jacked!

Yes, I had one more trip into North Shore for those hills.

Yes, it was going to suck.

But I was going to finish.

I saw those hills as a necessary evil. Every mile, I muttered, “Thank you sir, may I have another?” Then, with 5K to go, I spotted Ms. Bravo, the demonic killer of Ironman dreams, hiding in the bushes. She was crying.

She asked me if she could walk with me.

“I’ll take a HELL with the NO to GO…”

When I saw the marker for mile 25, I knew I was good to go. I was sore, but not that sore. I was tired, but it was more of an “I had a long day and I want to be done” kind of tired rather than an “Oh God please put me out of my misery!” tired. All I had to do was go up and over the bridge, make a turn, and head into the finisher chute.

The announcer at the athlete briefings had said 12:40 would be the cutoff. It was just past 12:20 AM. As I headed in, I looked for MrsLarijani. Then, as I approached the chute, I saw her. 

MrsLarijani: “Speed up, the cutoff is 12:30 AM!”

Me: “No, it’s 12:40, I’m fine!”

MrsLarijani: “Are you sure?”

Me: “Yep!”


The bad news: we were both wrong.

The good news: I still made cutoff!

(They implemented a flexible cutoff, but they were trying to account for the advantage that athletes would have received from the easy swim. They had said 12:40, then suggested giving all athletes 14:40 total to finish. They settled on 14:50. All athletes who finished with times over 14:50 were DNFd, which just means they didn’t accrue official points for Ironman-related programs. I beat it, but just within 5 minutes.)

As I crossed the finish line, the announcer looked at me, called my name–and he didn’t butcher my last name, as most people do–and yelled, “YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!”

It was anticlimactic. My feeling was more along the lines of, “Mission Accomplished!” MrsLarijani and I enjoyed the moment–Abigail was at the home of some friends and was sleeping–and headed out so we could get to bed.


In retrospect…

I ran the race I trained for. I figured the bike course would be hot and humid, and I had many long rides in hot, humid, crappy conditions. I was ready for that race.

And even though I had no long runs greater than 18 miles–and none of them with hills like North Shore–I trained in hot weather, and simulated running with tired legs. I kept a smart strategy of walking the uphills and capitalizing on the downhills, and it worked.

My final time was close to the cutoff, only because running is my weakest area due to my back, hip, and knee issues.

My mission was to get a decent bike performance that left me enough time to do a run within my physical limits. I did exactly that.

But there was something that stuck out from the race…

In the run, I was tempted many times to walk the flats on the second loop and instead chose to jog them.

Had I walked them, I would have been DNFd.

I believe that temptation to walk was Ms. Bravo trying to lure me into a backstabbing. And the conscious need to jog when I could, that was God yelling from the corner and warning me of the trick play.

Sure, there was no swim, and for that reason I feel like I still may have to attempt another race at that distance.

Still, after talking to several finishers who had multiple Ironmans under their belts, the word out was that, even without the swim, this was harder than most Ironmans.

I believe it.

Had this been Louisville, the bike course would have been slightly harder–but 4 miles shorter–but the run would have been a joke, as it is all flat. Where the Chattanooga run course took me 7 hours, I would have cleared the Louisville course in under 6. And the Louisville swim course, while tougher than Chattanooga, is still pretty easy.

As I process everything I went through to get to this point, I am pondering whether to sign up for another Ironman, just to get in all three disciplines.

My heart says, “Yes, this would be fun! I was ready, I can do this again!” And I must admit, flipping off Ms. Bravo was kind of fun.

On the other hand, my hips, back, and knees are screaming at me, telling me, “Why do you hate us so much???”

In addition, the risk of weather-related cancellations is always there: last year, I had a half-Iron triathlon cancelled due to storms. This year, Ironman North Carolina was cancelled due to hurricane damage in Wilmington.

Even though athletes were allowed to defer to another date, how would you like it if you trained for a big race, only to end up deferring to an “alternate” race in 6 months due to a storm-related cancellation?

And a full-Ironman can run about a thousand dollars.

Ultimately, this was an official finish, and it was my best ultra-endurance performance.

And I won my rematch with Ms. Bravo.


*DNF: Did Not Finish. It denotes someone who either (a) started the race and, due to a number of factors, did not finish, or (b) those who finished but missed an official cutoff time. Ironman events typically have stingy cutoff times. That’s part of the Ironman lore.

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, as 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.