“But there never seems to be enough time, to do the things you want to do, once you find them,” sang Jim Croce in Time in a Bottle.
I’m not sure what derailed my writing. I definitely have too many projects and not enough time. My wife occasionally calls me “Crazy Old Maurice” (absent-minded inventor from Beauty and the Beast) probably because I’m so scatter-brained and I’m constantly mumbling or humming to myself while frequently losing my glasses, tools, bicycle and so on. One time I even lost my car for a week.
But anyhow, as I get back on the blog track, I want to thank the people who have encouraged me to continue my writing. It means the world to me.
Although I haven’t been posting much, I have been researching and preparing for future blog-related activities. I even purchased some video-editing software and a used camera to enable me to add what I hope will be entertaining and enlightening video clips.
Speaking of cameras, I marvel at how much they’ve changed since I was a contributing photographer for the Washington Times back in the 1980s. Admittedly, I had to run back home and grab my old camera to take photos at Wheatland’s annual Christmas Tree Lighting because I couldn’t figure out how to turn on my new camera’s flash. (In my defense, the reason the young man gave for selling me his camera was, “It’s too complicated”.)
Another project I’ve been working on is a new website that will be taking a satirical and humorous look at the people and groups who support “deprogramming”. I’ve already written several blog posts on this topic and staged a couple of protests against TED Talks for their promotion of faith breaking. People have asked me why I bother, and I have often asked myself the same question.
Admittedly, it’s easy to get discouraged in my David-versus-Goliath confrontation with a popular and well-funded group like TED. However, whenever I feel like giving up, I turn to such inspirational books as Let our Children Go in which retired deprogrammer, Ted Patrick, claims that Unification Church members practice sinister things like on-the-spot hypnosis; or to Diane (“I didn’t know I was with the Moonies”) Benscoter’s “Poor Me” memoir In the Shoes of a Servant where she outlandishly says we believe in talking snakes, Reverend Moon is God and his children are perfect. Such distortions of our beliefs, and who we are, really get my blood boiling. If I don’t do something to expose these libels, who will?
Recently, I took a short drive into the countryside in search of a photo I could use as the background image for my new website. The scene I found of the sun beaming behind magnificent cloud formations while Canadian geese gathered by a rice field nearly took my breath away. Maybe God was trying to tell me something.
As 2015 comes to an end, I sincerely hope that at this time next year we can look back and know that our hearts have grown and we have come to love and appreciate those who are different from ourselves. As a wise woman from the East once said:
“As we stand before God, we are not evaluated by our title or the name of our religion, but by the quality of our hearts.” Hak Ja Han Moon.
In closing, I would like to especially thank my wife for her editing, drawing and continued support. Speaking of her, where is she anyway? Oh no! She’s still down at that rice field. I forgot she got out of the car to go pick some flowers and I must’ve driven off without her. Boy, am I in trouble!
Since I’m heading to Las Vegas for the grand opening celebration of the International Peace Education Center and I’ll also be receiving some spiritual education at a retreat, I won’t have much time to write. So I’d simply like to post a letter I recently wrote to the Appeal-Democrat newspaper in Marysville, California. Thankfully the Appeal-Democrat always prints my letters, no matter how controversial, and for that I am extremely grateful.
Letter to the Editor. Appeal-Democrat, May 18, 2015:
Well over twenty years ago, while living in St. Louis, I tuned in to a Christian radio station and I still remember the amazing testimony I heard that day, of faith, perseverance and ultimate triumph from Vietnam Veteran David Roever. In fact, I was so inspired I would often share his story with others. Years later, after moving back to the Yuba/Sutter area, I read in The Appeal-Democrat that Roever would be speaking at the Calvary Christian Center in Yuba City, and I convinced both of my then teen-aged daughters to join me to hear him speak.
Although I had already heard most of his stories, I still found them humorous and deeply inspirational, as did my daughters. However as Roever’s presentation was coming to a close, he started spewing out anti-Muslim rhetoric and proclaimed, “Our God is better than their God!” Not wanting to hear more of his vitriolic speech, my daughters and I walked out of the sanctuary.
Fortunately, as I visit and write about places of worship throughout the Yuba/Sutter area, I rarely find such backward-thinking attitudes in our diverse community. Hopefully, we are, as Father George Foxworth stated in a recent sermon at Grace Episcopal Church in Wheatland, “…looking to find what we have in common instead of focusing upon things that divide.”
Thank you for visiting my blog and please continue to do so. I’ll have a lot of material to write about once I get back from Vegas. Heck, I even plan to visit a Temple of Goddess Spirituality at Indian Springs, Nevada on my way there. (A certain extreme faction of the Unification movement has been calling my wife and others “post-modern secular goddess-worshiping feminists on a power trip to hell”, so I thought I should do some research. ) Wish me luck.
I’m not sure how I came across that poem by Dylan Thomas to his dying father, but there it was, on my computer screen.
“Rage, rage, against the dying of the light,” was Dylan’s advice to his father. As my own father edges closer to his final time on earth I contemplate the best advice to give him. I doubt he’d listen, but instead of telling him to rage against the dying of the light, I’m wondering if he should embrace it.
I never expected my dad to live to be ninety years old. As a young man he got the tropical disease filariasis while trying to rid the Philippine Islands of the invading Japanese, along with his fellow Marines. Most of his life he smoked, drank and was fond of junk food. He loved Hostess Sno Balls, Danish pastries, sugary cinnamon rolls, fudge and all kinds of candy. In his late 60s he weighed nearly three hundred pounds; but that was before he was diagnosed with colon cancer and also congestive heart failure. He weighs about one-third of that now, but clearly, this cat has more than nine lives.
For over twenty years Dad lived in a single-wide mobile home that was next to his fruit stand in Wheatland, California. I lived nearby and would often check on him. Many times, I would anxiously wait for my dad’s response after I had knocked on his custom-made, not-so-great-at-sliding, Oriented Strand Board (chip-board) door, which replaced the really-not-so-great-at-sliding glass door that crashed into the living-room one day after years of abuse. That OSB door did not look too out of place however, because it matched the OSB “window” at the front of the trailer.
If Dad wouldn’t answer the door I would then grab a small tree branch and walk over to his bedroom window, which was, believe it or not, a real glass window, and start tapping on it. Luckily, he would then wake up and I knew he was still alive.
My wife and I purchased a house in Wheatland which had a small “granny-flat” in the back which we hoped my dad would move into. However, although his trailer was definitely falling apart, he fought the idea for years, but finally moved into the granny-flat on the day a couple of scum-of-the-earth so-called men, staged a trailer-invasion-robbery against my then eighty-year-old father. They pushed him down, held a gun to his head and shouted, “Where’s all the money?!” somehow thinking that peddling tomatoes and cucumbers would yield more than around a hundred dollars for a day’s work.
Sadly, years later, my dad is still super paranoid after that assault, and is often worried that someone will attack him again.
“That robbery took the wind out of my sails. I lost hope in humanity when that happened,” he often says.
Recently I began to feel that the wind of life in my father’s sails has definitely started to fade, especially when he calls us in the middle of the night and talks about people in his bedroom that aren’t there. Or when he tells us that his old friend Dan Pingle stopped by and sold him some tomato plants and that Victor from the trailer park had just visited and that Victor didn’t want to buy any patriotic beans from the cart-pulling bean seller that somehow made it into my dad’s room.
Worried, I often look in on him while he’s lying on his adjustable bed, see his blanket moving with signs of life, and feel relieved that he’s still with us.
A few days ago on April 19, our family celebrated True Parents’ Day, one of the Unification Church’s major holy days. My wife found a suitable quote about parents from the Quran (in World Scripture, a Comparative Anthology of Sacred Texts) and wrote it on the chalkboard in our dining room:
The Lord has decreed . . . that you be kind to your parents. Whether one or both of them attain old age in your lifetime, do not say to them a word of contempt, nor repel them, but address them in terms of honor. And, out of kindness, lower to them the wing of humility, and say, “My Lord! Bestow upon them Thy mercy even as they cherished me in childhood.” Qur’an 17:23.
“I hope our boys read that,” I commented.
“It’s good advice for us too,” my wife clarified.
She’s right, you know. I told myself as I thought about how difficult it had been dealing with my dad that week. Somehow, I’ve got to be more patient with him.
“Call 911,” my brother-in-law, who works as a court-appointed conservator of the elderly, told my sister when she asked him about our dad.
He had taken a turn for the worse and was falling out of his bed, but wouldn’t let my sister and me help him. He’d been having hallucinations, or perhaps he was seeing spirits waiting to take him home with them. My sister phoned 911 and soon around half the population of Wheatland (or so it seemed) showed up to help my dad into the awaiting ambulance.
My dad’s in the hospital now. He’s getting better and may even be coming back home or be taken to a nursing home for some skilled care. My sister was asked by the hospital to set up an Advance Directive to help decide what they should do if our father is incapacitated and can’t make his own decisions regarding end-of-life issues.
“How much effort should the doctors make to keep you alive, even if you’ll remain unconscious?” My sister asked Dad.
“I want them to do everything they can to keep me alive,” he responded.
It looks like he’ll be “raging against the dying of the light” after all. Who am I to suggest otherwise?
“Will you pray for me?” the elderly woman asked somberly as she grasped my hand and her eyes began to water.
“Of course, what would you like me to pray?” I responded.
“I’m afraid my family wants to stick me into an old folks’ home. They think I can’t take care of myself. I’d rather die than move into one of those horrid places.”
I held her hands and we prayed as we stood together outside on the sidewalk near her apartment amongst the small retirement community.
I was often amazed at how someone would open their hearts to me, a complete stranger out hawking candy, flowers, or trinkets for my church. Usually it was an elderly person who would look beyond the unfavorable media portrayal of me as a brainwashed member of the Unification Church, and see me as a sincere young man that loved God and wanted to help people.
When Reverend Moon first came to America he was saddened to see so many elderly people set aside and forgotten in nursing homes. He shared many stories of how wonderful it was to have his grandparents close by while he was growing up in a small village in North Korea. He has also expressed that ideally households should be made up of three generations.
Although my mother died before my children were born, my dad is still around and in the last twenty years he has never stayed more than a block away from our family. For the last few years he has been living with us. It has often been quite difficult taking care of my dad, but I do believe my family has benefited from his presence. It’s especially rewarding to hear my kids defending their grandfather if I complain about him.
Some of my favorite places to visit when I was fundraising for my church were the apartments above shops in the downtown areas of towns and cities.
“You’re the only person that’s knocked on my door in over a year,” the startled elderly woman told me as I stood outside her apartment above a business in a small city in Iowa.
She invited me inside and asked if I would like some lemonade, and when I said yes, she also brought me some cookies. She then shared with me how much she missed her family members who had left Iowa. I didn’t say much but just listened as she talked about her life. I wasn’t in that tidy, memento-filled apartment very long and can’t even remember the stories she shared, but I still remember her kindness. I’m quite sure that I also brought some joy to the little old lady at the top of that lonely staircase.
Sometimes I could spend weeks never hearing a kind word or any shred of encouragement from anyone, so when it did happen it was immensely memorable.
It was late in the evening when I walked up to the gentleman filling up his car at the gas station. I asked him if he could give a couple of church missionaries, me and my friend Tom, a ride to the next small mid-western town. He said he’d love to and soon we were heading down the highway with this kind man and his wife.
We hadn’t gotten very far when we became aware of the siren and flashing red lights of a police cruiser which overtook us and pulled us over.
“Don’t worry,” the officer told our driver, “we’re just after those boys in back.”
“What did they do? Aren’t they missionaries?”
“Yeah, but they’re with a cult, and we don’t want them in our town,” replied the officer.
“But they’re leaving your town!” the Good Samaritan countered as Tom and I were asked by the officer’s deputy to get out of the car.
The police officer, whose uniform consisted of jeans and the word “Police” spelled in glitter across the front of his T-shirt, patted us hardened criminals down and then arrested us. Much to my surprise our driver hung around even though he was told he could leave. Obviously he wasn’t scared of us because he walked up to us and said, “I can still give you guys a ride if you need it.”
“Thank you so much for that offer,” I replied. “I don’t think we’ll need it because it looks like we’ll be spending the night in the local cross-bar-hotel (jail). You’re a good man. God bless you.”
There are so many stories I’d like to share about the elderly people that have touched my life and inspired me but it would take too long. However, I would like to end with a story which still causes me to chuckle. It’s about a decrepit old man sitting in a wheelchair in a convalescent home…
I was traveling on my own throughout the country selling pictures and living out of a van. I would often make my best sales at convalescent homes because the pictures were safe and durable. Often employees at the facilities would also buy. At one of those homes I had set up pictures in the lobby and many people were admiring them, especially the picture of a Siberian tiger. As my potential customers started to comment and ooh and ah about the tiger, an old man who could barely sit up on his own, and looked as if he didn’t have much longer to live, cried out in his crackly voice, “Why’s everybody talking about me?”
British historian Arnold Toynbee made the following observation after studying the world’s civilizations:
“…a society’s quality and durability can best be measured by the respect and care given its elderly citizens”.
We have much to learn from our elders. Hopefully their wisdom and understanding will not go to waste.
“Chink Rink?” No, that can’t be right. Chink Rink?I’m going to have to take a closer look, I told myself as I stopped my car, turned around and then pulled into the parking lot of the skating rink on the outskirts of Pekin, Illinois (reportedly named after the Chinese city of Pekin, which was the common spelling in the 1800’s). Unfortunately, my eyes were not playing tricks on me because there it was: a sign with the words “Chink Rink” and a caricature of a person dressed in Chinese garb wearing roller skates. And it got worse. I would later find out that the Pekin High School mascot was the “Chinks” and that during their homecoming celebrations they would crown the head Chink and Chinkette. http://www.ccamuseum.org/index.php/en/research/research-1900-1949/128-1981-the-pekin-chinks-high-school-team-becomes-the-pekin-dragons
Fortunately, not too long after my visit, the Chinks were renamed the Dragons, in 1981; but unfortunately, America has a shameful history of mistreatment of Asians, which in some instances continues to this day.
I visited Yuba College, my alma mater, on February 19, 2015, to hear two elderly Japanese-American brothers, Jim and Mori Tanimoto, tell their stories of being forced into internment camps as a result of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s signing of Executive Order 9066. That order, signed on February 19, 1942, authorized the incarceration of tens of thousands of American citizens of Japanese ancestry.
Ninety-four year old Mori Tanimoto of Yuba City, California, stood at the podium and read an account of his forced relocation to an internment camp in Tule Lake, California. And even though seventy-plus years have passed since Mr. Tanimoto was incarcerated, I could still hear the anger in his voice when he exclaimed, “I had no freedom! I had no justice!”
Both brothers told stories of camp guards roughly removing them from their internment barracks in the middle of the night, and blinding them with bright spotlights when they went outside. As they struggled to see, the sound of loading weapons pierced the night air.
“I thought we were facing a firing squad and we were all going to be killed”, said Jim Tanimoto. Thankfully nobody was murdered, and it appeared the Camp Commander was just trying to scare them.
Eventually, The U.S. Government recruited many American-born Japanese to form the 442 Regimental Unit. These soldiers fought bravely on the European continent. The 442 combat team received eight Presidential Unit Citations and became the most decorated unit for its size and length of service in the history of American warfare. Despite these accomplishments, when the war ended and New York City held a massive parade to welcome home the troops, the Japanese-American soldiers were made to march last in the parade.
As the war drew to an end, internment centers began to close and Japanese-Americans tried to return to their old ways of life. But for many, their homes and businesses were no longer there. And in many cases they were not welcomed back.
Austin Amson, the managing-secretary of the Salinas Vegetable-Growers and Shippers Association proclaimed in a 1942 issue of the Saturday Day Evening Post, referring to the interned American citizens of Japanese descent, “…we don’t want them back.”
Fortunately not everyone in America shared those negative sentiments. While the war was still raging, aboard the naval destroyer the USS New Mexico, a young Marine was ordered, “Hit him where he’s injured and don’t let him sleep!”
“But I couldn’t do it,” my dad recently told me when he was recollecting his experience of guarding a Japanese kamikaze pilot who survived a suicide attack against the ship.
“I ended up spoon-feeding the guy because he was so injured. At first he wouldn’t eat what I was trying to feed him. Maybe he thought I was trying to poison him. To show it wasn’t poisonous, I ate it too.”
After the war was over, and my dad eventually settled in the Yuba/Sutter region of California, he became close friends with Frank Itano, a Japanese-American who had spent years in an internment camp.
With the exception of my dad complaining about Chinese food because “they don’t cook their vegetables”, or his racial-profiling of Asians who would pull up to his fruit stand in Wheatland, to ask directions to the Thunder Valley Casino (and he would tell them how to get there, even before they asked), for the most part, he really didn’t have too much prejudice against Asians, or anybody else, as far as I could tell.
He always did have a soft spot for the underdog. I guess that’s why he was willing to marry my mother, even though she had tuberculosis. Or why he gave up fur-trapping when a fox had chewed off its leg to free itself. Or why he was always giving produce away to those less fortunate than himself.
Apart from Michael, a Chinese-American who helped me keep the bench warm for the Marysville High School sophomore baseball team, I never really knew any Asians while growing up. However, since I was so shy and quiet, it wasn’t just Asians I didn’t associate with. It was anybody. But that began to change when I eventually moved to Las Vegas to attend college.
Man, I don’t know if I want to live with those Chinese people, I told myself as I left the apartment I had just checked out near the University of Nevada Las Vegas campus. I need a place to stay, but that place smelled a bit funny. It must’ve been that squid or octopus, or whatever that was they were eatin.’ Maybe I’ll have better luck at the next apartment that’s looking for a roommate.
I walked down the stairs, and started to walk away, then suddenly stopped. What’s wrong with you? You shouldn’t be like that! You didn’t even give those people a chance. I turned around, walked back to the apartment and knocked on the door. “I’ll take the room,” I quietly offered, as the unfamiliar cooking smells wafted past me and into the desert air.
“Lots of people came for room, but only you took, how come?” My new roommate asked me after I had moved into the apartment.
“I don’t know. Maybe I was hoping you could teach me how to cook some of that Chinese food I smelled,” I responded.
“That’s not good.”
“I’m terrible cook. My girlfriend was cooking for me. I can’t teach you.” He answered back thinking I was serious.
“Don’t worry, I’m just joking. I can take care of myself. In fact I’m a pretty decent cook. Maybe I can teach you.”
“Instead of cooking, could you help me with English?”
“Yeah, I could do that,” I replied.
As I got to know Li better I learned that his father had been a famous General in China, but when the Communists seized power, he fled to Taiwan with his family.
“Our escape was very dangerous. There were posters everywhere offering a reward for my Father’s capture,” he told me.
Li shared about his life as a young boy growing up relatively privileged in China and how his family lost everything during the Cultural Revolution.
“Many people died. At least we lived,” Li recalled somberly.
Li spent very little time at the apartment since he was working on his PhD in Physics and also taught at the university. Our English lessons primarily consisted of me explaining American slang and what swear words meant.
“What’s shit mean?” Li asked one Sunday morning.
As I proceeded to define one of America’s favorite old swear words, he wrinkled his nose and looked bewildered.
“That doesn’t make sense.” Li remarked.
“Sometimes, when I explain something to my students they say: “You’re shitting me. I’m not doing that to them.”
I chuckled softly as we went on to the next word.
“Why do some people say to me, ‘Don’t be a pussy?’ They don’t want me to be a cat?”
As I began to explain the difference between the feline pet and a part of a woman’s anatomy, I realized that living in this apartment was going to be very interesting. And although teaching a foreigner about swear words may be of dubious merit I was happy to be helping my new Asian friend. However, never in my wildest dreams could I have believed that in less than a year’s time I would be standing in a rundown bar in Seattle, Washington defending a Korean religious leader.
“Joe. Do you want me to punch this f…ing Communist Moonie in the face?” the burly redneck shouted as he cocked back his arm and shouted to the bartender.
“Why you out begging for that Chinese guy from Hawaii?” the scholar slurred.
Since this was the first bar I had ever walked into while fundraising for the Unification Church I was not expecting such a negative and uninformed response.
“You must have us confused with someone else,” I countered. “We hate Communism and Reverend Moon’s from Korea.”
“I don’t give a damn where he’s from. Those gooks are all the same. Get the hell out of here!” the inebriated bar patron shouted as he stood up and another man joined him.
I turned around and quickly headed for the door. As I opened the door, someone pushed me from behind and I tripped on the threshold. Luckily my flower bucket cushioned my fall as I fell onto the cement outside, but most of my flowers were ruined. As I brushed myself off and started to gather up the flowers, I began to doubt if I could continue.
Is it always going to be this tough? Why do people hate us so? I wondered. It just doesn’t make any sense.
I would later realize that much of the negative attitude towards my newly found religion was not simply because we were the new religious kid on the block, but because of the anti-Asian attitude of many Americans.
The racist encounter I experienced inside that bar in Seattle would occur again and again, hundreds if not thousands of times, in various forms, as I continued to work for the Unification Church throughout the years. Even Spider-man joined in the racist mania.
A young man invited me into his home to look at some pictures I was selling and told me to make myself comfortable. I sat down on a couch and when he excused himself for a moment to use the bathroom, I picked up a Spider-man comic book lying on a coffee table and started to read it.
In an obvious spoof of the “God Bless America Festival” held by Reverend Moon at Yankee Stadium to honor America’s 1976 bicentennial anniversary, Spider-man was called upon to save the easily-duped young people of New York when they were held for ransom by the notorious Reverend Egg Foo Yung and his henchmen: 3X Moo Shu Pak, Number 1 son Egg Drop Stoop and Won Ton Dupe. http://www.marvunapp.com/Appendix5/reveggfooyung.htm
Is it unreasonable to assume that if a comic book had vilified someone like, say, Argentina born Luis Palau and portrayed the evangelist as Reverend Em pu nada and his henchmen as Chorizo Sausage Plate and Tortilla Dupe there would have been an outcry? I think not.
As the presentation at Yuba College drew to an end, the current Executive Dean for Yuba College’s Sutter County Center, Walter Masuda, spoke about how his grandparents were forced to live in an undesirable area of San Francisco because of their Japanese heritage.
I may not have been forced to live in an undesirable area of a city, but when Masuda spoke about the tribulations of his grandparents, I thought back to when I was living in New Zealand and a neighbor put his home of over twenty years, up for sale because the “Moonies” had moved in next door.
My neighbor confided in me that he changed his mind after I gave him a bottle of whiskey which a supplier had given me when I was managing a seafood business. Since I didn’t drink, I asked my neighbor if he wanted it.
His eyes lit up as he said, “Yeah, I’d love it. Good on ya.”
Funny how the simple gestures of spoon-feeding your enemy, renting a room or giving away whiskey, can help break down prejudices.
When my dad told me those stories of what it was like to be a Marine aboard the USS New Mexico, he also informed me he had a bottle of Crown Royal whiskey someone had given him months ago for his ninetieth birthday. Since he didn’t want it, he wondered what he should do with it.
“Maybe I should send it to 250 Hudson St., Suite 1002 in New York City,” I commented.
“I was afraid this was going to happen.” I told myself as I began to choke up and my eyes began to water as I looked out into the singing multi-racial crowd packed into Mount Olivet Baptist Church in Olivehurst, California to celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on January 18th, 2015.
“Glory, glory, hallelujah! Glory, glory, hallelujah! Glory, glory, hallelujah! His truth is marchingon.”
The voices of Mormons, Baptists, Episcopalians and Unificationists echoed throughout the small church as the words from Battle Hymn of the Republic rang out.
It was in 2001 when my wife, Maree, first entered Mt. Olivet Baptist Church to play the piano for their church service. Although she had played for many different churches, this was the first time she had ever played in an African-American church and she was nervous, but the warm-hearted reception from the congregation, charismatic preaching and powerful music soon calmed her fears.
Maree, who has played in an assortment of churches throughout the years, realized that many churches sing the same songs, and believed that music could help break down cultural and religious differences. In 2013, she mentioned her dream of a choral festival in honor of Martin Luther King to Mary Capps, wife of Bishop Arlie Capps of the Wheatland Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and to Amanda Johnson, Senior Warden of Grace Episcopal Church in Wheatland; and both were very supportive. Ultimately, in January of 2014, the First Annual Community Choral Festival was hosted at the LDS chapel in Wheatland with Rev. Carl Dorn of Mt. Olivet Baptist Church as the keynote speaker.
Choirs from Rev. Dorn’s church, the local LDS ward and Grace Episcopal Church performed. One especially moving moment during that event was when the Grace Singers started singing the historic Mormon anthem, Come, Come Ye Saints, and the entire congregation joined in, much to the surprise of Bishop Capps. That successful inaugural event paved the way for this year’s celebration at Mt. Olivet Baptist.
Deacon Bill Blackwell of Mt. Olivet asked if I could be the emcee this year. I said yes, but I was worried that I would get too emotional. Sometimes when I think of the past I find it hard to control myself. I still remember when I was attending Marysville High School in the seventies and riot police were at my school because of racial tensions. It is just so sad when God’s children can’t love each other.
I took a deep breath and then joined in the singing. It was such a happy occasion and I’m sure Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would have been glad to see such a diverse group worshiping together and singing praises to God.
Good food, fellowship, hospitality, praise dancing, singing, poetry and a great message of God’s love for his children from LDS guest speaker Arlie Capps made for a truly awesome event. I even heard the emcee did just fine. Whereas the first year, three churches were represented; this year there were five. Next year, I believe we’ll need an even bigger venue as we work towards Dr. King’s dream that all “God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, ‘Free at last! Free at last! Thank God almighty, we’re free at last!’”
It’s amazing how music and fellowship can help break down barriers and misunderstandings. Maybe TED could even put together a choir made up of the people I write about in my Tiff with TED blog posts and join us next year. If they do, I just might have to forgive them for their intolerance of the past.
The Appeal-Democrat published an article about the event on their front page. To read that article and see more photos visit:
“……kill myself…..” I’m not sure what I would have done with that book if I hadn’t noticed those words. I probably would have thrown it in the garbage.
It had fallen between the counter and refrigerator; it was someone’s diary. When I moved the refrigerator in the recently-vacated house to work on it (part of my job at Beale Air Force Base military housing), I picked it up. The diary fell open to where a page was wrinkled, perhaps by the dampness of the unknown writer’s tears. Much of the content was smudged, but the words, “kill myself”, clearly stood out. My heart sank as I struggled to read the tear-stained page. The author of the diary wanted to kill herself because her husband was in their bedroom looking at pornography and pleasuring himself. She believed that her husband loved the images on his computer more than he loved her. How sad, I thought. I closed the book, put it in my service truck and later arranged for it to be given to a chaplain.
Licensed marriage and family therapist Kevin B. Skinner, Ph.D., author of Treating Pornography Addiction: The Essential Tools for Recovery, wrote in the December 12, 2011 issue of PsychologyToday:
“My heart hurts for individuals caught in the web of pornography. When you see grown men crying in your office because they can’t quit and when they tell you that porn is costing them everything, you quickly realize that pornography is not just a leisurely activity. Then, when you meet a woman who feels rejected, not good enough, and unloved by her partner because of porn, you want to change something about the way things are being done.”
On September 19th, 2014, my wife and I attended a presentation given by former pornography producer, Donny Pauling, at Saint Isidore’s Catholic Church in Yuba City, California. Pauling, who travels the world, sharing his testimony about how he was transformed from porno-promoter to porno-opponent, tells a heartfelt story of experiencing God and finding the strength to abandon the allure of riches for a higher calling.
Pauling began his talk with some disturbing statistics which showed how pornography is adversely affecting marriages, intimacy, and our young people. To hear that 56% of the divorces in America are primarily related to pornography addictions was especially alarming. (More statistics concerning the destructive effects of pornography can be found on Pauling’s website: www.donnyPauling.net.)
Pauling credits XXXChurch, a ministry dedicated to liberating men and women from the sex trade and porn addiction, for helping him to walk away from the industry. www.XXXChurch.com
Screams of agony until they get the scene right, young women curled up in fetal positions sucking their thumbs after their performances, genital warts, herpes, surgeries required to repair sexual organs and men acting “gay for pay” are just some of the ugly truths of the sex industry that are normally hidden from the public, according to Pauling.
Pauling has contacted many of his former employees to apologize for getting them involved in the porn industry. Many have accepted his apologies, but many haven’t. He pointed out, “You know, I recruited over five hundred girls to work for me and not one has ever called to thank me for getting them involved in the sex trade.”
However, he has been contacted by several women pleading and begging him to help get their sexually explicit images off the internet.
One of those women, who only worked two days in the porn business, had to give up her life-long dream of becoming a police officer. She was kicked out of the police academy after her pornographic images were discovered during a background check.
A father anonymously receiving an envelope containing incriminating images of his daughter; a member of the military worried that her career could be over if her past activity were to be discovered; a newly-engaged woman whose fiancé took back his marriage proposal after her secret history was brought to his attention; these and many other tragic stories were shared by Pauling that Friday evening.
As I sat in the pew with my wife, in this (unfortunately) sparsely-attended event, I wondered what it must have been like to hear the testimony of John Newton, the former slave-trader who wrote the hymn, “Amazing Grace”, after he became an Anglican priest.
In 1778, many years after giving up the slave trade, Newton published the popular pamphlet, “Thoughts Upon the Slave Trade”, in which he wrote:
“It will always be a subject of humiliating reflection to me, that I was once an active instrument in a business at which my heart now shudders.”
John Newton and Donny Pauling are truly brave and honorable men. If more brave and honorable men would simply refuse to consume pornography, could we then put an end to this soul-destroying industry once and for all?