Thursday, March 29, 2012

Confessions of an Idol Worshiper

Here I am at 62 yrs of age and I have to confess that I have been an "idol worshiper." I have worshiped worship. Having grown up in the Pentecostal tradition, and living in the South where everything is "Baptist," I go to church and I am bored. I'm not bored with just Baptist churches, but I'm bored with church in general. What is wrong with me? I have been raised to have all the answers but what is the answer for the state of my soul at this point in time?

In the past, I have been guilty of worshiping worship. I have led churches where "worship" is the be all and end all--and at times, I realized that we were all worshiping "worship." I have prided myself on having the best worship band, best worship leader, and devoting 30-min or more to awesome, dynamic worship. So, what is the problem? What's wrong with all this?

The problem is simply that I and many others have fallen prey to worshiping worship, to getting into the zone and feeling good, but failing miserably at worshiping the Almighty God. Worship became an idol because I found that I could "worship" God and still remain on the throne of my life. That's the problem: I was still in control of my life.

Who is on the throne of your life?
Romans 12:1 (ESV)
1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
Worship is a spiritual endeavor. Maybe that's why many churchgoers walk in half-way through the worship service, because our flesh HATES worship. Our flesh rebels at the act of worshiping Almighty God. Even unbelievers can enjoy a sermon and find something of value in it, but if they are confronted with real worship, they feel great discomfort because authentic worship doesn't appeal to our flesh, but rather to our spirit.

If we are going to offer true worship & praise to El Shaddai (Almighty God), we must begin by presenting ourselves to Him as a living sacrifice. 

My eyes were opened to the fact that I was on the throne of my life and that was keeping me from entering into real worship. The starting point for worshiping God is to humbly come before Him with a heart attitude that says "Here I am Lord. Whatever you want me to do, wherever you want me to go, whatever you want to do in my life, Lord, have you way." That's the starting point to worshiping God. A "living sacrifice" has NO will of his own.

I'll continue these thoughts in my next post. But before you leave, check out this humorous but powerful video, "Sunday's Coming"--a spoof on how we approach worship in many of our "contemporary" churches today. (if you're reading this as an email, for some reason the video doesn't work. Go to my blog site to watch this video. This video is a must see! )

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

My Take on Ezra: The Hard Work of Worship

I’ve been reading the book of Ezra, in the Old Testament and of course, the Hebrew Bible.

The Book of Ezra opens with a decree of Cyrus (king of Persia) which permitted the Jews to return to Judah to rebuild the Jerusalem temple (Ezra 1:1-11). Isaiah, the prophet, prophesied about 300 yrs earlier that a king named Cyrus would fulfill God’s will and allow the Jews to go home to Jerusalem and sure enough, three centuries later, God puts the idea into Cyrus' head to let the Jews return to build the Temple.

Once again, we see God providentially at work behind the scenes orchestrating His will and good pleasure. He's been doing this from the very beginning and He's doing it where you live and work right now as well.

Even though Cyrus the Great allows the Jews to return to Jerusalem, not everyone packs up and leaves. In fact, very few do, and those who ultimately return don’t do it all at once. Most of the Jews in Persia are well-established having been there for over 60 yrs. already. Many followed Jeremiah’s advice and bought property in Babylon and settled down.

The Jews who decide to return to Jerusalem do so ultimately under the leadership of Sheshbbazzar and this first group doesn’t seem to have been very large. But they had the financial backing of those who remained in Babylon. It seems that Sheshbazzar and his fellow returnees began laying the foundations of the Temple (Ezra 5:16).

Eighteen years later, Zerubbabel, the grandson of Jehoiachin, king of Judah, arrives in Jerusalem (520BC) with 42,360 Jewish returnees to rebuild the Temple. They start by rebuilding the central altar, which allows them to offer sacrifices to God. They then begin work on the Temple itself. When the foundation is laid, most of the people shout for joy. However, those familiar with the first Temple see the diminished size of the new foundation and they weep out of sadness, realizing that this Temple will in no way compare to Solomon’s glorious structure.

The Bible says that only those whose hearts were moved turned their hearts toward home, and that number was 42,360. The rest of the Jews had grown comfortable. Why go back and face such hardship? Only those upon whose hearts God moved were willing to make the commitment. And their desire was to get back to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple which was their central focus of worship where sacrifices and offerings to the one true God would be offered once again and where God would dwell in the midst of his people.

In reading Ezra, I've been struck at the importance of worship in the lives of these Jewish exiles.  Here they had spent 70 yrs in captivity and even though they were treated well and had a comfortable lifestyle, their hearts were drawn back to Jerusalem for one reason: to rebuild the Temple and to worship Yahweh.

Worship is what it’s all about, and sadly, it’s the hardest part of being a Christian. To truly worship God is work. It’s a sacrifice and we seldom do it. Even at many of our Sunday worship services in churches across America, I doubt that God is truly worshipped. We sing three or four hymns and think we’ve given God His due but in reality, we’re just going through the motions. Real worship is life-transforming. Real worship leaves you in awe. Real worship brings God’s presence into the picture and when He shows up, who knows what will happen? We could speak in tongues, or spend hours praising His name, or fall on our faces in silence. One thing is for certain, when God shows up, we aren’t checking our watches wondering if we’ll get to our favorite restaurant before the church crowd shows up.

Jesus speaking to the Samaritan woman said this:
23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:23-24 ESV)

Worship is a big deal with God. I’ll continue this in my next post.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Why We Couldn't Build The Golden Gate Bridge Today

Here's what President Obama has said about China:
"China is making investments in the future...they're making investments in infrastructure...we USED to  have the best infrastructure in the world...had the best roads, the best airports, the best ports, the best highways, the best internet service, now we're second, we're third, we're fifteenth, we're twenty-first, we can't win that way...listen, Abraham Lincoln helped build the  intercontinental railroad in the middle of the Civil War..." 
Golden Gate Bridge, built in 4 yrs (1933-1937)
Once again, we have the President of the United States "running down" the U.S. in comparison to China. 

I believe in American exceptionalism. I believe in American ingenuity--just look at Apple and the new iPad. I believe that we can do whatever we set our minds to do as a nation.
  • We built the Golden Gate Bridge in just over 4 yrs (from 1933-1937) and 11 men died during its construction.
  • We built the Hoover Dam in five years (1930-1935) and an estimated 112 deaths occurred which included a drowning as well as heat-related deaths. The Hoover Dam provides water to over 25-million people in the Southwest.
  • The Panama Canal was built in 10 yrs (from 1904-1914).
  • The Brooklyn Bridge was built in 13 yrs. At the time, it was the longest suspension bridge in the world (from 1870-1883).
Hoover Dam, built in 5 yrs (from 1930 - 1935)
But, having said that, here's why we could not accomplish these same feats today in the same amount of time, and why China can run circles around us as far as building bridges, highways, etc.:
  1. EPA (The Environmental Protection Agency)
  2. ESA (The Endangered Species' Act)
  3. Army Core of Engineers
  4. Labor Unions
  5. Federal regulations (otherwise known as "red tape")
  6. OSHA (Occupational, Safety, Health Administration)
These are the 6 culprits which comprise the reason why we CANNOT compete with the Chinese. 

Panama Canal built in 10 yrs (from 1904 - 1914)
We could NOT build the Golden Gate Bridge now in less than 30 yrs because of regulations, required studies, endangered species, labor unions. Again, the Golden Gate Bridge in all probability could NOT be built today because it would be cost prohibitive due to federal & state regulations. Also, it would be studied to death by the Army Core of Engineers and if there happened to be a nest of endangered eagles at the proposed site, the entire project would have to be relocated (like how are you going to relocate a bridge. It needs to cross exactly where it has been planned).

Brooklyn Bridge built in 13 yrs. (1870-1883)
The Hoover Dam could NOT be built today because of endangered species act, the Army Core of Engineers (a bunch of environmental-whackos) who care more about endangered fish, snails, rats, owls than they do about the progress and well-being of our nation, and the added expense of union labor along with thousands of pages of regulations which would make this cost-prohibitive. Also, the moment one person was killed or seriously injured, the entire project would be shut down for safety evaluations and fines. 

So keep all this in mind the next time you hear our President praising China and deriding America as second, third, or fifteenth to the rest of the world in its infrastructure.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

On the eve of St. Patrick's Day, Ireland needs another Patrick.

What is the saddest, most tragic aspect of the Industrial School abuse of children is this--that it was done under the guise of Christianity. Children, often as young as a few months of age were taken from their parents by the Irish government in collusion with the Catholic Church. It was portrayed as a loving act of charity, but there was NO love at all, certainly nothing that would mirror the love of Christ.
From the mid-1880s until the early 1970s thousands of Irish children officially in the care of the state were subjected to a double regime of sexual abuse and wageless slavery. Ireland's notorious industrial schools and orphanages--all run by Catholic orders--were homes to boys and girls who had been officially declared criminals by the courts.

Some children were even sent to these institutions simply because their parents had split up: one-parent families, usually held together by abandoned wives, were regarded with suspicion in post-independence conservative Catholic Ireland.

In these Industrial Schools, you had priests and nuns representing  Christ to these children--and these adults would beat, torture and physically abuse to such an extent that some children sought suicide as their only means of escape. Others were beaten to death or allowed to become so sick without any medical treatment that they ultimately died.

The Ryan Commission has sought to investigate allegations of child abuse. But, following this lengthy inquiry, there have been NO criminal prosecutions brought against the abusers or against those in the hierarchy of the church … complicit in the brutal crimes against innocent children.

It is unlikely that officials from any government department will ever be held accountable having presided over an illegal, cruel and wicked system that led to untold suffering for tens of thousands of innocent Irish children and their families since the foundation of the state.

Here's what I want to know? How can the Catholic Church claim to be the representative of Jesus Christ here on earth when it endorses, fosters and is totally complicit in this kind of abuse and not just in Ireland, but Scotland, Wales, England, Canada, Australia and the United States. When the Catholic Church is confronted with its dirty laundry, instead of confessing its sins and asking the victims for forgiveness, the Catholic Church hides behind lawyers and legalese. When the clergy scandal was exposed by the Boston Globe, instead of coming clean, confessing its sins and humbly asking for the forgiveness of each of the victims abused by its priests, the Catholic Church brought out a battery of lawyers in an attempt to stonewall the issue and in effect treating the victims as "enemies" of the Church. There is nothing godly or holy about the Catholic Church in how it has responded to what the UK Guardian newspaper calls a "cruel and wicked system." 

Matthew 18:6 says, "But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea." How many children who were abused by the Catholic Church in Ireland, Scotland, Wales, England, Canada, Australia and the United States are now grown men and women who no longer believe in Christ. They no longer look to the Church. They have lost their faith and their hearts have become hardened towards God. Why? Because of the Catholic Church. I believe the Catholic Church  will stand in heavy judgment by God for the destruction of the faith of countless thousands upon thousands of men and women--all because they did not operate out of love and mercy.

Last of all, tomorrow is St. Patrick's Day and the irony is that Patrick brought the Gospel to Ireland in the early part of the 5th century. This is a shameless promotion for my wife's book, A Secret Hope, which you can get at This is her first novel and it's historical fiction and very accurate in every detail. Go get a copy and if you like it, tell others about it as well. But my point in bringing up St. Patrick, as we honor him this coming Saturday at every pub and bar in America, Britain, Ireland and elsewhere is this: Ireland needs another St. Patrick. The Irish people are filled with shame (because so many were complicit or silent while this abuse took place), and the Irish people are filled with anger at the Catholic Church, and rightly so. They've turned their back on the Catholic Church, and rightly so, but at the same time, they've turned their backs on God. The people of Ireland need to hear about the love and mercy of God. They need to hear about his compassion and his goodness. They need to know from the Scriptures that Our Lord Jesus Christ is nothing like the Catholic Church in Ireland or the United States. They need to know that God hates the sin and wickedness that so many have experienced in these Industrial Schools or at the hands of priests here in the United States.

Pray for the people of Ireland. Pray for God to send evangelists to Ireland to proclaim his love and forgiveness to them. They need to be forgiven. They need to also forgive those who have perpetrated this evil against them and members of their families. They need healing and restoration from the pain and suffering that they've experienced or members of their family tree. They need to hear the Good News that Jesus suffered on the cross at Calvary and rose from the grave so that they could have a relationship with the Father. Pray that the people of Ireland will have open hearts to receive this message even as they did 1600 yrs ago when Patrick was guided by a God-given vision to return to Ireland proclaiming God's love and acceptance.                                     

Monday, March 12, 2012

Ireland's Industrial Schools: In many cases, the farm animals ate better than the children

The more you read about the Irish Industrial Schools, the more you realize that the state was complicit along with the Catholic Church in the torture and abuse of thousands of boys and girls. Also, even though some of what took place behind the walls of these institutions was known by the local citizens, there was a deafening silence. No one said or did anything. No one spoke up on behalf of these children. Many of the industrial schools were nothing more than forced labor camps. Here are some recollections from former students at these industrial schools, and what you read here is not even the most horrific of stories offered by survivors.

Here is Marion's story. She was at the Sisters of Mercy (St. Joseph's Industrial School) in Athlone from 1937-1954:
"I remember a girl who had to get her appendix out. When she came back from the hospital, she was supposed to rest. But the nuns made her get up to do work. This was before antibiotics or anything to keep the infection away. A few days after they forced her to get up, she died. She was a lovely girl, and she was only fifteen years old."
Margaret's story from the same school run by Sisters of Mercy:
"From the time we were four or five, we had to work on the farm. During the summer, they took our shoes off us and we went barefoot...we had to go into fields, walking on the stubble in our bare feet, to turn hay with our hands. And our feet used to get cut to ribbons. When we got back to the convent, the floor would be covered in blood from our feet. The nun would pick out some of us to beat, saying it was our fault. I remember the hunger. We were always starved. When we were out for walks, we'd eat weeds...we'd fight over these weeds, we were so hungry."
Several survivors recall that Christmas and Easter were the only times that anything was different. The children were given presents, but they had to give them back the next day.

If an orphanage had a farm, the priests and nuns would have eggs and bacon for breakfast while the children were forced to eat out of the pig's bucket. One survivor noted that the pigs and farm animals ate better than the children.

A common theme is that these industrial schools would take in brothers and sisters and separate them so that they may go for the next twelve years or longer and never have any contact with their family members. It was forbidden. If they passed one another in the hall, they would receive a beating if they even tried to communicate with one another. Often, they were given numbers and in many cases, didn't even remember their birth name because all they knew was a number. Most didn't even know when their birthday was because it was never celebrated.

Martin McMahon (St. Joseph's Industrial School) in Ferryhouse, Clonmel from 1955-1966 recalls:
"They beat me for wetting the bed (a common theme)--They'd hit me with a stick or a strap and force me under cold showers, every single morning for six years. They'd never let me see the film (movies) on Saturdays as punishment--I'd get a cold shower and be sent to bed. At least fifty of us wet the bed. If your clothes were torn or dirty, you'd be beaten. In the dormitories, if one lad did something, like if they found a book under a mattress, they'd beat every boy in the dormitory. It was just endless--beating, beating, all the time."
When boys or girls would age out at 16 or 18 yrs of age, they often had little or no education, in many cases could not even read or write and did not know anything about their rights. Very often, under an arrangement between the school and local farmers, many were under-fed and had to work from dawn to dusk and then were forced to sleep in the barn at nights. In many situations, they received no pay at all. What many of them experienced was virtual slavery in some cases, working from 6am until midnight.

Some girls who were fortunate enough to be sent to a school for secondary education, were forced at the end of the day to clean all the classrooms, required to mop all the floors, clean all the toilets, every day, and for no pay, along with trying to study for classes and get homework done.

I'll finish up this series on Friday with a few closing thoughts.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The 5 Myths Surrounding the Industrial School Movement

What you need to know about the Industrial School Movement in Ireland is that it was fueled by an intense competition between several Catholic religious orders and the Protestant Church. The Catholic Church used their influence with police and judges to "enslave" as many children as possible in their Industrial Schools so their "souls could be saved" and they could be raised as good Catholics. But what has happened instead is that many in Ireland today are no longer "good" Catholics and there is a deep-seated bitterness and anger against the Catholic Church of Ireland. Most Irish know or have relatives who were incarcerated into the Industrial Schools where they were treated as "free" slave labor and in most instances, treated worse than farm animals.

In an attempt to rewrite Irish history, the Irish Catholic Church has stated that if it were not for their Industrial Schools, thousands of Irish children would've starved and gone without any education. In reality, most of those in the Catholic Industrial Schools were subjected to real starvation and most received little if any education.

Here are some myths that have been perpetuated by the religious orders which ran these Industrial Schools (from the book: "Suffer the Little Children: The Inside Story of Ireland's Industrial Schools by Mary Raftery"):

  1. The first and most pervasive myth was that the children within the system were objects of charity, cared for by the Catholic Church of Ireland when no one else would do so. The children themselves were repeatedly told by their religious keepers that were it not for the charity of the Catholic Church, they would have been left on the side of the road, abandoned and starving

The Artane Industrial School

However, it was a fallacy. Even though these Industrial Schools received funding from State-funding to clothe and feed and educate each child, most children suffered material deprivation. The charity myth was useful because it served to explain away the thin and ragged appearance of the children in industrial schools.

  1. The second myth is that these institutions were orphanages. The reality is that thousands of children were detained in a State-funded system, essentially because their parents were poor. In Ireland, it was the state policy to remove children from their families under the guise of providing a more loving, caring environment. The reality is that these children provided free slave labor and in most cases were starved, beaten, even to the point of death by nuns and priests.

  1. The third myth is that these schools were populated mostly with children who were on the path to becoming criminals. In reality, only a small proportion of these children had any criminal conviction, and even then, in most cases, their criminal conviction consisted of stealing a couple of apples because of hunger. The vast number of boys and girls in these Catholic schools were there because their parents were poor.

  1. Another myth that persists even to this day is that nobody knew about the suffering of the children in these institutions. There is evidence that there was clear popular knowledge of the existence of a punitive and incarceral system for children. In every part of Ireland, people remember how as children, they were threatened with specific industrial schools. The threat was made in the knowledge that these were highly unpleasant places to be. Many Irish people knew that Irish children could be and often were locked up and punished.

  1. The final myth is the "bad apple" theory. This holds that in every group of people, there will always be one or two who behave reprehensibly, and that this should in no way detract from the good works undertaken by others. Furthermore, it is argued that the Catholic Church is no different than any other area of life.

While this is true, most of the religious orders in Ireland which were supposed to represent Christ and his tender love and compassion--you had men and women who represented Jesus in caring for these children, and it was under their religious care that these children were savagely beaten with extraordinary levels of cruelty. Very large numbers of the boys in particular were sexually abused and raped by male members of these Catholic orders.

It is undoubtedly the case that by no means all nuns or Brothers within these Catholic institutions were cruel to the child detainees. However, it is also true that those who did not either beat or abuse children did not stand in the way of the often sadistic excesses of their fellow religious.

In my next post, some stories of survivors from the Industrial Schools. I'll warn you ahead of time, this post will be R-rated.

Monday, March 5, 2012

The Irish Gulag: How Ireland & the Church Betrayed Its Innocent Children

It's been called "The Irish Holocaust" and "The Irish Gulag." This is the first in a 4-part series on the Irish Industrial Schools. 

About ten years ago, a friend in Rotary gave me a book on this subject. She was Irish and had strong feelings of hatred and resentment toward the Catholic Church. What she had read and knew about the Industrial Schools in Ireland has soured her on the Church as well as Christianity. As I have read about what transpired at these industrial schools, I was confronted with such unspeakable horror and evil that is reminiscent of the German concentration camps for the Jews in WWII.
However, what makes this even worse is that these industrial schools were run by Catholic priests and nuns, totally sanctioned by the Catholic Church. Ireland has the notorious distinction of having the greatest number of cases of children who were beaten, tortured and abused in a government and church sanctioned system that began in 1862 and 1990. Similar  abuse occurred at industrial schools in England, Scotland, Australia, Canada and the United States. In every case, these schools were run under the auspices of the Catholic Church.

It is estimated that about 130,000 children were committed to industrial schools in Ireland alone between 1868 and 1990. On May 20, 2009, the (Irish) Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse released its findings. The five-volume, 2,600-page report is a catalog of horrors, describing "endemic sexual abuse" at boys' institutions and the "daily terror" of physical abuse experienced by the estimated 130,000 Irish children who were sent to them. The report lists the sexual, physical and emotional abuse—including rape, molestation and severe beatings inflicted on children in about 100 so-called industrial schools in Ireland.

Future posts will debunk the myths that are associated with the industrial schools, some personal accounts from the victims of this systematic abuse, some who triumphed in the face of trauma and some who didn't. Finally, the concluding post in this series will be an attempt to understand how this dark evil is endemic to the Catholic Church in Ireland as well as here in the U.S. with the sexual abuse scandal which was uncovered in the 1990s by the Boston Globe. How does the Catholic Church respond when it is confronted with these unspeakable horrors. I'll cite the Church's "own words" as to how it answers the charges made by the surviving victims and their families. Before you go, take time to view the video: "Four Walls, One Faith, No Identity" with scenes from the movie: "Song for a Raggy Boy." 

Friday, March 2, 2012

Obama's Energy Chief Wants Your Gas Prices To Go Up!!

I doubt that you've heard this because most of the media has kept it under wraps. Earlier this week, Steven Chu, the Nobel Prize-winning energy chief  for Obama was asked if the White House wanted to keep gas prices high. Chu said "Yes!" and he said it before a congressional committee.  He said they liked the prospect of high gasoline prices because if furthers the development of alternative fuels. 
Whatever you're paying at the pump is of NO concern for Steven Chu and the Obama White House. He told Congress this week that his goal is not to get the price of gasoline to go down. Did you get that? Obama's head of Energy says the high gas prices is not even a concern to him.  
According to Obama's head of the Energy Dept., our goal is NOT to decrease our dependency on oil. We're not going to "ok" the XL Pipeline from Canada and we're not going to drill for oil in Alaska, nor are we going to lift the drilling moratoriums in the Gulf or on the east or west coasts. Why? Because according to Chu, we don't want more oil. We don't want an oil-based economy. We want you using wind or solar-powered energy. 
But, don't worry, Obama shares your pain. Last night, he was at a glitzy New York City fundraiser where admission was $38,500 per person and 80 were present at an upscale Manhattan restaurant. Well, maybe he didn't feel your pain last night, but I'm sure he's going to feel your pain this weekend when he fills up his gas tank. Oh...I'm sorry...he doesn't drive? He never stops at a gas station. But he says he feels your pain. I hope  his pain doesn't keep him from missing any fundraisers. I for one would hate to see that.