Oct 052018

The past is a hard road to travel

past road

This week has been the most difficult week I have experienced in many years. It is the combination of dealing with my health issues, the burden of feeling like I have let others down, and the constant barrage of bad news. It has also been a week of confronting my past and issues I thought I had worked through already.

I am a survivor of physical, mental and sexual abuse. And the constant news concerning a certain Supreme Court nominee has left me feeling raw. I understand how it feels to be marginalized and ignored. It happened to me when I tried to speak out against my rapists. Yes, two of them. Statistically, a person is more likely to be raped more than once in their life. Rapists can sense the vulnerability of someone, especially someone who was raped before.

As a child, when I reported to my parents and grandparents that my cousin was raping me, I needed their support, comfort and assurances that they would stop him. Instead, I was called a liar. I was forced to spend more time with him. And this gave him all the more access to abuse me. He sits in prison for other reasons today.

This is why it is so frustrating when I see people making jokes about those who put their lives, careers, and families on the line to speak out about their abuse. It hurts me very deeply because it puts me back in my grandmother’s living room being told that I was trying to ruin my cousins life, I was lying, and I needed to apologize to him. That is a trauma that I may never fully move past.

As a society, we have to do better than this. I have seen Doctors, Nurses, Physicians Assistants and others who are sometimes the first person a victim discloses to joke about sexual abuse. I have seen them belittle survivors and glorify the abusers. And that has to stop! We should be better than this.

We need to learn to embrace the victims. It is our job to give them a safe place to disclose their trauma, a place where they can get help and be heard. They need our love and support. Without it, many victims either self medicate with drugs and alcohol, or worse, they try and sometimes succeed in killing themselves. I know, I tried to kill myself as a teenager.

It would take me years to finally disclose all the abuse I suffered from my cousin, my mother, and many, many others. It has been liberating, painful, and difficult to deal with all the emotions surrounding those events. Thankfully, I have a great therapist who is helping me work through those issues. And I feel more at peace today than I ever have in my past.

I beg of you and all of society, please stop being so mean. Stop vilifying the victims. Be a force for good and love those around you. Because the very soul of our nation, the very soul of world, depends on it.

At Saint Francis, we are committed to being a safe place for those who are hurt, ignored, abused, mistreated, and marginalized. As Pastor, I am committed to defending each and every person who walks through our doors. And I will be there to listen, provide support and prayer, and if need be, help you find the professional help you need to work through any trauma you have suffered.

It is not an easy journey, but it is one I have traveled myself.

Remember, I believe you. God loves you, and so do we.

Sep 222018

My son’s hard lesson

hard lesson

People can be cruel sometimes. My son works hard at everything he does and despite that, there are people his age who work to make him feel like crap. They bully and harass him routinely and make he not want to engage in the activities that he once loved. The hard lesson in this is that this kind of behavior happens in the world all the time.

We have to learn that we are worth more than those people think of us. We are worth being treated right. And yes, sometimes that means stepping away from those people if they choose to continue to act that way toward us. We have to respect ourselves enough to avoid those people who do not respect us.

My son will be speaking with those people who can hopefully help him Monday. I encouraged him to speak to those in authority and to explain how he feels. The first step to healing is identifying those emotions that we are feeling about the situations around us. Then we decide how to deal with those emotions. That may be discussing it with the people who have hurt us, going to someone in authority and asking for their help, or deciding that we need to walk away from the people or groups that are causing us this pain.

It is never wrong if we find that we cannot continue to give those people a chance to harm us. In fact, it is very healthy to consider our own health and healing from time to time.

And yes, we all need to support those who are dealing with those types of toxic situations. It is not easy to identify those situations and to work through them. But we can be the force that is the difference between life and death for someone in those situation.

And that my friends, is what being Christ in the world is all about.

Sep 142018

The struggle in the face of hate

struggle

I wake up every day and struggle to do the best I can to help as many people as I can. It is not an easy task. And with my health issues, it makes it very difficult sometimes to continue on. And this week, my family and I suffered a vicious attack by a former friend that made me question why I even try to help people.

Indulge me for a moment, please. Like Saint Paul (2 Corinthians 11:16-33), I am want to take a moment to talk about what I have done and what I have gone through. I was abused as a child by my mother, raped by my cousin and later by a friend and his wife. I have been thrown out of several churches, had clergy leave me because I expected them to be ethical. I was disowned by my family because of who I loved. As a teenager, I was accused of things I did not do because I saw a police officer with his mistress and I went to church with him and his wife (eventually the charges were dropped and he was removed from law enforcement for what he did). I was detained by the police at the direction of a Roman Catholic Priest because he swore I was crazy and a threat to myself and others because Old Catholics did not exist. I have been lied to, lied about, cursed, mistreated and thrown away more times than I can count.

I have diabetes and arthritis in my spine, neck and hands. I have had at least 4 cardiac episodes that no doctor can agree on whether they were heart attacks, cardiac arrests or something else. On a scale of 1 to 10, I deal with a 7 to 9 level of pain every single day. I have reoccurring MRSA infections stemming from my heat stroke almost 6 years ago at the Augusta Pride event. I have PTSD and depression that sometimes tries to cripple me. As a teenager, I tried to kill myself. The person who saved me, who I admired, tried to sexually molest and abuse me.

I get up every morning and I work with the church. I am the Presiding Bishop of our National Church, Bishop of the local diocese, and Pastor here at Saint Francis. I volunteer my free time to helping the High School Band program. I worked concessions and now I am the booster president. I am the President of one of the local Amateur Radio Clubs. I am the founder and sometimes the sole volunteer at the High School Amateur Radio Club. I work with the Red Cross, Medical Reserve Corp, SC AUXCOM, Amateur Radio Emergency Service, American Radio Relay League, just to name a few.  I fight to get the kids everything they need and sometimes what they want from the local school district. I work with the Progressive Religious Coalition. I spend every waking moment helping others, sometimes at the expense of my own health. As the hurricane approaches this weekend, my son and I will be going to the County EOC to help with communications.

The attack on my family and myself this week made me wonder for a moment why I try to help people at all. The person called into question whether or not I was really a Christian. Another person made the comment that just because I dress the part doesn’t make me one. A local Episcopalian Ministry Team member chimed in and applauded their attacks of me. Many of those applauding do not even know me!

All these attacks started because I said that the Governor of South Carolina was wrong to leave prisoners locked in a cement cage directly in the path of a major hurricane. It stemmed from the fact that they believed they should remain there and if they died, it was no great loss. I was defending the lives of the prisoners and they did not like that.

I say all this to get to my greater point. It is not about what I do or don’t do. It is not even about whether I am their idea of a perfect Christian or Pastor. What it is all about it not judging people based on snippets of information. It is about looking at the entirety of their lives not just their mistakes or shortcomings. Otherwise, there would not be a single person worthy to stand before God and enter heaven.

I will have a lot of things to answer for when I stand before God. But so will we all. Rather than judging each other and looking for ways to tear others down, maybe we should be looking for ways to build others up. Maybe we should be looking for ways to help others instead of criticizing those who are. It is time that we change our way of living and interacting with others.

Be a force for positive change, not a destructive force.

Sep 072018

Illnesses and the path to healing

illness

I found myself rather ill this week. It happens every year during the first few weeks of the new school year. My son tends to bring home something from the students at school. As a dear friend of mine says, I am at the point where I am afraid I might survive this illness!

Illnesses have a way of helping us to put life in perspective. This week I was reminded of someone I once trusted and thought was a dear friend. What I learned over time was that they did not respect me nor did they care about me. They made fun of my weight, my walk, and the way I talked. These people belittled me routinely both behind my back and to my face, and worked to keep me submissive to them. They routinely let me know how stupid they thought I was and that I was never going to be anything but a failure. This was the same type of behavior my own mother engaged in for decades. And I was conditioned to accept this as normal. The pain it caused me was comfortable and was a known quantity.

I suffered in silence for several years. It became second nature after a while. But my silence only hurt me further and allowed them to have power over me. My silence enabled them to continue to make fun of me, bully me and make me feel like I was stupid and inadequate. I continue to struggle with the emotional damage they caused to this day. This emotional damage ended up causing some physical damage as well.

One of the ways I coped was to rely on self-deprecating humor about myself. I am working to stop that pattern of abusing myself emotionally. I am starting to accept the limitations I have in my life because of my health. But it is a long process.

If you are struggling with this type of emotional abuse, I can tell you that it is not an easy path toward healing. It takes time and the support of a supportive community of people around you. Thankfully, I have a dear brother in Wisconsin and one in Flourtown, PA that are helping me on my journey. My wife and son also help to provide support on this journey. It is hard on all of them I am sure. But they continue to help me and support my journey. I cannot thank them enough for all their support.

As you journey toward emotional and mental healing, you should not walk this path alone. You need the support of those around you especially during those dark moments. It is also important that you remember to be gentle with yourself. There will be good days and bad days. There will be days when you feel like giving up. That is where your support base comes into play. They will help to keep you grounded and will help you to find your center.

And please remember to reach out for help during those dark moments. I know that during my dark times I find myself believing that I do not want to burden others with my issues. But that is why you have the support base. They are there to help you, but you have to reach out to them. They cannot read your mind. And maybe you can discuss with them a sign or phrase that can be an alert to them that you need their support or help. That may help you reach out when the struggle is particularly hard.

I am no pro at this. I am still walking my own path toward healing. In fact, millions of us are walking that same path. So you are not alone. Here at Saint Francis we strive to be that supportive family for people from all walks of life and from all stops along the path to healing.

It is our hope that you will find us to be a different way to be Catholic.

Aug 242018

Living Good and Honorable Lives

honorable

We are giving so many opportunities to do the good, honorable, and right things in our lives. In the past year, we have seen countless examples of those in authority who have chosen instead to do the wrong, dishonorable, and bad things.

Even in the church, we have been witness to this type of dishonorable and deplorable behavior. The report out of Pennsylvania was so disgusting that most of us could not even finish reading it. Sadly, it showed hundreds of people who were entrusted with the care of souls that chose instead to ingratiate their sick desires. This report, I hope, will bring about the cleansing of the Roman Church.

However, in a sometimes smaller way, we choose to ingratiate our own desires over helping those in need every day. It can be simple things like refusing to let that person who has been waiting for 10 minutes to turn onto the road ahead of us from turning. After all, we are already running behind! Or what about taking two minutes to hold the door at the supermarket for that lady who has both hands full with groceries and is trying to wrangle two toddlers too. Someone else will help her. After all, I need to get home to watch my favorite show!

These things might not make the headlines in the local paper, but taking a moment to do the good and honorable thing may change the life of that person. That may be the only good thing that happens to them today. And for a brief moment, we allowed the light of Christ to shine through us.

I know that I am trying to be that light in every way that I can. I cannot promise that I will not fail from time to time, but I can promise that I own my failings and my brokenness and will continue to get up and try again to be a better person, a better friend, and a better priest!

Together, we can change the world: one day at a time, one person at a time!

Aug 102018

Learning to deal with change

change

The past two weeks have been interesting to say the least. I have been helping out with High School Band Camp and we acquired a new kitten. While those may seem unconnected, they are connected by a common thread: learning to deal with change.

We have several pets ranging from very young to rather elderly. Our other cat is almost 13 years old. And we are finding that she does not accept change well at all. The new kitten has tried to be nice to her only to be hissed at and treated badly.

This evening, our older cat decided to take out her displeasure out on Thomas and myself. In all fairness, it was our fault for trying to love on her.

Working with the band has shown this same pattern. Sometimes the students struggle to learn how to work with each other and what to expect from each other. And yes, there are even disagreements and conflict. Thankfully, this year, there has been very little of this, but it can happen.

We are all like that. Change is disconcerting. It makes us feel uneasy and sometimes it can make us lash out. In the end, we have to be willing to either grow, thus embracing change, or remain stagnate and never grow.

Change does not have to cause us fear, uneasiness, and pain. Rather, it can be a great opportunity to grow and expend as a human being. Despite what you think, change does not have to be drastic either. It can be something as simple as going to work using a different path, saying hello to someone new, offering to help someone with their groceries, or just trying to be positive instead of negative.

In the end, we can embrace change and become better people, better Christians, and better friends. So let us be willing to embrace the change around us with a humble and spiritual demeanor.

God Loves you and so do I!

Jul 272018

The struggle is real

struggle

We all struggle in various ways. I have been reminded of this extensively this week. A dear friend and brother lost his mother a few weeks ago. Another friend of mine is struggling with his health. I have been struggling with physical and mental health struggles. To quote an often used phrase, “The struggle is real!”

Despite the great struggles we deal with, we can rest in the assurance that we are not alone. Surrounding us is a great cloud of people who have struggled before us and will continue to struggle after us. We, like those before us, can rest assured of the fact that God is with us every step of the way.

That is the fact that keeps me moving forward. I am not going to lie, it is hard. And I may speak of my struggles more than people think I should. People have scolded more than once in my life for sharing way too much of my struggles withe others. And I will continue to share my struggles with others. In doing so I show them that even as screwed up as I can be, God can use me and God can use them too.

I made the comment to a dear brother a few weeks ago that I felt unworthy, unqualified, and not smart enough to minister to people. I told him I felt unworthy of wearing the collar or my habit. He reminded me that I have said to others that they are qualified and made worthy by God to minister. The old phrase that God does not call the qualified, but qualifies the called.

Rather than letting the struggles of life slow us down or stop us from ministering to those who need our help, we need to allow God to work through us. We need to be beacons of light even if that light is shining through the cracks in our lives. And we have to accept that we are called because of our brokenness. And we need to stop trying to compare ourselves to others. We are who we are and that is ok!

Once we accept that, we can really start to be effective and overcome the struggles.

Jul 212018

Spiritual CPR at Saint Francis

Spiritual CPR

My son and I took the hour and ten minute drive to Columbia, South Carolina at 6:30 AM this morning to learn how to save a life. Our mission was to take the American Heart Association’s CPR/AED class. We learned many fascinating facts and hopefully learned how to save a life if it becomes necessary. One more way Saint Francis Parish is working to help those in need!

One of the fascinating facts they shared was that for every minute that passes without CPR or the use of an AED means a 7-10% decrease in the chance of survival. That is horrifying when you think about it! Having suffered cardiac arrest 3 times in the past 20 years, I can tell you that I hope someone versed in CPR and AED usage is nearby if I need them again!

The truth is that the same can be said of someone in spiritual distress too. It may take longer for spiritual death to occur, without proper assistance spiritual death can occur. Thankfully, anyone can help in these situations.

How do we help?

1. Listen without condemnation. Those who are in spiritual crisis sometimes need someone to listen. But they do not need someone to condemn them. That is most likely why they are in spiritual crisis to begin with. Someone who claimed to be spiritual or religious condemned them and put them into crisis. It behooves us to listen but not to condemn.

2. Be there without strings. So often people expect something in return for being there for others. This is part of the problem. In many cases, religious people expect someone to come to their church or come to their way of thinking in exchange for being there. We need to be there for people regardless of whether there is anything in it for you or not.

3. Be compassionate and understanding. They may be angry. They may lash out and denigrate your faith. But in the end, they are only reacting to their own hurt and brokenness. They are not necessarily angry at you. They are just angry. Meet their anger and hurt with compassion and love. Show them Christ through your actions. You don’t have to say anything, just show them love and compassion.

These three steps are a great start to saving a person’s spiritual life. We can all help to save a spiritual life if only we are willing to follow these three steps.

Here at Saint Francis, we continue to strive to be a hospital for the broken, not a museum for the perfect.

Jul 132018

Power made perfect in weakness

weakness

Last week I was struggling to come up with something to say. I spent days working myself to the bone and trying to avoid the elephant in the room. I was depressed and I was feeling very insecure about my abilities. My struggle was with my weakness. I cannot say that I am better this week, but I am trying to find my path through this struggle.

I know you are tired of hearing of my struggles. Everyone has their limits. I have been told time and time again that I need to stop talking about my brokenness and my struggles. However, Saint Paul did just that in last Sunday’s reading:

Brothers and sisters:
That I, Paul, might not become too elated,
because of the abundance of the revelations,
a thorn in the flesh was given to me, an angel of Satan,
to beat me, to keep me from being too elated.
Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me,
but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you,
for power is made perfect in weakness.”
I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses,
in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me.
Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults,
hardships, persecutions, and constraints,
for the sake of Christ;
for when I am weak, then I am strong.

(2 Corinthians 12:7-10)

Saint Paul talked about his brokenness a lot. And he said that we find strength in our weakness. That God’s power is made perfect in our weakness.

I talk about my brokenness not to puff myself up or to make people feel sorry for me. I speak about it so that others know the struggles I have gone through and they too can find hope. It is my desire to help people find hope even when they feel so hopeless.

So talk about your struggle. Share your brokenness with others. Yes, it makes you vulnerable and some may hurt you by rejecting you. But they did that to Jesus too:

Jesus departed from there and came to his native place, accompanied by his disciples.
When the sabbath came he began to teach in the synagogue,
and many who heard him were astonished.
They said, “Where did this man get all this?
What kind of wisdom has been given him?
What mighty deeds are wrought by his hands!
Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary,
and the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon?
Are not his sisters here with us?”
And they took offense at him.
Jesus said to them,
“A prophet is not without honor except in his native place
and among his own kin and in his own house.”
So he was not able to perform any mighty deed there,
apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them.
He was amazed at their lack of faith.

(Mark 6:1-6)

Let us move forward in proclaiming the love of God and showing his power through our weakness!

May 112018

Love is our only commandment

love

We have struggled for many years now trying to build up a parish here in the Augusta, GA area. It is even harder to build one based on love rather than judgement! It has been a long and difficult road and I cannot thank those who come to our parish enough for giving us a chance. I wish more people would give us a chance!

Here is the thing, we are trying hard to build a parish where everyone is loved and respected. We want you to feel safe and loved in our parish. This is not an easy thing to do, especially in our world today. But we believe that we are on the right track to do just that.

Saint Francis is about building a place where you can be you and find God through the Sacraments without judgement. We believe that God creates all people uniquely and that we should respect the spark of the Divine in each and every person. It is not our place to judge you. It is our job to love you!

However, all too often the church allows itself to fall into this place of judgement. People judge others based on who they love, where they came from, the color of their skin, their gender, their social or economic status, or other arbitrary statuses. They forget that we are called to love, without judgement and without conditions.

We must not forget that Saint John tells us, “And this is his commandment: that we should believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as he has commanded us.” (1 John 3:23 CPDV) He does not say that we should only love those who love us or fit into our acceptable mold. No, Saint John tells us to love one another. It is not a suggestion, but a commandment!

As a result, the time for judgement is over. We must start living the commandment of Christ, “For the first commandment of all is this: ‘Listen, O Israel. The Lord your God is one God. And you shall love the Lord your God from your whole heart, and from your whole soul, and from your whole mind, and from your whole strength. This is the first commandment.’ But the second is similar to it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31 CPDV)

Join us at Saint Francis as we strive to build a church based on these two commandments.

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