Thursday, November 8, 2018

I can't make myself look away

I retired from the Boy Scouts of America after they changed their membership requirements, but before the name change to "Scouts BSA." I really, really want to be done with the organization, but people (by "people," I mean "Mrs. Curmudgeon") keep alerting me to stories such as the Girl Scouts USA suing Scouts BSA for creating confusion between their programs. I never thought I'd say this, but I'm taking the Girl Scouts' side. Scouts BSA, a once-noble organization, is only adding to the overall addledness of this gender-confused generation. And in the process, they are neglecting the single most important reason to maintain entirely separate programs for boys and girls.

That reason, of course, is cooties.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

And you doubt the end is nigh?

Pringles™, being as they are the particleboard of the snack chip world, are well-suited for the dubious enterprise of flavoring the otherwise-noble potato chip with unnatural and unreasonable flavors (ex. barbecue, ranch dressing, and other abominations). Perhaps, then, we should not be surprised that Pringles™ can now be had in "Thanksgiving dinner flavors." Having destroyed both Christmas and Halloween, popular culture is now busily at work bringing down Thanksgiving.

If this is not enough to disprove postmillenial optimism, nothing is.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Nehemiah cleansed the Temple

But during all this I was not in Jerusalem, for in the thirty-second year of Artaxerxes king of Babylon I had returned to the king. Then after certain days I obtained leave from the king, and I came to Jerusalem and discovered the evil that Eliashib had done for Tobiah, in preparing a room for him in the courts of the house of God. And it grieved me bitterly; therefore I threw all the household goods of Tobiah out of the room. Then I commanded them to cleanse the rooms; and I brought back into them the articles of the house of God, with the grain offering and the frankincense. (Nehemiah 13:6-9)

I can't be the first to observe this, but I would like to point out that this is an example of Nehemiah as a type of Christ. Nehemiah's response to Tobiah and Eliashib was identical to Jesus' when he entered the Temple:
Then Jesus went into the temple and began to drive out those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. And He would not allow anyone to carry wares through the temple. Then He taught, saying to them, “Is it not written, “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it a ‘den of thieves.’ ” (Mark 11:15-17)

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

I don't know

Just found this while going through some old pictures: it's from a form we were asked to fill out for the county while Thing 3 was in therapy a few years ago. On the one hand, I suppose not knowing your child's gender might well explain why said child needs therapy. On the other hand, I am sure this is proof the end truly is nigh.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

my struggle, 2018 update

For those of you in between binge-watched seasons of prestige dramas who are looking for another serialized tragedy to follow, here's the latest on my family's adventures with Colorado's version of the "Affordable" Care Act's state-run exchanges. In a previous episode, we learned that someone had committed two insanely egregious errors, which resulted in our insurer being told that Mrs. Curmudgeon and I are now responsible for all the 2018 monthly subsidies which had been paid out to supplement our health insurance premiums. Therefore, we received a bill for roughly $8000.

Since that "debt" resulted from the erroneous decision to backdate the change to our subsidy qualifications to January, our insurer decided the usual three-month grace period to get caught up on premium payments also dated back to January. So, despite the fact this mess began in September 2018, our coverage has now been terminated because the grace period to pay our insurer $8000 expired sometime around late March or early April 2018.

Connect for Health Colorado has assured me that this "error" (because apparently "travesty" has too many syllables) will be corrected very, very soon and I can be sure they will call me when that occurs. Probably because there's something wrong with me, my usual sunny optimism with regard to the efficiency of government-run agencies is evaporating.

In the meantime, Mrs. Curmudgeon and I are being very careful when crossing the street.

Friday, October 19, 2018

I am not afraid of God

Comments from Mrs. Curmudgeon about my character and from a colleague about a post I wrote on suicidal ideation have conspired to remind me of 1 John 4:18: "There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love." The Gospel tells me that God loves me in Christ. I believe that. Therefore I am not afraid of God.

"For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:38-39) Nothing. Not even depression, not even suicide.

So how does Christ's love keep me from killing myself? "For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again." (2 Corinthians 5:14-15) I live for Christ, not for myself. I know he wants me to live to serve others, and not myself. I know he wants me to live. So I live.

I am not afraid of God. That's the point of Christ's work on the Cross: God's unaccountable, prodigal love for his people. That's why angels keep saying, "Fear not."

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Why are pastors committing suicide?

So when you come out as occasionally depressed and suicidal, you get sent links to articles. "Why Pastors Are Committing Suicide" doesn't actually tell us why pastors are committing suicide; it doesn't even have any data on whether pastors are committing suicide (other than anecdotes). There is a wee bit of data: 23% of surveyed pastors report self-diagnosing with a mental health problem, and 12% obtain an actual diagnosis.

That leaves me wondering whether pastors are committing suicide at any notable clip. I checked with the Google and found no empirically useful data, so, by modern standards, that means there is none. I can believe, however, that many pastors, particularly in evangelical Churches, suffer from depression. From the above-linked article:
Knowing someone to reach out to is vital, since most pastors feel they can’t tell their congregations about their mental health struggles. They’re afraid of losing their jobs, not being a good role model, or being inappropriately transparent.
Those are also reasons why pastors suffer from depression. It's not simply that the workload is nuts: you also have to do it all with a smile.

A few years back I was picking up a prescription from the pharmacy while bearing under a perpetual headache which felt like termites eating away at my skull from the inside. (If I remember correctly, it had been going on for about four months.) After the clerk asked me what I did for a living, she said, "Well, smile, pastor!"

Thankfully, the unendurable pain prevented me from gathering the wherewithal to strangle her.

Call me overly sensitive, but I tend to think that people who are not allowed to be normal human beings might occasionally get depressed that they are not allowed to act like normal human beings.

Friday, September 21, 2018

my struggle, 2018 edition

Connect for Health Colorado asked me to update our family's income information, which I did: due to some side hustles, we've ended up making more in 2018 than I had predicted a year ago. Surprisingly, I was told that we now fell below the level necessary to qualify for Medicaid. For those of you not privileged to get your health insurance through the "exchanges," that would mean we no longer qualify for premium subsidies. Unless we want to pay nearly $1000 a month for premiums, we'd lose our current insurance and doctors and have to rely on clinics (of the "no-appointments-instead-wait-for-hours-for-the-first-available-health-care-professional" variety) for any medical concerns.

This was disappointing news, especially because I rely on a couple prescription meds to keep the symptoms of Meniere's disease under control and avoid slipping into another suicidal depression. I called our insurance provider to find out when our coverage would be cut off only to learn that it had been informed that the change in our qualification had been made retroactive for the entirety of 2018: in other words, we were now on the hook for over $8000 because the previous applied subsidies would soon be revoked. Granted, I tend to be a little on the glum side, but I also found this news disappointing.

Once again I sat on hold for over an hour, but for once I got connected to that day's competent employee. She notified our health insurance provider that we should not be found in arrears, and then actually did the work necessary to answer me when I asked how it could be that reporting a slightly higher income resulted in our dropping below the poverty line. She discovered that, when adding up our monthly income to determine our annual income, someone had transposed the first two digits. Thus Connect for Health Colorado made its determinations on the assumption that we had some $27,000 less income per year than we had reported.

Theoretically, everything has now been worked out, but I continue to await a piece of paper in the mail which confirms that theory. I'm not sure this latest adventure in government-subsidized health care qualifies as Kafkaesque, but it's definitely not not-Kafkaesque.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

A denial of the Bible's teaching on sin

Our old friend John MacArthur is again warning one segment of the evangelical world against the inclinations of another segment of the evangelical world. This time, he is very very concerned about interest in "social justice." His is the first name listed amongst the signers of "The Statement on Social Justice & the Gospel," a series of affirmations and denials.

As I've noted before, online doctrinal statements rarely reflect the care, wisdom and sanity found in the Reformation-era confessions, and, sadly, this "Statement" is no exception. Like many such statements (and unlike the Canons of Dort), its denials and affirmations engage not with actual positions held and statements made with real people, but with what appear to be straw-man representations. Today, however, I want to deal with a much more specific, and doctrinally troubling, problem. With regard to the doctrine of sin, it states,
WE DENY that, other than the previously stated connection to Adam, any person is morally culpable for another person’s sin. Although families, groups, and nations can sin collectively, and cultures can be predisposed to particular sins, subsequent generations share the collective guilt of their ancestors only if they approve and embrace (or attempt to justify) those sins. Before God each person must repent and confess his or her own sins in order to receive forgiveness. We further deny that one’s ethnicity establishes any necessary connection to any particular sin.
This denial falls short of the whole Bible's teaching on sin when it attempts to distance subsequent generations from the collective guilt of their ancestors. Consider the prayers recorded in Ezra 9, Nehemiah 1 and Nehemiah 9. Ezra-Nehemiah records the history of the Restoration, when the Lord brought the Jews back from Exile into Judea. Those generations (the process took decades) most emphatically did not approve, embrace or attempt to justify the sins of their forebears. Nonetheless, their prayers confessed that they shared the guilt of their ancestors.
From the days of our fathers to this day we have been in great guilt. And for our iniquities we, our kings, and our priests have been given into the hand of the kings of the lands, to the sword, to captivity, to plundering, and to utter shame, as it is today. (Ezra 9:7) 
[L]et your ear be attentive and your eyes open, to hear the prayer of your servant that I now pray before you day and night for the people of Israel your servants, confessing the sins of the people of Israel, which we have sinned against you. Even I and my father’s house have sinned. We have acted very corruptly against you and have not kept the commandments, the statutes, and the rules that you commanded your servant Moses. (Nehemiah 1:6-7) 
Even in their own kingdom, and amid your great goodness that you gave them, and in the large and rich land that you set before them, they did not serve you or turn from their wicked works. Behold, we are slaves this day; in the land that you gave to our fathers to enjoy its fruit and its good gifts, behold, we are slaves. And its rich yield goes to the kings whom you have set over us because of our sins. (Nehemiah 9:35-37)
Clearly, the Restoration generations believed they shared their ancestors' guilt, and that they needed to repent for it. Given that both Ezra and Nehemiah spoke and prayed prophetically as messengers of the Lord, today's Church is obliged to receive the model of the Restoration-era Church as a guide for our own doctrine and practice.

I'm glad the drafters of "The Statement on Social Justice & the Gospel" are zealous to preserve the integrity of the Biblical Gospel. Sadly, their sub-Biblical understanding of sin and repentance means they are failing to do so.

[NOTE: If I remember correctly, it was Karl Dortzbach (a long-serving missionary in Africa and, perhaps more importantly, the son of one of my predecessors in my current call) who I first heard point out this theme in Nehemiah 1 during a talk at the 2003 Peacemakers conference. My own subsequent work in Ezra-Nehemiah has confirmed the importance and pervasiveness of cross-generational repentance in this Biblical book.]

Friday, September 7, 2018

my struggle

As the pastor of a small congregation, I have to buy health insurance on the open market. As government interference in said market has increased over the years, our family has ended up on the Colorado state-run health insurance exchange (ConnectForHealthCO) and, consequently, the various state agencies which "ensure" all Coloradans have access to health care.

Our relationship has settled into an annual pattern. Around this time of year, we receive notice that because we have not submitted some form of documentation as requested, our coverage will be either dramatically changed or dropped entirely. Of course, we never received said request. I spend tens of hours making phone calls, waiting on hold, and entering data on various websites to attempt to clarify matters. Throughout, the great State of Colorado mails to us "helpful" "updates" informing us of the results of a review of our "information for Medical Assistance benefits." Sometimes these "reviews" occur on a daily basis. Here is the most recent we received:

So that's pretty funny, and I started writing this post with every intention of going in a "funny in an ironic way" direction.

But consider: thankfully, I have a job at which I can rearrange my schedule to deal with personal business and/or wait on hold for up to two hours at a time (not an exaggeration). Mrs. Curmudgeon and I both hold masters degrees and have extensive experience working for and with government agencies, particularly in the social services sector. Once the systems are back up (currently down for maintenance or something), I'll be back on the phone on Monday trying to get this latest crazy worked out.

This is the modern poor tax: legislate a system so complex and expensive that those who fall outside the employment mainstream have to go on government assistance, and make it nigh-impossible to navigate. Thankfully, I'm gifted with patience and perseverance, and the luxury of time with which to employ said gifts. What of those not so fortunate? Does our society really expect those already burdened by all the stressors of poverty to successfully maintain their access to health care?