Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Family That Plays Together Stays Together'

In my life, I have been a JINO, which means "Joiner in Name Only." This specifically relates to my Church, social organizations and professional organizations. Maybe being a JINO was a bad move.

The exception was with Stelton Baptist Church, a lovely little place on Plainfield Avenue, in Edison Township, New Jersey. I was a deacon for a very long time at the Church, before I was licensed to preach there in 2009. Even afterward, my duties were virtually the same, with some ceremonial changes.

I was going to that Church with my ex, a woman not known for faith but a very reliable person, all in all. And, the Church, its Fellowship and activities helped our relationship so much. We were together for years, she and I, and it was only when I walked away from the Church, after a horrible handling of transitioning an interim pastor by American Baptist Churches, that our relationship (mine and my ex's and mine and the Church's) truly hit the rocks. Then came the drinking and the rest is pretty much standard fare, I suppose.

I tried adopting another Church, without success really. Now, far from being a source of joyous memory, remembering the end of my time at Stelton is predominantly a negative thing. It was the beginning of a bad road.

So, what is the point then?

Well, it was not really Stelton that messed up and, though American Baptist Churches of New Jersey is incompetent in most of its administrative and financial functions, it was not my denomination or the new pastor that changed my life for the worse, though the new pastor was far from qualified to stand in the pulpit, in my expressed opinion. Despite my love for the Church and the benefits of that organization to my life, I walked away because I didn't like what was happening. I took my football and went home. See...I showed 'em.

Who got hurt? Not the brick and mortar of a Church that has stood in constant operation since 1869; no, it went along its way doing the job it has held for hundreds of years. When a Church turns over, generally a lot of what happened in the previous administration is forgotten or thrown away in American Baptist Churches, from what I have seen. It is chaos. But, things were done without me. The world went...without me.

Stelton went on.

My ex went on.

I went on.

And, who was the richer for it? No one, especially me.

Whether it is a Church, a First Aid squad, volunteer Fire Department, a VFW or American Legion, fellowship is important not only for people who are alone but for people who are couples. Participation in a group or two can really give a couple things in common, as I see it from my experience.

Throwing the groups away can also throw away the important commonalities between yourself and your significant other. I didn't think of that at the time. Of course, by the same token, common interests will not always work for couples so divorces and break-ups happen for a very good reason. Either something is meant to be or it is not.

Yet, when that end of my relationship with Stelton happened, I lost track of all my friends at the Church. Without family, I was a ship without a rudder when my ex left and I made some whopper mistakes -- but people are born imperfect and mistakes happen. I had no one to call. There wasn't a voice at the other end of a phone that gave a darn about that break-up other than myself and possibly the houseplants in the condo where we lived.

I say get out there and get involved with something. Not a ton of things -- don't become a JINO -- but a few things. Hey, Square Dancing is fun, so is helping out with any number of service organizations, or Churches... the list goes on.

Old sayings hang around for a reason; they are true things that always inform the human character: "The family that plays together stays together" is a good one. No, it's not sexy or trendy but it seems to be true enough.

I thought this might be a good thing to throw out there and write about. At least it seemed that way to me. Thanks for stopping by, as always, and have a nice week.

Friday, May 16, 2014

To serve against all enemies...

Service members do not enlist to espouse political causes. They enlist to serve.

By Rev. Jim Purcell, MPS (Ret.)
I was 17 years and 6 days old the first time I raised my hand and swore: " defend the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic, and to bear true faith and allegiance to the same" as a U.S. soldier. Neither myself or anyone else who ever took that oath enlisted to espouse, represent or advocate any political sentiment occurring in this country or any other. The Armed Services possess a singular mission they perform in many ways, yet it comes to the same -- They serve the duly elected leaders placed in authority by the majority vote of those governed.

The military has no place, and should never possess a place in the antics of political theatre, nor should any serviceman or servicewoman espouse a political ideology to the point where it inhibits the performance of their duties, creates a conflict for the service member in performing their duties, or compels a service member to advocate for any political group or sentiment.


Because this nation would become unglued if that ever happened. Because once the U.S. military cannot be trusted, nor its soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines then they immediately cease to have a function in our republic's operation and, instead, become that thing they swore they would protect the nation from -- an enemy.

Why is this guy bringing this up, anyway?

Glad you asked. I have been reading many sentiments and postings, essays and slogans, which state there is a "Second American Revolution" brewing because President Barack H. Obama is in office, and there are a million claims about why he shouldn't be there. However, I can think of only one reason President Obama should be there -- because he was voted in by the American people: Argument solved.

The other thing I am distressed about are these extreme Right Wing groups that threaten hostility again the nation, peaceable groups within this nation and rule by their own "military" (I call it treasonous) means. And, some of these groups, be they Christian or political, have actively recruited people within the military to spread their nonsense and regurgitate their bile. Now, this is where the line is crossed: Right there.

I did not enlist to serve President Reagan, nor continue to serve just for Bush 1 -- I enlisted to protect the Republic and obey the orders of those officers and NCOs placed over me. In my day, this political nonsense would not have been tolerated, I believe. During these times, though, things are entirely different. Some soldiers happily serve some presidents and mutter threats under their breath to others: To be clear, the latter practice speaks not to one's 'resolve as a patriot' as much as it does the service member's patent inability to serve satisfactorily or loyally in the Armed Forces of the United States of America.

There are those political pundits who would attempt to abridge my view on this: 'We should be able to make a comprise!' And, yet I think not. What is the compromise to loyally serving our Republic...huh...disloyally serving our nation?' No, not now...not ever...should that be a compromise for the sake of social media or T-shirts, websites, petitions and/or assemblies of people or groups, or through political correctness that allows would-be traitors to gather strength amongst the citizenry.

Personally, I thought Bush I was only a fair president, and his son, GW Bush, was a catastrophe that destroyed the very fabric of the American economic system and resulted in lives lost unnecessarily by U.S. service members and civilians by the thousands in wars of choice in Southwestern Asia (not the Middle East, as so many cite wrongly). Yet, if I were in service, I would not have uttered one single word against my President -- not because I liked him and not because I was 'buckling under peer pressure.' I would not do this because I am an American fighting man and took an oath to obey the orders of those leaders placed over me, without hesitation or abridgement.

If I didn't like him, it still is not my place to disobey the President, or to mock him, ridicule him or spread dissent against whomever happens to be sitting in that chair. As a civilian, I can say whatever I want, and frequently do. Still, as much as I did not like either of the Bush's -- I never would be so bold or treacherous to voice a sentiment to edit the will of the American people and/or usurp duly elected civilian office holders.

People say a lot of treasonous garbage online and I hate it. I do not have long chats about this online. It is just that each time some Tea Party group threatens and demeans the President or threatens horrible consequences upon the American people by them in the future, I cannot help but get a shiver down my spine and to spit the slimy taste such things create in my mouth.

Either one is an American or they are not. Either one is a citizen through the good and bad living within the Founders' dreams or they are not. And, if they are not then I would gladly pack their bags for them and get transportation for them to the nearest railhead or airport so they can get the hell out of here and go wherever they think their crap will work -- just don't come back. Please.

Well, I think that's all I have to say about that, borrowing the words of that great patriot Forrest Gump.

Monday, May 12, 2014

PTS and Addiction: Like Peas and Carrots

By Rev. Jim Purcell

I am really not all that old, being in my late 40s and with all my hair and still able to look down at my belt while standing up without my gut blocking the view. But, I spent a lot of my 40s really putting myself and others, those I loved, through a lot.

One of those things that really held me down and kept me away from real sanity was Post Traumatic Stress, a result of some truly bad things. And, PTS (also called PTSD), put me in a world that was horrendous. Between alcoholism and PTS, I wandered and lived outside some, not knowing the day (or sometimes the year), nor how old I was, or so many details of my life that made it special. Even when I had temporary lodging, I was always one heartbeat away from being thrown out -- because I was broke and had no income and was only living on cheap vodka before I found help through the Veteran's Administration starting from August 2013. 

Previously, I lived in a hobo camp in Lincoln, Nebraska during 2011, and saw a nice young man freeze to death there; he didn't want to sleep near everybody because he thought his drugs might be stolen. The day labor jobs they had for the poor there were under the minimum wage and sometimes you got paid and sometimes not -- and there was not one homeless shelter in Lincoln, the capitol of that state. Later, in 2013, a good friend of mine, his name was Frank, also froze to death in Glen Gardner, NJ in November 2013 when he left rehab -- mostly from his lack of sleep and isolation. No, he wasn't doing drugs anymore. Still, though, he suffered from PTS. He died. 

Yes, substances and addiction killed them both, but both of them also had PTS, one from his days as a U.S. Marine and the other as a small boy abused to terrible lengths by a father that badly abused him. PTS can be hand-shaking buddies with addiction, and vice versa. There is a connection between Post Traumatic Stress and addictions, from what I have seen in my life firsthand.

People with PTS aren't in a position sometimes to see the forest before the trees, and PTS does kill people; in ugly ways at that. If someone you know or love has PTS and/or substance abuse issues, they are not who they really and truly are when they are in the throes of this demonic illnesses. It is not an excuse for people misbehaving, and it is also absolutely true that PTS and/or addiction will run one's life, do one's talking and isolate and offend one's family and friends. 

Not just service veterans can get PTS. Indeed, there are many situations that can bring one to this illness: Men, women or children can suffer from this. But, here is the awesome part of the story! It's treatable through meds, counseling and therapy.

Please see a doctor or just refer someone you know or even love to a qualified professional near you. There are wonderful people all over this country who are licensed, qualified and medically trained to deal with PTS and addiction -- at least give them a shot. 

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Reader not a 'writer'

Someone whom I wasn't all that close to but certainly knew asked me recently to look at some gaps in coverage he was getting from the Star-Ledger. In fact, while I was a professional writer (news and politics) for many years, I am not really a journalist anymore.

Of course, I am not alone in that, as these kids today just can't write. It was a real trade/craft in my day -- now it is just Amateur Night. So it goes. But write anything again? No.