Tag Archives: Health

Book excerpt #5 from Pastor Paul J. Bern regarding his recent release, “Cannabis Legalization and the Bible: Compatible or Not?”

“Cannabis Legalization and the Bible: Compatible or Not?” written and published by Rev. Paul J. Bern

Now available in audio too, simply click here! 🙂

Watch the video at https://youtu.be/o_UXdIsBuf8

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The War On Drugs does more harm than good Here we are, well over four decades after Richard Nixon declared the war on drugs in 1971 and $1 trillion spent since then. What do we have to show for it? The U.S. has the largest prison population in the world, with about 2.3 million behind bars. Well over half a million of those people are incarcerated for a drug law violation. What a waste of space and human life! In business, if one of our companies is failing, we take steps to identify and solve the problem. What we don’t do is continue failing strategies that cost huge sums of money and exacerbate the problem. Rather than continuing on the disastrous path of the ‘war on drugs’, the world needs to look at what works and what doesn’t in terms of real evidence and data. The facts are overwhelming. If the global drug trade were a country, it would have one of the top 20 economies in the world. In 2005, the United Nations estimated the global illegal drug trade is worth more than $320 billion, and that was 11 years ago as of this writing. It also estimates there are 230 million illegal drug users in the world, yet 90% of them are not classified as problematic. In the United States, if illegal drugs were taxed at rates comparable to those on alcohol and tobacco, they would yield $49.7 billion in tax revenue. Moreover, the Cato study says legalizing drugs would save the U.S. an additional $41 billion a year in enforcing the drug laws.

Have U.S. drug laws reduced drug use? No, it’s exactly the opposite. The U.S. is the No. 1 nation in the world in illegal drug use. As with Prohibition, banning alcohol didn’t stop people drinking, it just stopped people from obeying the law. About 40,000 people were in U.S. jails and prisons for drug crimes in 1980, compared with more than 540,000 today. Excessively long prison sentences and locking up people for small drug offenses contribute greatly to this ballooning of the prison population. It also represents racial discrimination and targeting disguised as drug policy. People of color are no more likely to use or sell illegal drugs than white people – yet from 1980 to 2007, blacks were arrested for drug law violations at rates 2.8 to 5.5 times higher than white arrest rates. Prohibition failed when the American people spoke up and demanded its repeal. Today, the American people are showing their visceral dissatisfaction with the ‘war on drugs’ by voting for change, often in the face of federal law. Colorado and Washington recently became the first U.S. states to legalize recreational use of marijuana. Eighteen states and the District of Columbia allow the medical use of marijuana, and 74% of Americans support alternatives to locking people up for marijuana possession.

What does the Bible say about making a creation of Almighty God’s illegal or immoral? This book uncovers the ugly truth about America’s ‘Drug War’, while disproving all the myths and government propaganda about medical marijuana. In this book you will discover the following:

  • America’s drug war is based on racism and illegality on the part of government, and particularly law enforcement.

  • The private prison industry is raking in billions of US taxpayer money because of the ‘drug war’.

  • Alcohol, tobacco, prescription pain killers and codeine are all at least 5 times more dangerous than marijuana.

  • The pharmaceutical industry, as well as law enforcement, benefit financially from the drug war.

  • The federal government has been lying for decades about the addictive properties of medical marijuana. Cannabis has been repeatedly proven in study after study to be non-addictive.

This book blows the lid off the “War On Drugs” while proving conclusively that the ‘drug war’ is actually an all-out war on the American people. Our time to rise up has come.

To learn more, visit https://www.pcmatl.org/#!books-and-donations/c17et

Also available on Kindle, Nook, Apple and Smashwords.com

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Less Is More During This Year’s Holidays

Making Do With Less In A Season of Excess

by Pastor Paul J. Bern

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Now that Thanksgiving has come and gone as the Christmas holidays approach, it is time for all of us to change our focus from the acquisition of material wealth to that of intangible enrichment, such as our health, well being, peace of mind and contentment. Everywhere we go we find ourselves surrounded by a bombardment of mass media, mass marketing and corporate sponsorship. The average American gets knocked over with endless commercials from the time they get up until they lay back down at night, especially our children. The existence of a near-constant stream of subliminal messaging through the mass media is common knowledge, and all of it is to our detriment! All the while, it costs a fortune to buy anything these days, even groceries! In contrast, I grew up in a 1,200 square feet house that cost $18,000.00 when it was built in 1954. Today we are surrounded – hemmed in is more like it – by opulence and wealth on a magnitude never before seen in the history of human civilization, even to the point that many of us have begun to take it all for granted. It makes me wonder if losing some of this excess wealth might do some of us a lot of good.

Maybe we should begin to ask ourselves some basic questions about our lives and how we are living them, while we’re engaging in fisticuffs for that new microwave-toaster-oven-walk-in-freezer we’ve been saving our pennies for. For example, why would any of us want a newer car when there is probably nothing mechanically wrong with the one we drive now? And why would any of us want a bigger house when the one we are currently living in is fine? The answer in both cases is that American society is, for lack of a better word, programmed to be upwardly mobile. This happens partly due to social pressure on the part of our peers as well as economic pressure from corporate America, with the accompanying least common denominator being pure greed. Our society here in the US, from our current and terrible medical care system to the dangerously overextended banking system, to the well-established debt-based capitalist economic system that keeps us all enslaved, is based on greed for the accumulation of material goods and the hoarding of cash and assets for “investment” or “retirement” purposes, two euphemisms for “I’ve got more than you have”.

Owing to the fact that there are 2.5 billion people, or roughly a third of the earth’s population, who live on less than $2.00 per day, it has been getting clearer to watchful eyes from everywhere that the hoarding of wealth by the developed and established countries is increasingly happening at the expense of other less fortunate third-world countries. The unending influx of economic refugees from Mexico and Central America to the US is only one example of dozens globally. The more recent mass migrations from Syria and Iraq are another. Increasingly larger amounts of money are being hoarded by an ever smaller minority of elitists worldwide. Some people in this group are for the most part engaged in legitimate enterprises, while others are either drug cartels or just flat-out organized criminals. Capitalism’s holy grail, the quest for never-ending profit, has devolved into a monster – composed of endless debt and infinite compounded interest – that is consuming itself, that is unsustainable, and that is therefore ultimately self-destructive. Its impending self-destruction also means that it is harmful to the rest of us when it implodes or otherwise collapses, constituting a real and present threat to us all.

As a result of growing hunger on the part of many of us who are disillusioned with the old school, debt-driven, for-profit business and government, people are beginning to explore other ways of living and to develop new values for a less growth-oriented community. I myself am a part of this movement, having moved from the suburbs to the inner city here in Atlanta where I live, and relying mostly on public transit to get around. Although I’m disabled and don’t own a car any more, the lifestyle changes I have made over the last few years have transformed my life. First of all, I’m no longer stuck in Atlanta traffic, and so I seldom get stressed out over much of anything. The buses and trains go at a gentler pace, and I find this rejuvenating. I leave whenever I feel like it, and come back home the same way. But the most practical part of using public transit is that not owning a vehicle saves me at least $10,000 dollars annually by the time I include insurance and maintenance, and that’s for an entry-level car. It also gives me a very small carbon footprint so I can set a good example for others to follow.

Besides, in Genesis chapter one it says that God created man to “subdue the earth”, which includes caring for it. In that regard, mankind has done an atrocious job of taking care of the planet that God gave us to live on, a planet that God created specifically for us. Mankind has the collective responsibility to care for and nurture this planet we live on! Whenever we pollute our environment, and especially when whole countries threaten one another with nuclear annihilation, we show utter contempt for God’s creations! Those who pollute the earth are spitting in the face of God, and they will be held accountable!! In the interim, one of the best ways to begin to repair the earth’s damaged environment would be to move to the city and rent, sell or park our cars, and take public transit, ride bikes, or walk. In other words, doing this would be a way that we can all honor God. Add to this the fact that walking or bike riding is very good for our health, and we have sufficient motivation to begin working toward this goal. As you have guessed, I do a fair amount of walking myself, and I’m better off because of it!

Others are exploring additional ways to simplify their lifestyles and to get by on less stuff than they were formerly accustomed and still be contented. The Bible tells us “to be content whatever the circumstances” (Phil. 4:11). The apostle Paul wrote that he “has learned the secret to be contented” (Phil. 4:12), and that “Godliness with contentment is great gain” (1st Tim. 6:6). Many people are opting for smaller, more practical living quarters. One acquaintance of mine from the church I attend and serve as a musician has done something similar to that. When the family car reached the end of its life and they didn’t have enough money to replace it with a newer model, they moved out of their suburban apartment into a dwelling where the bus stop is 100 feet away. It’s a slightly smaller house than where they had been living, but it gave them the added benefit of becoming a closer family — both literally and figuratively. By moving to a smaller house, this family of four was forced to be around each other more often, which they discovered they actually enjoyed. They essentially traded excess space that they really didn’t need for togetherness and inter-connectivity. Everybody should want that deal!

At the heart of this story lies a deeper critique of the American obsession with consumption and the “bigger is better” mantra. Many Americans shun the word “sacrifice,” but studies find that trading stuff for time with people quite often makes us happier, healthier, and more sustainable. I can cite one of my favorite scientific findings: When we act altruistically (volunteer, donate to charity, etc.), we get the same neurological high in our brains that food and sex impart. Being good really does feel good. Welcome to conscious consumption: It’s not just about what we buy (even if it is fair-trade, organic, local), it’s also about being intentional with what we already own and cutting out the excess. On a related note, because of the recent recession, Americans are buying less, but doing more. The Department of Labor, keeping tabs on how people spend their time, found that Americans were cooking at home or participating in “organizational, civic and religious activities” 30% more in 2015 than in 2010.

So what can we do immediately to begin a cooperative movement to begin to rejuvenate the earth? Cook at home more and eat out less. Get involved in politics. Going green in every possible way, up to and including doing without a car? Definitely! Let’s replace our antiquated power grid with one that is low voltage and wireless. Those are some hopeful and meaningful signs of progress toward sustainable, climate-friendly cities in a totally green future. Can my crusade for unconditional equality, and for social and economic equity encourage a bigger shift toward conscious consumption and green living? I certainly hope so.

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Our country treats us like crap. Everybody knows that, but here’s where I get down to details.

Seven Grievous Sins America’s Leaders Commit Against Their Own People, and What the Bible Says About That

by Rev. Paul J. Bern

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As the 2016 presidential race mercifully winds down, they are some things that need to be said about those in charge, and why every incumbent candidate or political party deserves to be voted out of office. The US is in such a state of disarray as I write this that we, the voters, need to start all over again on a clean sheet of paper. I can think of lots of things I’d like to see happen. Get the corporate and lobbyist money out of politics and outlaw the greed by overturning Citizens United and imposing Congressional term limits. Call off all the endless wars, close the bases and bring our troops home. The American people will soon need them to protect us from the government anyway. Cut the need for welfare and food assistance programs by doubling the minimum wage to a realistic level and offering free higher education without qualification. Offer low cost single payer health care by putting the whole country on Medicare, including those on Medicaid and Obama-care, and then abolish the latter two. It’s really not difficult to figure out what’s needed, all that’s required is some implementation on the part of Congress and our incoming president. If, that is, these crooks would get out of the office of their ‘lobbyist dujour‘ long enough to go to the House or Senate floor and vote on something once in a while!

I have assembled a list of every gut-wrenching, visceral injustice currently being committed by the very people that have been entrusted with the responsible and prudent leadership of what used to be the greatest country in the world, the USA., with a few interjections along the way from the Word of God regarding these matters. It has been my observation for some time now that the underpaid US workers that do have jobs, combined with the unemployed and sometimes even homeless American population, none of whom are able to find any work at all, are a ticking time bomb hidden in plain sight across America. The following is a listing of the abuses being heaped upon us, when in fact we deserve no such thing! The list doesn’t include our most grievous offenses, those of military and economic warfare against the rest of the world. Sinful enough is our own behavior at home because too many people aren’t holding their legislators – and the president – accountable enough. Let’s go over a few examples:

1. Sins against children

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Things that cause people to sin are bound to come, but woe to that person through whom they come. It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for them to cause one of these little ones to sin. So watch yourselves’.” (Luke 17: 1-3) Perhaps “sanctity of life” ends at birth. According to Census Bureau figures, one out of every five American children lives in poverty. For blacks and Hispanics, it’s one out of every three. UNICEF has reported that the U.S. has a higher child poverty rate than every industrialized country except Romania. We are near the bottom in all measures of inequality that affect our children, including material well-being, health, and education. One more fact before I move on: 1 out of every 4 American school children will rely on food stamps at some point while they’re growing up for their sustenance and nutrition. In communities of color, this figure jumps to a truly shocking – and outrageous – 1 out of 2.

2. Sins against the poor

Now listen, all you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days! Look! The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have flattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered innocent men who were not opposing you.” (James 5: 1-6) The U.S. poverty rate grew from 11.3% to 15.0%, a 30% jump, in just the last 11 years. The impact was felt primarily by minorities and women. The median wealth for single black and Hispanic women is shockingly low, at just over $1000.00 (compared to $41,500 for single white women). Even more shocking – For every dollar of non-home wealth owned by white families, people of color have only one cent. Despite the continued economic assault on already-poor Americans, the number of TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) cases has dropped by 60 percent over the last 16 years.

3. Sins against students

Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6: 4) Students at all levels have been losing their nation’s support. States reduced their education budgets by $12.7 billion in 2012, and here in 2016 the majority of states will be cutting spending even more. At higher educational levels, Americans are paying much more than students in other countries. Only 38% of college expenses come from public funding, compared to 70% in other wealthier “first world” countries. While other nations continue to offer free tuition, with the recognition that education leads to long-term prosperity, the U.S. system has become more incorporated, to the point that expensive programs like nursing, engineering, and computer science have been eliminated to cut costs. The profit motive has blocked the path to academic excellence. But the worst part of America’s treatment of its students has been the greed-driven debacle of over $1 trillion in predatory student loan debts, much of which can never be repaid. The same graduates who are obligated to repay those debts are the ones who can’t find jobs, or who wind up working at jobs for which they are grossly overqualified. When you enrage a nation’s youth, the seeds of insurrection have already been sown. All it will take is one good storm to make those seeds sprout, and the 2nd American Revolution will be underway. And yes, it is coming, you can be sure of that.

4. Sins against the middle class

Do not mistreat an alien or oppress him, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt. Do not take advantage of a widow or an orphan. If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry. My anger will be aroused, and I will kill you with the sword; your wives will become widows and your children fatherless. If you lend money to one of my people who is needy, do not be like a moneylender; charge him no interest. If you take your neighbor’s cloak as a pledge, return it to him by sunset, for the cloak is the only covering he has for his body. What else will he sleep in? When he cries out to me, I will hear him, for I am compassionate.” (Exodus 20: 21-27) The middle class, to say the least, is shrinking. In fact, America’s middle class is slowly being liquidated. In 2011, according to a Pew Research analysis, 51% of the nation’s households earned from two-thirds to double the national median income. In the 1970s it was 61%. One-quarter of America’s workers are now making less than $22,000 a year, the poverty line for a family of four as of 2012. Thirty million Americans are making between $7.25 (minimum wage) and $10.00 per hour. With the transition of middle-class workers to low-income status, entrepreneurship is disappearing. Innovation doesn’t come from the upper class. A recent study found that less than 1 percent of all entrepreneurs came from very rich or very poor backgrounds. Small business creators come from the hard-working, risk-taking, nothing-to-lose middle of America, but their entrepreneurial numbers are down – over 50% since 1977.

5. Sins against the common good

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are a people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” (1st Peter 2: 9-10) A recent Tax Justice Network report placed total hidden offshore assets at somewhere between $21 trillion and $32 trillion. With about 40% of the world’s most mega-rich individuals in the U.S., up to $12.8 trillion of untaxed revenue sits overseas. Based on a historical 6% rate of return, this is a tax loss of up to $300 billion per year, money that should be paying for the public needs of education and infrastructure. Tax avoidance is so appealing that 1,700 Americans renounced their citizenship last year. The American Thinker Blog argued that “the U.S. tax code is so oppressive that smart and successful people are compelled to renounce their citizenship in order to keep more of their own hard-earned wages.” Hard-earned, in truth, by the thousands of contributors to their financial success.

6. Sins against nature

Do not pollute the land where you are. Bloodshed pollutes the land, and atonement cannot be made for the land on which blood has been shed, except by the blood of the one who shed it. Do not defile the land where you live and where I dwell, for I, the Lord, dwell among the Israelites.” (Numbers 35: 33-34) Has it ever occurred to anyone that God lives on the land he creates? What we’re doing to the land, the water and the air, we do to God. A number of studies show that investment in renewable energy will create many more jobs than the fossil fuel industry. And the investment will certainly pay off over the coming decades. A National Renewable Energy Laboratory analysis determined that “renewable electricity generation from technologies that are commercially available today… are more than adequate to supply 80% of total U.S. electricity generation in 2050.” But now the prospect of cheap natural gas is leading us back to a dirty form of energy independence, with a continuing reliance on fossil fuels, and on the “fracking” technology that despoils our land and pollutes our water and air. The national commitment and political will needed for the long-term health of our nation is more elusive than ever.

7. Sins against common sense

Does not wisdom call out? Does not understanding raise her voice? On the heights along the way, where the paths meet she takes her stand; beside the gates leading into the city, at the entrances, she cries aloud: To you, oh men, I cry out. I raise my voice to all mankind; you who are simple, gain prudence, you who are foolish, gain understanding. Listen, for I have worthy things to say; I open my lips to speak what is right. My mouth speaks what is true, for my lips detest wickedness. All the words of my mouth are just; none of them is crooked or perverse. To the discerning, all of them are right; they are faultless to those who have knowledge. Choose my instruction instead of silver, knowledge more than choice gold, for wisdom is more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with her.” (Proverbs 8: 1-11) The economic deception began, at least in the modern age, with Milton Friedman, who said “The free market system distributes the fruits of economic progress among all people… He moves fastest who moves alone.” This unflagging adherence to egocentric free enterprise individualism is consistent with Social Darwinism, the belief that survival of the fittest (richest) will somehow benefit society, and that the millions of people suffering from financial malfeasance are simply lacking the motivation to help themselves. Social Darwinism is a feel-good delusion for those at the top. Or, as described by John Kenneth Galbraith, a continuing “search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.” A mainstay of the Progressive Movement is that a strong society will create opportunities for a greater number of people, thereby leading to more instances of individual success. This is the common sense attitude that has been suppressed by conservatives for over 30 years. I’m hoping this election year will change that paradigm. But if not, open revolt will be the American people’s only remaining option.

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Survival guide for long-term unemployed folks

Religious” Leaders Are Ignoring

Experienced Workers Hit By Recession

 

 

Sooner or later, it happens to each of us. There always will be at least one situation in our lives that we cannot fix, control, explain, change or even understand. Maybe you’ve been laid off from a job you held for years. Perhaps you’ve experienced a nasty divorce. Or maybe the crisis is more subtle: You suddenly realized that you’ll never have the life you dreamed of living. Any life-changing moment can knock a person down. But it can also open doors if a person learns how to “fall upward.”

 

 

Older Americans like myself face a problem: Religious leaders aren’t paying much attention to us. Much of contemporary religion is geared toward teaching people how to navigate the first half of their lives, when they’re building careers and families, a kind of “goal-oriented” spirituality. Yet there’s less help for people dealing with the challenges of aging: the loss of health, the death of friends, and coming to terms with mistakes that cannot be undone.

 

 

God can sometimes also function as a spiritual survival guide for hard times as millions of Americans young and old struggle to cope with “falling”: losing their homes, careers and status. The phrase “falling upward” describes a paradox. Nearly everybody will fall in life because they’ll be confronted with some type of catastrophic loss or abject failure. Yet failure can lead to growth if a person makes the right decisions. I’ve met people who, because of the loss of things and security, have been able to find grace, freedom and new horizons.

 

 

If you’re falling in any area of your life, one of the first skills to learn is accepting surprises. It’s easy for people to turn bitter when things don’t go as planned. He sees such people all the time, whether throwing tantrums at the airport because of long lines or flocking to angry rallies in opposition to some form of social change. If you don’t know how to deal with exceptions, surprise and spontaneity by the time you’re my age, you become a predictable series of responses of paranoia, blame and defensiveness. These circumstances often teach similar lessons about hard times: [1] Suffering is necessary, [2] the “false self” must be abandoned, and [3] everything belongs, even the sad, absurd and futile parts. People have learned these hard lessons for centuries, sometimes through myth, but most of the time by trial and error. They must first experience humiliation, loss and suffering before finding enlightenment. They are often forced on their journey by a crisis.

 

 

Events like the evaporation of a retirement fund or the death of a spouse can force you to summon strength you didn’t know you had. Forced liquidations of businesses that were once thriving enterprises is another example that comes to mind. The key is not resisting the crisis. Allow the circumstances of God and life to break you out of your egocentric responses to everything. If you allow ‘the other’ — other people, other events, other religions or cultures — to influence you, you just keep growing. That growth, though, is accompanied by death — the death of the “false self,” The false self is the part of your self tied to your achievements and possessions. When your false self dies, you start learning how to base your happiness on more eternal sources. You start drawing from your walk with Christ. You learn to distinguish from the essential self and the self that’s only window dressing.

 

 

Those who break through the crisis and lose their false selves become different people: Less judgmental, more generous and better able to ignore evil, selfish or stupid deeds of others. It may sound esoteric, but many of us have met older people like this. They possess what I call “a bright sadness”: they’ve suffered but they still smile and give. I’ve seen that in the wonderful older people in my life. There’s a kind of gravitas they have. There’s an easy smile on their faces. These are the people who laugh, who heal, who build bridges, who don’t turn bitter. This “bright sadness” shouldn’t be confined to older people. I’ve met 11-year-old children in cancer wards who are in the second half of life, and I have met 68-year-old men like me who are still in the first half of life.

 

 

I challenge the notion that success is a natural result of being religious. Our culture is prone to imagine that growth takes place in a sort of constant, upward movement. Even our religious culture tends to focus on success and stability as ideals for religious growth, while overlooking the grace of failure, from which far more growth originates. In the Christian tradition, loss, collapse and failure have always been seen as not only unavoidable, but even necessary on the path to wisdom, freedom and personal maturity. I know older people like myself, all of whom have vast work experience, who struggled to rebuild their identities after they poured much of their earlier lives’ energies into professional and personal success. That is what happened to me after 2008, when I found myself forced out of IT after an 18-month absence due to several health issues.

 

 

Our culture tends to be youth-oriented, and a lot of spirituality is youth oriented. But our elders are the embodiment of the wisdom that life matters at a much deeper level than what we can achieve and produce. Imperfect people are sometimes more equipped than perfect people to help those who are struggling. The person who never makes a mistake and always manages to obey the rules is often a person devoid of compassion. He or she sees people for whom the wheels have fallen off and they wonder ‘what’s wrong with them’. But the person who feels that he or she has ruined their life often has more capacity for humility and compassion. I’m embarrassed as I’m getting older about how much of my energy and vitality as a younger man was driven by ego and a win-lose mentality.

 

 

As I’ve gotten older I find myself driven by something altogether different: The need for rest, and a need for more time for contemplation. As a teacher once told me, “The first half of life, you write the text,” he said. “The second half of your life is when you write the commentary. You have to process what it all meant.” I will be challenged to follow his and my own advice. I will spend less energy on my “false self” as his old identity dissolves. It will be a relief to me when the process is over. I am ready, though, to fall upward. If I lose my position as a web minister, author and respected church member, I would still feel secure. Most of us don’t learn this until it is taken away, like losing the security of your 401K as your entire career evaporates before your eyes. Then the learning either starts or you circle the wagons.

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