November 15, 2013

Judgment Day…

Category: News — Ira @ 6:37 pm


Walking free carries with it an inherent commitment to be open to
seeing areas one is not. Seeing such areas does not mean one is not
walking free to the fullest extent possible. It just means the level of
possibility has expanded.

Richard Miller (aka Ragpicker)

It’s strange, how this all came at me. It came out of nowhere, like usual. And I’m just saying, it was strange, the whole thing. It happened at work, the place where so much of life does. And I wasn’t looking for it at all. I can’t tell you how much I wasn’t looking for it. I’ve been pretty comfortable all around, lately, telling you how free I am. And how free it all felt, what I’ve found.

And it came sliding in, like such things do. The other Sunday night, I got an email from a local friend. Hey, I just got a message from (no name), an Amish guy from out of state. I guess he has my cell number. And he wants to talk to you. And I responded. No. I’ve heard that name before. The guy ain’t right. He’s not all there. I don’t want to talk to him. And we left it at that.

And the next morning at work, it was busy. Very. But still, he called, the guy I didn’t want to speak to. And I told Rosita, when she beeped me and told me who was calling. I’m not available. It’s not a lie, to tell him that. Because I’m not. Just tell him what I’m telling you. And she did. He wouldn’t give up, though. I heard it as it happened. He wanted the fax number to the place. He had some things he wanted to send me. And Rosita gave it to him. She had no other choice. They hung up then, and I thanked her for guarding the gate.

And soon enough, his message to me came spitting in on the fax. A letter. Looked about like a full, typed page. When you write words on paper, and send them to whoever it is you’re talking to, it’s hard to take them back, should you ever want to. I don’t think the Amish have quite learned how that is. Because some of them just keep doing it.

And it was pretty terse, what this letter said. It’s always abrupt, to read such feedback. First, a greeting in Jesus’ name. They do that a lot, the Amish. Open a letter with a greeting in the name of Jesus. They don’t speak that way, much, but they’ll write it. And it didn’t take him long to get right down to business. He’d read the book. And he felt like he had some things to say. “Like your dad, you are a good writer. While he spent a lifetime promoting the goodness of the Amish, you now seem to be intent on expounding on all the evil that is among them, using yourself as proof of that fact.”

Well, where’s a letter going to go from there, after such an opening? Downhill, most likely. A whole page of admonishing followed. Some of it was fair enough. Some of it was just silliness. At least he thought I could write. He just thought I was writing the wrong stuff. But it was the very end that jolted me the most. He was going to be in the area one day that week. “If time permits, I would like to hunt you up.” That’s what he said, there close to the end. And I just groaned inside. Why in the world would such a man want to stop by and see me? It wearied me, the very thought of seeing him walk through that door at work.

What he said about me and my book was fair enough, I suppose, from his perspective. Not that such a thing is ever fun to read or hear. But I have no problem with what anyone thinks or says about me or my writing, or what they write about what they think. You can send such stuff to me all day long. I don’t like it, but it’s just part of the terrain. If I ever get to thinking I got some real writing skills, I go check out some of those one-star and two-star reviews on Amazon. Some of those are pretty vicious. They used to bug me. But not anymore. Not everyone’s going to get your voice. Not everyone’s going to like anything you wrote. It just is what it is. And I’ve seen and heard enough such criticism that I don’t carry it around with me anymore.

The thing that jolted me was that he wanted to stop and see me. Whatever for? Why would you want to go talk to a person, after sending him such a letter? I mean, it’s idiocy. And I felt it rising inside me, like a wall. I knew what I’d do. If he walks in, I’ll just tell him we really have nothing to say to each other. And I’ll shoo him out the door. Try to stay polite, but just shush him right on out.

And I judged the man, big time. Judged every aspect of who he was. And not just in my heart, either. I spoke it out to my Facebook world. I speak a lot of things there, right when they come down. And I spoke this. Told how weary it makes me, to even think about meeting the man who wrote such a thing. I was looking for support, I guess. And it came, in the comments. What kind of bad man could ever accuse you of such evil? Oh, yeah. They saw it, too, what this thing was I was talking about. But then, suddenly, someone said something that didn’t quite fit the template.

It was a brief comment. And it came from a place that startled me. From my good friend, Richard Miller. He will write to the world one day, when he chooses to do so. And his is a singular voice you can’t help hearing. Because he’s seen a lot of hard things, been to a lot of hard places, slogged down some really tough roads. And he got through. And now he just speaks what he sees with a gentle, honest heart. I’ve seen him in discussions often on Facebook, and he has a knack of slicing right through to the core issue of things. And he’s been right where I was in that moment, many times. Many times. And he told me what he saw, and it was different from what I was seeing. And he just kind of slid it in, offhand like. “Thought hit me Ira… wonder why you are being given this opportunity… probably worth paying attention to what happens inside..”

I have to say, it was a bit like walking into a wall, his comment. And it brought me up short, made me stop and think. I claim to be free, almost to a point of pride. I try to walk as free as I can from every oppressive force. Free from the state. Free from any kind of burdens of resentment and rage against those who have wronged me. And free from other Christians who try to ensnare me with their elaborate tangled webs of law and guilt, all based on judgment. I won’t get bogged down with unnecessary baggage. I just won’t. You just throw it off and keep walking. And traveling light that way is a beautiful thing, from what I’ve seen so far. And I’ve not been shy, in speaking it. How beautiful it is to walk free, wherever you are.

And yeah, I know I went off about this in the last blog. But I don’t think I quite got it told, so bear with me here. (If I’m making too much like an Amish preacher who doesn’t know when it’s time to shut up and sit down, skip this paragraph and the next few.) I can’t even begin to describe how free it is, when you actually grasp what the state really is, and accept what you see in your mind. You live as undefiled from it as you can. I don’t participate at all. I don’t vote. I don’t cheer or even watch the state worship before any sporting event. I don’t “support the military.” I pledge no allegiance to any flag of any state. If that makes me a bad person in your book, well, that’s your book. This is my blog. You don’t have to read it, if you don’t want to.

I look at all those who actually fell for the vast abominable lie that is Obamacare, and just pity them. How naïve can you be, to have any shred of faith in such an obviously evil statist power grab? The whole thing was designed to do exactly what’s happening. Deprive people of choice and freedom, deny them health insurance, so they have no choice but to kneel and worship the beast that is the state. And cry out to it save them. It’s just like it was in Old Testament times, such praying to vile false gods, when the people were led into idol worship by evil kings. The Lord holds them all in derision, such idols and especially such desperately wicked kings. He always has, and always will. And He will always bring them down in His own time.

And don’t even get me started about the noise of all the incessant political drama that rages every day all around us like so much sound and fury. It’s so plastic and contrived. It’s all fake crap. Anyone who craves political office craves power. The lure of raw power will always tug at the hearts of even those with generally pure intentions. And it will snare most people. Ron Paul was pretty much the lone exception to that rule, at least in modern times. The lust for power drives most of those who want to get elected to anything. I can’t think of a place where that fact does not apply. And craving power is never a good thing, not in any setting I can think of. It’s a destructive thing, and corrosive. Why even acknowledge the state that craves power as remotely capable of even the slightest redemption? You can’t. It’s a beast that feeds on innocent blood and war and death.

And it’s not that all those oppressive laws pouring down won’t affect you. They will, but it’s just part of living in the terrain you’re in. You keep walking along as best you can, and do what you have to, to stay out of the clutches of the gangs of armed, lawless goons that roam the land and oppress and enslave the people. I always try to stay alert, stay aware of who those goons are, what the state is, and where I am. It’s all occupied territory around me, and I never forget that.

I call that walking free in my physical world. And I call it a beautiful thing.

There’s another world out there that’s a little tougher to walk free through. A world more important than the physical one. The spiritual world. And it affects me far more deeply, what I encounter in my heart, than anything I might see collapsing around me, right here, in this world. Because it affects how I choose to live in any world. If your heart is calm, at least in what you know (not always in how you react, because sometimes it’s hard to keep your reactions calm), nothing else matters. If it isn’t calm, it’s a roller coaster out there.

We all got dark places in our hearts. All of us. If you claim you don’t have, you are a liar and a false teacher. And if you are a “real” preacher spouting such stuff, you are a false shepherd. And this is how I see it. If all (or most, if you want to get technical about it) sins are weighed the same, what kind of voice can I have to point at other people and proclaim their sins? That’s what Jesus is here for. He covers those dark places for me, the dark places where I know how sinful I am. And He wants me to walk free out there, free to speak to people right where they are. To listen, really listen, to what they have to say. And to love them, in a flawed reflection of how He loves them. Because I am where right they are, just coming from a different place. And if I have to tell them where I’m coming from before they see it on their own, I’m not coming from the right place.

What kinds of sins do I engage in every day, that are just as abhorrent to the Lord as anything you see around you? There are many, if I’m honest with myself. As any person will admit, if there’s any kind of honesty about what all goes on in the human heart, what all goes on, often, when no one else is watching. And then there’s that tricky little thing of judgment. I abhor being judged. But I’m all too happy to judge those who judge me, especially Christians. And especially the Amish. How can you walk free, when you judge others in your heart? How can you walk free, if you refuse to speak to people right where they are? If you’re too good to stand right where they are with them? I don’t think you can.

Which doesn’t mean you have to accept the judgment that comes at you. It just means you try to listen to what is being said without judgment. I don’t quite know if that’s possible, but it seems like it ought to be. And it doesn’t mean you don’t recognize and stand up to the spiritual bullies, and smack them when you see them wounding the weaker among us. Hit them hard, right in the face. Stop that. Now. And you tend to those they’ve wounded, protect them. But even to the bullies, I think, you have to try to talk face to face. Maybe you can’t. I don’t know. I haven’t tried. I’ve pretty much cut them off, so far. And there are times you have to cut people off, if the situation degenerates to that point.

But you are no better than they are, not before God if He judged us like we deserved. And right there, that’s the core of it. That’s why you never can walk in judgment, I think. Not in judgment of someone’s heart. Because if He held us to our own standards, none of us could grasp even so much as a shred of hope for salvation. We’d all fall short. All of us. And no great proclamations being spoken, here. Just grappling my way through this, like a man who sees darkly, through a blurred glass. But a man who has a little bit of faith that he’ll get to where he wants to go.

I claim to walk free. But Richard’s gentle advice made me see how I have been judging them pretty harshly, a lot of people. He told me. Look to your own heart first. At least that’s what I heard him saying when he said it. Pay attention to what’s going on inside you. But I’ve been so busy judging their hearts, the people that come at me with hostile intent from the place I broke free from, a place where I’ve seen so many battles and taken a whole lot of real hard hits. And it startles me. I’m not as free as I thought I was. I got no right to judge anyone. No one. Not like that. Not ever. It’s not my job, to judge anyone’s heart. So I got no right. I just don’t. No one does.

I probably will react like I always have, though, the next time someone comes at me all scolding and judgmental. Because that’s just how it goes. It’ll be pretty tough, not to. It never did happen with this guy who wanted to stop by, because he never got there. We’re busy at work, and I didn’t fret about it much. When and if he walked in, I figured I’d just try it out, this new place of not judging his heart, and play it by ear. Listen to what he has to say, and let it go where it goes. But he never came. And now I’m wondering. How would it have gone, had he showed up? Not that I’m wanting anyone like that to ever show up. I want people like that to leave me alone. But I know they won’t, now and then. I know I’ll run into this guy or his twin sometime, somewhere, when I’m least expecting it. And least prepared. That’s just how it goes when life comes at you. But still. I’m thinking, mulling it over, the thing that Richard told me. And this is where I am right now in my own heart.

You can choose to stay right where you are in your judgment of anyone from anywhere in your past. Or anyone around you. I can’t blame you a bit. And I won’t judge you one bit if you do. Because I don’t know where you’ve been, I don’t know what you’ve seen. I don’t know how deeply you’ve been wounded, or when or how. But I think I’m going to step through this new door and check out what this new place looks like, how it works.

Because from where I am right now, it looks like a pretty free place to be.



  1. Love it! You have truly freed yourself from their hold if you can listen to their (sometimes) thoughtful criticism and not take it personally.

    Comment by Ed Yoder — November 15, 2013 @ 7:17 pm

  2. I wonder if you desire to live in freedom, actually prevents you from reaching into the lives of those who are living in religious bondage. The greatest gift you could give someone is to help bring someone in the freedom Christ, not religion, can give.

    Comment by Marilyn Romancky — November 15, 2013 @ 7:24 pm

  3. Wow…. You nailed it Ira! I can only hope to get my head and heart wrapped around this concept!! But I do believe that’s where we all really need to be met and meet others… No judgment… Thanks for posting

    Comment by L — November 15, 2013 @ 7:43 pm

  4. Friends who can say what you need to hear in a way you can hear it are a gift from the heavens. Very thought provoking blog.
    It reminds me a bit of the quote, “A man is about as big as the thing that makes him angry.” I think of that sometimes when I get mad…and realize how small I really am.

    Comment by Rhonda — November 15, 2013 @ 7:46 pm

  5. The greatest freedom I ever found was truly grasping the notion that everyone, my supporters, as well as my enemies, are the same God-breathed image of the Creator as I. I can genuinely overlook their “faults” because of that amazing understanding, and genuinely love them, too, no matter how they might have sinned against me. Doesn’t necessarily mean I care to spend much time with them, though. And it requires reminding myself of this truth often, in order to stay in this place, but this place is real freedom.

    In my experience, a lot of growing can take place through uncomfortable interactions. Looking back, it has not always been in my best interest to avoid them and make life as comfortable as possible. Somehow, when I truly desire to understand where someone is coming from, particularly when it’s clearly a different place from me, I will lose that drive to “make” them understand where I’m coming from. I gain more, I think. I am very inspired by this blog.

    Comment by Tammy — November 15, 2013 @ 8:20 pm

  6. Hey, just a few words from my corner of the world. I don’t always read your blog, but your comment on fb about the man got me curious. Ha. Ha.
    I’m telling you man this blog is very encouraging to read. I’m excited for where “stepping through that door ” will take you. Personal opinion : you will have more abundant life ahead. So long. Barb

    Comment by Barb Wagler — November 15, 2013 @ 10:38 pm

  7. Dear Ira,
    When a mosquito buzzes around my head- I don’t judge him, I just shoo him away.

    Comment by Sue C — November 15, 2013 @ 11:24 pm

  8. Humbling ones self means constant renewing everyday. Just when we all think we are emotionally comfortable somone comes along to pull the rug out from under us, and we fight it. Confidence is tricky; just when we think we have it mastered we find out we haven’t. Because you are a great writer, having your feet planted in humbleness will not save you from the world, it will help you accept that your writing needs to matter more to you than anyone else.

    Comment by Carol Ellmore — November 16, 2013 @ 4:57 am

  9. Thank you for this particular blog writing….a great reminder to me as I try to practice what I truly believe.

    Comment by Maggie Newman — November 16, 2013 @ 7:22 am

  10. That’s well written and deeply challenging. Thank you. I admit, it still makes me weary on your behalf–just as I stated on Facebook–to have that kind of fax and a request to meet. Just being honest. For me it’s that fine balance of knowing when to give of my time and still have healthy boundaries. I am not a garbage can or punching bag. I’ll meet with any ‘underdog’, or angry and hurting person, but I’m not sure what I would do with this kind of thing… Even after reading your blog. :) And even Jesus avoided certain hate-filled people so, using His example, I think it’s okay to not always give voice to those who intend only to attack us. A sincere challenge, done kindly or even a bit intensely, I can accept. An attack? Meh… No need to do that face to face! That’s my take on it. Words are very powerful, and I get to ‘master’ what I take in, and what I don’t, to an extent. Having said all that, there are exceptions to everything and an angry individual from my Mennonite past would far more likely get a meeting simply because I understand their anger, and I think we could get to a place of connecting, eventually, even if they hate me. Including some of the leaders, but not all. Freedom has two sides–not judging and yet knowing when to say ‘no’. Blessings on your freedom journey!

    Comment by Trudy Metzger — November 16, 2013 @ 9:18 am

  11. good post, Ira, most of it – ha!

    Comment by sharon — November 16, 2013 @ 10:01 am

  12. I believe there is a fine line between judgment and knowing someone by their fruits. Haven’t figured out what it is yet, but I desire to. I am reminded of a song that says “Make me more free.” It is a life long journey. Thank you for sharing.

    Comment by Jenifer W — November 16, 2013 @ 10:12 am

  13. God grant us the wisdom to know good advice when we hear it and the humility to put it into practice.

    Comment by Eli Stutzman — November 16, 2013 @ 11:40 am

  14. When someone told Lincoln that his Secretary of State, Seward, called him (Lincoln) a d— fool idiot, Lincoln just laughed and said, “He could be right.” Just thank the guy for his opinion and leave it at that. Practice “FIDO”–“Forget it and drive on.”

    I don’t agree with you on the evility of the federal gubmint. Of course, I worked for it for 25 years, so I have no desire to “shrink it to the size where it can be drowned in a bathtub,” as Grover Norquist recommends. The folks who fell for the “vile lie” that is Obamacare could not get insurance any other way. The vaunted private marketplace doesn’t always deliver the goods, esp. to folks with mental illness, pre-existing conditions, etc. Over thirty million Americans are uninsured and Obamacare is an attempt to close that gap.

    Despite the yawning gap in our points of view, you are one of my favorite bloggers.

    Comment by cynthia r chase — November 16, 2013 @ 1:26 pm

  15. I wish “the uninsured” were not looked at as a unit. A unit of hapless, hopeless victims. It was only a skip and a jump into our nation’s past that no one had it. No one. They paid their medical bills if and when they racked any up.
    It was a sad day for America when insurance became part of the medical landscape. Insurance itself is in large part responsible for the out of sight medical costs. And to an even larger degree, the government’s involvement in it.
    But despite that, there are still many people who choose to pay for their medical bills out of their own pockets, if and when they need medical care. They do not need saving. They would, however, appreciate if the laws of supply and demand would come back into play and restore some sanity to the pricing structure.

    Comment by Rhonda — November 16, 2013 @ 2:37 pm

  16. This post brings to mind Kris Kristofferson’s: “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose. Nothing ain’t worth nothing but it’s free.” Janis Joplin’s tweak to KK’s is thought-provoking too. Maybe freedom is a lonely place where we actually have nothing? Or maybe a quest for freedom is just a sort of inverse reaction to legalism that in reality carries the same bondage? Rebellious teenagers break rules seeking freedom, but find bondage instead. We adults have more sophisticated and socially accepted methods of creating freedom, but maybe we’re no less bound in the “safe” cubicles we work hard to maintain. Maybe true freedom is not something we can find or create, but rather a side effect of what Richard says: “…paying attention to what happens inside.” Seeing difficult conversations as opportunity. Creating freedom by walking into hard situations instead of away. Oxymoronic.

    I like what you say about dark places in everyone. “We wear the mask that grins and lies. That shades our cheeks and hides our eyes.” Too bad we’re afraid to be honest about it, and in doing so create the safety for other people to say “You battle that?! Me too!”

    You are right: Richard does have a singular voice. He has good, good things to say and a writing style that reaches deep into the heart. I hope he does write for the world.

    Comment by Ava — November 16, 2013 @ 3:16 pm

  17. I read your book, and have heard similar “criticisms” – always from those who have not read it and yet somehow “know” you are supposedly negative about the Amish. I was, in fact, surprised you were so positive in your book. All the blame, it seemed to me, you took to yourself. You were honest about the actual life circumstances you experienced, at the same time. Perhaps some people cannot handle honesty, as it breaks through family myths to truth. Thankfully, though it may hurt like a physician’s cure, truth can set you free.

    Comment by LeRoy — November 16, 2013 @ 9:45 pm

  18. Ira, we have been in the same boat/are in the same boat,as all of us are for that matter. Life is like a wheelbarrow, somedays it full and hard to wheel, somedays it is light and easy, and than there are days the terrain is rough or smooth. One thing is for sure, GOD is with us thru it all and will use the messes in our life to fulfill his purpose if we let him. This journey we are on (called life) is hard. I have been reading a book that is helping me understand/deal with life’s trials. “You’ll Get Thru This”, by Max Lacado, it is based on the story in the Bible, about Joseph being put in the well by his brothers. Take Care

    Comment by Warren — November 17, 2013 @ 2:39 pm

  19. Ira, yes I think you are right about feeling “free,” but that requires feeling good about what you have out there. In this country, every time you put something out there you have to be prepared for the judgmental. You seem to be very comfortable with yourself when you write, so I hope that extends into your relationships with other people (nuts) and acquaintances. Your honesty is one of the traits, I believe, that brings people in your direction. It endears you to a lot of folks who care about you.

    Comment by Elizabeth Tilton — November 17, 2013 @ 5:39 pm

  20. Good post. Shows me you are open to growing spiritually. Sometimes when we can softly and gently speak our position to someone who berates us, we plant a seed that provides them food for thought in the future.

    Comment by Rosanna — November 17, 2013 @ 9:07 pm

  21. Rhonda, #4 post, you summed it up nicely. “Nuff said.

    Comment by Lisa D. — November 19, 2013 @ 4:47 pm

  22. So true, so honest and such a gift to revisit the Judgment issue. It is always right to keep in check our ‘ability’ to judge, because it is so freeing not to. I try so hard to be unbiased, but, when it comes to the state, you and I are judgmental. Can that be undone? When it comes to individuals, that is easier. When it comes to Obamacare and such, the evil that power and government are, how do we not judge them? I guess by doing what you’re doing…not voting, not listening to the ads ad nauseam, not being a voice for politics. Much food for thought….Happy Thanksgiving, Ira!!!

    Comment by Pam — November 26, 2013 @ 12:24 pm

  23. Wow, that was powerful stuff Ira. Way cool. : )

    Comment by Cy — November 28, 2013 @ 10:28 pm

  24. Hello,
    I wonder if you folks in PA are getting as much snow as we are in IL. Man! I do love it, though.

    There’s a lot of meat here. A whole lot to reflect on. It’s one of your gifts you know-writing so freely and honestly. It wouldn’t be if you had to work hard at it, but I suspect you would have it no other way. It just flows, sometimes like a raging river, sometimes like a gentle stream.

    Yeah, this guy wanting to come see you was strange. Seems like God is bringing a lot of Amish folks to your doorstep with their beliefs dangling from their earlobes, for all, namely you, to see and discuss. It seems obvious to me the Amish fellow had a mission- to straighten you up and iron out your spiritual wrinkles. God bless him. He was planning to do what he thought was right. A man that follows his religious convictions is to be admired. I wonder if he knew there were about 100 before him and you haven’t budged an inch. Doesn’t matter, he is still to be admired and treated with courtesy which you had every intention of doing.

    You know what’s cool? It’s not about me. Everybody wants to rule the world, run the show, point everyone in the right direction. “Afterall, isn’t my way the right way?” In a nutshell, we all want to play God. “If only people would believe what I believe all would be well. If only they would do what I tell them to do, or not do, things would be terrific. Surely, they would be happy and content.” My way-ism trumps Love. Sad.

    We are all spiritually sick people and just because I’m writing this doesn’t make me exempt. We are all in the same boat, on the same rung of the ladder, trying to get through life as best we can. We falter, oh yeah. We screw it all up. We act belligerent instead of benevolent, cruel instead of kind, we grumble if we are inconvenienced in the slightest degree. And yet, are we not loved beyond our wildest dreams? We are naughty children with a Father who loves us in spite of it.

    The onion. Layer by eye watering layer we are becoming more like Christ.

    Comment by Francine — January 18, 2014 @ 9:46 pm

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