A Change of Venue

1992 was a year of major change for me. I had completed my master’s degree in August 1991 at a state university in my home state in the Midwest, and in early 1992 while I was working in a secretarial position at that state university, I applied for a one-year doctoral fellowship at a private university in Florida, and I was selected for one of two doctoral fellowships awarded for that academic year of 1992-93. This was a major turning point in my life up to that time.

After that fellowship year ended, I was employed at that same private university in a Federally funded program that took me to another city in Florida, and when the Federal funding ran out and that position ended, I found a position working at a private Catholic university at an off campus site that lasted for four years, and then I worked at a state university on their main campus for over four years. From there I took a position at a private Christian university in another city in Florida where I planned to stay until I retired which was still at least 15 years away at that point in time. Unfortunately, after a few years of working there the administration decided to dismantle the division I worked in which came as a total surprised to those of us who worked in it, and at that point I decided to look for employment in my field of work at other colleges and universities.

About four months into my job search, I applied for a Director position at an art institute (a college) in Texas, and after going through the interview process, I was hired for the position and I moved to Texas. Unfortunately, that job only lasted seven months, and what happened after that point turned out to be another major turning point in my life.

As the saying goes, “The best laid plans of mice and men can still go wrong” (quote source here). I was absolutely thrilled when I was hired for the Director position at the art institute as my bachelor’s degree which I receive in 1985 was in Art and Design (it was from the same state university were I received my Master’s degree a few years later in Education with a specialization in Higher Education/Student Personnel Services). I loved being in such a creative environment, and it gave me an opportunity to put to use some of the creative juices that flowed when I was working on my bachelor’s degree in art and design years earlier, which I had not used very much for well over two decades.

What I ended up learning during my scant seven months in that Director position was far more then I ever expected, and it had nothing to do with getting my creative juices flowing again, although I had planned to take a few web design classes using their “free tuition” employee benefit that I was eligible for after my first six months of employment was completed. As it turned out, working there turned out to be the starting point of what has taken place during the past dozen years of my life since I lost that job, and I never found another job even after a massive years long job search.

Fast forward… As I noted in a previous blog post published on October 8, 2020, titled, A New Beginning,” a few weeks ago at the beginning of October I moved into an apartment after six years of living in hotel rooms which was my only housing option during the past six years. During that time I didn’t make enough money from my Social Security checks that started coming in less than two months before my “hotel room living” saga started in 2014 to rent a regular apartment (my income wasn’t high enough to qualify), and low income apartments were impossible to find with long waiting lists. I was forced to apply for Social Security benefits at the age of 62 which arrived three years and two months after my last unemployment check ran out in 2011 (from when I lost that job in Texas in 2009) just to have any income again. As it turned out, since I was forced to take Social Security at 62, it was a smaller amount then I had received in my unemployment checks. And I had no income at all during those three years and two months between when the unemployment checks ended in 2011 and the Social Security checks started in 2014.

Also, after a six-year search for another position in my career field after that Director position ended back in 2009 that never did produce another job (I gave up looking after six years), I had also been searching as I mentioned above (since 2014) for an income-based apartment in a senior apartment complex that never materialized in all of this time either. And the truth is that I couldn’t even afford the hotel rooms during those six years I lived in them on my Social Security checks while I was searching for low income housing. My dad sent me money to help pay for the rent on the hotel rooms (and he passed away a year and a half ago).

I personally know of no one who has had the major and repeated challenges I have encountered over the past dozen years in trying to find work and affordable housing in all of this time. This apartment that I finally found at the beginning of October has only been made possible because of some funds left to me after Dad died. I certainly can’t afford it on my own Social Security income. And this apartment has been a major blessing after six years of hotel room living, and while I have no idea how long it will last, I am very grateful for it. And I have my dad to thank for it as I wouldn’t have it were it not for him even after his death.

So I have had a sudden “change in venue” in both my living quarters and my location that I was not expecting when I found this apartment almost by accident (that’s a story for another time), and where it will lead I do not know.

Dictionary.sensagent.com defines change of venue as follows:

A “change of venue” is the legal term for moving a trial to a new location. In high-profile matters, a change of venue may occur to move a jury trial away from a location where a fair and impartial jury may not be possible due to widespread publicity about a crime and/or its defendant(s) to another community in order to obtain jurors who can be more objective in their duties. This change may be to different towns, and across the other sides of states or, in some extremely high profile federal cases, to other states.

In law, the word “venue” designates the location where a trial will be held. It derives from the Latin word for “a place where people gather.” (Quote source here.)

Two days ago I found a copy of a book published in 2013 by Jerry Jenkins, an internationally known Christian author of almost 200 books, and coauthored with James MacDonald, senior pastor, television evangelist and author, at a Goodwill store. The book is titled, I, Saul,” and I started reading it last night and it kept me up until after 1:00 a.m. when I knew I had to put it down and go to sleep. The book has a unique twist on the life and times of the Apostle Paul [who was known as Saul before he became Paul] that is described in a brief paragraph written on the inside front cover of the hardcopy edition of the book. That paragraph states:

I, Saultransforms you from the first century world of Saul [Paul], Luke, Timothy and Mark, to the life of a modern day professor, who learns first hand that God can turn anyone’s life around.

This book piqued my interest because of Paul’s own story after his conversion experience which took him from city to city and place to place during the last three decades of his life. Below is a brief review of this book that was posted on Goodreads by the PromoParrott:

Are you ready for your time-machine to transport you back in time to first century Rome, visit its dank dungeons, walk its street, see its culture and people? Are you ready to follow the life of Saul from childhood up until his final moments as Paul, the apostle? And yet, this is not just about Rome, Romans, dark dungeons or boisterous amphitheaters; it is also about present day United States and Italy with a seminary professor who races against time to save a friend and a priceless ancient manuscripts. Name it, you have it: friendship, mystery, danger, action, intrigue, history, culture with a good dose of romance thrown in!

Every once in a while, I come across a book that will not only grip and stir the heart but also has the power to alter how I view a person and history, and helps to see things in a new perspective. A book with a plot that is compelling enough to keep me glued to the very end!

Jerry B. Jenkins is no stranger to Christian fiction. Having read several of his books, I’m always in awe of his imaginative skills and his ability to translate those images into words. But I never expect such a magnum opus from this particular choice of subject. What was there to explore about Saul? How wrong I was! I, SAUL far exceeded my expectations as I finished reading it non-stop which took me just about 9 hours. It’s a roller-coaster ride back and forth across time to first century Rome and present day United States and Italy.

I, SAUL is the story of Dr. Augustine Aquinas Knox, a young struggling seminary professor, who receives a text message from a friend in Italy for help. He travels the globe and, by a quirk turn of fate, is drawn into the search for a manuscript believed to be the personal, handwritten secret memoirs of the Apostle Paul. In the process, Augie not only jeopardizes his career and his own life but the life of his dear ones as well.

Interwoven into I, SAUL is the life story of Saul of Tarsus, and his astounding conversion to Christianity, along with his remarkable transformation from being the chief persecutor of the followers of Jesus Christ into one of the most faithful apostles of the first century: the Apostle Paul. The transformation of Saul into Paul is a story that affirms God can turn anyone’s life around, and that He can level even with the hardest of men.

More than 2000 years ago as Paul awaits his final moments, he hides his life in the finished work of Jesus Christ. Did he manage to hide something else? What will become of Augie and his friends? Will their quest for the priceless antiquities succeed? And who are the other people after it?

I, SAUL is one story with two plots or two stories with a single plot. You can take your pick!

I, SAUL is one of the most riveting religious-historical fiction I have ever read! It is a compelling story of loyalty, friendship and love that knows no geographical boundaries. It is a story that will linger in your heart long after you turn the final page. It is an utterly enjoyable work from the master story-teller.

Reading I, SAUL, for me, is a life-changing experience! (Quote source here.)

For anyone who might think that reading about Old Testament and New Testament characters sounds about as exciting as watching paint dry or snoring your way through a bad movie, nothing could be farther from the truth.

Saul became known as Paul after his conversion experience (you can read about when and why his name was changed at this link). Paul found himself moving from location to location during the last thirty years of his life following his conversion to Jesus Christ on the Damascus Road. He also found himself in prison more than once and awaiting trial (also more then once) for crimes he never committed but that he was repeatedly accused of doing by his fellow Pharisees and others. Paul goes into the details of some of what he endured in 2 Corinthians 11-12.

None of us who are Christians living here in America have come close to experiencing what Paul went through during his time of proclaiming the Gospel after his conversion and the following three decades of his life of being constantly chased, abused, imprisoned, tried, and eventually executed for his faith. We live a “soft” type of Christianity compared to him, and even compared to what many Christians around the world today are going through for their faith in Jesus Christ. That is not to say that persecution doesn’t exist right here in America as it does, but it isn’t as obvious and it is often hidden from the upfront type of persecution we read about in other countries around the world (for example, the 21 Coptic Christians who were beheaded on a beach in Libya in 2015 for refusing to renounce their faith in Jesus Christ).

In an article titled, Is There Christian Persecution in America?” (subtitled: “While Christian persecution is widely recognized in other countries, most do not realize the persecution happening right at home”) by Megan Bailey, Social Media Specialist and Content Producer for Beliefnet.com, she writes:

Today, just like in the book of Acts, Christians are persecuted all over the world for following Jesus. While Christian persecution takes many forms, it is defined as any hostility experienced as a result of identification with Christ.

Trends show that countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East are intensifying persecution against Christians, and perhaps the most vulnerable are Christian women, who often face double persecution for faith and gender. North Korea was ranked #1 for the 17th consecutive year as the most dangerous country for Christians on the World Watch List.

These trends make sense for many American Christians. Persecution of their religion only happens in faraway countries, right? Wrong. Christian persecution is happening right here at home, on our own soil. Many here are attacked for their faith too. While it might not be at the level of beheadings or burned down churches as seen in other places of the world, it still is a problem that is growing. Traditional Christians are facing increasing intolerance in this country through the fines, the lawsuits, the jobs lost, and the public disdain felt.

Here are some of the ways that you might be experiencing Christian persecution in America, without even realizing it.

Persecution in politics

Many politicians in the United States get attacked for their religious beliefs. For example, Senators Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, and Kamala Harris, D-Calif., chose negative and angry questions in an interview with Brian Buescher, an Omaha-based lawyer nominated by President Trump to sit on the United States District Court for the District of Nebraska. Buescher, a Catholic, has very traditional values. Due to his beliefs, he was subjected to scrutiny by these two senators. They tried to cast doubt on his ability to serve in public office because of his Christianity.

Traditional values are continuously trying to be removed from America. In general, the beliefs of the right are being called closed minded, however they are beliefs that are found in the Bible and have been a part of this country for years. For example, where Christian bakers are refusing to bake cakes for same-sex weddings, or those in public office are refusing to authorize same-sex wedding certificates. These people that have stood up for what they believe in were given a huge amount of negative publicity.

Furthermore, there has been consistent push to remove all traces of God from government for many years. Our Pledge of Allegiance, for example, has been repeatedly been brought up saying that “under God” needs to be taken from its text. Even American money has been brought into question, because it has “in God we trust” written on it.

Persecution on college campuses

If you know any Christian millennial that goes to a liberal college, you might have heard about how their beliefs are judged. At campuses throughout the country, outspoken Christians are regularly demeaned, debased and targeted for their beliefs. Many times these Christian college students will hear from others about how their religion only has hateful, bigoted, and privileged believers.

Many Christian colleges themselves also have been in jeopardy lately. Recently, some have been asked to conform to secularist ideology or they will lose their accreditation. Traditional evangelical schools like Gordon College in Massachusetts and Kings College in New York are having their accreditation questioned. Some secularists are arguing that Christian colleges should never deserve accreditation, period.

Persecution in public schools

Just like many campus colleges, public schools are getting hit as well. Student groups like InterVarsity have been kicked off campuses, and a teacher in New Jersey was suspended for giving a student a Bible. A football coach in Washington was placed on leave for saying a prayer on the field at the end of a game.

Prayer in school has been a topic fought for years. Students that do choose to pray, regardless if they are told to do so by their teachers or not, are typically looked at strangely by their peers. Teachers oftentimes do not step in during these situations, as they feel that they cannot touch on such subjects. Instead, they choose to censor all religion in the classroom, letting ignorance and bullying flourish.

How can you deal with persecution?

Unfortunately, persecution against Christians in the United States is not something that is avoidable. It is something that Christians will have to deal with and understand. The key to coping and dealing with the persecution of Christians and Christianity in the U.S. is our reaction to our persecution. The key to understanding and thriving through the persecution is in reacting as Jesus Christ did. Jesus did not seek revenge on His enemies but rather, He was called to turn the other cheek. When Jesus Christ was on the cross, He prayed for forgiveness for those who put Him there. We can do the same.

Christians are different from others of the world, and those who are different tend to get judged. The followers of Christ have been persecuted from the beginning, but we can grow and overcome the negativity. Stand up for what you know is true, share Jesus with others, and ignore those who want to put you down. (Quote source here.)

Back to Paul’s story, he experienced continual persecution for his faith in Jesus Christ but he never faltered or walked away from Who he believed in, and he was passionate about telling others about Jesus Christ even in prison and right up until he was executed. And he never allowed persecution to get the better of him. For inspiration, read the book of Philippians in the New Testament that was written by Paul when he was in prison.

As noted in the above article, persecution comes in many forms. Here is a general definition of persecution:

  • The act or practice of persecuting on the basis of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or beliefs that differ from those of the persecutor.
  • The act or practice of persecuting; harassing or oppressive treatment; especially, the infliction of injury (as loss of property or civil rights, physical suffering, or death) as a punishment for adhering to some opinion or course of conduct, as a religious creed or a mode of worship, which cannot properly be regarded as criminal.
  • Persistent or repeated injury or annoyance of any kind.
  • The act or practice of persecuting; especially, the infliction of loss, pain, or death for adherence to a particular creed or mode of worship. (Quote source here.)

On a personal level, as Christians, we should ask ourselves how much have we allowed our culture to rub off on us. For example, do we believe in keeping our vows to our spouse in our “anything goes” culture today? Or being a faithful and loyal friend? What about how we sometimes abuse strangers in our midst or fellow believers with caustic body language or disdaining looks, comments, or shunning them just because we don’t like them or we disagree with them or we think they aren’t “Christian” enough as we define being Christian? And what about our gossiping about others behind their backs? Persecution can come from us, too. It’s not just about receiving it from others.

Do we think this type of attitude is irrelevant and it doesn’t matter that we take part in doing it because “everybody does it”? I am a firm believer that nothing we do even when we think it is done in secret is ever really secret in this world. Today’s technology can track every single second of our lives and record our conversations and keep track of everywhere we go, who we are with, and what we are doing 24/7. Not even our homes are private anymore. Think about that because it is true.

Confession and repentance are vital for the soul but they are not often a part of our lives. 1 John 1:9 states, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness,” and that verse is written to people who are already Christians which means that confession should play a continuing role in our lives. We do not have the right to judge others as if we think we are somehow superior to or better then they are. When Jesus told us not to judge others in Matthew 7:1-6, he meant it. And we all fall short on judging others, especially in judging fellow believers who don’t conform to what we think they should be conforming to (hence, we persecute them in various ways). God help us because we are part of the problem. Evil begets evil; it never begets good. And judging others is evil.

We need love, not hate. And judging others is nothing more than disguised hate. Jesus said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34). Love is not an option; it is a mandate.

I realize some of what I have posted above challenges our comfort zones (and that’s a good thing), but I also want to end this blog post with some encouraging words from Psalm 20:1-5:

May the Lord answer you when you are in distress;
    may the name of the God of Jacob protect you.
May he send you help from the sanctuary
    and grant you support from Zion.
May he remember all your sacrifices
    and accept your burnt offerings.
May he give you the desire of your heart
    and make all your plans succeed.
May we shout for joy over your victory

    and lift up our banners in the name of our God.

And . . .

May the Lord grant . . .

All your requests . . . .

YouTube Video: “Stranger in a Strange Land” (1971) by Leon Russell and the Shelter People:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here
Photo #3 credit here