- Do you have enough happiness in your life?
- The more misery there is, the more I can complain; the more I can complain, the happier I am.
- Where is happiness going to get me? Angst keeps me thinking, stretching, trying to better myself and my circumstances.
- If I'm happy who's going to feel sorry for me?
- If I'm happy everything I have will be taken away by what's around the next corner.
- We all inevitably die. Who can be happy knowing that nothing matters in the long run?
- Do you have complete peace of mind?
- How can I know if I have complete peace of mind if I don't know all the pieces of my mind. There's a lot lurking around back there that I've never seen and don't have any idea about, I can tell.
- I'm most at ease when everything is going to shit, then I know it can't get any worse without there being a drastic natural disaster.
- About what? What're you implying? I haven't done anything wrong, ask my lawyer. I was a dupe, just like the next guy.
- We're all going to die. You don't think about this? It doesn't rankle you?
- Are your home life and love life content?
- No one else can do anything right. I have to do everything, even, you know, sexually.
- What's love? No one knows how to love. People only use. We're all co-dependent users.
- Yeah, I found a real nice home where I've got a nice size refrigerator box under a great set of stairs.
- Do those who have your name understand you?
- Pretty well, but I bitch about how they don't understand me because I'm really confused about my own motivations and desires.
- Do you know how many John Smiths are in the phone book? That's a lot of understanding to ask for.
- Are there certain family members who are actually strangers to you when it comes to trusting them?
- What you're asking is if my grandson sold my television for some crack money. How did you know? God must have told you.
- Do you feel that someone or something is holding you back?
- What you're asking is if I feel like the devil has it in for me because I'm a warrior for Jesus. Thank God, someone recognizes how important I am and can help me with my mission.
- Do you wonder why you were born, or why you are on this earth?
- I'm here because of my mission. When I accidentally set fire to the halfway house with my shorn hair that I had kindled as a burnt offering to the Lord, I was the only one to escape since I was the only one awake. God certainly has a purpose for my life.
- I was born so that I could think about how I'm just going to die. I'm here because my mom believed her high school driver's ed teacher when he told her he was 45 and had never felt this way about anyone ever before and his wife didn't understand him.
- Do you question who you are in the eyes of God, and where you are going as you grow older?
- Yes, my belief has been severely shaken because I had faith before I got old and infirm Jesus would return and I'd be caught up in the rapture.
- I'm a minister. I don't question anything about myself. I'm home free. I make good money too. Probably not as good as you, but all the free stuff I get is healthy compensation for my having to "listen" to all the crap that everyone's always wanting to shoulder on me. But I got smart and started charging by the hour like psychiatrists and financial advisors.
- Does it seem like you never have enough money?
- What do you mean "seem like?"
- It's embarrassing to have my friends over and have them sit down to a meal with stainless steel cutlery. They must certainly wonder if I'm really free in Jesus Christ. Behind my back they probably talk about how willful I am or else God would have blessed me long ago. It seems like God would help me financially just to relieve me of this shame.
- My problem is I was raised to think "Thank God I have enough money for a KIA." I have put a picture of a Cadillac up on the refrigerator and am praying God to raise my standard of living to match my standard of faith in that Cadillac.
- Is there something in your past that continues to haunt you?
- My ex-wife's dead dog. I'll wake up at night and smell that thing hovering over me, hear him snarling.
- Do you have a loved one who cannot get his or her life in order, and you continue to worry about that one?
- I washed my hands of that son of mine long before he made it to prison. The moment he was born I knew he was bad news. He had his daddy's eyes. I tried to whip it out of him from the beginning, but when he turned 8 he took to the street life, started running away. Took up with bad company, just like his dad. That's when I told him not to bother coming home, I wasn't going to have his abusing me like that.
- Are there debts that it seems you can never pay?
- I got this "Seeds for Success" type pamphlet from another ministry, and they said if I didn't have it to send then I should charge my 10% offering based on the kind of income I'd like to have. I believed them and did this for five years. Judging from your "welcome" picture, you may give me the same sermon. I'll believe you too.
- The CEO of the company I work for makes billions a year and deserves it, it's a great company and makes a lot of money. I make minimum wage and have three children. I have to charge our food on our credit card sometimes and those interest rates are pretty steep. The Republicans would be able to take care of all of this if the Democrats didn't fight against them on everything. And now I've got to worry about these foreigners working cheaper than me in some slave labor factory; you think they don't know they're putting the screws to my sorry ass?
- Do you feel like the cost of living continues to increase, but your money does not?
- Those Asians who take my job away by working for nothing worship idols, and so do those Hispanics who keep jumping the border from Mexico. OK, they're not the only reason I don't get a fair shake anymore, but when I walk into the corner store to get my lottery tickets and see that Nigerian woman there wearing nicer clothes than me, well, I wonder what's this country coming to.
- Is there something missing in your life?
- Should I make a list?
- Common sense, but that doesn't bother me too much.
- Yes, I haven't given my last cent to charlatans yet, but I'm working on it.
- My mommy and daddy. Can you find them for me? I don't know who my daddy is, and my mommy dropped me off two years ago at her sister's house and I haven't seen her since. If I could tell her how much I love her maybe she would take me back.
- Do you wish that the confusion in your life would just go away and let you enjoy your life more?
- I know from experience that when it does go away, I don't enjoy life more, and that makes me that much more confused. It's best to leave things as they are.
- Do you desire to have someone in your life whom you could talk to and trust completely, and they would understand the real you?
- I used to call during those telethons on the religion channel and make a pledge just so I'd have someone to talk to. They were so understanding and friendly in the beginning. But like everyone else, they turned on me too. The television psychics were real friendly but I can't talk to them anymore now that I don't have a phone.
- Are you undergoing health problems?
- God must have told you that too.
- Are there days when it feels like all you are experiencing is bad luck?
- Yes. The devil has it in for me for sure. So does my sister-in-law. The Bible says that evil shall not prosper, so I don't know why God permits her to make the kind of money that she is. Every ring I want to buy from the Home Shoppers Network, she gets it just to spite me. She has three drawers full of jewelry and I only have two. It's just not right.
- Yes, there are all those floods and other disasters all around the world and each one touches me deeply in a very personal way. I'm afraid if it could happen to someone else, it could happen to me too. I thank God every day for not letting me be like those people, but everyone else's bad luck spoils how well I'm actually doing, because, you know, it could happen to me.
- Does it seem like you would have to win the lottery to get beyond your financial problems?
- I'm spending two hundred dollars a week on lottery tickets and all I've won is $10. Every week I pray God to give me the right numbers. The devil must be causing some fierce static interference.
- Does it ever feel like heaven is made of brass and the prayers you pray just come back and hit you in the face?
- Every day, and I don't understand it. Must be the devil standing up there with his bat, and he won't let any one of my pitches get by him.
- Would you like to know that you are on good terms with God Almighty?
- What you're saying is since my prayers aren't being answered then I must not be on good terms with God, isn't it? In my heart of hearts, I do believe you must be right. God is merciful and kind and wouldn't close his ears to me unless there was something not upright about me. It is very sad.
- I don't think about God much because he never seems to be around. But I think of the devil quite a bit because he's so showy about everything he does, and he seems to make a lot of people very happy. Those people are all going to hell of course, but they're having a good time getting there. At least I know I'm not on good terms with the devil because I'm doing so poorly.
- Do you ever lie in bed, after everyone else has gone to sleep, and wonder about your purpose for being here and where you are destined to be?
- Yes, and I wonder why it's called the sleep of the righteous.
- Not since I started taking these little pills my daughter gets for me from the doctor. She doesn't want me happy and tries to control me, tries to tell me that I just took one and don't need another one yet. When she's as old as I am, I hope she has a daughter just like her.
- Do you believe that your life would be better if you could just have those one or two things which you so often think about?
- You mean like riches galore? You bet.
- Yes, but I've been taught it's not in my hands to do the work of God's vengeance.
- Do you know that you are a good person in God's eyes?
Yes, because the devil is fighting so hard against me.
- No, because God seems to have it in for me.
- Are you ready for some good fortune, and to begin winning instead of losing?
- So, we've absolutely named the problem then. I'm a loser. Such a loser. But it's all right because good fortune can be mine if I just do what I'm told. That's great. I'm good at doing what I'm told to do by people who seem more successful and are authoritative.
winner or loser
the questions used in the text to the left are taken from a marvelous little "inspirational" booklet that appears every six months or so in my mailbox, which means I live in a demographic area especially targeted for this type of mailing: i.e. poor. The "welcome" image is from it as well, but I've implanted different text. the booklet expounds on an idea of something called "seeds of success." "Seeds of success" appears in graphics in the booklet, often printed up on what appears to be some kind of box, with fruitful wheat waving in the wind behind the lettering. Reminds me personally of an old harmonica box. But the more I look at it, the more I think maybe it's not a box, I bet it's some kind of payment plan. I vaguely recollect checkbook type things from the few years during my youth I spent in the Roman Catholic church, and each week you were supposed to tear out of the checkbook type thing the check-like thing that went with the appropriate week and mark down on it how much you were putting in the collection plate. I bet that's what this Seeds of Success thing is, a book of that type--but I could be wrong! On the back of the inspirational booklet is a form you're supposed to cut out and send in to "St. Matthew." It reads,
This is a special postcard for you to order your Prosperity Seed Harvest Plan. Saint Matthew will pay the postage for you.
Dear St. Matthew,
Please Rush me a Biblical Gold Book Seed Harvest Prosperity Plan so that I can take God as my financial partner.
Pray for me to be saved.
I'm Saved, but I need a closer walk with God...
There are a couple more options you can check, for there is an empty box beside each of these entreaties which you can put a check mark in. Except for the Gold Book Seed Harvest Prosperity Plan. They have already checkmarked it for you. Whoever they are.
"Take care of yourself!"
screamed the White Queen, seizing
Alice's hair with both her hands.
"Something's going to happen!"
The emphasis of the booklet, of course, is on financial salvation via their gold harvest plan. There are testimonials sprinkled here and there, supposedly from people who have gotten some blessing via this plan: a new car, the sale of a house. Usually people have gotten a car or a home, sometimes an unexpected check--what, from the IRS or someone dying? They never say what the check is from but you don't get the idea it's from a great business deal that went through. And the gifted, enthusiastic, further crow, "Send me three more Gold Book Seed Harvest Prosperity Plans!"
That's a true con artist, when someone can make you think whatever you get back from the IRS has to do with their prosperity plan. I don't imagine anyone is going out to their mailboxes and finding checks from anonymous individuals...or from this "St. Matthew Publishing" place.
There are all kinds of nifty images in the booklet of a gigantic Jesus standing behind mailboxes and hovering over United States Postal Workers as they go about their rounds, delivering your magic IRS checks.
It says it's a non-profit organization. I was wondering how they were able to be non-profit and so looked them up on the web.
The Better Business Bureau has this to say about "St. Matthew Publishing":
ST. MATTHEW 18:19 PUBLISHING
(also known as Church and Bible Study in the Home by Mail)
P.O. Box 21210
Tulsa, OK 74121-9938 May 1999
Expiration Date: May 2000
Despite written Better Business Bureau requests in the past year, St. Matthew 18:19 Publishing has not provided current information about its finances, programs, and governance.
The BBB's Philanthropic Advisory Service (PAS) reports on national charities and determines if they meet 23 voluntary standards on matters such as charity finances, appeals and governance. Without the requested information, it cannot verify if the charity meets these standards. PAS does not evaluate the worthiness of a charitable program.
In response, St. Matthew 18:19 Publishing stated, in part:
". . . St. Matthew Publishing is a church, a religious organization which does not and has never made any charitable solicitations. The Church is not a charity. It is an Evangelistic Church which reaches out and tries to convert the world to Christianity..."
In response to the Internal Revenue Service's finding that St. Matthew Publishing is no longer eligible to receive deductible gifts, St. Matthew Publishing filed on August 14, 1997, a Complaint for Declaratory Judgment against the Internal Revenue Service. The matter is pending. Until a court rules on this matter, St. Matthew Publishing retains its tax-exempt status and donors to St. Matthews can deduct, as charitable gifts, up to $1,000 of their contributions to St. Matthew Publishing (with a husband and wife treated as one contributor). Donations totaling more than $1,000 would not be fully deductible.
In response, St. Matthew 18:19 Publishing stated, in part, that the issues are "...for the years 1979 through 1983...[and it] fully expects to prevail in the declaratory judgement action thus preserving its tax-exempt status."
On March 10, 1996, Howard Swindle and Tim Wyatt, wrote for the Dallas Morning News that Mr. Ewing (St. Matthew's Publishing is owned by Mr. Ewing and Mr. McElrath) made $6 million in donations in 1992, 40 percent going to manage the charity and 60 percent to "program services" including bulk mail production expenses to 1,000,000 homes. $25,700, less than half a penny per dollar donated, went to the poor. Records in Texas, California and Oklahoma don't reveal any property holdings in Ewing's name, but his leased estate went for $13,430 a month "five years ago" and he has a leased collection of classic cars including Ferraris and Rolls Royces.
Ewing is given as specializing in "creative, direct-mail campaigns that use computer-generated letters and vivid graphics designed to represent a personal appeal." These mailings are often constructed around hooks like "faith shower caps" and "anointed coin wrappers" and brown paper "prayer sheets."
Ewing is also given as "God's Ghostwriter", a consultant to many of the nation's best-known evangelists.
Gotta feel a little sorry for those who fall for the scam.
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