camping

Day 67-80

Beware! I live!

Yes, dear readers. After a long, lazy, unproductive hiatus, I have returned. My camping trip ended a week ago and I still haven’t managed to get off my ass and update my blog. So I’m going to zip through everything and just get up to today so that I can start fresh with renewed commitment tomorrow. (Update: Also, most of Exodus is [forgive me Lord] boring as s***. I’ll get cracking on that tomorrow)

Actually, before I go ahead and write all this, I’m going to go draw a Medicine Card. Be right back!

I have drawn Raccoon, in the Contrary position. Let us look him up, shall we?

“If Raccoon has appeared in the reverse position, you may be robbing yourself of much needed strength at this time. Do you need an attitude adjustment?” Etc., etc.

Appropriate as always. It says a bit more about “feeling drained,” as well as giving energy to others that you may essentially revitalize yourself. Perhaps this is what I need. Perhaps the “other” in this situation is God, and my duty thereto.

Speaking of duty, I was reading C. S. Lewis while I was on my camping trip, and he is a positively amazing writer for those who wish to have a better understanding of Christianity. Granted, it is just one man’s perspective, but considering he was a former atheist, he has a great deal of insight and offers quite a bit of explanation. I shall have to list some of his books.

Anyway he mentions at one point that our worship our our devotion to God can itself become an object of worship. He at one point started to see his work on, I believe, The Problem of Pain, as becoming a temptation rather than a duty. I’m definitely not there yet, as evidenced by the fact that I couldn’t force myself to write this blog for a full week. So far, this is still duty. Which in a sense implies my lack of virtue, since I struggle against the Word and duty to God rather than rejoice in it.

If you’ve read my About page or some of my previous posts you know that I spoke of revelations that allowed me to grok the idea of “oneness with God.” My idea is/was that we and everything in existence are one with God, although I am no longer sure in what sense. We are reflections of Him, all good is His Good, all love is His Love, and all energy is His Energy.

If He is, as C. S. Lewis puts it, the Uncreated, and everything else (us included) is the created, then in a sense all of our matter and energy came from God in the first place. I guess this is sort of a roundabout argument that is going nowhere. The point is, I had this idea of oneness with God, of a spiritual and to some extent physical unity with some form of the Divine.

On my camping trip, I understood our separateness from God. I saw why this was so, and that it was, in its own way, Good. God, as one vast infinite Being could neither do nor love except to create. God, as an infinitely creative and loving force, could do nothing less. If God did not create anything, what would He have to love? Thus, the universe, I suppose.

And we had to be given free will because otherwise there would be no point. C.S. Lewis makes the point that God could have removed the consequences of the First Sin (the whole Adam and Eve thing) but then He would have had to remove the consequences of the second, and the third, and so on, and there would be no free will. But like prodigal sons all of us, we are allowed to leave in hopes that some day, some long day after we have been bruised and hurt, after we have hurt others, after we have lied and been lied to… we are allowed to leave in the hopes that after all this we will return. Return to our real “home,” so to speak, in the presence of and in a unity with God.

So how did all this come to me? Well, Mr. Lewis was a big help. My partner gave me some books just in time for me to bring them, and they were the perfect reading material on my trip. But also, in the form of a song! The following lyrics are to the tune of The Battle Hymn of the Republic, or if you prefer, John Brown’s Body.

Ahem.


In the creaking of the pine trees, I heard an open door

I have seen His praises written there upon the forest floor

Though I have eaten from His table, He keeps me coming back for more

His Truth is marching on!

(Chorus, if you like)

In the beauty of the briars, Man was born upon the Earth

He strains and pains, complains and blames; he wonders what he’s worth

But Christ who reaches out to him is heedless of his birth

His Truth is marching on!

(Chorus)

I grin, my skin is paper thin, my mind is like a sieve

I lie here in His loving arms that I shall never leave

Beneath the broken tree leaves lie the tangled webs we weave

His Truth is marching on!

(Chorus)

Here and there and everywhere, whenever we my ask

He is present with his children, regardless of our task

By His Grace we go about our days, in His Glory we may bask

His truth is marching on!

(Chorus)

As eagles fly down mountainside, my journey’s just begun

May my gaze be fixed upon His Grace until my days are done

May He burn himself into my eyes like the righteous setting sun

His Truth is marching on!

(Chorus)

The gift that You have given me exists beyond compare

The Glory You are showing me is more than I could bear

So You gave to me this human form to find You everywhere

Your Truth is marching on!


This is my anthem to God. I cannot think of any other way to describe it. He has given me and shown me so much. Part of me wants to discontinue this project but I know I will regret doing so. I must continue to work on this, and do “my best.”

This, of course, is laughable. I realize what “little” creatures we are, now. Lewis writes in The Problem of Pain

“Christianity now has to preach the diagnosis—in itself very bad news—before it can win a hearing for the cure.”

I finally understand the diagnosis. The cure has already been discovered; the prescription is written. But so many are in denial of the diagnosis that they will not accept the cure.

But as far as being “little,” as I have said… C. S. Lewis has this to say, from The Great Divorce:

“You weren’t a decent man and you didn’t do your best. We none of us were and none of us did.”

We are infinitely far from perfect; I grok that now. We are perfect in the sense that we could not in this moment be anything other than what we are, but what we choose to do with this moment and each successive Now is up to us. But in terms of being perfected, that is something we cannot and will not be, at least not in this life. Can we get close? Sure, in the sense that successively higher numbers appear to approach an infinitely distant point. But I have seen the truth in the old adage: nobody’s perfect.

Only God is perfect; all we creatures can do is trust Him.

Until tomorrow. Peace be upon you.

Day 64

Exodus 14

The famous parting of the Red Sea. If I were really interested, I’d go look up all the names of the cities/places the Bible mentions to try and determine if they were actually talking about the Red Sea or a “Sea of Reeds,” which would be a possible translation or spelling or whatever. I am currently not interested.

The point is, the Egyptians get their panties in a bunch and decide to send their army after the Israelites. Quite frankly I have no idea why someone would decide to send their army onto a sea bed when the sea is only being held aside by the power of the person you are chasing but these Egyptians are a pretty dense bunch. A few bricks short of a pyramid, so to speak.

Israelites escape, Egyptians leave, and nothing bad ever happened to the Jews again. (cringe)

But what I really want to talk about today is…


Thunder Dreamer

I bought my first firearm. The NRA should be contacting me any time now.

It is a thing of beauty: a 1950-something bolt-action 12-gauge shotgun. It looks like something you’d find in a post-apocalyptic setting and between the age and size has this very crude brutality about it. Simple, crude, but elegant in its own way. I have this tendency of falling for things/ideas based mostly upon their novelty. This is so aesthetically novel to me that I couldn’t help but love it. I cleaned it out for the first time and paid as much attention as I could to the details.

My friend told me that he “couldn’t wait to see her,” and after reading that I felt like it needed a name. With the bolt being such a crucial and identifying part of the gun, I wanted to name it after some sort of thunder god. I was looking for a female name, but there are few female thunder gods in mythology, at least few that a quick Google search could turn up.

(This is a great example of my Moose medicine in action; I’ve told this story twice already and I want to tell it several more times.)

So then on the advice of my brother I started looking up female names from the 30’s and 50’s. No such luck; nothing jumped out at me. So I told my brother about the “thunder god” idea, and we went back to a list. He pointed to one that was Lakota in origin: Haokah.

I looked at the article on Wikipedia and learned about Heyoka (or Haokah, or Heyókȟa). You’re welcome to read the article for yourself here, but I will tell you that it is perfect. The name applies to a set of joking, contrary holy men or medicine men that use humor and satire to teach lessons, to show people that which is not easily shown, and to bring humility and laughter even (or especially) in dire circumstances.

I saw a video while researching the heyoka that purported to tell how to find out if you are a heyoka. I did not watch it. Another video featuring a man named Chief Walking Bear has an explanation of a heyoka “initiation” or test. I don’t think I’m even remotely qualified, and I do not have the arrogance to proclaim myself one of these special teachers. I do however share some of the qualities they possess, and I love the concept. Now that I have a term for such a thing as a “sacred clown,” I really enjoy the thought of that. It especially made me think of the trickster mask I made long ago, and the jester mask I purchased. I have always liked trickster gods.

Anyway, Chief Walking Bear talks about being struck by lightning, how he saw it wrap around his ankles as he ran, and the explosion from the lightning flipped him end over end and landed him right back on his feet. If I get struck by lightning this weekend, I’ll come back and tell you all about it. They are predicting rain…

But seriously. The other half of the Wikipedia article talks about Heyoka as the name of a spirit. He is a hunting spirit, and a spirit of thunder and lightning. This quote from Black Elk struck me like lightning, and I knew I had the name I was looking for:

“When a vision comes from the thunder beings of the West, it comes with terror like a thunder storm; but when the storm of vision has passed, the world is greener and happier; for wherever the truth of vision comes upon the world, it is like a rain. The world, you see, is happier after the terror of the storm… you have noticed that truth comes into this world with two faces. One is sad with suffering, and the other laughs; but it is the same face, laughing or weeping… as lightning illuminates the dark, for it is the power of lightning that heyokas have.”

— Black Elk

Read the article; do your own research. To me, the idea of an unconventional hunting spirit of thunder suits this new gun perfectly. Plus, I wanted to find something American, and the Lakota language/mythology is excellent, having been in this land for God knows how long before white people showed up. Also, I’m pretty sure the Lakota make flutes similar to the one I have. Not to be disrespectful, but I seem to have a theme going.

I’ll be taking Thunder Dreamer with me on my camping trip. I can’t wait.

Day 63

Exodus 13

Here we get a lot more about Passover and unleavened bread and making sure your kids don’t grow up to be ungrateful heathens and so on. I think it is interesting that they say, after describing the whole bread thing, that

“This will serve for you as a sign on your hand and as a memorial on your forehead.”

— Exodus 13:9

In John Wesley’s explanatory notes, he writes that this is a metaphor for “things which are never out of our thoughts.” I find it interesting that this is similar to the “mark of the Beast” in Revelations, as well as the whole idea of it as a metaphor for something else. I also find more interesting the fact that according to the JW New World Translation, “on your forehead” can apparently be translated as “between your eyes.” Many mystics and New-Age types talk about the “third eye,” and its supposed relation to the pineal gland, which happens to be located roughly “between the eyes.”

But my favorite part of this chapter is Exodus 13, verse 21, cited here from the NKJV:

And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so as to go by day and night.

This image of God as a magnificent pillar of swirling clouds, or as a pillar of raging fire against the night sky is marvelous. I have stared deeply into a campfire in the dark of night and regarded the whole thing as an otherworldly, mystical experience. To me, this all rings true.

I cannot speak to the literal interpretation of this, and it is hard to take it metaphorically. All I know is that the image and the story are magnificent.

Good day, all. Peace be upon you.

Day 55

Seriously, so much for this “daily” thing. I’m currently updating on borrowed time in a parking lot from my phone.

I didn’t realize how far behind I was. Once I get back from my camping trip I can start fresh. I’ll be writing by hand or recording audio every day for those 5-6 days and I’ll have to transcribe it and post it when I get back.


Exodus 5

The tl;dr (too long; didn’t read) version of this chapter is that Pharaoh is a d**k. For a discussion of why this is so, check Day 54.

Moses and Aaron want the Hebrews to be able to go and worship in the desert, which if I remember was supposed to be a false pretense in order for them to escape. When they ask Pharaoh to allow the Israelites to leave, he denies their request.

Not only does he deny it but he assumes the Hebrews are slacking off, so he takes away their straw (which they need to make bricks) and has them find their own. Of course, he still expects the same amount of bricks!

The Hebrews ask why he has done this and he tells them it is because they wanted to go and pray! So the Hebrews blame… Moses, of course! Another classic case of misdirected anger.

Moses wonders what the eff God is doing with all this since now the Hebrews are oppressed even worse than before! Oh, Moses. If only you knew. Does not the Lord work all things for good?

Good day, all. Peace be upon you.

Day 48

Sweet Jesus, we’re almost done with Genesis. I have such a headache, and I’m so tired right now, but still I’m up typing away…

This project, combined with my new job, is going to be the most trying and demanding thing I’ve ever had to do. Maybe this hectic week will be good for me; if I retire early tonight and wake up early, I can start fresh and write my Day 49 post early, before I have to work all day. And the next day. And the next day.

You know, I’m going out of town in less than three weeks, and I cannot wait. I’m going camping, and I’m going to be away from the computer for about 7 or 8 days. I’ll be bringing my Bible and a notepad with me on the camping trip, and I’ll read and write every day. But the posting is going to have to wait til I get back. I think it’ll be a really nice vacation; I can’t wait to turn my phone off for a week; it’s always buzzing with texts and emails… Days like today, I just want a little silence. As soon as I’m done with this post, I shall have it.


Genesis 48

Joseph brings his sons to meet his dying father, Jacob. Jacob/Israel takes the children close to him, recounts his vision of God and the promises therefrom, and says this (Gen 49:5-6):

And now your two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, who were born to you in the land of Egypt before I came to you in Egypt, are mine; as Reuben and Simeon, they shall be mine. Your offspring whom you beget after them shall be yours; they will be called by the name of their brothers in their inheritance.

I wasn’t sure what to make of this, so I visited our old friend Matthew Henry. Haven’t heard from him in a while. He makes the point that Jacob “adopts” Ephraim and Manasseh to carry on the promises of God, to carry on the blessings, to live a godly life rather than an earthly one. Jacob wants the two boys “to know, that it is better to be low, and in the church, than high, and out of it.”¹

Jacob then blesses the boys, placing his right hand on the head of Ephraim, the younger, and his left hand on the head of Manasseh, the older. Joseph tells his father essentially that he is confused or mistaken in his blessings, but Jacob speaks “from a spirit of prophecy,” according to Matthew Henry. Jacob knows that, just as with his life and his brother, the younger shall surpass the older in the eyes of God.

Here is Jacob’s blessing to the boys (Gen 49:15-16):

“God, before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked,
The God who has fed me all my life long to this day,
The Angel who has redeemed me from all evil,
Bless the lads;
Let my name be named upon them,
And the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac;
And let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.”

I like the second and third lines; the second because God has cared for Jacob all the way up til now, almost out of expectation or a leading-up to his death. Also, because this chapter made me think about it, I realized that there has been no mention of anyone dying and going to Heaven. The only mention of “heaven” throughout Genesis seems to be used to mean “sky,” and the only person who has had anything else happen to him besides death is Enoch, for if you recall, “God took him” back in Genesis 5:24.

As far as the third line goes, I was confused as to “The Angel.” Obviously this figure is equated with God, which made me think of the idea of the Trinity and all the appearances of the “Angel of the Lord” throughout Genesis. Both Matthew Henry and John Wesley equate this figure with Jesus Christ, “the Angel of the covenant.” 1,2

It is interesting to see all these interpretations of the appearance of Christ in the Old Testament. Someday I should like to talk to a Rabbi or a Jewish scholar about all of this and see what their take on it is.

Anyway, I’m calling it an early night. I love you all; peace be upon you.

Good night.


¹ Henry, Matthew. http://www.christnotes.org/commentary.php?b=1&c=48&com=mhc

² Wesley, John. http://www.christnotes.org/commentary.php?com=wes&b=1&c=48

Day 35

Happy Easter, everybody. Even if my well-wishing is a little belated…

I got invited by my partner to go to church today. This is the first time in over ten years that I’ve been to a “regular” Protestant service. I say “regular” because I got invited to attend an LDS service sometime within the past two years.

It was not exactly what I was expecting, and yet, it was everything I needed. The church itself was a large complex of buildings, complete with a cafe. I was so lost; I’m used to churches being big, one-room, rustic-looking buildings. This was an ultra-modern campus that looked more like a small university than a church.

When we were ushered inside to the actual worship and service it was like going into a rock concert. The room was dark, everyone was standing, they had a whole bank of colored spotlights and a projector facing each of the four walls. There was a freakin’ fog machine, for heaven’s sake! Again, I’m used to solemn and dramatic hymns sung slowly in a well-lit room, so this just blew my mind. I guess I’m out of the loop.

I wish I could remember the entirety of the brief service. Of course, what with it being Easter, they talked about the resurrection. The pastor also spent a great deal of time talking to people about the veracity of the scriptures and especially the story of Jesus rising from the dead. He made the point that even if medical knowledge at the time was not as good as ours (when it came to declaring people dead), he said that the Romans were exceptionally good at killing people, and they would have made darn sure that Jesus was dead before burying him.

He also said that the “rising from the grave” part is the most important part of this whole story, as it becomes sort of the “stamp of approval” that tops off the act of dying for everyone’s sins. The Jehovah’s Witnesses do not celebrate Easter; based on their readings of the Bible, they commemorate the day that Jesus died. This is based, presumably, on the fact that this is the date that matters because it is the date following which everyone in the world could be saved and be free from death. The so-called “curse” of Adam and Eve was broken.

But hell, anyone can read the Bible and figure this out. I’ll be discussing it at some point in the next, oh, two-and-a-half years or so, once I get that far into the New Testament.

What really interested me was the feelings within me during the service and the conversation I had with God. I learned and remembered a lot about why people go to church, and about how the energy and the music and all those other people really wrap you up into a state of religious ecstasy. Even though I know the psychological principles behind it all, I couldn’t escape it this time around. By the time the band started playing the second time, I was really just standing there, weeping silently.


I have… a relationship with God that is both simple and remarkably complex. I realize I’m blowing my own horn here, but it has been a long and rocky road. I was never raised in the church or with any particular idea of God, but it was not infrequently that I went to church with my aunt. Any time I stayed at her house for a weekend I went with her on Sunday. I don’t remember much except old people in old fancy clothes and little youth activity workbooks. And maybe getting animal crackers at Sunday school.

I avoided my aunt as much as possible as I got older. It wasn’t so much that I didn’t enjoy church as I didn’t enjoy her attitude or behavior toward me and later toward my brother. We just didn’t get along.

Later in life, my teenage years, I would become a dedicated atheist. I was very against Christianity and I thought their whole conception of God was ridiculous and childish. I thought of myself (as some atheists do) as a shining beacon of reason blazing against the darkness of ignorance and myth. I thought I had it all figured out.

Later, in high school, I learned about the Universal Life Church, and the fact that anyone can get ordained as a minister. I don’t know what it was about this that I thought was so funny, but I did it. I have since made sure that my ordination is valid and up-to-date, but there I was, a high school minister. I charged 25 cents for a confession, and I think someone only took me up on that once. Again, I was mostly playing around.

I even had a little tubular piece of paper that I decorated like the Pope’s hat; I wore it on my finger like a puppet. You can just tell how serious this was to me.

I don’t know exactly what changed, but at some point in college I began to feel a draw toward… something. Actually, I need to back up. For a very brief time following my atheist phase, I had a flicker of conception of God. I distinctly remember praying to God, getting into a relaxed spiritual state, and listening to the voice that came back. I don’t think this lasted very long, but I definitely remember it.

But, in college, something came back, and I remember walking around the churches near my campus. I wanted to talk to someone, but I don’t know why or what I would have even asked. I just remember feeling so lost and empty. That day, all the doors were closed and the churches were unavailable to me. This seems appropriate, now that I look back on it. I don’t think I would have been ready for anything they had to say.

It would be a few more years before I would rediscover God in a big way, when I would reconcile the idea of the Christian God-as-Father with the things that were going on inside my head. To my own satisfaction, I had answered the problem of evil, and I was ready to accept and believe in God.

This happened during a camping trip, far away on a mountaintop surrounded by beautiful pine forests. It is an amazing place, and I’ve written many poems about it. Maybe someday I’ll even share some here.

But I went up to this mountain weary and with a heavy heart, lonely and empty. I came back a man rich in spirit, full of awe and hope. I had a fresh outlook on the world, and I had made my peace with the idea of God, an idea with which I had wrestled for most of my life. But like Jacob, I emerged triumphant and felt blessed.

It was this strange and mystical experience that led me to call myself a shaman. Unlike my initial ordination, this was something I would take very seriously, but not to the point where I can’t laugh about it. The way I see it, you go up to a mountaintop, you have a mystical experience and visions unlike anything else in your life, you make peace with God, and you come back a changed man. If that’s not a shamanic initiation, I don’t know what is.

Just to clarify, I didn’t choose this title based on any particular cultural tradition. Altered states of consciousness, a connection to the natural world, a love of God, and a desire for spiritual healing are the things that this term encompasses for me. It is a term that has been used to anthropologists to describe many traditions the world over, but I use it because it feels so right. It ties together everything about my initial experience and the others that have come after.

But even this doesn’t explain why I wept at church. That experience would come later, during another camping trip at the same place.

What I failed to mention on Day 16, when I talked about ego death, is that I’ve been there. I can’t tell you about the brainwave patterns or the science behind the experience, I can only tell you what it feels like.

In the shortest sense, it really was a “letting go.” It was like I was drifting further and further away from “myself,” and I was so afraid. I didn’t know what was happening or what was coming next, all I knew is that I felt this intense swelling of energy that wasn’t going away. After a while of wrestling with this impending something, I finally reached a place were I felt peaceful, and it was as though all the energy flowed away gently. I washed away with it.

When I came to, it was as though I was seeing the world for the first time. It was a beautiful experience; I realized how little we really see in our day-to-day life. I read somewhere that most of the time, we only see the idea of a color because we’re not really looking. I understood what that meant, because I knew what it was like to actually see color for what it was.

This was the day that I understood and conceived of God on a deeper level. This was the day I mentioned in the About page, the day that I understood God-as-Everything. This experience was nothing short of a rebirth. This experience is why I was standing in church today, unable to stop the tears from running down my face.

The story of the resurrection is so beautiful, and it reminded me so much of my own experience. It was a powerful reminder. I know from my own experience that the promise of life that Christ professed is a real promise. We can be free of living as if we are dead. We can be free to truly live.

I wish I could remember the pastor’s exact words today. He was describing the scriptures, and he said that they were true because they have the power to transform people’s lives. I could not agree more. The essence of the faith is so beautiful, and I cannot wait to get to the New Testament in order to read and understand the words of Jesus Christ for myself.

As much as I was reminded today of the beauty and inherent truth of the Bible, I was also reminded of the limitations of current interpretations. I feel like this book has so much more that can be learned from it. The only way to find out is to press on and keep reading.

Good night and good day, everyone.

In your heart and mine, He is risen.