Christ

Day 151

This is the Mew of project days. If we were going by the Hebrew calendar, which features 30-day months, I’d be just over five months. And honestly, that’s about right anyway. It was just in my mind because I had a conversation about end-time prophecies with a Jehovah’s Witness friend of mine, and he was explaining some of the Biblical rationale behind the significance of the year 1914. It involved the Hebrew calendar. So that’s that.

Anyway, on to today’s news.


Numbers 34

We’re down to three days ’til Deuteronomy. Huzzah!

Numbers 34 outlines, literally, the boundaries of the land that God has granted to Israel. I wasn’t really sure what to make of this chapter, so I turned as I do to Matthew Henry’s commentary.

“Canaan was of small extent; as it is here bounded, it is but about 160 miles in length, and about 50 in breadth; yet this was the country promised to the father of the faithful, and the possession of the seed of Israel. This was that little spot of ground, in which alone, for many ages, God was known.”

So this is what confused me. This issue raises questions.

If God eventually through Christ wants to save all men, then why did he not reveal himself to all mankind? I don’t really like the Calvinist view that some are simply condemned to Hell no matter what. To me, that presumes that free will is nothing but an illusion, as those who make the choice to accept God/Christ have already been predestined to do so.

I mean, let’s presume we’re talking about sometime between 1000-2000 years BC. In China, the dynasties are already in full force; there are millions of people the world over that are essentially denied salvation due to God’s selection of the Israelites as His chosen people. Why? Is every single one of the people in the world so corrupted? Then why send Christ later, to give everyone a chance?

I’m not going to get into Revelations for answers; it’s too far off. But in terms of ideas related to Heaven and Hell, I’ll post these helpful links.

The first is related to the Jewish tradition, the second and third are from the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Their beliefs may be a tad unorthodox but damn if they don’t know how to cite the Bible. As for me, I’m not sure how I feel on this yet. The only thing I can say is that a full and complete denial of salvation to a huge part of the world sounds unthinkable.

I did find this, an article about the Seven Laws of Noah. Apparently, gentiles are not only not obligated to follow Jewish law, they are in some sense prohibited from following it, as they are not God’s chosen people. But according to the Noahide law and interpretation from various Hebrew scholars, the intention was that even gentiles had the chance to be righteous by following the law. Apparently, it was important to recognize God as the reason behind the law as well.

Anyway, I’m sure I’ll revisit this theological discussion at several points throughout the course of this project, and maybe by the time I’m done I’ll have a satisfying answer.

Good day, all. Peace be upon you.

Day 145

So we’re only about eight (8) days away from the end of Numbers, and then I’ll move on to Deuteronomy. Very exciting. I think I’m going to start reading ahead at some point. It’s difficult right now because, honestly, as I’ve said before, these chapters get really tedious.

I’ll hit the highlights of Numbers 22- 28.


Numbers 22

I had to consult Matthew Henry on this one.

So Balak wants to destroy Israel but fears he cannot for their army is to strong. So he calls on this guy named Balaam, that Balaam might curse Israel and allow Balak, king of Moab, to triumph against them. Balaam prays to God and God tells him not to go with the messengers, because the people of Israel are blessed, and he shall not curse them. Balaam accordingly tells the messengers that he shall not be going with them, and that is that.

Balak, however, does not take “no” for an answer, and sends more messengers to Balaam. Balaam suggests that they spend the night, that he may speak again to God about this matter. This time, God tells him to go with the men if they call him.

So Balaam rises in the morning and goes with the men. His path is blocked by an “Angel of the Lord” which the donkey can see but Balaam cannot. Three times the donkey does not proceed forward and three times Balaam strikes the donkey. At this point, God, in one of his interesting moods, opens the mouth of the donkey and she speaks to Balaam. He takes this surprisingly well, all things considered, and argues back as to why he was justified in beating the animal.

At this point, his eyes are opened to the Angel before him, which tells him that the donkey had the good sense to not press on, and it’s a good thing too, because the Angel would have slain him. Balaam tells the Angel that he admits his sin and will turn back. The Angel says, no, go on ahead this time, for realsies, but only say what God tells you to say.

The thing that confused me here is that Balaam asked God if he could go, and God said yes. But, as Matthew Henry explains, Balaam already knew what God’s will was. He asked again in hopes that he could disobey it with permission. From Matthew Henry:

“He had already been told what the will of God was. It is a certain evidence of the ruling of corruption in the heart, to beg leave to sin. God gave Balaam up to his own heart’s lusts. As God sometimes denies the prayers of his people in love, so sometimes he grants the desires of the wicked in wrath.”

But, even though God did grant Balaam leave to go, God does not approve of the sin. Henry puts this best, so I’ll just leave this quote here:

“We must not think, that because God does not always by his providence restrain men from sin, therefore he approves of it, or that it is not hateful to him. The holy angels oppose sin, and perhaps are employed in preventing it more than we are aware. This angel was an adversary to Balaam, because Balaam counted him his adversary; those are really our best friends, and we ought so to reckon them, who stop our progress in sinful ways. Balaam has notice of God’s displeasure by the ass. It is common for those whose hearts are fully set in them to do evil, to push on violently, through the difficulties Providence lays in their way. The Lord opened the mouth of the ass. This was a great miracle wrought by the power of God. He who made man speak, could, when he pleased, make the ass to speak with man’s voice. The ass complained of Balaam’s cruelty. The righteous God does not allow the meanest or weakest to be abused; but they shall be able to speak in their own defence, or he will some way or other speak for them. Balaam at length has his eyes opened. God has many ways to bring down the hard and unhumbled heart. When our eyes are opened, we shall see the danger of sinful ways, and how much it was for our advantage to be crossed.”

And far from turning away from sin, Balaam is pushed toward glorifying God, because he will not only not curse Israel, he will bless them in the name of God. As he does in…


Numbers 23-24

Matthew Henry makes some really good points here about Balaam’s attempts at divination and sorcery.

“With the camps of Israel full in view, Balaam ordered seven altars to be built, and a bullock and a ram to be offered on each. Oh the sottishness of superstition, to imagine that God will be at man’s beck! The curse is turned into a blessing, by the overruling power of God, in love to Israel. God designed to serve his own glory by Balaam, and therefore met him. If God put a word into the mouth of Balaam, who would have defied God and Israel, surely he will not be wanting to those who desire to glorify God, and to edify his people; it shall be given what they should speak. He who opened the mouth of the ass, caused the mouth of this wicked man to speak words as contrary to the desire of his heart, as those of the ass were to the powers of the brute. The miracle was as great in the one case as in the other.”

Get it? God opened the mouth of the ass. I’m glad I went to read from the commentary now because that’s actually pretty funny. Balaam’s ordeal here reminds me of a passage from C.S. Lewis:

“A merciful man aims at his neighbour’s good as so does ‘God’s will,’ consciously co-operating with ‘the simple good’.  A cruel man oppresses his neighbour and so does simple evil.  But in doing such evil he is used by God, without his knowledge or consent, to produce the complex good — so that the first man serves God as a son, and the second as a tool.  For you will certainly carry out God’s purpose, however you act, but it makes a difference to you whether you serve like Judas or like John.”

— C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain

This is one of my favorite quotes from Lewis. Also, the more I think about it, this raises a really interesting point. If at our best, highest states, our will is compatible and not only that but is in line with God’s will… see, this is what I mean about our souls being like extensions of God. We are divine souls trapped in animal bodies. Not divine in the sense that we are literally God, but divine in the sense that we are, at our core, in harmony with His Essence. Perhaps this is why there exists the idea of Hell, or destruction of the soul. I’ve thought as of late that if there is such a thing as Hell or (in my opinion) destruction of the soul, Nothingness, then it is not God who directly condemns our soul to this place. I think it is us. We choke this soul, we starve it, weaken it by depriving it of what it so desires most, what it needs, which is to return to the God and the Good from whence it came.

We condemn ourselves to death. I know not whether this is the truth, I merely espouse it as an interesting idea. I know not what condemns one to Hell, or how much or how little sin one must commit. I know not how many forms repentance can take, nor how many ways one may be unshackled from sin. But I do find the idea intriguing. Ultimately, Hell or destruction or Nothing or whatever it may be, if it be, I feel is a natural consequence, an inescapable state of mind/being than a direct divine condemnation.

But I’ll have to read further on that.

So anyway, Balak attempts to get Balaam to curse Israel three separate times, and three times Balaam blesses Israel. The third time, he doesn’t even try divination, but opens himself up to the Holy Spirit and speaks the words that God has given. Balaam is an important Biblical figure, I think, even though I have never heard of him. He’s an ass, clearly, but God uses Balaam’s voice to carry His word, and in the end, Balaam gives himself over to God. He seems to just go on his merry way afterward, so hopefully he goes and does good, and hopefully we will too.


Numbers 25

Israel starts consorting (as they, and we, are wont to do) with undesirable people, in this case, the Moabites. So God starts another mass killing/plague, and at some point in the middle of all this, Phinehas, son of Eleazar, see’s an Israelite man bring in and show off a Midianite woman. So Phinehas grabs a javelin, heads into their tent, and kills them both in one mighty thrust. It’s the kind of thing that you’d see in an action movie. I’ve heard one interpretation that says that the man and woman were having sex at the time.

https://i2.wp.com/cdn.denofgeek.us/sites/denofgeekus/files/styles/insert_main_wide_image/public/02-commando.jpg

Death by aluminum pipe. Commando (1985).

Phinehas is a regular Arnold Schwarzenegger. (I’m hoping there was a one-liner involved.)

Also, the woman’s name was Cozbi?

https://i2.wp.com/www.nndb.com/people/674/000022608/cosby-medium.jpg
Look at it.
https://i2.wp.com/kvly.images.worldnow.com/images/24527103_BG1.jpg
LOOK AT IT!

Numbers 26

More genealogy and census stuff. They’re numbering all the men of Israel to figure out who is going to be able to go to war.

Oh, yeah! This chapter is why I remembered Korah, because in Numbers 26:9-11, it mentions some of his descendents and clarifies that not all the children of Korah died when he and his family were swallowed up by the earth. I forget whether I mentioned this back when it happened, but I feel like the moral of that story is that one person going against God and Goodness can bring down (get it?) their entire family.

Anyway, there’s a ton of Israelites, and the Bible is clear on the fact that aside from two guys, Caleb and Joseph, “there was not a man [among them] of those who were numbered by Moses and Aaron the priest when they numbered the children of Israel in the Wilderness of Sinai” (Numbers 26:64). Because, if you recall, all of those losers were condemned to death and told that they would never make the Promised Land.


Numbers 27

Chapter 27 in Numbers describes some stuff about inheritance law for a man without sons.

Following that, God tells Moses that he will (eventually?) go up Mount Abarim and see the land that has been given to the children of Israel. However, at the mountain, he shall be “gathered to [his] people” as Aaron was as a result of Moses’ disobedience and rebellion at the waters of Meribah. Moses pleads that God will find a suitable replacement, that the people will not be “like sheep which have no shepherd” (Numbers 27:17).

God tells Moses that he shall inaugurate Joshua, son of Nun, and give him some of Moses’ authority, that Joshua may stand by Eleazar the priest, son of Aaron.

Moses does this.


Numbers 28

There is so much in here about sacrifices that I finally turned to Matthew Henry again. I would go read that if you are interested. Basically he talks about how in a modern Christian sense, offerings of animals have to be reinterpreted as offerings of prayer and praise. This chapter therefore indicates that we should pray and praise God in the morning and in the evening.

The Bible also describes offerings for the Sabbath day, the beginnings of the month, Passover, which falls on the fourteenth day of the first month which is followed on the fifteenth day by the feast, which lasts a week. Then God discusses the offerings for the day of the firstfruits, which I’m presuming has to do with a harvest.

Oy, I do love all this reading.

Good night, all! Peace be upon you.

Day 108

Today was slightly nicer than yesterday and I got a lot of frustration out of my system just over the course of work. I also was nearly passing out while doing my job. I can’t wait to go to bed.

I almost skipped this update, to be honest, but I figure I’m on kind of a streak here and I wanted to say something nice after being so angry yesterday.


Leviticus 18

This chapter lists out the laws against incest, bestiality, and homosexuality. That last one, Lev 18:22, is still a point of contention today, in case you’ve been living under a rock.

I don’t really know how I feel about all this. I guess I’ll have to wait a year and a half, read what Jesus says about all the “old laws,” and get back to you. But I can see how all this made good sense at the time. No inbreeding, no butt stuff, and no animal f***ing. Cut and dried.

Also, in Lev 18:3, God speaks out against the whole “when in Rome, do as the Romans do” thing, because He specifically says to not behave like the Egyptians or like the Canaanites. Keep yourselves separate and holy.

Also also? God prohibits mother-daughter threesomes. (Lev 18:17. You’re welcome.)

Aaaaand on that note… I’m out! Peace!

Day 107

Using the Holmes and Rahe stress scale, I figure I’m up to at least 200 units and counting for the past twelve months. And that’s a conservative estimate. I’ve gotten three new jobs, quit three jobs, started a new close relationship, changed a number of my personal habits and responsibilities at work, changed my sleeping habits, changed them back, had my sleeping habits challenged and varied, had issues with my partner’s family, had issues with my family, lost touch with a bunch of friends… the list goes on and on and on.

In the past week I have shouted in anger, I have screamed in frustration, and I have cried in despair. These events are not mutually exclusive. My throat is sore right now.

The only response I got from God was “pray for patience.” I felt a calming in my soul, ever so slightly, at the words and feelings that came to me. But I’m tired. I’m tired and I’m angry. Now I see why Wrath is considered a mortal sin. It can consume you.

I was supposed to go to bed early tonight, can you believe it? The one night.

My birthday is coming up, and at this rate it is going to be but a temporary respite from all this. Even my three days off this past weekend did little to help me in the long run. There’s just been too much. I’m still not accustomed to this much chaotic change. I do not like it.


Leviticus 17

There’s a lot more in here about blood being the stuff of life and what is used for atonement and so don’t eat it, you guys.

But at the end, there’s something about being unclean from eating an animal that either died naturally or was killed by beasts that struck me:

“But if he does not wash [his clothes] or bathe his body, then he shall bear his guilt.”

— Leviticus 17:16, NKJV

I have seen some New-Age-spiritual-type beliefs that speak of water as a conductor of spiritual energy. I am reminded of that sort of idea from this passage and those like it.

I can picture now a “running off” of water from one’s body, and the cleansing effect it is supposed to have. I want so badly to wash away this anger… to wash away these tears, to wash away the sleep from my eyes. But I know, like a dumb animal or an obstinate child, I will return to them sooner than I would like. My brain, my body, my fragile animal vessel can only handle so much. My soul is tired… I want to sleep.

I am reminded of C. S. Lewis’ confession in The Problem of Pain:

“You would like to know how I behave when I am experiencing pain, not writing books about it. You need not guess for I will tell you; I am a great coward.”

I am a miserable, wretched wreck right now. I have had revelations in the past about turning to God, and about Christ coming to us in the middle of the storm rather than making the storm go away.

I will tell you right now, for all I have said and done, for all I have read, though I know in the future I will appreciate what I have gone through… I will tell you right now: I have had quite enough. I have no interest in weathering this storm.

God forgive my blasphemy, but I would rather it simply went away.

Day 94

Leviticus 4

Goodness gracious. I’m looking ahead at what’s to come and there are at least 3-4 more chapters of laws and rules and sacrifices.

I suppose I can see the point here; the way parents have to be with children, for instance, is to set up strict rules (bedtime, diets, etc.) that over time grow less severe as the child gains more independence, knowledge, and wisdom. So it is with God as the Father figure to His children. Early on, the Law needed to be obeyed in very specific ways.

I notice, for example, in this chapter that atonement is done through the action of a priest and through a ritualized sacrifice. Later, with the death of Jesus Christ, animal sacrifice was no longer necessary for atonement. From the point of view of the New Testament, I suppose, the old Covenant is fulfilled; the old rules are no longer needed.

As a real world, personal example of this method of teaching, I think back to my math classes that I’ve taken over the years. They start by teaching you general rules, strict yet broad cases. Later, once you understand the general case, they move to specifics, and sometimes those specifics work around the general case. We have to understand the basics before we can understand or respect the exceptions. Perhaps this is a reason that the Old Testament is still a part of Christianity: by reading the old Law, we can see how things have changed and the grace that God has given us in Christ.

But has He made it easier or harder without the old rituals? Does He now trust us as people to give proper respect and worship without elaborate reminders? Does having infinite opportunities to be forgiven make us better or worse?

The world may never know.

Anyway, seriously, Lev 4 is about people goofing up and sacrificing animals. If you want more, go read it yourself.

I’ve said all I need to say for tonight, and I have to be up for work in the morning.

It feels good to get this done. Thanks, Lord, for everything.

Peace be upon you.

Day 85-87

I really am terrible at this game. It’s hard; I’m not at that third level of yirah yet where sin is abhorrent. I’m still giving in to some pretty base impulses over here and neglecting my duties.

I’d like to take a moment to apologize to God and ask His forgiveness. What I really want (and what I think a lot of people really want) is the be living in a state of bliss, as best we can achieve it on Earth, anyway. The problem is, it sure does take a lot of work to get there. “I’ll do it tomorrow” doesn’t quite cut it. Tomorrow never comes.

That all being said, I did go to church on Sunday and it was a very pleasant experience. A friend of mine who is not actively religious asked me if I wanted to go and I said yes. I’m glad I went; I learned a lot again and got some good ideas. He got… I know not what, but I could see that it was good.

I think I shall have to go once in a while.


Temptation and Duty

Before I get into Exodus, I want to mention here something that I may have already written. In one of C. S. Lewis nonfiction expository books, he talks about how the writing of the book seems to have become a temptation: a distraction from God rather than a duty to God.

I’m not sure about this blog yet, but I know it’s definitely not a temptation in and of itself. I have plenty of those to go around, and this isn’t one of them. This is still a chore, for better or for worse. I think by the time I’m done with the Bible I might have to revise that statement.

I need to get cracking; I’m almost up to Day 100. From there it’s only about 20 days before I’ll have reached my first third of a year. Which will mean that I’m approximately 1/9 to 1/10 of the way done. Hooray for progress!


Christians and Christianity

Okay, another few things. My partner and I are going to her brother’s wedding this weekend and she informed me that I’ll be meeting her sister, who we’ll call “Rose.” Now, Rose is a very convicted (read: judgmental) person who tries to come off as being concerned for everyone else’s souls, but seems to me to be tooting her own horn and trying to show how much better and how much more devout she is.

I finally have to dig up this quote that C. S. Lewis uses in The Problem of Pain:

“You can have no greater sign of confirmed pride than when you think you are humble enough.”

— William Law, A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life

If there’s one thing I’ve learned so far studying Christianity and the works of Christian authors, it’s that we are not good enough. We never will be. I can no longer claim to be a good man; my heart just doesn’t believe that any more.

The good news is that God loves us anyway. He wants us to come to him, to accept His love, and to love others as He loves us. We can do good in the world, to some degree. We can alleviate suffering and elevate the human spirit so that it reaches out to God; these are things we can do. But we cannot be perfect.

So when some person comes along and tries to say that one sin is more or less than another, it makes me sad and frustrated at the same time. God loves you; He knows you will not be perfect but I feel that He wants us as people to make peace with the past and move toward a brighter future. That is the idea of repentance. We make amends as best we can (ish) and move on.

“Go now, and sin no more.”

Unlikely, but it is a nice sentiment. Lewis in The Problem of Pain compares it to giving a puppy a bath and having the puppy run right back out into the mud. That is how we are. Even when we approach God, when we surrender to God, we can forget Him in the next moment.

I guess what I’m saying is, keep your self-righteousness. I don’t want to hear it. There is more to Christ than Christianity.


A Mathematical Explanation of Sin

I want to share a little argument that I explained to my partner this morning; this is how I think of sin and the weight thereof.

Here on Earth we tend to see certain sins or certain things as being “worse” or “better” than others: a white lie is seen as “less bad” than a murder, for example. Divorce or infidelity might be seen as “less bad” than homosexuality. You get the picture.

So we keep little tallies in our heads: “good” actions add up positively, and “bad” actions or sins subtract. Let’s just start with some hypothetical baseline of zero as an “average.”

Person A goes to church, donates to charities, and tells a few lies here and there, as we all do. As humans, we might ascribe a low positive value to this person, let’s say around +12.

Person B is a pastor at a church; he spreads the faith, advocates for Christ, and does good works. He might get a higher score, maybe somewhere around +43.

These numbers are of course completely arbitrary. Let’s look at negatives.

Person C is an alcoholic who beats his wife and lies habitually. We see this person and we ascribe them something like -19. Below zero, clearly tainted by their sin.

Person D gets an abortion and has problems with depression. She might get a very negative score, depending on perspective. We’ll give her -35.

Remember, I’m not condemning anyone here. I’m just setting up some arbitrary examples of our human judgment that we pass on one another.

But whatever the case may be, you can see we assign scores to people: Stalin is maybe the worst, followed by Hitler, followed by X… all the way back up on the positive side to the Pope? I don’t know.

And then we have God.

God is an uncountable Good; His “level” goes beyond mortal understanding. So we signify God with an infinity symbol: ∞.

God is all the Good in the universe; He is an infinity within which resides all the mathematical and cosmological infinities, and whatever other ones you can think of. If we’re talking about some abstract “amount of goodness,” then God is ∞.

Let’s do some math. How far from God are my hypothetical people, A, B, C, and D?

Person A: Infinity minus 12 equals…

Infinity. ∞ – 12 = ∞

(For you math nerds out there, I realize one doesn’t typically use ∞ in operations. But I’m making a point.)

Person B: ∞ – 43 = ∞

Person C: ∞ –  (-19) = ∞

Person D: ∞ – (-35) = ∞

If you take away any value, no matter how large, from an infinite quantity, the quantity is still infinite. In this case, we are speculating that God is an infinite distance “above” all humans, and as such, no matter how “near” or “far” we think we are from God, we will never in this life be as good as He is.

My point with all this? We are all separate from God. It is not our goodness that brings us closer to Him but our willingness to surrender to Him. Once we acknowledge that we are infinitely distant from Him, we can reach out and allow Him to bridge that gap by touching our hearts.

I am reminded here of the criminal condemned to die alongside Jesus Christ. He was not, by our understanding, a good man. But in his last moments, he realizes what he has done and the price to be paid. He turns to the Living Word, the Incarnation of God Made Flesh, and says:

“Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

— Luke 23:42, NIV

This one request, made with all our hearts, is all God truly asks of us. Because when it is made with all our hearts, we will dedicate our entire lives to be sure it is fulfilled.

Have a good day, all.

Peace be upon you.

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 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.