church

Day 133

Went to church this morning. I don’t know if I was tired or what but it was not as emotional but it was enlightening. As an update/continuation from yesterday, I did indeed dream last night. It was a dream of war and international strife. I’m not so sure it was an actual war, though, because despite being decked out in combat gear and getting ready to get into a combat-ready vehicle, I think my “unit” was going to bring aid to some area hit by a natural disaster.

It was interesting.

But, in relation to my dream (and last night’s weather), I learned that James and John, two of the Apostles, were called by Jesus the “Sons of Thunder.” Apparently it is suspected that a) this has to do with their temperament or that b) the transliteration is not entirely accurate. I might say a little of both.

The word “revival” was in my head today at church. It’s a good description of my vision of the future, in terms of faith, but it’s already been appropriated and given meaning by various Christian sects. The other thing I got out of church came directly from the sermon, which spoke about finding God’s purpose for oneself.  The pastor talked about how in the Bible, there are many stories about someone waiting and having patience for God to act through them, but the pastor mentioned that it’s not just waiting — another term that is used is preparing.

It gave me a good perspective on my blog: perhaps this three year endeavor is preparation. For what, I can only guess. I sort of hope it’s in line with my vision, but I know that whatever God has me do will be good. He and I had a productive talk last night. I still have a lot to work on. A lot to prepare for.

The other thing, that came into my head while I was driving around for work today was a sort-of answer to a question I’ve had for a long time. So the conundrum goes like this:

The Bible exists. I’m staring at one now.

I have no way of knowing if anything (in general, but that’s another story) that happened in the past is actually true, therefore I can’t know that the Bible is true.

And then it goes on like: then why is it so important? Do I accept it just because I have no reason to believe otherwise? At that point, wouldn’t I believe anything that is equally a) distant in time and b) irrefutable?

So phooey on all that. I mean I know at some point, theoretically, people had to be around to witness events and write them down and its possible that they got embellished over time but how on earth do you explain something like the resurrection being written down but not actually happening because it seems like the kind of thing people would remember very clearly and the issue is that that event is like the whole crux (no pun intended) of Christianity but on the other hand even though overt miracles like that don’t really seem to happen any more the truth of the matter to me seems to be that every moment of our lives is miraculous and who are we as mortals to say that one miracle is more or less miraculous than any other but how in the world do you explain the resurrection using any kind of science because what the eff unless of course Jesus actually was God at which point I guess anything is possible but that can never be proven so then it all has to be accepted on faith which to an outside observer means and does nothing but the truth of the matter is that faith makes real changes in people’s lives.

Yeah, it’s a run-on sentence. What of it?

Anyway, the sort-of answer I got about all this is that ultimately I believe it because I want to believe it. But why? Couldn’t I then believe anything I “wanted” to believe? Isn’t that what everyone does?

So then the next question was, “Why should I want to believe it?” And the answer is tied to what I wrote above about faith: because of what it means to people, what it means to me. It is a transformative faith, one that brings about the betterment of human beings, individually and as a whole. We can be so much more than what we are, and this faith, this book elaborates on how and why that is as well as why we should seek to grow and how to achieve that growth.

I used to believe that we are who we are, and that’s okay. As I’ve said, there’s no guilt in who we are, but we should have the good sense to look higher, look at the possibilities of what could be, and have the good sense to be ashamed of our miserable state. People can suffer so much and yet never seek to change. The Bible has been good to me thus far, and God in combination with the book have done great things in my life. I want to see God do great things in other people’s lives too.

Numbers 16

Rekris. I click away for like a minute and come back and realize how much I wrote. This is part of why I didn’t originally want to do this tonight. Of course, if I weren’t distracted by the rest of the internet I’d probably be fine. Or I’d find a different distraction. My brain is dying fast; I’m super tired and going to wrap this up.

Basically, a bunch of Levites call out Moses saying essentially that they want to take over the priesthood and that Moses can shove it up his ass. So Moses tells them, alright, you’re-so-smart, get your holy censers and your incense and the 250 of you meet me at the tabernacle in the morning.

So this happens. And predictably, God shows up and tells Moses and Aaron to go right ahead and step back because He’s gotta waste some fools. “Consume them in a moment,” He says in Numbers 16:21.

Moses and Aaron convince God to dial it back a notch and just deal with those responsible. So everyone backs up from the tents of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, the three guys behind this whole debacle. Moses, says look, if I’m not the appointed priest, then these men and their families will die a nice natural death. But if I am, then they’re about to get eaten by the earth.

I’ll give you three guesses as to what happens, and the first two don’t count.

The ground shakes and caves in right below their tents. Them, their stuff, their families, just gone. So the people start freaking out and scattering, but… God just smokes em. Every one of the 250 dissenters is fried by holy fire. Oh, and Aaron takes the consecrated censers to hammer them into a covering for the altar, so commandeth the Lord.

Anyway, the next day, the congregation comes to Moses and Aaron and complains about all the people who died the previous day. God has had about enough, and barely gives Moses and Aaron warning before bringing death down upon the people in a giant wave of wrathful plague. Aaron lights his incense and runs out into the crowd to make atonement and stop the death. Sure enough, we get into a “Hold me back, bro! Hold me back!” situation where the plague literally stops in a line right where Aaron is.

You’d think by now the people would learn to stop messing up, right? Nobody’s perfect. :\

Good night, all. Peace be upon you.

Day 132

Shucks. The power just went out, and with it goes my internet access.

Just now, for a moment, some people in the apartment complex went outside, heading out into the lightning-filled sky to escape the darkness of their homes.

For a moment, I looked at the angry sky, and I understood why man fears God.

For a moment, I wondered how the world would end.

Lightning struck hard in the distance, and I could hear the distant thunder rumbling in waves toward me. Lights flickered and the power came back on. I’m back inside now, and behind me, electrical discharges cascade across the sky while trees thrash about in the wind. I can hear the excited voices of the neighbors and their young girl as they discuss the storm.

I feel very small. But it’s somehow more than that. I feel very mortal.

The power just went off and on again. Darn router is going to keep resetting.

Meanwhile, my partner sleeps in blissful ignorance. She’ll figure it all out tomorrow, or perhaps when I come to bed.

Numbers 15 is interesting, and I found the contrast between “unintentional sin” and “presumptuous sin” to be interesting: when unintentional sin is committed, the community gets together to make a sin offering, but when someone commits a presumptuous sin, he shows that he has “despised the word of the Lord… [and] that person shall be completely cut off; his guilt shall be upon him.” (Numbers 15:31)

I feel as though I have been a disobedient child. I’m not sure how to make it up to my “Father” or to myself, and at this point in my life, my rebel heart is particularly strong. The old animal urges never really go away, do they?

I’m glad I’m going to church in the morning.

That’s all I’m going to talk about tonight. I’d rather not be tied to this computer, staring into this screen. The world is out there.

I’m going to put this away for a while after I’ve updated, and I’m going to sit outside, in awe of the power of God.

Tonight, when I sleep, I will dream a dream of thunder.

Peace be upon you.

Day 129

I really need to go back to church. I feel spiritually distant from God. I can almost imagine what Adam felt, in those first few minutes or hours after eating the fruit, when that slow dread, that feeling of guilt creeps up…. When I sit myself down in front of the computer and pull up this blog, I feel sometimes like this is my communion with God, this is the time that I dedicate to Him and to our … whatever it is that we’ve got going on.

And so there are days when I don’t want to write, when I don’t want to confront myself and bare myself to God because I know that I’m unworthy. I want to hide my guilt and my shame away from God so that I do not have to acknowledge it. Too bad it doesn’t work that way, right?

I feel like this is why there are (in popular imagination if not in real life) a lot of deathbed conversions. I think in our last moments we realize that no matter how much we thought we had figured out, we are suddenly confronted with a great mystery, the great end of our life and consciousness, and we know not what comes after but we fear the darkness; we dread non-life. Because ultimately life is all we know.

And in the end, the question “Why have you forsaken me?” comes not from us to God, but from God to us, the sinners, for it was we who turned from Him, and not the other way around.

And I don’t know about the rest of you, but when confronted with that question, I weep. I am ashamed… but am I ashamed enough to change? I am ashamed now, but will I listen to that feeling and do what needs to be done?

I really had to force myself to sit down and do this. I’m three days behind, and I don’t have any good excuses. I didn’t work yesterday or the day before, but I still couldn’t didn’t bring myself to do this simple task.

Numbers 12

So, in Numbers 12, we have Aaron and his wife Miriam who seem to have some kind of kosher beef with Moses. Specifically, they get all snarky (it seems) with God, and ask if maybe God speaks through others and not just Moses.

God tells them that if He wants a prophet, He’ll give the prophet some crazy dreams, but it is only Moses to whom He speaks face to face. So God gets upset with them, and he pulls a Last Crusade on Miriam and withers her into a leper. Aaron and Moses sort of freak out about this, because I mean come on, but God says look, put her out of the camp for seven days, and then off you go. Let her dwell on her shame for seven days.

Maybe that’s what I need? God, I hope not.

Anyway, they leave Hazeroth (World of Warcraft, anyone?) and head to the Wilderness of Paran.

So endeth Numbers 12. Peace be upon you.

Day 121-128

“It will be worth it,” He tells me.

I was driving home from work, thinking, dwelling on, and discussing my iniquity with God. A good part of that iniquity revolves of course around this blog and my shortcomings therewith. I think about God every single day, often throughout the day, and I think about my duties to Him and what I should be doing for Him and for myself.

I guess thinking about those duties and actually doing them are two different things. Anyway, the above thought came into my head from Him when I wondered about how long I would have to deal with these constant struggles and stresses. I essentially asked, “What if I have to wait until the end of my life to finally be at peace?”

“It will be worth it.”

So sayeth the Lord. He hasn’t lied to me yet.


We still have no internet, so I’m using my phone as a hotspot for my laptop. I’m getting really tired of having to do this over and over, because it doesn’t work so well compared to streaming, high-speed cable.

Oh, hey! While I’m updating you about the minutia of my life, I might as well tell whoever is still reading this that I had a discussion with my bosses about how I’m probably clinically depressed! Yay! I’m supposed to be in behavioral health, not, you know… in behavioral health. But this seems to be the reality of the situation. Apparently both of the clinicians at our office have noticed a change in me before I even said anything.

For some reason, finding that out was simultaneously encouraging and heartbreaking. Encouraging because at least I know it’s not all in my head, and heartbreaking because oh God it is actually in my head.

I think that’s the last joke of that format I can do tonight, but I’d like to milk one more if I can swing it. They make me smile.

I’m still trying to read Numbers 4-11. I’m stuck on Numbers 7 and my eyes are glazing over. I don’t think I’ve gotten more than 8 hours of sleep in the past 48 hours and my brain is just fried. Gee, I wonder what on earth could be contributing to my depression?

Oh, Jesus. Chapter 7 is so long. And it’s all offerings!

… It’s all the same offering, over and over. They just copy-pasted this whole thing to mess with me.


Okay, so God once again shows me His mysterious ways. I was going to go through Numbers 4-11, all of them, but honestly they’re about the armies packing up and counting off and setting out and all that business.

And then I arrived at…

Numbers 11

…which is the last of the chapters I had to catch up on today.

I can’t even be mad any more! I was going home, and thinking about a story I heard in church the other week, and how the story was very pertinent to me and had a similar moral to a story I’d written, and just wow. So now, today, I wondered to myself if there is a story in the Bible about a righteous man, perhaps one of the old patriarchs or somebody, who begins to stress out and almost resent their destiny and their duties.

Man, fuck Numbers 11.

In verses 11-15, Moses finally gets fed up of all this bulls*** and rages against God. He wonders why on earth he should have to care for them and shepherd them, asking

“Did I conceive all these people? Did I beget them?”

Moses even asks God to just kill him if this is the life he is to live. So it seems I am far from the first person to feel this way.

God tells Moses that he will have others share the spiritual burden, and also that all the whiners down in the camp who want to eat meat will get their meat. God seems to be just as fed up as Moses:

“You shall eat, not one day, nor two days, nor five days, nor ten days, nor twenty days, but for a whole month, until [meat] comes out of your nostrils and becomes loathsome to you.”

— God to Moses, a message for the Israelites, Numbers 11:19-20

In the end, it’s the people that are going to be fed up. Eh? Eh?

gluttony

He gets it.

Anyway.

Moses is incredulous because he doesn’t know how God is going to provide meat for six hundred thousand people, and wonders if all the fish in the sea are going to be collected for them (Numbers 11:21).

God is like, “What, you don’t trust me? Check dis.” He proceeds to inundate the Israelites with quails. Just like, a bunch of quails that everyone catches and grabs and gets ready to eat.

So they all start feasting and…

“[…] while the meat was still between their teeth, before it was chewed, the wrath of the Lord was aroused against the people, and the Lord struck the people with a very great plague.”

Because that’s what you get when you fuck with the YHWH. Don’t be hatin’ and complainin’, or BOOM! Fuckin’ plagues.

Peace be upon you, motherfuckers! I’m out.

Day 117

I have this project that I want to work on that is completely unrelated to this project but I’m hesitant/afraid to start it because I know I’m going to suck at it for a while. I tell the kids I work with that “sucking at something is the first step to getting really really good at something,” which is roughly a quote from Adventure Time but I can’t seem to actually follow through on that myself.

I met some interesting folk today. If they were angels, they were cleverly disguised, but to stretch the metaphor, it seems most of them are. I noticed an older man observing me while I was working with some of my kids (clients) today. We were at a “natural foods” grocery store and the man struck up a conversation with me asking essentially what I was doing working with these four native kids. I didn’t go into the whole “behavioral health” aspect of my job, since he didn’t seem like he had the right idea about their lives/circumstances, so I just told him it was part of like a summer program.

We talked for a short while, his very old wife remaining quiet, and at one point he asked me about church, if I or my program were affiliated with any particular church. I told him there’s one I’ve gone to a couple times (not true, but will be true as of Sunday morning) but that I work for a private company. He seemed really nice overall and said as much about me. I forget his exact words but he seemed to think highly of me, either for how I presented myself or my line of work or both.

He seemed to think I was a sharp kid when I was able to answer “the casinos” to the question “How do the Indians scalp the white man these days?” He wasn’t joking, either. He was just sort of making a statement.

It was an interesting conversation.

But it turns out that he and his roughly-twenty-years-his-senior wife are followers of a man named William H. Branham, of whom I have never heard. Apparently he was a minister called to be some sort of prophet by God. The elderly woman I spoke to claimed that he put his hand over a blind girl’s face and she was able to open a pair of brand new blue eyes. They stressed that it was not Branham’s power, but God’s power that did this.

Sometimes, I don’t know what to believe.


Leviticus 27

See, when I get cocky about being able to “understand” the Bible, I get stuff like this. Maybe it was appropriate that this man I spoke to today said something about human interpretation of the Bible always being flawed. Maybe that was the hidden message of the conversation. Or maybe I’m human and misinterpreted it.

Anyway, let’s see what Matthew Henry can clear up about this chapter, because all this talk of “valuation” doesn’t seem to have any context and so I don’t know what anyone’s talking about.

Matthew Henry didn’t help, but this site did. Over here at Bible.org, they offer this helpful definition:

Simply viewed, offering a vow is practicing a kind of “credit card” act of worship. It is a promise to worship God with a certain offering in the future, motivated by gratitude for God’s grace in the life of the offerer. The reason for the delay in making the offering was that the offerer was not able, at that moment to make the offering. The vow was made, promising to offer something to God if God would intervene on behalf of the individual, making the offering possible. In many instances, the vow was made in a time of great danger or need. The Rabbis believed that the gifts which were vowed in Leviticus 27 were to be used for the maintenance of the Temple.

Apparently the long and short of it is that you could vow stuff to God and if you ever wanted it back (???) then you could pay money and get it back. I guess.

Anyway, this is the last section of commandments from God to Moses on Mount Sinai. Hoo-rah.

Tomorrow begins Numbers, people. Get ready.

Have a good night, and peace be upon you.

Day 97

Leviticus 7

Well, at least this explains why you’re not supposed to eat the fat or the blood: back in the day those things were needed for sacrifices, for atonement. As such, they were not to be consumed by the people of Israel.

This chapter also outlines some of the rules for voluntary offerings, offerings of thanksgiving. Rules for these are slightly less strict. When we sin, we make restitution in a very specific way, a way that only leads to God. But when we rejoice! When we rejoice and give thanks, we do it in our own ways and for our own reasons. Some of us hike mountains, some fish in lakes, some go to church, some blast their stereos. We can do all or none of these, but we should find ways and make time to thank God for everything he has given us.

Heh, and to think I was just going to write

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I guess if you look hard enough you can find something of value. Thanks, God. I see what you did there.

Good night, dear friends. 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.