pastor

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.

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Day 92

(This would have gone up on Sunday, June 15, 2014. I’m going to go ahead and write it based on that day.)

So today was awesome. My partner’s brother got married, and it was a beautiful ceremony held at a vineyard in a little mountain town. Beautiful lights, dinner right at sunset, the whole thing was lovely. Oh, and an open bar.

(Lordy. A quick Google image search for “happy drunk” turned up like 7 NSFW pictures, and that was just in the most immediate results.)

It was interesting because the ceremony was a Christian one, and I was reasonably sure her brother was not Christian. I talked to him afterwards; he is not. But apparently the family of the bride is, and her mother overrode a great deal of their wedding decisions. He said that if it been his choice, he would have had either me, or a Buddhist monk. I would have been honored, but c’est la vie.

I really like officiating weddings because it is such a beautiful moment between two people. I suppose that’s the same reason I like attending weddings. That and all the free food/alcohol. But seriously, it is a beautiful moment in what one can only hope is a long and happy marriage. For the most part, barring family drama, everyone at a wedding is happy and joyous, especially at a beautiful venue like a mountain vineyard. The last wedding I attended, also the last one I officiated, was on a steamboat on a lake. We caught the sunset there as well and watched that orange light gleam down through the canyons.

Simply magnificent.

There must be some reason that God made me find so much joy and beauty in nature, but I’m not sure where that will go yet. I suppose out in the woods is where I found Him, so that’s as good a reason as any (and a better reason than most). It’s weird because out in the woods with my friends, I had no desire to write like this, but I did read the Bible. Perhaps a reminder not to get too caught up in the interpretation?

If I ever become one of those legalistic people who, as C. S. Lewis puts it,

“[are] so preoccupied with spreading Christianity that they never gave a thought to Christ,”

then just put me down. He rails as well in the same breath at

“men… who got so interested in proving the existence of God that they came to care nothing for God himself… as if the good Lord had nothing to do but to exist.”

Maybe this is why I find comfort in absurdist philosophy; seeing the illogic, the impossibility of any concrete foundation… perhaps in a way this is my defense against becoming too moralistic or legalistic with my faith. Or perhaps I’m just being a prideful jackass who needs to shut up. 😛

Who knows.


Leviticus 2

Honestly, this chapter is about how you offer your baked goods to God. Let me tell you, it is quite possibly the most exciting chapter in the Bible.

Make sure to add oil and salt to your pita bread/cake/flatbread/whatever before giving it to God, kiddos!

Wowsers. Even my partner said some of this stuff was boring.

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.