truth

Day 95

My partner just asked how many days behind I was. Turns out it’s three. Doops.

Pulled my pipe out so I could feel distinguished. Now I might have to have a quick smoke tonight. Don’t know how my partner will feel about that, but we’ll see. It’s like having a glass of red wine in my hand as I write: it makes me feel thoughtful and classy.

I just watched the movie Saved! tonight. If you’ve never seen it, go watch it. I forgot how good it is. It’s different to see movies that involve God now that I’ve grown closer to (but still infinitely distant from) Him. My favorite part of movies like Saved! and Dogma is that they involve a character (or two) doubting, questioning, and at some points even denying God, but later they come to know and love God again, and usually their eyes are opened by an unlikely source: in Saved!, the cynical, rebellious Jewish girl comes to the main character’s aid when no one else will help or pay attention to her, and in Dogma, two irreverent stoners, a stripper (who happens to be Serendipity, a muse), and the never-mentioned thirteenth apostle of Jesus Christ (all who have very non-traditional views on God) are the ones who help the main character (who works at an abortion clinic) save the world.

I think the hard part for me is that in both of the above movies, the hard-headed religious zealot is the bad guy/girl. I don’t want to be like that; I don’t want to turn into something I hate. I can see how it must be easy for people to get incredibly evangelical and feel like if they’re not talking about God all the time then they’re doing it wrong. I have to remember that sometimes (often?) in our modern world that people do not want to hear this message. People do not want to hear that they are wrong, that who they are is not good enough. I don’t blame them.

For those of us living in this strange world, caught as we are within the so-called “Great Mystery,” travel down the road comes slowly; at least for me it did. It still does. And it’s hard for me to remember that there are people with different interpretations of the Bible. I feel as though I’m missing something. Perhaps by the time I have finished the Bible I will have a better understanding. Perhaps I will have a sense of how to interpret it and still remain myself. Right now I feel like I’m going to be lost in all this.

A Christian who is a sculptor might make statues that glorify God, a painter might make a painting. I know how to write and speak; perhaps this is how I will glorify Him. But I also have empathy and compassion… perhaps by demonstrating and teaching the truth of Love, I can bring people to the truth of Light.

1 John 4:8 would be appropriately quoted here,

“Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.

but I prefer, having now read it, 1 John 4:7, which reads

“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.”

I like it because the negative is absent; 1 John 4:8 clarifies that God is love (but as C. S. Lewis writes, love in itself is not God or a god to be worshiped) but 1 John 4:7 is a positive command, a blessing, if you will, a wish that we will love one another as dear friends. If I were to die right now, I would want 1 John 4:7 to be my last words to the world.


I’m going to catch up on my other two chapters. This is good enough for this one.

Peace be upon you.

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Day 41

I read me some Genesis 41 today, and we’re dealing with Joseph as the interpreter of dreams as instructed or inspired by God. But I want to talk about something else today, and only briefly.

This song is another one of those that you’re probably sick of if you listen to the radio often. I do not, and I love it. It’s just so catchy! I had déjà vu when I heard it because I swear I’d heard it before.

If I had to guess, I’d say the song had to do with the ups and downs and struggles of love and relationships. But I really like the first thing she says:

“All the broken hearts in the world still beat.”

— Ingrid Michaelson, Girls Chase Boys

This is a beautiful truth and it speaks to me in many ways. The thing that comes to mind most readily relates to a conversation that I had with a coworker at a restaurant. We were both servers, and most of the people there were miserable. It was hard to see so many people just bitter and hurting with nowhere to go.

We were talking one day, this woman and I, and something came up about denial. I said something about how I didn’t think it was a very good strategy. I’ll never forget the way she looked at me.

“When I work all day at this job and go home exhausted to my little daughter and I have to put a smile on my face even though I want to kill myself, denial is the only thing I have to get through it.”

I shut up pretty fast. But if I could go back to that conversation, I would say that I don’t consider denial to be a healthy long-term strategy. In the short term, we all have to bite the bullet sometimes and get by. But I can’t imagine doing it for years and years of misery with no progress toward anything. How? How does anyone live that way?

I understand time’s habit of getting away from us; I really do. I just officiated a wedding for someone I knew when I was like, five years old. Now we’re older, she’s getting married, and I still have memories from back then in my head. It’s so weird to think of all the things that have changed (at least so it seems, from my human perspective).

But this song… so many people in this world that are just crushed or beaten down or heartbroken… and yet like my coworker, they press on. They push through each and every day because they feel they have to. I am reminded here of Mother Teresa, who just straight-up lost her faith and felt abandoned by God, but still stuck to her mission and helped so many people and did so much good. Is it possible that denial got her through?

To me, functional denial is like functional alcoholism: even if you’re getting by, you still have a problem. Active denial is the worst kind of lie: a lie to oneself, an abandonment or rejection of the pure unadulterated Truth of life. It is avoidance of reality and of one’s own feelings. But I understand it.

Don Miguel Ruiz wrote that the “denial system” is important because it allows us to function even if we are hurt. But a healthy mind has neither need nor room for denial. A healthy mind is filled with acceptance of what Is and rolls with the punches. A healthy mind formulates a plan or does something to get out of a bad situation, or deals with that situation with serenity and grace.

So, to quote Ingrid Michaelson again, “Let’s not make it harder than it has to be.” Let’s search within ourselves, let’s forgive ourselves and others, let’s accept today for what it is, and let’s do our best, knowing that our best will get better.

Let’s mend these broken hearts of ours as best we can, and let the wholeness and completeness within make our hearts beat even louder and stronger. Let’s allow our strong hearts to speak for themselves by demonstrating a life of compassion, expression of ourselves, love, respect, and generosity. Let’s show all of these things, so that the broken hearts will see that is is possible to be healed. Let’s extend our healing hearts to others, let’s show them a beautiful world, let’s show them the grace, unity, and power that comes at once from Above and from Within.

Go out, and spread the Word.

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.