Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Pope. Continued.

The Pope.  Continued.

Every year when I return to the States for a visit I am amazed by the amount of television commercials for anxiety medications and sleep disorders that, “you should talk to your doctor about.”  As these ads finish a voice-over begins a long list of possible side effects, complications with drug interactions, strokes, possible organ failures and/or death.  The grim possibilities are sped-read over images of happy, sleeping suburbanites that love dogs, kittens, flower gardens or children.  By the end of my seven-year online study of that paper I happened upon, assisted by two computers and two television sets continually covering various, global news stories that seemed to fit into the plans of sinister governments, media and global elitists, my doctor asked me if I ever thought about taking a mild drug to help me sleep and take the edge off a little.

No, I hadn’t.  But just her gentle question made me realize how much trouble I was in.  I was barely sleeping more than three hours per night and throughout the day I was in news and conspiracy theory overload.  I never connected the dots that what I was filling my head with had something to do with my sleep problems and stress.  I was reading things that I should not have been reading and what I was saturating my mind with was doing great violence to my very soul.  And now that I am free from that pit my ears are very sensitive to what I hear people say who spend too many hours consuming videos of doom and sharing information in chatrooms on the www.

There are certain catch phrases and youtube speak that can only be said if a person has read or watched the same stories I consumed for years.  When that person believes with complete certainty that what they are saying is absolute truth from what they read, saw, heard, or personally feel, or worse, if they are smug about what they know, listing videos we should all be viewing and sharing to deliver us, they are getting sucked into a pit of anxiety and paranoia than can only be stopped by unplugging the source of the problem......conspiratorial, doomsday media. 

When I went to the States last summer I sat outside with some of my mom’s neighbors to get away from daytime television (which is practically one long drug ad now) and drink lemonade.  I went outside in the shade and listened to the ebb and flow of conversations that can be current or possibly from seventy years prior.  Some of my mother’s neighbors are in their nineties.  One day two of her neighbors used conspiracy jargon that had been spread around the internet and the others nodded their heads in agreement.

Which conspiracy you ask?  It’s all a big soup now: most politicians, definitely the presidents of every multi-national, leaders of most European countries, every president after J.F.K. and most before him, all pharmaceutical companies and banks, the military, agriculture, big oil, medicine, education, media, information, technology, music, art and religion (definitely religion) are all tainted by and controlled by these nefarious groups to condition us and eventually enslave us all.  I listened carefully to their conversations and comments but never opened my mouth.  I just sat wondering where these elderly women had picked up the conspiracy jargon because not one of these women surf the net as far as I know.

Keep in mind, this is just one small apartment community of elderly people in a small town in America and they were fairly up to speed on conspiracy stories.
That’s the power and influence of this type of media in America now. 

 A few weeks ago I sat in a restaurant in Portugal and listened to a man from England talk about his spiritual journey to become a Shaman.  During the conversation he talked about fluoride in water and water crystals taking shape or not taking shape in relation to good or bad energy surrounding them.  He continued on about his process toward enlightenment by being buried underground in a casket for sixteen hours into mother earth and then born again on the winter solstice. Weaved throughout his spiritual story to me he pulled up videos with his phone to share spiritual, energy truths along with facts about the economy, medicine, drug companies, toxic drinking water and the dying off of global religions like Islam, Christianity and Judaism.  Finally he talked about a global consciousness shift in regards to spirituality. (I’m not mocking this man, I’m just relaying the points of his conversation to me.) I said very little but I listened to every word he said.  As he spoke I remembered a conversation I had with a good friend a few years ago.  This was when I was in my apex of: Bible’s end-times scenarios blended with conspiracy theories and headline news.

For years I had mentally mixed a salad of prophetic possibilities and global-news-events ingredients into my head and I dished them out to my friend while we ate sandwiches in his car.  I leaped ominously from one sentence to another and from one topic to another with no real point being made.  In hindsight now, I am sure I sounded like a river of sound bytes from youtube.  He nodded his head thoughtfully and tried to steer the conversation to the sandwiches we were eating.  My friend could not get in a word sideways to me.  I never took a breath or slowed down and just kept pouring out possibilities that were likely to happen because they seemed to fit with events around the world. 

That conversation with my friend happened in August of 2010.  On December 6, of 2011 I shut off all media in my life for about a year.  Prior to that day in December I was in a pit of hopeless fear and in a stranglehold of anxiety that was isolating me from my family and all reality in my life.  I was consumed with the, “what if’s” that began to take the shape of, “when?”  I actually began to study food storage sites to survive the oncoming end of the world scenarios.  I was full of anxiety and certain that it was all coming down just as these experts online had warned us about. My Bible began to be used only as a tool to figure out how close we were to the end of time and Christ’s return to earth.  I misused God’s word as a prop to argue my points in chat rooms and forgot about the primary message of the Bible.  That message is: there is an end coming and the whole world will face judgment but God has made a way to Him and to safety and that way is through His Son, Jesus.  In my process of arguing in hostile chat rooms about signs of the end I neglected to mention God’s glorious mercy and kindness. 
I also neglected to model it in my life.  Instead, I read headlines and followed videos dragging myself through my days.

I was looking for God to show up while watching global events, and guess what, He showed up.  Not at all in the way that I had expected though. 


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The pope.

I remember when I was about six-years old I had to climb a short flight of fourteen stairs to go to my bedroom.  About midway up the flight I would close my eyes and hold the handrail.  I would keep my eyes closed until I reached the top of the stairs and after I turned down the hallway towards my room.  I was afraid until I made the turn.  At the top of the stairs my parents had a large, framed photograph of President Kennedy and his wife Jackie.  I had no idea who they were at that age but the way the light hit the photo creeped me out.  It was one of those photos where the eyes seem to follow you around the room.  When I was about eight-years old my parents had a rare visit with some friends over for dinner. They were talking about J.F.K.’s assasination as I played with my Fort Apache near the kitchen table.  By then I knew who was in the photo at the top of the stairs and how he died.  I knew that his son was only a year older than me when his famous father was killed and how beautiful the First Lady was to my mother.

I often heard my mom tell her story about where she was when the tragic shooting in Dallas happened.  She told her story about how shocked she was and how some of her co-workers were crying when they heard the news.  She went home that day and cried herself when she saw the news reports and she could not believe someone would shoot such a wonderful president.  And poor Jackie, poor, beautiful Jacqueline. I never heard my father talk about his thoughts until the night their company came over for dinner.

“The C.I.A. knocked him off.”

He went on to talk about Vietnam and the escalation of the war, that he believed, Kennedy did not want America to be involved in.  My father understood that there is money in war and he believed that if Kennedy didn’t want to get the war machinery going, the government could, would and did, “knock him off.”

I stopped playing with my cowboys and listened intently to the conversation above me at the table. That evening I was listening to my very first conspiracy story.  Throughout my childhood my dad would tell his stories about travels throughout America after he came home from WW II.  More than once he told a tale about a farmer that gave him a lift while he was hitchhiking in New Hampshire.  It was my favorite story because he talked about seeing a huge, ball of light that stopped about a mile in front of the pick-up truck in the darkness.  It glowed red and orange while it swung back and forth over the road they were on. Then it suddenly and silently vanished over the trees.  The farmer could barely drive his truck home afterwards and they were both in shock about what they had just witnessed.  My father was convinced what they saw could not be explained away by a natural occurrence.

So, I grew up reading books about U.F.O.’s and detective magazines as a kid. 

I remember tearing photos from my dad’s  paperback about U.F.O.s for my eighth grade science project.  Mr.Kolifrath gave me a high B because he liked my enthusthiasm but he didn’t think the content was very scientific.

About seven years ago I picked up a small piece of paper torn from a magazine in my father-in-law’s bedroom.  The house phone was ringing and I picked it up in his room.  As I stood there talking on the phone I was just able to read a small portion of the article that was on the floor.  It was about global secret societies and their plans for total, global domination.  I had never heard about such things so when I hung up the phone I pulled the paper that was half under his dresser and read the full page.  Then I made a very bad decision and one that would eventually drag me into a pit of fear, anxiety and a sense of hopeless dread for about three years; I went home, got online and searched the names of the companies, government agencies and various players listed in the article.

Some doors should never be opened.


Monday, February 4, 2013

Thank God for God.

Thank God for God.

Last Saturday afternoon I was very tired and on day four of a twenty day round of antibiotics.  All I wanted to do was sleep.  I forced myself to get up for breakfast but by mid-afternoon I was fading fast.  I had to rest.  My wife was consuming another cooking show in the kitchen and our son had a cartoon on in the living room.  Neither one heard me mumble about going to bed for a while as I headed down the hallway wrapped in a fleece. The sunshine floods our son’s bedroom in the afternoon and I just wanted to curl up in it and be warm.  I crawled onto his bed and immediately fell asleep.

A few minutes later I felt something barely brush my cheek and I opened my eyes.  My son woke me up with a kiss.

"Are you sick Daddy?"

"Yes son, I just need to take a nap for a few minutes."

He went into the kitchen and told his mother that I was sick and sleeping in his bed.  He sounded surprised that I would choose his bed to rest in.  It is his room after all.  He came back a minute later with his stuffed tiger, propping him next to my head.  He told me to get better and left his room, not satisfied, he came back again with Music Man.  Music Man is a stuffed character that plays classical music.  It's what my wife and I would turn on to help him sleep when he was a baby or when he woke up from a bad dream.  It's his comfort toy.  He put it next to Tiger and turned it on.  Then he covered me up to my shoulder with his blanket, kissed my cheek again and told me he loved me. When he was satisfied that I was comfortable he went back to his cartoons.

He did all of this out of love for me, and voluntarily.  It was an expression of his heart because he loves me and it is his room and he was doing his best to take care of his guest.  Every high part of love was in operation in that short but unforgettable moment.  He was compassionate, empathetic, had a willingness to comfort, to extend kindness, care and service.  I thought about my son's efforts as I fell into a deep nap in the January sunshine.  Mozart softly poured out of Music Man.  Then, the doorbell rang.

Being a Saturday afternoon I had no doubt who it was at our door, it was the Jehovah Witnesses. We often take turns responding to them but I let my wife take the hit this time.  All week they blanket our neighborhood walking in pairs. Handsome black men are dressed in suits with bright ties and polished shoes while the women are all in dresses with their hair done.  It’s an odd sight as they walk around all dressed up weaving through poor neighborhoods.  It’s as if they’re lost looking for the corporate meeting that’s happening somewhere in a housing project.   

The “Witnesses” all carry their faith’s version of the Bible under their arms and most have leather satchels over their shoulders full of this month’s teachings to hand out to anyone they hope to dialogue with.  Whether they can reach someone on the street or under a doorframe they have their handouts ready.  And they carry a lot of them because the world is coming to an end, again. On Wednesday’s I walk through a gauntlet to get to our neighborhood grocery store, politely looking down or away to avoid a conversation, or a confrontation.  When they stop to talk to me I go right to the foundation of their faith, a con man that falsely predicted the end of the world.  Obviously it didn’t happen as he said it would, but the “faith” continued on just the same and it has been spinning different versions of a mountain of failed predictions for well over a century. They were at our door on Saturday to give us this week’s version.

The conversation at our door was brief because my wife has no patience with people who follow a faith than can be easily deconstructed within ten minutes reading Wikipedia.  They wanted to hand her a new version of their ever-changing belief system but she responded that we attend a Baptist church.  The conversation from their end immediately ended.  And so did my nap.  My nap wouldn’t happen now because my mind began to map my faith process getting to the church we now attend.  The process was like a very long and unnecessary detour bringing me back to where I should have began thirty-four years ago.

The Jehovah Witnesses cannot be faulted for their good intentions as they follow their faith but they are in a terrifying place of deception that only God can deliver them from.  I know more than I can bear some days regarding my own spiritual deception so I have a little more patience than my wife does when they come to our door.

The greatest attacks against my faith as a Christian did not come from outside of me. 
They came from inside of me.

Like the Jehovah’s at our door I believed a chain of lies that did not support the Bible’s message of Christianity.  In the course of my life I wrote my own version of my bible and stumbled through my life for decades, arrogantly certain and blissfully ignorant.  I was torn between two worlds, one of truth and one of lies.

It didn’t take that much effort either:  Get saved by the grace and mercy of God then be relative regarding personal holiness.  Avoid church for years or attend casually or indiscriminately. Love the world, its methods, mindset, music, television shows, films, celebrity, language and style. Trust feelings and obey them; crash and then repeat. Then attend church to collect a small warehouse full of study notes from various preachings and apply superficially, add a bookcase of half-read spiritual books, study up on doctrinal truths then circle the runway failing to land hard on the problem of my sin.  Get caught up in emotions, learn church terminology and culture and put that on like a chameleon, trade the Bible’s message of service and accountability with pleasure and opinion, distort grace, blend God’s truth with pop-psychology, act like you’re something you’re not until you believe it, argue with God, fail to examine your life and voilá, you’re spiritually deceived and your faith is contaminated and lukewarm.

Calling it what it is, it’s actually idolatry and paganism, a counterfeit, worthless religion.

There is a way that seems right to a man but its end is the way to death.  Proverbs 14:12

Thank God for God.  That He corrects the children that are His. Thank God for the kindness and mercy to reveal the hard truths I needed to look at in my life. I was in a pit of confusion and pride that I could not get free from.  I was in darkness.
I was as desperate as Jonah when he called to God for mercy from the deep.

Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the stomach of the fish,
And he said,
“I called out of my distress to the Lord,
And He answered me.
I cried for help from the depth of Sheol;
You heard my voice.
For You had cast me into the deep,
Into the heart of the seas,
And the current engulfed me.
All Your billows passed over me.
So I said, I have been expelled from Your sight.
Nevertheless I will look again toward Your holy temple.
Water encompassed me to the point of death.
The great deep engulfed me,
Weeds wrapped around my head
I descended to the roots of the mountains.
The earth with its bars was around me forever,
But You brought up my life from the pit,
O Lord my God,
While I was fainting away,
I remembered the Lord,
And my prayer came to You,
Into Your holy temple.

Chapter 2.

How did I survive such a horrific life?  I survived only by the grace and mercy of God.

I was in a pit and God had mercy on me.

I went through a year of terror last year.  All chance for escape from the terror was impossible.  Every avenue of strength in my mind, will or emotion drained out of me.  I trembled in terror before God as He corrected me.  I could only be silent and wait.  I called out to Him through Jesus when I could speak at all.

There is no hope for anyone apart from the mercy of God’s grace, which is found only in His Son, Jesus.  There is no hope and only darkness and terror.

God is Holy.  Man is not holy and needs to be redeemed by God’s plan of salvation.  Jesus Christ is that plan of salvation.  There is no other way for man to be rescued from the holiness of God.  Without Christ, God’s wrath remains, eternally.

I lived my Christian experience without the fear of God.  I met God in a way I did not expect in 2011 and I loathed the decisions of my life. Under His examination I saw my sin.  I learned the mercy of God’s grace found only in the atonement of Christ.  God is holy and unapproachable, yet He loves and makes a way to come to Him forever.  I remembered His Cross in my terror and He had mercy on my soul.

I am learning now through His Word and through the church He led me to. To fear Him with reverence and dump the gooey, mushy, tepid response to God’s holiness I allowed unchecked.   Then love Him by obeying His Word.  Then love others by serving them.  Meet with other believers to grow in these things and encourage one another in our personal difficulties. 
Follow Christ, intimately.

To learn that will require the remainder of my life. 

I feel overwhelmed by my inadequacy and that’s good, I should, the moment I think I’m fine I find that I’m not fine. I pray for examples to follow to teach me and they come to me everyday. Our son modeled love and service perfectly for me and he’s three-and-a-half years old. 

As far as I know he doesn’t own a notebook.

At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who then is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, and said,
“Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.
“Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 18:1-4

God help me, and God help you too.  Amen.

I will continue to blog about the progress of my life that brought me here.  Every heartbeat has been a gift of God’s grace. 
Glory to God for His Son, Jesus, the Savior of the world.