Saturday, October 30, 2010

#204-Hope. A citation about demons, Ouija boards, T.S. Eliot, and bumps in the night

Caption: Is this not the perfect embodiment of the eeriness of this time of year?!? It's a picture my mom took when I was two years old. If you can't tell, it's at least triple exposed (boy in pumpkin costume, barn, and outline of people at top of barn). 
Editor's Note: This one may be a bit different for a blog post. I struggled with it, because it was perhaps the least typical of all SAL Posts, but take it for what it is worth. Also, keep in mind, I am in the Midwest which more than most places has a very distinct Autumn flavor to it. If you are not familiar with the scene I am portraying, please make sure you get up to the rural lodges of Wisconsin/Illinois/Minnesota/Ohio/Pennsylvania/Minnesota at least once in your lifetime during the month of October. Point being: Excuse my romanticism for this time of year, but if you lived here, you would so be doing the same thing.


Hoping for Hope
If there is one shortcoming which I think supersedes all the rest in my generation and younger, it is that we struggle with hope. With the onset of technology and the internet, the world's ailments smack us in the face harder and faster than ever before. It becomes especially problematic when we dive into the history books and find out that in almost every generation for the past 500 years (with special intensity of this belief in the past 200 years) believed and were told that their generation would be the last because God was coming back. My pastor's generation was told that his generation would be the last and now we are told the same. What is there to hope for? Monetary success? We see it's limits. Jesus' return? Yeah, but we've heard it for so long and preached so loudly, that there is some doubt that this will happen in our lifetime (much of us don't even believe in the pre-tribulation rapture= here today, gone tomorrow theology to keep you on your toes). If we can recapture the hope for our generation, I think much of the concern for us and where we are going will be dampened. It would be our gravity to our tendency to drift.

As for me, I hope not, yet I am not hopeless. Rather I hope for the possibility of hope. I have not found hope but I dig amidst the muck all the more so to find it. And with this in mind...


I love October. The bonfires in the middle of nowhere. The chilly climate demanding the use of sweatshirts promoting your favorite college sports team. The Halloween decorations on front lawns (even if you are not a participant yourself). The grimness of the season, a foreshadowing of the cold, vengeful winter to come where the vegetation dies. Autumn and it's gloom with trees burning on fire and the leaf piles on the side of the road that will soon follow those fiery trees. The autumn, a celebration of the harvest collection that will sustain you in the hopeless dark winters. I seriously love this time of year. It reminds us the fun and festival of summer was but a season, when play seemed limitless. Fall announces the great inward turning into self and indoors, the places where sane men grow mad. 

Then there is Halloween (in our case, Harvest Parties). The Jack-o-Lanterns, and the monster costumes as the last hurrah laughing at us and our human inability to remain in the peaceful bliss of summer. As Nietzche says, 

"The Festival of peace is just a masked ball where in the back rooms, rage & resentment primp for their own grand entrance toward the end of the evening."

I can think of no better definition of October and Halloween...The waning minutes before the rage of winter. All we are left to do in this time is trick ourselves into a controlled fear in preparation for the death blows of winter and give a little candy to innocent and spoiled children along the way.

I write all this October romanticism as a self declared Mr.October. I thrive in it's dread and perhaps the most incremental part of living October for us is the scary stories that are bound to come about ever so subtly on these harrowing evenings every year. And don't act like you don't know what I'm talking about. Either it's a horror movie on TV that gave you nightmares as a kid when you were up way past your bedtime or your storytelling relative telling you an urban legend at night around a bonfire that gave you so many goosebumps that you wondered if you were secretly a scaly reptile.

Or perhaps, when you think of October, you think about that fright night visiting friends up at Western Michigan University to party as a backslider 7 years ago when your pagan friends made you the designated driver for the evening and in retaliation that night, you forced them in their drunken buffoonery to go into a seemingly haunted and abandoned insane asylum (pictured here):

Upon entry on the third floor inside the building with your friends, you encounter the most paranormal encounter of your life complete with loud and thunderous footsteps racing up the staircase behind you and walking towards you in the hallway the group is facingThen there were the doors! The doors that inexplicably opened and slammed shut as you brave men walked that hallway waiting for the first person to confess they literally went to the bathroom in their pants. And no matter how hard you try to rationally explain away the experience you know you cannot take away the horror that occurred that night. (This so totally happened and I totally am cynical about it all  even though such cynicism is pure self deception so I can sleep well at night even though my friends and I who encountered the asylum that night could not sleep the entire night of the incident).

Or if you're Apostolic, October always means scary stories about Ouija Boards. Those stupid demon infested Ouija boards and the parents who encountered them before they were saved and the tales of those dreadful encounters they force onto our souls. Usually couches being lifted are involved in the Ouija story or things thrown across the room by demons are involved. We eat this stuff up. 

In the same vain I offer the following fictional scary story that ends with corny but quite symbolically applicable ending:

Dry Salvages
As you know my descent into "emergent  subjective liberal communism" has left me feeling so alone. Unreachable from most. I left the fun costume party where bodies gather amongst each other to hide away from the dark night outside. I left because I knew in that glorious noise, I could not hear God within my self so should He speak to me. I set out into that dark night wherein I would encounter but a few souls whose wonderings into that into that treacherous country where each going into their own undefinable direction, each with pale-face, half-dead. The biting wind outside was so intense that communication impossible. If one were to speak the wind would carry it away outright so as to ever attempt any kind of conversation would be a futile attempt. The wondering souls then could only be dependent on self, and the confusion within. Head nods from the hollow faces then are the only kind of recognition one wondering soul can give to another. 

So I continue on into the chilly night. I even hear faint whispers of a human variety and I just tell myself it's the wind wrestling through the trees. Of course it's only the trees. Ghosts don't exist. Although I have goosebumps. And I can see the path that I am on only a few feet in front of me at each step. The moon is dimly lit tonight. I walk on trying to laugh at myself and the paranoia raging inside me of over-thinking every noise i hear. But then, the sound of cracking branches, coming from the the woods that run parallel to this path I am on. Cracking Branches! Someone is in the woods. Something is following me. It wants to devour my soul. It can see me and I can only hear it. It's only a critter probably. A squirrel or something. What is this path I am on? Where am I going? Where does this path even lead to? 

I could continue trying to write on about my walk on this path, talking continually, trying to pathetically portray the sense that I am getting the sense that I am being stalked by a specter or mauling beast, or both, but it would be monotonous and am now realizing how I have no idea how to write a scary story with mounting tension, so let's get to the main part....

Little Gidding 

This skinny path: It has a destination.

It's a wooden creepy shack that screams "THIS IS SO THE SITE OF A GOOD SCARY MOVIE!" Because it's in the middle of nowhere and there is a heap of trees surrounding it. The shack was even built on an old Indian burial grounds. And because I need a rest, this is where I will settle. The shack also has no electricity, meaning I can only see inside via the sole candle-lit hand lamp that is mysteriously lit once I walk inside. The entire shack is but one square room, with a dusty rotted desk, one wooden chair and one table which was supporting the hand lamp. On the walls are black and white dusty photos from the early 1900's of old people with stern looks judging you. They are portraits of people long dead in clothing so modest that it makes Apostolics look like hedonists in comparison. The various women pictured in the photographs are wearing dresses so broad they they could host an immigrant family underneath as proper shelter.

There is also a Footloose poster of a smiling Keving Bacon on the wall looking oh so youthful and handsome. When I see this poster, I know that me being in this shack is so right, right now.

I set the lamp on the desk and wait for God’s voice in the dark night. I pick up the book that was so conveniently left for me, T.S. Eliot’s 4 Quartets.

I stumble on stanzas like this (if you don't like poetry, feel free to skip):

   Where is there an end of it, the soundless wailing,
The silent withering of autumn flowers
Dropping their petals and remaining motionless;
Where is there and end to the drifting wreckage,
The prayer of the bone on the beach, the unprayable
Prayer at the calamitous annunciation?
    There is no end, but addition: the trailing
Consequence of further days and hours,
While emotion takes to itself the emotionless
Years of living among the breakage
Of what was believed in as the most reliable—
And therefore the fittest for renunciation.
    There is the final addition, the failing
Pride or resentment at failing powers,
The unattached devotion which might pass for devotionless,
In a drifting boat with a slow leakage,
The silent listening to the undeniable
Clamour of the bell of the last annunciation.

Suddenly I hear a noise. Outside. Some clamoring. Some more broken branches. The dark thing from the path has so followed me. My hands get clammy. I am not who I once was. Conclusions must be reached about the prowler outside so as to make sense of my plight. He is a serial killer. This is the only explanation. I look to the window and catch a glimpse of a shadowy human figure looking back at me with it’s hands cupped around it’s eyes against the window as if it’s trying to see me, but just as I glimpse it, it vanishes. I hurry to the window with a lamp because I am a horror movie idiot. Bouncing heart. Dread. My life will end tonight. Violent images going through my mind of what is to become of me. One of them resulting in me being impaled and my body left to rot for weeks on end as a testament to some obscure god of these haunted woods.

When I get to the window, I see the prowler lurking. It is so doing one of these numbers:

It so wants inside this place. Am I trespassing?

I lock door because there is also a rusted lock on the wooden door I forgot to mention.

And just as I lock the door, the door knob rattles and turns from the outside. I step back, and faint. Even though I am not the fainting type. I come to after God knows how long at the hard pounding of the prowler knocking at the door. The room is hazy because of the fainting spell as I am laid out on the floor. At this moment of solidarity I would rather be anywhere but here. The costume party sounds so good and comforting right now, where I can be free to ignore the horrors that lurk about in the night. But here alone, the things that haunt are haunting on me and I can’t tell anyone about it, because like every other good horror movie these days, I am getting no cell phone service on my phone.

The pounding on the door won’t stop. In my fear I utter the only word one can so sheepishly mutter during these times… “Jesus.” The knocking immediately stops. After the knocking ceases, I gather myself, stand up, grow tall in my pride reminding myself that through Him I can confront all things. Try to ignore the horror around me. I read Eliot again:

 There is no end of it, the voiceless wailing,
No end to the withering of withered flowers,
To the movement of pain that is painless and motionless,
To the drift of the sea and the drifting wreckage,
The bone's prayer to Death its God.

I look to the window after reading that stanza and somehow there is dirtied blood smattered across it. Dirty, faded blood on the window. Good God Man!

A few moments later, I hear something slipped under the door. A note! I walk over to the note. Perhaps it’s a “cease fire” agreement? No. All it says is “WINDOW!”

At the next instant, a rock comes bursting through the window. Bloody shards of glass everywhere. I look to the rock. It too has a note attached to it tied by a rubber-band. I pick up the rock and read the note. It reads: “Open the door you coward! Better to die now than Later. LOL!”

LOL? This dude is so just messing with me at this point.

I run to the window which is now a vacuum or a giant wind tunnel to flood the shack. I see nothing.




And then I see him:

When I saw that image, I grow instantly scared again. I sit at desk. I proceed to Read this:

 Quick now, here, now, always—
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)

The door is then pounded on again. The killer has an entry point now through the window and he’s still knocking? This is so messed up.

Somewhere the note runs through my head. Something was logical about it. The concept of not letting myself live like this. In such a misery waiting for my demise. Die now. Die Later.

But I wait.  I hesitate. I sigh deeply.

I walk to the door and unlock the lock. I open door. Accept the fate of what is on the other side.

And there He is. Staring .I stare back. He wasn’t so scary looking. Rather, a bit homely and thin. Also tanner than I would have expected for a serial killer. He also has a beard. Like me. Lonely me. This whole staring back and fourth between prowler and me, a bit awkward, let me tell you. He eases the tension by cracking a smile. I am so no returning the smile back. What a sick man to be smiling at a moment like this when he is about to kill me. There is nothing happy about this moment.

Also, I should mention that he is holding a flame thrower in his arms. A flame thrower? Couldn’t he have been more creative? But I must say, death by flamethrower is the way to go out!

I will die by fire. Consumed by that scary mans fire.

He looks at me some more. Elevates his weapon and aims it at me. This is so comedic, I know.

He smiles again, and says “thanks.”

Waits a second. Then says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him.”

My eyes get all big like “Wha?!?”

But all I utter is that one word you always say wen you are about to die by flamethrower: “Jesus.”

He says “Bingo.”

I Say “Good God Man!”

He says “You’ll thank me later.”

Trigger pulled.

I instantly am burning in flames. Dying as a ball of flames. I am trying to do that whole “stop, drop, and roll” thing to put the fire out and it’s so not working. I am squirming in such a stupid panic. I am on fire though, so I have an excuse.

(Fade out)

That verse he quoted about Jesus knocking and waiting for you to answer. What it fails to mention is the setting and time that He’s knocking. Most people look to hear the knocking at church on a Sunday Sunny Afternoon in the Summer. For me it’s in theses dark and dreadful nights in October in a metaphorical wooden shack all alone. Here is where I find him knocking. I thought all those knocks that I was hearing in the shack would be the death of me. So I hid and trembled in fear of what was on the other side of the door. I was half-right. The man knocking wanted my death. So he could give life.
I am so resuurected right now after being lit on fire by the Son of Man (told you this had a corny ending).

Now if only I could have the guts to open such a door that results in my death every day of my life. But I am too cowardly for that on some days so I shake in fear instead in fear of the loss o myself, because deep inside I want the preservation of what is most important to me: Myself.

Don’t you see? We see Jesus as this happy dude who saved my life and we can still live the rest of our lives in these mortal bodies rolling around in lilies with him telling everyone how great Jesus is. But, while this is a good aspect of Jesus, it distorts the reality that there is a dreadful weight to the message as well. Jesus: Life giver. But also a murderer  (of my flesh). One aspect of Jesus sounds absolutely spectacular and obvious. The other, not so much. Yet only when I face my demons that are telling me that I am too important to die today, and say “Jesus, you kill these thoughts too…”  it is here that I really begin to grasp the resurrection that is promised to us.

Our generation needs hope. It is, personally, what I lack. Christianity is just a waiting game for me. And I think it may be because I want to launch myself into the optimism of the Christian message and the lamb sleeping with lion in a field of lillies and stuff, but I can't figure out why, when I launch myself as so, the hope ends up empty. And perhaps it's because I/you are looking forward to something that we in our flesh cannot know of or take part of. The hope will only be found in the death, any other attempt to get at the hope without the continual struggle and battle is a self-deceiving counterfeit Christianity. I am still hoping to find hope one day. Sooner, hopefully than later.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

#203-The Revival in These Last Days

Editor's Note: Apologize about the temporal gap of posts, just really busy lately. I also have one more post already written but i want to tweak it a bit, so expect that for Friday.

Firstly, visit this youtube video link  (embedding disabled) for a context of what I think we are dealing with, but note the words "Oh my God" are said 3-4 times, so if this offends don't watch.

Secondly, what does this have to do with us? Well I would argue that is how some of us (including myself at times) perceive our religious walk. The fire in the video obviously representing Hell, Dwight=God (knowing that if you light a match underneath someone, it will cause them to get going), the office=the last days.

Let me be more rephrase: There is this dominant notion that we are in the Last Days before Christ's return to earth, and the book of Revelation tells us the last days are to be defined by wars upon wars, messes upon messes, World War III, panic of panics...basically the first half hour of what is called "Black Friday" at a shopping mall, the day after Thanksgiving wherein all sorts of ridiculously extreme deals are going on and people NEED THOSE THINGS:

Is this not the kind of spunk we are operating in as a movement at times? We operate with a kind of vigilant militancy in sermons about this being the last days and pointing to various verses in the Bible to prove this and various events in the news to solidify these claims and they are all telling us that we need to be on some kind of raid breaking down every gate in order to save people. We need an end times revival.

And Here is my version of how I understand this kind of theology through history:

At the beginning of Christianity, Jesus was all up out of this boy in the ascension. Then He came back down through the Spirit in the Acts 2 day of Pentecost, but everyone knew Jesus was sooo about to come back from Heaven in fullness whenever he decided it was time. It was incredible. Things Were fantastic. God, apostles, people saved, miracles, One God. Then somewhere along the way they lost their way. Probably the second century. People started to intellectualize and institutionalize the Cross. It was not about Spirit revelation anymore, plus God became 3-in-1, and not just One. Catholic Church takes over Weird ideas are spawned. This happens for a long long time. Then the Reformation happened which kind of made the Catholic Church not so "Catholic" anymore, and we could all read and interpret the Bible, and Jesus would be back any minute...although things still were what they once were. A few hundred years later, Azuza Street Revival happens, just like in Acts. Miracles. And eventually a return to the revelation of Oneness. While things weren't perfect, with the Spirit out of it's slumber and alive in Pentecost, things were much better than before.

The problem is Jesus is so about to come back any minute. And we are working our tales off in panic to try clean up the mess of those 1800 years or so where the Spirit was for the most part absent in the workings of Christianity. 

Being Apostolic
So we are running the house trying to clean up the mess all the other Christians left us to clean up in their kind of Christian slumber and not caring what mess they left. People must be saved! We know we can do it! WE GOT THIS! GO GO GO GO!  DAD WILL BE HOME ANY MINUTE! By the time dad gets back, we can't let him know how messy things have been.


What can help us? I know: Revival. Has anyone seen the Revival around?  Anyone? (dog whistle "COME HERE REVIVAL" CLAP)

Someone lost the Revival? Well let's think about this for a minute. Who did we last with Revival and where was it at? Hmmm....there was definitely the 70's when all our hippy parents got sick of the drug scene and wanted some order in there lives. We definitely saw Huge revival then. Anyone else? Oh yes, we saw revival with the Africans pretty recently. And now even South America. But recently? Okay. Let's look everywhere around the house to find revival. We must find it! Check the cracks in the cushion couches. Don't panic. Not yet anyways. But be hurried. Like a fast-paced walk. Smile politely. Why are you looking in the oven?!? Who would have put the revival in the oven? Seriously?!? let's act rationally here people. Dad will be home in ten minutes. The revival will be our safety to cover up this historical mess. 

Logistics of the search? My Rationale: if we just act like we have tried hard enough searching for this revival, and attempted incorporating the latest modern innovations for Church Growth to locate the Revival (all those books at the book store about Church Growth? Think of them as an infomercial and you will never think about buying them), and we have prayed! Certainly we have prayed hard enough and long enough  to say "WE TRIED OUR BEST!" The Spirit will then tell us where the Revival is located. We will pick up. And utilize it. MILLIONS WILL BE SAVED! And not a moment too soon, because Dad will so be home by then.

Daddy Done Got Lost 
A few days ago, my dad was looking for his glasses pacing back and fourth through the house looking for them. We didn't know what he was looking for, we had our own lives to worry about. So there his man is, 5 years away from retirement, wondering the house as if he just heard a rumor the Holy Grail was secretly hidden by God within it. Checking counter-tops, bed-stands, couches, and bedstands again. Making the loudest noises ever in the process to let it be known to his internet-addicted children that he was searching for something important. After foot-stomping and breathing through his nose in frustration long and loud enough, I ask him what he is looking for. He said his glasses. I asked him if they were the tinted glasses that make him look like a creeper. He said no, but that he was looking for his regular glasses. I asked if they were the ones on his face already. He said they were and laughed at himself. The thing he thought he was missing (glasses) were already on his face and had been on his face for so long, he forgot what it was like without the glasses so much so, that he thought he had lost them. It is so for many of us on how we handle the concept of trying to find the revival by praying and shouting our way to hopefully stumbling upon it.


PHIL COLLINS' with his cover of the Supreme's Number 1 hit "Can't Hurry Love" wherein the advice comes from his mother: "My mama said, "You can't hurry love. No, you'll just have to wait." She said "love don't come easy..." 

And also Romans. Romans 2:7. Something about patient continuance and also a further explanation about how there is not so much of a sense of panic in the first century churches (unless souls were endangered of being lost), but rather you get the sense that the Church genuinely trusted the Spirit for the whole Revival thing. Not on lighting fires in churches to scare people to go out and scare more people to get them to the church whereupon they will be scared all over again, but I am not in a preaching mood so take my stream of consciousness explanation just now for what it's worth and disagree because I am so realizing there are argumentative holes in this post, so let's see if you can figure them out, and out of stubbornness i will argue that I am right even though you are being more logical, but all of this will wait because I need MORE PHIL COLLINS!

Friday, October 22, 2010

#202-Speaking Things into Existence

Note: Originally this little post was part of a much larger post, but as I wrote it I decided that it was not only too long, but distracted from the overall point. Therefore, I elected to write this separately and post it as a sort of precursor to the bigger article I'm putting up sometime in the near future. Please remember, this is intended to be humorous and sarcastic.

Have you ever noticed the lopsided nature of the “Watch how you speak, there’s power in your words” and the “Don’t speak that, don’t call that down on yourself/them!” The basis for this is generally given as Proverbs 18:21, but somehow it seems to have gone off the track.

Let me elaborate: If one was to say, “My nose has been running, I’ve got headaches, and my throat is getting scratchy. I’d say I’ve got a cold, I’d better go to the doctor.” You are liable to hear, like a refrain, “Hey now, don’t speak that! Don’t claim that for yourself! You’ve got power in your words and you mustn’t speak that!”

Now, if one were to say, “My water heater just went out, our sink is broken in the bathroom, both of them causing astronomical increases to the water and electric bills, and on top of all of that the mortgage is overdue. I could use a couple thousand dollars to pay those off.” The reply will be something along the lines of “Have faith and be patient! God can do anything and find a solution, but you’ve got to keep your eyes open and watch out for what He will do, not what you want Him to do.”

See the irregularity? Why is it that pentecostals have faith in God to fulfill their speech 100% when christians surmise that they may be sick or they may do poorly on a test, but not when they’re in need of help? Seriously, imagine this God we’ve created for a moment:

Somewhere in Heaven

God: Well, nameless observation angel, have you heard anyone speaking or implying anything that I might want to intervene in at all?

Angel: There’s Francine from Kenosha, her son’s kidneys have stopped working. They’re praying for a miraculous healing and recovery, but they’re also on the donor list and they’re proceeding with dialysis. Want to do the healing or move him up on the list for a transplant?

God: Hmm… long before I have to decide? I mean, I’m omniscient and all of that, I already know what’s going to happen, but you know I’ve been trying to mix things up—eternity is a long time for the same old shtick.

Angel: Well, the mother has already claimed a miracle in faith, you should really think about moving quickly.

God: Right, right…….so?

Angel: (Sigh)….It’s a pretty serious case, her son’s body isn’t taking too well to the dialysis, so you’ve got about five months, give or take, you know, your will.

God: Ok, send me a reminder in a couple months. I’m going to see how I can turn this into a preaching opportunity for some young minister. Alright, that aside….anything else……(whispering) anything good?

Angel:………umm, remember Susan C. in Ontario? The one who didn’t take the potentiality of your return into account when she told her friend she was getting married in a year or two? (NOTE: for the more recent readers, this is a reference back to my first ever post, which was on the Apocalypse )

God: Of course I do! I’ve been trying to keep tabs on her; she’s been getting ready with all of her little marriage preparations. Haha! She has no idea that the planning and development department is working double time in order to move my return up the schedule! What’d she do now?! Plan some sort of over-elaborate honeymoon to tempt me even further!?!

Angel: No, she just mentioned to one of her friends that she thinks she may have avian flu. She does in fact have the real flu, just not the bird kind, so she’ll need to get to take the normal precautions. I think she was just joking, but…..wait, what’s wrong with you?

God: (Head lowered, wringing hands, mumbling excitedly).

Angel: Sorry, I didn’t catch that.

God: (Throws his head back, laughing and points at the monitor) A HA!! She spoke it! You heard her, I heard her! Give her the bird flu!

Angel: C’mon, I really think she was joking, plus wouldn’t that compromise with your plans to come back just to mess with her marriage?

God: No, we can’t ignore this. Power’s within her speech, she knows better; she claimed it and I’m bound to answer! Also, I never really wanted to come back so soon anyway, this works out quite nicely…call it killing two birds with one stone, er, maybe killing a stone with a bird….flu? I don’t know, anyway, do it to it Lars!

Angel: My name isn’t Lars, but I’ll get on with it if you’re certain.

God: I couldn’t be more certain, keep me updated!


Poor Susan C. She has no idea. Perhaps you think that whole scenario was ridiculous? You feel that there are subtle nuances being ignored? Maybe, or maybe this whole power of the mouth thing has been hijacked and mishandled….Elaboration to follow in my next post.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

#201-The Full Truth

Editor's Note: Once again, I beg you to please read. Because this is just fantastic writing on my part. It's just phenomenal. I'm the Nobel prize-winning author of Apostolic writers in this post. Also, you may want to kill me by the end of this read if you are not wanting to kill yourself by then (Only metaphorically of course).

And you get songs! Start here...."Yeah Yeah Yeah" by the Flaming Lips. It's only like the catchiest song in the world.

The Dirty Little Secret
There is a dirty secret that I and you and your own mother prefer not to talk about. It's a secret that I am just now confronting. It seems obvious enough, but I'm a slow learner. It lurks in the darkest corner of my conscience and I would just as soon like to get rid of it, the moment I found it. But it's not so easy. It may take years or even a lifetime of digging at it with my fingernails to even have the remotest chance at casting it to the abyss. And even at this assumption, I fear the reality is that it's removal is rather an impossibility in that the dirty secret is embedded so strongly in the bedrock of my soul that my only out is suicide (more on this later), or a lobotomy.

Author David Foster Wallace on the dirty little secret,

"Everything in my own immediate experience supports my deep belief that I am the absolute center of my own universe, the realist, most vivid and important person in existence."

In short for each of us, we love ourselves the most.

Firstly, allow me the freedom to confirm the thesis.

From what I gather, most of us think ourselves hopelessly good looking. Better looking than we really are. Especially in comparison with our peers. Sure, I have friends who I think are better looking than me. I have names! Zach Dunning, Darron Sistrunk, and Justin Morr. They are really devilishly good looking (sorry ladies, Darron and Zach are engaged. But Justin Morr is so completely single right now that I suggest you add him as a friend on facebook and see what I am talking about: Morrsey's Facebook Profile.

The reality is I look to these handsome friends as a kind of justification for how good looking I think I am, It's a vain and false humility and my ego is allowed to flaunt itself in my awesome brain.

You probably think you are Funny too. I know I do. I am funnier than you though. Intelligent? Is this that even a question. Well it was rhetorical. Because we are so intelligent we know how to spell rhetorical and know what it means. Because of course we are intelligent. We even get really good grades without trying. DANCE EGO DANCE! What? No. I won't.  Here? Now?

Okay, okay, I'll just go on and say it. You are simply put, spectacular. Virtual Salute to you and virtual salute to me! (Seriously I hope you just saluted the screen like I did when I wrote it). The party is not the same without you.

I am a Monument

I also fantasize about my funeral at times. And theorize what great, worshipful things will be said about me. I am so important that I want my body stuffed when I die (seriously, I have talked at length with my family about this). And when I am stuffed, I want my left hand set up with my fingers separated and pointed slightly upward so that the fingers can act as a coat hanger. And my right hand is to be as positioned with my palm open-faced and maneuvered into a bowl so that it can hold your loose change and keys. I will be set up in the living room as an accessory piece of furniture that brings the room together. This way I will not be forgotten like the rest of the unimportant dead people. This will be especially useful if I did at a young age and my wife goes to get remarried. Think about this scene: My widow brings home a date to watch an awful romantic musical like Grease or something, and the dude looks over to the corner to the room, and there is this stuffed corpse standing there as a coat rack with a few coats hanging from it and he's all confused and asks "what is that thing?" and my widowed wife says "oh that's just my dead husband." And he'll totally just freak out. Vacate premises completely and tell all his friends about the worst date ever and about stuffed me in the corner of the room. If, of course he can maintain in the date in spite of my presence in the room, laugh it off, and continue to cuddle with my wife while they watch a stupid flick like My Big Fat Greek Wedding, then I say it is him who deserves the hand of my wife.

Then Halloween, can you imagine the one month a year that you set my stuffed body outside in the front lawn as a lawn decoration? It would only be the best Halloween decoration ever! People will talk about me then too. Because I am historic (can you tell that I have really thought this thing out? Of course the legalities of this are quite problematic in the United States (can someone do some research and find me a loophole regarding the matter of stuffed corpses. Maybe like Religious Freedom or something? I know it's allowed in South America)).

You are a Major Motion Picture (Protagonist)

We like to imagine our conversations are as magnificent as those in movies. Romantic conversations that are so poetic and mind-blowing because you are just that tragically romantic. If only there was a musical score to accompany us in the background as we go in for that first kiss after saying that ever so cute compliment. You know what? Let's do that. Next time you are on your date with your spouse or pre-spouse, bring a mini-boombox or something and then have certain songs pre-selected for the occasion of either a candlelight dinner (always classical piano), a walk in the park after the meal (always some soft-spoken male solo artist with the music turned down low), the kiss (something where the soft-spoken male solo artist gets to the climax of the song and it's like BAM! FIREWORKS!), and always if need be, after a fight make sure to have some female solo artist accompanying letting you know it's going to be all right. And make sure it's raining. Romantic confusion and fights are always accompanied by rain and walking alone. Your life should and probably is like this. Except without the music. But thank goodness for my awesome mini-boombox suggestion (you can thank me later).

Then there are the times when you cry because when your ego is huge, drama is to be sought. Because movies have drama and climaxes and you are a major motion picture who searches endlessly for the slightest bit of drama that attacks awesome you so you can have emotional tear-jerking climaxes too (once again, female solo artist is crucial here when your tears fall on the pillow in your loneliness). Thus, in our self-importance, self-pity is always to be invited. 

Glorious ego envelopes us all. Deep inside, we are super-heroes, romantics, strong but sensitive, geniuses, Olympic athletes, arm-chair politicians who care about Darfur and electric cars, reality show stars, new, stylish (in a non-caring way), logical, bright, survivors, holy, unclassifiable, classy, and entertaining. Why don't more people notice this about us?

You ever notice how much quicker to forgive our own flaws and sins before anyone else? Sure our hygiene is suspect and we lie on occasion and obsessively think about eating bacon, and even secretly hold viscous judgments about others which we dare not tell others about (save our closest friends), but we just as easily excuse such flaws under the label of "being human." But we are no so quick to allow others such an excuse, especially to those whose personality strikes us in the raw or actually treads on our own existence in a conflict. I love myself some me. Some of us just learn to keep this truth more hidden than others. And those who are no so skilled at disguising their self importance are the most ripe for some Guantanamo Bay Torture (Yay Waterboarding!).

Date Night
Two Fridays ago, I went on a date. It was my first date in years and not something I am fond of. It didn't go well. In our 3 1/2 hours of conversation, the female talked for a good 3 hours of it, about herself. Needless to say, there won't be a second date, and even ignored her texts she sent the next day. Why? While her ego was put on display to scrutinize obsessively for 3 hours, I, who is important, was not allowed equal opportunity to display my own ego. My fault with her was that she didn't allow me the opportunity to talk enough about myself that would cause her to worship me. Poor girl. 

The Whole occasion has got me to temporarily define romantic love as "finding someone who is just as obsessed with you as you are obsessed with yourself and visa-versa."

Reality Conflict (Antagonist)

Luckily there is a system in place that keeps ourselves in check. It's called reality. Reality tells us we are not as important as we would like to think. It makes ugly people like myself develop a sense of humor and personality in order to make oneself the least bit of attractive and marketable both socially and in the dating scene. In short reality is heartless and seeks nothing more than to make special you conform to levels of mediocrity and conformity. In this scenarios we best leave our innate delusions of grandeur, and get on with the monotony and boredom and complacency which reality offers in return for your compliance.

Reality softens the ego, but in the end your ego just finds ways to hide amidst the lack of importance wherein we are each our own king and queen.

What does this look like? Our ego runs for escapes from the absurdity of life that reality offers. We seek alternate realities.

For some, the escape is in a hobby such as thinking you are an expert in cinema or literature. Or thinking Bieber or the Jonas Brothers are singing to you and you alone.

For others the escape from the death dealing forces of reality is obtained through being fashionable or becoming a musician in a band that is on their way to fame.

Yey more applicable are some of those who seek to be a big time preacher or a home missions pastor or knows that one day they will have a church of 500. Same goes for some of those who want to be a pastor's wife.

Others escape in working out and eating hummus and buying food organically.

Most just get along with what reality has to offer, get married, have kids, watch American Idol. Then again, some of these secretly pride themselves in their family, how big and clean their house is, and how smart their kids are (seriously, have you noticed how every parent wants to tell you how far ahead of the curve their kid is in intelligence?).

Point Being, we all have escapes where our self-importance is justified in closets which you cannot know of. And in these closets we worship self.

GET TO THE POINT! (about "the Full Truth")
There is a pandemic amongst us Apostolics that find a justification for our ego in the name of God. This should be maddening but it seems so easy and right.
It's telling our ego what we know is absolutely correct and not only is it correct in it's "truthiness" but it claims truth in exclusion of other non-participants. Enter the popular term "full truth." Enter "Apostolic Identity."
 These terms allow worship of who we are and what we are and affords us the opportunity to stop seeking the destruction of our ego.

I cannot tell you how many times I have heard saints request a prayer for others to come "to the full truth." Perhaps it's just a linguistic misstep. But is there something more going on here?

I cannot tell you how many times I have heard someone claim that they are proud of their apostolic identity. It's cool to have a separate identity. I am the most separate and distinct individual alive in my eyes. But I also wonder, when someone brings up Apostolic Identity they usually do it as kind of a rallying cry. And I always hear Paul in the back of my mind when it's brought up: May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ (Galatians 6:14). Yet again, I definitely have heard others bring it up as a point of sacrifice and not in a tone of pride and superiority over other Christian denominations.

Overall though, the horror of these terms, is that most use it for a false humility. It's all about God and for God, and because the whole "Full truth"/"apostolic Identity" thing is done in His name and we can have the excuses necessary to want to make everyone else like us and at the same time not have to deal with the world. Humble Pride. Nod Head. Raise Hands. Bow to God. Pat yourself on the back. God wins. You win. Win-win situation.'s about to get all crazy up in herr....

(I know what you're thinking. You're saying...Joel, this would be easier if I just had a song to accompany whatever craziness is about to happen. Well I got you covered. SONG!)

Ego Ego Ego. That is what we are up against. Self-denial is what we need. That to me, is much of what Christianity is about. Denying yourself. They who will be last will be first, and those who are first will be last.

But where is this within me?

For the love of God, why am I not more about this? I am more worried about the number of page views this blog gets than I am about talking to my co-workers about church. God I hate that. God I am so sorry. My life is a complete wreck in this regards. But I don't feel like a wreck. It's so awful. Heretical. To feel this, all this comfort. Because I know at the end of the day JESUS LOVES ME AND FORGIVES MY SIN and my laziness and my apathy. But this simple fact allows my ego to dance evermore. I shame the cross. I can't comprehend the demands that say my flesh must die so that He may live. The God who also died on those wooden beams, I can't fathom that. So I make a stupid mocking show of it and run for comfort and secretly say in my head "I AM IMPORTANT! I AM APOSTOLIC! I AM AMERICA!" What is that? WHo am I? Don't soften this blow for me. I need the blood that this realization is causing. I need the discomfort. I am not even exaggerating this one bit. I am this self-absorbed and it will be the death of me. My God. I need to be yelled at. Someone just call me out. This is ridiculous. And No one is saying anything.

I AM A SON OF GOD through Christ. And that is my escape. I have spoken in tongues, been baptized in Jesus' Name, still don't wear shorts even though I am now allowed to in the church I am at. Because I am making sacrifices for the Lord you see? Sacrificing that show how dead serious I am about my relationship with God. I Pray too! Because knowing you are the good guy, and you got truth, that is so comforting. It allows me joy even though there should be tears in my eyes right now for how pathetic I am and how miserably I have failed my call. Don't you see it? I hope to God you see it? (Okay maybe, I have a couple tears, but my ego didn't want me to tell you that, because men shouldn't cry).

I am a major motion picture with heaven as the conclusion (complete with awesome music to accompany my resurrection).

I am failing. We are failing. Because of stupid things like thinking we have the full truth and have an Apostolic Identity. This makes living so much easier when, Christianity should not be about justifying our laziness or seclusion from the world by knowing that we know that God is one.

Who Cares? Seriously, who cares? Do you think God is anymore pleased with the fact that you know that He is one and not three-in-one when the results of this knowledge breed nothing but a contempt for those who don't see God the way we do? I am not saying God is not one, but there needs to be more than this. What you and me are doing. How are we settling for this When the demands are so much greater? But I will sit my fat butt in a pew and stand during the worship songs and sing a few lines written on the screen and say this is GOOD AND HOLY AND PURE. So pathetic.

If Heaven allows me, selfish, self-justifying me, believing in the truth, making sacrifices like not going to the movie theater me, then I want no part of it. If all I have to show for it is me leaving service with tears in my eyes because I sang a song about how much God loves us was played.

I need another fleshly suicide. I need a spiritual rebirth. I don't need more services about Apostolic Identity. I get it. I really Do. Nor do I need another service about Acts 2:38 being the "only gospel" at General Conference. Is that what Jesus died for? Is it? For services like that? Just so we can claim a full truth about Him that saves us confusion and adds comfort to us and our belief system?

I know, I know, I know. It's a process. And I can't be perfect. But I am 24 now and won't be for long and I have grown up in this. And I am just sick about how "this" and my ego have just led me to more justifying about how awesome I and you are for really believing what the Bible is saying. WE just want to know that we are right and they are wrong and this simple truth,  called the full truth allows us the freedom to live uncontested.

And that Cross. The one on that hill. With Jesus on it. It's staring me right in the face. And I want to bow to it. I really do. It's demands. It's loving embrace. But I want my pride too. And bacon. I want bacon. Someone give me a plate full of extra crispy bacon. So I can forget about the ego denying and destruction of my prideful flesh that the cross is demanding as it stares at me. I can't look away quick enough. I need to forget quickly. It's so hard. That cross. It's just uncomfortable. There is nothing pleasing about it. I need church to be pleasing.

But I have a compromise! It revolves around knowing that I have prayed today. and felt God. And know God is One. And looked quite dapper in my church apparel last Sunday. And there are sacrifices too. Incredible sacrifices for me to show God how much He matters. The sacrifice is knowing that my two sisters and my mother don't cut their hair and wear skirts instead. Here I can play untethered with such knowledge.

I don't want to be like Paul or Jesus....with all those sufferings and trials and deaths that they experienced in their truth.

I want to be me. But I also want to be well. I know I am not well. I am sick. And I need to feel this sickness if I want to claim to be any sort of Apostolic Pentecostal.

My ego can either die now or die in hell.

David Foster Wallace for the Win (with slight relevant revision): "Let us learn how to keep from going through your comfortable, prosperous, respectable (Apostolic) life dead, unconscious, a slave to your  head and to your natural default setting of being uniquely, completely, imperially alone day in and day out.

We will not live until we are resurrecting ourselves to walking towards our own mini-crucifixion.

So whose going to lead this walk? Not me. I have books to read. Youtube Videos to watch. Classes to teach. I also have the Full Truth and have the Holy Ghost. And I will fight you if you try to tell me I don't.

Cue Video (and don't worry about the text on the screen. Just listen).

I hope you're crucifying me right now in your mind because of me posting that video. Then I may be doing something right.

One More...

Is that who we are? Someone's lying. That preacher or Me. I am probably lying. Because I have problems. Serious Ego Problems. Unlike that man. Choose Him. His Side. It's easier that way. And when you choose his side, pray for me that I may get better like you. Or just Punch me Or hope that I end up dead soon as a sign to show how right he is. But when I am dead, make sure you stuff my body and set it as a displaying in a church as an example of how right we are in having the full truth.....Because it's a win-win for both of us. A win for me in that I will not be forgotten. A win for you in that your religious identity is justified.