Tag Archives: Faith

The Crusader

I lay absolutely still, my eyes pinched shut tight, while she crept into my room.  She came closer, closer, daring me to be awake. My heart pounded a frantic rhythm. I was prey. One arm was under my pillow, and my head rested on that arm. This is the way I always slept, so she could never know. I could hear her breathing as she crept closer in the night. What would become of me if she discovered I was alive? Would she eat me? Take another?  I held my breath and feigned sleep even harder, as if that were possible.

Then I felt the hand reach under my pillow, sliding coldly, silently in, silently out. And the presence left. I could hear the sweep of her faerie wings as she exited out my bedroom door.

I breathed again, once I was sure it was safe. Eventually I fell asleep.

In the morning there were 4 whole quarters under my pillow and the tooth, secured inside and envelope under my pillow, was gone.

“I fooled the tooth fairy!” I told Brett the next morning. My chest puffed while the bus hauled us to school. “She thought I was asleep the whole time, and she left me a dollar! I saw her!”

He rolled his eyes. “You still believe in the tooth fairy?” he said.

Brett was one of those guys from picture books–the ones in the white tabard with a red cross. The knight who corrected errors, and killing the hopes and dreams of those who believed differently. An nine year old crusader for truth and justice. Only he was the shortest guy in our class. Shorter than some of the first graders.

“Well, yeah,” I said, scornfully. “Who else would take teeth out from under our pillow? She wore a night gown”

“Duh. Your mom?” He said, with equal scorn. His forefinger circled his ear three times and he stuck his tongue out, the universal symbol someone belonged in the looney bin. The bus stopped to pick up Luke.

“Hey Luke! Brian still believes in the Tooth Fairy!” Brett shared with the skinny kid before he was even seated.

“Really?” Said Luke “Cool. And do you believe in Santa Claus, too?” Luke didn’t care. To Luke, everything was kind of cool.

“Of course I do! Who else brings me presents on Christmas eve?”

Brett had an answer ready. “Maybe the tooth fairy?”

“How could it be my mom?” I demanded. “It couldn’t be her. She wouldn’t lie to me.” Could she?

“You’re a dummy,” said Brett. Luke didn’t say anything. He was good that way. Maybe he was even still a believer.

Somehow I made it through the rest of the school day. I knew that, at any point, I could be laughed at. I liked little kids. They were nicer. My sister understood about Santa, and Tarra would understand how it made my heart warm when Rudolf soared over everyone’s house, when Saint Nick delivered presents to all the good little boys and girls.

On the bus later, Brett started a chant. “Brian believes in San-ta!”

After a few seconds of this, I shouted, “Fine! I don’t believe in Santa! But I believe in the elves.”

“Elves? Elves?” Brett demanded, dripping with derision.

Even the kids who might have been on my side, laughed at me after that.

I cried all the way up the long steep driveway home.

I barely made it inside our house before I confronted my mother. “Was it you? Santa, and the tooth fairy, and all the rest?”

“Oh, Brian,” she sighed.

She brought me into my room, and sat with me on my bed, the one where the tooth fairy had been just the night before, and told me she had been tricking me for all the years of my life.

Santa, she told me, wasn’t real. He was a real person, a good person, but he lived hundreds of years ago. And it’s tradition. “But don’t tell Lori,” she said.  “She’s too little to understand.”

“What about God? And Jesus? I can’t see them but we believe in them, right?”

She sighed again. I think made her do that a lot. “Of course we believe in God. He is real. And Jesus is risen, the way the Bible said.”

“Okay,” I said. I could feel my lower lip quivering.

Of course, I immediately went to find Lori and tell her the news. I didn’t want her to go to Pistol River School, and have her friends laugh at her, the way they made fun of me.

She nodded thoughtfully, sucking her fingertip like a lollipop, and said “Okay.” She was a smarter person than me.

I wasn’t angry or sad to lose Santa. Well, maybe a little. I knew I would keep getting presents. And Granny and Grandpa would come every year, and fill stockings. But I felt small. Very small. Why am I always being tricked? And Brett was right. He had every reason to be right. He had a good family, and his mom knew everything about God, and everything. But why are the people who are right always so mean about it?

If Brett could have killed me right there with his words, he would have. Maybe, he even did, just a little.

Foreskin-Free and Feelin’ Fine?

For no particular reason, I read the book of Galatians, from the New Testament, today. It’s been years since I’d gone through the book. Using all the skills at my hand from 20+ years of Biblical training, including a close reading of several books of the Bible in the original Greek, I synthesized the message and devised the following hermeneutic for my readers:

Don’t let ANYONE in the Church, for any reason, guilt-trip you into slicing off hunks of your penis.

2000 years ago, a few people from the church, maybe sent from Peter (how ironic would THAT be?) were real dicks and decided to tell the new Turkish Christians that they had to follow, to the letter, the Hebrew laws according to the Bible, or their involvement in the church was invalid. This included dietary laws, and the thing that really got a rise out of Paul, the practice of circumcision.

Paul said he spent over 14 years preaching to the non-Judaean crowd. He’d passed through what is now Turkey at some point and started a church in Galatia. He found out later that the wiener police were cutting in on his territory. This is the basis of Paul’s letter. In this tiny 4-page letter lies the crux of a critical message for Christians. Don’t get all tangled up in the Law. We’re beholden to a bigger power.

So, I have two questions:

How have we allowed the church to cut us, all while simply accepting that it’s the Will of God?

How have we persuaded others to be cut, because it’s the Christian thing to do?

Circumcision is an extremely painful medico-religious procedure that is done to a very intimate part of one’s body. I think it stands as a metaphor for the hundreds of things we’ve let the Church do, or that maybe we’ve done ourselves? Here are a few that I’ve heard:

“You can’t make it to evening services tonight? Well isn’t that special…”
“Of course if you aren’t witnessing with the Evangelism Team, your reward in Heaven will be smaller.”
“If you’re not praying or reading the Bible regularly, you’re just starving yourself. If you’re no good for God, you’re no good for us.”
“We’re not questioning your loyalty to the church; you’re just not faithful enough to be involved.”
“You had wine with your dinner? <dead silence>”

So yeah, Galatians is about spiritual abuse, a term that took over 2 millenia to manifest itself. In that alone, the work is relevant today, especially if you want to remain involved in the church. If you’re not part of the church, I just want to point out that in 60AD, there was already a document written (by an Apostle no less) that tackled church abuse with passion and maybe even outrage. We’re just sometimes not very good at remembering it ourselves.

We grow complacent. We like things to stay the way they were. “Gimme that Old Time Religion,” the old song goes. We just have to remember what’s really important, and what’s worth throwing out.

Also, we need to remember  never, ever to let someone talk us into chopping pieces of our dicks off for Jesus. Don’t be a complete weenie.

The Tooth Claus, and Santa Fairy

So, my mother is blogging, y’all. I urge you to go visit her site, since she actually posted about my first four years, and what a rambunctious little cuss I was.

Actually, she said I was smart. Too smart. I figured out the tooth fairy, and stuff. And memorized Hop on Pop. That book is the Bop–er… the bomb!

Continue reading The Tooth Claus, and Santa Fairy

More Christian Phrases That Confuse Me

The language of my religion is buried so deeply in the society and culture of our church that we often don’t examine what we’re talking about, or what it means in everyday terms. I’ve struggled with this for years and tried writing about it a few other times and I don’t think my confusion will go away just by writing about this again. But Recently I’ve been seeing Twitter feeds and Facebook status updates from old school friends, now pastors or actively-involved laity. They speak a language I’ve mostly forgotten. This leaves me confused, feeling a bit guilty, and sometimes extremely uncomfortable.

A page from my first Bible. Given to me Christmas, 1976, when I was eight years old.

My confusion usually arises when I take a phrase, and try to apply it to my life. Here’s an example: “Just give it over to God.”

Immediately, my brain reviews few songs and Scriptures that affirm this thought: (1) They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength (Isaiah 40:31). (2) the poem Footprints in the Sand (3) Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6). (4) the Gospel standard What a Friend We Have in Jesus.

We “pray through.” We Wait for God to move.” God reaches us where we are. And my personal struggle: we strive for More of Christ.

So, they confuse me. It is not because the words are difficult, or I can’t understand them, but because living by the words makes no sense to me, and it hasn’t for many years. For example, what hurdles do you climb through, to have “More of Him”? Let’s assume you’re already a Christian; and a “good” one who cares about their personal standing with God, and you do everything you can to live a Christlike lifestyle. What fiery hoops do you jump through to get More? Do you pray more? Does that action give you more of him? Maybe you fast. Does not eating give you more than a dyspeptic ulcer? And most of all: how do you know when you’ve reached the state of Moreness? I recently browsed a post on Facebook, where a friend of mine said “Don’t settle for what you have of Christ. You can always have more.” I disagree.

I spent the first few years of my adult life trying to focus on Christ, and Him alone. I tried to pray without ceasing. I tried to do this every moment, of every second of the day. I’d make it probably five resentfully timed and urgent minutes, followed by ten guilty minutes, where I realized I had forgotten to remember Christ. And amid all these experiments to achieve this state, I never once felt more. Sometimes I’d feel better for awhile. These feelings are transient. I tried, like the Apostle Paul, to deny the flesh. I wouldn’t eat. I’d sacrifice other things for prayer. In point of fact, all I managed was the early stages of religious delirium, and realized the pressing sense that it’s truly impossible to be an ascetic and drive a car at the same time.

The inscription dedicated to a feeling.

In my life, all this thirst for More can be traced to something I wrote in the “Important Events” section of my New Children’s Living Bible when I was 10: “I felt Jesus the Most. 11/5/78.” I remember my 10-year-old self sitting in a pew at New Life Center Assembly of God, in Gold Beach, Oregon. My eyes were shut tight, and I gritted my teeth trying to feel something—anything, really—so I could match what all the others were doing. I had to Feel Jesus the Most. I wrote it down in the Word of God, as if to affirm some kind of covenant to myself. I felt guilty because I knew immediately it was a lie. I couldn’t feel God like, say, Pastor Honey, or Brother Fred, or Sister Lydia. I even knew it was somehow wrong to worry that I was comparing what I feel. Why did it matter if I felt Jesus more than someone else? And how does it help Christ?

I came to realize that The Feeling More of God is for us, pure and simple. But my concern was how it helped anyone but me? If it helped nobody but myself, why did it matter? Did it make the deeds for the rest of the week any more focused, or Godly somehow? I still had to go to school, eat the same PBJ out of the same Dukes of Hazzard lunchbox (ohh I was a fan of Roscoe and Enos back then…) But why would God give us the gift of Feelgood? If that feeling was the entire focus of a church, and I contend that it seems to be quite important in most Charismatic/Pentecostal churches., what does it give us? How long does a “worship high” usually last, and what good does it do for the Kingdom, if that’s 70% of what they’re doing…?

About Once a week I get that twinge when I talk about church. I read “God really moved during the service” or “So-and-so really knows how to worship.” I wonder about that. Is More of God like an automotive tune-up? You need the tune-up before the healing and miracles come spurting forth from the fingers of the blessed? I’d say no, mostly (and YES I believe in Miracles) because such blessed events occur when GOD wants them to, not when we’re well-tempered claviers or something.

I’m not angry, by the way, if I sound like I’m attacking anyone or anything. I’m not. It’s something I really genuinely struggle with, ya know? Sometimes it hurts to not see the point of “feeling” anymore. It used to all make sense. Now it just… doesn’t … anymore. Why do I want More just means a momentary blast of happiness or ecstasy? The real value in Christianity lies somewhere deeper.

Just my two bits.

Pain and Suffering [Susan Isham]

So there I was, minding my own business, reading along in my daily devotional when – bam! – it hit me. I did not agree with the conclusions drawn by Joseph Prince about the scriptures.

I should mention this is not the first time Pastor Prince and I have disagreed. Oh no. I started this devotional with Zac back in February (yes, I am a slacker) so we could read on our own and discuss what was said, get deeper into topics of faith. So far, he’s managed to be wrong at least 2 other times. Joseph Prince, that is. Continue reading Pain and Suffering [Susan Isham]