Saturday, March 31, 2012

A Tale of Selfish Self-Righteousness, A Reminder of Christ

Once upon a time, as the very old saying goes, there was once a boy raised in a tug-of-war between a degrading society and rigid religion. He decided to go with the religion, feeling he may have hope going that way. As he became an adult, he realized the society had challenges against his faith, his chosen religion he never heard when he was younger. Then, while in college, he heard about the devastating truth of religion- a total contradiction to what he had always heard being a Christian was about. As he read the Bible, he was stunned that even Jesus was against the religious mindset and acted nothing like the religious people he had known all his life.
That young boy that became a man would like to thank you for reading this story (and hopefully not falling asleep). Now for the reason for that short story.
Do you remember that earlier post about Eric Wilson? It turns out that the Christian publishing industry has a Pharisaic heart when it comes to entertainment, it must be "pure" (no swearing, no reference to alcohol, smoking, drugs, porn, no reference to magic of any sort, etc.). It's getting me to wonder how any Christian is supposed to get anything book that isn't Amish fiction out there. Or any movie that's like Passion of the Christ, Book of Eli (with the language and heavy violence), Soul Surfer (with the bare skin showing) done and out. As Eric Wilson put it on his facebook, "Have we become too sensitive?"
I dare say we've let the spirit of timidity (something God said in the New Testament to not ) let in (at all). We're ashamed to let people know we're Christian (unless we live in a church-driven town like Alva, OK) and we feel ashamed to watch R-rated movies and read "dark" books (like Stephen King, romance, Dean Koontz, etc.).
Or are we Christians conditioned to feel ashamed? Not long ago, on, I made a group for readers of Christian horror and other kinds of heavy (and gritty) Christian books called Hardcore Faith, open to anyone, whether they were Christian or not. I made it since I was shocked that, for a site centered on reading books, it had nothing for one of my favorite genres. It's growing slowly, but people are finding each other that like the same kind of books. We're out there, finding each other. Giving suggestions and commenting (with respect) to each other's literary tastes. The point? The Christian publishing industry may end up noticing something about us readers- we don't go with the rules of expectancy. We're Christians, so that means we HAVE to enjoy nothing but Christian Amish fiction, watch Little House on the Prairie, always talk Christianese, blah, blah, blah, right? No. I don't know if I get it from my father or whatnot, but I've always been a rulebreaker on many levels- I read horror, mystery, sci-fi, contemporary drama, and YA. Not Amish (nothing against them, it's just not my taste). I used to watch Little House on the Prairie as a child, now I watch Supernatural, Fringe, The Walking Dead, Touch, 7th Heaven, Spartacus, and even Person of Interest. I don't watch tv for tv sake (besides, nearly all tv shows these days are nothing but filler filling people's carnal desires for swearing, sexual crap, and "tv-friendly" violence, very few shows catch my attention well, the abovementioned are just about half of what gets my attention).
And I'm familiar with how kids talk (though I don't say it all, I have an aversion to swearing like a sailor) and can speak slang without trying to figure out what kids are saying, not even online lingo confuses me anymore.
No longer self-righteous about my faith, now I'm reminded of what it really means to be like Jesus- even to the point of giving other people a chance.
How about you?

Monday, March 19, 2012

Volunteering for your life

I'll admit something no shame. As a human being... I was born with tear ducts. Big whoop. Actually, yeah, it is. It comes in use with emotions, something of a taboo word for us guys and men (never understood why). Whenever I watch the trailer for The Hunger Games (the trailer convinced me to check the book out, glad I did), right when Katniss volunteers for her sister, it's not just that she cries it out... it's that she's giving up the possibility of living after one round of an extremely corrupt and manipulative, hyperviolent game. She volunteers to take the place of her own sister to ensure that Primrose will live another year. The reason it gives me chills every single time is because, I'm convinced of this, of the culture I live in.
What do I mean by that? Everyone knows how to speak, but not everyone knows all them fancy edumucated words (the ones that are at least 3 syllables- like that one I just used). This society we live in no longer is based on the Biblical tenets of our Founding Fathers, it now has a foundation of what's called hedonism: "All for me and none else." We're literally taught in nearly every way of everyday life to be selfish. Live longer at the expense of others. Make money for yourself and do what you can to forsake others. Or if you have to take care of others, try to look out for yourself first and take care of "problems" later. I've had issues with the basic tenets of this society for such a long time, that I was glad to find a trailer of a movie where someone selflessly volunteered to take the place of someone else for the possibility of death.
In fact, Katniss volunteering seems to have a Messianic resonation in her character. She loves her sister deeply. Immensely. She encourages her sister to keep living on. When the dreaded Hunger Games celebration chooses her (randomly) to be the tribute for District 12, her sister immediately takes her place. That, in itself, is rebellion in the eyes of the government of Panem. Still, they got someone. Only who they've got turns out to be someone who's a new level rebellion and will eventually become the symbol of a new type of rebellion. Sound familiar?
When most think of Jesus, they think of peace-talks, a couple pep rallies, and hardly anything else beyond his death. Still, people chose him to be the advocate replacement for a well-known criminal named Barnabas. The people chose the tribute, yet he went along with it anyway, to take the place of all others. The Hunger Ga- I mean crucifixion was a suffocatingly deadly torture/death sentence that, along with its notoriety was also called the Shameful Death because you were elvated and (this part is NEVER revealed in all the paintings nor movies) naked. Total humiliation, pain, and shame. Simply seeing it was a way to keep rebellion under control. Yet it still wasn't easy. People had their own ideas of rebellion. Different styles, different angles. Even the patriot Judas of Kerioth (you know him as Iscariot) had a few ideas of how to committ illegal rebellion against this blasphemous Roman Empire, yet didn't act upon it. Jesus had what one could call a polar opposite style- he was open about what he would do, yet he never had a pep rally to strike the government down. It was more gradual. Very subtle. And, as leader of a whole new kind of rebellion that was unheard of in literally every way at the time, he had t be forced under control. The people chose crucifixion, something that the emperor was opposed of doing in the first place (wanted the second opinion of the Egyption Pharoah Herod, successor of Jesus' first attemptive murderer when he was a young child), and the Pharisees forced the Romans' hand to do it. I've heard churches say "If you were the only person on earth, Jesus would die for you many times." Like once wasn't enough? Maybe it's because I'm terrible at math, but to claim that Jesus would die OVER and OVER and OVER makes no sense when he only had to do it once.
He volunteered ONCE for you in all of history. That Hunger Games record is still not erased from history. Why should his volunteering for you ever be forgotten? Whether you're a guy or not, you're his sister. He's Katniss. He's volunteering for your place as tribute. And, in this "game", he plans on winning for you all the way using all the resources available. You going to be his sponsor for him being your tribute? Or bet on some miscellaneous legend like Gilgamesh (who went for treasure, personal gain) or Thor (becoming a god like his father and beating his brother, Loki)?

Friday, March 16, 2012

The little moments in this anomaly of life. Touch, a review

There's been something on my mind for a while, something that would be considered almost a nonissue to some, yet could potentially seem life-and-death important to others. How life works.
As a child, I had a gift to understand words. It was how I was able to get straight-A's in spelling and understand what words meant. It's what enables me to understand what I read and what I type. It's how I learn about the world- through written word more than anything else, except hands-on. Yet as a kid, I hated numbers, I would find out eventually I have a form of dyslexia for numbers, called discalculae. No one in my family's familiar with that term, so no one could understand why I was great with words (in the 5th grade, my reading level was already in the college level) yet terrible with mathematics while my brother was the exact opposite. I felt that the public education system was always trying to force me to be like everyone else, something that's never ever worked.
With the opening of Touch, a young boy explains how the world works with the universal language of mathematics, focusing on patterns and how they're everywhere in life yet only a few people on the planet can see them. Then he reveals the exact amount of time he'd been alive, then throws the punch- "In all that time, I never spoke a single word." From there, this episode seems to be a sequence of little moments that, at first, seem disjointed while showing the realities of life, including social prejudice when it comes to autistic children ("Your kid should be locked up in a cage!" "What'd you say!?"). And yet, there's another plot going on, literally around the world dealing with a lost phone that, while the owner's trying to get back because of the photographs on it, other people are using it for their own solicit gains.
The boy, Jake, has a beautiful talent with numbers, seeing them in many numerous ways yet using them in specific ways. When his father starts seeing a start to the pattern, he starts to wonder what his son is seeing altogether.
The phone subplot could be a plot all on its own with how people are shown to have disconnected dreams and different backgrounds of life, yet are all connected in some way or another, whether in life or through an unseen connection in life.
Life may seem trivial to many. Like a cruel cosmic punishment for simply existing. Like it's trying to push you to your own extreme edge with loss, confusion, pain. These Jake's father is seen to suffer, yet he never loses hope, even when he's on the brink of losing hope with an agency. And an agent in said agency finds out Jake's talent when he reveals a number he couldn't have known but is familiar to her. Then, moments later (show-wise), that same number ends up in what seems like a chaotic mess, only for that chaotic mess to end in hope for someone else eventually. I once read recently a short story of a man talking to God about how bad his day's been and asks where God was. Post-complaints, God reveals what all He was doing for the man. Even in when it seems like tragedy, it doesn't mean there's nothing dealing with God in it.
And one of the hardest emotional scenes deals with a teenage boy in the Middle East being forced to wear a suicide bomber's vest. With that one man's phone as the battery for the vest. The boy gets a call to let him know the phone isn't his and he needs to give it back. The boy reveals that it isn't his fault, he's not a bad person he has a dream and almost believes it lost when he's given a chance to achieve it. The way it plays out, even though you can very well guess what's about to happen is tear-jerking anyway. The boy achieves his dreams, the woman who calls him has helped him, and everyone who's had a connection with the phone has had more than just connection by touching the phone, they just won't realize it.
Young Jake reminds me of the character Holden from Karen Kingsbury's book, Unlocked. People see him differently, don't understand him, even when he has a close connection to the world around him, just differently than we would expect. I've never been tested for it, though I have a few suspicions about having Aspberger's Syndrome, a high-end autism disorder, which explains how I miss certain social cues, get socially awkward, yet in my own little world, I see everything immensely different. How something is simple to most can be difficult for me to grasp and vice versa. Jake doesn't speak a single word in the episode, yet he helps immensely with connecting people in unseen ways through the use of what I once loathed with a passion, helping me understand (and remember) that mathematics isn't strictly formulas and basic structures with a couple symbols and whatnot, but something I can understand more easily- a pattern within life.
The creator of the show has gone from showing how evolution can make people have unique powers once only in comic books to how God is in life from looking into its bizarre complexities that we can NOT escape from, no matter how hard we try.

A spiritual warning for all: a re-post

This is a message from my Sister-in-Christ, Leah Baguinon, and post it on facebook. With permission, she's let me post it here for you to see.

Get The Beam Out Of Your Own Eye

Who can deny, with all of this overwhelming evidence, from the most reliable of sources, that the days of the great American dream are swiftly coming to a close, as well, the end of days for mortal man and the soon return of Yahshua our Messiah.
This is a short message from our Commander-In-Chief, but His short messages are greater and more meaningful than the longest message that any man could give.

   As always, my message to you is to consider your ways before Me, and repent where necessary, because time is so swiftly running out. This goes for those of you who call yourselves My "Christians" also, and to you most importantly, as you are too pre-occupied with everyone else's sins and the sins of the world and not your own.
Being given nearly 2000 years, you have yet to build up My congregation according to My blueprint. There is no all things common among you and there is great inequality and the grossest kind of pride, false humility, envy, strife, contentions and even excused sexual immorality in your midst.

   You cloak your own sins by pointing fingers at the unbelievers, not realizing that they are not who I am most concerned. What good would it do if all the unbelievers stopped being unbelievers - AND SUBSCRIBED TO YOUR APOSTATE BRAND OF CHRISTIANITY?

   Many of you worship your long held errant beliefs and peer-pressured traditions, you worship pastors, church leaders, corrupted counselors and the status-quo, not Me.

   You call yourselves saints, but the definition of the word saint means SET APART, but you are not set apart, but aligned with the same flawed and errant thinking that is rampant upon the earth in these the darkest of times.

   Be quiet and stand still - consider your ways before you speak in your defense. Many of your hearts are not right with your brothers, yet you are so quick to want to accuse others of their sins, who are not even of My fold, neither are they subjected to the laws of My Kingdom, as you are, but will be judged according to their works, as they have no part in My gift of grace to you.

   You desire to picket and protest the sins of the unbelievers, but you need to be picketing and protesting your own churches, for therein lies the grossest of sins—disobedience and an unwillingness to build up My congregations according to the blueprint set forth in the Book of Acts!

   The edict states, If MY PEOPLE WHICH ARE CALLED BY MY NAME (not everyone else) would turn from THEIR wicked ways, I, NOT YOUR GOVERNMENT, would heal their land, but you have made your government your false god, thus I have, as I have spoken, turned you over to your false idol, and now you are beginning to see the wickedness of your idol and you are now living in fear of what you have created.

   You have subjugated yourself to the beast and its lies, and what is worse, you defend the lies out of fear of being branded a saint - BEING SET APART. If you deny me before men, out of fear, I will deny YOU when we meet face to face.

   Get the BEAM out of your own eye, before you try to remove the splinter from everyone else's or you will suffer with the unbelievers, because that is what you truly are.

   I urgently advise all of you to read Revelations 18 and Jeremiah 51 and repent quickly. Turn to me in sincerity that I may guide you through the coming days of GROSS darkness.

   You may have helped create the beast that now stalks and oppresses you, but I, NOT YOU, will destroy the beast for my names sake and for the sake of those who love me. When that day comes whose side shall YOU be on? Shall you continue to defend the kingdom of Satan or remember your citizenship in my Kingdom and be warriors for righteousness and not darkness?

He Is Not A Jew Who Is One Outwardly
   NOW LET ME BE PERFECTLY CLEAR to those of you who bow your heads and bend the knee to the Pharisees that run and control Israel. Israel, the land mass IS NOT MY PROPHETIC CLOCK as you have been told. YOU ARE MY ISRAEL OF WHICH THE PROPHECIES SPEAK - YOU ARE MY PROPHETIC CLOCK, YOU ARE MY CHOSEN PEOPLE, NOT ISRAEL!
Who has bewitched you into thinking that I still show favor to the landmass of Israel and the bloodline of the Pharisees? Is it not written in your scriptures, "That he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, but he is a Jew who is one INWARDLY?"
For he is not a Jew (Yahudim), which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew (Yahudim), which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.
- Romans 2:28-29
   The word JEW is an abomination of the name YAHUDIM, followers of Yahuweh. You are not my followers if you reject the teachings of Yahshua whom I sent, thus you are not a JEW, though you may claim to be so by your bloodline, yet JEW is not a race, but a belief in the teachings of Yahuweh. Thus because you claim to be Israeli-Hebrew does not excuse you from the law of salvation to do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

   Yahshua is coming for His Bride - not the Greeks nor the Jews, but an ISRAEL made up of every nation, kindred and tongue. He is coming for THE ISRAEL OF GOD, NOT MAN.

   You are my chosen people - AND NONE ELSE! Stop allowing yourselves to be manipulated by the Pharisees who claim that you owe them obeisance because they are the seed of Abraham. Did not Yahshua say to these vipers and hypocrites...
I know that ye are Abraham's seed; but ye seek to kill me, because my word hath no place in you. I speak that which I have seen with my Father: and ye do that which ye have seen with your father.
- John 8:37-38
Did not John the baptist speak these words against the very spirit that you are being manipulated to bow down before:
But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance:
And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.
And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
- Matthew 3:7-10
   How much plainer can it be written in your word for you to begin to turn away from the lies and deception of these obvious end time deceivers who teach contrary to my word, that you would give your support and substance to the very Sanhedrin spirit that crucified Yahshua, errantly thinking that this pleases me?

   Call upon Me my wayward and whoring betrothed with a new and urgent fervor, and I, even as I made of Hosea an example, shall embrace you as my betrothed once again, and I shall forgive your harlotry and wash you clean, as judgment is at the door and many of you are still playing church in a building scheduled for demolition.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Thoughts on Quantic Dreams' "Kara"

In strictly modern American sense, reference to a procedure that brings forth a human fetus before it is ready to be born on its own time, normally to be killed off.
Other actual definitions: (to fail, cease, or stop at an early or premature stage), (to develop incompletely)

There's a chance you've heard of this tech demo at a recent video game convention, called "Kara," which literally creates a video game model as though a robot. Part by part, internally to externally. With every part brought to its being (I'll refer to "it" as "her" since she's being made into a female body anyway), a disembodied voice asks her to do certain things to see if she's working properly. When the voice asks her to tell the audience what she does, she makes a list of things she does... one of which involves being a sexual slave. When the production is complete, and she's having flesh color added to her being, and she gets a bra and panties, she finds out she's only a product, which shocks and dismays her. "I'm a product." The voice affirms it and asks what else could she have been.
"I thought-"
"You thought?"
Then the voice commands the production to disassemble her, which truly frightens her, and she asks why she's being taken apart, and the voice says that she wasn't designed to think, she was designed to do, and that thinking indicates she must have a glitch in her system, something that's unacceptable. Things finally come to a denouement when she yells out "I'M AFRAID!" All the equipment suddenly halts. She asks to be remade into what she was and the voice relents, even if reluctantly, and tells Kara to behave, that he doesn't want any customer complaints.
That whole film is 7 minutes long, and does more than just show off the latest CGI developments for video game development companies, it also has a deep story dealing with what life is. The video I watched, I noticed a lot of people comparing the short but deeply thoughtful story to the overly lengthy and very shallow storyline of the Twilight series. I won't say "Now I'm not saying..." because truth is, as much as I enjoy horror stories (including some vampire stories), I truly hate Twilight. I couldn't read even half of the first book, and could barely suffer watching the first three films. Why? Not just animation (it had good bits of cinematic techniques and technology), but the story is very shallow, to the point of a needless reduction and remake of vampires. Too much style, nowhere near enough substance for a horror fan (and occassional romance fan, I'll shamelessly admit) to enjoy. This seven-minute production seems to have referred not only to abortion, however. That line about being a "sex slave" brought to mind what people expect in pornography. Specific body styles, a certain look, the ability to say empty nothings, able to handle literally anything any number of men can do to them. If you've ever seen the movie Taxi Driver, I'll use a familiar line, "If you were happy, I wouldn't be able to use you." Jodie Foster's first film and she was a child prostitute (aka, an illegal prostitute being underage), and her pimp tells her that he can't use her if she enjoys being basically raped. There are many secrets the industry never wants revealed lest the industry comes to a halt- which is what the ex-stars wants to happen (including Shelley Lubben and Jenna Jameson, believe it or not, they've both got books outt here about the devastating reality they lived through), but we're all taught that, since they're human, they'll get over it and enjoy it, right? That's what all the movies say. What about when a robot is being designed to fulfill her "master's" wishes? And she becomes self-aware? Even having the ability to cry actual, liquid tears? Will we pay attention? Or still be, as I call it, "social robots"?
As I like to tell people when they question my faith, "I'd rather be a Jesus Freak than a social robot." This tech demo does illustrate mankind's selfishness and the contrast with people who don't want self-aware people.
Check it out, let me know what you think.

Oh, last note: if you think you can get onto David Cage (the director of Quantic Dreams) about the use of teh word "abort" in the tech demo, remember, he's not American, he's French, our hooker-loose standards of speech is horrendous compared to other languages.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

The little things that can happen

It seems there's little in little Alva, Oklahoma. A Wal-Mart that's just barely over half the size of a supercenter (which I've been hired as an overnight stocker), a small theater/video rental store, a pharmacy with soda fountain, and a youth center that opens 3-5:30 pm where kids can (gossip) play video games, go online, skateboard, play sports, and pig out with food that, like the soda fountain at Holder's, is like Ohio- no tax on it.
Yet it's at that last place, called the eXtreme Building, that something really amazing happened (in the scope of this small town, 5 miles square) this past Wednesday- a concert featuring radio-steady Christian prog-rock band Fireflight with a couple guest stars- Cory Lamb and Rapture Ruckus. I was asked by the youth pastor, Jeremy Little, to help out with the band set-up. As much as I love Fireflight's music (they're not my favorite, but nonetheless, I love their stuff [my faves are As I Lay Dying, Skillet, and Demon Hunter]), why would I pass up a priviliged opportunity? So I came by expecting to help out. That I did, and so much more. Warning, I didn't treat the members of each band like some rock gods, I did greet them, hung out, and asked stuff. Not like "Where do you get the inspiration for your songs?" or "Where do you get your instruments?" Rather, stuff like "I imagine you had a few normal jobs before being in a band, huh?" and, when I saw the logo of Rapture Ruckus (it looked like an old-school video game "sprite" character), "You play video games?" Turned out, yep, many of them do. When I was asked (by the guitarist for Cory Lamb, who was wearing the shirt) what my favorite video game was (yes, I'm a hardcore lifelong video gamer), I first asked if old-school or new-school. Old-school. "That one's easy- Super Mario Bros." And I agreed with his answer, "Can never go wrong with that one!" Spent an hour getting their equipment out of their trucks and setting up inside.
Got to meet Glen from Fireflight (the band member that day I met), and he figured out pretty quickly that I'm a huge Skillet fan while he was getting his guitar ready, while Dawn, it turns out, doesn't need to look any different than she does in the videos. As someone commented on their latest video (Stay Close), "Is it just me or does she get more and more beautiful in every video?" Impossibly, it turns out to be true, And just a little talk with her showed how passionately compassionate she is, and (believe it or not), how human and humane she is. Then, onto their new drummer, Adam. While he and a lady who goes with them on the road, Katy, were getting his drums ready, all three of us talked... and talked... and talked. If they ever got annoyed of my incessant blabbing, they showed no sign, they just went along with it, and with loads of great humor. Especially when another roadie got out a huge, all-wooden tambourine, sat in it, and started playing it. I asked Katy to hold my glasses, asked the guy to keep playing, then started to headbang with a Rock On gesture shooting out and bobbing up-and-down. At that, everyone who saw it cracked up.
Believe it or not, even roadies and bands have misadventures and funny stories while on the road. The guitarist with the Rapture Ruckus shirt? It turned out that at another venue, while opening a door, was afraid he'd be slammed under, so he asked for a little assistance this time. While Rapture Ruckus was getting all their stuff set up, knowing they're from New Zealand (you don't have to know that to know they're foreign, their accents make it obvious, but I almost thought their lead singer was from Ireland!), I decided to make jokes with my "professional" linguistic skills (spoke a touch of Japanese, Norwegian, and Russian, along with English) and it got everyone surprised and amused.
Cut to 5 hours later, start of concert. Rapture Ruckus was up first, it'd been four, maybe five years since the last concert I was at (Skillet's Comatose concert at the Veteran's House in Huntington, WV), so it took quite a bit of time for me to get myself loose enough to headbang and Rock On with my fist in the air (I still feel it in my neck and right elbow...). Nonetheless, I was immensely surprised at all the energy the dude has! And anyone who wonders why a Christian music artist keeps praising God, it's not entirely because it's "in the contract" as the cop-out goes. I did a little research on the band, and their singer, Brian, had suffered from drug abuse when, at 18, he was challenged by a good friend who's a Christian on where hise life was heading. At that, he went to a church, committed his life to God. So, why constantly praise God in the music? As a public celebration, an energetic acknowledgement that your life is no longer the same, and that you have no shame about it.
Yet, the biggest thing that happened to me wasn't all the intense energy that kept flowing out and everybody rocking it out, it happened about five songs into Fireflight's playing time. Saw a little girl that was anxious to get up front, so I shifted to the "side" (if you can call it that in an open area like a mosh pit) and let her go on. A few minutes after she thanked me twice (the first time I was headbanging and she didn't know I saw her), I had the feeling she wanted to get further up, so I tapped a guy ahead of me on his arm, then tapped the girl on her shoulder, gesturing to her to go on ahead, the guy got the hint and waved her to go ahead, then she started going crazy right up front (there was no security guards at the stage). So, even with all the immense intensity and that electrifying concert that sparked this tiny town, it was helping a little girl from Enid, Oklahoma to have a better time than she would have if I hadn't let her go ahead.
After the concert, I was stunned to find out my own mother had been headbanging, while my stepdad couldn't (stiff back from work), but we all had a great time afterward nonetheless. Even managed to get pictures of the lead signer of Rapture Ruckus (my mom is in the picture, she got a picture of me with him on her phone), as well as with Cory Lamb (never heard his music before then, turned out to be really good inspirational rock). Post-concert, even had a great time helping the bands get their stuff packed up to get ready to hit the road. Told them all, "Wherever you're going after this, have a great time there."
And Adam from Fireflight? He told me to finish up on my book. Though he doesn't read fiction, it was awesome to hear a member of a great band say that to me anyway.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The testimony of yours truly

Before I post anymore posts (and I have many in mind), I do believe it's more credible to know who the speaker is than to simply take the words of the speaker to heart (so many dangers can happen that way).
So, onward I go to explain who I am and how I came to believe what I believe.
I was born in in the county seat of Muskingum County, Ohio- Zanesville, a rather large place, but not quite big enough to be considered a major city (it doesn't have any major skyscrapers, just plenty of  landmass). I was born to two different kinds of people-the religiously devout and the spiritual skeptic-and had a lot of pain growing up, mainly through my father (who turned me off from swearing, so if you met me and I hate cussing, it's not solely from my beliefs, it was from my father). My mother tried raising my brother and me in church, though it felt more like a religious obligation than out of goodwill or out of the heart. In other words, my brother felt like we were being forced into church. Personally, I wanted a way to get away from the pain.
At 11 years old, I found that way through my mom's boyfriend (Mom and Dad divorced in the late 80's, when I was just a toddler) who told me about being a Christian and asked me if I had ever been "saved". Funny thing is, even at that age, when no one had told me about the process, I knew deep inside how it worked, I hadn't heard about the concept of sin, yet maybe the pain had something to do with my already knowing something about it. So, instead of getting saved in a church, like most of the world would expect, I was saved in my mom's boyfriend's apartment in New Philadelphia, Ohio. Saved...
Or so I thought.
There were other concepts I hadn't heard of or would know for a while that I needed to know about- including false faith (psychosomasis, you could say), religiousity, being Pharisaic, etc.
For a full ten years, things would seem to happen that, logically were impossible- including times and incidents where I just knew-knew-that I shouldn't have lived through. At least three of such an event happening, yet I did live anyway. And other bizarre events that should have been impossible if life were as boring and expendable as I've heard in public school (yep, I was raised in a battle for the mind between creationism and evolution) had left me to believe.
Even though I hadn't read the Bible as much as it felt required to read (you know, at least some daily), I did know bits and pieces and when certain people would challenge me about what the Bible said (okay, it was just one person who had a degree that called him "Reverend") about homosexuality, I told him, "You're the reverend, you tell me." Really, I was onyl familiar with the story of Sodom and Gomorrah and their widely-known acts of perversion, not solely homosexuality, but also gang rape, pedophilia, etc. Yet, from the things that I did read, I decided to take a hint from King Solomon and do a prayer I had never heard anyone else do at that point- pray for wisdom over riches.
And I would get it in college, through the help of a great friend, Gerhard Esterhuizen. The leader of Marshall University CRU, he explained the many finer points of Christianity without sounding like a know-it-all theologian, he brought the Truth of the Scripture to us in a down-to-earth style that was easy to comprehend without watering it down (like I'd seen so many televangelists do, which disgusted me), including one MAJOR thing I was guilty of-legalism. I'd judged people in my mind for the slightest of things, even if they did those things by accident.
I hated and judged gays.
I hated science.
I hated. This. That. These. Those.
I was the epitome of what people hate Christians for without ever realizing it.
That year in college, I gradually changed. Then, at 21, when I moved to live in Huntington, WV (ever since the first time I saw it back in my Upward Bound days in high school, I knew I wanted to live there irregardless of how), it happened.
I picked up a copy of Christian Apologetics author Lee Strobel's new book, The Case for the Real Jesus, without knowing he was a Christian, just knowing a vague thing about him yet not remembering if he was a Christian or not. The moment before I opened the flap to read it, I knew and felt something- my mind was opening.
When I say felt, I don't mean in a metaphorical way, I mean literal- feeling something like a temperature shift in a specific area of my brain.
The moment before I opened that book, I thought this thought:
There will be one of four things that will happen when I'm done reading: I will either be an atheist, an agnostic (again, I was one for half a week, most depressing time in my life, and I was chronically depressed as a teen), or a Jew (thinking of believing in God, but not Jesus), or be a stronger Christian.
I would find out later that I had only "thought" I was a Christian. I had finally learned of false faith, and it was when I read an article in my Apologetics Bible titled "How can I really know?" that it finally clicked what I should do- stop being a fake and become a real deal for people.
I already had edgy Christian shirts, a decent selection of Christian books, knew (some) Scripture, always praying before meals, etc. Thing was, I realized I was being religious, which was never prescribed by Jesus to do. I was going by the rules more than anything.
I knew that it was, by far, time to change. So, right after reading that article, while keeping something in my that Gerhard had said ("when I gave my heart to God and Jesus, I didn't pray, I didn't say amen, I simply confessed and accepted him in my heart") and remembered how much of a strong, faithful Christian he was, I didn't put the "madatory" amen at the end of what I thought- I simply mentally confessed and accepted, and did feel something else- that burden Christians talk about? It felt like my body had a few pounds lifted, something like a spiritual Slim-Fast, essentially put.
Since then, I've come to learn much, oh so very much. Especially that there is an area where all those degrading stereotypes about Christians are true- at least in certain churches and areas. In fact, I'm living in such an area- the "Belt Buckle" of the Bible Belt, Oklahoma. And it's been a test of my faith to see such a terrible thing that some churches simply do not know how to operate spiritually (at all) while others are down-to-earth, Scriptually sound (and never watering it down), and get ripped left and right by the world. One such church I've been to operates as a coffee shop in OKC, called Valley Brook Vineyard Community Church, or Joe's Addiction Coffee Shop.
So, if anyone tries to offend me about being a Christian and get shocked that I can offend back, I just say this, "The world's been trying to offend me all my life- it's my turn now."