Tag Archives: Christianity

UP IN THE CLOUDS: CHAPTER 24

2448_1098935998128_818_n

 

The first thing I do when I get home is fire up YouTube to figure out how to use a vaporizer since it didn’t come with any proper instructions. A fourteen-year-old with a lisp tells me that it’s essentially a large hot plate that slowly heats up the plant versus doing a straight burn with the chemicals in the butane lighter. Again, “cleaner.”

 

I slowly open the childproof cap and stare down at my beautiful green bulbs with orange strands flecked upon them like glitter. I pull one out and place it in the grinder, turning the plant to dust. I pour the remains in the bowl, flip the switch on the device, and wait for optimum heat.

 

Meanwhile, my mother sits next to me, watching, staring, observing, obvious that she’s fascinated by not only the process, but the plant itself. I hand her the pill bottle and say, “Smell.” She lifts it to her nose and says, “It’s sweet.”

 

I bring the tube from the vaporizer to my mouth, feeling like the caterpillar in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and pull. The first silver strands weave their way up the plastic lining until they’re in my mouth and in my throat and in my lungs and I’m lifting off my feet and I’m smiling and I shut my eyes and everything is so good right now.

 

I think of all the times I’ve smoked pot with my sister, sitting on her kitchen floor trying to use every magnet letter on the fridge to spell words, phrases like, CREEP GUY CAN’T DANCE and AARON WILL EAT FARTS. We’re smoking and listening to No Doubt’s “Tragic Kingdom” and playing Hogan’s Alley on her Nintendo. We’re eating fudge. We’re talking about being young and growing up and being very overly philosophical about the minutia of life and I open my eyes and my mom is sitting next to me and I say, “I love you, Mom,” and it’s such a stupid thing to say in that moment because of what’s happening but I feel it so strongly and so truly and I just want her to know that I appreciate everything she’s doing for us and sacrificing for us to be here and she leans in and gives me a hug and I say, “Thank you. Thank you. I love you,” and then I stand up and just start snapping my fingers and bobbing my head. My wife enters the room and says, “What are you doing?” and I say, “I don’t know, I just—I just feel so good. I need to dance. I need to dance! And if you don’t dance then you’re no friend of mine.”

 

Instead of dancing, my wife just stares at me and itches her nose. I say, “It just feels so good to be alive, doesn’t it?! It feels so good! The three of us here, doing this together—doing life together! Oh, man. Mom, you should move to Los Angeles. You should live here forever! We could turn our garage into a little house. You wouldn’t have to sleep on the couch—we could build a little bathroom out there. How great would that be? How great?”

 

There’s no music playing but I’m sliding back and forth on the cheap tile floor in my socks. I turn around and try to moonwalk but it just looks like when everyone tries to moonwalk; just me walking backward, sliding the soles of my feet across a dirty floor.

 

I open up the cabinet and pour myself a big bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch and eat the entire thing. I open a drawer and pull out a Butterfinger—the size you’d get in a Halloween handout—and eat two. I drink a glass of water and sit down on a bar stool at the island in my kitchen. I turn to my wife and tell her some stupid joke that both begins and ends with, “So a baby seal walks into a club . . . ” and then I laugh and my mom is shaking her head and smiling and saying, “Oh, John Lowell. My high little boy,” and I suddenly remember that I am high and that my mother is here and then there is a flood of information that drowns my brain in a heartbeat. I remember that I’m sick, that I have Cancer, that I’m only on the first round. I remember that I’m sterile. I remember that I might die.

 

I remember.

 

And it hits me like a bullet in the dick. I say, “Jade . . . ” and she says, “Yes, dear?” and I say, “I have . . . cancer . . . ” and tears well up in my eyes and she says, “Oh, geez, here we go.” A salty tear runs down my cheek and I stick another Butterfinger in my mouth.

 

My mom makes pasta for dinner but I’m too full to eat, a sensation that has become quite foreign to me. Regardless, I sit at the table with my family instead of in My Yellow Chair and I have a discussion about faith and God and disease and purpose.

 

Now. Stop. Everybody put the brakes on. I don’t know how to make a foot note in Word – I’m fancy like that – but would like to interject a side bar that is both, for me, equal parts ridiculous and necessary. Please bear with me for just one moment.

 

I was 26 when this cancer thing happened to me. I am 35 today. What? Yes. And in those 9 years God and I have developed a very strange kind of relationship. We’re kind of like two kids that were dating in high school and thought they were going to get married and live happily ever after but then at the last moment one of us decided that the other one wasn’t real and so that kind of threw everything about our relationship out of whack. You know how it goes. We don’t really talk like we used to but I think about the old guy often and wonder what our world would have looked like if we’d stuck it out. But that is a story for another story.

 

There are some things coming up in this tale that felt true at the time and felt real at the time and how I personally align those two opposing world-view experiences is neither here nor there. This is not a story about religion and theology. That said, spirituality played a large part in my experience and so it must be included and it must be told and it must be represented as it was experienced at the time.

 

Disclaimer over. Please continue.

 

There is something about being on the very edge of life that forces you to walk directly up to the cliff and look over it. So maybe it’s chemo-brain or maybe it’s the sharp focus of death or maybe it’s the evacuation of everyday routine like jobs and chores, but my world feels like it’s falling apart—legitimately pulling away at the seams, the fabric of reality between this world and the next beginning to unravel.

 

I begin to feel a deep sense of calm connectedness to the world around me and to (what I would call at that time) God – a benevolent being. It’s hard to validate emotional and spiritual experiences to other people because there is simply something inside every individual that happens and I can’t make it more real than that.

 

For me, it was all real. It was experience. It was truth.

 

Every Sunday, regardless of how poor my health was, my wife, mother, and I would go to church. The music at the beginning of service would throttle my ears and penetrate my bones and make me feel as though my face were going to split open and snakes were going to poor out but it was a necessary evil to endure. Being there felt right and good and warm. There was a tangible hope that I could sink into.

 

Once the service was over, they would invite anyone who wanted prayer to come to the front. Strangers would place their hands on my shoulders and pray so fervently that I was certain their words were somehow more tangible than my own.

 

Once, during a particularly rough week when I was too tired to walk, my wife led a small group of individuals to the back where I was slouched in half, breathing deeply and wheezing. Four people I’d never met circled around me, this thing that looked like a pile of dirty laundry.

 

Among them was a tall red-headed woman whose regular Texan accent suddenly slipped sideways, mid-prayer, into a language I’d never heard as she began to speak in tongues. I’m not going to get into the theology of this and I’m neither going to validate nor excuse the practice. From the mundane to the bizarre, these are the events that occurred.

 

The tall red head, suddenly breaking back into English, speaks a single, penetrating phrase. She says, without knowledge of our infertility, “I see babies . . . lots and lots of babies . . . ” and then it’s all over.

 

So now, here at dinner, blitzed out of my gourd and talking to my mother about Christmas traditions and how Pagan celebrations were incorporated into Christianity, it is I who suggests creating chain links out of construction paper and draping them from the ceiling.

 

We created 147 loops, one for every day I had left in chemo, and on each loop we wrote a Bible verse and every night we’d tear one down and read it together. It was these evenings that I looked forward to the most—just sitting and thinking about one specific hopeful thought, allowing my weak and warbled brain to slowly digest it.

 

This chain would become my visual reference for the rest of my journey. If everything went according to plan, I could see the end.

 

And I could see that The End was still a ridiculously long way away.

 

***   ***   ***   ***   ***

 

People ask me if I’m mad at God for giving me Cancer and I say that I don’t believe He gave me Cancer any more than I think He gave me the flu or my buddy Ben the herpes.

 

Sorry, Ben. If you don’t want to get your new shoes dirty, you shouldn’t jump into a muddy hole.

 

We all have consequences for our actions, and even outside of cause and effect, I believe that we sometimes just draw wild cards. Perhaps this thing was happening to me because of personal decisions I had made—smoking, drinking alcohol, eating fast food, using microwaves—or maybe it was because of decisions my parents had made by not removing my distended testicle, or maybe it was family history and it was just an unavoidable fate that rested in my genes (my jeans), or maybe it was just my lucky day. I’d never really won any big raffles before and I suppose it was bound to happen eventually.

 

In any event, it didn’t matter where it came from or who was to blame. It just mattered that I got through it, however possible. And for me, that meant clinging to God with everything my fried little brain and frail little body could muster.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

. . . AND I’M DROWNING SLOWLY: CHAPTER 15

 

Welcome back.

This is a story about this one time that I had cancer. NBD.

If you’d like to start from the very tippy-top of the story, click here.

If you’re all up to speed, please continue on!

cancer_title_15

 

It’s pretty difficult for my wife and I to find common ground in terms of musical taste. At the top of this list that is only two bands long is Ben Folds Five, a group that gained popularity in the ’90s for their song “Brick.” She’s a brick and I’m drowning slow-ly / She’s a brick and I’m something something. That’s the song you would know. Even if you don’t know the band, that’s a song you’ve heard.

So, as you do when a band you like comes to town, you begrudgingly purchase well over-priced tickets, and you wait. The show was to be celebratory. We heard about it while we were still in the throes of chaos with the testicular cancer—back at the very beginning—and thought to ourselves, “This will be a treat. This will be our special gift for coming out the other side. Everyone should have a special gift for losing their only remaining testicle.”

But then, like a certain pesky cat in a catchy nursery rhyme, the cancer came back the very next day. Thought he was a goner, but the cancer came back.

Now everything had a thundercloud looming over it. I was looking at everything through shit-colored glasses. I still ate food, but I did it with cancer. I still read books, but I did it with cancer. I still masturbated, but I did it with cancer watching me, always on my mind, always ruining the mood I was trying to set in the bathroom with all the candles and incense and whale music. I still went to work, but I did it with cancer.

My boss walks in the room and asks me something about zombies, and I skip the conversation and say, “I still have cancer,” and he sits down and is looking at me like I’m the handicapped puppy again and he says, “That’s . . . . OK . . . . So . . . ” and I say, “I’m seeing an oncologist in a week or so. They’re, I don’t know. They’re talking about chemotherapy,” and he sucks in air really quickly through his teeth and clicks his pen a couple times and says, “Really?” like maybe I misheard them.

I say, “Yes,” and he’s very accommodating, but I suspect that it might be because, as a manager, he’s never been in this position before. I tell him, “I plan to keep working or whatever, so, I mean, I’ll do whatever I can. I’m not quitting my job—I’m just . . . I don’t know. I might need to take off for doctor’s appointments sometimes but I can make up the lost time on nights or weekends and I’m OK with that,” and he says, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, OK. Good. Yes, whatever you need. Whatever you need, you just do it and your job is here and we’ll work with you however you need and we’ll just take it one day at a time,” and then silence.

And then he says, “Sucks.”

And then he leaves.

And then it’s the day of the Ben Folds Five concert, and I sort of am not feeling like going out to a concert because everything depresses me. The truth is, I really wish I just had a big fat joint right now, some weed to just pack and pack and pack into the biggest bowl I can find, but there’s nothing in my house and there hasn’t been since I ran out right after Las Vegas. Ever since this cancer thing started, I’ve become hyper aware of my health and my body and I’m just trying to be as clean as possible. But still. It would be nice. Maybe instead of going out we could just lie on the couch . . . .

No.

I sit up quickly and say, “Let’s go,” and my wife says, “Are you sure? We really—we really don’t have to. Let’s not go if it’s just for me—I’d rather—I don’t know. We can just lie on the couch. We can even shut the lights off. We can even shut our eyes. We can just be depressed,” and I consider her offer but then say, “No. It can’t win,” and that’s a very obvious and heroic movie line thing to say but it feels very true. It was destroying me, inside and out, and I was letting it take something as wonderful as my love of music away. I think there is nothing quite like a live performance in all of the world and I was allowing cancer to rob me of it.

I slam the keys into the ignition, and I drive at top speeds across Los Angeles, and I say to hell with it, and I park in valet and I drop the extra dough because tonight is my special gift. It is mine and it doesn’t belong to Cancer. I am going to stand at the front of the crowd. I’m going to push my way to the very front, and I’m going to scream every lyric I know and probably just go, “Daahh-gaah-hmm,” to the parts I don’t, but I’m going to do it with the veracity of a real live person who isn’t dying, except . . . when we go into the theater we realize that it’s not that kind of concert. We realize this venue only supports stadium seating. And we realize that we’re in the balcony. In the back row. Against the wall. This is nosebleed. This is air-traffic control.

Ben is a little speck on the stage, and I can sort of make out his piano, and we’re already pretty late since we were debating the show to begin with, and I have to wonder if we’ve missed some of our favorite songs. Another fantastic stroke of luck; another feather in the hat; another golden egg.

Sitting in the small chair, I try to cross my legs and feel the stitches in my abdomen stretch and pull, and I get comfortable again and this concert is so boring. He’s just . . . playing the piano and . . . I mean, I guess that’s what he does, that’s what I paid for technically but . . . . I sit back and shut my eyes and try to imagine I’m just listening to the CD while I lie on my couch at home.

While I’m trying to find my Zen place, a knee bumps mine, and I open my eyes to find some girl, probably about my age, is trying to sit down in the cramped quarters to my right. She’s got on a black mini-skirt and a white tank top and a tattoo of both a snake and an eagle on her arm, but she doesn’t look like the type of girl who should have either a snake or an eagle tattooed on her arm. Her black hair bobs under her chin, and she’s really made up to be out on some hot date. I look past her and see that some dude—I mean, that is really the best way to describe this guy—is tagging along behind her, bumping into everyone in the row, trying to get to his seat. He doesn’t apologize or say excuse me, he’s just straight from the trailer court to the concert, and he’s really big like he used to work out but not so much anymore. Like he used to love the gym but now he loves pot.

They both sit down next to me, and I sigh and smile and try to be polite, and she asks me, “Are we late?” and I look at the stage and see the band performing on it and say, “Uh . . . I think so,” and she laughs and says, “Whatev! You mind if I smoke?” and I say, “I . . . don’t care,” and she pulls out this joint and just lights it up, right there. Sitting inside a theater, in a chair, surrounded by people who are not smoking or drinking and are sort of just fuds, she lights up and starts getting high. She passes the joint to her boyfriend, and the smell is so good. I just close my eyes and imagine lying on my couch, listening to the Ben Folds Five CD and smoking a joint. Boy, that would just feel great right now. I’ve got a friend that used to say, “Weed makes a good thing great and a bad thing . . . not so bad!” and then he would inhale and stare at me with eyes on fire and give me that stupid cheese-out grin and cough.

Jade leans over and says, “Are those people . . . smoking weed . . . in here?” and I laugh and I say, “Yeah, I guess,” and it really is pretty funny. The theater we’re in seems pretty hobnobby and the crowd seems very straight-laced and sort of on the older side and very subdued and this girl and her dude-guy are just getting baked. They are experiencing total freedom.

Ben finishes another song just as The Girl and The Dude finish their joint. I watch her out of the corner of my eye—she is infinitely more entertaining than the show—as she delicately crushes the end out between two wet fingers and then stomps on the cherry, crushing it into the glossy cement floor. She opens a little coin purse, pulls out a baggie and places the roach inside, closes the baggie, closes the coin purse, closes her purse majora and sits back and starts to sort of dance in her chair, feeling the groove, I suppose, and I wish I were feeling the groove, as well.

Ben is doing his best. He’s playing the piano with his elbows, and he’s banging on the keys with his fists, and he’s actually reaching inside the piano and is just pulling on the strings in there and, probably if I were closer to the stage and had less on my mind, this would be pretty cool.

The Girl suddenly turns to me and leans in and sort of whisper-shouts in my ear, “Oh, hey! I’m so sorry! I’m so selfish! I didn’t give you any! Do you wanna smoke?” and I don’t even hesitate. My heart doesn’t beat twice before I answer. I don’t let that logical part of my brain speak. I don’t think about health or clean eating. I just think about stress and release and celebration and just blurt out, “Yes. Yes. Please.”

Total freedom.

She pulls out her purse, and she pulls out a second baggie that’s packed to the gills with weed and she pulls out some zigzags and begins to roll a brand-new joint, and I just keep thinking about how the cannabis community is filled with some of the most generous people I have ever met.

Jade leans over and asks, “What did she say?” and I say, “She asked me if I wanted to get high,” and Jade says, “Oh,” assuming that the conversation ended there.

The Girl dumps a row of smelly grass onto the paper and then another row and sort of mashes it down and then sprinkles a bit on top of that just for good measure. This chick is going to get us baked, I think to myself as she lights it herself and then hands it to me.

I lean in and, not sure exactly what the proper etiquette for a stranger handing you free drugs at a concert is, I just whisper-shout, “Thank you!” and then I put the joint to my lips and pull and inhale and out of the corner of my eye Jade is just staring at me, and I turn to her and she says, “What is this?” and I say, “I’m getting fucking high tonight, baby,” and I hand her the joint and she stares at it, and I know exactly what she’s thinking. She’s thinking, Fuck it. Let’s make lemonade! She pinches the joint and takes a hit and shrugs and passes it back to me, and I try to pass it back to the owner, the four of us sharing, and The Girl leans into me and says, “No, no. That’s yours!” and I’m looking at this Cheech and Chong sized white paper bratwurst in my hand and I’m like, “You got it.”

Ben is playing beautifully and his stage performance is extravagant and his showmanship and the light show—the light show!—everything about this show is fantastic, down to the beautiful, blessed seats that are so high. Yellow skulls, stretched and distorted, are being projected onto the billowing curtains, eternally being pulled up, up, up, onto, into the ceiling. White spotlights pan the audience, and lasers of various colors and sizes blast sharp beams out, penetrating and cutting through the darkness. The music builds and builds and builds and, even though I’m staring at skulls floating in front of my eyes, I’m not thinking of death and I’m not thinking of dying and I’m certainly not thinking of cancer. Everything is just good and great and wonderful!

I pull the joint up to my lips, and Ben slams his fists into the keys, making jarring notes that are fitting for the cacophonistic end of the song, and I start thinking about aliens watching us—everyone sitting in the dark, staring at a single person on a stage, all of us chanting the same words in perfect rhythm like a prayer. I can’t get over this thought, this Outside Earth Perspective I’ve got going on, and I think I might be projecting some weird things so I try to just focus back on the music as it begins to crescendo. I inhale and feel myself get lifted a little higher. As I begin to slowly blow the smoke out in one great big billowing cloud of silver fog, Ben hits the keys with both hands as hard as he can and Every. Single. Light in the theater flares on in time to the music and I have to notice that I am just surrounded by a purple haze and I am the only one in the place encircled by this mist and it’s so tangible and palpable that an image of Pig Pen from Charlie Brown actually pops into my head.

A man in front of me in a brown suit, short black hair flattened and gelled against his head, turns around and gives me the stank eye and, yes, I am busted. There’s no denying this. I am that guy right now. His wife or girlfriend or whoever she is, turns around, along with several other members of their party, and I just smile because there’s nothing else I can do.

The arena goes dark again, and I’m grateful because I was feeling pretty naked and exposed. The Girl and The Dude next to me stand up and exit the way they came, taking all of their belongings with them right in the middle of one of the songs, and I wonder just what sort of adventures they’re going to get into tonight when, suddenly, they reach the main aisle and, instead of exiting the theater, the two of them just begin to dance. Crazy Person Dancing. Stripper dancing. Grinding and shaking, arms above head, ecstasy induced, hallucinogenic, mind-fry dancing.

Total Freedom.

Total Freedom that is horrifying me right now because the consequences of my decisions suddenly seem very real and paralyzing. I have just taken drugs from a stranger at a rock concert.

I stare at The Girl and The Dude and just keep thinking, What did I just smoke? What did I just smoke? What was in the weed? What else was in the weed? Do I feel all messed up? Am I high? Am I just weed high or am I, like, going to start freaking out pretty soon?

I’ve never done anything “beyond” marijuana and so I am on the edge of my seat, trying to hyper analyze and over analyze and scrutinize every feeling I’m experiencing and SHIT! What if those people in front of me are cops?! What am I doing smoking weed in a public place around a bunch of people in suits? What kind of a dipshit am I? This wasn’t very responsible! SHIT! That girl is dancing on the floor! She’s on her knees dancing and she doesn’t know what she’s doing or where she’s at and I bet she’s hallucinating and pretty soon I’m going to be hallucinating and I’m going to be dancing in the aisle, and so I lean over to Jade and go, “I don’t know what I just smoked. What are they doing?” and Jade shrugs and says, “I only took a couple hits. Did you . . . ” and then she realizes that the entire submarine sandwich joint has been consumed by me because I have no stop button and just keep smoking and smoking until it’s gone.

I squeeze the armrests of the chair and try to will myself to relax.

The Girl and The Dude disappear and the concert is over and Jade and I stand up and rush out of the theater. On the sidewalk there is a black man in a hospital gown with a handmade sign asking for money. I walk past him and pretend he doesn’t exist. The two of us walk into a Denny’s because it’s 1 o’clock ante meridiem and we’re coming down and have the munchies. We both order pancakes, and as I’m watching the Hospital-Gowned Homeless Man out the window, I see two cops walk past him and then I have the exact same thought anyone who’s ever been high and has seen cops thinks, which is, Crap! Cops!

Now I give them the stank eye, even though they can’t see me, and try to will them to pass the building. But they don’t. They enter the restaurant, and I’m sure that someone at the theater has given them my description and they’re looking for me and so I just focus on my pancakes. Fork in left hand and knife in right hand and just—wait—you’re right handed, switch the fork and knife—no, wait, it was right—you had it right—just cut slow—what . . . is this how a human cuts pancakes? Do I look like a human?

We finish our dinner-breakfast, walk back to our car, and just as we open our doors, we hear a woman scream. We look over the balcony of the parking garage and see Ben or Ben Folds or Ben-Whatever-His-Last-Name-Is has emerged from the venue and twenty-some 20-somethings all shake pieces of paper and digital cameras and cell phones at him, and he slowly approaches each person, individually. I clear my throat and bark, “HEY!” and everyone suddenly stops what they’re doing and looks toward me, including Ben. I shout, “Great show!” and he waves.

Jade and I get back in the car, drive home, and lie on the couch. She puts his CD on, and I think about the possibility of a medicinal marijuana card.

 

*****     *****     *****      *****     *****

As always, thank you so much for reading! Next week we begin PART 3, which kicks  off with AGGRESSIVE ACCELERATION: CHAPTER 16.

Hit that subscribe button to get email notifications of when new chapters are released!

 

 

 

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Sex Brain

There was a point in time, not that long ago, when our ancestors stood on the same ground that we stand on today, and they looked towards the sky and they pointed and they said, “There is the sun. It circles around us.” Today we know this to not only be false, but to be foolish. Today we understand that the Earth along with all of her buddies circle around the sun in a great big dosey-doe.

The sun sits at the center of our universe and burns bright. The sun does not set. The sun does not rise. The Earth spins, both on its axis and rotation. The sun rising and setting is an illusion. This is not news to either you nor I. I am not breaking new ground here. We were all raised in a world where we understand this to be true. We are operating out of fact.

And yet, at one point, not long ago, the whole of our planetary culture would have told you differently and some of them might have even used the bible as a resource to back their argument since Ecclesiastes says The sun rises, and the sun goes down, and hastens to the place where it rises.

The sun hurries through the sky.

No, it doesn’t.

Everyone would have stood against you, hand in hand, and told you how absolutely ludicrous you were for believing in what I am suggesting above. There was a planetary belief held by almost every inhabitant of Earth that the sun spun around us in orbit.

Don’t just brush over that. Think about it. We did not understand how our universe worked and then we made very basic assumptions about the principles of it. We jumped to conclusions based off of pre-conceived notions. Those notions were that god created us and so we were at the center of the universe and everything revolved around us because we were the most important things.

This, for a person of that culture, of that era, made sense. And in some regard, I can appreciate their logic. Airplanes, televisions and calculators were not invented yet, let alone to say anything of space travel, quantum physics and DNA.

That’s very heavy. Their worldview was crafted more by what they did NOT know than by what they did. In other words, they were not operating off of a provable scientific platform. They observed with their eyes and then made a call without further research.

You can take this back a little further to discuss how the Earth used to be flat. Human beings, not that much different from you and I, believed that the Earth was flat and that you could fall off into some kind of dark oblivion if you got too close to the edge. Again, these are people speaking from a place of the unknown. This wasn’t based on any kind of proof but was rather based upon a kind of UNproof. A table is flat. If you push a bowl to the edge of the table, it falls off. This makes sense. The Earth is a great big table.

You can appreciate their viewpoint. You can say to yourself, yeah, I can see how they thought that. I don’t agree with it because I am smarter than that, but I can see why they would believe this with their limited view of knowledge.

So then, let’s turn the camera around and point it back at ourselves. What is it that we see in our culture that future civilizations will raise an eyebrow at? What will future generations give us the sympathy sigh for? Ah, simple people of the twenty-first century.

Right now we believe that beyond our galaxy is just more galaxies and that space continues on forever and I guess this makes sense. But maybe not.

Right now we believe that time travel is a near impossibility and that it’s something out of science fiction movies. But maybe not.

Perhaps the next level of science we’ll push into is not the cosmos nor time hopping. Perhaps the next level of science we’ll push into is the human brain. There’s this gray mass living inside of our skulls and we don’t fully understand how it works.

I want to reiterate that last line. We do not fully understand how our own brain works.

That thing inside your head that secretes chemicals that makes you happy and that thing that holds all your memories and controls your breathing. We have no idea how it works. It may as well be alien technology.

Just like the Earth circling the sun. Just like people falling off the edge of the planet. We do not fully understand how it works.

And sometimes we jump to conclusions based upon what we believe to be true over what is yet to be proven to be true. Even today we are not so different than the people of hundreds and thousands of years ago. We still make the same, short-sighted mistakes.

What does it mean to be a homosexual? Do you know? If someone asked you to describe why an individual aligns themselves with homosexuality, would you be able to answer in a way wherein you would not sound like a “Flat Earth” person? Would you be able to answer at all? Could you speak with a sense of truth that is provable – like the Earth revolving around the sun – or would you speak with a sense of belief?

We look at the world around us and we see male and female. We see the majority of people on Earth operating in a very specific fashion. Male paired with female. But because a majority of people do a thing, does that make it so? Does that make it the only way to experience life? Because most people do something, does that mean that the minority are not only marginalized, but cut out completely?

Perhaps science will one day dissect the human brain and it will understand how it fully works. Perhaps one day we will understand the homosexual brain and the asexual brain and the transgender brain and the unisexual brain. But until then, how can we speak with knowledge on these things without understanding the truth of them?

How can we, as people, make judgment calls, moral or otherwise, on a people group that we do not understand? This is to say nothing of understanding them emotionally or having empathy for their pain in a world that tends to shun them, but to speak strictly of the neurological ramifications of what it means to have a brain.

We do not understand the human brain. To make definitive statements about a person’s genetic make-up without understanding their brain is like making definitive statements about someone on trial without listening to their court case.

At one point in my life, not that long ago, I was a staunch opponent of gay marriage, gay people and the lifestyle that they represented. It was a sin against God and it was damaging our traditional sense of marriage. In the simplest sense, these people were wrong. About everything. Gay people either made a choice (probably subconscious) or were raised to be gay by either a lack of a parental figure (probably a father) or some kind of molestation event.

Maybe you think this. There are, after all, a considerable group of people that do.

But what if… (ah, two of my favorite words) what if someday we do understand how the human brain fully works and functions? What if someday we do learn that gender binaries (strictly male / female), are not the absolute end of the line in regards to sexuality? What if science expands our minds and our culture and we understand that people are born with a very specific bend and to go against that is to go against all that is natural for them.

What if we learn that your belief does not matter because it is definitively wrong? Imagine the mobs that must have occurred when the philosophers said, “We are not the center of the universe. God did not put us in the middle. We are circling around the sun and the sun is not god. We are just drifting in space.” BOOM. Their faith has been not only questioned, but crushed. They could still believe in god but they had to go back to the drawing board to figure out what the new model looked like.

Whoa.

They had to re-define how they saw and experienced god.

God had to change.

That’s a scary thing.

It’s scary to question our belief of how god relates to us, especially when we think we are in proper standing with god. Justice and justification are very dangerous things when we wield them ourselves. When we believe that god is on our side and that we are doing his work, they can become lethal.

Let’s each of us remember that the KKK is a Christian organization.

Let’s each of us remember that the Westboro Baptist Church, those fine folks that picket at soldier’s funerals and hold up the God Hates Fags signs, are a Christian organization.

Let’s each of us remember that ISIS, who is beheading children and raping infants, are an organization dedicated to doing god’s work.

You are probably not like any of these things. These are big picture problems. And I’m not suggesting that Christianity or other religious groups are all like this. They aren’t. People of all faiths do absolutely amazing works of humanitarian service. But remember that each of us are capable of being blinded by our own passion for justice by the almighty hand of god. And what we think that god thinks is right, is not always so. And we must question our own motives. It is imperative.

It is easy for me, for you, for all of us, to point at a minority and say, “They aren’t doing it right.”

But it isn’t very easy to sit in the quiet – to intentionally, literally, go into a room by yourself in the absolute quiet – and to think about our own shortcomings. It is very difficult to pick apart ourselves and accept how fucked up we actually are as individuals.

I’ll end with this. God is a tool. Like a hammer. And that hammer can be used for good things and it can be used for bad things.

In 1994 a hammer was used to build an orphanage in Kampala, Uganda that has housed over 3,000 abandoned children that would otherwise be dead.

In 2002 a man bashed his wife’s skull in with a hammer after he caught her having sex with one of his friends.

And keep in mind that the Bible condones this behavior. It doesn’t call it out with a hammer but it condones stoning your wife to death if you catch her in the act of infidelity (Leviticus 20:10). And guys, that one goes for you too. If you’ve ever cheated on your wife, the old testament god calls for your blood. You can make the argument that Jesus came (new testament) and all of those laws are now moot but once they did matter. Once god told a group of people to bury a woman up to her neck and smash her face with rocks. Once that is how people viewed god. God was on their side and their acts were just.

We can say “That doesn’t count anymore.” But it did. To someone who was placed in a pit and buried, screaming for help, screaming out to god to help, screaming at her husband to please forgive her before he splattered her brains all over the ground, it did matter. Because it happened a long time ago, does not negate its reality.

Even the holocaust is in the past.

But that shit matters.

Remember that our perception of god has changed more than once in the course of human history. Remember that the way you view god today is not the way people will view god in a thousand years. Remember that the way people viewed god in the past is not the way you do today. Remember that everything, including the unchanging god, does change. Or at the very least, our perception of god changes.

Remember that you are broken as well. And remember that you’ve done things that might require you to someday be buried up to your neck and have your face smashed in by rocks.

God is a hammer. Be sure you’re using it properly.

I hope your take away is this.

Our world changes (science, technology, war, peace, providential boundaries). Our moral code changes (as an adult I drink alcohol but don’t eat meat, the opposite of my childhood). Even our moral code in accordance to god changes (where it was once acceptable to kill someone for adultery, today we think it barbaric). Our science has changed. Our perception of the universe has changed. And even if you believe that god does not change, our perception of god does. And it is our perception that we act upon. It is our perception of god that gives ISIS their justification. It is our perception of god that gives us our bearing for right and wrong.

Everything changes. It is unstoppable.

And so let’s remember that human sexuality will also change. It will change. Or at least our perception of it will change. The reality is that it was probably always here, muffled and quiet and now we’re finally speaking about it. And the only thing that is in our control is how we handle it – how we perceive it. The LGBT community is a hurting and broken one.

I won’t touch on the current transgender bathroom topic because I believe it is one of simple logistics. There is a solution that will be enacted and then it will be over. This is not about the bathroom topic. This is about the heart in which we approach it. Our world is about the heart in which we approach it. God is about the heart in which we approach it.

This is our opportunity, as human beings, to pick up the hammer and repair or destroy.

How we use it is up to each of us.

 

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

KID COUNTDOWN: DAY 6

1

It’s Sunday night and I’m driving to church solo.  With everyone we know being sick, we’ve decided to try and quarantine our children into the house and Bubble-Boy them from any diseases.  Six days pre-baby would not be an ideal time for the two kids to come down with the drowsy, coughing, dripping, sleeping, scratchy throat sickness.  Welcome to the world, new baby!  GERMS!

After serving in the Info Center and directing people hither and tither, “Water Baptisms this way, New Believers Packets down stairs, Sign up to Volunteer here,” etc, etc, so forth and so on, I make my way to the balcony and stare down at a man named Robert who gives a sermon about faith and obedience and about going out into the world.

How do you become those disciples in the Bible?  DO YOU become those disciples in the Bible?  How do you go from the person you are now to the person you are called to be?  Well, like everything in life, you take it one step at a time.  You wake up this morning and you pray on your way to work.  You read a chapter from your Bible.  You let someone slide into traffic.  You hold a door.  You reflect the love of Christ and you go out into a dark world completely fearless knowing that God has his arms around you.

2

On my drive home I speculate about what I could be doing; what are my next steps.  I don’t pray enough.  I don’t read my Bible enough.  I pray with my kids at night and over meals and I read them stories from the children’s Bible but am I raising them to invest in faith or am I merely showing them what a Christian going the motions looks like?

So I have to question myself and wonder, when people look at me – maybe not just the quick sideways glance – but when they look at me, do they know that I’m a Christian?  Do my actions and deeds in my public life reflect someone who cares?

I come home and sit down for a late dinner with the kids and I say, “Let’s pray,” and both kids shut their eyes and Quinn even curls her hands beneath her chin and I think, “God, please let me do this right.  I’m not just trying to raise operable adults.  I’m trying to raise children who love You and feel compassion for The World around them.”

I pray for our food and the children repeat, I pray for a small list of sick people we know and the children repeat, I pray for protection over my dad, who is currently oversees with the military and they repeat.  I say, “Amen,” and we eat.

After dinner Quinn asks if we can go swing and, it’s pitch black out and well beyond her bedtime but I figure, “What’s ten minutes?”  We go outside and I sit on the swing and she in my lap and as we rock back and forth, she looks up at the stars and says, “Dad!  Look!  Stars!” and I say, “Yes, that’s right,” and then she says, “Dad, give me a kiss,” and so I do.

3

Thirty feet away, through the darkness of our lawn, over our patio and on top of the steps leading into our back door, I see a small figure shyly emerge and look around.  It speaks.  “Daa-haaad??”  It’s Rory and he suspects we’re out here but can’t see us way out in the back, his eyes not yet adjusted to the light.

I shout, “We’re right here!” and his face follows my voice but I can tell that he still can’t see me so I say, “We’re swinging!” and he jumps off the back steps and runs, fearless, into the darkness, positive that his father is out there.  He runs straight to me and says, “Let’s swing!

As I push he and Quinn I wonder how I can be like that; how can I run into the darkness, believing my Father is out there, waiting for me with some ethereal and eternal swing set.

The first step, I suppose, is to jump off the back steps.

I get into my car in the morning and listen to a chapter of The Bible on my iPhone, hoping and praying that concentric circles ripple out from every decision I make and affect those around me in positive ways.  I pray that my decisions influence my children, who influence the world.

Remember, every free thinking world changer had a dad.  And remember, if you’re reading this and you are a dad, it is your responsibility to create and inspire change, not only in your family, but in your world.  You are a guiding light, a beacon and the Make-Or-Break point for each child in your life.

There are no excuses for being a bad example.

Grab your children, embrace them, and send them out into a dark world that needs compassion.

4

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,