It’s been a little while since my last post. I’ve wanted to post several things, but that ol’ demon, Ambiguity, keeps creeping up on me. Lately the whole “faith” thing has been a little rough – not bad, but tiring. I’m in a place right now where I have many questions, but easy answers are eluding me at every turn. I’m struggling, and a little bit exhausted, with these things.
What questions, you ask?
The Exorcism Question
Last week I wanted to write a scathing article about three teenage girls in Scottsdale, Arizona, who claim to exorcise demons. It started when a friend at church told me about them – and then I read this article. If you can, watch the attached video on that puppy. When I first read that, my mind was instantly ablaze with condemnation for the people featured in the article. $400 a session for an exorcism? Three teenage girls with catchy code names? A dad who claims to have performed fifteen thousand exorcisms, and who is trying to get a reality television show based on his three daughters? I was ready and rearing to go. I got some friends to come up with their own catchy nicknames so that they could join Brandi (“Crackerjack”) and myself (“Captain God”) in forming a competing group of reality-television-worthy mega-exorcists.
But then I spoke to some friends of mine, and they kind of reality checked me. While $400 per session is a little steep, they pointed out that we are willing to pay pastors, so why not exorcists? They said that there is nothing wrong with getting paid for the gifts God has given you. Some said that the video was more realistic than I assumed, while others supported my opinion that it all looked pretty bunk.
Now, near the end of my neo-pagan days, I saw lots of people believing in things that I just didn’t believe were real. My skepticism toward all things supernatural gradually grew until I became the hard-line agnostic slash sometimes-hard-line atheist that I was before God tapped me on the shoulder. While I have seen miracles since Jesus said “What up?” to me, my first instinct regarding all things supernatural is to assume that they are not real. What I call “skepticism” (which is pretty negative) and what my friend Pastor Jay calls “discernment” (a lot less negative) is, to me, a defensive posture taken to avoid being sucked into confusion by my desire to believe in things that aren’t empirically obvious.
So long story short, I’m trying to use discernment about this group of girls in Arizonaand their dad (who, for a $100 donation, which give you a silver copy of the cross he uses for his exorcisms! Totally legit, right?) but I’m having a hard time with it. Was my initial reaction too negative? Or was it honest, and now I’m second guessing myself unnecessarily? I don’t know. I’m too confused to continue with it for now, so my apologies to the other members of my crack exorcism squad, Jules “Jetson” Verne and Mohandas “The Destroyer” Gibbons for not getting the funny send up they deserve.
The Healing Situation
About three months ago, God healed me of irritable bowel syndrome and premature ventricular contractions, as mentioned in this post. A couple of weeks ago, I had some PVC’s while watching Hunger Games. Since then, I’ve had them on a pretty regular basis.
Now, going two and a half months without either of those chronic conditions showing up was awesome, and it has never happened before. Two point five months of freedom is something that was a complete first for me, and I still believe God was behind it. But that being said, the PVC’s are back – so either God un-cured me, or the reprieve was meant to be temporary. And I have no idea why, or if it means something – and if it does mean something, then I don’t know what.
What are you gonna do?
The Bible Question
Sometimes, reading the Bible is hard. I often don’t know what to feel or think when I read it. Last night I was reading through 1 Timothy, and I got to this part in chapter 2.
“12 I do not let women teach men or have authority over them.[b]Let them listen quietly. 13 For God made Adam first, and afterward he made Eve. 14 And it was not Adam who was deceived by Satan. The woman was deceived, and sin was the result. 15 But women will be saved through childbearing,[c] assuming they continue to live in faith, love, holiness, and modesty.”
And, in completely honesty, I was a little pissed. Was I pissed at Paul? At God? At churches that use the scripture to prevent women from preaching? Honestly, I don’t know. I just know that sometimes I read the Bible and feel full of God’s love – and sometimes, I’m reading 1 Timothy 2:12-15.
The Conference Question
There’s a conference coming up in Minneapolis for the Society of Vineyard Scholars. It’s going to be a smorgasbord of theological discussion. My interwebs-friend Pete Benedict (aka “Peanut Butter” around my house) is going to be leading a session I’d really like to see. Money is very tight in my house, but I’ve been assured that arrangements can be made for the registration fee.
So why is there a conflict? I guess part of it is a feeling of guilt about leaving Brandi for another weekend while I do something awesome and she stays home. My mother- and father-in-law now live with us, but they can get a little overwhelmed dealing with all of the kids, so it’s unlikely that they’ll want to keep them for a whole weekend for us. This would be the third awesome thing I’ve done while Brandi had to stay home, and while she’s being super cool about it and encouraging me to go, I’m not sure I should. Plus, with money being as 100% tight as it is, I’m not sure that I can even justify the gasoline to drive all the way toMinneapolis, and the cost of food while I’m there.
So. . . yeah. No easy answer there, either.
The “Me” Question
If you’ve read more than this post in my blog, I’m sure you’ve noticed that many things about me are a little rough around the edges. Brandi and I both use profanity when we write. Also, my favorite authors are distinctly un-Christian (Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, and George R.R. Martin, for those who desperately want to know who my favorite authors are) and the two Frank Peretti books I’ve read have been kind of disappointing. My favorite television show is Game of Thrones on HBO, which has so much nudity and explicit sex that my in-laws leave the room when it’s on. . . and none of that stuff bothers me. In fact, I think it adds to the honesty of the storytelling.
Now, a couple of people have told me that they like my blog for its honesty, and I appreciate that. Brandi and I truly don’t pull any punches about stuff. We think that pretension is a sin, and we aren’t going to try to act like people we aren’t just to fit in with an idea of Christian culture.
But that being said, I wonder sometimes if I’m not just a crappy Christian. Should I be bothered by the stuff that I accept as normal in the media I enjoy? If I’m not bothered by it, can I ever be truly accepted by the faith community? Or will the fact that I like things that aren’t “squeaky clean” be used against me? Since I hope to eventually pastor, this question weighs heavily on me some days. Today is one of those days.
The Questions Question
It’s tempting not to write this stuff down, and even more tempting not to publish it. I’m exposing my weaknesses, am I not? I’m showing the world that I may be a crappy Christian – I get angry at the Bible, watch television shows with boobies on them, and cuss like a sailor. So shouldn’t I be keeping this to myself – or only talking about it in the sense that I am testifying to my sin and asking God to forgive me?
Faith isn’t easy, friends. Questions happen. And if you are new to faith, like I am, you should expect these days. Hell – for all I know, you may have to expect days like this when you’ve been walking with the “J-man” for many, many years.
But if you are new to faith, and you think that you’re a freak for wondering about this stuff. . . you aren’t. If you think you’re a freak because you went to Jesus and your life got more complicated, you’re not. If you think that people of faith always feel like they have everything under control, and always know exactly how they feel about things, then be assured – we do not.
Sometimes faith gets discouraging – and it’s rough when that happens, because your faith is what is supposed to see you through the storms when everything else gets discouraging. But it happens.
Some Answers, Maybe.
The coolest thing about all these questions I have is that God is infinitely bigger than my questions. And even though I’m in a place that feels pretty crappy at the moment, I shit you not – God is right here with me. Even when I’m feeling low, I can feel the Holy Spirit sitting next to me, offering me a beer in consolation and telling me not to worry about it.
Also – I’m going to stop thinking about this stuff until I’m feeling better. God is responsible for all good things in life – even good things that don’t talk about God, or make you think about God, or come from a Christian bookstore.
Here are some good things.
1) Music – Thank God for “The Decemberists”, “Iron and Wine”, Ray Lamontagne, and “The Wailin’ Jenny’s”. They have no idea that the creator of the universe is using them to make me feel better, but He is.
2) Brandi Mitchell. She’s awesome. And while I’m sitting here pouting, she’s driving through the snow to do all the laundry in the house! What a gal I have! :D
3) Grace – Whether or not I’m a crappy Christian, God loves me.
In Conclusion. . .
. . . this was not a funny post.
God bless you guys, and may you always see Him when you’re in your low places. My love to you all, and thanks for not judging me. Unless you are judging me – in which case, as the philosopher T. Swift says, “Why you gotta be so mean?“