This is a wall of text.

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?

About Daniel Mitchell

50% of "What the Faith?!?!", a blog about two skeptics who turned to God for no apparent reason. View all posts by Daniel Mitchell

22 responses to “This is a wall of text.

  • visitingmissouri

    I like your questions. As in: I would have the same. I do, you just seem to take all of them at the same time. No wonder it’s wearing you out (I had no idea how to verbilize tired, so I paraphrazed here). Thanks for posting them though. If I would have the answers, I’d give them to you. I share your scepticism towards the exorcism trio. Not that I do not believe in exorcism, but I believe the bible has a clear attitude on selling silver religion ware. Thanks for not being funny but honest this time.

  • notashot

    I too deal with the “me question”. We are crappy Christians. But I don’t think I want to be one of the “good ones” because I like relating to crappy non-Christians.

    I think I might have to do a blog in response. :)

    • Daniel Mitchell

      Hey, I need to follow your blog so I can see your response! And yeah, I don’t try to be a “good Christian” so much as I try to honestly engage God. . . but sometimes, like lately, I wonder where the line is drawn.

      • notashot

        I am always dealing with that. Where is the stupid line?! Especially for pastors. I had a very awkward moment last Sunday when one of the old students from my youth group (now 24) came over and watched GoT with me and my roommate.

        It doesn’t help that often the base of a congregation is unknowingly self righteous. I’m pretty close to becoming a pastor, like maybe 13 months out. The way I look at it is I have to help get churches to think less about moral lines and more about honest engagement with God.

      • Daniel Mitchell

        “The way I look at it is I have to help get churches to think less about moral lines and more about honest engagement with God.”

        That’s how my wife and I both feel, actually. . . and we use our blog as a place to explore what that looks like. I think the question for me, in complete honesty, is whether or not I should let my calling lead me to conformity. On the one hand, the apostle Paul often speaks about conforming to your audience so that you can spread the message of the gospels. On the other hand, does that mean that we just abandon the people who haven’t come to Jesus that don’t like being around “normal” Christians? Who speaks to them, where they are?

  • DB Beem

    Maybe you’re crappy at doing religion. Religion is that thing that we sometimes do when you try to be “accepted” by a faith community.

    I generally don’t think beating yourself on the head is all that helpful, nor is second guessing yourself. When we’re constantly second guessing ourselves, we’re taking our eyes of the ball, the ball being Jesus.

    Faith is kind of messy thing Dan and sometimes our lives are messy. Some of the questions that you ask can only be answered by you.

    I sometimes like listening to selected music AC/DC, but I will not listen to Highway to Hell. Is this a contradiction? Some music and movies are just not helpful to me in my faith. Even if the plot is good, it’s hard because I’m still a guy and I still have my guy issues and seeing a lot of nudity is not helpful to me. I know this to be true about myself, but just because it’s my problem, doesn’t mean it’s your problem. That said if you’re having your men’s small group of your house, should you cue up Game of Thrones? (not saying you would).

    As you know, I don’t swear alot on my blog. Coming out of me it, swearing would be pretentious. Sometimes I will be a little profane when trying to make a point, but those moments are not typical. For you, I know that when you swear it’s not a pretentious thing, it’s how you might express a thought that you can only express in that way. You’re being real. That said, if you ever wrote a guest post for Momentary Delight, I would appreciate if you limited yourself to 2 F-bombs. :)

    As far as going to the Vineyard Scholars thing, I think it’s awesome. Like you, I’m a parent and so I think that necessarily means consideration for our spouse. I will often trade off with my wife. When I do something like a Men’s retreat, I will try to give my wife time with her friends, or encourage her to attend a special event at church. I consider this mental health time, because as much as we love our kids we all need time away. Lately my wife told me she wanted to attend the Beautiful One Conference in PA which is woman’s conference administered by Global Awakening (Randy Clark’s ministry). I think this is awesome and I totally want her to go.

    Anyway, as always, thanks for sharing the struggle. Blessings.

    • Daniel Mitchell

      As always, great thoughts. Couple of comments on your comment.

      “That said if you’re having your men’s small group of your house, should you cue up Game of Thrones? (not saying you would).”

      No, that’s extremely discourteous. In the same way, I wouldn’t offer someone who I knew was part of a recovery program a beer. My concern is that I’ll be judged because I DON’T have a problem with Game of Thrones, if that makes sense.

      “For you, I know that when you swear it’s not a pretentious thing, it’s how you might express a thought that you can only express in that way. You’re being real. That said, if you ever wrote a guest post for Momentary Delight, I would appreciate if you limited yourself to 2 F-bombs.”

      That is true – I don’t swear with the intent of being profane, so much as I consider (as the creative-type-person I try to be) profanity to be a valid part of the language – not appropriate for kids, but not bad. I don’t acknowledge “bad” words, and I always tell me kids that certain words are “adult” words that they can’t use yet. And while I consider “What the Faith” to be MY space that people are visiting, I feel pretty sure that if I guest-blogged on “Momentary Delight” I could get away with using NO f-bombs! ;) After all, I’ve managed to keep countless research papers and work reports clean – I think I’m up to it!

      “Like you, I’m a parent and so I think that necessarily means consideration for our spouse. I will often trade off with my wife.”

      That WOULD work – except that life keeps getting in the way! There was a Women’s Retreat at my church, but we didn’t have the money for it. And that sort of thing keeps happening. So part of my hesitation about going to the Society of Vineyard Scholars retreat is that Brandi hasn’t had the chance to go to even ONE THING for my two, and this would make it three-zip. I just feel like I might be a jerk to go, you know?

      • DB Beem

        On the not being judged part of it. I think sometimes we have to risk being misunderstood. I used to be an church environment where people were always judging you. “Oh you can’t make it to Bible Study!” “Oh you drink!” “Oh you swear!” “Oh you listen to secular music!” “Oh you watch R rated movies!” It was tiring.

        Generally, if I think the other person is going to have a problem, then I try not to wave it in their face, but I am also not going to lie or try to hide. I’m not going to ask if they want a beer, but I’m also not going to hide all my alcohol in the closet (not that I have that much to begin with).

        As far as the give and take between spouses, it’s something every couple has to work out. I think the most important part is conversation, that you talk things through. Personally, I’m not the best communicator. That said, sometimes we just need to push our wives out the door to get a coffee or dinner with friends, to get a man/pedi, to go to a special program at church or to take whatever down time works for them.
        Blessings

  • Rebekah Grace

    Daniel, found your blog via DB Beem’s blog. I can’t even begin to tell you what I’m experiencing reading this. I’ll keep it short, which is so unlike me, btw.

    Jesus living in Daniel Mitchell is capable of reaching into the lost and broken lives of a bunch of people that those who are following the ‘Christian culture’ could not. I completely and totally relate to that doubt, I have my own. Just know that He is alive and well in those on the ‘outside’ of the culture as well. Thank God!!!

    And that’s my dose of encouragement for the hour, you are welcome :)

    • Daniel Mitchell

      Rebekah, you are awesome! Thanks for the encouragement. I often struggle with the idea that perhaps I shouldn’t be SO honest in my blogging – thanks for the reassurance that it’s okay to be me.

      Also, love the tattoos!

      • Rebekah Grace

        Be honest. Please, be honest! There will be some who will discourage it, I will NEVER be one of them! There are people lurking all the time that need your honesty. Dude, if it’s not okay to be you, then you’re ultimately telling God, “Hey, You made me wrong.” And even though I struggle with that sometimes as a woman who is a little too honest and shares her junk, much to the shagrin of some, I know He made me exactly this way for exactly this time. Catch me on a bad day and I’ll forget I ever said these things :)

        Thanks! I’m jonesin’ for a new tattoo. Thinking of putting truth and grace somewhere? That was Jesus, you know. Full of truth and grace. Awesome stuff!!

  • Jennwith2ns

    “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.”

    Um. Yes. HELL(o!), yes.

  • Daniel Mitchell

    Listen. . . let’s not pile the ambiguity on TOO thick, mkay? It’s before 10 in the morning, my ears will start to bleed if I have to think too hard.

  • J.Petersen

    Have you been spying on me ? You basically just wrote my life !!!!!!! I get mad at Paul but yet Paul is my favorite writer, I cuss like a sailor , and have a very hard time listening to Christian music ( I asked Jesus if he will play Steely Dan for me in heaven, I told him to change the lyrics but keep the same sound.) I love to challenge/wrestle with God , I rarely win . I love Jesus but am nervous to be around his followers, although I love Chuck Missler .As for demons they exist , they are the journalists that write for the Daily Mail and take up residency in in Romneys underwear .

    • Daniel Mitchell

      Yeah, little known fact – I am your long-lost twin. If you listen closely enough, you’ll hear my sigh of relief at realizing that someone else shares my particular brand of crazy!

      As for Romney’s underwear, doesn’t he wear temple garments? If a demon can possess holy underwear, what hope do my Fruit of the Looms have?

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