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Archive for the category “The Nature of God”

The Nature of God – Part 9

[If you are just now stumbling onto this post without having read the various parts in this series from the beginning, I strongly urge you to go back to the start and continue on from there through each successive post. None of these individual entries stand on their own, and you may wind up with little but confusion and unanswered questions by starting here. That is easily done by entering “The Nature of God” in the search box on the home page, which will list links to all available parts.]

This is a short post along the same lines of healing as I described in Part 7, except it’s less embarrassing. Headaches are highly preferable to talk about. Perhaps a couple of years later, I was pulling into a production facility for my new employer, and another migraine headache was signaling an impending strike. I’d frequently had them since high school. Fortunately, they weren’t the cluster type, or accompanied by puking or curling into a fetal position. They were more ordinary migraines. You get flashing blind spots in your vision and can’t see to read or drive safely. The only way to see straight ahead is to glance off to the side and use your peripheral vision as best you can. Then you lose your appetite, and a deep, attention-absorbing constant pain sets in, and brightly lit areas become hell to be in. No pain killer could dampen it back then. You needed to lie down in silence, with something over your eyes to completely block out the light for several hours. It was difficult to fake being Read more…

The Nature of God – Part 8

[If you are just now stumbling onto this post without having read the various parts in this series from the beginning, I strongly urge you to go back to the start and continue on from there through each successive post. None of these individual entries stand on their own, and you may wind up with little but confusion and unanswered questions by starting here. That is easily done by entering “The Nature of God” in the search box on the home page, which will list links to all available parts.]

I used to watch this guy on television who did miraculous cures right there on camera, in a big auditorium. People on crutches and in wheelchairs walked, cancers were cured, and all manner of illnesses and ailments were done away with. It was impressive. All he wanted was for me to send in a little money to support his ministry. Then after a while, he went off the air. I found out later that he was convicted and sent to prison for mail fraud. Sometimes, people who seek out a career in ministry do so for the wrong reasons.

I had my own minor ailments, none of which I cared to publicize, because they weren’t anything to brag about or mention at a cocktail party when the whining about medical nuisances began. Still, they kept me Read more…

The Nature of God – Part 7

[If you are just now stumbling onto this post without having read the various parts in this series from the beginning, I strongly urge you to go back to the start and continue on from there through each successive post. None of these individual entries stand on their own, and you may wind up with little but confusion and unanswered questions by starting here. That is easily done by entering “The Nature of God” in the search box on the home page, which will list links to all available parts.]

There came a time when I was encouraged to attend a church again, and I put it off for quite awhile. I finally agreed to go on the grounds that it was promised to avoid the sleep-inducing traditions I was used to. It turned out not to be so bad as I expected. The few songs were contemporary, and without hymnals to open. The sermons were brief, challenging, and to the point. The people there were just regular folks, thoughtful and friendly but not cloyingly so. I wasn’t a target or potential signee, so it was okay. They called it “non-denominational Christian”, which tended to free it from the debates over scriptural details. No robes. No choirs. No obsolete Middle English dialect that was purported to be the language that God spoke in. In the few visits I had made, there was no mention of classical sin, salvation, Heaven, or Hell. There was no mention of believing in something just for the sake of a someday, pie-in-the-sky future. No warbling Texas drawls, and no guilt trips about the offertory plate. No threats of a stern God eager to pounce on and punish disobedience. Only a calm voice and a consistent urging to examine your life carefully, and consider the unthinkable. The orientation was not for a future benefit, but one that waited to begin now, today. Left unsaid but painfully apparent: you wouldn’t be there if it wasn’t obvious to you that you had screwed things up, lacked a real solution and the ability to carry one out even if you had it, and that something critical was missing in your life. Want to see what God is truly like in the most direct and filter-free way possible? Look at the historical accounts of Jesus the Messiah. Examine what He does, and reflect upon what He says. That’s about what I picked up.

One Sunday, the preacher painted a verbal picture that went something like this: “Imagine there’s a parade going down the street where you are, and that it’s a parade about Jesus. There are lots of people lining each curb, cheering and clapping and smiling, and there’s Jesus too, in person, walking along. A few people are walking along with Him, around Him. He slowly passes by, and you hear Him inviting everyone to come and follow Him, to walk with Him. Everyone claps and cheers Him on of course, but that seems to be all. Once the parade has passed by them and the cheering has died away, the people along the sidewalks are turning to go back home. Jesus’ eyes turn to you and He invites you to walk with Him as well, as He walks past you. What will you do? Will you too clap and cheer, and turn to go back to what you know? I urge you to consider. Step off that curb and follow Him. Walk with Him. Step off the curb.”

I hadn’t really listened too attentively to the rest of the message, but this last part hit my psyche like the blast from a 10-gauge shotgun. I sat and thought while the service finished up. If there was some kind of altar call that day, and there might have been, I sure don’t remember it. Still, this mental picture weighed heavily on me. Returning to what I was familiar with was no bargain, and no safe haven. All I knew was what had failed. It had for a long time felt as though I was in an old four-engine bomber trying to return to base on only one engine and, despite chucking everything possible overboard, it had still been steadily losing altitude and wasn’t going to make it over the cold ocean of life. I had little interest in returning to live within what I knew. But, I shy away from change or the unfamiliar, and I had no idea what “following Jesus” and “walking with Him” through life really meant. It seemed abstract and unknown. Potentially disastrous. I wanted an abbreviated outline, at least. What lay ahead? What would it mean? This certainly hadn’t been described in that paperback review of 52 religions. Much to the great frustration of car salesmen however, I was not one to make an impulsive decision, especially right then and there in a rented movie theater.

The issue continued to weigh on me on the ride home. I found that my circumstances and emotional state provided a strong draw to step off that proverbial curb, but that wasn’t the heart of it. There was an odd, deep-down pull of both quiet desperation and absolute certainty that this was the only way out or through, for me. I had run out of options. I felt no Presence, no anointing, no discernible “calling”. There was only now, and an inward soul-deep pull of taking a step toward something that I didn’t know, and which had nothing to do with joining a particular denomination or a promised future. It had to do with a relationship, an asking, now, one on one, with the Presence who had once intruded to ask me what my hobby car was really worth. He had known its true value, while I was unaware. He knew me, while I was still unaware. This step-off into the unknown even made sense to me as the only reasonable option. Being at the end of my own resources, this was something I had to do – for me.

I knelt down in my former little temple of automotive worship, my garage, and laid out everything I had, which was nothing but my disastrously screwed-up life, such as it was, and my need for help to get through it, the kind of help that is not obtainable here. I was wide open for suggestions. I handed my life, my wreckage, over it to Christ and asked Him to make it His. I wanted to live it His way, whatever that would mean. My previous assumptions about God breaking my legs and making me learn to play the flute evaporated in desperation. My ailing bomber, losing altitude as it was trying to reach home, was as good as in the water, and I didn’t know what to do anymore. I wasn’t gonna make it. I had made critically vital commitments, but had no more energy to fulfill them. I handed it all over. I wanted to step off that curb and follow Him, come what may.

I felt nothing afterwards. No feeling that my prayer was heard, or that I was now changed in any way. No burden was removed, no comfort bestowed. No magical signs appeared. I got back up and sensed this, thought it notable, and didn’t care. I wasn’t going to continue on the way I had. I did what I could do for now. I was fully committed to something I couldn’t see or sense, no matter what came in the future. It felt crazy. It felt risky. It felt right. That would have to be enough.

I had no idea of what was coming, if anything. I had dug myself in pretty deep. What I would receive was not at all what I expected.

The Nature of God – Part 6

[If you are just now stumbling onto this post without having read the various parts in this series from the beginning, I strongly urge you to go back to the start and continue on from there through each successive post. None of these individual entries stand on their own, and you may wind up with little but confusion and unanswered questions by starting here. That is easily done by entering “The Nature of God” in the search box on the home page, which will list links to all available parts.]

By the time I was entering my late-twenties, life began to resemble some kind of grim endurance contest. By cultural standards, I was doing just fine, thank you very much. Internally, something big was missing. Since my 52 Religions paperback came up dry, I thought that perhaps I could look for some significance in Science, since it had earlier seemed competent in explaining things. I more deeply researched the theories and evidence behind evolution, and the deeper I looked past the confident and reassuring patter, the more disappointed I became with it. It felt kind of like a betrayal, after my former fandom. The series of complete human skulls fabricated from a few random shards had clearly been forced to show things that were imagined rather than indicated or justifiable. The defining shards did not support the speculated whole, yet I was being assured that they did.

They were presented as scientific fact instead of what they really were: more religious icons forcefully hammered into a new dogma of belief. Even the basic tenets of how biological creation and evolution worked began to present a long train of required logic miracles that wound up needing a lot more faith than I had available. I felt like Dorothy looking behind the curtain in Oz. The only thing that seemed to evolve over time was the direction its dogma took. Theories changed, and when they became referred to as facts, the facts changed. Truth was merely Truth du Jour, which is handy for scientific inquiry, but hardly something to lean your life’s weight on. The Science I was familiar with, the one of logic, observability, measurability, and repeatability was clearly missing in this area. It was rife with speculation parading as something else. It became apparent to me that cooly logical, impartial and reasoned Science and its proofs were being controlled by Read more…

The Nature of God – Part 5

[If you are just now stumbling onto this post without having read the various parts in this series from the beginning, I strongly urge you to go back to the start and continue on from there through each successive post. None of these individual entries stand on their own, and you may wind up with little but confusion and unanswered questions by starting here. That is easily done by entering “The Nature of God” in the search box on the home page, which will list links to all available parts.]

Life continued while I kicked my way through it, thankfully without God. After all, that’s the way I wanted it.

I’d just had my project car’s engine rebuilt. I installed it, put on the cylinder heads, and bent a valve because I misadjusted one of the lifters during final setup. And that damaged the cylinder bore, too. Damn. Printed instructions aren’t always enough. That and other things were starting to go wrong because of my utter inexperience, and one evening as I stopped work, I once again took a last look Read more…

The Nature of God – Part 4

[If you are just now stumbling onto this post without having read the various parts in this series from the beginning, I strongly urge you to go back to the start and continue on from there through each successive post. None of these individual entries stand on their own, and you may wind up with little but confusion and unanswered questions by starting here. That is easily done by entering “The Nature of God” in the search box on the home page, which will list links to all available parts.]

A lot of time passed since my teen years, or so it seemed. When I was about twenty-four, I was working on my hobby car project in the garage. I had always liked cars, and used my automotive hobby to console myself, since epic life disappointments had reached a peak, and I was deeply confused about what the right thing to do was.

Book-smart but not street-smart, the only response to obstacles that had seemed to work for me had been to keep going. Persist. Find a way over, around, under, or through. Or, wait for a passing opportunity, but never back down or give up, especially on a person. Sounds inspiring, but I had not yet discovered the concept of knowing when to quit, either. Never have since, actually. In the right circumstances, that can cause Read more…

The Nature of God – Part 3

[If you are just now stumbling onto this post without having read the various parts in this series from the beginning, I strongly urge you to go back to the start and continue on from there through each successive post. None of these individual entries stand on their own, and you may wind up with little but confusion and unanswered questions by starting here. That is easily done by entering “The Nature of God” in the search box on the home page, which will list links to all available parts.]

I’ve always tended to go along on my merry way, oblivious to what’s going on around me. Just call me One-Track Charlie. I made it to high school without any more incursions into the ethereal realm. On the whole, I didn’t really like high school much. It had its good points here and there, but with my people skills ranking in the single digits, a lot of it was confusing and frustrating. It was disturbingly similar to church. All I was trying to do was to get through it. That is, until one day. I didn’t think about it as some kind of encounter revealing the basic nature of the Supreme Being, but did learn a valuable lesson that stuck with me.

I can’t recall the details of why I was so upset one particular day, but I do remember that I was very resentful of some teacher whom I felt was arbitrary and unfair. Naturally, I was powerless to do anything about it, and as I angrily obsessed about it on the way home, I took a precious moment to Read more…

The Nature of God – Part 2

[If you are just now stumbling onto this post without having read the first part in this series, I urge you to go back to the start and continue on from there through each successive post. None of these individual entries stand on their own, and you may wind up with little but confusion and unanswered questions by starting here. That is easily done by entering “The Nature of God” in the search box on the home page, which will list links to all available parts.]

Ask any honest witness to an event what he or she saw, and it’s unlikely to perfectly match the actual event in every detail. He or she may miss things, read into actions, inject their own emotions and biases, and basically twist it a bit. And it gets worse as time passes. Without microphones and cameras, it can be hard to know what actually happened. And even with those, there’s creative editing.

I’m aware of this whenever I consider the several weird occurrences in my life, of becoming convinced that there actually is a God, and of discovering what He is like. I don’t doubt these occurrences myself, because I easily recall my mindset and expectations of the time, and their failure to match what resulted. These events aren’t exactly something that a camera can capture. But you’ll have to make up your own mind, and perhaps recall strange or unexpected occurrences in your own life. You can review and accept them, or play Scrooge and assign it to “perhaps a bit of bad beef”. I’ve never been much of a fan of the metaphysical, which is pretty peculiar, considering my spiritual faith. But, there you go.

I figure that if I first present some of the events that have influenced my faith, then you’ll be better equipped to mull over any other statements that I make, or at least have a handle on why I present what I might in any someday future posts. You can decide to either let them on through, or to engage your shit filters. That’s up to you. My difficulty has always been that when Christians meet together in a small group for the first time, it’s a common thing to go around the circle and summarize “how you came to Christ”. Most often, these are single-issue things that people are able to gather up into a few sentences, and they have a ring of authenticity that is unmistakable. Unfortunately, I’ve never found a way to succinctly summarize how God steered me to Himself, since the process was a bit of a marathon. Or like a pinball game, actually. That was because of me. When my turn comes in such a group, my response tends to be, “Uh…uh…how much time do you have?” So it is here that I at last have the time and space to cover what actually happened, and can avoid giving short-shrift to meaningful events. So it begins:

When I was a kid, my parents both attended a local Methodist church, and dragged me along. I initially sat in Read more…

The Nature of God – Part 1

Oh no! Look at that title! Not a post about religion! Not another gag-inducing diatribe from somebody trying to shove their beliefs down my throat! I’m not gonna read it!

Relax. You don’t have to. You’re free to stop right here and go on your merry way. It’s called “free will”, and I’m all for it. Whenever I find something else that’s interesting to write about, those articles will be right here as always, posted scattershot as usual. This post is one piece of a lengthy series, each part of which will be added now and then.

But why would I even bother posting a series about my personal beliefs here on a travel blog, when the topic itself has selectively become a pariah in our culture, and merely sharing one’s faith is often now viewed the same as force-feeding? Even Dr. Francis Schaeffer, an influential 20th century theologian, noted, “Non-Christians don’t care what you believe.” I suspect that he’s right. After all, people come to this blog merely to find out how just one more ordinary guy is exploring a somewhat unconventional mobile lifestyle, and to find out what he’s seeing or discovering or thinking about along the way: information, quasi-adventures, mishaps, outlooks, and little victories. Why louse up a good thing?

The answer to that is easy. First, I won’t actually be rummaging through my beliefs as such, the doctrine and dogma of some denomination within the Christian church. That’s not what this series is for. What I personally find interesting are people’s stories – the why and what that happened in their lives to put them where they are now. When they share, I don’t necessarily want them to do nothing but recite the pithy points of their current outlook to me, but instead to describe the why of that outlook – what they observed and felt as each event unfolded and how their reaction to it shaped them. What were their thoughts, and what did they walk away with? Different people react differently to the same circumstantial blessings and hardships. It’s only then that I can properly understand any outlook that someone may present. What you’ll get in this series is as close to the “what happened” as I can muster, with my takeaways from those experiences – brilliant or faulty.

Second, the story that is behind what I believe has been shaped by my experiences, and this blog has from the start included those as well as my own reflections upon them. Just like the rest of it, this is part of what I’ve discovered along the way. After all, this hasn’t really been Read more…

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