There’s a song by Joni Mitchell called Both Sides Now. She describes clouds, love, and life in romantic and melancholy fashion, only to conclude that what she has observed has been an illusion, and she really doesn’t know what is true. There was a brief exchange between Pontius Pilot and Jesus Christ prior to the Crucifixion that I find interesting and it was also about the truth. Pilot imagined truth to be an illusion, and seemed dismissive. The Messiah asserted that those who are “of the truth” would listen to His voice. I speculate that Christ was saying that those who are devoted to the pursuit of absolute truth, no matter how limited their finite human perspective is, will find themselves in communication with the Anointed One.
I have approached Jesus in many ways seeing both perfection and incomprehensible cruelty, and like Joni, I have come to the conclusion that I may not know Jesus at all. That it is only illusions I’ve embraced all this time. Knowing this, I anticipate meeting the Messiah in the Temple in Gardendale with both awe and hunger. I believe in the power of covenant making and look forward to working out my Salvation with the author of my redemptive story. It seems I have waited my whole life for this personal meeting. There is a hope and a future in the House of God.
Depression. It bleed me like a watermelon sized flee. It seems to have latched onto me in my early teens and it took four decades to diagnose and del with it because I could function for the most part. Social anxiety in an extrovert is a cruel twist of fate.
During the perpetuation of this black hole, I suffered three dark nights of the soul. I was assaulted in High School and my reaction to that event sent me to a dangerously antisocial stance. The Messiah came disguised and provided me an escape from myself. I joined the Air Force. I read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation just before I had decided to reject the faith of my parents. I felt it had left me weak and unable to manage life. That reading opened the door for many other valuable connections in a non-denominational church and a support network of Christians in the military.
A second dark night of the soul ensued when I decided to drink to loosen up and activated my alcoholism. When I was assigned to Korea, my Roman holiday began.
For that which I do, I know not. For what I would do, that do I not; but what I hate, that I do. ~ Romans 7:15
I secured a white-knuckle reprieve, left active service, went to college, and got married.
The third dark night came when my pre-born son died while we were assigned in Germany. This seemed to open the door for death of loved ones and marital dissolution. The alcoholism returned in force.
In the midst of all this darkness, there seemed to be a caring entity that I could not find intimacy with, but cared for me in the shadows. For some reason I developed the idea that purging things from my life might get Jesus and I closer together. I was wrong and I regretted everything I burned or destroyed; vinyl records, hand-painted (by my Mother) statue of a native American, a journal, stories I wrote as a child, etc. I just felt there had to be something in me that repelled Christ. The self-hatred I cultivated in the depressive abyss I projected onto the Lord.
I am better now with anxiety at normal levels. I have handled the recent death of my Father much better than I did my stepson or Mother. What will it be like between Jesus and I. He is the King of angels and is not at my beck and call. Nevertheless, I would like to express my gratitude.
My Father was Jesus to me. He came into a heart-breaking family situation and married Mom, extricating her forever from an abusive husband. This was before I was born, but it was a legend I grew up with. The one time I saw my Father smile and his eyes wet with emotion was when he remembered waking up with Mom and seeing the little faces of her children peaking inside smiling. This, I could tell, was a precious memory to him. He loved them and her from beginning to end. Mom said she prayed for a man like my Father, and because there was none like him, God sent him. I truly believe he was sent by God.
In my teen years living in rural Alabama countryside, my Father excepted a call to the ministry – to the mission field among native Americans. I remember him announcing it in church. Then came the response from the missionary host; “we have enough missionaries, what we need is your money.” This pretty much ended our time in organized religion, although I do remember getting baptized and being excited about this new level of commitment to Christ, for a short time. Dad conducted some services with our family out in the Talladega National Forest that surrounded us, but that did not last for very long.
My Father’s faith was more cerebral than Mom’s. He had a Bible given to him by my older brother and sisters. It is a red leather bound New Scofield Reference edition and he loved it. He and I would talk of the cryptic Biblical prophesies and controversial teachings and interpretations of the time. His mind, when he had the time and place to share it, drove me forward in my own studies. He was an intelligent man.
Once when I was considering a life of celibacy per the words of the apostle Paul, my Father said, “Paul was a nut.” See, anything that stood in opposition to family or family building was subject to his quiet wrath and derision. My Father said once in his later years, “Everything I have done, I’ve done for the family.”
Dad and I watched a movie about Lucky Luciano and the Godfather series. He talked of the secret pro-family strength that existed in the Cosa Nostra. One of the largest books I read was the Valachi Papers during this time. I would learn later that Dad’s Gospel of the Godfather was not an admiration for organized crime, but for doing whatever had to be done for family; live, die, or kill. He would point out that God as Father killed many to protect a few, His few – those He saw as His family.
My Father resented the capitalistic nature of the holidays and my Mother’s tendency to go overboard to ensure our Christmas was “magical.” It really taxed Dad’s accounting wizardry to dig us out of debt at the beginning of each year. My Father was often at war with debt but supportive of my Mother. This was the cross he carried, pulled between accounting law and family grace. It was the martyrdom he never turned from.
In the absence of the actual Christ, my Father was relevant and real. His approval of the Messiah is what kept my own heart open to Him. But I can tell that he found the mission of Christ somewhat demeaning to humanity. The original sin doctrine was a lot of unnecessary guilt. I have inherited that questioning mind. I watched The Passion of the Christ with a friend last night in honor of Good Friday, and I found myself looking into the night’s full moon and asking, “Why? No really, why!?”
My Father makes sense to me. I’ll see you on the other side, Dad.
I met the magical rescuer through my Mother. She told stories of her struggles as a youth after her Father’s tragic alcoholic death and her later years as an isolated Mother. She related one instance, when she was working several jobs and got lost on a rainy evening trying to make it to a Tupperware party she was supposed to host. In exhausted frustration she pulled over and tearfully prayed to her Jesus, “Lord, you know how badly we need this. Please help me.” She lifted her head and saw that she was parked in front of the house she was trying to find and no clue how she got there. She told many other stories of this magical Jesus. I never personally met Him myself, but I figured that He only came in emergency situations like she often found herself in, before she married my Father. Nevertheless, I was often jealous of her experiences.
When I was about 7 years old, I was curious about the people I saw who would go up the aisles of the church I was visiting, tears streaming down their faces, to accept Jesus as their personal Savior. I remember asking my Mother about it, and in particular if I was saved. She told me that was a decision I had to make myself. I asked what I was having to decide. She said you have to ask for Jesus to be your personal Savior. I had heard the preacher talk about hell so I asked if I would go there. She said only if I didn’t have Jesus as my Savior. I asked her why anyone would chose not to have Jesus save them from hell. She said, “I don’t know, some people don’t care.” This seemed strange to me, but the choice was pretty obvious. Still I thought maybe some of them didn’t chose Jesus because they were afraid of all those people watching them.
I went forward when the preacher talked about this guy who put off making a decision and ended up in a car wreck and died. It was too late and the guy never imagined he had so little time. Not me! I went forward with little boy tears streaming caused by guilt or fear of being in front of all those people, I don’t know. I could always find something to feel guilty about. I was saved and baptized and in the Baptist church, “once saved, always saved.” The deal was done. I had borrowed my Mother’s Jesus and lived out my childhood in safety from hellfire.
The rescuer Jesus faded in relevance as I aged, but the magical Jesus was reintroduced to me when my estranged sister came back into our lives. She had gone from the insanity of drug addiction to the empowering faith of the Charismatic church. I borrowed her magical Jesus and the most profound thing I picked up from this group was the idea that the Holy Spirit could help you hear the voice of God in day to day living. Some truly magical things happened for me in the beginning and the rescuer Jesus was an essential part of parenting.
Now the courage to create comes from my relationship with the Jesus of Loving Magic. I am grateful to my Mother and sister for their influence. I am most certainly grateful for the Spirit anytime It works in my life.
It has been a while since any of us have written. I have done some writing on the recovery blog, but nothing here. I have decided that on this Good Friday I would talk about my own perspective with the Christ. I have also privately challenged the other writers here to contribute a stand-alone tribute to the Anointed One. Come on guys, don’t leave me hanging.
There is a description of me in page 28 of the book Twelve Steps & Twelve Traditions:
Sometimes A.A. comes harder to those who have lost or rejected faith than to those who never had any faith at all, for they think they have tried faith and found it wanting. The have tried the way of faith and the way of no faith. Since both ways have proved bitterly disappointing they have concluded there is no place whatever for them to go. The roadblocks of indifference, fancied self-sufficiency, prejudice, and defiance often prove more solid and formidable for these people than any erected by the unconvinced agnostic or even the militant atheist. Religion says the existence of God can be proved; the agnostic says it can’t be proved; and the atheist claims proof of the non-existence of God. Obviously, the dilemma of the wanderer from faith is that of profound confusion. He thinks himself lost to the comfort of any conviction at all. He cannot attain even a small degree the assurance of the believer, the agnostic, or the atheist. He is the bewildered one.
I should say that this is my personal description when I first arrived in the 12 Step recovery program. I was encouraged toward willingness to believe and openness to where religious people get it right. In general I am universally open but at the same time, I have a simple and personal relationship with something that cares about me. I take responsibility for my own path, because I believe that all of us are pretty much guessing about the particulars of their Higher Power and I cannot expect them to answer my need to know. This is my job.
As to Jesus Christ, I tend to think he is there. Yet my mind is finite and limited by a localized perspective. The certainty I had in my youth is gone. I have also found it to be unnecessary. I would very much like to meet with him, but that does not seem possible at this time. Keep it simple. I guess then mine is the Simple Jesus, possibly hidden in the GOMU I have experienced in recovery.
“Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts. And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart , with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost. And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.” – Book of Mormon, Moroni 10: 3-5.
The first person I experienced in reading the Book of Mormon was the Egyptian-Jew, Lehi. He traced his Hebrew lineage to Joseph. I had never considered the reality that Joseph the son of Jacob, who had obtained such power and prominence in Egypt and saved his family of origin from famine, would naturally integrate with local population. The name Lehi is Hebrew meaning Jawbone and was the name of a city in which Samson picked up a donkey’s jawbone and went berserk in Holy Spirit rage, slaying quite a few Philistines. So the name has some history.
He lived in Jerusalem during the reign of King Zedekiah around 600 BC. I wonder if there was a prejudice or jealousy from his neighbors for not being pure blood and yet having wealth and prominence? There were prophets that told the King what he wanted to hear and there was the prophet Jeremiah who condemned the moral decay and predicted the destruction of the city and the Babylonian captivity. This atmosphere caused Lehi to seek God in his own earnest prayer life. God answered him in a spectacular way, showing him that Jerusalem was most certainly facing destruction. Lehi was told that this was part of a plan to include all of humanity in redemption when he sends the Messiah and that the Messiah’s coming would be a global move. This paradigm shift for Lehi was a lot to take in. He was amazed that God’s love extended beyond the Jews and that the Jewish Messiah would be used not only to restore Israel but to overcome human death and spiritual separation.
Nevertheless, Jerusalem would fall in its isolation from Jehovah God. Lehi began to proclaim the truth in his own environment and was not received any better than Jeremiah. God spoke to Lehi in a dream and told him to leave the city, go into the surrounding wilderness, for the locals were planning to kill him. And Jerusalem would surely fall and those who remained would be either slain or taken captive.
Lehi obeyed the vision taking camping gear and provisions, leaving behind wealth and possessions. Except for Nephi, his family was none too pleased with their Patriarch’s decision to follow his “visions.”
This began one exceptionally fantastic voyage to lay the foundation in the securing of a Promised Land for the Gentiles.
This is what I understand with the first of my focused readings.
So what significance does this have to your individual life?
I suppose the one thing that sticks out for me is a matter of trust built between a man and the Eternal Father. When Lehi is confused he seeks God. When God answers and they connect, Lehi seeks to help others with his acquired understanding. When God commands him to let go and develop a camping attitude, he does it. These seem to be the elements of a spiritual adventure. I desire that kind of trust and connection between myself and the Eternal Father.
I agree. I still prefer the GOMU, the God of my understanding, as we have both been taught.
Yes, but GOMU has come to me in this specific manner. GOMU was a bridge for me to reconstruct my faith in Christ.
Okay. I respect that. I just need to keep it simple. It sounds like a good story though.
It is a quest plot and that tends to be one of my favorite stories. Abraham’s story was something like that as well. He followed a command from God to leave the known and pursue the promised land.
I had not thought of that. I supposed Lehi is for the Gentiles what Abraham was for the Jews. Maybe. Hmm.
The Master-slave relationship between the Egyptians and Hebrews has created a long history of love-hate intimacy that led to the rise of Israel as a nation and I think continues to exalt it today. Don’t you think that the essence of all faith inspiring myths are empowered by some form of consensual Master-slave dynamic?
I am not sure what you mean. Could you elaborate?
Is it possible to experience and express power from our own Self or is it always necessary to seek a power greater than ourselves to navigate life? Is freedom a self-destructive delusion in the eyes of those who are Book Believers?
I suspect that freedom should parallel responsibility. A child should not be granted a driver’s license. It is more of a transformation into a powerful, responsible being than a perpetual status of slavery. Maybe we could say there are temporary times of consensual slavery that is not intended to be an eternal status. It is a form of protection in the growing process.
I have no words for this. It is your sacred text. I respect.
My Father passed away on the 8th of August and I have experienced a period of breathing out my spirit energy. I have been unable to write. I have not been lost in grief because his passing was as it should be. He was surrounded by family on both sides of the Veil in those final moments. He was entirely ready to go. I had time to lovingly release him. I had no regrets because I was able to show my love and respect for him in word and deed.
Now I am getting my footing again.
This blog was a collaborative work between two like-minded individuals born of our connection in AA. The restorative concept of choosing a God of my own understanding brought the two of us together to write. I have since joined the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints – the Mormons. My writing partner is resistant to religious expression, so we have come to a bit of a fork in the road in our own spiritual cohession. We have discussed the possibility of establishing separate blogs. Yet our collaborative work has inspired us both to write.
There are others we work with from time to time and the discussion has been lengthy, confrontational, and yet we all orbit around the idea that there is something more than any of us are seeing. That feeling described in the movie Matrix is something we all grapple with regardless of the divergent paths we have chosen or that have chosen us.
There are now five of us in this team, feeding this blog. J-Endigar is the actual creator of this Temple of GOMU and his writing will retain the black.
I am FQ and my writing will be blue from now own. There are three other writers who have agreed to contribute; GF will write in purple, JE’s words will be red, and DL has chosen green. Our differing thoughts will probably set us apart as well.
. . . and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee (Exodus 20:12).
My mother and Father loved one another during their Earthly union. Prior to her death, Mom was concerned about leaving Dad alone to face the remainder of his days in solitude. I had recently survived the hell of an unexpected divorce. I told her I would love for him to come live with me. Thus began our union of my impulsive creativity with his persistent and hopeful stability. I learned more about his life and the way he perceives family and devotion. He gained the vicarious pleasure of being witness to my adventures, sometimes humorous, sometimes tragic – but never boring. Our last decade together is gold stored away. It is precious.
At the beginning of this year he went to the hospital with double pneumonia and came home diagnosed with an advanced case of COPD. He is on hospice and I am honored to be able to give back a little of what he has given me. Although his strength has improved over the past few months, his breathing is still a challenge.
I am grateful to have finished my graduate studies and to have connected with an Church fellowship before this new normal arrived. We will travel this final stretch together, God be willing.
The Spirit of God intervened and drew me out. What has happened since my last writing and this moment is difficult to encapsulate. I have been baptized into the church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints and I am not sure that my mind has caught up to this new reality. I find myself wanting to be still and listen to that quiet but intensely personal voice of the Spirit. Last weekend I went into the Temple and participated in the baptism for those who have passed beyond the veil. The people of this community are invested into one another’s lives and to the service of Christ. I do believe that Joseph Smith was tasked with overcoming the work of Apostasy established in Europe and restoring the reality of the Work of Jesus Christ. There are elements of my family life that have been restored to me. I had been temporarily paralyzed in finishing my schoolwork and I suspected that my Father God desired to grab my attention before moving forward with teaching so that I could remember the purpose behind that calling. What I had not been able to accomplish in three months prior to baptism I was suddenly released to fulfill in a week. I am about to graduate this weekend with a nova burning in my heart ignited by purpose reborn.
So I am driven both as a new Mormon convert and a man devoted to fearless writing in my day to day life to document in this blog my journey in these “days of my probation.” Let’s see how this unfolds. I never imagined myself wearing the white shirt. I testify to the reality of the Holy Spirit’s leading in my life. I also testify to my gratitude for the work of the LDS missionaries and the embrace of the Mormon community in facilitating this connection with my God. I testify this in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.
I have been talking with Mormon missionaries and visiting a local LDS church. They encouraged me to read from the Book of Mormon which they count as guiding authority for their own spiritual path. I fear no new ideas and I am open to all exploration in the world of the Spirit. I have finished reading First Nephi. It focuses on a family whose Patriarch is Lehi and married to Sariah with four sons; Laman, Lemuel, Sam, and Nephi, in the order of age. Laman and Lemuel were the constantly reprimanded sons whose faith was often subject to evaporation under pressure. Sam was faithful and supportive of his father and his youngest brother who were both gifted visionaries inspired by prophetic capacity. They were a Jewish family of the tribe of Joseph, with the Egyptian language and Hebrew belief system. Lehi received warning from God that Jerusalem was coming under judgment and facing the coming of the Babylonian captivity. Lehi sought to warn his neighbors in an attempt to alter that fate or extend escape to those who would listen. He came under assault and after prayer, left his riches and residence behind and took his family into the wilderness for refuge. They recovered sacred and administratively important words recorded on brass plates at the direction of God, probably in preparation for their long term departure. Lehi and Nephi have visions of the Tree of Life. They are directed to migrate to a “Land of Promise” that is not Israel. It is the American continent. Nephi received directions to build a ship and off they go. They arrive in the new Promised Land around 590 BC. That is the historical gist of the book as I understand it.
I took an Integrated Arts course in college and we discussed the willing suspension of disbelief in order to enjoy a movie or a story. It is basically necessary to ignite the imagination and explore the creation of other minds. I did the same thing as I began reading in the Book of Mormon. These were the internal critics I had to silence in order to eat the popcorn and watch the story unfold:
The Primary Prophet of the Mormon church, Joseph Smith, lived from 1805 to 1844 in the United States and was the writer of these words. He is rewriting history as prophecy. He synthesizes new testament ideas into an old testament environment. (Missionary Response was that he has faced some doubts himself in younger years but they are no different than problems with the Bible that has come under intellectual criticism. Ultimately it is the reality of what it produces in his own life and how empowering it is for him to face daily living. Good answer, I thought. Thomas Jefferson rewrote the Bible removing some of the “fantastical portions” and Thomas Paine wrote critically of the Scriptures in his book “The Age of Reason.” There are many writings confronting the internal consistency of the Bible. See wikipedia link here.There is also a site called the Skeptic’s Annotated Bible that confronts contradictions in the Bible, the Koran, and in the Book of Mormon. See link here. I will write separately on my own beliefs concerning these problems in a later post.) ———-
In my social science studies I know of no anthropological studies that support the idea of records being kept on metal plates. (Missionary Response was that there are Mormon authorities who have gathered anthropological information that support the prospect of recording information in such a durable fashion. He said he would find a link for me, but I found one myself. I found it interesting and I could see the benefits of a people given to migration to develop such a system. See link here.) ——–
The 3 and 8 witnesses that verify the supernatural intervention of the writing of the Book of Mormon had human problems such as vested interests, family ties, susceptibility to magical thinking, and ultimately that all eleven ended up leaving the LDS church. (Missionary preemptive apologetic mention of this problem caused me to check it out. I found a link that confronted this issue. The missionary believed that it was telling that even though these witnesses suffered human problems they never recanted their testimony. Good enough to move on. See link here.)
There are terms in the book I was not familiar with such as “ministry of my people” in Chapter 9. The missionary explained this to be a keeping and promoting of the word of their God. In Chapter 10 I ran into another phrase, “days of probation,” which refers to the fallen state of humanity.
In chapter 11 verse 13 the Holy Spirit appears to Nephi in the form of a human, talking in human speak. When the Holy Spirit says “Look!” the Spirit has disappeared and Nephi’s vision is directed from Jerusalem to Nazareth and sees a Virgin. Now for me, this shows the Holy Spirit appearing in one of It’s many forms but reveals Itself to be the Mother God. The Mormon missionary gave me a bit of a sideways look when I suggested such. So moving on.
The Mormon concept of hell seems to be equipped with a few more chances to evade eternal separation from God including a time in the spirit realm to be taught prior to a final decision. Chapter 14 seemed to touch on the 3 hells of the New Testament, but the missionaries said there is one hell that is hard to get to and you have to really want such a fate. The concept of the Church of the Devil is mentioned but it appears to be something nebulous and not associated with a particular group, unless it is the “everyone else” concept of being a Gentile.
Overall, I gained more from the personologies (see About page) of the young missionaries than the First Book of Nephi.