Thursday, June 30, 2011

Three prayers

Since I became aware of God, He has spoken to me clearly and personally three different times.  The first two instances came out of the blue, like an unexpected but gentle clap of thunder, and the third time was as an immediate and direct answer to a prayer.

A month or so before I became a catechumen I was singing at a Saturday evening vigil when I suddenly knew what God wanted me to do - or at least, I thought I knew.  In the middle of the service I was overcome with the sudden feeling that I should go back to school, get a degree in social work and/or counseling, and help people who were suffering from addiction.  This idea hit me like a random bolt; there was no precedent for it.  I was sure, and still am sure, that God spoke to me that night.  However, now I think that His message may have been a lot more general and encompassing.  I think God gave me a life assignment that night.

Here I am almost two years later, and I'm not sure about school anymore.  If I hadn't gone to Alaska last year, I would have been starting my second year at UNT right now, so I wonder sometimes if I made a mistake going to Alaska... but I wouldn't be where I am now in this situation if I hadn't, and I believe my situation is valuable, as it's becoming clearer to me that God may want me to help people in other ways than I originally thought.  Maybe if I become a monk those ways will be revealed to me.  The more I think about it, the more it seems to me as my life might have been designed all along to lead me to that destiny.  I don't know though... right  now, it's a frightening prospect.  I'm thinking that I'll give the idea about five years to percolate.  In the meantime, who am I to help anyone?  Who am I to even consider that I might, ever?  That's an example of how my pride is my modus operandi; that I should assume that God deems me worthy of offering something to others which might be beneficial.  As if that beneficial thing would come from myself, and not from God.

I'm a spiritual infant.  I suppose all I can do right now is concentrate on the immediate and help myself to begin with, so that I may be of some use later.  In doing so I've discovered something fairly interesting - that I'm not as helpless as I've led myself to believe.  I still don't know if that's pride, or what... it gets confusing, trying to isolate the self from the self.  Anywho... I didn't think I'd be able to afford electricity and rent for a house, plus the other bills, and food solely on my income, but I'm scraping by somehow.  It's a pleasant surprise.  I hope it leads to good.  Is it obvious that I'm a confused mess?

The second time I heard God's voice was late April of 2010.  I was in my living room that evening on my couch with great wretched sobs heaving continuously from my chest as I loaded random web pages in an attempt to distract myself from the pain of simple moment to moment existence.  I wiped my eyes to get a better look at the page which had just loaded, which consisted of an empty black background with a single light switch near the center.  I of course clicked it, and immediately a neon sign flickered and came to bright life on my screen, which read: "Everything is going to be all right."  As I sat there staring at it, for a brief while I was suffused with peace and the knowledge that God had just made a promise to me - that everything really would be ok.  Not just with my current situation, but with everything.  It's hard to remember that sometimes though, but it always comes back to me.  I realize how it may sound corny that God spoke to me through the internet, but hey.  It is what it is.

The third time was just a couple of weeks ago.  I was sitting up in bed in the dark, just before sleep, and praying a very selfish prayer for God to please miraculize (to coin a word) my life and make things ok.  Or, barring that, to at least show me exactly what to do and force me to do it.  Reprogram my brain, erase my brain, heck, replace the dang thing and gimme a fresh install and a reboot!  I wanted direct intervention; a real, bona-fide, New Testament miracle.  Just then, three words flashed through my mind, clearly and deliberately.  The words were "patience, acceptance, and trust".  Suffice it to say that I was somewhat stunned to receive such a direct and prompt answer to my prayer, and it took a minute or two for it to sink in.  After a little while I rolled over, not without a substantial streak of fear coursing through my heart, and went to sleep.

The next day I was elated as I tried to apply meaning to those words, and I eventually arrived at this conclusion:  firstly, what God had told me was that in order for it to become possible for me to move towards asceticism in a meaningful way, I had to have patience and embrace the knowledge that change will not be immediate.  It's going to take a long time to eradicate my sinful habits, pride and self pity to the extent that a new fertile ground is established; one upon which the good seeds I'm trying to sow will be able to take root and thrive.  I'll need patience for that; something I've always lacked.

Next is acceptance.  I have to accept the fact that I am eyes deep in the sludge of the sinful, egoistic, material realm of the self, removed from God and true meaning and salvation, and that nothing... not drugs, not alcohol, not money or sex or a job, or a car or a girlfriend, or even a loving wife and family, will save me from it.  Nothing of this material world will ever serve to pull me up out of the sludge of my own self importance; only God's grace may do that, but not so long as I rule my own heart.  In order for this to be possible, I must truly accept God into my heart and His will over my own.

Finally, and above all else, there is trust.  Trust in God, in His existence, in His purpose, in His love and in His mercy.  Trust, faith and belief... that there is hope, and that I am where I'm supposed to be and I'm experiencing all the joy and pain and heartache and love for a reason, and that one day I'll be able to see beyond myself and truly love the people I profess to, and that the product of life isn't naked despair, but joy clothed in the light of God.

All of that pretty much scares me witless though.

Does any of it make any sense?

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Asses within asses

Yesterday I was in the cooler at work, freezing my ass off.  Not my fingers, although they would probably beg to differ, or my legs, or my hair or arms or lungs or my Islands of Langerhans.  No, it was my ass which was in immediate peril.  My balls came in a close second.  Ass and balls, the two body parts which are the first to abandon ship when things get a little uncomfortable.  Why is that?  It's one of lifes great unanswered questions, I suppose.  If only my ass could talk.  I'm sure my balls would be feeding lines to it; the two do spend a lot of time together.  On second thought, nevermind.  I have enough to deal with already, what with my eyes and brain in cahoots, always joking around, hiding my lighters and sunglasses.  Fuck them, I say. 

Anywho.  Like I said, in the cooler.  So I'm lifting this tripple decked case of something or another, and suddenly my back joins in!  Back, what have I ever done to you?  Oh, you mean besides putting 73 tons on me just now?  Yeah, besides that.  Well, you never had me waxed like you promised.  Oh...

So now here I am, lying in bed in excruciating pain, with my back making up for 25 years of empty promises.  My balls and eyes and brain and ass are all laughing their asses off.  Wait, there it is again.  Now I have asses within asses?  Ok I give up.  It's over.  Bye bye.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The sadness will last forever

When I first read these words several years ago, quite a while before I knew anything about God, I was going through a really rotten time in my life.  I was unemployed, living alone in squalor, and hopelessly addicted to homemade morphine tea, which I creatively derived from poppy pods and seeds.  I was collecting unemployment, which wasn't enough to pay my rent and bills, and I owed hundreds of dollars to family members who had been helping to support me.  I had also sold everything of any value that I owned, including my personal library of almost a thousand books which I had been maintaining and adding to for over twenty years, mostly to support my drug habit.  I was not a happy person.

At the time those words... 'the sadness will last forever'... struck me as being the most honest words ever spoken, at least for me.  I truly believed that my debilitating sadness, which had led me to seek an escape through drugs to begin with, was never ending.  I had no real hope, and at one point I even composed a suicide note.  I think what caused me to skip over that option at the time was that I couldn't send it to anyone immediately because I had no internet connection and I was out of printer paper, and I was far too apathetic to actually make the effort to send it.

At that time 'forever', to me, merely meant the rest of my life, and I'd been of half a mind to shorten that concept drastically to something more manageable.  Since then, however, I've gained a modicum of hope in my life, but ironically, I also believe that the sadness can last forever when separated from God, so I view them far more literally now than I ever did then.

These were the last words of Vincent Van Gogh.  It is said that his favorite color was yellow, which stood for the light he dreamed of being in the hearts of people. 

Monday, June 27, 2011


Today before work I was in the checkout line at the grocery store.  As I was standing there waiting, a rack of keychains caught me eye.  They were the kind with names on them, so naturally I began scanning them for ones that said Ashley or Elias.  As I was doing this, the guy in front of me, a giant, hulking brute of a black man, started looking for one that said Rachel, for his wife.  "Aha," he exclaimed when he found it.  I found one that said Ashley, and said, "Here's one with Ashley on it.  That's my name," I clarified.

"Your name is Ashley?" He inquired, incredulous.

"Yup," I replied.

"Do you actually go by that name?  You introduce yourself as Ashley?"

"Well, yeah," I said with a resigned smile.  "Mostle people just call me Ash though."  At this point the cashier, who had apparantly been listening to our exchange, said "Yeah, that's a lot better."  The big black guy then asked what my middle name was, and I told him that it was Howard.  He mulled that over for a few seconds and then said, "Well, at least your middle name is ok.  I ain't never heard of no boy being named Ashley."  He seemed genuinely perplexed, and even a little concerned for my predicament of having such an unfortunate name thrust upon me.  I was about to reply when he suddenly began to backpeddle, saying that he hoped he hadn't offended me.

"Nah, it's ok.  Don't worry about it, I'm used to it.  Heard it a hundred times," I said to the guy.  After he checked out he went back to the keychain rack and mumbled, "I wonder if they have Ernie..." 

I proceeded to the register and checked out.  As I was exiting the store, the guy called to me, "At least your name isn't Ernie.  I hate my name!"  I laughed and laughed.  He had a point.  A giant, hulking brute of a man - especially if he's black - has no business being named Ernie.  

Sunday, June 26, 2011


Today Nancy came by 7-Eleven and gave me a prosphera bread.  For the health of Elias, it said on the paper in which it was wrapped.  It's the most thoughtful thing anyone has done for me in a long time.  Thanks, Nancy.