Saturday, June 30, 2012

True Forgiveness

When I was praying the other day, before writing about my experiment I believe I felt the presence of God and also that I got told to go to the prayer meeting, Other stuff happened too actually. I addressed my resentments with the church to the Lord. I felt Him telling me I should be more patient and loving and forgive and as that happened I realized that I had never forgiven. I always thought I did. I merely forgot about it but at every reminder the resentment bubbled up. True forgiveness is not given for the sake of the other person but for the sake of our own wellbeing and I realized that I am not sure how to forgive. The list of grievances keeps growing and none are taken away through genuine forgiveness on my part and it is poisoning me and stopping me from enjoying the benefits I can receive through genuinely forgiving the wrongs I have experienced.

I am a particularly bad case because I take offence for impersonal things. Someone at church makes a racist comment about Muslims, well, I take it personally because I seem to have internalized the Martin Luther King Jr. quote about injustice anywhere is an injustice everywhere so they might as well be talking about me. I felt the need to pray for the ability to forgive, because I am not sure how, and they keep in bits poisoning me. I cannot truly learn from the experience until forgiveness is brought about, then I can use my past experience in an impassionate way and know how to enact change.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Prayer Meeting

Well, none of you must be dying to find out what happened at the prayer meeting: Nothing spectacular. It was just like most other Pentecostal prayer meetings I went to minus the war vet freaking out due to his PTSD (he is a great guy and looks so sad all the time, I try to talk to him and greet him often but we have a language barrier, his Finnish is not the best and also he is shut off and I don’t know what to talk about with him).

I felt a little silly about it the next day after hearing God but I went anyway because, well, if I am going to live in a way that I allow God to lead me, I better follow even if nothing comes of it. So I went. As I expected, the praise and worship was boring but I like singing so I sang along and enjoyed it but as always was not able to connect to God. I can never feel God when I am singing along to P&W songs because I am concentrating on singing, not worshipping. So the P&W songs came and God was not in them. We prayed, but God was not in that either. I am not comfortable connecting to God with other people making noise around me. This really bothered me after I moved here leaving behind my Quaker congregation with its nice silent worship. I was starting to think by the time the sermon started that God would not show up for me. Then the music pastor started to talk about receiving the Holy Spirit and how it may not be something that happens all at once so we need to extend out our metaphorical cups and just wait and say: “God I am here, I am waiting.” We wait and if it does not fill we say: “Okay not today, but maybe tomorrow, I am here Lord.” Then we wait patiently and keep praying and extending out cup out. I thought that was an interesting contrast with the typical impatient Pentecostal attitude that you pray and strain like you are about to poop a bowling ball to receive the Holy Spirit RIGHT FREAKING NOW!

After the sermon we prayed some more and some people prayed in tongues, at low volume like whispering, this was a great contrast to most Pentecostal churches where the point is to get God to listen to you by seeing who can yell gibberish loudest through their tears. There was no overwhelming experience for the Skeptigirl of shaking in the Spirit or speaking in tongues but I think I know why I went and the journey continues.

So, if you read this far, time for the fun part. Let me tell you about the usual cast of characters at the prayer meeting, other than my PTSD friend. There was the token drunk guy. The actual drunk guy changes from meeting to meeting but there is always one. Sometimes he is disruptive and has to be escorted out by security but this time he was merely warned and did not get more disruptive than yelling out flowery but repetitive compliments for the praise band about every one of their songs. He sat in the back so we all heard them and the P&W band was amused and complimented. Then there were of course the proper Pentecostal disapproving old ladies who took a look back at him and scowled every time he piped up. He snuck in a twelve pack of beer somehow, and while I never saw him drinking it he was missing six cans by the end of the service. Then there were a few ladies dancing unobtrusively in their places a few people raising their hands and a developmentally disabled guy who was really, really into it.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Gifts of the Spirit

Some of you might be wondering if this blog is changing direction, I really don’t know but you could be. Let me assure you it is not. This blog has been about the same thing the whole way through: My spiritual journey and the questions I ask and the problems I have. This new direction on the same journey is me asking is the leading of the Holy Spirit real and useful? What does it look like and what would it look like? Will I speak in tongues and make a complete fool of myself and appear to be a fraud? Will I just gain direction in my life? Perhaps what I will find out is that the whole experiment was useless and nothing came from it. I don’t know, you don’t know but I am hoping me you, my <10 readers, will find out.

So I was thinking what are the gifts of the spirit again, I really cannot remember. I think there is prophecy and praying/speaking in tongues, the others I cannot remember. Up on looking up the possible gifts I could expect, if this whole thing pans out, there are nine. They are located in 1 Corinthians Ch. 12: 

1) Word of Wisdom
2) Word of Knowledge
3) Faith
4) Gifts of Healing
5) Working of Miracles
6) Prophecy
7) Discerning of Spirits
8) Divers (or different) kinds of Tongues
9) Interpretation of (different) Tongues

I think I know what some of them are but I have never seen a convincing case of any of them. I have been going to a Pentecostal church of one sort or another majority of my life. I have heard tongues but I have never been convinced about them (read my post on tongues to find out more). I was wanting to write a post on prophecy called: ”Prophecy: The Most Useless Gift” I think that sums up my attitude on that point. I still may write it as a part of my experiment series of posts.

I do know what some of the others are due to my very Pentecostal background. Word of wisdom is getting an insight about a person and giving them good advice without prior knowledge of the problem. That in my opinion would be an awesome gift to have. I always wanted to be a wise guru or something. Wisdom is actually one of top five qualities I ask for when I pray.

Word of knowledge is similar. It is getting information about a person or a situation without prior knowledge. Like if your dog got hit by a car and I came up to you just hours after not having heard about it and said to you: “I am sorry that your dog died.” that would be an example of word of knowledge.

Faith, hmm, I mean I know what faith is but I am not sure what it means as a gift of the spirit. This confuses me.

The gift of healing is the biggest Christian fool-them-and-take-their-money industry in my opinion. I have never encountered a person who had the ability to heal others. If those people who hold big crusades claim to have it why are they holding big crusades and raking in the money instead going to the children’s cancer ward and touching and healing children until they get kicked out for it?

Working of miracles, I don’t know. I have seen what I deem to be miracles in my own life but none of them were worked by anyone. I have never seen anyone work a miracle. I have always just seen things happen like running out of money and not knowing where the food/money came from, well usually I knew exactly where it came from but it always came. Thank our friends, thank God or thank random chance.

Prophecy, never seen it. I mean I have seen people “prophesy” but it was in distinguishable from them making stuff up. I will continue to be skeptical of this until I hear a specific prophecy and it come true specifically. Not a vague Nostradamus like mess and then try to cobble it to mean a hundred different things it could fit due to its vagueness.

Discerning of spirits basically means the ability to see demons. Like the old monk in The Brothers Karamazov by Tolstoy you see demonic influences everywhere. It could also be paranoia or schizophrenia but I really should not judge.

Divers tongues, well, I suppose that maybe speaking/praying in tongues but from what I have heard they are not diverse at all and all sound the same, not at all like what the Bible describes in Acts. My father says that he has heard non-Italian speaking Finns speak perfect Italian during services and say real coherent things that were relevant, but I have no personal experience with this sort of speaking/ praying in tongues.

Interpretation of tongues is the yin to the speaking in tongues yang. It is the supernatural interpretation of the speaking. I have heard it many times, I do not get it.

So, I am praying to receive some of these gifts now. Maybe I will receive them and then understand them. Never had a single one of them, or seen others have them in a way I could believe that they would be real, so I have no idea if they are real or not and how they feel and work. Let’s see what happens. I believe in God, it is his people that I don’t believe.

Monday, June 25, 2012

An Experiment in Faith

This is the start of something a little different in this blog. I have done casual spiritual tourist investigations into the Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses. Now I present the first Skeptigirl experiment into the spiritual.

I am an extremely logical and practical person with in my spiritual frame work. I am not easily persuaded by signs and wonders and no Christian charlatan will get on over me. I have decided to start on an experiment. I am going to try to live more "intuitively" or not exactly. I do not believe in intuition and there is no evidence for it in double blind studies. There is something else that there is no evidence for in double blind studies either but I believe in it, at least in concept, the Holy Spirit.

As I said that I have been feeling a bit down. I have been feeling better and the empty feeling in my chest has dissappeared either through prayer, or through something else, while correlation does not imply causation, I have been praying a lot. I have also been reading a book called Chasing the Dragon (by Jackie Pullinger) and it is about a woman who just does what God asks her to do and succeeded as a missionary in a pretty tough place with some tough people.

I have decided to ask for God's guidance and see where it takes me. God has created me a skeptic, he wants me to be a skeptic, but I think he also wants me to try out the mystical side of faith and get deeper in the the wierd. I felt what I think is the Holyspirit, can't say for sure but we will see what happens. I also got this feeling I should go to the next service my church holds. Lately I have been not going because I am getting nothing out of it and on top of that the next service is the Tuesday night prayer meeting FMI (excuse the unchristian abreviation). I hate Pentecostal prayer meetings, so many people praying at once that I can't even hear myself think in the cacaphony. The Spirit seems to be taking me to the unlikeliest meeting my church offers, let's see where this goes.

In the mean while I hope you enjoy this dove with lazerbeams coming out of its bellybutton :)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Depression Descending


depression alone

There is no getting over it. The Skeptigirl is starting to get depressed. I only admitted it to the Skeptiboy last night when we got into bed. I haven’t been depressed for several years now, maybe three or four. Sure I have felt down but I have not been able to sustain it and I have bounced back. Everything has been getting really hard lately. I am panicking at night about small stuff I have to do and haven’t done. Well, I go through phases like that but overall it was the reason I failed out of college. I also feel lonely and empty inside my chest, now that is not a phase, it is only something I feel when I am really truly depressed. This makes me worried.

I am not exactly sure why I feel this way. My first guess might be to think it is because a recent string of disappointments and failures I have had like being rejected from the program of study I applied for, or the financial troubles we had because I messed up on my paperwork and lost my unemployment benefits for over a month, or that I cannot get job practice positions I want because other people do not think I am as awesome as I do. That still should not cause this. My depression has never really been circumstance related, especially since I am still optimistic about my future and have plans for it.

I also have trouble feeling God listening when I pray. I am not sure why but when I really settle down for a long conversation I just feel like I am talking to the walls. Also my disappointment with the people of God is rearing its ugly head. I am getting nothing but plain old friendship and company from my church community. There is just one guy who is a bit “special” in whom I feel the spirit of God (you know people who are just a little abnormal but completely functional and normally intelligent, just different). Seeing him and talking to him really encourages me. The rest seem kind of plastic. Actually I see no difference in them, or feel it for that matter, from the Jehovah’s Witnesses or the Mormons. I don’t feel the true spirit of God in any of them. I know “feeling” the spirit of God is vague and I am not authoritative gauge of God’ Spirit and the problem could be with me. An atheist would say “You aren’t feeling it because it is not there, idiot!” I think the best way I could describe how it feels is a feeling of gentle love and genuine concern. It is in the way a person listens and takes an interest in another and opens themselves up and acts out of love. I feel that in me sometimes when I help others and take a genuine interest in them and truly love them unconditionally. I am not good with that, I have never been, but sometimes I manage to love the way God intends.

In conclusion, I am depressed and having a religious crisis and getting nothing out of my church fellowship. Also, as Ghandi is thought to have said: “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” (source, the disputed section)

Friday, June 15, 2012

My Dream Lastnight

So I saw a dream just before waking.

 I was taking an exam. It was an essay exam. It was about the "Glorious past and the glorious future" in Christianity but for some reason I had started to write about music and had lost the question paper. When lunch time came I went to retrace my steps and Look for it so I could re-read the question. On the way down some stairs I was looking on the steps for the paper. Two kids came and asked me, politely and full of fear, to go because an older gentleman was coming and he was in a bad mood and possibly intoxicated. I was really pissed off at this point and spoke very rudely at the girl and she was visibly shaken. As I started to walk towards the eating area I started feeling tremendous guilt and could not figure out where to put my bike while eating, luckily the bike disappeared from my hands on its own and I saw the kids. I avoided the older gentleman and quickly and sincerely apologized to the girl. 

Then things got a little hazy in the dream for a while but it turned out that the older man was the MAGICIAN I was looking for. I went to him with my SIDEKICK and we spoke to him we ended up having a fight and it turned out he was not the real magician but had taken over all his moth eaten equipment as he passed away. As a result of the fight he was now dying, or maybe it was for unrelated reasons, like I said it was a little hazy. As he was dying he told us that a friend of ours was actually his son, he was an expert on MAGICAL ARTIFACTS. He asked if we could tell our friend of this familial connection and give him an object. As he was handing it to me when we both held it he said some magic words and he yelled maniacally afterwards:
"You fool, now I have released my UNDEAD ARMY!!!!" Then he died. Me and my side kick were like ”Oh crap!" and decided that taking the object to the alleged son was still the best course of action because he was the expert and might be able to figure all this out. We ran to the front door of my childhood home (apparently we had ended up in my dream's place of residence and center of operations). I cautiously opened the door and peered outside. It was a bright sunny summer day and just as I had expected no sign of the undead army because they could not have spread this far in just the few seconds it had taken. We ran to the garage. 

"No," I said to my side kick, "let's not take the convertible. Let's instead take the BATTLE VAN. It has extra weapons and supplies like shotguns and it is armored." I got in on the passenger side, because I cannot drive, and he on the driver's side.
"What if he did not mean ZOMBIES when he said undead but VAMPIRES?" he asked.
"Well then I can just whittle some wooden stakes and put them on the cross bows." I replied.
We rode off and I activated the home security system and called our expert.
"Let’s go down this road, it is like a hundred meters longer way but it may help us avoid the zombies but we still have to drive by the cemetery." I said to my sidekick. As we got to the stretch of road that went by the highway, remember it was still a beautiful sunny day; there were maybe a dozen zombies on the road, only that many had gotten out of the cemetery so far. Then WE JUST RODE RIGHT INTO THEM WITH THE BATTLE VAN, IT WAS SO COOL!

Then I woke up.