You’ve Got to Know Who To Listen To

I am writing this not only to share my experience, but in the hopes of helping others not to make the same mistake I did years ago. I became a Christian on March 7, 1985 at the age of 19. At the time, I was a very troubled teenage party animal. My friend Mike spent months living his Christian faith in front of me, making sure that I had food to eat and a warm coat when I needed it. Mike finally got me out to his car to read some Scripture, and when we read Hebrews 4:12, I began to think that there might be something to this “Jesus” stuff. I prayed that day to receive Christ as my Lord and Savior. Soon after that, I attended a showing of The Jesus Film that was sponsored by a local Baptist church, and I once again prayed to receive Christ, just to be sure it was a done deal! 😀

My Christian faith was a rocky journey for 15 years. I was in and out of church due to mood swings caused by bipolar disorder, and also by the doubts and questions I had about my faith that I wasn’t able, in the years before the Internet, to find good answers for. By the time the year 2000 rolled around, the doubts and questions I had about my faith had built up to the point that I could no longer ignore them or write them off as tricks of the Devil. So… I got on the Net as it was back then and started looking for answers. To my great surprise, I found answers that satisfied me from the source that I least expected it — atheists. After reading several of their sites, I became convinced that God was just an ancient myth and that the Bible, far from being the Word of God, was actually little more than a collection of ancient myths and fairy tales. The loss of religious faith that I went through during that time was EXTREMELY PAINFUL! In fact, it ranks right up there with the death of a loved one, because in my mind a loved one had died. My God and my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, in my now atheist mind, had died. I became VERY ANGRY that I had given 15 years of my life to this false belief system, and in 2002 I decided to jump into the fray with my own atheist website. I had as my goal to build the largest, most comprehensive atheist website on the Internet. I HATED my former faith, and I wanted to stamp it out of existence! I spent two years posting angry anti-religious rants to my atheist website and I spent a great deal of time and energy ridiculing the beliefs I had once held sacred. I had many very angry and very nasty things to say about God and about Jesus Christ. And I wasn’t very nice to Christians either. I frequently characterized them as slack-jawed, knuckle-dragging morons! And I frequently used this cartoon of a hillbilly to represent Christian believers:

Christian

In August of 2004, I shut my atheist website down, not because I had any regrets about the anger I had directed toward God and Jesus, but because I felt bad about how I was portraying Christians. But… it was not long before I realized that I wasn’t finished with my outspoken atheism. I created another site and continued on just as angrily and just as hatefully as I had on my original site. But, I never found the popularity again that I had once enjoyed. Nevertheless, I continued on with several different sites over the course of several years. To my shame, I also used Facebook as a platform for my outspoken atheism, and I routinely posted angry anti-religious rants and I shared many anti-religious memes from atheist Pages I was following at the time. Needless to say, my angry and frequently militant atheism didn’t sit well with many of my Facebook friends, and quite a few of them parted ways with me over the years. I was always upset when I lost friends, but in hindsight, was it any wonder? 😮 I have rarely felt so ashamed of my behavior as I did when it cost me my online friendship with my band directors from my Jr. High and high school years. They are Christians, and I know they love me, but they too finally had had enough of all of the anger and hatred I was constantly spewing online. Perhaps that was the beginning of my awakening. It did certainly get my attention!

It has been several months ago now, but one thing that God did to get my attention again was to free me from the anger and the rage and the hatred that had consumed me for many years. I don’t know how to describe it other than as a deep, seemingly bottomless pit of festering anger and rage that never went away. I am not a violent person and I have never in my lifetime raised a finger to harm another living being. But sometimes I would lose control of that internal rage and scream at someone I thought deserved it on the phone, and one time years ago I threw a chair through a wall in a fit of blistering rage. But then, suddenly, all of that anger and rage was just simply… GONE! It was no longer there at all. This was a major MIRACLE of EPIC proportions, and it had happened to ME! I gave credit to God for what He had done, but even so my faith was on shaky ground for months. I alternated between faith and very reluctant atheism for a while. And then… a Christian friend of mine posted a link to an article on a site called http://www.unsealed.org. I dismissed the article at the time and even shared my skeptical thoughts on it. But that article and that site stayed on my mind, and I finally decided to pay a visit just to see what they had to say. I started reading and learning and considering what they had to say, and God used that site to bring me back not just to a weak faith that wavered at the slightest wind of skepticism, but a strong faith based not just on emotions but on evidence and facts about what is going on in the world right now that I can point to with confidence. And the Bible, which I know now is indeed the Word of God, has come alive like never before. I LOVE IT! God’s Word is TRUTH!

And let me say something about atheist websites. There are a whole bunch of them out there on the Internet, some large and some small. But every single one of them has essentially the same goals — to debunk the Bible, to lead Christians away from faith in Jesus Christ, and to convince others who are not Christians that the faith is not worth their consideration. I have realized now that it wasn’t the Christian church that deceived me all of those years ago, it was the atheists with their anti-God, anti-Christian agenda who had deceived me! And they accomplished that feat so well that I joined their ranks for quite a few years and raged against God and my former faith just as they had been doing when I visited their sites. The tragedy here is not that I spent 15 years of my life as a Christian believer between 1985 and 2000. The tragedy here is that I spent about that many years again as an enemy of God because I had made the mistake of listening to the WRONG PEOPLE. Having said that, are atheists bad people? From a human standpoint, generally not. Many atheists I have met over the years are really nice folks, and I think they are unfairly maligned in our society. But… looking at things from God’s perspective, they are fools, and God said as much in Psalm 14:1. And in hindsight, which is always 20/20, I was foolish to listen to them. Doing so cost me a great deal and led to many years of very angry and miserable atheism.

I have no quarrel with my atheist friends. I understand why they believe as they do since I was once among their ranks, and I zealously defended the atheist position online for years. But God is loving and merciful beyond our ability to comprehend, and He never gave up on me. He never stopped loving me. And He has brought me back to faith in these days, which appear to be the final years of history as we know it. Let me speak for a moment about biblical prophecy and about the signs of the times in which we live. Thousands of years ago, God promised that the nation of Israel would be reborn and that that event would signal the final days of human history. That event occurred in modern times in 1948. That event marked the beginning of the End. Jesus Christ said that when the Last Days were upon us, that there would be wars and rumors of wars, and right now at this very moment there are more armed conflicts going on in the world than probably any other time in history. Jesus also said that there would be signs in the heavens, and indeed there have been. Joel chapter 2 was fulfilled to the letter very recently, with the sun being turned to darkness (the recent solar eclipse) and the blood moons appearing in the sky. And the sign mentioned in Revelation 12 is about to appear in the sky over Israel on September 23rd. This alignment of the stars and planets predicted thousands of years ago is a one time event that has never occurred before in human history and it will never occur again. And Jesus predicted that there would be earthquakes in diverse places, and He was absolutely correct. There have been many earthquakes in recent times, including some in places that usually don’t experiences earthquakes, such as Oklahoma and the American Midwest. Jesus also predicted that the waves and the seas would roar, and indeed they have been. The strongest hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic just occurred, and the Southern US has just been devastated by two major back to back hurricanes. And yet another hurricane is due to hit the East Coast as I write this. Jesus Christ also predicted that the world would be in the same condition it was in in the days of Noah just before His return. And indeed it is. We’re there, folks! Check this biblical prediction out and see if it doesn’t fit mankind’s behavior exactly:

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God — having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them” (II Timothy 3:1-5, NIV).

And consider this: In 2 Thessalonians 2, an apostasy from the Christian faith during the final days of human history the likes of which the world has never seen was predicted, and that prediction has come 100% true in our time! Yes, Christians have fallen away from the faith for various reasons for centuries, but nothing even close to the numbers of people who are leaving the faith now.

And consider this: The signs of the times in which we live are all around us, if we have eyes open to see. And I pray that God will open your eyes to the amazing things happening in our world right now, today — events that were predicted in detail thousands of years ago by GOD, and by the Lord Jesus Christ, Who was GOD in the flesh.

So… who should you listen to? Sinful men who have a strong desire to lead you away from God and away from faith in Jesus Christ? Or the One True GOD, the Alpha and the Omega, the GOD who knows the beginning from the end — the Lord God Almighty, the King of the Armies of Heaven, the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords who shall soon appear in power and great glory! Only GOD can truly know the future, and He has predicted it many times with pinpoint accuracy in His Word, the Holy Bible. You can trust God’s Word because it is TRUTH!

Let me share with you the greatest true story in the entire universe. It can be summed up in a single verse:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

Jesus Christ, who is GOD, came to this Earth 2000 years ago to show us the Father and to take the sins of the world upon Himself on the cross. Jesus Christ died for YOU, and He loves YOU more than you can possibly comprehend. His Love is total and complete! Jesus offers YOU the gift of eternal life with Him in Heaven. All you have to do to receive this incredible gift is to accept His finished work on the cross. You must admit that you are a sinner and that your sin has separated you from God and that you are powerless to save yourself. You MUST be born again! The Lord Jesus Christ stands ready to welcome you to Heaven. If you desire salvation, all you have to do is humble yourself before God, with a heart ready to repent (turn away) from sin, and ask. You can pray something like this:

Lord, I come before you with a humble heart. I know that my sin has separated me from you and that I am powerless to save myself. I ask You to please forgive me of my sins. I ask You to be my Lord and Savior, Jesus! Come into my heart and create in me a clean heart and a right spirit. Cast my sin as far as the east is from the west. Jesus, I believe that You are the Son of the Living God! I believe that you died for my sins and rose from the dead for my justification. Thank you for saving me, Jesus! Amen!

God says that if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and you believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved (Romans 10:9). If you prayed to receive Christ, let me be the first to welcome you to the family of God! Hallelujah!

Allow me to make a few suggestions. Find a church that preaches and teaches the Word of God. Read the Bible, which is the amazing, living, and true Word of God. I suggest starting with the Gospel of John, and then reading the epistles (letters) written by the Apostle Paul. Ephesians and Colossians are good places to start.

For further reading and for confirmation of the times in which we live, I suggest sites such as http://www.unsealed.org. I also recommend http://www.reasons.org and http://www.answersingenesis.org. I don’t personally agree with all of the views expressed at these sites, but overall they are good places to start and read and learn.

May God richly bless you!

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3:16-21)

Your Brother in Christ,

Jeff

Rapture in 2017?

My religious history has been very long and also very interesting. I was a very devout fundamentalist Christian for 15 years of my life, from ages 19-34. That was followed by about that many years again of outspoken atheism, after I became convinced that God didn’t actually exist and that the Bible — far from being the Word of God — was actually just the words of ancient men and mostly just a bunch of contradictory and absurd ancient religious mythology. BUT… that’s not what the post is about. I have been doing a lot of thinking and researching on current world events and biblical prophecy. There have been so many major storms and floods and earthquakes and fires, etc. that it really got me thinking, and I’d like to share what my thinking has been and what I’ve discovered through research so far. One thing that has my attention at the moment is a supposed celestial event that will occur on September 23, 2017. Will it really mean anything or will nothing of any significance happen? Only time will tell… I’ve also been thinking about the nation of Israel, and how them becoming a nation again in 1948 fulfilled biblical prophecy. But, at any rate, here is my list of thoughts and a few links, in no particular order… This list is partly a PM I sent to my friend Cliff and a list of stuff I found later added at the end. 🙂

Hey Cliff, this may surprise you, but I watched a Christian movie today called “Escape from Hell”. It came out in 2000 on VHS, and it’s one of my fairly recent thrift store finds. 🙂

I haven’t believed that Hell actually exists for a long time, and I lost all fear of it as well quite a while ago. So, I didn’t really expect to be moved that much by this movie. I mainly watched it just to satisfy curiosity. But, it does address the NDE phenomenon, and the fact that some people who experience an NDE report negative, hellish experiences. There is even a famous atheist who had one, and of course after that he because a Christian. His name is Howard Storm, and he wrote a book about his experience. I think it was published in 1978, so it’s old now. But I bet it’s still interesting reading!

I mainly reject belief in Hell on moral grounds. To me, it’s a morally reprehensible concept, and I think if it’s real that God cannot be a God of Love. Only a monster would create such a place or allow anyone to go to such a place for ANY reason. And eternal punishment for finite sins is also very wrong, of course. I don’t think even monsters such as Hitler deserve to be punished forever.

But… all of that said… this movie was well done for a low-budget religious movie, and it got me thinking. I simply don’t know if there is an afterlife of any sort. I don’t think anyone knows for sure. I also don’t know if God actually exists or not. I don’t see any evidence that He does since He never does anything tangible in the real world that people can point to and say “God did that!” It seems to be the case that God only exists in the minds of believers.

And then there is the Bible. I still love parts of it, but I’ve also seen it completely debunked on atheist sites, at least one of which I can easily point you to. Modern biblical scholarship is not kind to fundamentalist beliefs about the Bible! It’s definitely not inerrant or infallible. Not even close! And that’s very easy to prove. But whether it contains a message from a real, existing God, I just don’t know.

I have real issues with the basis for the Christian message as well. It all starts out in Genesis with two contradictory creation myths that we know now have no basis in science or reality. And included in the myths is Adam and Eve, who obviously are not real people who actually lived in history. Yet their story is crucial to the Christian faith. If there never was a Fall of Man, then there is no reason for a Savior.

And the Genesis Flood never happened. We know that now. The story is borrowed from a much earlier myth, the Epic of Gilgamesh, and of course there is exactly zero geological evidence that the Earth has ever experienced a flood as it is depicted in the Bible.

The Exodus never happened either. There is no evidence that it ever occurred, and the ancient Egyptians have no record of ever having had Hebrew captives.

And the Tower of Babel story is just silly. It’s not how our different languages came to be. And it also depicts the ancient cosmology that is featured in the Bible from cover to cover — a flat Earth covered by a solid dome firmament in which the stars are fixed, and God supposedly living on the other side of the solid firmament where a tower to be built to reach Him. Supposedly. (See https://answersingenesis.org/astronomy/earth/does-bible-teach-earth-flat/ for a refutation of the idea that the Bible teaches a flat Earth!)

And there are other problems with the Bible. Most of it was written anonymously, and some of the New Testament books are known to be forgeries. Did you know that Paul did not write Ephesians? I still love that book, but the fact is that we have no idea who actually wrote it! And 1 & 2 Timothy and 1 & 2 Peter are also forgeries not actually written by the Peter or Paul.

But anyway… I guess I’ve written you a long enough BOOK, lol… I’d like to believe, and if a Hell does exist, I certainly don’t want that to be my eternal fate. But there are quite a few roadblocks right now in the way of the kind of faith I once enjoyed back in my younger and frankly much less educated days…

And thanks for reading and listening to my rambling… and I do want to have that discussion when it’s a good time for both of us to sit down and really talk things through. 🙂

I have been spending a lot of time at this site:

http://www.reasons.org/

I loved Hugh Ross back in the day, and I’m planning to re-read “The Creator & the Cosmos” soon. But right now I’m reading another book co-authored by him called “Who was Adam?”

I really like that Ross and his team don’t deny the findings of modern science. They just interpret it differently.

I just don’t know about God and Christianity, but things have been on my mind. All of these major storms and fires around the world. Fulfilled biblical prophecy. The technology now to microchip everyone, which sounds like the Mark of the Beast coming to me. The situation with North Korea. And the human heart, which the Bible says is desperately wicked. And humans routinely do horrible things to each other. Even “good” people have a dark side that they try not to show in public. I know I certainly do… I have thoughts I would never share publicly. I’m sure everybody does.

I’ve been thinking about the biases people have too. These atheists I listened to years ago who led me away from faith in Christ and convinced me that the Bible is mostly ancient mythology… they are enemies of the Gospel, and it is their goal to lead people away from it.

I’m confused right now and don’t know what to believe. Please pray and ask God to give me clarity and peace of mind. The way I see it, either God exists and the Gospel is true and there is the hope of eternal life in Heaven for everyone who responds to it and believes or… there is no God, life is essentially meaningless, and death means permanent nonexistence.

The atheism I was once convinced was the Truth seems depressing as hell to me now. I want to return to the Christian faith. God is definitely dealing with me. But my mind needs to be able to celebrate with my heart. Does that make sense?

Something else to think about:

In addition to the storms, Mexico just experienced a major earthquake. And society is a colossal mess, seems like everyone is ANGRY, the Church is cold and judgmental, many people hate the Gospel and hate Christians. And the Bible does say that in the Last Days, people would be haters of God…

See what’s getting my attention?

10 Prophecies Fulfilled in 1948

http://www.watchmanbiblestudy.com/Articles/1948PropheciesFulfilled.html

Rapture in 2017?

http://www.unsealed.org/2016/05/the-20-biggest-signs-showing-end-of-age.html
http://www.unsealed.org/2017/08/the-signs-continue.html
http://www.unsealed.org/2017/09/the-signs-continue-part-2.html
http://www.unsealed.org/2017/08/why-revelation-12-sign-cant-be-debunked.html
http://www.unsealed.org/2017/06/19-reasons-rapture-could-be-in-2017.html

Bible

Does Not Teach Flat Earth
https://answersingenesis.org/astronomy/earth/does-bible-teach-earth-flat/

Tower of Babel a real event?
https://answersingenesis.org/tower-of-babel/was-the-dispersion-at-babel-a-real-event/

False Teachers
http://www.watermark.org/message/3646

The last few days have been pretty amazing! I have read and considered much more than what I have posted here. I’m still trying to wrap my mind around it all, but I am becoming more and more convinced that the Bible is true and that Jesus is God and that He may well be returning very soon! There is so much good evidence that we are living in the last of the Last Days and so much good evidence that Jesus Christ is coming back soon that I don’t see how it could NOT happen! It may or may not happen on or around September 23rd, but given the signs and given everything happening in the world that lines up perfectly with biblical prophesy, I don’t see how the return of Christ could be very far off! And yes, though skeptical and cautionary voices are sounding in my head (which is to be expected during a rapid change of worldviews based on new information), the evidence in favor of the return of Christ seems overwhelming to me, and I am getting very excited! 🙂

One of the hallmarks of a person who truly has an open mind is that he or she is willing to change their thinking/beliefs based on new information. I was a convinced atheist for many years, but based on this new information I have encountered, my faith has been restored, and I believe in Jesus Christ! And I praise God for that! But even if the rapture doesn’t occur this year, in spite of all the evidence indicating that it will, I will still put my faith in Christ. I have all of the proof I personally need that God does exist and that Jesus was and is God.

Oh, and just a quick disclaimer… I don’t necessarily agree with the views expressed at the sites I have linked to. It is all just food for thought… 🙂

A Huge Miracle…

I am still unfortunately sick with the flu, but I want to share a few thoughts… I don’t think I can stress enough or adequately put into words what a HUGE MIRACLE being delivered from all of that almost constant anger and rage really is! The FREEDOM from it is WONDERFUL!! I was a good person before I was delivered, but now I am TOTALLY FREE to be ME, and to shine my Light everywhere without reservation and without the possibility of getting caught up in anger again… It’s like a HUGE WEIGHT has permanently been lifted off of me… it’s just no longer there! And I want to press in and really get to know the God who did this for me… that doesn’t necessarily translate to a return to extreme fundamentalism again. I’m not interested in that… there’s too much stuff I would have to believe again that I know isn’t actually true… and I could never see the Bible as inerrant or infallible again… but I am interested in serving God as I understand Him with gratefulness and love in my heart… and I am spending time reading widely on both sides of the religious fence, out of curiosity and out of love for the faith that I once abandoned and openly ridiculed…

But to answer my friend Ryan’s question in another post thread, I don’t think having a religion is really necessary. For me, it works, but I think if there is a God, that He would care more about us being loving and kind toward one another than He would about us subscribing to a particular belief system. My Christianity is extremely liberal, and I view Jesus as more of a moral teacher than anything else, and if pressed to answer the question of his resurrection, I would have to say no, due to lack of evidence and due to my knowledge of how Jesus became God as outlined in Dr. Bart Ehrman’s book of that same name, “How Jesus Became God”. But what does impress me from the pages of that book is how Jesus was already being worshiped as God just a few years after his death… so I dunno… by beliefs are not settled, and I don’t think they have to be right now…

My Religious Journey

Man, what an interesting and incredible and amazing ride this religion thing has been! I was raised United Methodist until I was 10 years old, and then I went back for the Confirmation process in my early teens. And then I didn’t think about religion too much for a few years until we moved across town and I met my new fundamentalist Christian neighbors. Bob and Roxann and I had many interesting religious conversations and I even went to church with them at least once, but for some reason religion just didn’t “stick” at that point in time. I wasn’t convinced and I wasn’t interested. But I was spiritually curious. This was the early 80’s, and I read a lot of the New Age stuff that was in the bookstores and popular at that time, and as teens sometimes are, I was interested in the darker side of spirituality. I looked into out of body experiences and astral travel and I had more than a passing interest in Satanism. I have never been a big KISS fan, but I do like the songs “Lick It Up” and “Heaven’s on Fire.”

I can remember as a teenager imagining that I was worshiping the devil when I listened to that music, lol… it’s funny to me now because I knew and still know basically nothing about modern Satanism, whether the theistic variety or not. LOL… although several years ago I met a theistic Satanist online named Diane Vera and she seemed like a nice person and she was very intelligent but… kooky, lol… She was convinced that Satan existed and was worthy of her worship because a dish that should have been dirty with dust was somehow magically clean… or something… Oooookayyy…. LOL

But anyway… I do remember not liking Jesus or Christmas too much, and it was a spiritual dislike… Hmm…

But then I totally got away from any sort of religion or spirituality for a few years, until I went to college and met Michael Allen Dizmang in drama class. I had ZERO acting talent, but our teacher Mr. Kinney found a very small part for me in the play “Candide.” I was a pirate or something. My job was to scratch my body and make pirate noises, lol… 😀

I was only in the drama class for one semester, but it involved a lot of partying, which I enjoyed enthusiastically, being the young party animal that I was. Between all of this partying and attending classes stoned and staying with friends so I could party instead of living at home under my mom’s roof, Mike was talking to me about Jesus. My initial response was to tell him to “get away from me with that Jesus shit!” But Mike kept at it and he didn’t just talk about his faith. He LIVED his faith and put it into action, giving me a coat when it was cold and making sure I was fed when I was hungry. We didn’t know it back in those days, but I was severely mentally ill with Type 2 bipolar disorder that was years away from proper diagnosis. I was not getting along with my mom at the time, and I had moved in with some fellow party animal friends so I could smoke pot all day, and my job at the time was delivering pizza for Domino’s, and the boss was cool and didn’t care if we smoked pot on the job! As long as we didn’t get too stoned to work, lol… Hey man… HA HA HA HA…. here’s your, uh, pizza HA HA HA HA… LOL…

Anyway, Mike finally got me out to his car to read some Bible verses, and when we read Hebrews 4:12, I felt something stir and come alive in me, and I thought, “Hey, there might be something to this Jesus shit!” So, we prayed that day in his car. It was a Honda Accord, so we were all together in one Accord, lol… and I asked Jesus to be my Savior, and not long after that I attended a showing of the “Jesus Film” at a local Baptist church. That sealed the deal for me. I knew by the time the movie was over that I wanted what this Jesus had to offer! I prayed to receive Christ again just to be sure! 🙂 That was March 7, 1985. Yes, I still remember the date! 🙂

A few months later, it was off to East Texas Baptist University in Marshall, TX for more college. And we still didn’t know that I was seriously mentally ill. Mom and her friend Richard dropped me off at ETBU and unloaded my stuff in my dorm room and left, and I found myself in a strange place, away from home for the first time in my life. I didn’t know a single soul there, and I felt ALONE. I laid down on my bare mattress and cried. And then I went looking for someone to talk to, and within a few minutes I was making new friends. I remember Steve and Chuck and Tommy, but the rest of their names are lost to the mists of time now. It wasn’t too long before my friends found out that I could sing really well, and I got to sing a Michael W. Smith song, “I Am Up”, I believe was the name of it, at the local skating rink’s “Christian Night.” My friends and I also frequently drove across the border to Louisiana to attend numerous Christian concerts. We saw Mylon LeFevre & Broken Heart one night, and I got to shake Mylon’s hand backstage! I had gone back for prayer, but Mylon walked up and we shook hands and I said something like, “That was fun!” and he replied, “Yeah, it was!” or something like that. I bet I didn’t wash that hand for a week, lol…

Anyway… the good times at ETBU didn’t last. The mental illness I didn’t know I had at the time raised its ugly head, and I started drinking and smoking pot again… at a Christian school! Needless to say, that didn’t go over well with the powers that be, and I was expelled. Technically, it was an academic suspension since my grades sucked, but the real reason they kicked me out was the partying…

I had no way of knowing it or realizing it at the time back then, but the back and forth yo-yoing of beliefs had begun, and I would be stuck with that cycling for 15 years of my life, swinging between periods of devout religious belief when I was manic and periods of doubt and unbelief and often severe substance abuse when I was depressed. I first started questioning my faith at ETBU, and I remember one of my friends using his wallet as an evangelism tool, lol…

When I got home from ETBU, I went into an inpatient hospital facility for alcohol abuse, but it didn’t work, primarily because they didn’t catch the mental illness and it remained untreated. And I kept drinking after I got out, and I thought AA meetings consisted of the longest hours in the history of the universe! Listening to older alcoholics tell “war stories” as they were called was usually boring as hell!

But anyway… I ended up finding a new church, the Shady Oaks Assembly of God, and there too my singing talent was soon discovered and so began several years of frequently singing solos at church. 🙂 I still remember Anna Jo Fortner shouting, “JEFF!!” after she heard me sing for the first time. She was impressed! 🙂

I have only vague memories of my time at Shady Oaks, but it was fun. At one meeting I attended, we got a laugh about God being able to handle the weight of our very obese pastor. I guess you had to be there, lol…
I soon followed the Fortner’s to their new church outside of Brazoria, TX, called Church on the Rock. I was in my early 20’s at the time, and that was place was fun! Yes, church was fun!  I was soon singing solos there and participating in the praise and worship choir, and I made many good friends. I have many very good memories of that church and of our pastor, Brother Watts. He trusted me enough to let me spend the night at his church on more than one occasion. I spent those nights seeking God and blasting Christian Rock music through the awesome sound system and just having fun, as young people know how to do! 🙂

I continued attending Church on the Rock even after I moved to Houston, TX though I often struggled to come up with the gas money. I made the move to Houston in 1988, and so began a seemingly endless stream of low-wage, dead-end jobs over the next few years. I got fired from Macy’s, where I worked an extremely boring job in the Men’s department, for disappearing from work and for poor job performance. But I thought it was a lot more fun to sneak out of the store and browse the nearby bookstore than it was to do my job. In early 1990, my mother hired me to work at her travel agency in Lake Jackson, TX. I entered the computer world for the first time there, and it wasn’t long before I knew enough to do at least some of the computer maintenance, and I also learned how to use now ancient versions of PageMaker and a program called Arts & Letters. So I did computer work and I did graphics design for her newspaper ads.

But back to religion… I found a new church – the Brazosport Christian Center. I made many new friends and I sang solos there too, though not as frequently as I had at Church on the Rock. In March of 1992, I sang Dallas Holm’s song, “Rise Again” at the Brazosport College Follies and won first place. I still have the video of that performance! I was SO very nervous, and I almost forgot the words toward the end of the song. I remembered the words just literally a second before it was time to sing them, and of course I credited God with the save! 🙂

After my time at the Christian Center, I entered a few years where I was still a believer, but I wasn’t nearly as religious as I had been in earlier years. I had many doubts about my faith and questions that I couldn’t find good answers for. And I was still dealing with a then undiagnosed mental illness. So… fast forward to 2000, and I got on the Net as it existed back then and went searching for information that was critical of the Bible or the Christian faith. I found a bunch of it, and my skeptical education began at sites such as www.infidels.org and www.rejectionofpascalswager.net. Let me back up for a minute and explain something. When I was 16 years old, a psychologist told my mother that I had a “free-floating anger” inside of me that could attach itself to anything. And as I read these skeptical atheist sites, that anger and rage attached itself to the fundamentalist Christian faith, and it didn’t let go for 16 years!! After I had absorbed quite an education from these sites, I decided to start my own. I purchased religionisbullshit.com and went to work! My friend Dave, who still runs www.exchristian.net suggested that I turn it into a blog, and the site took off and became popular! This was 2002, and blogs were new back then, and any site that was a blog was almost guaranteed to be popular… I was so ANGRY, and I look back on the posts I made to that site now and I can’t see how my site got any visitors, because in one form or another, my site was about ANGER and RAGE. I took the site offline in 2004 because I felt guilty about all of the anger I was expressing and about how I was portraying Christians on the site. I frequently used this pic to portray Christians as uneducated morons:

Christian

After I took that site offline I experienced one of many brief but intense swings back up into manic religious beliefs, but it didn’t last. It never does. But soon I was back to wanting to do an atheist site again, and I bought another domain name similar to the one I had had before and went to work and tried to regain my former popularity. Harsh reality didn’t take long to hit. It’s hard to build a successful site, and I got lucky with my first site since blogs were new back then. I tried several times over several years to build another successful site, but every effort failed miserably. And I know why now! It’s not because I didn’t have something of value to say. It’s because once again my sites were about ANGER and RAGE, and I delivered my message in probably the worst way possible to actually get it heard. People don’t generally like to read anger and rage, lol… If I hit a site that is angry in tone, I’ll click away too!

So… long story short, I spent several years as a very angry atheist, and I made my views known on Facebook too. I spent a long time there posting some very angry rants against belief in God and against the Bible and the Christian faith. And I deeply regret all of that now. My anger has cost me some dear friends over the last few years, and that includes my band directors from my junior high and high school years.

But my atheism wasn’t consistent. I mentioned earlier that I spent years swinging between devout religious belief and periods of doubt and unbelief. I have also tried different forms of spirituality on for size over time, and one of the spiritual teachers I discovered was Eknath Easwaran (www.easwaran.org). He took the best from the world’s major religious traditions and created an 8-Point spiritual program that I still find very uplifting and very beneficial. I meditate frequently on the beautiful Prayer of St. Francis, and I have written a book on putting that prayer into practice in daily life.

So… now 15 years of fundamentalist Christian belief and 16 years of inconsistent but very angry atheism are over, and I am happy with the spirituality that I have embraced now, which is a blending of very liberal Christianity and Eastern religious thought, that being primarily the works of the above-mentioned Eknath Easwaran. Reading his work is like breath of fresh air. And I feel the same way about some passages from the Bible.

So that is where I’m at now… but I do have what I consider to be a miracle to report! That free-floating anger that I mentioned earlier that has plagued me for so many years is… GONE!! And it’s like an enormous weight has been lifted off my shoulders and like a veil has been lifted from my eyes and this blind man can see again! I feel like I’ve been born again… again! Lol…

My Thoughts on Happiness

My friend Garnie recently shared his thoughts about creating more happiness in his life, and I’d like to share my thoughts on the subject as well. Garnie shared his thoughts in a video, and I applaud his thoughts and approach, but I’m better at writing than I am making videos, so I’m happy to share my thoughts in written form.

Happiness… everybody wants it and everybody deserves it. But what do we have to do to be happy? Do we have to do anything to get it? What, exactly, is happiness? Is happiness a destination or a journey?

happiness

If you Google “happiness”, you’ll find it defined simply as “the state of being happy”.

Before I share my thoughts on happiness, let me share with you the fact that I spent years of my younger life suffering from severe mental illness. I was deeply unhappy. I was miserable. I drank heavily and I used drugs to numb the pain and the deep unhappiness that was my life. I spent years trying and failing to get through school, and I spent years working low-wage, dead-end jobs. My life sucked and my self-esteem was basically zero. I couldn’t imagine anyone wanting to be me or anyone wanting to live my life. I would look in the mirror and hate what I saw — a broke loser who could never manage to get his life together. I tried and I failed to commit suicide several times over the years. I desperately wanted to die so the pain would stop, but I also desperately wanted to live, in spite of how bad my circumstances were.

Let me share what life is like now in the here and now of 2016. I am on Disability for the bipolar disorder that was finally properly diagnosed in 1998, when I was 32. I have lived with my father in Alaska for 12 years, and in that time I have not needed to work. I have responsibilities around the house, and for quite a while I regularly attended NAMI meetings here in Anchorage. The few times I have had to be hospitalized for severe bipolar depression, I have gotten the help that I needed. Alaska has a fantastic mental health care system in place, and I think it should be a model for the other 49 states to follow.

Over the years, I have experienced several bouts of deep bipolar depression that was so bad and so painful that it made me want to end my life so the pain would stop. I know how awful depression feels. I know how awful deep sadness feels.

Now… let me share some thoughts on happiness.

Happiness to me is a journey rather than a destination. Happiness is not something to be chased after or to be obtained. Happiness isn’t something that’s for sale. It cannot be bought with any amount of money or with any material possession.
Happiness is… a state of being. Happiness is WHAT WE ARE. Happiness is our natural state of being. Happiness is our birthright. As the famous mystic Hafiz famously said,

“I wish I could show you when you are lonely or in darkness the astonishing light of your own being.”

My happiness is not dictated by circumstances. Feelings come and go. Thoughts come and go. Life situations come and go.

But deep down inside, in the very core of my being… I am happy 24/7. I am not just happy, I am ecstatic! This is not emotion I am talking about. It is WHO I AM, and it is WHO YOU ARE.

I feel happiness as a state of being burning brightly inside of me all the time. 24/7, non-stop.

I suffer from mental illness. I don’t have a job. I don’t have many material possessions. I don’t have very much money. I don’t have a college degree.

But I no longer see happiness as something to be pursued or worked for or worked toward. Happiness is simply WHO I AM as a human being. And it is also WHO YOU ARE as a human being. Real, lasting peace and real, lasting happiness is to be found deep inside at the core of your being. EVERYBODY has access to happiness free of charge. Again, you don’t have to pursue it and you don’t have to work for it. YOU ARE HAPPINESS. It’s yours as your birthright as a human being.

My greatest wish for you is to realize the happiness that you already have available to you for free deep inside. It’s there. It always has been.

Purpose is the Knowledge of Fulfillment

Purpose is the knowledge of fulfillment, and of us.

We live, we grow, we are reborn. Nothing is impossible.

We are in the midst of an endless awakening of choice that will open up the dreamscape itself.

Only a visitor of the world may leverage this paradigm shift of wonder. Yes, it is possible to destroy the things that can confront us, but not without interconnectedness on our side. You must take a stand against illusion.

We are at a crossroads of stardust and turbulence. Our conversations with other messengers have led to a maturing of hyper-consciousness-expanding consciousness. Who are we? Where on the great myth will we be reborn?

Aromatherapy may be the solution to what’s holding you back from a jaw-dropping reimagining of curiosity. You will soon be reborn by a power deep within yourself — a power that is intergalatic, perennial. Through the Law of Attraction, our brains are nurtured by nature.

You may be ruled by selfishness without realizing it. Do not let it eradicate the healing of your mission.

Although you may not realize it, you are quantum. The nexus is calling to you via bio-electricity. Can you hear it? How should you navigate this magical quantum soup?

The quantum leap of will is now happening worldwide. Eons from now, we lifeforms will exist like never before as we are guided by the cosmos. We must learn how to lead ethereal lives in the face of selfishness.

Living the Prayer of St. Francis

This post contains my thoughts on living the Prayer of St. Francis. I wrote this about five years ago, but I still feel the same way, and I invite you to consider my words. 🙂

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy;

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so
much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

For the past couple of months or so, I have been meditating on the Prayer of St. Francis as suggested by Eknath Easwaran as a part of his Eight Point Program. To say that meditating on the prayer is life-transforming would be putting it mildly. And, of course, I have had a desire to make this wonderful, beautiful prayer an integral part of my life. As I was meditating this morning I asked myself, “What if I actually did it?” “What if, instead of just giving mental assent to this prayer as a wonderful ideal, I actually put it into practice in my daily life?” “What if we all actually did so?”

I have, of course, been inspired to live a more compassionate life and to consciously show more love toward others since I began meditating. But how much more life-transforming would it be to really put this prayer into practice in my daily life?

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;

On a daily basis, at least on an intellectual level, I deeply appreciate the fact that God — who is the Lord of Love — is enshrined not just in my own heart but in the hearts of all. But I would love for that knowledge to move deeper into my heart and to become more real to me in my daily life. I would love for the knowledge that God is all and is in all to be so deeply ingrained in my being that it informs every thought that I have and every action that I take. I would love to be an instrument of God’s peace in the world.

And where there is hatred, I would love to sow love. There are so many places in our world where hatred abounds and love is desperately needed — for example, in our political and religious discourse. There is so much hatred and vitriol present on both sides of the fence and on each topic. I am ashamed to say that I have been a part of participating in and spreading that hatred and vitriol. But I am only human and have just been blindly going with the flow of what is sadly normal now in our political and religious discussions and debates, allowing my emotions to run free and for the moment ignoring the fact that my opponent on the other side of the fence or on the other end of the religious or political spectrum is a living, thinking, feeling human being who in all likelihood loves God and country just as much as I do.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much
seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.

What if all of us made a conscious effort to put aside the emotions that can inflict so much damage and chose instead to listen to and hear the other group’s point of view with an attitude of love and did our best to understand instead of criticize? To those who would say in response, “Well, that would be nice, but it’s not the real world” I would ask, “Why can’t it be? Why shouldn’t it be? What, besides a cynical, jaded attitude toward the idea and a lack of willingness to make a positive change is keeping you, me, or anyone else from it?” Every one of us has the freedom to choose how we will respond at any moment to any given situation. We can respond to those whom we disagree with either with anger and vitriol or with an attitude of understanding and love. The choice is ours to make. It really is just that simple! As Eknath Easwaran relates in his powerful book entitled Passage Meditation: Bringing the Deep Wisdom of the Heart into Daily Life (Essential Easwaran Library):

It may seem old-fashioned, but I would recommend

standing guard over the gate of

the mouth to ensure that only the right kind of words come out.

It is another form of sense training. Vulgar speech, sarcasm,

gossip, even pointless chatter, should all be denied exit visas.

The Sufis capture this idea in a splendid metaphor. They

advise us to speak only after our words have managed to issue

through three gates. At the first gate we ask ourselves, “Are these

words true?” If so, let them pass on; if not, back they go.

At the second gate we ask, “Are they kind?” If we still feel we

must speak out, we need to choose words that will be support-

ive and loving, not words that embarrass or wound another

person.

At the final gate, we ask, “Are they necessary?” They may be

true, even kind, but it doesn’t follow that they have to be uttered;

they must serve some meaningful purpose. Do they clarify the

situation or help someone? Or do they strike a discordant or

irrelevant note?

All of us understand what blows can do to someone, but we

do not realize that words can create a more painful injury, one

that can last for many years. Nor do we understand the terribly

destructive impact words can have on the consciousness of the

person who uses them.

What a change there would be in our political and religious discourse — and in our discussions on many other topics as well of course — if all of us took the advice of the Sufis to heart concerning our words!

where there is injury, pardon;

When we are injured, our natural conditioned response is to react with anger. When someone does something bad to us or says something bad about us, our natural response is a desire to retaliate. But the much better way to respond — the way that promotes peace and that helps bring love into the world — is to choose to pardon those who have offended us. As the famous Twin Verses of the Dhammapada say:

Our life is shaped by our mind; we become what we think. Suffering follows an evil thought as the wheels of a cart follow the oxen that draw it.
Our life is shaped by our mind; we become what we think. Joy follows a pure thought like a shadow that never leaves.

“He was angry with me, he attacked me, he defeated me, he robbed me” – those who dwell on such thoughts will never be free from hatred.
“He was angry with me, he attacked me, he defeated me, he robbed me” –those who do not dwell on such thoughts will surely become free from hatred.

For hatred can never put an end to hatred; love alone can. This is an unalterable law.

Like most people have, I have encountered some bad people in life who have hurt and used me. One person named Rebecca stands out in particular. It’s a long and very embarrassing story and some of the details I prefer to keep private, but suffice it to say that this woman – whom I met over the Internet — lied to me about who and what she was and she used me for the Web skills I possessed that she had need of and when my usefulness was over, she got rid of me in a very cruel way. It made things all the worse that she knew that I had developed romantic feelings for her and she used that knowledge to full advantage. Needless to say, it made the hurt of being used as I was much deeper.

I have bipolar disorder that is very well controlled now, but back in those days I was very ill and very angry. Although violence does not normally come naturally to me at all, I was so enraged by the way Rebecca had treated me that I thought I could probably kill her if the opportunity ever arose. Haven’t we all experienced angry thoughts that we would never actually act upon? It’s just an unfortunate part of the human condition. But now, if I was to encounter Rebecca again, I would give her a big hug and let her know that I forgive her. How she would choose to respond to that would be entirely up to her. The important thing for me is to do the forgiving. Continuing to hate Rebecca and continuing to feel anger toward her serves no purpose except to make me miserable. Responding with love and forgiveness brings healing not just to me, but to the whole situation.

where there is doubt, faith;

Who hasn’t doubted their abilities, their worth, or their faith in God at some point in time? The highest and most wonderful service we can render to anyone who is experiencing those painful times of doubting is to lift them up, give them encouragement, love them, and remind them that even in our times of questioning and doubting God is always present and that He will never leave them or forsake them.

When we are responding with love and compassion, there is no room for judgment or criticism.

Jesus hugging

where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;

Before my bipolar illness was diagnosed and successfully brought under control, I spent years experiencing a great deal of despair and depression, and I went through some really dark and miserable times. I feel a tremendous amount of gratefulness toward my loving and supportive family, my knowledgeable and compassionate physicians, and everyone else who helped me regain my health. There are many people in this world who are suffering for any number of reasons. We live in a troubled world, and problems such as hunger, poverty, disease, crime, alcoholism, drug addiction, violence, racism, physical and mental abuse and many other serious issues afflict far too many of us, causing tremendous suffering. There are no easy fixes to these problems, but again the highest service we can render those who are suffering is to love them, to assure them that there is hope and when we have the power to do so, to offer them a way out of their suffering. Love brings healing, and when we are busy loving others and serving them, it is impossible to criticize them and judge them at the same time.

where there is sadness, joy;

There are many reasons for sadness in this life, too. Who of us hasn’t experienced the pain of the loss of a loved one or the loss of a job, for example? When we encounter someone who is experiencing sadness in their life, the highest and greatest service we can render to them is to comfort and console them and do what we can to bring joy back into their life.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much
seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

The whole thrust of this wonderful prayer is to inspire us to live life in such a way that it brings transformation not just to our own lives, but also to the lives of others. When we put our own needs aside and choose to live a life of service toward others we unleash the incredible power of love, and the joy of seeing the lives of others positively transformed because of our efforts in their behalf is ours to enjoy. What better way and more joyful way of life can there possibly be than to dedicate ourselves to the task of transforming hatred into love, injury into pardon, doubt into faith, despair into hope, darkness into light, and sadness into joy? As St. Francis so truthfully has said, when we give to others we receive, when we pardon others we too are pardoned, and when we die to ourselves we are born to eternal life — a life of peace, love, and joy that will never fade away. As Jesus said:

25 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. (Matthew 16:25, New King James Version)

This is the prayer that guides my life and if you haven’t already done so, I hope you will consider making it yours too. St. Francis gave us the formula for a happy, joyful, fulfilled, and deeply meaningful life centuries ago. It’s up to us now to put it into practice in our lives and then watch as the love and compassion we share with others ripples out from us and our entire world is transformed.

Namaste.

Empire State Building 1936

Empire State Building 1936

I love looking at old historical photos like this. This photo was taken in 1936 at the Empire State Building. All sorts of thoughts… who was this man? How long did he live? What did he live to see during his lifetime? What was his daily life like? Did he smoke? Most men did back in those days… what did he die from? Did he have a family? If so, how many children? Who was his wife and how long did she live? How many of his descendants are alive today?

And then there’s the fact that all of those drivers of all of those cars in this photo are dead now. Who were they? What were they all doing on this day back in 1936? Where were they headed that day, and for what reasons? What were their concerns? What were they thinking about as they went about their business that day? What were they happy about? What were they sad about? What were their religious beliefs? What were their political beliefs? What were their daily lives like? How long did they live? What did they get to see and do during their lifetimes? How many of their descendants are alive today?

And those cars, trucks, and buses have long been in the junk yard, except for a few that might remain in private hands and might still be decent condition… But how long were those vehicles on the road and what are their histories? When were they purchased? What make and year model were they? Where were they purchased? How much did they cost? How many owners? How many vehicles stayed in the family over generations and how many of them were sold to other families? How many fun family vacations were taken in those cars? How many miles were on each before they had to be retired or junked? What maintenance had to be done on them?

Do those buildings still exist? How much have they changed in the last 80 years? Are there newer buildings at these addresses now? How much have those streets changed in the last 80 years? How many businesses have come and gone at those addresses over the last 80 years?

What became of the clothes this man was wearing that day? Thrown away when they wore out? Passed down in the family? Donated to the needy? So much to think about in one photo taken 80 years ago of a window washer in New York City… what became of his tools and equipment? it’s fascinating stuff! 🙂

Gene Kelly Dance

This dance routine by Gene Kelly on roller skates from the movie “It’s Always Fair Weather” is awesome! This was filmed in 1955.

50 Years of Life…

I have lived all of my adult life with mental illness. I’ve had bipolar disorder since I was a teenager, and I also live with borderline personality disorder. Though I tend to focus the most on the bipolar illness, both illnesses have caused me many problems over the course of my life.

My mental health issues actually started when I was 10 years old, but the trouble started the day I was born. I was born breech, which put my mother through hell, and it also caused brain damage that ultimately caused a very serious seizure when I was ten years old. Before that seizure happened, I was a normal, happy little guy. After the seizure, I was different. That seizure changed me and it brought my bipolar illness to the forefront. I wouldn’t have full-blown bipolar disorder until I reached my teenage years, but the course of my life was changed forever. What made things even worse is the medication I had to be on. The best anti-seizure medication available in 1976 was phenobarbital. I was on it for six years, and it caused me major behavioral problems. And, of course, that led to problems getting along with the other kids at school. Just like any school aged kid, I wanted to be liked and accepted by my peers. But unfortunately, I went about it in all the wrong ways. I was always trying to get attention because I felt so unsure of myself, but the things I did to get attention backfired. Instead of making me friends, my actions alienated me from others and I was soon one of the “weird kid” outcasts. That lasted throughout high school. I had very few friends and no romantic life at all. I had zero success with the girls, and I went through the entire four years of high school without going on a single date. The only things that made my high school years tolerable were friends like Doug who accepted me and liked me as I was and my involvement in the marching band. I played the tuba and had a lot of fun doing it. 🙂

High school was difficult, but I brought a lot of my troubles on myself. Yes, I mentally ill and we know that now, and we know that that was responsible for my behavioral issues. But at the time I was also obsessed with Star Trek. I think I must have been the world’s most die-hard Trekkie. I loved that show so much, and I wanted so badly for it to be real. I watched the show every time I could when it was on TV. I read Star Trek novels all the time. I daydreamed about being beamed up to a wonderful new life in the Star Trek universe. In my mind, the crew of the Enterprise were my best friends. I didn’t have a sense of belonging at school, but I fit right into the Star Trek universe. I was such a Trekkie that I frequently greeted my classmates with the Vulcan salute, which of course just helped to solidify my status as one of the “weird kid” outcasts. There is no question that Star Trek is one of the greatest science fiction franchises ever created, but for me it was an escape from the unpleasant reality of my high school life.

We all know how cruel kids can be. I put up with a lot of it getting through school. But there is one instance of cruelty that stands out in my memory that I will never forget. This happened over 30 years ago now, but I remember it like it was yesterday. I was so unpopular at school that I was never invited to any of the beach parties or the gatherings at Dunbar Park or any of the other fun stuff that the cool kids got to do. So, when I got a phone call from a couple of girls inviting me to a party, I was thrilled. I got directions to where this awesome party supposedly was, and drove off to find it. I wasn’t able to, so after a while I gave up and went back home. The girls called again. My mother knew that they were not serious and that they were playing a very cruel joke on me. She tried to tell me, but I wouldn’t hear it. I drove off again to try to find this party, and my mom was left at home to hurt for me while I tried to find a nonexistent party. I finally gave up and it finally dawned on me that my mother was correct. I couldn’t believe that anyone could hate me so much or that anyone could be so cruel. It was a hard life lesson that I had to learn the hard way. There are people in this world who take joy in causing others pain, and that’s as true in the teenage world of high school as it is in the adult world we all live in now…

I was severely mentally ill by the time I graduated high school, but at the time we didn’t know it. I had serious substance abuse issues while I was in school. Drinking and smoking pot were the only ways I had to deal with the symptoms of the bipolar disorder I didn’t know I had at the time. There were many nights when I was so manic and so agitated that the only way I could sleep was to drink. I would either wait until my mother went to bed and then hit the liquor cabinet as quietly as I could, or I would sneak out of the house and drive to a couple of convenience stores nearby that I knew would sell me beer. I drank until my mind was calmed down enough that I could sleep. Other times I was so depressed that I cried myself to sleep. Sometimes my mother would hear, and she would do her best to comfort me. We didn’t know what was wrong with me at the time that was causing me so much pain. I didn’t know that the real reason I was in so much pain was that I was mentally ill. So I always managed to find some external reason for why I was crying myself to sleep. Usually that involved a fear of my mother’s death, though at the time she was in her early 40’s and she was healthy. She always assured me that if something did happen to her that she had lived a good life and that I would be okay.

After high school, my struggles continued. I went to the local community college, but because I was so ill and I had such serious substance abuse issues, I never did very well in my classes. But one class I did enjoy was Drama, though the truth is that I had basically zero acting talent. But Mr. Kinney found a small role for me to play in “Candide”, and I remember really enjoying it. I made several friends in that class, including Mike. He was a devout Christian, and he frequently tried to share his faith with me. I had been raised United Methodist and while I was in high school I had some good religious conversations with my Baptist neighbors, but by the time I was in college I had lost all interest in religion. I didn’t want to hear it. But Mike was persistent and he showed me a lot of kindness over the course of the months we were together in drama class, so he finally got me out to his car one day to read some Bible verses. As I was reading Hebrews 4:12, I felt something stir inside of me, and I thought “maybe there is something to this Jesus shit”. 🙂 I prayed to receive Jesus as my Savior in Mike’s car that day. Needless to say, he was thrilled, and not long after that I found myself in Brazoria attending a free showing of the “Jesus Film” that was being put on by the local Baptist church. I was 19 years old, and I didn’t realize at the time that my emotions were being skilfully manipulated by religious propaganda. By the time that movie was over, I was deeply moved, and I knew that I wanted what this Jesus had to offer. Even though I had prayed to receive Christ days before with Mike, I prayed again just to be sure. I wanted to KNOW that I was saved! 🙂 And so began my Christian religious journey, which lasted for 15 years. I threw myself into my new-found faith with all of the energy and enthusiasm that a 19-year old could muster. I quit drinking and I quit using drugs, and with Mike’s help and guidance I was rapidly transformed from a troubled teenage party animal into a very religious Christian fundamentalist. I was so dedicated to my new faith that I ditched the awesome 80’s Rock that was usually blasting from my stereo for much mellower religious music. I discovered Sandi Patti, Twila Paris, Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith, and especially Keith Green. I loved Keith’s music, and I loved his total commitment to his faith. I wanted so badly to see him in concert, and when Mike informed me that Keith had died in a plane crash in 1982, I was devastated.

My mother arranged for me to go to East Texas Baptist University, and I arrived there for the Fall semester of 1985. I was so excited and I was so looking forward to attending school with fellow Christians. But as devout as my faith was at the time, I did have doubts that I was struggling with. When I went to this school, I was expecting a very religious, church-like atmosphere. What I found instead was a college full of average young people who happened to be nominally religious. I had a great time at that school. I made friends, and I enjoyed participating in the clown ministry and attending Christian concerts across the border in Louisiana. I saw many of the Christian stars of the time, including Mylon LeFevre & Broken Heart. I loved their music, and after one of their concerts, I went backstage for prayer. While I was back there, I got to meet Mylon and shake his hand! I said something like, “That was fun!”, and he said, “Yeah, it was!” I got to meet one of my Christian Rock idols, briefly though it was, and it was awesome! 🙂

My initial experience at ETBU was good, but my grades were suffering, which I now know was because I was struggling so much with mental illness. I often look back at those days and wonder why I had such a hard time succeeding. All I had to do was make good grades! I had plenty of spending money coming from my father, and I didn’t have to work. All that was required of me was to make good grades, and I couldn’t even manage that. But it’s because I was so mentally ill at the time, though none of us knew it back then. By the time the Spring semester of 1986 came around, I was in trouble again. My bipolar illness had raised its ugly head, and I started drinking and using drugs again. And I was also smoking cigarettes. All of this at a Christian school! Needless to say, when the school authorities found out, they were not happy. I attended school through the first summer semester of 1986, but after that I found myself suspended for poor academic performance.

I came back home to Lake Jackson, and my mother arranged for me to get treatment for substance abuse at the Alpha Center, which was located at the hospital. It was an inpatient facility, and I was there for a while. I stayed for at least a month. I did well and when I was ready to come home, my mother was very grateful to them for “giving me my son back”. But thanks to the mental illness that hadn’t been diagnosed yet, I didn’t stay sober long. My friend Doug and I went to see Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, which was in theaters at the time. It was my 21st birthday, and after the movie we got plastered drunk. 🙂

In 1987, I moved to Houston, and so began a lifetime of working low-wage, dead-end jobs and trying to survive. And so began 15 years of swinging between periods of devout religious belief when I was manic and periods of severe substance abuse when I was depressed. When I was depressed, I would come home after work and drink until I passed out. When I was manic and religious, I would come home after work and engage in prayer and worship, always pursuing the next religious high. Either way, I realize now, I was just trying to feel good. And something as basic as just feeling good, which so many people just take for granted, is so difficult for those of us who are mentally ill to achieve. We spend our lives fighting for what others just take for granted…

I have always wanted to be famous and I have always wanted to be popular. I know that I’m never going to experience fame the way Hollywood movie stars do, for example. But I spent years wishing that I could get my life together and be successful. When I was religious, I dreamed of being a famous evangelist or a famous worship leader. I loved Charismatic-style praise and worship music, and I wanted so badly to be a worship leader so that I too could record worship music for the Lord. I craved that fame and that recognition. I wanted to be a famous evangelist so that I could win many people to Christ and enjoy having others look up to me for that. When people like Jesse Duplantis visited our church, I wished to be just like him. I wanted to have a similar dynamic and miraculous faith in God, and I wanted to be just as talented and funny as he was. When I went to see Christian artists such as Michael W. Smith and Mylon LeFevre & Broken Heart, I was wishing that it could be me up on that stage enjoying all of that fame and recognition. But it never was to be. I’m just me, and my life isn’t like theirs. While they enjoy success and the adoration of millions of fans, I am a totally unknown guy struggling with mental illness. I happen to have a good singing voice too. I’m just as capable of belting out Christian Rock music as Mylon or Michael. But I had to settle for singing solos at church.

By early 2000, doubts and questions about my faith had built up to the point that I could no longer ignore them or write them off as tricks of the devil. So, I got on the Net as it was back then and went looking for answers. I discovered sites such as www.infidels.org and www.rejectionofpascalswager.net. I spent hours daily reading and thinking and learning. I finally realized that the beliefs I had cherished for 15 years of my life actually had no basis in reality. And I realized that the Bible was deeply flawed in many ways, and that it was not and could not be the “Word of God”. Over a period of months, I lost my faith and I eventually lost my belief in God. I made the journey from devout Christian belief to atheism. And at the time I was extremely angry that I had devoted 15 years of my younger life to a pack of ancient religious myths and lies, and I was devastated to realize that God didn’t actually exist and that the Heaven I had so looked forward to for so many years was just an ancient myth.

In 2002, I chose to make the anger and the rage I was feeling public. I started religionisbullshit.com, and started putting my thoughts online. I believed that the truth about the Bible and the Christian religion needed to be told, and I was determined to do it. My friend Dave soon suggested that I turn my site into a blog. Those were new at the time, and soon after I did that I started enjoying success. Many of my posts back in those days were filled with anger and rage that I think was justified. But even so, I built a significant audience, and my site was active and lots of fun to do. I got so much email from Christians that my responses became a regular part of the content of the site. I loved hearing from Christians and I loved publicly responding to them. I was very good at it, and it was fun to watch my atheist/ex-Christian readers respond to what I had written. But, the way I did my site was not without issues. While I did use my site to vent my emotions, I also used it to belittle and ridicule Christians. I frequently characterized them as the dumbest people on Earth — slack-jawed, knuckle-dragging morons who didn’t possess two functioning brain cells to rub together. I was so angry that I was okay with doing that for a while, but eventually I started to feel really bad about it. I knew that the way I was portraying Christian believers on my site was not right, and I also knew that I was a better person than that. But, instead of choosing to change the way I was representing Christians, I chose to abandon my site altogether. In August of 2004, I shut down my very popular “Religion is Bullshit” website and tried to move on with my life. But it wasn’t long before I was missing it, so I decided to go back online with another similar site. I bought a new domain name and put another site online. I honestly expected to just pick up where I had left off, and I expected to have another large and responsive audience of readers within a short period of time. It didn’t take long for harsh reality to hit! My new site did not enjoy anything close to the popularity of my original site, and nothing I did to try to regain that popularity worked. I chose to remain online, but I was constantly frustrated with how dead the various sites I tried to do were, and I complained about it to anyone who would listen. I still have a site online at www.alaskanatheist.me, and if I may say so myself, I think it’s a great site. I’ve put up a lot of writing that I think is very good and very insightful. But… most of the time the crickets chirp. I simply cannot compete with the much better known atheist bloggers who are online now. So, though it’s 12 years in the past now and in terms of the Internet it is ancient history, I have to live with the fact that I destroyed the one thing I ever did that brought me some measure of fame and recognition. I had a very popular site, and a lot of people loved me respected me, and looked forward to whatever I was going to have to say next. I so wish now that I had just made some changes to my site so that it was something I could be proud of instead of taking the drastic step of taking it down and destroying it.

I have a friend named Kate who is a much more talented writer than I am. She is a fellow ex-Christian, and I have to admit that I envy the online success she is currently enjoying. She is a successful blogger, and she also co-hosts a skeptical podcast. In addition to that, she has authored some religion-based fiction that I think is very good. She and others seem to find success online so effortlessly. I have to wonder why it hasn’t ever happened again for me, despite my best efforts to put something of value out there…

I have considered giving YouTube a shot, but I suck at making videos, and for some reason the videos I have made in the past have never gotten very many views. I think I pissed YouTube off some years ago, and I think they are purposefully suppressing my videos. I have no proof of that at all, but I think it makes sense…

I have been on Facebook since 2009, but I am giving some thought to leaving it behind for a while. The only thing keeping me there now is the fact that it is the only way I have to stay in touch with many people that I really care about. But I do have major frustrations there. Almost everything I post either gets only a few “likes” or comments, or most often, it gets totally ignored. This is true regardless of what I post. Nobody enjoys being ignored, so I’m thinking of moving on to other sites where my thoughts are more welcomed and appreciated. I also find it very frustrating that my Christian friends refuse to engage with me on the subject of religion. It’s true that I used to post angry rants and I have no doubt that I alienated many of my religious friends doing that, but these days I’m much more interested in productive conversations. But it doesn’t matter how nice I am, my posts on religion routinely get ignored, and I’ve grown very tired of that. It is so frustrating to feel so passionate about something and to have your efforts to communicate and discuss go totally ignored!

Well, I suppose this post is getting long enough. 🙂 I’m sure some of my views and my frustrations and my wishes for fame and recognition reflect the mental health issues I struggle with every day. Nothing I can do about that. But I do hope that this post has given you some insight into my life and some understanding of what I have gone through in the past and what I am going through now here in the present. It’s true that I do crave some measure of fame and recognition, but even more important than that is the fact that I always have and I always will want to make a difference in the lives of others. I want to leave this world a better place than I found it. Thanks for reading all of this and thanks for your friendship. 🙂