Tag Archives: faith

When being Christian is the opposite of lame.

Daniel made a very valid point in a recent quickie that we here at Wtfaith headquarters can sometimes be, shall I say, somewhat hostile people? And that, perhaps, in our zealous attempts to right the wrongs that we see in and among Christians (at least as they’re perceived by other people) we may come across as distinctly confrontational and sometimes, dare I say it, even anti-Christian.

We make a very serious attempt at honesty on these pages, and in these posts, so if we’re struggling with some concept of our toddler-level faith, or if we disagree with some primary Christian concept, tenant or action, we say so. Sometimes we say so in brutally honest ways. Sometimes we can be a little bit. . . harsh.


We don't REALLY think that Jesus hates people, we just have very poor impulse control.

We don’t REALLY think that Jesus hates people, we just have poor impulse control and notoriously bad taste.


When Daniel said that he wanted to take a moment to talk about the things about being a Christian that were kind of cool, it made me stop and think. I realized that I do tend to focus on the stuff I don’t like with a real “Kill it with fire forever” mentality. I’m a bit more internalized with things that I like. I’m not sure why, but it’s easier for me to bitch than to praise. One of those choices feels more natural to me, which is a sign of how unhealthy a place my mental state can degrade to when left to my own devices.

There are two things to me that really stand out when I think of what it is about Christianity that I find to be super awesome. Both of them are from personal experience and I guess, in a way, stem from my own personal testimony. I’d like to share them with you. I know what I’m about to say is going to sound old hat to my Christian peeps, and completely crazy to my non-Christian peeps. I know it, and I’m sorry. Sometimes I genuinely wish I could say anything else here with honesty. But crazy or not, old-hat or not, it’s the truth. Maybe it’s an experiential truth, but even so, that doesn’t invalidate it for me.

The first thing that comes to mind when I think of what I like about being a christian is that being Christian has helped me talk to God. It sounds crazy, I know.  The second thing is that being Christian has made me both feel and be better, all around.

Let me back up a bit. Throughout my faith journey I’ve been a lot of places, I’ve done a lot of things, I’ve tried out a lot of different religions, ideologies and philosophies. Generally speaking I only tried out things that seemed to make a certain amount of sense. I’m not the logical thinker that Daniel is so the things I tried didn’t have to hold up under merciless logical scrutiny. I’ll be honest with you, I would have gotten bored with being that mercilessly logical like five minutes in and gone and played Mass Effect or something. My brain just doesn’t work that way. Logical or not, the things I tried out did have to make me feel a certain kind of way, though. I wanted something real. If magic had been real, I’d still be a witch. If philosophy had changed my life in more than just brief epiphanies, which were exciting but ultimately not very deeply rooted, I’d probably be one of those thinker types. I grew up in a really fundamentalist church. It’s not like I was forced into the lifestyle, mind you. I started attending church with my parents at the tender age of 2, and while I didn’t “Give my life to Jesus” (as if you could give something that’s already His) right away, I waited until I was old enough to be accountable for my actions. In other words, I waited until I was about 5.


"I'm pretty sure I can be trusted to make this decision."

“I’m pretty sure I can be trusted to make this decision.”


Once I’d “prayed the sinner’s prayer” I enthusiastically drank the Kool-Aid with everything I had in me. I’d gone to church twice every Sunday and even once on Wednesday nights as far back as I could remember, but it wasn’t long after my “getting saved” that I threw myself whole-heartedly into Christianity and serving within the church. I did everything right, man. From the age of 5 to the age of about 14, I was a total Jesus-Freak. I lifted my hands super high during song service, I closed my eyes and prayed fervently during the raucous breaks in between songs that I assume were for prayer. They were kind of loud and chaotic, so I’m not sure.

There was a point around age ten through fourteen where I was quite literally attending church – or a church sponsored function -every day of the week. This included, to my shame, street preaching. Apparently everyone thought the skinny pre-teen with a thick Tucson accent was really cute when she was screaming at them unintelligibly about hell through a bullhorn.

 Thinking back it seems to have been a lot of show, but I was a kid, so I joined right in. I enthusiastically evangelized at my schools, single handedly starting bible studies and “prayer at the flag pole”. Why did I do all this? Well, besides a massive case of indoctrination, I saw people who were claiming to have been so moved, so touched, so change by this Jesus guy, as to have completely reconstructed their entire lives.

None of the following is exaggerated:

I’ve known people who claimed to have been seriously long time addicts (pick your poisonous addiction, it doesn’t matter) who prayed and God moved and they dumped out all their beer, flushed all their weed, threw out their crack pipes or stepped on all their cigarettes and 20 years later have never looked back.

I’ve known people who claim to have been severely mentally sick, sometimes undergoing treatments, or on constantly monitored medications to keep the voices quiet, or keep them stabilized, or help them not try to murder themselves. Whatever the case was, their interactions with God had been so miraculously moving they not only no longer needed their medication but were now perfectly stable human beings!

I’ve known people who had some sort of physical malady, ranging from mild to severe, which prayer and faith seem to have healed entirely.

I’ve known people moved to tears for the simplest motion of the “spirit” in the church.


"Oh man, did someone say 'Jesus'? Someone said 'Jesus', didn't they? Here comes the works!"

“Oh man, did someone say ‘Jesus’? Someone said ‘Jesus’, didn’t they? Here comes the works!”



I watched all these people, decent people at their core (aka: not people I would call liars), seemingly really moved and changed by this “spirit”. I wanted that. I fought for it, I did ALL the somatic components to the “Summon Holy Spirit” ritual, and you know what I felt? Nothing. Nothing at all. In fact, I eventually left the church in my teenage years for just that reason. The lack of follow-through after I had intentionally allowed myself to be completely taken in by the game and ritual led me on my journey through all the other religions I played around with just desperately trying to find something real.

In the midst of all this, and this is where it gets cool, there were times when God interacted with me. There were times when I felt that overwhelming presence in my life that moves me, a salty little scrapper, to tears for the simplest of reasons. It didn’t seem to matter what religion I was following or trying out at the time. Religion is a man-made institution designed to give us some understanding and ability to relate to an infinite being who our tiny little finite minds can’t even really grasp. Every ideology in the world is gonna have its places where it seems to conflict with itself, or not make much sense. I was looking for something bigger than the answers. I trusted the answers would come. I wanted something bigger than that. This was always so much bigger than that, and while it generally lasted for a short while, for that small amount of time, I really did feel something special.Something that was very close to real magic was happening in my heart. Of course at the time I didn’t understand what that was, but every glimpse, every touch made me want more and more. So I looked more and more.

Now I’m a Christian, and I guess I should embrace it even though I have a lot of damage from the church of my early years. I’m a Christian because I never stopped looking for that something real, but eventually I put aside the ritual and just started being something real while I was looking. Sure enough, I started to be able to interact more and more with this entity I’ve come to lovingly refer to as God.

It started with the God-Experiment, as Daniel and I call it, which was us reaching out to God from a place full of honesty and devoid of any religious trappings of any sort. That led us to make a huge life change – moving to Duluth – where we were eventually led, through trial and error, to hillside church. Sometimes, our interactions with God would seem to be one sided, but more often there would be these little inexplicable signs, little things that would happen in the people around us that would confirm everything we thought we were being told.

With that comes a sort of comfort, at least for me, that even when I’m not hearing God, he’s clearly there. I’ve never been great at faith, and too many things have happened for me to be able to have the faith that those things are mere coincidence.

Does that mean I never feel alone? Does it mean I never feel like I’m praying for no reason at all? Does it mean all my prayers are answered? No, not at all. But you know what it does mean? It means that occasionally, when I need it the most, God is there in very physical and undeniable ways. That God, the creator of everything, this crazy, infinite being I can’t even wrap my brain around, takes time to interact with me. . . . That is so amazingly cool to me. . .  It’s precisely the something real I’ve been looking for.

In the spirit of perfect candidness, I did say God talked to and interacted with me while I was pagan, Buddhist, agnostic and just confused. That’s true. The difference is, he interacts with me much more now. Maybe that’s a result of me reaching out more from a place of honesty without all the trappings and ritual, and maybe it’s a result of the fact that I’m in a Christian church (though one could hardly say I emulate all the Christian beliefs or even follow all their rules). Either way, coincidence or not, I’ve noticed an increase since becoming “Christian”. I think it’s awesome, so I’ll take it.

The second thing that i think is an awesome byproduct of interacting with God through Jesus, is the general improvement of my mental state and character. Now I didn’t start following Jesus and lose my ability to reason about my fellow man. I’m still pro-choice, and for marriage equality, and the equal rights of gays and women. Its just that being Christian, directly interacting with God, has made me feel better and has gently encouraged me to stop doing things like complaining about my lot in life and being an asshole to my family. Why spendi time doing those things that make me feel like shit when I could  help, love or give to someone because that makes me feel algebraic! The fact is I’ve always been pessimistic at best and tending toward a black hole of depression and self-loathing at worst. I once asked our pastor friend PB how one was supposed to interpret Jesus instruction to “Love your neighbor as yourself” if one hated oneself. Pete’s response was “You know, most people don’t REALLY hate themselves.” And he went on to give me some valid examples to back up that statement, which I may talk about in greater detail in some other future blog post. At the time when he told me this, I was being particularly angsty and emo, and I kind of shrugged and was like, “Whatever you say dude. You don’t know my pain. Life is darkness”. Or something like that, I’m paraphrasing. The point is, I didn’t get it then.


"You'll never understand my pain. . .my beautiful, glamorous pain. . ."

“You’ll never understand my pain, Pete. . . my beautiful, glamorous pain. . .”


Since then, since my relationship with God has grown, since I’ve found ways to answer, or at least try to be at peace with my questions, I’ve noticed something else. I feel better. I genuinely feel better! For a while my issue was so severe there were times I couldn’t even summon the strength to get out of bed. For a while, right after moving here, I was so unstable in my struggle with depression that I was medicated for it. I took Zoloft every day just to be able to face my day, my life, my family. I hated everything about myself. I don’t feel that way anymore. And while I’m not sure that I love myself yet, I think I have a better idea of what Pete was talking about, when he said that. Having God show you exactly what to scrape away to get to the person worth loving underneath is pretty fucking epic, too.  

There’s tons more to say on the subject of the things about Christianity that I think are cool. Today I focused on the things I personally have experienced, and picked two of my favorite bennies of being a Christian. Even though this post is longer than some stories I’ve written, there’s still more to say. I’d be happy to chat your ear off about it if you ask, but I’m done focusing on me and my experiences for a while.

What about you peeps? I would love some stories about what your favorite benefits to being a Christian are! Do you have any wicked-rad moments as a Christian that you mark down on your spiritual timeline? Are there things you’ve seen God do in someone else’s life? Maybe just a feature, like that peace without understanding that Daniel mentioned? Let’s hear your stories!


Some ‘splainin’ to do.

Author’s Note – This post went out incomplete at first publication. . . the result of accidentally hitting the “Publish” button instead of the “Preview” button. If you saw this post in an obviously incompletely form, my apologies.

Another Author’s Note – This one is for you, Pete.

Yeah. This post. I’ve been putting this post off for some time – weeks, maybe months. I have to explain why Brandi and I disappeared, and in the process halted the progress of a blog that was, possibly, on its way to growing from a very-modest-blog to a slightly-less-modest-blog. I’m not writing this post because I want to – rather, I’m writing it because, well, sometimes there’s nothing left to do but put on some Third Eye Blind, sit down at the computer, and make shit happen.

There have been times, in the past few months, where I have felt like the. Shittiest. Christian. Ever.

Except not LITERALLY, cuz. . . you know. . . these guys.

Except not LITERALLY, cuz. . . you know. . . these guys.

I feel this way because my faith has become bipolar. It’s been about a year and a half since I conducted the Great Faith Experiment that lead me to Jesus Christ. And ever since I moved from Duluth, MN (home of Hillside Church, which was my church) to Minneapolis, it feels like I’ve lost all of the momentum that was sustaining my faith. What had once been easy (praying, thinking about theology, reading the Bible) became arduously difficult. As I’m sure you noticed, this extended to blogging – it’s not that I didn’t want to write. But every time I tried, the weight of what I was trying to say seemed so overwhelmingly heavy that it was impossible to start typing. In addition, I completely dropped out of the Christian faith community. I tried attending a couple of churches, but real life circumstances made it hard to continue going there. The first church, River Heights Vineyard, was supposed to be the church I would attend after the move. In fact, RHV is one of the reasons I moved in the first place – I knew I’d have a church to attend when I got here. And I did go – once. Then my money situation imploded, and I could no longer afford the gas for the (very, very long) drive from my home to the Church. The next church I tried was a liturgical Lutheran church. This church was much closer to my house, and I enjoyed many things about it – the way that liturgy humbled me, the kindness of the pastoral staff, the neatness of the homemade liturgies (this church changes them every month, hiring local bands to write and perform them). And yet, I never really connected with the church or the people. So, after a couple of visits, I stopped going.

Meanwhile, as time did what time does and carried me further and further from the emootional revelations that brought me to church in the first place, faith had to contend with the “real” world – the world of empirical data, of science and fact and the Discovery Channel and the supremacy of Homo Rationalus. I thought about entropy, and time, and started to think that the tremendous, frightful grandness of physical resurrection made the idea absurd. Where would we all live, I wondered. What would we eat? Would the world be big enough? What would we do, we who had been resurrected on this one rock in one corner of space, when entropy finally brought the universe to stop? The more I thought about it, the more ridiculous it seemed to believe in the predictions made by we tiny, religiously inclined humans – predictions about an end that would, if it were to pass, affect far more than just our planet. There were a few times when I was tempted to just give up on faith entirely. I almost wanted to fall back into the comforting, noodly arms of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, the mascot of atheism.

Oh, for the comfort of his sticky, starchy, imaginary embrace. . .

Oh, for the comfort of his sticky, starchy, imaginary embrace. . .

But I couldn’t.

I couldn’t give up my faith entirely, because that didn’t seem to be a step toward embracing the truth. As I’ve said before, I tend toward skepticism – not because I love arguing with people, but because the search for truth is very important to me. For me to become an atheist, I would have to come to the conclusion that any experience I have ever had that implied any truth that contradicted the known laws of physics was, at best, a mistake. No matter how emotionally powerful an experience I had (the popsicle story comes to mind) I would be forced to immediately decide that it was of no value to me in my determination to learn some truth about existence. Furthermore, it would require that I take steps toward another type of faith. I would have to embrace the faith of coincidence – to believe that, at the times when it seems like two events could not possibly have occurred with the intervention of a mysterious intelligence, those two events were completely unrelated. When my mother-in-law needed a ride from Tucson to Texas to attend a family funeral, it looked like there was no way for it to happen. Despite the seeming impossibility of the situation, Brandi and she prayed together over the phone for God to find her a way. A few minutes after that prayer, during that same phone call, my sister-in-law called Brandi’s mom. She said, and I (kinda) quote, “I don’t know why, but God is telling me to tell you that I will drive you to Texas.” To be an atheist, I must believe that this was a coincidence and nothing else.

Even in my state of weakened faith in the Christian worldview, I saw that this wasn’t going to work for me. I was exhausted, my belief running by fumes and the memories of easier times. . . adopting a faith in coincidence didn’t seem to be an easier option.

So, where am I today, you ask?

Today, I’m letting you know. If you came to this blog because you’re a Christian, I’m sure you’ve been through this sort of situation before. And if you’ve come to this blog because you’re an atheist, well. . . I admire your faith in coincidence, because I don’t have the strength to follow in your footsteps. And maybe you came to this blog because you’re like me – a faith baby, someone who had their understanding of the universe shaken so much that they have to embrace the insanity of believing in something that seems impossible. If that’s the case, I hope you’ll learn one thing from this confession – expect shit like this to happen. It probably will. And when it does, don’t sit on it – find a community. Find a friend. Talk to someone who has been there. And don’t give up, because (believe me) you won’t find any answers sitting on your ass.

Thanks for your patience, folks.



The Popsicle story.



Cancer, cancer, cancer.

I’ve had cancer on the mind, lately. A friend of mine was just diagnosed. Another friend, the consonant-empowered Jenn (with two “n”’s) has been musing about her own past with cancer on her blog. A woman in my church is blogging about a relative of hers who might have the disease. Last night I dreamed about the funeral my family held for my mother, who I lost to cancer about six years ago.

And I have had cancer.

Brandi and I decided, when we started “What the Faith”, to make the blog only semi-autobiographical, in that while we would occasionally blog about things that are happening to us, we would not, as a whole, make it just a blog that chronicled our lives. We wanted to write articles that spoke about our journey in broad strokes, so that anyone might relate to what we’re experiencing. We also wanted to tackle social issues  on occasion, or just muse about faith  like a couple of stoned teenagers. We intended for the personal stories to be an occasional occurrence. Also, and perhaps most importantly, we only wanted to include personal stories that had a faith twist – after all, it’s “What the Faith”, not “What the Fuck is Happening To The Mitchells This Week.”

That may be why I’ve never really “outed” myself as a cancer survivor before – at least, not here. But, now that I have cancer on my mind, it occurs to me that I have a faith-related cancer story, and maybe now is the time that God wants me to tell it. I think that God wants me to tell the “Popsicle story.”


L’histoire de Popsicle

In July of 2008, Brandi noticed a lump under my skin, just over my left collar bone at the base of my neck. It was (say it with me, now) hard and painless to the touch. I went to a doctor, got it biopsied, and in September of that year I was diagnosed with nodular sclerosis Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphatic system. I was twenty-nine years old. My reaction was fairly predictable. I remember at one point, Brandi (who, like me, was a skeptic at the time, and just as anti-Christian as I was) had to prevent her parents from giving me the “get your soul right with God” speech. I found out about that the day after she ran intervention.

My treatment was six months of chemotherapy with a cocktail called ABVD (adriamycin, bleomycin, vinblastine, and dacarbazine). It was administered intravenously, which was good (because I didn’t have to have a port installed) and bad (to this day, it’s impossible to find a good vein in my arm). I was given the dose every other Wednesday. The side effects were mild, compared to some chemotherapy treatments – for example, my hair only thinned, and I didn’t lose much weight – even though that would have been a plus in my book. However, as the treatment progressed, the side effects I did have lingered for longer and longer. The nausea had to be treated with better medication as time when on and my original meds did less to stop it. I would get hiccups the day after every infusion, for the entire day – treated with a mild muscle relaxer.  Two days after an infusion, I’d spend most of the day asleep, knocked out by the anti-nausea pills. I couldn’t drink bottled water, because my sensitive taste buds couldn’t stand the tang of plastic. The smell of car exhausted made me retch. It wasn’t fun.

Things started coming to a head, emotionally and physically, as I came closer to the last session of my fifth month. By now I was used to the routine. I would go in, get an IV put into one of my depreciating number of usable veins, get pumped with pre-drugs like a steroid, and something to fight nausea, and a mild relaxant. Then I would get the chemo, and it would burn the veins of my arm as it went in. As the months were going on, I was becoming more and more aware of the fact that I was getting toxins deliberately pumped into me. I was getting really depressed about the whole thing, and on that one day (the final chemo of month five) I told Brandi that I wanted to call in sick. For chemo. The irony was golden. But seriously, I said that I didn’t want to go in for my infusion, that I just wanted one week off from the whole process. She hugged me, and I cried a little bit, and then we went in.

I spent that whole morning pumping myself up. “You can do it, you’ve been through worse,” I said to myself. I went through every single visualization exercise my neo-pagan youth had taught me – “Picture a field, and a tree, and an animal that approaches. This is your spirit animal. Take comfort from your spirit animal.” I tried counting things in my head, to force my focus away from what was happening to me. I used every single trick I could think of to try to make my body less revolted by the process. The only thing I didn’t try was praying – I figured that if God did exist (and I was far from sure about that) then this theoretical God would already know that I was miserable, and would help me whether I asked it to or not. So I resolved to deal with it on my own. This is very important to understand – I failed so completely it was sad. My heart was racing as the nurse put the IV in me, I got the shakes, I wanted to throw up when I felt the cold of the liquid hitting my veins. It was bad, and I was depressed at my complete inability to make myself okay with the infusion. I was powerless to “man up”, and as the infusion continued I just kept feeling worse.

Then the nurse got up, because the automatic drip portion of the infusion was starting and she didn’t need to hand-inject the liquids anymore. She asked if I wanted anything from the kitchen – water? Juice? A soda? Tea? Coffee? A Popsicle?

When she mentioned the Popsicle (the grossest, least-appealing frozen treat known to mankind, and the one “cold-dessert-on-a-stick” I have never wanted in my life, and had subsequently turned down for every single previous infusion at the Arizona Cancer Center), I felt this shiver go through me, and this weird warmth filled my chest. Suddenly, I had this incredibly rapid series of thoughts/feelings/images – kids laughing in the sun, running barefoot on the grass, eating Popsicles. It was the cheap kind that was two Popsicles stuck together, each one with its own stick. I thought of the syrup that sticks to the side (so gross) and the flavorless ice crystals that form on them (so gross) and it all seemed to me, for an instant, to be the perfect personification of carefree joy. It seemed to me that Popsicles represented unmitigated happiness. I was very surprised that I wanted one, and ravenously.

I told the nurse, “You know, I would love a Popsicle.” Brandi turned and raised an eyebrow, because she knows I hate them, and I had sounded so pleased at the thought. When the nurse brought it back, wrapped in the cheap paper wrapper that sticks to the frozen bar, I tour it open and put it in my mouth. The warmth in my chest just exploded – it was like a floodgate of endorphins was opened in my brain. These things that I had never liked, that represented things I had never done as a child (run barefoot in the grass? in the sun? I grew up hating the sun and the sharp St. Augustine grass we had in our yard) were making me happy in a way that I had no choice but to accept as coming from outside of myself. It literally felt as if this whole idea of what Popsicles represented, and how they could bring me tremendous happiness in a moment when I needed even a little happiness, was not something I was able to do myself. It was all very illogical, baseless from within the context of my life experience, and so saccharine and cliché that my internal cynicism should have strangled it dead. Instead, it made me tear up with happiness, and that was the easiest chemo infusion I ever had. I told Brandi about it, and all she had to say at that time, was, “That was God.”

This, from a skeptic, like me.

Now, the rules of good storytelling would insist that I tell you folks that I came to God that day, but I didn’t. I didn’t even consider going to a church until something like three years after that day, and I did it kicking and screaming. I spent those three years as a hard-line agnostic who felt he had more in common with atheists than with any kind of theist – but I held special loathing for Christians. Looking back from a theological perspective, it’s easy to suspect that the Holy Spirit touched me on the Day of the Popsicle, but that the works of the enemy took that recollection from my mind for three years. In fact, the reason I’m a Christian now is because one year ago, I told Brandi, “You know, sweetheart. . . I think I’m an atheist.”

Her response?

“No you’re not. Don’t you remember the Popsicle?”

I had forgotten the Popsicle, but Brandi reminded me. That convinced me that I needed to start hanging out with theists. I needed to surround myself with people who would remind me that a weird, immaterial Something – a Something that existed outside of me –  had once helped me do what I was completely unable to do on my own. When looking for a large group of theists, the most logical place to look in Duluth was a church (we have very few mosques in the Twin Ports). Of the churches in Duluth, the one that spoke the most to me (when I viewed its website) was HillsideChurch. Cut to me, sometimes-raising-my hand-in-worship, sometimes-getting-teary-eyed-during-message, and, most importantly, me-getting-dunked-in-a-kiddy-pool on stage, and the rest is unfolding history.



Cancer, cancer, cancer.

Some of you reading this have cancer. Some of you reading this have had cancer. And some of you reading this have experienced cancer through someone you loved – someone who might not be here anymore, like my mom. I want you all to know that I love you.

I love you, all.

My next post will be angrier, and snarkier, and it will have funny pictures in it. I’ll return you to your regularly-scheduled ranting.

Until then,

May God give you Popsicles. . . even if you don’t ask.

Is this Sparta?

I know what you’re thinking. “Two posts in a row? From Brandi?! Is her server down for maintenance?” Well it’s not! I’m actually taking a break from the game in order to share my thoughts with you. Isn’t that thoughtful of me?

Just say yes, so we can move on.

Daniel mentioned in an earlier blog post that we’re in the process of buying a house in “the cities” – which is the twin cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota, for those of you who don’t habla midwest. I’m excited about this because it will be the first time we’ve been able to own something, which either means we’re crazy, or we’re moving ever-so-slightly up in the world.

Now, since this process has started I’ve been approaching it through fasting and prayer, and fasting, and prayer. It’s been very cyclical, as I’m sure you can imagine. This hasn’t been an easy road for us Mitchells. It started with us feeling very strongly that our days in Duluth were coming to an end, despite the fact that we have much love for our Duluth/Superior peeps. We had a couple of options on the table: namely, the cities or Florida. Each one had its strengths and weaknesses, so that’s where the prayer started. It was, basically, me telling God that I would move where he pointed regardless of my personal feelings on the subject – if only he would just point.

Eventually, the focus slowly tightened down to the cities, and I began my search for housing. There were a lot of houses available . . . but again, after focusing in on the prayer and fasting, we managed to narrow down the possibilities to 3 different houses. After a couple of trips down into that concrete jungle, we ended up picking the first house we’d looked at. We felt really good about it, so we put in an offer and decided to start the process.

That should have been it, right? No such luck. Every step we took forward was followed by a half-step back, and there were times in the process when everyone involved was ready to throw up their hands, say “Oh to hell with it!” and settled for renting a house in the Duluth/Superior area.

Every time things would devolve to this point, I would go into a season of prayer and fasting. I would ask God the standard questions – did I make the wrong call? Did I misinterpret the signs and portents and dreams? Did he not want us in the cities at all?

Every time I prayed, I would feel this comforting presence I’ve come to call a “God Hug”. It was a  feeling of God saying,  “I’ve never left you. Just wait.” And I would, with renewed faith, counsel everyone in my family of this very fact. Some would doubt it was going to happen at all, some would doubt we could make it work if it did happen, and to all of them I became their only source of encouragement. Even as the clock was ticking down, and it was looking like we were going to be facing eviction from our current rental just to buy the time for the closing on this house happen, I was the one who didn’t have the time or luxury to doubt. We knew that we couldn’t rent another house without signing a lease we’d have to break in a month, thereby paying moving costs twice. Even worse was the threat of being effectively homeless until closing came through. Neither of these were pleasant prospects, and to say I wasn’t afraid would be a massive lie. Still, I felt like we were poi      sed on a precipice – the difference between what God had done in our lives already, and what God was inviting us to discover with him. My fear did not shake my faith, and a lot of times my “prayer” was a shrug and me saying, “Well I don’t know what you’re doing, but you’ve never abandoned me. Not even when I forgot your name. I trust you. And thanks for the shit your doing that I can’t see. Whatever it is, it’s gonna be epic.”

Because that’s how I pray, you see. Keep it simple, stupid. Keep it simple, and keep it real.

One thing I’ve learned in my short faith journey is this: praying to God for help is powerful magic, but it’s not always enough. So we sent out a call to prayer. We asked you guys (our blog readers, who still need a name) to pray, we emailed our pastors and our friends. We got all the “prayer warriors” involved. I even branched out a little and sent out a call to my secular friends – some of whom are pagan, some of whom are agnostic, and one of whom is atheist – and asked them to do whatever they did to send good vibes our way. Heretical? Maybe. Personally, I think God hears you no matter what name you call him or what method you use, and I needed all the help I could get. Being the only support beam gets tiring when you’re holding up the whole building! Plus. . . you know. . . the whole move thing could really use his help.

Well, we asked and you answered. And things started happening in our favor. It became two steps forward and one step back – sometimes three steps. It got to the point that we became convinced that

a)      this move was under supernatural attack (which is not a mentality I jump to easily)


b)      that meant that we were supposed to be doing it.

We renewed the call to prayer amongst family and friends, and God moved in such a way that I can’t imagine it’s because of anyone but him. Now it looks almost certain that we will not only be closing on this house early next month, but that we will be doing it at a substantially lower cost than we originally thought. Due to the various problems we ran into in the course of trying to make this sale happen, the owner has become willing to make adjustments to the contract to help it fly with the VA loan we’re using – including lowering the price of the house, after we’d already agreed on a number. He’s even offering to pay our closing costs out of his own pocket. He’s almost losing money to see us in this house. Who does that, when they could just find another buyer?

I figure, only someone touched by God would do that.

Anyway, throughout this process my faith was never shaken, even though I was afraid and sometimes exhausted with the job of encouraging everyone else along the way. I’m not saying this to brag – I’m saying this because this is not at all like me. Usually, I’m the one who falls to despair. I’m the one who gives up on God before God gives up on me. But this time, for this struggle, things were different.  I knew it was going to work out even if I didn’t see the end game. I knew God was going to take care of us, because that’s what you do to someone you love, and if there’s anything I know for certain (besides higher frame rates are better) it’s that God loves me. And not just me – God loves my whole family. As such, I knew without a shadow of a doubt that he would be with us through this storm as he’d been with us through every other storm.

As my pastor, Ryan Bauers, once said, “Life can be rough. Sometimes it can’t be helped. Sometimes the only choice you’re offered is the choice to go through hard times and feel hopeful, or to go through hard times and despair.”

And – who knew? – God likes it when we call on him. He enjoys it when we take the time to chat. And sometimes, when we ask him to work miracles, he does.

However, as close as we are to the finish line, there are still hurdles to jump and pitfalls to cross. I’m a fighter by nature, and as such I know that you can’t slacken in your assault till victory is fully achieved. That being the case, I’m renewing the call to each of you to come put on your +3 armor of smiting evil and come join me in the battle. Pray, meditate, light candles, whatever it is you do to commune with the infinite wonder that is God. Do it with m,e and on behalf of me and my family, and in return I will do the same for you. Whatever it is you’re going through, God is with you. He walks with you, and he loves you, and he won’t ever abandon you even if you don’t know his name. I know sometimes that’s not easy to see, so as an added bonus, I’m with you too – with my vorpal sword of holy ass-kicking and a bad attitude, and I’m willing to spill metaphoric blood for your cause. So tell me what it is you’re in the middle of, what enemy has you surrounded, what storm rocks your boat, and together we can go to war!

Hi, my name is Daniel. . .

I was recently reading a study that Darren  sent to me. It was a paper, written by an atheist group, on five clergymen who secretly did not believe in God. The paper contained transcripts from interviews conducted with these five men, and each of them told a bit of their story – how they came to be ministers, what lead to them losing faith in God’s existence, why they didn’t “come clean” with their atheism, etc. One thing I noticed about these five guys is that they all said that they’d never experienced anything miraculous in their lives. Each of them had a hard time believing in anything supernatural, to the point that even believing in God in a liberal way (which downplays the role of miracles in the Bible and focuses more on Jesus’ morality) became impossible for them.

I sympathize with these clergymen. I really do. As I’ve said before a time or two, if your faith in God is based on things like the Bible, or tradition, or philosophy, then I think you’re going to have a hard time maintaining that faith. My faith in God is based on the fact that he does, occasionally, do stuff. It’s not always huge, but it’s there – personal, experiential evidence that an immaterial being listens to me, loves me, and can make changes to the world around me. The experience of the miraculous creates a context in which the Bible, the tradition, and the philosophy can be studied, wrestled-with, and contemplated fruitfully. If the Bible confuses me, that’s okay – I don’t worship the Bible. If I disagree with the tradition, or think that the philosophy sometimes falls short, my experiential faith carries me through those times. Faith is something that I place in people, not ideas.

For instance, I would never say what I am about to say, if I had hope that an idea was going to come along and lend me aid. Instead, I say what comes next because I’m hoping that a person (named Yahweh) will give me a hand out of a situation that I am in.

If it’s not entirely obvious from my profile photo, I’m a pretty big guy. I’ve always been big – I was a chubby toddler who became a husky boy who became a big man. I’ve come to accept that certain things are just a fact of life. For instance, my metabolism sucks. Also, my knees are bad from carrying all this weight for such a long time. In addition, I have Type 2 diabetes. These are things that are just a result of being a guy who, I have felt for a long time, was born to be big.

I’ve recently realized that I can’t blame my weight on genetics alone. I’m sure my biology has a part to play in this, but I now know that my habits are a bigger contributor than I previously assumed. The habit that hurts me the most is a sin so “old timey” that in the Middle Ages it was considered one of seven “deadly sins.” Obviously, I’m talking about gluttony – but these days, we call it food addiction.

Here are some signs of how I have a pretty fucked-up habit.

–         I sometimes eat in secret

–         I often eat when I’m not hungry

–         I occasionally eat things that do not taste good, just to be eating

–         I sometimes eat when I flat-out don’t want to eat.

It’s weird to realize that you’re addicted to something as commonplace, as innocuous, as food. I’ve always lived a pretty clean life. I didn’t know what weed smelled like until I was in my mid-twenties. I’ve always been very moderate in my drinking (one or two memorable occasions notwithstanding). I don’t smoke cigarettes, and I haven’t had a cigar in years. I thought that I was immune to addiction.

But food? How do I give up food? Unlike addictions to substances, gambling, or sex, food is a basic biological need. I can’t quit it cold turkey. I’ve tried to curb my habits on occasion over the years. Sometimes I can for a couple of weeks, or maybe (once) for a couple of months. So far I’ve never been able to make it stick. I’ve tried to change my habits for a number of reasons – I’ve done it to loose weight, I’ve done it to control my blood sugar, I’ve done it to just “feel healthier”. Food addiction makes all of these attempts impossible, because eventually the urge to go to the fridge and put whatever is in there in my mouth becomes overwhelming.

Recently, I was chatting with my mother-in-law, and the subject somehow got around to life after death. I told her some stuff that I’d recently read that was written by my academic hero, N.T. Wright. He talked about how the idea that we all had an immaterial soul was not Biblical – that the Bible preached a physical resurrection, not a spiritual, immaterial one. I mentioned this to my mother-in-law, and she said, “Yep. And we’ll be perfect – we won’t have sickness, or scars, or be overweight.” We’d have glorified bodies. And that got me thinking – if, on that future day that the world was redeemed, I was resurrected as a skinny, sexy Dan, doesn’t that imply that my weight’s ultimate causality – the underlying problem with my addiction – is that this world is broken, and that I myself am also broken?

This is where God comes in.

I am fasting from everything but water for the next twenty-four hours. I’m not fasting to start a diet, or to try to live a healthier life, or to cleanse my body of toxins. I am fasting because I need help from a being outside of myself. I’m fasting because I need the miraculous intervention of the person who has, on the odd occasion, miraculously intervened before – in my life, and in the lives of others that I know. I’m fasting because I am broken, and because I am broken I need to be fixed. I’m fasting because it’s a tradition within the Christian faith. For whatever reason, fasting is something that seems to sharpen the spirit. It brings focus to the faster’s mind, and it seems – for me, anyway – to make it easier for the person fasting to hear God. Maybe it helps God hear them, too. I’ve previously fasted for 24 hours  and for three days, and both times I felt my faith grow stronger for a time.

After my fast is over, I’m going to confront this addiction with renewed focus. I know it won’t be easy – I’m not asking God for easy. What I am asking God to do is to make overcoming this habit possible. Occasionally, I’ll give mention in this blog as to how my struggle is coming along. . . not because I’m assuming you’re all dying to know, but because this is blog about a faith journey, and sometimes going to God with your baggage is part of that journey. If I don’t document this part of my journey just because it’s a little embarrassing, then one could rightly question the honesty of the blog.

Today’s question – would you pray for me? You don’t have to comment, or give me encouragement, or in any way draw attention to yourself if you don’t want to. But when you chat with God next, could you mention that I need his help? 

And now for something vaguely diff’rent. – By Brandi, not Daniel. Ignore that.

For those of you keeping score, last time I posted I talked a lot about things that I feel like maybe God wants me to do but am uncomfortable doing – or downright afraid of. That was a really hard post for me, because I don’t really like feeling so exposed. I thought I would switch things up this time, make the score a little more even, and talk about things that I think are awesome.

I love computers. As a child of the ‘90’s, and an attendee of a math/science magnet school, I have basically had a keyboard under my fingers since I was 6. From the very first moment my kindergarten teacher led my class into the computer lab and booted up Oregon Trail, I was hooked. Since then what I do with said keyboard has gotten more intricate, but the love I have for it has never once diminished.

Ohhhhhh yeeeaaaahhhhhh. . .

Its no surprise then, I’m sure, that after discovering faith, I used the computer as a primary way to connect to God. It didn’t start that way. In fact, had I been asked initially I would have said that seemed a little indecorous. Not improper necessarily, just . . .beneath an entity who is so sacred and holy. I started trying to connect with God in the traditional ways. First were solemn, silent prayers – which I could almost never finish, because I would get a few sentences in, and off my mind would go on some tangent. The next thing I knew I would have completely forgotten I was praying.

“God, please grant me strength as I. . . as I go through. . . is that a mouse? A brown mouse? No? Oh, it’s Snickers wrapper. Oh snaps! ‘Snicker’ means laugh, why did I just get that now? That name makes no sense! Oh, um. . . Amen.”

Worse than that was when my mind would get stuck on this endless loop and I couldn’t seem to think around a certain phrase or sentence. It was embarrassing and I felt bad. Shouldn’t I be able to focus on this? If I can’t even give God 15 minutes of solid focus, what hope is there for any other aspect of my life? Well, that’s ok. I’m tough, and nothing, not even my brain, tells me what to do! So I said to myself “Damn you, brain. I’ll show you what’s what!” And then I polished my monocle and began praying aloud.

“Lord bless the Empire, and protect her from those damnable aboriginals!”

Sadly, that didn’t work any better. I’m a very easily distracted person, and while praying aloud did serve to keep me slightly more focused, every little thing got my attention. Little ambient noises, changing the song on the radio, playing with my wicked awesome smart phone. . . eventually I would realize I was getting caught in the metaphoric weeds and feel guilty. This was always followed by me saying, “Oh, crap. I’m sorry, God. We were talking! What a jerk I am. Where was I?”

After about the millionth time this happened I decided to once again take matters into my own tentacles.

I had a friend who, while at work, told me her pregnant daughter was being rushed to the hospital after her OB-Gyn was unable to detect the baby’s heart beat. I was struck with an immediate need to pray, but I work on the phones. Can’t very well bust into an audible prayer on the call floor, so I did the next best thing. I opened up MS Word and began typing. I rattled off a prayer for her, and for her daughter, and for her daughter’s unborn baby, my fingers flying across the keys. A page and a half later, I closed the prayer, feeling satisfied and comforted. Then I realized I hadn’t been distracted once. It was so much easier to focus when I was typing! I was sold.

Since then every morning, and most evenings, God gets a little “email” from me, and my prayer times have increased from 15 minutes a day to sometimes an hour or more. Not just that, but I can totally feel his presence in response to these little notes from me. Not only that but I can see multiple responses to my prayers – which I had been having a hard time finding using any other method, probably due to my lack of focus. My friend’s daughter was fine, for example. Her baby was perfectly healthy, and has since been born a calm, little, un-fussy angel.

Who caused us all TREMENDOUS AMOUNTS OF PANIC, yes he did!

It’s a little unorthodox, I’ll admit, the idea of emailing God, but it works for me. It’s one of the easiest ways for me to feel that connection to his spirit and presence that I have come to refer to as a “God hug”. It’s not the only way, by any means.

It’s been mentioned (maybe by me, I’m very forgetful) that I grew up with a really strong church background that I deviated from in my early teens. I mostly left because I felt a total lack of connection to this “God” that everyone around me seemed to feel so potently that they were moved to weeping on several occasions. I felt like I was on the outside looking in, wondering what I was missing. I did all the “rituals” but I never felt that complete connection. I finally decided that either they were all liars, or more likely, this God didn’t want to talk to me or touch me the way he did them. “Cool, well,” I figured.  “Sorry I took up your time, I’ll leave you alone.”

“Later, Son of Man. I’m Audi 5000.”

That said, there was one period of service I never missed – not for anything in the world – and that was worship service. Something about the music, singing these love songs, praising this entity, seemed to thin the veil between it and me. And while I thought maybe God was showing up for the people in the congregation who were actually holy, rather than for me, I loved feeling it. I craved it. Music and I have always had a great relationship, and this just took that to the next level. I would abandon all good senses, dancing to the fast songs, swaying to the slow songs, and all-in-all enjoying myself completely. That was the only time I felt seen by God, and it filled me with such joy that if the entire three-hour church service could have been praise and worship I never would have missed the sermons.

Now, I feel God much more readily, and I think that has a lot to do with me taking things the way that I relate best to them, rather than trying so hard to follow other peoples’ rituals for connecting with Him. That said, my love for worship has never once abated. The connection I feel to music, the way it moves me, opens my heart in such a way to put me in a place so that it’s easier for Him to talk to me, to give me a God hug.

You’ll find me, ever Sunday, jamming out to the worship stylings of Aaron Boothe and the rest of the worship team, and loving it. Appropriate or not, I’m always doing a little dance in my seat, singing animatedly, hands gesturing dramatically to what I’m singing. I still don’t raise them, but I don’t think that’s necessary. I think it’s just like typing. For some people, it makes it easier for them to feel that connection to God, but since he sees into our hearts, He doesn’t need it. He sees our sincerity.

Joy. Joy immeasurable, which fills you for no logical reason. That’s what connecting to God brings, and since it’s been such a journey for me to find the best way to find it, I want to share that joy with all of you reader-type-peoples, the Super Squad. So share with me! Tell me what kooky way you have found that helps you interact with God. I would love to hear about your rituals for making that connection and stories about how you’ve seen those methods given an approving nod from Him. Ways he’s touched you to affirm you’re doing something right! Tell me your stories, and I will give you cookies. *

*Disclaimer : I will probably not give you cookies.