Getting All Religious

Previously on Greg & Vicky’s Life:

The beautiful bride and gregarious groom are being forced to navigate nuptuals without parental provision!

Oh, my! Greg has been finally throwing in the towel about his frantic fiasco with his family! How will he move on from this pernicious pickle?

Things are really starting to “heat up” with their plans to go to the Caribbean.

Nana nana nana nana (etc.)

There are very few things in life that cause more people to go weird than stating that you’re not getting a lot of help for your wedding, outside of maybe implying that you’ve found a great mortuary to get married in and that they’ll let you use on-site flowers.

Nearly two weeks ago I brought y’all up to speed on our as-of-then current state. From then, quite a few events have transpired their way into our lives.

Firstly, we were confronted with a difficult reality. Vicky has had a living situation challenge for some time now, and she hasn’t been able to afford rent for a while.

After assessing all of the options given our financial situation, timing of the wedding, lack of nearly any connections that we could muster to serve the present needs and a whole lot of prayer, we decided that the best thing to do would be to live together.

Now, if you’re the religious type that doesn’t find this to be a right way of living, we think so too. That’s why we decided to make it tentatively legally official.

Monday on April 18th we went to the county clerk’s office and planned to schedule a wedding ceremony. Since the state of California requires an officiant to sign for the ceremony up to 90 days in advance for it to be official (and since some marriages last less time than their engagements I can’t really blame them) we moved the wedding ceremony date to July 15th.

Upon receiving counsel with two of our most amazing friends Tricia and Brad, we saw that we weren’t technically married. Therefore, we went back on the 19th and got a proper courthouse wedding, soullessly devoid of God or witnesses or anything else that makes women fawn and men wince.

Because we’re weird, we don’t want to consummate the wedding until the actual wedding date, so we’re basically married officially without the official state of marriage in order to avoid any moral hazard or suffer any reputation to our spiritual testimony. However, I doubt anyone is really going to check.

In light of this, we also moved the reception (that you’re invited to if you want) to July 30th.

This creates a more urgent date that allows us to make plans quicker, get married quicker, and be done with this small circus faster. It also speeds us along to looking at our Caribbean plans, which have become a bit more clear.

We are going to move to Puerto Rico, probably within a year and a half, unless God opens or closes doors to shift that timing. We will purchase property over there that will be the site of an orphanage. Between sex trafficking, lack of sufficient medical care and a general lack of civic service coverage, we are going to operate to serve the needs of those whose needs are most overlooked in the entire Caribbean Islands.

Sadly, finding data regarding orphans in the Caribbean is sparse, partly because the definition is a bit hard to pin down and partly because nobody seems to care about that part of the world:

  • An orphan is technically anyone who has lost at least one parent, without any clarification of whether other family are taking care of them
  • Double-parent orphans are in a severe state of need, but many of those are probably not demographically measured due to being put away from tracking by sex traffickers
  • Many children are raising children, which lends further questioning into this discussion

We have many ideas, but it’s very clear now that if we can help we really should be helping, and we have no excuse. Once we get there, we’re bound to discover a part of the world that has neglected humanitarian needs due to being very scenic and miserably humid.

The past few days have had me pondering my furniture and electronics toys. The reality is that I can’t comfortably sit around owning stuff when there are people who are suffering from a lack of having basic necessities like food, clean drinking water and the means to a sufficient education to have a marketable skill. Vicky echoes this sentiment.

In all of this, we have both been growing convicted of a cold reality in the book of James, Chapter 1:

Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

If we want to say we’re Christian, that’s fine, but to be a Christian takes a whole new level of sacrifice.

About a month ago, we saw Machine Gun Preacher, a Gerard Butler film that was surprisingly close to the source material given the combination of a Christian message and not-really-so-Christian-pretty-much-at-all Hollywood direction. It was unsettling to say the least, and reading the book pseudo-together has only heightened the inspiration to go.

Both of us have never been given many opportunities to have great role models of parenting, but we were both blessed with parents that physically existed and loved us to the extent that their selfishness permitted them to.

Our desire is to be models, inspiration and a connection for as many kids as we can that were given far less than we have had. Right now it is uncertain how we’ll fulfill that purpose, but I’m fairly certain that God will give us the opportunities to serve when we’ve been prepared spiritually for it.

As far as our parents are concerned in this whole endeavor, they clearly don’t want to be a part of our lives. For Vicky, she’s not allowed to think things that her parents don’t think, and for me I’m not able to express or communicate with them on a level beyond surface-level.

It doesn’t matter, though. Jesus makes it very clear in Matthew 19:

And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name’s sake, will receive many times as much, and will inherit eternal life.

We are going to sell our stuff soon and make our way over there, depending on several contingent factors:

  1. Whether my work can be taken with me
  2. How fast we can sell our stuff
  3. How soon we can save up the money to go or get financial backing

So this is where it has to leave off for now.

Until next time, stay crunchy!

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The Apocalypse Clock

I know I was going to post about my wedding date and why it changed, but we’re still going through some pretty big transitions that require a degree of current confidentiality. However, let me show you some data mostly unrelated to our wedding:

Jews worldwide

  • Israel – 6,103,200
  • United States – 5,700,000
  • France – 475,000
  • Canada – 385,300
  • Latin America – 383,500
  • Britain – 290,000
  • Russia – 186,000
  • Germany – 118,000
  • Australia – 112,500
  • Africa – 74,700
  • South Africa – 70,000
  • Ukraine – 63,000
  • Hungary – 47,900
  • Iran – 20,000
  • Asia – 19,700
  • Romania – 9,400
  • New Zealand – 7,600
  • Morocco – 2,400

In short, I’ve decided that the best way for any Christian to track the closeness to the end times is to look at how many Jews are not yet Israelis. This is from Jeremiah 32:37 and a number of good theologians who aren’t dispensationalists.

Dispensationalism, for all of you normal people who have lives and stuff, is the theological belief that God has divided out this world’s chronology into “ages”, and these ages define how God interacts. Ripped from Wikipedia:

  1. Innocence – Adam under probation prior to the Fall. Ends with expulsion from the Garden of Eden.
  2. Conscience – From the Fall to the Great Flood. Ends with the worldwide deluge.
  3. Human Government – After the Great Flood, humanity responsible to enact the death penalty. Ends with the dispersion at the Tower of Babel.
  4. Promise – From Abraham to Moses. Ends with the refusal to enter Canaan and the 40 years of unbelief in the wilderness.
  5. Law – From Moses to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Ends with the scattering of Israel in AD 70.
  6. Grace – From the cross to the Second Coming. Ends with the wrath of God comprising the Great Tribulation.
  7. Millennial Kingdom – A 1000 year reign of Christ on earth centered in Jerusalem. Ends with God’s judgment on the final rebellion.

The biggest problem with this is that it creates an inequity among people. If we assume God is just and fair (which any Christian will) then that means that God’s treatment of people will change based upon where they exist in that age lineup. 3rd Age people don’t get a chance to understand God’s Law, like, at all. 6th Age people don’t even need the Law! We should probably also put a 6a-th Age for the people who are in Revelation’s fun and games that happen before the 7th Age.

Here’s my thinking, and bear with it. Maybe God is the same and the conditions tied to people change? Whether someone is a compulsive liar or insecure or a Buddhist matters much more to God than whether someone is Asian or 48 years old or born in 500 BC.

Now, the logic to this leads to the next thought. If Roman 11:17-24 is any evidence, it’s likely that the Christian world is made up of people who have been included into something originally Jewish, not the other way around. And if that is the case, then the whole theology of dispensationalism (which implies that the Jews-only-with-God thing is over) is faulty.

Christians are precisely the same as Jews, except that they believe the Messiah came. It’s impossible to have any sort of effective theological basis if you only rely on the letters of a few Jewish extremists from the first century AD.

If the Jews are still God’s chosen people, then the remarkably unique and unlikely experience of them coming into their homeland after nearly 2000 years of displacement has some merit to end-times prophecies.

And if that is true, then the number of Jews that are not in Israel yet are a good indicator of how much longer we have until the meeting at Megiddo in Revelation 16:16.

This leads back to our wedding for one simple reason: we have time. We have time to plot out our path, and may even have time to produce and raise half-clones of us to send off into this weird and unfair world.

The plans for aiding the Caribbean have been honed into a desire to provide discipleship to the area. We are going to go to Puerto Rico to set up a forward base, and from there we will try to create whatever God leads us to create. That’s about all we’ve moved forward towards.

Beyond that, we are still just planning our wedding and deciding how to deal with the unfortunate realities of having very little aide in the whole process.

Until later, stay crispy!

A Big Whopper Of A Post!

One of the more frustrating parts about writing is knowing where to start. Some people dive right in while others plan and plot and try to be certain that what they write is consistent with their desired tone, overall theme, moon cycles, etc.

My current difficulty is tied largely to knowing what to exclude, since there are so many things I could write about but very few things that this darn 24-hour-based day cycle permits me to write on.

I guess the most pertinent event would be that Vicky and I are getting married. This marriage has forced upon the two of us some rather dismal realities:

  • Her parents will think I’m the Antichrist until LONG after he actually shows up
  • According to the Bible I am, in fact, very unlikely to be the Antichrist
  • My parents care about their reputation with me but not very much about me, which extends to my kissy-wissy-poo
  • Weddings are cash-hemorrhaging vices of both the trust-funded and the debt-funded

Because of these facts, she and I are doing pretty much everything in the book to save money (and making a new webpage about things the book didn’t cover):

  • We’re splitting the reception and ceremony apart
  • The ceremony will have about a dozen people at one of the most beautiful courthouses you ever done did see
  • The reception will be as laid-back as they come, with (tentatively)
    • bounce houses (assuming insurance won’t ravage us)
    • a 6-foot burrito or sub (assuming we can find a 6-foot Mexican or New Jerseyan to make one for us)
    • raffles (for her artwork, possibly)
    • games (assuming early November in Southern California has the largest precipitation in decades, which everyone would be celebrating anyway)
    • um, other things (ask my woman)

The saddest part of this wedding arrangement is that as this develops we are on our own, which brings me to the next noteworthy thing.

Very recently I’ve made a quiet disavowal of my parents, in part because of their unique level of helpfulness they’ve been in the marriage planning but more in part regarding the realization that they spend more work pretending to like me than to actually learn to like me.

My problems with my parents is a long book waiting to never be written, but the short version is that they are only supporting and involved in my life when they can be codependent on helping me out of some issue or another.

Permitting the bridge with my parents to rot has allowed me to explore more of my own heart, as demonstrated by this impersonal aside from my notes:

Imagine your heart is a house. Inside each of the rooms are personal effects from old friends or old enemies. Pretty much anyone who says anything that your memory retains has personal possessions in your house.

In this house is a gigantic closet that has all of your long-term memories. In the same way that a to-do list in the back of a closet is rarely visited, the closet is the same way.

Though the closet has an unlimited amount of space, the rooms do not. Every once in a while it is wise to go through all of the things in the room that others have left in it, put those things in boxes and stow them away or throw them away.

If the items don’t get put away, there will not be enough room to operate unhindered for others to move in. If the items aren’t sorted through when they are put away, then valuable things will be lost forever or garbage will stink up the closet to make EVERYTHING horrid to go back and revisit.

Notwithstanding the entire book I could write on this analogy alone, there is a specific box I want to talk about that I recently opened.

Vicky and I come from profoundly similar families, with a few varieties. While her family would play the guilt strings to keep her in line, I somehow rebelled against that and became the Guiltless Wonder. With my parents in a place where they won’t peer over my shoulder (figuratively and irrationally) I looked inside a big dark box that has been at the center of my heart.

The box was old and rusted. It was named Guilt, and it had a lot of weight to it. As I opened it, I discovered untold amounts of memories and pain as it all dumped out onto the rest of my heart.

If fermented long enough that guilt would have become shame, and prolonged shame is a favorite of psychologists and Jewish mothers. As luck (or intervention) would have it, the guilt never turned into shame because I had never really connected the guilt with my own life before the very recent past.

If you are have grown up in a Christian church, you will remember hearing passages about how you are a new creation. I’m not a theologian but I’d posit that the “new creation” bit is a constant WIP, which then makes you a new new creation once that eternal state is completed. The state of awareness of incompletion grows more and more as a person gains wisdom and experience, and I believe should inspire anyone driven towards anything spiritual to desire the things that are spiritual and post-mortem.

Anyway, digression aside, with this new development of accepting the emotion of guilt into my life it’s as if all of the letters labeled X in my mind’s algebra were replaced with numbers. The focus of everything shifted just a tiny bit to the left, and I started to see how all the rest of you humans see it, with a subtle clarity about the intricate plays of politics and perception that come with it.

At the same time as all of this, Vicky and I have been going to a few different churches. We were going to a small church that started getting too big for our preferences, and decided to try to find another small church. After a few weeks of foraging, we’ve been discovering a few harsh realities:

  • The Christian church in America runs like a business (specifically NPOs), and the little ones run like little businesses
  • If we define “church” as a gathering of believers, then the churches that “die” are more accurately stated as merely “restructuring”
  • Most church plants are just copy-pasting the culture of the megachurch they spawned from
  • Most of the involvement that the church wants us to help out in is not really a “need” and instead exists as a standardized want that is interpreted as a need, which includes:
    • Volunteering with the worship music slide show or other technological presentation media (not necessary for a church)
    • Helping with most of the children’s ministries (they can go to big church once they’re 5 like their great-grandparents used to)
    • Being part of a Greeting Team or Followup Team (something that should be organic that has become a system)

Again, I could write a book on my personal beliefs and values if I was narcissistic enough (and I nearly did! I’ve still got the final-ish draft somewhere), but suffice to say a few realizations clicked into place that Vicky has wholeheartedly shared with me in revelation:

  • God makes it very clear in the Bible that we are supposed to be where we are needed
  • The American Christian church doesn’t really need anyone like the two of us
  • We both have an unspecified and unclarified desire to go to somewhere that we’re actually needed (i.e. not America for now)

We are currently deliberating going to the Caribbean, possibly with the Salvation Army or with someone else that we won’t have to navigate stupid church politics about, and the rest of the information is pretty darn hazy. We may go after we pay off our student loans (only $55,000 to go, fingers crossed!) or might work over there in some form of rendered service. No matter what we do, though, it’ll be a lot nicer than the Suburban Dream!

To give you the nice Executive Summary:

  • We’re getting married!
  • Our parents don’t want to be a part of it
  • I’m going through a major healing state, which is inspiring me to live better
  • This living better bit is leading us to what may be ministry work in the Caribbean
  • This is also the first blog post that both of us have actually gummed up the courage to properly do