Friday, September 30, 2011

Fearfully Made . . . Celebrating the Gift of Terror Part V

The philosophical Considerations:

I think it would be best to start with the general philosophical considerations regarding anxiety, to make it clear where I'm coming from. Then, we will talk about the physiological and finally the emotional and spiritual.
Plato pointing upward,
the essence of who we are (soul) rest in the heavenly
not the bodily

My premise: God exist.  All that is was created good.  This physical world is good and came not from a curse, a place inferiority but with God's full intent.  We are of this physical world, and made from the same stuff (matter).

Our brains, adrenals, bodies in general . . . are all God's stuff and physical.  So, different from Plato's view of the soul, I do believe that the body is not simply an empty shell where the non-matter, soul floats.  The brain is real. Brain structure, electronics (sic), and chemistry are all real and control our memory, emotions, logic and etc.  This physical brain isn't our curse, it is how God has made us.  He wove the networks of our neurons with a purpose of making us who we are in a mysterious way.  Yes, our soul can exist apart from the body in a way that I don't understand and is completely a mystery.

With all the above clearly stated, I will add that while all was created good, without a blemish, it has been tainted with imperfections of the fall. This is of course Christian theology 101, however, my views differ from some evangelicals (and closer to C.S. Lewis) when I say the fall did not decimate the physical world turning it all to complete crap.  It would be silly to put percentages on it, but since I'm a silly person I will. I would say that 20% of all that is has been tainted. This means 20% of every cell of our bodies and every atom of matter has been tainted.  So, things still carry the glory that God intended, yet nothing works completely correct.

It is the Dualist that state that this world is a total sewer and we should keep our eyes looking into the clouds where reality dwells. I reject that completely.

So, I will conclude this by saying, God designed the systems of our brains and adrenal glands (as well as all the adrenalin receptions throughout the body such as the Beta receptors) for causing anxiety and even terror.  These things are not intrinsically evil but actually are glorious, God-given and wonderful.  It is unfortunate that many Christians have put fear, anxiety, terror as the antithesis to faith, love, peace and the other ornaments of a good Christian. In a strange twist, and I will get back to that, one reason that anxiety becomes destructive, as in B's case, is that it carries a very strong stigma. So, when a person experiences good, healthy anxiety, the fear can overflow in their lives into a destructive force because they have been taught that fear it bad. So they start to think they are bad and then they become fearful of the fear itself.  B became terrified of the anxiety because it told her she was broken, inferior and guilt ridden. Therefore fear took on much more valuation than it deserves. Like with B, anxiety sufferers often have to suffer a second whammy of being condemned for being "un-spiritual" or even, in her case, demonic.

As I've stated before, the essence of all human behavior, Christian and non-Christian, is our drive to have value. The Gospel settled that once and for all, but none of us truly believe it. We Christians spend duration of our lives on earth trying to believe it better (in my opinion this is what true spiritual growth is all about, simply accepting deeply that we are now clean). So anxiety, because of this stigma, threatens that feeling of value.

I will give a quick illustration of that last point, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

I've personally suffered from performance anxiety, worse in Christian settings. I don't do anything from the pulpit anymore.  My fear?  If my anxiety manifest itself (as it did once) with a shaky voice, then everyone will know that I'm anxious and if they know I'm anxious, they will think I'm a bad, weak or unspiritual person. Therefore my subconsciousness mind is terrified that my value as a person will be diminished by the anxiety.

So the anxiety takes on a much bigger power than it deserves, the power to make or destroy me . . . at least my respect by others. So, my anxiety can build to the exact same level as if a lion was getting ready to tear me to pieces (same response) because the consequences of being devalued as a person is about the same as being torn apart physically and killed. Does that make sense?

Next time I will talk about the biology of anxiety.  Your views are welcome even if they differ from mine.

Fearfully Made . . . Celebrating the Gift of Terror Part IV

What’s wrong with you?” B’s mother demanding as they pulled out of the school’s parking lot. “Do you need to go home or to a hospital.” 

B couldn’t stop sobbing. She had not cried in years . . . not even at her father’s funeral but now she couldn’t stop.  She wanted to see where they were going but the tears blurred everything. “I don’t know.  I just feel like I’m dying.  I couldn’t breathe on the bus and it was closing in on me.”

“Can you breathe now?”

“I can breathe better but my heart is pounding and I’m scared I’m dying.”

So her mother made a sharp turn and the tires squealed. “Then we are taking you to the Emergency room!”

B just continued sobbing. In the silence her mother added, “This better be real . . . if you are faking being sick your father is going to spank you. You know, you’re not too old for that. Maybe that’s what your problem really is, that you were never raised in a Christian home and never raised with discipline!”

After the EKG, chest  X ray and exam the ER physician said, "We can’t find anything physical wrong. I really think it was a panic attack.  Are you under a lot of stress?”

Her mother answered for her, “Well, her father was killed in a car accident a couple of years ago, she hasn’t seem the same since.”

“Well, I recommend that you get her involved in counseling. “

Her mother wouldn’t have taken it seriously but the next morning, B wouldn’t get out of bed. When her mother forced her up, she wouldn’t get dressed. “What’s wrong with you?  You’ve got to go to school.”

“Mom . . . I just can’t go back there. They all hate me and I hate them.”

“I should wash your mouth out with hot sauce for saying such things. You know that they all love your there.  You aren’t use to being loved so you are afraid of it.”  Then she stooped down and put her hand B’s knee as she sat on the side of her bed, This was the first skin to skin contact B had with her mother in eighteen months. “Honey, you need to turn your troubles over to Jesus. He can help you. That’s what I did. I’ve never been so happy.  I’ve forgiven you father for what he did to me. I have peace with the Lord now. I just want you to be happy like me.”

B thought to herself that stick-on happiness was the last thing she wanted.  But as far as turning her problems over to Jesus, she had prayed nonstop since the first night her father hit her mother six years earlier.  It hadn’t worked so far, so would turning her life over to Jesus suddenly work now.

They always ate a formal dinner, each person had their place. Her mom cooked and waited on her husband and B. The conversations were always robotic. The mouths moved and words came out but the realities of the world were ignored.  Her mom and Mr. Ward smiled and talked about the blessings of the day they never talked about what her mother was sobbing about, and B heard her, locked up in the bathroom.  They never talked about why Mr. Ward slips out to the garage to talk on his cell phone, and B can hear him from her room and he always seems upset and screaming into the receiver. Dinner was a wax museum so much so that the most un-waxed things were the candles in the centerpiece.

Then her mother looked up. “B, your father and I were talking tonight.  I know the doctor wanted you to see a counselor and we do too.  However, we want you to see a godly counselor. We’ve talked to the pastor and he highly recommended Mark, the youth pastor. He actually had a major in Bible school in counseling.”

“You’re talking about our pastor Mark.”

“Yes, honey.”

B didn’t really respect Mark so much and she never thought about why. He was very articulate, animated and many of the kids loved him. But B thought he was shallow and lacked sincerity.

“I don’t know mom.  I mean I want help, but couldn’t I see someone else?”

Mr. Ward spoke up, “Now Beatrice, he is a professional and a man of God.  You really don’t have a choice in this matter. You’ve missed school four days this week, which I think is just pure laziness, but we’re going to get to the bottom of this.

So B met with Mark several times over the subsequent weeks.  At first he was hesitant.  He hardly knew her as she was always in the background in Sunday school and youth group trips.  But during their first session, Mark noticed something about her that he had never before . . . B was incredible beautiful.  It was like he discovered it.  Few others had noticed it and certainly not B herself.  When she looked in the mirror she saw this flat-chested, straight-haired, big-nosed girl that was hideous.  Little did she know that Gabe, the most handsome guy in youth group, who had sat beside her driving up to Cleveland, felt intimidated by her beauty but her quietness was a mystery to him. 

The girls at the school recognized it before anyone.  Girls always recognize beauty first. However, in order to contain it—never giving it an opportunity to blossom—they started rumors.  It was a self-fulfilled prophecy. B was deafening quiet in her character, so the girls said that they heard she dabbled in witchcraft.  This was passed around throughout the Assemblies Academy. So what had started as B’s shyness, ended up being magnified by her being shunned.

So Mark, a happily married man of thirty two, would never consider being infatuated with a thirteen year-old girl, but it was her striking beauty that kept him engaged in counseling and motivated him to be her knight in shining armor to save her from herself.  He would never touch her inappropriately, however, if she had been an ugly pimpled-faced girl, two sessions would have been enough.

One night a few weeks later, after their counseling session, Mark had called for a family-wide meeting.  He described for the group his impressions as a Biblical counselor.

“You see, I sense something dark going on here.  As you know, God sets up a hierarchy in a family where the father is the head and protector.  B grew up with a father who was not a spiritual leader and indeed wasn’t a Christian at all. So this is common where the children are left exposed to darkness.”

Mr. Ward was smiling, “So what does this mean?”

B sat quietly with her hands under her legs and drips of cold sweat were dropping from her armpits and running down to her elbows.  She hated being the center of attention where people were judging her. She felt like she was about to have another attack . . . the kind where she couldn’t breathe.

Mark continued, “Well, I sense a spiritual oppression.  B has never been interested in spiritual things. In youth group she never volunteered to lead or even to be part of things, like the drama team.  When we took the group to the climbing wall, she couldn’t do it and just watched.  I’ve seen many kids over the years full of the power of the Spirit of God.  They aren’t timid but are confident.  So, I think there is something demonic here.  If we could get that out of the way, maybe B could become the young woman God intended for her.  But she has to want it. I haven’t seen any spiritual passion in her thus far.”

B’s mom looked a little concerned, “Are you talking about an exorcism?”

“No. Not an exorcism . . . but a spiritual intervention.  I would like the elders meet with us, anoint B with oil and put our hands on her and pray.  I’ve seen some spooky things happen when we do that, then there everything changes for the better.”

Mr. Ward looked at her, “So B, what do you think.”

She felt too nervous to even make eye contact but mumbled, “Whatever.”

Inside B was hoping that this indeed would be the answer. She felt broken and didn’t understand why.  She had no courage and felt alienated from the universe.  Maybe this was her way out of the doorless labyrinth.  Maybe finally she could be fixed . . . and finally fit into the world.


Okay, I wanted to use this story as an introduction to anxiety and how the Church sometimes looks at it.  I know that I've been unfair.  This story has been played out just as I've described it.  I've seen the exact same scenario, where a mental illness is superficially treated as demonic, rather than looking at the root causes and true help. But of course there are plenty of Christian parents and pastors who would have much better insight and love.  But I do use reality, but maybe the fringe of reality to make a point.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Fearfully Made . . . Celebrating the Gift of Terror Part III

B’s world changed so much in just a few months that she felt detached from it. She couldn’t keep up with the narrative in which she had been thrust.  Her new stepfather, Kevin, moved her and her mom across town into his bigger and newer, yellow bricked home.  But the most startling change was that church and Jesus was the epicenter of this new world.

While she didn’t know Mr. Ward that well, and whether or not he had always spoken freely about Jesus she didn’t have a clue, but she did know that her mother had never talked this way before. But now her mother was a completely different woman. A first it seemed to be a positive thing. Anything besides the tormenting world in which they had lived would seem like an improvement.  Her mother was smiling again, which a good thing. But B had unease about it and she couldn’t name the feeling. That emotional awkwardness seemed to be hinged on the fact that her mom was so different, almost like a new persona had inhabited her mother’s old body. The smiles, which were refreshing at first, later appeared to be stuck on like Post-it notes. But the thing that B noticed most was that her emotional alienation seemed to be getting worse.

B’s mother was so distraught herself when B’s father was still alive that she didn’t have much reserved from which to comfort her . . . but at least she tried.  She would hold B on her lap at times and tell her that things would get better. Her hope rested on getting help for her father. But it seemed like her mother was giddy now, but stopped trying. Didn’t she feel there was a need for hugs anymore? B wondered if maybe it was because she was nine and now she was too big to feel close to her mom.

But one day B was playing in her room and was thinking.  Her father’s hands were rough and calloused because he worked construction, but Mr. Ward’s hands appeared soft.  Then it dawned on her that she had never touched them or had been touched by them. That seemed odd especially when he was supposed to be her new father. But oddly, he and her mother had been married for six months now and she realized that he had never touched her once, even by accident.  But worse than that, she realized own her mother had not touched her since her father’s death.  That really frightened her. Was her mother blaming her?  Was it because her prayers had caused her father’s death and the death of the stranger and her baby? Was her, being a sloppy child that caused her father to be so mean?  She felt so ashamed.

B wanted so badly to be part of her parents’ new world. She went to church every Sunday. She sat in Sunday school where she never spoke a word nor did anyone ever speak to her.  She hated it. But worse than that, she felt that all the other kids hated her and she wasn’t sure why.  Was it because they knew all her bad stuff?

B finally got to the point that she despised leaving the house, so she stayed in her room with the door closed and played pretend with her dolls and big stuffed pony.  But she knew that she was getting too old for that.  She longed for her mother to come in and talk to her . . . but she never did.  She felt so lonely and isolated that she finally reached a point where she wished these were the old days. If this couldn’t be the days when her father use to sit her on his lap and make faces, then she would settle for the nights he came home and tried to kill them both. At least in the later situation, she knew the she existed and was on someone’s radar.  Now, she felt invisible, and hated by the world. But she wanted to be better.

B’s parents enrolled her in an Assemblies Christian Academy, which was operated by her church. It was simply an extension of her Sunday school.  There she sat in silence in the back of the room and no one spoke to her as it was basically the same kids as in Sunday school. The only difference was at the Academy, she wore a plaid skirt and white blouse every day, the same one as the rest of the girls.

People, including her mother, started calling B shy.  Maybe that’s why she felt so badly when she was around other people because God had made her shy. Maybe He made her shy because she was so bad. But then, as time when on, she learned through the sermons and through the youth group—which her stepdad required her to attend—that when you have the Holy Spirit you are confident and bold.  She begged and begged for the Holy Spirit to come into her life and to change her.  She begged God every night to forgive her, but she never felt good.

Entering puberty didn’t improve things.  She was relegated by fate as being unpopular, but she felt imperceptible.  She had noticed boys for a couple of years, but they never noticed her.  Once she sat beside the most handsome boy in their youth group for four hours going to a Christian concert, but they never exchanged a single word, except when he asked her if she could “scoot over a bit.”  She sat catatonic through the drive up to Cleveland.  She constantly searched for a word she could say to him but all of them sounded stupid. She knew that if she said something uncool the whole bus would laugh at her. She was afraid to scratch her nose, and it itched terribly, because she was afraid someone in the bus would accuse her of picking it.  They hated her, she was sure of it, because she had made her father bad and she was the daughter of the man who killed the innocent woman and her baby.

When she got home that night, she thought about how she wished she had never been born. She would now easily trade her life to that night when her father was kicking her. At least he had come into the room to look for her.  No one was looking for her now.  She prayed for help but none seemed to come.

One morning she dreadfully got up to don her plaid skirt and blouse and she felt the mice again . . . nibbling on her heart.  Her palms were sweaty so sweaty that she kept wiping them off with a towel.  She went down to breakfast to eat quietly.  Her mom was be in the kitchen watching the 700 Club on her little portable TV.  She would pray with B . . . but she never asked B how she was doing, or reached over and touched her.  Her mom wasn’t even there anymore . . . she was already in Heaven with Jesus . . . in her mind. Her mom was also pregnant and she and Mr. Ward were so excited about the new life that God had given them. B thought maybe it was Satan who had brought her into her mother’s life.

As B drank her orange juice she could see the liquid vibrate with her trembling hand.  She felt weak, almost too weak to walk out the door to catch the school bus.  Onboard she tried to sit alone because she felt ugly and she felt that her guilt was written across her face, and these were all good church kids. At the next stop a girl, who she barely knew, sat down beside her.  She didn’t make eye contact but her trembling got worse. She was suffocating and she wasn’t sure why.  She couldn't control her breathing as if she had just run as fast as she could. B started to cry quietly wiping the tears with her hand so they wouldn’t fall and people could see them.  Her seatmate was watching her and blurted out so everyone could hear, “What are you crying about weirdo?” The girl got up and moved to another seat. B could hear snickering.  She felt simultaneously an intense fear that she was dying and a great hope that she really would.  It was her nightmare either way.

As soon as the bus got to school she waited until everyone was off then she walked to the office. She whispered to the lady that she was sick but that’s all the information that she could give them. The lady in the office called her mother. She sat in the chair waiting and the thirty minutes seemed like thirty hours.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Made Fearfully . . . Celebrating the Gift of Terror Post II

Despite the horrors of B’s formative years, the rawest angst was short-lived. 

After the terrible night when her negligence caused her father to fall, she had an awful dread come over her like a fog from the angel of death.  She was too young to understand it. But as the clock moved towards four PM each day, she felt its presence . . . the black haze of trepidation.  At five her mother would start dinner, a labor of loathe.  B would start to withdraw towards her room. Her mother made sure she had a plate before she completely disappeared . . . not to be seen again before the next morning.

In the privacy of her room she would eat alone, save her doll Sally. Sometimes she would try to read but inevitably she would become fixated on the round, red clock on her night stand.  She knew that her father was never home anymore before six, but six-thirty was possible.  She listened for the sound of his loud muffler coming down the street.  Her palms would become sweaty.  As the clock floated past seven, she would start to feel that terrible feeling in her chest, like mice—hundreds of them—nibbling away at her heart, which was made of cheese.

If her father wasn’t home by eight, she couldn’t sit still but paced and looked out the window and prayed.  Grandma Hayes taught her to pray for her mommy and daddy before she went to sleep.  She prayed for her mom to be safe . . . and for her daddy not to come home.  She wanted to tell Grandma Hayes about her daddy’s temper, but it was her and her mother’s little secret.  Her mother warned her that if grandma ever found out about daddy they would never see him again.

B used to go to bed and pull the sheets over her head and lay dead still. But the night her daddy fell, hiding beneath the sheets hadn’t worked . . . so she started hiding under her bed.  She didn’t feel safe there anymore either.  While lying there one night she decided to crawl up into the five-inch space between the wooden slats and the bottom of the box spring.  There she felt some comfort . . . at least emotionally. But the brown painted metal pressed into her face and her chest, but like an inverse cage, it seemed to keep her father out.

There were a few more nights that her father came to her bedroom, just like the night he fell. For reasons, she had no clue.  But in his blunted mind he couldn’t make sense of the empty room. He would yell for her . . . “Beatrice, child . . . damn you . . . Beatrice . . . where the hell are you?”  He would throw back the sheets and even once looked under the bed, be he hadn’t seen her.  The rusty bed springs were her kryptonite. A safe place, or at least a safer place than anywhere else.

Her father would, to her good fortune, quickly give up and return to his bedroom, where he would either resume beating the hell out of her mom . . . or fall asleep on the bed still in his muddy carhartts.

But one night B’s prayers were answered.  She had drifted off to sleep despite the cold springs cutting into her soft cheek. She awakened to the sound of voices . . . different than the sounds that normally inhabited the darks hours of their house.  She could hear men’s voices and her mother’s sobbing. But no one came into her room.  Looking at her clock, she knew it was too late for her father to come into her room so she slipped into the soft space above her safe place.

Early the next morning she was awaken by her grandmother’s tender kiss.  “Angel, are you awake?”  The dear old lady lifted her up and wrapped her arms around her.  “Honey, your daddy has been in an accident.”

From that point, the next few days or weeks, B felt like she was sitting on one of those rides at Disney, where you seem to be motionless but it’s the world around you that is moving past.  There were lots of people in nice clothes, food, crying, some laughing, soft music, flowers and it was over.  Many times people would bend over and look at her and say things like, “Poor thing. I’m so sorry that you lost your daddy.  God needed him in Heaven because he has a big house he needs your daddy to build.”  Little did they know that B was hoping her daddy was in Hell.

In some ways, it seemed like a profoundly good break for B. However, the fact that she soon learned that her father had killed a young pregnant woman when he drove right though the red light, made her feel terrible. Was it her prayer that caused the terrible death of the woman and the little baby? If so, she would have preferred if her dad had come home and kicked her and kicked her and she, meaning B, had died instead.

But life seemed to return to normal.  It wasn’t long before another man came into her mother’s life.  He was a different kind of man, a very nice man.  Her mother wanted niceness more than anything.  B didn’t know but her mother had met him at church, when she was attending Al-non on Wednesday afternoons.  She had only started attending shortly before her husband had been killed. B, who would stay with Grandma Hayes during that time, thought her mother was shopping.

Mr. Ward was kind to B.  She did like that.  Soon he became her father. She liked that too. So much seemed so much better . . . but something was still wrong.  B still liked to sleep between her wooden slats and her box springs. When she was nine, she was too big and resorted to sleeping under her bed. She didn’t know why as the monster was now out of her life.  But B was now broken.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Made Fearfully . . . Celebrating the Gift of Terror

I want to start a discussion about the Christian view of anxiety. I'm starting with a short, fictional, story as an introduction.

Beatrice hated her name . . . so she preferred to go by B.  She was always quick to correct people if they spelled it Bea, or even Bee. It was simply the letter B . . .  like that was all she deserved. She was a B student in high school and felt like she was a B person . . . so the name seemed to fit.

The only person that ever used her full name was her father. “BEATRICE! BEATRICE! Where the hell is that damn child?”  She could remember those words like they had been spoken . . . rather yelled . . . just yesterday.  But it was many years ago when that husky voice had echoed through the lathe and plaster halls of the old one story home on Oak Street.  It was so strange because she wanted to remember some faces from her past so badly, like her grandmother’s. But the little woman seemed semitransparent, like a pale image sprayed on a stained glass.  However her father, from the same epoch of her life, was vivid, so vivid that she could count his thick nasal hairs.

B had a few snapshots from a happy time with her father. She remembers, and it must have been when she was three or four, sitting on his broad lap and him making faces at her. They both would laugh so hard that she would start to pee in her jammies. But those days were brief and even more vaporous than her grandmother’s kind face.  They were quickly supplanted by uglier years.  She couldn’t remember exactly when the transformation took place . . .  but it did.  She remembered her father coming home later and later from his construction job and he was angrier and angrier.  She didn’t know why. In the beginning her mother would confront him at the door with arguing.  B didn’t understand what they arguing about and at age five she did not understand the meaning of her mother’s scream, “You’re drunk!  You’re nothing but a drunk!”

B use to hide behind her mother’s legs hoping that that her father would smile again and reach down to pick her up and throw her in the air . . .  but it never happened.  Everything changed the night that her father slapped her mother so hard that she fell down and crimson was pouring out of her nose and mouth and B was left standing alone. Her mother’s presence was no longer a safe place for her, nor her tall legs an anchor or shield.  The hitting continued night after night as did the screaming and crying.

As the months stretched into years, B knew the routine far too well.  Her mother too had shrunk into a little, quiet woman. She didn’t meet her husband at the door anymore but tried to be invisible.  She did though try very hard to make peace.  Since her husband’s appearance was unpredictable, she made dinner for him at six, but warmed it, rewarmed it and rewarmed it again until she would see the headlights of his truck turning into the driveway.  Then she would try to make sure everything was perfect one more time and run to her bedroom.  But things were never perfect. 

The best nights were when B’s dad fell asleep at the table. Some mornings they would find him face down in gravy.  Her and her mother would tiptoe through the kitchen trying not to wake him. But unfortunately the good nights were rare.

On most nights, after he had eaten a few bites, he would stumble into his bedroom were B’s mother was pretending to sleep.  Then, three doors down the hall, past the bathroom and the closet, B was hiding quietly in her own bedroom. She could feel the thuds of the hits before her mother’s screams could be heard.  Even at six she didn’t run out but lay alone in her bed with her eyes closed and trembling with the sheet over her head.  She would hum the nursery rhymes, which her grandmother Hayes had taught her. She would hum them louder and louder to drown out her mother’s sobbing . . . and the hitting.  

Then one night, after her mother’s sobbing had quieted down, she heard her father coming down the hall sliding his hand along the wall for balance. “Beatrice! Beatrice!” Next came the call at the bathroom door and even at the closet door. "Beatrice! Where are you child?!  Damn you!"  Then suddenly her bedroom door burst open and she jumped into a catatonic shock.  Peaking from beneath the sheets she saw her father’s big frame filling the doorway.  He took one step forward and tripped over her kitchen set.  It was a combination plastic stove, sink and refrigerator. The top of the stove still had her frying pans and the refrigerator was full of empty Tupperware boxes, on loan from her mother. But all of them went flying across the room as her father hit the hard, quarter-sawed, maple boards like a bag of cement.  He laid quietly for just a second and then went into a complete rage.  He stumbled up and started stomping the kitchen set . . . stomping and stomping and stomping until it was crushed to pieces. "Damn it to hell! Son of a bitch!"  This was B’s most treasured Christmas present from Grandma Hayes and she loved it. But now it was tiny pieces of white, red and yellow twisted plastic. “Beatrice!  Damn you child!  Get your little ass out of that bed now and clean this up!  Beatrice!”

B wanted to get up and clean up the room, but she was literally frozen like a marble figurine.  She couldn’t even close her eyes as they were fixed and open.  Then suddenly the blankets were thrown back and her father grabbed her by her hair with his huge, callused hands.  He dragged her across out of the bed and across the floor by her hair . . .  then he kicked her with his boot and she slammed into the wall.  “Clean it up now you stupid little bitch! I should beat the hell out of you for this mess!”  Then he stumbled out of her room and she could hear him in the bathroom, peeing in the toilet and on the tiled floor.  She was in too much pain to cry but she reached for the door with her foot and pushed it closed. She felt like she couldn’t breathe because her chest hurt so badly.

She was stupid . . . at least she felt that way. Surely she was the most stupid child that had ever lived.  She should have known not to have left her kitchen set up in the middle of the floor.  She hoped her father wasn't hurt from the fall. Stupid! Stupid! Lazy! Stupid little B! Were the words running back and forth through her head. They were intrusive.  She picked up the pieces of jagged plastic and stacked then in neat rows inside her toy box. She wanted them to be perfect, just in case her daddy came back.  He would look at how neat the pieces were and tell her what a good job she had done and kiss her on the top of her head like he use to. And he would tell her how much he loved her. But he didn’t return.

B didn't sleep well that night . . . nor any night for the rest of her life.  She felt so badly.  If only . . . if only she had picked up her toys this would never have happened. It was all her fault. So stupid. Lazy and stupid. She hated Beatrice.


I, of course, have a way to monitor what people read here.  The two most read posts here have been mine from a long time ago about my personal struggle with an anxiety disorder and the second most is a more recent one about the boundaries of emotional pain.

It is interesting that I do another blog about starting a medical clinic.  While that one centers on medical-business, I did do one very candid post about my struggle with anxiety and how it would relate to my ability, or inability to start a clinic.  On that blog, that one post (out of about 300) is by far the  most read one.  It seems that there is a real hunger for Christian, but actually for all people, to read about those topics . . . at least on a private level.

So, I'm just thinking, this GERMFASK story is taking a long time to develop and could run ten more chapters before the characters live out their intent.  I'm thinking about putting it aside and return to writing on these more day to day issues with anxiety and etc. What do you think?  

Friday, September 23, 2011


"Father . . . I notice an area of quietness around you . . . and with you, Debra and Greg," said Tom.

Greg smiled, "I don't have a dog in this fight."

Immediately Tom pulled his yellow legal pad from beneath his chair and started to write while he mouthed "dog--in--this--fight."

"Go ahead Greg, what were you saying?"

"Well Tom, I've avoided these arguments because frankly . . . I'm a universalist." The look of confusion on Tom's face prompted Greg to continue, ". . . meaning that I really believe the gospel is for all men and women.  Jesus came to die for all sinners and to save them all. How could God be loving and send some, if not most of his creation, to an everlasting hell.  It just doesn't make sense."

"Can you logically show me where scripture says that?"

"Sure. There are many places in scripture where you can get the notion that the Gospel is for all.  I can bring you a book that goes into the argument in great detail.  But for starters, the verse you cut out says that 'For God so loved the world.'  It doesn't say that 'For God so loved the baptized or the few elected.'"

Tom smiled, "Puzzling isn't it. And father?"

The priest with the kind face smiled but sat quietly for a minute. "Tom, I tread these waters gently. I see my mission from God is to bring peace. These types of discussions often brings nothing more than hurt feelings and discord. I consider myself a lucky man to have friends like Michael, Greg, David and of course Debra.  It is sometimes better to leave your divisive views to yourself."

Tom quickly responded, "Father, respectfully I must say, there's just too much at stake for me to pretend that we all like each other or are in perfect agreement. Don't you realize that there's a whole civilization waiting on the information that I bring them. So,"  then Tom looks around the table, "I ask all of you to feel secure enough in your own value that you don't get offended and emotional when someone contradicts your beliefs."

No one said anything so Tom added, "You see, you people build belief systems around yourself . . . indeed they may start with some logic . . . but then they become self-sustaining to help you feel more approval from your peers, approval of yourself and eventually feel approved by God for believing a certain way.  But I want to boil these arguments down to the logical level . . . so we can discover truth, not just to prop up our own belief systems in order to keep us feeling a bit more secure. This conversation is vital. I want to shake you to the point that the truth comes out."

No one spoke, so Tom quickly ate his last bit of tomato and looked at them . . . then he continued again, "Is that what the Gospel is really about?  Where God does this giant stamp of approval and you never, ever have to worry about feeling secure again?  That's what we've been waiting for and that's why this Gospel is so seductive to us."

"Tom," said Father Randy, "I can tell that you are from a different place from us . . . while I'm not so sure that place is extraterrestrial, it is certainly different. For us, it is important for the maintenance of peace that we respect each other's traditions and beliefs."

Tom just stared in anticipation, so the priest continued.

"So, in my tradition, people are saved through the institution of the Church. We believe that it was to Peter that Christ gave the keys to the Kingdom of God. So it is though the sacraments of the Church that people are saved . . . and by the grace of God.  But this doesn't mean that I don't respect David, who believes things much differently than I do.  Likewise I respect Greg who believes very differently than David or Michael. This is the peace of Christ I feel I must bring to the world. That is my occupation, but especially to those of my own flock."

Tom smiled and shook his head.  "Again, I say this with the utmost respect for you earth dwellers, but for me, coming from my culture of logic, I do feel like a Jane Goodall trying to communicate with the Apes.  The peace that you seek is a shallow, plastic peace. It is totally unthinkable to our people that you would suspend logic, just so you can give an appearance of peace by avoiding the really important topics of life.  In Teyvak, we have deep discussions all the time, in logic, and sometimes there are great disagreements. But we would never take it personal. Our self-esteem is not one with our beliefs. So a good argument can totally persuade us to take on a different view. But here, on earth, you people have become so entrenched in your insecurity that it is virtually impossible to change your mind though logical arguments."

David was looking irritated, "So who are you calling fools? Is it just the Christians, Americans or all earthlings?"

"It is all people of the earth-cultures, or at least all the people we've studied.  It is certainly not just the Christians. Actually, it is like a spectrum on a circle.  The Christians on one extreme side, I guess what Greg would call the 'Evangelicals' and all deeply religious sects are right next to the most distant people on the other side, the hard-core atheists.  They both are the most insecure and are both most deeply invested in their beliefs because they are the most insecure in their sense of value.  The atheists believe that they must project an intelligence above all others, and part of that system is believing that only most intelligent don't believe in God. But it has nothing to do with intellect but cultural conformity . . . they just happen to be part of the atheist culture."

David commented, "Well I agree with you on that point."

Tom looked back to his right, "But David, do you hear what I'm saying? You are just like them. But your insecurity is about morality rather than intellect. You are deeply invested in your sense that you are more moral than . . . say Greg here, because he is a homosexual." 

The table had a great sense of uncomfortable-ness move over it like a dense fog over the Golden Gate Bridge.

David looked angry but it was Greg who finally spoke, "Damn. I can't get my head past how you figured me out. I mean, I'm not a closet gay as I have many gay friends who know the real me, but I had never given this group any notion of my sexual orientation because I knew it would mean the end of our friendships. That's why I may be the only one sitting at this table who really believes that you are who you say you are."

"Tom," immediately added David as if he hadn't heard a word that Greg had just uttered, "I'll be honest with you. I'm growing a bit weary of the criticisms that you keep throwing my way like hand grenades. I have a very open mind and God has shown me His truth from His word and I've listened. I once was an agnostic and have come along way . . . most of that by logic and much of it by the prompting of the Holy Spirit."

Tom was shaking his head in almost, what the earth dwellers would perceive as cocky way, "David . . . let's talk in reason and a deeper honestly than you are comfortable with. Of all the people here, you are the most insecure. You, in the depths of your heart, feel unclean. That's why you pull the Gospel up tight around your neck to help you feel safe.  You want only a very small people to be the forgiven because you want a high bar for the saved. The reason you want a high bar is because you want so much to feel justified and you just can't. So, you raise the bar ever so higher so you can be one of the few. Spiritual elitism can give a false feeling of security. But then, in the lonely places, in your bed at night, when you lie awake with only your own thoughts to keep you company . . . even you feel unworthy. You pull the Gospel up so tight around your neck . . . that it strangles even you. That's why so many hard-core Evangelicals abandon their faith . . .because their faith becomes so quilted . . . that they smother."

Debra had been watching in awe. She normally was a very talkative woman but she was enjoying this conversation more than any she could remember in recent history.  Finally she spoke once more, "This is incredible. Totally incredible."

Not meaning to draw attention to herself, Tom turned and looked at her and smiled, "Debra, in the same line of thought, of this group . . . I suspect that you are the most emotionally secure and most open to discuss the logic of an argument without feeling threatened."

"Well thank you Tom, but I don't know if I deserve that appraisal.  You can just ask my church board and they would tell you I'm pretty darn insecure at times."

Tom smiled. "Debra, I really want to hear more about your views on the Gospel next week. I seem to trust your perspective the most."

Everyone sat in silence with smiles. Michael hadn't said a word in an hour and surprised everyone when he quickly excused himself, "I'm sorry folks, I'v really enjoyed this but it is almost noon and I need to go to the hospital up in Newberry to visit some folks."  

Tom responded, "Noon!?  Oh, I'm so sorry for keeping everyone so long. Next week I will try to keep it more brief." As Michael walked towards the door Tom continued, "I will summarize what I now know about the Gospel.  There is a wide perception of what the Gospel means. To those like David, it means that those who follow a strict code are part of the Kingdom.  To Michael, I think he agrees with David but with a little less conviction on the list of rules that is followed to prove that you are part of the Kingdom of God."

Then Tom turned to his left, "And the good father here, the doors of the Kingdom is controlled by the Church, meaning to him at least, the Roman Catholic Church.  I'm looking forward to learning more about Debra's views but I suspect she believes more the Gospel that Michael does but with more grace and then of course Greg believes in a wide, universal Gospel and the Kingdom is synonymous with all of humankind.  Interesting.  Have a good week my dear friends."

The stranger picked up his briefcase and walked to the door, stopping to pay his portion of his breakfast bill . . . a plate full of fresh tomatoes and a tall glass of ice cold tomato juice.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Temporary Reprieve

Tom and the gang are still sitting around the breakfast table. No, they didn't succumb to a slow and painful death from writer's-block asphyxiation.  It's been a freak-in busy two weeks. I had to take medical board exams (once every six years). While I was focusing on studying, my new clinic almost went bankrupt . . . one more time. So, I've been distracted in other words. But the exam is over (don't know if I passed yet) and the company is solvent once more.  So, I hope to slap the faces of Michael, David, Tom, Randal, Debra and Greg . . . and wake them up before the week-end is over.

Friday, September 16, 2011


The silence of the group was all that Tom needed to know that his plea had been attended. All of them, for once, seemed to be in a listening mode. The brief but complex answers he had given about his journey to Earth had cast a shadow of calm in which he could clearly redefine his essential questions to them.

In that continuing silence, save the sound of metal forks hitting a ceramic plates and the slurping of thick, black coffee, he reached for his big, black Bible.  He opened it on the table and turned once more to the page with a rectangle hole where John 3:16 once rested.

"Now returning to my first question I will rephrase it.  Who is in the Kingdom of God? In other words, we know about the sacrificial system but for whom was Jesus sacrificed and who is covered by his blood?"

David spoke, "Now you are asking too many questions at once."

Tom flashed a serious type of grin, "They are all perspectives of the same question because one clear answer will resolve them all."  Then he turned and faced David directly, "I will start with you Pastor Smith since your definition of the Kingdom is most restrictive. Last week you said that this verse in John was not true and you had to take into considerations other verses . . . correct?"

David replied as Tom stuffed another circle of tomato into his mouth, "That is not true!  I've never said that John 3:16 wasn't correct and frankly I'm a bit offended that you cut a piece out of God's Holy word.  In Revelations it says that if you take away from the scriptures, you will be taken away from eternal life. So cutting out passages is walking on dangerous ground."

Tom finished swallowing and wiped his mouth with his napkin. When his throat was clear he continued, "What I did in the physical realm with a knife blade, you had already done with a linguistic knife. I was just following your lead. You see, when the English words but, unless or however are used, they are verbal knives. For example, if I said 'I going to meet this group exactly at 8 AM next Wednesday, however, if there is another RV jack-knifed in the road, I may be late.' Then the however negates my previous statement, which was, I will--with certainty--be here at 8 AM."

"I wasn't negating John 3:16, but I was  just saying it wasn't that simple and you need to look at all of the Bible.  When you interpret the Bible, you should put it in context."

Tom continued, "In our culture, we are so use to dealing in logic. Therefore, again not speaking arrogantly, I must make this more clear to you because, your culture makes choices based on emotions. The fact that here sits a table of, I think you say it in colloquial English, "arm chair theologians,"  yet your friendship has to exclude the discussion of the most important questions of life. But you have to avoid the discussions because you folks discuss within the shell of emotion.  So, what I'm saying, is that I want to have a frank discussion in logic."

Everyone looked puzzled as Tom took a drink of his tomato juice. "So, speaking in logical terms, there are two things that 'taking a verse in context' means to you.  The first is really a contra-diction and the other is a pro-diction or what you would say is corroboration. Pastor David, when you say that we must take John 3:16 in context I think you mean the former.  For example, if I said that 'the house had windows" and then later I said 'the house windows had curtains,' that would be a corroboration.  But if I said, 'the house had windows' but in another place I said, 'the house was windowless' . . . now that would be a contradiction. Do you see my point?"

Everyone was nodding their heads . . . save David.

"Now this verse, which I cut out, said that the way to enter the kingdom or to have eternal life or however you want to define it, is given simply to whoever believes in Christ.  Now, if other verses say something about that belief, then it is a corroboration. But David alludes to verses that say that there is more to it. So, that is a contradiction and it nullifies the first statement. So, who around this table believes that verse is really true?"

David's hand shot up, Michael raised his hand as did the father, Debra and Greg.

Tom smiled. "So it looks like we are in agreement . . . but that agreement is only skin deep. I want to explore beneath that skin to find out the truth and I will cut out all the passages, which are not valid."

Tom turned once more to David, "Pastor Smith, since you have already added one contradiction to John 3:16, why don't you continue. What other verses define what makes one a Christian?"

David rubs his face and looks serious for a moment. "You are trying to trick me. I believe in that verse as much or more than anyone around this table. Nowhere did I contradict it."

"I beg to differ pastor Smith. You told me just a minute ago that if I cut that verse out of the Bible I would be in danger of not being in the Kingdom. I think you take that notion from Revelations chapter 22 verse nineteen, And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.  Isn't that correct?"

David answered, "That's the correct verse. There are other verses that further define John 3:16. For example I think the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians. It points out that a real Christian shows love, patience, peace and etc."

Tom looked puzzled, "But I've studied this book for many hours a day and for many years. I don't have your culture, but I do have your language . . . and our logic. That passage is not about what defines a Christian, but what is the outward changes that the Holy Spirit can gradually make in a person and in a society.  So, if we held it up to be proof of being a Christian, that you must act peaceful, lovingly, joyfully and etc, that would be a contradiction."

Michael finally adds to the discussion, "Tom, what David is trying to say that if you took John 3:16 alone, then it would be what we call 'cheap grace.'  That someone who has done terrible things could just believe in Jesus and instantly be perfectly clean in God's eyes and not worry about their behavior anymore. They could be as bad as ever and still be a Christian."

Tom smiled, "Well, in all honestly, and in great logic . . . that's exactingly what it sounds like to us."   

Debra was smiling, "You know, I think that is a beautiful way of looking at the gospel . . . Jesus plus absolutely . . . nothing."

Monday, September 12, 2011


With the forth of July falling on a Thursday, the week in Germfask was busier than usual as was the Jolly Bar.  The, I guess you would now say (with the addition of Debra), people of the cloth were all there and early once more. However, with their big table by the window occupied by a group of young canoers, David and Greg, the first arrivers, pushed together three of the smaller tables.

After all the pastors were settled Sharon caught her breath between carrying plates of food to other guests and ran over. As she was going over their orders David was saying, "I frankly think the man is a con artist.  Eventually he'll be asking us for favors.  I'm sure all of you, as pastors, are approached by con men on a weekly basis, trying to swindle money from your church. This man is just far more skilled at it . . . and patient. If he is spending weeks setting us up, he's going to go for the big bucks.  Mark my word!"  He had an intense look on his face. Meanwhile Father Randy looked up at Sharon, smiled and gave her a nod and a wink."

She looked startled and asked, "Oh, anything else this morning?  Will Mr. Hans be joining you?"

"No . . . thank you Sharon."

"He won't?"

"Oh . . . yes, Mr. Hans should be joining us in a few minutes, but there is nothing else we need right now." The Father flashed a big smile. Sharon returned to the counter to drop off their orders and to check customers out.

Mike let out a sigh, "I'm not sure what his angle is.  I'm not sure he's a con man. He's either playing a game with us, he has some type of mental illness or . . .  he may be doing research on a book.  He wouldn't be the first eccentric to take a cabin around here to pen a book . . . and I don't just mean Ernest either."

The Father added, "Speaking of the written word, I did call an Old Testament Hebrew professor at Norte Dame.  Father Kennedy is world renown for his master of the languages.  He actually agreed with what Tom said about the old Hebrew.  He said that the original Hebrew says in Genesis 11 that the people were scattered far AND on the face of the earth, and just like Tom said, the and was removed because it didn't seem to make sense and thought to be a kind of ancient typo."

Greg was leaning way back in his chair in deep contemplation and mumbled, in a barely audible voice, "Or maybe . . . just maybe . . . he is on the level."  Then he raises his eyebrows making his eyes seem big and round.

David let out a laugh so hard that coffee came out his nose. This got Debra laughing too. As she caught her breath, "Now you have to admit that it's a bit eerie that he was able to pigeon-hole us so easily with so little information.  To be candid, and father (then glancing at Randal) I hope you don't mind me saying this (the Father smiled and nodded in the affirmative) . . . he sure nailed us.  Randy and I are much better friends than you know . . . but certainly not romantic, David, if that's what you're thinking."

"I wasn't thinking anything. The notion never crossed my mind."

"So, what about you?" She asked.  "Did he nail you too?"

"Do you mean do I doubt that I'm a Christian at times?  No I don't.  Maybe when I was a new believer, but not now. I have no dirty, little secrets that makes me feel ashamed either. So he was dead wrong about me."

"If anyone should feel ashamed it should be me gentlemen . . . and lady," came the voice from behind them. There stood the tall stranger, but this day without a hat.

"Have a seat," said Greg as he pulled a chair out just between himself and David.  As Tom sat down and slipped his briefcase under his chair he continued to apologize.

"I never thought that I would be saying that I got stuck in traffic coming into Germfask . . . but I did. There was a  . . . I think you call them "RV" cross ways in the road. It was pulling a small car behind and the two of them apparently went sideways into a V."

Michael smiled, "We call it jack-knifing. It happens a lot when these RVs are towing cars and hit the gravel road going too fast."

Tom pulled out his yellow tablet and seemed to be writing and mouthing jaa-ck knif-ing, and he put his tablet down.

David looked to his left directly at Tom, "Speaking of which, how do you even know how to drive an earthling car?"

"Oh, driving your cars is pretty easy . . . extremely dangerous . . . but easy.  I learned the same way you did. But where I'm from we don't really drive cars.  Only one side of our planet is hospitable so we live in dense communities and have what you would call mass transportation.  We do have our personal vehicles for longer, out of the way trips. But we haven't had an accident in decades.  That is one of the things that amazes us about people on earth.  Automobile accidents kills and injures so many people, yet no one does anything about it. Yet, if one person dies from radiation, your whole planet becomes worried and spends billions to correct that. But, as I was saying last time, that is the difference. I'm not speaking from arrogance, but we learned a long time ago to think from reason, making logical choices, but our emotions are for our enjoyment."

David sat up and decided to continue the interrogation, "Explain this Mr. Spock, how did you even get a car and how did you get a license and how did you get a cabin on the lake?"

Tom smiled, "I will address your first comment. I do know who Mr. Spock is.  We are nothing like him. We are full of emotions . . . however, we have learned to separate our emotions and relegate them to their rightful place.  We are a thousand years ahead of your civilizations and one reason is that we never went through the Dark Ages. The Dark Ages were based on emotion, pure emotion with a downward valuation of reason.  We learned a long time ago that decisions must be made on logic. That's why we made a very logical decision to eliminate war. We haven't had one in two thousand years and hardly a murder. No one wins in either. They both are based on pure emotion. Now back to your other question, I got the things I have in the same way that any illegal alien would . . . however our forgers are much superior to yours.  My passport is spotless and my information is pristine in your Social Security data banks. So, getting a driver's license was no problem.  I try hard not to lie, but sometimes there is no way around it."

"Okay," said David shaking his head, "another question for you is how did you get here?" He reaches down and pulls some papers and pencil out of his front pant's pocket, scratching his head with his pencil, he continues, "If my computations are correct, and I wasn't a math major, if you were able to travel near the limit of human physiology, say two hundred thousand miles per hour, it would still take you at least 244 years to get here. So how did you do it?"

Tom smiles, planting his elbows on the table, he rest his chin on his fists. "As you are not a mathematician, nor am I a physicist."

"So you don't have clue how you got here?" fired back David.

"I'm not saying that pastor Smith.  It is very complicated."

"Wormholes," said Greg in a voice that almost surprised himself.

Tom chuckles, "No, not wormholes. Don't misunderstand me, wormholes do exist but we have never found a practical use for them.  I don't know where to begin and I'm really afraid that we will use up our whole time in this conversation before I get to my questions. But I know that you will never trust me enough to answer my questions if I don't at least attempt to answer yours."

Tom looked around the table and everyone seemed to be eating their breakfasts, their heads hovering above their plates and their eyes fixed on him.  Tom looked down at his own plate of fruit and lots of sliced tomatoes. He had never noticed when Sharon had brought them and slipped his plate in front of him. She moves with a stealthy fluidity. But how he loved fresh, red tomatoes. It was the greatest taste he had ever experienced. He was determined to bring seeds back with him to Teyvat and see if they would grow in their arid world. He couldn't resist so he pick up one big slice of tomato and with his fingers and laid it on his tongue, then slowly slide down his throat with just a couple of chews.

Since no one was speaking, he felt obliged to continue. "Okay, I will give you a summary.  Einstein was mostly correct in his understanding of the universe. There are two, two-headed parts to what we know of the physical universe. Think of them as barbells. On one end are the twins, of the fabric of space and time.  On the other end are the twins of the matter/energy realm.  However it is really more simple than that. All that is can be broken down to just space and time because time begets energy and energy begets matter.

Here on earth, you consider gravity as the source of all energy but that is not true. Gravity doesn't even really exist but is just an illusion in the same way that centrifugal force is an illusion. For example, if you were on a fast moving merry-to-round, you would feel this force pulling you outward. But there is no force pulling on you at all. It is simply the momentum of your forward motion being constantly changed along an arc. Does that make sense?"

Michael, who had not disclosed this to anyone, was a physics major in his undergraduate studies had put down his fork and seemed to ponder deeply. "Makes sense to me . . . except I don't follow your gravity point and what that has to do with traveling long distances."

"Well, gravity is the same type of illusion. This is how Einstein was wrong. Gravity is a function of time. Since matter distorts time . . . and of course the fabric space . . . it creates a time gradient. The time at the bottom of your foot is a billionth of a millisecond slower than the time at the top of your head. Therefore it creates what could be described as chron-o-tension, which is felt as gravity."

They all just looked at him.  He looked over at the window, and seeing the canoes on the tops of the Ford Explorer and the Subaru outside and idea seemed to come to Tom.

He continued, "It is like a log thrown into a fast moving stream. Out, towards the middle of the stream where the water moves the fastest, that end of the log will start to move downstream faster than the end of the log near the shore, which of course is moving slower. So the log will turn and start to point downstream. That is how the force of time being different closer to mass than away from it creates a linear tension that is felt as gravity."

Father Randy had been quieter than usual this morning. He preferred to be an observer. Debra, however, did speak up, at least to prove that she wasn't lost in the conversation, "I think I see where you are going with this, you have found a way to do time travel."

"Nope.  We haven't.  But we have found a way to travel in the absence of time . . . or space.  Again, it is hard even for me to understand. But there are transition zones around places where matter distorts the time/space fabric.  These distortions can be accumulative when more than one large density is in the same region. It is what your scientists call constructive interference. In our system, Alpha Centauri, there are actually three massive stars, each causing distortions in the fabric of space."

"Three?" asked Greg.

"I know that most of you think that it is a binary star system, but there is an Alpha Centauri C, a red dwarf type of star, that creates the total triangulation of waves of distorted space/time, in a constructive interference pattern, leading to points of vulnerabilities. So, our scientist have learned how to exploit those points and to create doorways beneath the fabric."

At this point Tom could see that he had lost everyone . . . save Greg, who did seem to still be interested.

"Well, anyway folks, to make a long story short, we travel on the other side of the fabric of space/time where there is no distance, time or what you would call Newtonian Physics. Speaking of time, ours this morning is more than half over. You've asked me a total of six questions and I've asked you none. I haven't even gotten an answer for the one I asked last time. I need to finalize the answer to the question of what, precisely, does it mean to be a Christian?  In other words, who is in the Kingdom of God?  Can we explore that this morning?"

David looked at him, "Tom, you haven't answered our question about how you got here yet."

"I've spent many words trying to and I will come back to that question.  I do ask that you favor me this; that you make my questions a priority because I have traveled over four light years to get here and I have a whole civilization waiting to hear what I find out. This is extremely important, whereas your questions are not so."

David once again responded, "Our questions are huge as well.  I mean, if you really are an alien, then it will be the greatest scientific discovery of all times."

Tom replied, "I only disagree with the fruitfulness of the answers.  I'm confident that when we are done here, that most of you will still seriously doubt my claims thus it will be of limited scientific discovery. I was just a crazy man you met at the Jolly Bar, like ships passing in the night. Whereas on my side, based on my information, which I gleam from you around this humble breakfast table, an entire people will change as will the course of an entire planet. So gentlemen . . . and lady, can we get back to my questions . . . please?"

Sunday, September 4, 2011


Summer comes to Germfask like a flashflood out of Eden.  What had been a give-n-take struggle for dominance between the winter’s artic dome and tropical air trying to stream up from the Gulf finally finds amity beneath the warm sun of late June.  The mounds of deep wood snow transpire as wetlands except for a few faint traces of ice chunks in the darkest of places. The apple blossoms, birch buds and bull frogs all burst into full bloom as do the biting black flies and no-see-ems.

Over the span of one week the cold drizzle falling on the old, rusty, tin roof of the Jolly Bar had given way to a sweltering and breezeless stickiness. The wooden doors were propped open with only a screen door (kept in the cellar during the winter) standing guard against the pestilence swarming in from the black bog.  

Inside and seated beneath the Casablanca fans were the four original posse members, plus Debra McAmis, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Munising.  Debra was a “tough broad,” as Father Randy liked to describe her. She was very confident in the style of some of the Kathy Bates characters, yet with the gentleness that a pastor needs.  

Debra was good friends with the father, more so than anyone in the group realized. They had a secret friendship that was intimate, though strictly Platonic.  The reason that they kept part of it, iceberg-like, beneath the surface was because people would get the wrong idea. They shared so much together, through e-mails, phone chats and out-of-town trips, that any sensible person would they were hooking up in a different kind of way. But Father Randy truly had a gift. A romantic notion towards Debra had never crossed his mind and certainly not a sexual one.  Debra, on the other hand, went through a short-lived crush on the father when they first met, but now she was very content to be his secret best friend.

The previous summer they had traveled across Scandinavia together. Taking great measures to not let anyone know, the Father flew on a puddle hopper from Ste. Saint Marie to Detroit Metro, where he met Debra, who had driven down. They had a wonderful time and acted like school children for the whole month of May, although the Father was then sixty and Debra forty-five.  Father Randy took off his collar and they traveled as a couple, Randal and Debbie. They even shared a room but even through all of that their relationship was pure.  Debra told her congregation that she was touring Europe.  The Father told his parish that he was going to Scandinavia. If anyone said the word “Europe” the Father would quickly correct them . . . “no, just Scandinavia.”  Oddly though, in Helsinki they actually did run into the aunt of one of Debra’s church members. She was from Finland originally but lived in Houghton, Michigan.  She would not have recognized the lady had she not screamed in the middle of the Kauppatori market, “Pastor Debra! What are you doing here?”  Father Randy reached over to the stand with halves of pigs hanging metal hooks and grabbed and apron and put it on and turned his back.  The vendors were confused. When the lady finally walked away, Randy and Debra couldn’t stop laughing and ran, dancing through sprinkles of spring rain all the way back to the hotel.

This was not her first time Debra had joined the men but certainly she wasn’t a regular. She usually combined the morning breakfast meeting with a trip south, across the Mackinaw Bridge to Michigan proper.  The fact the interesting, out of town guest was coming wasn’t the reason she had made the trip through Germfask that morning, but it certainly was the reason she made sure she didn’t miss the breakfast on her way through. Father Randy had filled her in on all the details via e-mails the previous week.

Once again the local clergy were all seated in advance.  They wanted to have the chance to discuss Mr. Landis in private before the man, himself, made an appearance.  They had barely started debating if the interview with the stranger was a good thing or a bad thing for the group before he came through the door.  As expected, Greg thought it was a good thing, David, of course, had a bad feeling about it.

“Good morning gentlemen, “said Tom with a smile. He had on his usual attire but with a lighter sports jacket than what he previous wore.  He turned immediately to Debra and gave his little two fingered salute, “Good morning mam, I don’t think we’ve met.”  He reached out her hand to hers.

“Good morning. My name is Debra and I’m an irregular member of this impromptu commission of clergy,” then she laughed.

Tom asked, as he was sitting, “So you are pastor as well?”

“Yes, I’m the senior pastor over at the First Presbyterian Church in Munising. “

To her surprise the stranger pulled open his brief case and immediately started writing on his yellow legal pad.  She assumed he was writing down her name and title but for what reason, she had no idea.

Tom looked at the group and smiled again, “Gentlemen . . . oh and lady (smiling at Debra directly across the table) . . . I’ve been thinking a lot since our last meeting.  I feel that I haven’t gotten very far in my research and I’m afraid that I will not be able to get much further at this pace.  I think the uncertainty, which surrounds my identity and purpose here is creating an atmosphere of distrust in our relationship.  I’ve decided to make this morning a morning of disclosure. I hope that I will not regret this.  First of all, I must ask all of you to make a pledge to me of confidentiality, in the same way if one of your church people came to you and shared something in great confidence.  Is this possible?”

The pastors all looked at each other and discussed it in whispers.  David was concerned that the man may reveal criminal intent and then he would be obligated to go to the authorities. So they summarized their conditions.  Father Randy spoke for them.

“Tom, we are willing to treat what you say in strict confidentiality unless you share with us criminal behavior or intent to hurt someone, or yourself, in that case we couldn’t keep that kind of information to ourselves.”

The stranger leaned back in his chair and was pondering.  This surprised several in the group because it suggested to them that maybe he was engaged in illegal activity.

Tom signed, “Okay.  I will have to take my chances with you.  My mission is too important to allow it to end here.”

Then they all sat in silence for a few minutes. Sharon arrived with the orders.  Tom had not even had the chance to give her his breakfast order but he always ate the same thing, toast, fruit and lots of tomatoes.

As the group started to eat, Tom began speaking again. “The other issue is that I’m quite confident that as I tell you my story that you will think that I’m lying or insane. I promise you that it is neither. As incredible as my story is, it is all true and I will prove it in time. But you must understand the value of this meeting before I can get the information I need.”

Greg spoke up for the first time, “Tom, you have to trust us. We will give you the benefit of the doubt and as clergy, I’m confident that they story that you are about to tell us is no more implausible than stories we hear from our congregations every week.”

Tom smiled, “I’m afraid my story will be more so than any you’ve ever heard.”

David said in an emphatic voice, “Okay, let’s hear it.”

Tom reached back into his briefcase and pulled out his big, floppy Bible.  He turned the pages towards the front and then read from Genesis chapter 11. It was about the dwellers of the plain of Shinar and their intent to build a great city and a tower that would reach up to Heaven. Then he read on about how the people’s language was confused and how they were scattered.  He read the last sentence over and over very slowly, “From thence the Lord did scatter them abroad upon the face of the earth.”

Then he closed the Bible and said something in another language. It has the throat sounds that make it clear that it was Hebrew or Arabic.  Then Tom spoke to the spellbound breakfast club, “The original language of this passage is what I said in the end and it is old Hebrew. The original Hebrew says it a bit differently. A better translation would be, “From thence the Lord did scatter them far away AND on the face of the earth.  The translators removed the “and” because it didn’t make sense to them but I will explain that it does.

You see, I am from the tribe called Hans so we are Hanserians.  My tribe was the brains behind the great tower.  We were the engineers and scientist. The word ‘Hans” means engineer.  In the time of Genesis, God was really angry at my forefathers but not for the reasons assumed.  It wasn’t because they wanted to build a tower that put people in rival with God as some teach. It is because God, after the great destruction, rebuilt the earth into this wonderful garden.  However, the teaching was being passed around was that this earth was inferior to the Heavens. So the people got together and asked my forefathers to develop a plan to build a ramp that they could use to climb out of this earth and into to Heaven.

It was like you would say, God was pissed off.  In other words, imagine that you built this wonderful thousand gallon salt water aquarium for your fish. You had corals, caves, plants and many beautiful things. Then one day you come home and find this tunnel coming out of the water and over to your desk. On your desk laid four clown fish grasping for their last breath.  They had assumed that life was better outside the wonderful tank, the tank you had made just for them. This is why God was pissed that he confused everyone’s language and scattered them.”

David swallowed his bite of sausage and pointed his fork at Tom, “Okay, what does this have to do with anything?”

“I’m getting to that.  Since my clan was the most responsible, the designers of the actual tower, God scattered us . . . (he paused for a moment) . . . off the earth altogether.  He took my forefathers to a different planet and that is where we have lived until this day.”

Michael rolled his eyes and sat back in his chair shaking his head. David spoke again, this time after swallowing a gulp of coffee, “It sounds like you are a Mormon off-shoot, one of these UFO cults. What is the name of your group?”

Tom looked sad, “I promise you that we are not Mormon, a cult or into UFOs.  As a matter of fact, we are convinced that humans are the only intelligent life in the universe.”

David added, “But didn’t you just say that you are an alien?’

“I am a human.  I have the virtual same DNA as you.  The roots of my people are in the dirt of earth. We are hajjis, pilgrims . . . visitors on another land. We don’t belong there, we belong here. “

Greg asked, it want seemed like a serious tone, but you never knew with him, “So, are your people coming to take over the earth?”

Tom knowing that Greg’s intentions were mixed at best answered, “No, of course not. We are content to stay on our planet as visitors forever. However, we are coming here to learn about the creator. We have our written history but we haven’t had the scriptures as you have them.  We are taking your scriptures back with us and are even studying them, but we still do not understand.  We want to learn from you how we are to live. “

Michael asked, “Okay, how do you speak English so well now. Was it a computer chip put into your brain?”

Tom answered, “Let’s be serious here.  We learned English just the same way you would learn another language.  I’ve been studying English since grade school in preparation for this mission.”

Debra finally spoke, “Grade school?  How long have you guys known about us?”

“We’ve always have known about this great place called Earth because it was in our written history. But we only had the means to travel here about a hundred years ago.”

Greg said in great surprise, “A hundred years ago?  You’ve been coming here for a hundred years?”

“Not really. We have known how to travel great distances for about a hundred years.  But first we had to find Earth and then we started sending probes.  We eventually placed our own satellites in Earth’s orbit. Much of what we have learned has come from broadcasts.  It wasn’t until about twenty years ago this mission was first planned.  We sent scouts to walk among you and then I was chosen, as a scientist, to come and study you and to report back.”

Greg responded, “So we are the apes and you are Jane Goodall?”

Tom replied, “I do know who she is, but this is different.  I’m not simply an anthropologist. We are not studying Earth for simply the sake of learning for knowledge’s sake.  This is also a spiritual journey.  We are bringing your scriptures to our planet and we want to know how we live them out in reality. You have to understand, we have no history, no traditions and no preconceptions from which to draw. We must start from scratch. So there is no good translation to what I am but it is somewhat like a sociologist, psychologist, philosopher and pastor all combined into one . . .  if that makes sense?”

David still had a smirk on his face, “Okay space boy, what is your planet and how did you travel here. Let me guess, it was a wormhole?”

“Our planet is called Teyvat, which means ship or ark, like Noah’s ark. When God dispersed us to our planet, he also brought many of our animal friends.  Teyvat orbits around and between the binary stars of Alpha Centauri, which is over 4 light years away in the space-time dimension. But I think that is enough for this morning.  Now that you know the urgency of my quest, I hope that you will take my questions more seriously.”

David responded, “Now wait a minute chief. You can’t just drop a bomb like that on us and then move on.  So who is your leader?  I’m confident you must be from California.”

“As I said, I am from Teyvat.”

“Prove it. Can you levitate or make your finger glow.”

Tom looked serious, “Now you are just trying to be funny at my expense. This is no laughing matter. Of course I can’t do those things any more than you can. We are human just like you. There are some subtle differences. For example, our oxygen concentration is 28% compared to Earth’s of 20%. So it took a lot of conditioning and training for me to be able to live here. I still get breathless very easily. Our hemoglobin is about nine grams per deciliter, a lot lower than yours. Our chronovector, or gravity as you would call it is about 67% of Earths, so that took a lot of conditioning as well. Over the past five thousand years our bodies have evolved to a slightly different character reflecting our environment.  The Hanserians are taller, thinner and I must add much brighter than the typical Earth human.  I’m not saying that to be arrogant, but we were the scientists of the time of Babel.  When my clan was taken out of humanity on Earth, the civilization here was set back and we advanced. We are about a thousand years ahead of Earth in our development and science.”

David added, “Then prove that. Solve some advanced science problems right here before our eyes.”

Tom thought for a moment and responded, “I’m not a physicist, plus what I would tell you about physics, you would not understand but I will tell you all some things that I hope would help to convince you that I’m not a crazy person.”

“I’m all ears,” said David with a smirk.

“I will start with you.  Getting back to our discussion from last week, I’m confident that you don’t think that Greg is a Christian nor Father Randy, however you are envious of Michael and his faith. The reason of that is that you even doubt your own salvation at times. You doubt your own faith because you have a secret behavior that you feel very guilty about. This behavior happens frequently and each time it happens, you are left doubting your on true conversion.”

Tom’s eyes then moved counterclockwise around the table.  “Michael, you are a man who has had a bad relationship with his father. I’m not sure why, but you have pain about that and it still haunts you. I would guess that he was an alcoholic and mistreated you and your mother. That is the very reason you became a pastor because you wanted to make your mother proud, to give her some reward after having suffered so much. Father Randy, there’s many things I can tell you about yourself but I will just mention one.  Debra is far dearer friend than anyone here knows.  You have some secrets that you kept to yourselves. I’m not sure if this is a romantic relationship or not, but it is very deep and special.  I won't say anything more about you Debra, so that brings me to Greg.  Mr. Lantis, you are a homosexual and you have never disclosed your homosexuality to these men or to most of your friends. You attended what is considered a conservative seminary by Christians in America and started as a minister in the Southern Baptist church but moved into the Methodist and now the Unitarian Church because the Baptist church made you feel very uncomfortable in your sexual orientation.  Is there more I should say?  I will add that all I know and have spoken of this morning, I learned from our interactions last week.”

The entire table sat in silence. Finally Father Randy spoke in almost a whisper, “Surely you are a prophet.”

Tom chuckled, “I’m neither prophet nor a mind reader. I didn’t use any ability that you would consider outside the laws of nature. We are a very observant people and we think using logic rather than emotions.  Earth humans think and make choices using emotions and logic is tangential to most of their thinking.  We see emotions as a gift or the spice of life, not the essences there of.”

Michael spoke for the first time in a while, “Part of me feels like I should be insulted by your comments. Yet, I can tell from your spirit that you didn’t mean what you said cruelly.  I’m looking forward to our future discussions.  And, if anyone had any doubts, I can just say you hit the nail on the head about my personal life.  Even my own wife, Peggy, would not understand me like you do, and we’ve been married for twenty eight years.  I've always thought of space aliens as short, green, with big eyes and long fingers, but maybe I was wrong.”

Debra chuckled, "Hey Michael, you just described a frog."

Then the tension broke as the whole table laughed out loud.

The posse adjourned for another week. Debra made it clear that she would definitely be back.  Sharon watched the whole meeting from a distance. She whispered to Arnie, “Do you think it would be bad if I put a recorder under that table next week?”

To which he replied, “Woman, have you lost your mind?”