1 full week of not smoking cigarettes, a weekend at our family's place on the Greenbrier River, the current "craze" about 2012, and watching the movie version of Stephen King's "Desperation" (and, as usual, they butchered the book, although not quite as badly as some of Hollywood's translations of SK) . . . 4 unrelated things that have resulted in some deep thought this weekend.
I started smoking cigarettes about the same time i moved to the Bronx, AFTER the housefire (there's probably some irony in that). I didn't have any particular reason, it was just something i started doing. No peer pressure (that was never very effective on me, anyway), no significant trauma (well, the housefire was a little upsetting, but my situation after the housefire was pretty good--better, in fact, job-wise and opportunity-wise) . . . and, at first, i gave away more of a pack than i smoked. As time went on, though, it became something to do when i was bored . . . and then something to do when i was stressed, and before long it was something i didn't even THINK about that much. That's the bitch about a habit . . . it's something you don't think about, and not thinking has become a habit we can't afford. A week ago, i felt like i was being urged to fast . . . and, yeah, i hear all the "you don't need to fast" bullshit, but you don't fast for dietary reasons, you fast to cleanse yourself from (among other things) the impurities that most of your food contains. So, i drank only water, fruit juice, and tea, and ate nothing. I had originally planned to make cigarettes a part of the fast, to give them up during that time. I did some intense praying and Scripture-reading during that time, and realized that i didn't need to just "abstain temporarily" from cigarettes. They were killing me . . . there's enough stuff on this planet that's doing that already. I've often said that the things i talk about in my poetry (or, potentially, in this blog) would get me shot sooner or later . . . but i'm certainly not going to help them out by killing myself more rapidly. And, as it was with alcohol, God was my strength in giving them up. Addictions are powerful, and once they sink their claws into you, you're going to need supernatural aid getting rid of them.
The benefits of having stopped smoking became apparent almost immediately. And i don't just mean breathing easier. My sense of smell and taste, which had been blunted by cigarettes, began to reassert themselves, and just in time for the trip we made to our family "compound" on the Greenbrier River. Now, Autumn has a "smell" all its own . . . it's simultaneously loamy and spicy. As we drove along 81 and then 460, then Route 12 into WV, the woods went from almost-peak here in VA to just-past-peak in WV. Watching the trees in their autumnal garb dancing in the high winds brought back the old excitment i always used to feel looking at the forest. The word "excitement" is as close as i can come to describing the powerful emotion that, in some cases, bordered on an almost frightening ecstasy . . . but now, stepping out of the truck there by the Greenbrier, i was more aware of the scent of the forest and river than i've been since i returned from NYC. Another side-effect of not smoking is an upsurge in my appetite--which has been a lot better since i came back from my self-imposed exile in Babylon, but now it's ferocious, especially since the food i'm eating tastes even better.
Now i'm going to sidestep. One of the things about Autumn that impresses me the most is the amazing diversity in the colors of the trees, and the way the whole forest seems to celebrate the "harvest," a last fling before the more austere and apollonian beauty of Winter. Think about it. If you accept the concept of Intelligent Design (i do, obviously), you have to wonder why God would go to all this trouble. It's not necessary for the leaves to change into all those variegated colors, no reason at all except for beauty. And why does it seem beautiful to our eyes? Maybe that's WHY it looks the way it does. God wants us to appreciate and enjoy His Creation . . . it is one of the inspirations of Praise. The awe and wonder it inspires should be something no Christian is without . . . it is that childlike quality of expectant wonder that is so necessary to all things we do in our walk with Christ. The Christian walk should not be some timid, shallow, plodding thing . . . it should be exuberant, adventuresome, and--with the realization that God is in CHARGE--fearless. I don't mean fearless in the sense of the sometimes foolhardy thrill-seeking that the word might call to mind . . . i mean, that fear should not be a factor when we are walking in step with God's will.
And this takes me to the next topic: 2012. According to one interpretation of the Mayan calendar, the "end of the world." Guess what? I don't give a tin shit what Nostradamus, the Mayans, or any of the doom-criers say about 2012. I know what Christ said regarding the end of times: "No man knoweth the hour." Jesus DID describe a certain event by which we would know that we should be ready to "run for the hills," so to speak . . . the Abomination of Desecration. Basically, something setting where it should not be. Apostasy. It would be a human being setting himself or herself up as "god-on-earth." Things of this type have happened throughout history (in fact, Peter said that if we were looking for the antichrist, that antichrists were all around), but this will undoubtedly be in such a way that it will be undeniable . . . at least, to followers of Christ. This individual will want to do away with all forms of religion other than the twisted version he or she represents. There is, in contemporary Christian thought, a dangerous trend, an assertion that the Rapture will happen before the Great Tribulation. I find no such assurance in Christ's message . . . in fact, if one carefully reads the Scripture, it becomes apparent that the Church will be present on Earth during the Tribulation. Worshippers of Christ will face opposition, ostracism, and execution. It will eventually come to a point where people are going to be forced to choose which is more important to them: their citizenship of the Kingdom of God, or their citizenship of the World. We already have forces in this world pushing for a "one-world-order," the WTO being primary among them . . . individuals who hold the financial fate of billions in their hands, who consider themselves above and beyond all laws that have been created on national and international level to check or bar them. A one-world economy will eventually come into being . . . and the "being" who holds the reins will be a literal representative of Hell-on-earth. Many folks in the world would consider the idea of a "National ID Card" as a good thing, to "protect us against terrorist threats." Having gone that far, how about a little microchip planted subcutaneously . . . such technology exists . . . that contains all the relevant financial and medical information about an individual? I can tell you how that one will probably be sold . . . "let's do it for the children." Everyone will think it's a good thing to have your kid electronically tagged so that, if they get lost or kidnapped, they can be located by GPS, or if found, can be identified easily. Sounds good, doesn't it? Well, if the kids get it, why not everyone? Then there'll be no danger of terrorists at all . . .because everyone will have their ID implanted in their skin. If you're aware at all, you probably know where i'm going with this . . . if you don't, God help you.
Compared to what IS going to happen, the disaster-movie-style apocalypse that most people are imagining (and depicting in typical Hollywood style from the point of the view of the handfull of survivors rather than the point of view of any of the other millions slaughtered) would be mild. And given that, why do i insist upon a "fearless" attitude? Because, if you are firmly grounded in Scripture, and filled with the Holy Spirit, you realize that GOD IS IN CHARGE. Time and time again, if you read the Scripture, you read that those of us who are in Christ have the Advocacy of Christ at the Throne of God. Jesus Himself said that the Gates of Hell would not prevail against His Church. The Church is not a building or a social organization, but the whole group of those who follow Christ. The body of Believers. Yes, things are going to get tough. Sometimes, you won't understand WHY they are so tough . . . or exactly what God is up to. That's where trust comes in. You can trust God wholeheartedly, without reservation, even when the situation seems desperate and hopeless. In the book "Desperation" (and, i recommend this novel; horror-writer though he may be, King makes some very good points in this one), a good portion of the book concerns itself with a young boy's "conversion" experience, and the nature of God as the boy comes to understand it. One thing that is repeated in the book is "God is cruel." It's harsh-sounding, but if you understand that "cruel" is a human interpretation (for a Biblical reference, read Job), you realize that often it seems that way, especially to Christians who are in dire straits or in terrible situations. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to it. Throughout the novel, it becomes clear that this group of people have been gathered there to do something because it's God's will . . . and, sometimes, the answer to the question "Why?" is simply "Because." At the end of the novel, though, the reassertion is made that "God is love." Ultimately, it's God's love for His children that will prevail. He didn't spare His Son when it came to saving humanity, doing for us what we were incapable of doing ourselves . . . it was the most powerful statement of Love ever made, any time, any place. It is good for us to be AWARE, to be AWAKE, and necessary for us to recognize those things Christ told us to be prepared for, that the Scriptures tell us will come about. It is dangerous for us to allow twisted fallacies, flimsy religious "magic-shows," the complacency that comes from being surrounded by the apperance of normality, or perversions of the truth to have any hold on our Christian brothers and sisters. If we are to be for Christ, we must fearlessly confront falsehood whenever and wherever we see it. A lot of people are going to be fooled by those assuring, comforting falsehoods that will be promoted by religious organizations, corporations, political parties, and so-called "world leaders." If you're going to be fearful, be worried for THEIR sake! Let your fears spur prayers. You cannot overcome evil with more evil . . . but you can get the best of evil by doing good. Prayer, kindness, guidance, supportiveness to those in need . . . those are things that everyone can do, and may surprise you with what they can accomplish if applied consistently and faithfully.
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