Monday, October 27, 10:36 AM
It came to me rather quickly I was having a unique experience. At the least, it was unique to me, if not the only time it ever happened. So, I had my next question. "Am I the only human you've ever spoken with? Like this?"
As fast as I said it, I started wishing I had those words back, realizing how stupid my question was before the question mark landed as the last word shot past my teeth. For Pete's sake, like I haven't read the bible? "That was stupid, Father. Sorry."
"Because you read in the bible about how I spoke with Adam and Eve, Ezekiel, and so many other prophets? Moses, Aaron and Jacob?"
My right hand went up, palm outward. "Guilty."
"Not completely guilty," He advised. "I've never spoken with another human in this fashion, using what you term a ‘Shimmering Image', nor have I visited anyone and spoke through a dog." He stopped for a moment. "And such a fine specimen he is, Matt. You made a fine choice when you opted to favor the Irish Wolfhound. It's a splendid breed. And this young fellow," He added, "is a particularly well-developed hound. He's perfect in every way, insofar as the standards of the breed."
"Thanks. I agree with You. But You have, of course, communicated with people before, meaning this isn't a one-of-a-kind moment?"
"In that sense, what you say is true, but I've never done it quite this way."
"Didn't Moses ‘see You' on the mountain?"
"You're referring to Exodus, and it did say we met ‘face-to-face', but those words were amended almost immediately. I explained to Moses, as I'm telling you now, you cannot see My face. My words are not ‘may not', but ‘cannot'. It would be fatal to you, and I've already promised you no harm, My son."
"That sounds a little strange, if I may risk being seen as impertinent. Being God, You can do anything. Even that, can't you?"
"Matt, this is one of the questions I mentioned you can't fully comprehend. You see, although I am God, I have no physical body. The most easily understood example I can give you is to say I am an energy force. If you ever ‘saw' Me, face-to-face, as it were, although I have no ‘face' in the strictest sense, the energy and power to which you'd be exposed would be immediately fatal."
"But not this Shimmering Image form? That won't hurt me, even though I'm standing so close?"
"You stood close to an image, Matt, but you were never physically close to Me, to the energy force that is God."
"How … um, how close was I?"
"You're closer now to the sun than you are, or were, to Me. The sun, since I know you don't recall, is a bit more than ninety-three million miles from Earth. Yet, in the same moment, I have been as near to you as the clothing you wear."
I took a few moments on that one. "Okay, my SWAG estimate is I won't figure that one out within the next, oh, fifty to seventy-five years, right?"
I'll be damned if that didn't draw another chuckle! Shit-the-bed, Fred! I'm really on a roll!
"Your estimate is conservatively accurate, Matt. You will comprehend it before that long, however, as you don't have that many years remaining in this life."
"Okay, fair enough. Next question: how long do I have? When will I die?"
"I won't answer that one, My son. To know the exact date of one's own death would drastically hamper the enjoyment, and the sorrows, to be experienced while you're still alive. The joys are meant to be appreciated. The sorrows, while not enjoyable, have a reason and a place in your life. That falls under the heading of things I can do, but will not do. In this case, I've given you My reason."
"Very well, how about this one? What will happen when I finally tell people about talking with God? I assume it'll be after I've done whatever job You have in mind for me. Will that do good things? Bad things? What?"
"You won't do it, Matt. You know why."
Thinking it over, I turned and went back inside without saying anything. I felt, since He knows everything else about me, He'd pick up on it. In any event, I was sure the "vehicle" He was using, the Irish Wolfhound, was certain to follow me. I was right.
Life sometimes doesn't get any better than having a dog you can love who'll love you back. Seated again on my new sofa, scratching my new wolfhound's ears, I road tested my answer. "I'd be seen as an idiot, wouldn't I? Maybe a ‘Jesus freak'? Some off-the-wall zealot? Pretty much the general opinion people seem to have about those who say they've been born again?"
"In essence, yes, Matt. That's what would happen."
"It's wrong if people think of me that way?"
"Again, yes, for more than just one reason. You'd have no credibility if people saw you as a man who's ‘gone off the deep end'. Even more, it would be untrue. You aren't like that. You don't feel that way and don't act that way."
Shit! Now we're startin' to cut a bit close to the bone. "Is that wrong, for me not to feel that way?"
"Not at all. Everyone is in a different stage in each life. You should always act as the person you truly believe yourself to be."
"Are we all supposed to get where we feel that way, Father? Like those kind of people? Gushy and, if I dare say it, melodramatic?"
"Let's just say there are people who become too involved in professing their faith. They seek constantly to proselyte. In most instances, these people act the way they think they should act. In the process of doing so, they can become offensive to many, if not most, other people."
"Like those pests who go door-to-door trying to talk to people about G— You?"
"Only in part. They find an outlet for insecurity being gung-ho about an accepted concept, religion. There's nothing wrong with what they do. Why they do it, and the way they do it, is not as I would prefer. They alienate people by their practices."
"Then why don't You give ‘em a sign? Send a message of some kind?"
This time I'm positive He did chuckle. "I have, but people don't always listen to the messages I send them. For example, I sent many, many, many messages over a number of years to a man named Matt Lieukenjon, but he ignored them. He concluded they were ‘strange ideas' from friends, such as a woman I put in his path. He stringently ignored her on such topics for years."
"You're talking about Rita in Kentucky, aren't You?"
"Gee, Matt! You really are a sharp one! It seems nothing gets past you, does it?"
I was stunned. It took me a minute to fully understand what I was hearing, but I finally did catch on. God's being a smartass! He's using my own wiseass line on me! I gulped and took a long look at the huge dog seated at my feet. I'd never dare ask anyone to believe me, but I'm positive, right there, in my new living room, that Irish Wolfhound smiled at me! He is! He really is! God's being a smartass!
"So, because I didn't pay attention to Rita …" I let it trail off, having no clue what I meant to say. Whatever I should say. Not a hint.
"You didn't permanently ignore her, Matt. It only took a few years."
"Not after I became homeless," I said in my defense.
"No," He replied with a chuckle, "you were only homeless for six months before you started paying attention."
"Well, why didn't you … skip it. Withdrawn, Your Honor," I added, playing my best version of an attorney from Law & Order. "You felt I needed to learn these things the hard way, right?"
"I'll let you answer that, Matt. That way, it'll make more sense and stay with you longer than if I just tell you." When I said nothing for a time, He added, "There's an old story about two Missouri farmers. One had a mule who refused to pull the plow. He tried every way he could imagine to make the animal move, but it just stood in place. Ignored his commands. After half an hour or so, the second farmer picked up a 2 x 4 and smashed it between the mule's eyes, stunning the animal. But he soon started pulling the plow as he'd been ordered to do."
"The first farmer yelled, ‘I never told you to beat on him!' and the second farmer replied, ‘I didn't beat on him. I just had to get his attention first to make him see the error of his ways.' Homelessness, Matt, was your 2 x 4."
"Gee, I'd think, with You being God and smarter than everyone, You'd've thought to use a fungo bat, maybe something soft, instead of a piece of board."
"You'll just have to assume I was up late the night before partying with my friends and I wasn't thinking straight, Matt."
I gaped at the dog, since he was the only "image" I had to work with at the time. "You really are being a smartass, aren't You?"
In reply, the Irish Wolfhound yawned. He opened a mouth large enough, and deep enough, I knew from experience, to hold my hand and enough forearm to scare anyone. His tongue curled up as he raised his big head, then lowered it again to look at me. The expression on his face practically spoke, asking, Who? Me?
"Okay, this isn't getting us anywhere. How ‘bout we go back to my questions?"
"Fire away when ready," He said colloquially.
"No problem. Here's a good one: religion. Is it necessary? Is it good or bad? Are we doing it right? Oh, and churches. How about them? Which is Your favorite? Plus, a while ago You said You'd tell me if being a Catholic was right or wrong, so why not now?"
"Those are more than ‘a good one', but all are valid. As far as religion, that's not a yes or no answer, Matt. I consider every person on Earth to be Mine, a child of God. Do I want My children to worship Me? To see Me as what I am? Yes. Without a doubt and beyond question, yes. Ideally, each would learn to do as I wish on his or her own. I don't ‘need' groups. I want every one of My children to understand and act and behave as I instructed them. As I've instructed them for thousands of years. As a matter of fact, the ‘religion' of which you speak, Matt, is to consist of simply following the commandments I sent down with Moses:
1. You shall not worship any other god but Me.
2. You shall not make a graven image.
3. You shall not take the name of God in vain.
4. You shall not break the Sabbath.
5. You shall not dishonor your parents.
6. You shall not murder.
7. You shall not commit adultery.
8. You shall not steal.
9. You shall not commit perjury.
10. You shall not covet."
"Those laws I sent down, plus one given by Jesus: ‘love your fellow man as you love yourself', and one given to all by Jesus: ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by Me'. John: 14:6. Obeying these laws I directed to guide people in every respect is all anyone needs to do to please Me."
"All the rest, everything that's been added in these last thousands of years, was done by man. By many different men. In the churches they founded, each one the work of men, not God, they've added laws, rulings, interpretations, and words they believe, or want others to believe, without My direction. I stated what I wanted in those commandments and the words delivered by Jesus. The balance is man-made."
I gulped again. I had at least a million things to ask, but they all stumbled on each other and wouldn't leave my mouth.
"Do I have a favorite church? The answer is the same as I'll give if you ask Me if I have a favorite person. No. Of all the people on Earth, I had only one ‘favorite', Matt, and He is known as the Son of God. Jesus Christ, Who was sent here for a specific purpose: to unite mankind and bring them back to Me."
"Um, weren't the Jews supposed to be your … your, um favorites?"
"Yes. They were My chosen people. You're correct as far as that goes. They have, as do you and all My other children, a special place in My heart, but they don't accept Jesus Christ. That's what you might call ‘a problem'."
"So they … what? Lost their special status? Their importance?"
"Of course not. The simplest example I can provide is another story. Assume a man had two sons and loved them dearly, both the same. One son, the youngest, decided to go to college to be the best person he could be when he entered the working world. The other son, the oldest, didn't believe that was the way things should be done. He felt what he'd learned in high school was all he needed to know. He began his career with only the knowledge he had at that point. Both sons worked equally hard at their trades, although the son with the higher education was far more prosperous. Each loved the father in his own way, but their lives were different. After twenty years, which son did the father love the most?"
"If I'm following correctly, he still loved them both the same, although he may have secretly had more respect for the son with the greater education. How close did I get?"
This time I did hear a chuckle! "I believe the word is ‘bulls-eye', Matt. You are entirely correct. Of course, he'd never tell either son he felt the educated one made a better life for himself than his brother. It would appear to show favoritism. Yet, in his heart, he would feel the educated son, the one who knew more and accepted improvements, had done better for himself, although he'd feel the same love for each."
"Gotcha. Now, about the churches?"
"Very well, since you asked. I never told anyone to form a church. I told them what to do in the ten commandments, and those two items added by Jesus Christ. That was all I wanted. I meant for everyone to be what is now known as a Christian. Believe in Jesus Christ and follow my commandments. Yes, the Catholic church is the oldest Christian religion. It was the first one formed. All the others were started by Catholics who rebelled against church dogma, church laws, church rules, church teachings. Rules, laws, and more were created by men, not by Me. As each church grew bigger and stronger, accumulated more members, people within the church resorted to politics, grabbing power and wealth, supposedly in My name. Those were the most egregious sinners."
"In your opinion," I volunteered.
"There is no other opinion," He explained.
"Ah, yes," I muttered. "Open mouth, change feet. Sorry."
That got me another soft chuckle. "These people used the willingness of others who believe to create monstrous machines of power, wealth and authority, then used all these things for themselves. Instead of doing what they stated as their goals, although many of the originators truly meant what they said, they soon began to create a group of people little different than the Mafia or other organized criminal enterprises."
"So it is wrong to, say, be a Catholic?"
"The answer isn't that simple, Matt. In any religion, as a matter of fact, in every religion, there are people who honestly think they are devout. They think they believe what the church teaches them, but so many don't. Not really. They repeat what they've been taught by rote, knowing what to say, but never truly examining the issues to a point they can logically and openly agree with them. Worse, while they feel themselves to be good Christians, devout in every way, they don't act that way. You've seen that yourself, many times, in these four years of being homeless."
"Uh-oh, You lost me on that last curve, Father. Care to ‘splain, Lucy?"
"Remember all the people who've stared at you? Gawked like you were an animal in a zoo? Those who hurried away as if you were a leper, unclean in some way? People who had more money than they needed to live, saw your need, but did nothing to make things better for you?"
"Yeah," I answered, some of the resentment I'd tried for so long to let go coming back as a bitter taste in my mouth. "I usually called ‘em assholes."
"Those are false Christians, Matt. People who can mouth the words, knowing I want each to care and provide for his brother, but then turn on their heel and walk away, leaving the needy to fend for themselves. No honest Christian, not one who understood all he or she has supposedly learned, could do that. Such people are defying My commands. The ‘Golden Rule', as it's called, says, ‘Do unto others as you would have others do unto you'. Can you imagine any of those people finding themselves in need who wanted others who were not in need to walk away? Maybe with a haughty attitude? To treat the needy as if they were not as good as others? No, Matt, these are not things I directed, or wanted to occur. These are the actions of false Christians."
He gave me a moment to mull it over before adding, "With those ten laws I sent through Moses, and the two appendages from Jesus Christ, I think you can say I created the very first twelve-step program, Matt."
I laughed along with Him on that one. After all, it was witty and true. "Okay, we're making progress, but I'm still not clear how You feel about churches. Good or bad?"
"Much of that answer can be found in your previously stated opinion of groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous. Do you recall your words?"
"Of course I do. I've told people I know, with whom I dare carry on an intelligent conversation, AA is a waste of time. For me. I get nothing out of it. I've attended an estimated six-hundred fifty meetings. Around five-hundred were at the order of the court, the rest were my idea. For a time, I thought I needed AA. I went a year and a half without drinking, but all it did was make me a ‘dry drunk'. I wasn't a bit happier, wasn't doing any better in my life beyond not getting sloshed every night. When I stopped attending them, things stayed the same. When I started drinking again, still to excess, it was full circle, right back to where I started. I kept that same mind set when I moved to California, one step ahead of the law because of all the trouble my drinking caused me."
"But you almost, not quite, but almost, stopped drinking in the year 2000. Why was that, Matt?"
"I realized I no longer wanted something else, in my case, beer, to control my life. I wanted to control my life, so I started taking a bottle of water on the two-hour walks with my dog every night. In 2001 I had eight beers, all year long. In 2002, same thing; eight beers in a year. In 2003 I only had four, although I truly enjoyed each one." A smile hit my face from the memory.
"In 2004 I only noticed I hadn't had anything to drink in the month of November, so I finished out the year dry. Then, when ‘the brown shirts' came to evict me from my home in January, since it's deemed unwise to drink at home when you live in your car, I skipped it altogether. As of now, that's around three years with no alcohol. I don't miss it."
"Would you drink now, if you had the opportunity?"
"I don't know. It would depend on the opportunity, whom I was with, and if I felt I wanted it. That's so subjective, I can't say yes or no."
"So, AA is, as you said, a ‘complete waste of time'?"
"Only for me, Father. I met people connected with AA who desperately need that program. Without AA, they'd be drunk in a week and would stay that way. More to the point, most of ‘em would be dead by now. While I think it's a crock of shit … pardon my French, Father … they think a whole lot differently. For that reason, AA is the best game in town. For them. Not for me. I don't need it or get anything from it, but it is for them. They need it, and they get a lot out of it."
"I believe you, Matt. You're correct in your thinking. In all of it."
"Huh? Um, You just lost me again on that last curve. ‘In all of it'? What's up with that, Father?"
"Suppose you took everything you just said but, instead of the letters AA, you used the word religion? Churches? Do you see the relevance?"
"Uh-huh," I told Him, scratching my head again. "I don't enjoy them, and I don't need them, because I have a different point of view. They see things other than the way I see them, so they benefit from religion and churches. Right?"
"I couldn't've said it better Myself, Matt."
"Wow! I did something as good as God can do it!" I exclaimed in mock humor.
"Don't get carried away with yourself," He teasingly derided me. "Perhaps I was fooling you on My capabilities."
"Gee, thanks for taking all the fun out of it,." I wanted to keep the levity going for a moment. "I should've known Someone so wise and powerful would be competitive."
"Matt, I have no competition," He remarked, the tone of voice leaving me no idea if He was joking or not.
Using the CYOA theory, (Cover Your Own Ass),
I decided to let it drop while I was still ahead. Or, at least, not behind. By too much. "Okay, getting specific, what about the Catholic church? Good? Bad? Indifferent?"
"Beyond the fact the Catholic religion has more man-made laws than most, it's no different than any of them, Matt. If people need to be members of a flock to face life, that's what they will do. What they should do. If a Christian can face life on his or her own, with only Me to guide him or her, all the better. In the end, I'm far more concerned with that person's true belief and actions than I am with membership in a group."
"What about things like confession? They say you can't be forgiven your sins unless you get in a closet with some guy who has his collar on backward and tell him what you've done. Is that true?"
"Not in any sense, Matt. If you are truly sorry for your sins, and you confess them to Me, I will forgive them. If, on the other hand, you go into a confessional and follow all the procedures, but aren't truly repentant for all you've done, you will not be forgiven. Even if the priest says you're forgiven, you won't be forgiven in My eyes."
"Which just happen to be the eyes I'm concerned about," I said without a trace of humor. "What about Easter duty? No confession and communion on Easter is, I was always told, a ‘mortal sin'. I'd go straight to Hell. Do not even pass go, but head straight to hell, with or without a hand basket. Then again," I murmured, another idea forming in my demented mind, "I was told it's a mortal sin to miss mass on Sunday, with the same ‘straight to hell' penalty. Both result in the same eternal damnation, if one believes what the Catholic church tells you. So, there's no difference, according to the Catholic church, between missing my ‘Easter duty' and skipping Sunday mass. It's as if the death penalty is worse than being sentenced to die, if You see the incongruity. I figure now, since I haven't attended church in around forty-five years, that's quite a few missed Sundays, wouldn't you say, Father? Oh, and a lot of ‘missed duty time' at Easter."
"Two-thousand three-hundred forty Sundays, Matt, but that's all behind you now. When you confessed your sins to Me that night in 2000, although you did not mention missing mass, I forgave them all."
"Are you sure?" I asked, this time attempting to pull His leg.
The leg stayed nicely in place. "I am never uncertain about anything, My son, and you know it. As far as attending church services, since you adamantly disavow any and every church, I would never want you to attend one. The concept of ‘Easter duty' is, once again, a creation of the Catholic church, not from Me."
"Because you don't believe in them. It would therefore be a hypocrisy, a total waste of time, completing a ‘duty' or attending mass. I'd prefer you watched a football game on TV, since you believe in the game and you enjoy it."
I looked around the room, scanning an imaginary audience, and asked, "When it comes to selecting a God, can I pick ‘em, or not?"
My stab at humor earned me another amused chuckle. "As far as your question on religion, Matt, it extends much farther than you know."
"Care to ‘splain, Lucy?" Somehow, even if I was "talking with" the most powerful Being in all Creation, I was getting an "at-home" feeling about it. Go figure.
"Among religions there are Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, African Traditional and Diasporic, Sikhism, Judaism, Shinto, Cao Dai, Jainism, Tenrikyo, Rastafarianism, and many, many, many others. They are all, in essence, but varying interpretations, again, man-made, of worshiping their God. Me. You even made an accurate comparison when you described Wiccans, if you recall it."
"Yeah, that's right. I started seeing a Wiccan because I'd never dated anyone who said she was a witch before. Of course, I'd already dated, and been married to, some outright witches, but never met one who called herself a witch."
"If you're going to be correct, Matt, your expressed motivation was you'd never had sex with a witch and wanted to see what it was like."
"Jeez! If You're gonna split hairs, yeah, I said that."
"Not in those words, however. You had a term you substituted for ‘have sex'."
"You heard that? You had to be listening at just that moment? Jeez!"
"Gee," He taunted, "guess who's not paying attention? Matt, I've heard every word to come from your mouth since the day you were born."
"Aw, c'mon. With all the people in the world, so many billions, You're telling me you've paid that much attention to me? You've heard every word I ever said?"
"I get around, Matt. I'm a very busy God."
While I didn't "hear" a chuckle, I sure as hell sensed it. "So You're telling me all these other people are worshiping the same God, and they don't know it?"
"People worship in different ways, and they refer to Me by many unusual names, but, yes, Matt. They are, in the end, worshiping Me. Some are much farther ahead in the development of their faith than others. That's the only difference."
"How can that be? Don't they pick their own gods to worship?" I mulled that one a moment, then added, "And what about the pagans? People who worship a rock, or maybe a statue, a star in the sky? What about all those people?"
"There are no ‘other gods', Matt. I am God, the only God. If you recall, I told you already, I have no competition. Do you think I would allow other gods, if it was possible, to exist?" He let it hang a moment, then added what He had to see as a coups de grâce. "As to the pagans, the fictitious deity they choose to serve is merely Me in another form concocted by man. Not all that different than the statues of saints found in any Catholic church, or Mary, the Blessed Virgin. I never requested or even suggested people should worship that woman. She performed a valuable service for Me, but nothing more than that."
"Man, talk about self-confidence! Jeez!"