My mother converted to Catholicism in order to marry my father, who was from a strict Portuguese-Catholic family. When this is done, the Church insists the children be raised Catholic- and there will be children. My parents made an effort at first, enrolling me and my younger sister in catechism classes and reading us Bible stories; they bragged that I could recite the Lord’s Prayer by age two. I went on to receive my first communion, but then the religious instruction stopped. Over time our family attended mass less and less.
My growing up was accompanied by a sense of being “set apart.” It is doubtful to me that this resulted simply from my baptism as an infant, as many others received the same sacrament. Did God choose me or did I choose Him? The Bible tells us that God knows each of us, even before conception [Jeremiah 1:5]. I do not presume to say that I am special in any way, but I do recall praying for the truth to be revealed to me. I rarely accept things as they appear on the surface; I am always careful to examine my own biases and motives, neither wanting to be deceived by myself or any religious authority. I believe that God has permitted my questioning in order that He might be reproven in the end. Because my prayers were always to know truth, I was led naturally back to the God of Creation that I have always had a yearning to understand. With wavering faith, I walked along to this point, where the seeking ends and the mystery deepens.
As a young adult fresh out of high school, I took to recording music and journaling, which soon developed into a poetic form. I experimented with marijuana as a way to enhance my creativity and communicate with my “higher self,” literally. My experience was that it aided in removing mental inhibitions. While most of my friends were interested in getting stoned and getting laid, I was introspective; I took my stash back to my room, where I sought to create my own ecosystem, conducive to my late-night writing and recording sessions. It was almost ritualistic the way I prepared my bong with ice cubes and bottled water. My room had to be cool, with the window open and ceiling fan humming, lit only by my aquariums and a few candles. I would burn amber or sandalwood. My music became more abstract, the poetry more stream-of-consciousness. I experimented with automatic writing and at times believed I was channeling other “intelligences.” I took my sessions into nature, packing a pipe, a lighter, some water, a granola bar, my notebooks and my mini-cassette recorder. As I hiked along, I would record whatever thoughts, lyrics or musical progressions that came to me. I brought tobacco and corn meal as an offering to the Earth, for all the insights provided me that day. I came to believe that nature was God, intrinsically, inseparably- there was nothing supernatural about it. I had drifted far away from the Church and was heavily steeped in a new-age mysticism of my own concoction. I felt a sense of peace and comfort, escaping to this other dimension whenever the real world got me down. I would journal through my problems or channel them into my music. It was therapeutic.
I credit my early interest in occult topics to my father, who kept various Time Life and Reader’s Digest volumes around like Mysteries of the Unexplained. For a kid, I had acquired a fair knowledge of Spiritism, ESP, UFOs, ghosts, time-travel, Bigfoot, etc. In college I studied cultural anthropology. I had a curiosity about world religions and ancient civilizations. One day while browsing a bookstore I liked to frequent, I happened upon a book by Louis T. Culling called The Pristine Yi King, which is Culling’s interpretation of the ancient Chinese I Ching or Book of Changes from the standpoint of a ritual magician. I suppose it was something about the figures of the hexagrams that grabbed my interest, like a schematic of the universe, I thought. It wasn’t long before I was waist-deep in the I Ching, Taoism and Zen. I started my own pen-pal network and newsletter for I Ching enthusiasts and created my own cards for casting the oracle. I would consult the I Ching frequently for “insight” into life situations. As I networked and exchanged newsletters with others in the alternative-spirituality community, my interests expanded to include the pre-Christian religions of Europe. I became attracted to Native American lore, recognizing the similarities in shamanic practice between the ancient peoples of Europe and the Americas. Being of European ancestry, yet living in North America, it seemed a logical course. I discovered the trickster tales of Coyote and Iktome as well as the concept of the Medicine Wheel. I was building a spiritual framework for myself. Ok, so I was a stoner, equal parts Joseph Campbell and Cat Stevens. Incredibly though, there was no shortage of books at Barnes & Noble geared specifically for other armchair shamans like myself, presenting a fuzzy synthesis of new-age and neo-pagan beliefs, backed up by very little academic veracity.
I emerged from all this study with a world-view that basically concluded ancient peoples all around the world at one time lived in peace and harmony with the Earth, then Christianity came along and wrecked everything with its doctrines of sin, suffering and salvation. While I chuckle at my simplistic thinking now, back then it was a very sincere concern of mine. All the while, I perceived that God was watching over me and that all this knowledge would help me understand His true nature and the purpose of mankind. I thought, maybe Jesus was misunderstood by the apostles and therefore the message of the Gospel was incorrect. Or, the Bible was corrupted along the way- something added, something taken away. Or, some shadowy group of control freaks conspired together to write the books of the Bible as a means to control the masses through fear of damnation, and Abraham, Moses, David, Joseph, Mary, Jesus, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John never really existed.
Despite accumulating all this knowledge, I was hopelessly failing at putting it to good use. I became melancholy. I developed a psychological dependence on marijuana. The increasing responsibilities of work, college and my expanding newsletter began to take their toll. I was angry. I was frequently dishonest to cover up my mistakes and inadequacies. I had neglected my girlfriend, being quite oblivious to the requirements of a relationship. Then one night, in the midst of our break-up, I had a bad trip. The stresses of life compounded by my lack of sleep (and one too many bong hits) propelled me into an anxiety attack. I felt like I was in spiritual danger. I clutched a silver crucifix that had adorned my grandfather’s casket and pleaded for God to protect me. I would go to the emergency room that night with heart palpitations. When I returned home, I attempted to calm down and tell myself that the effects of the marijuana would wear off soon. I was exhausted, but I resisted the urge to fall asleep for fear I would slip into a coma. When I finally fell asleep, I had a horrible nightmare:
I was hiking up in the hills by my home. This was a familiar location that I hiked to regularly and often stopped there because of the shade to rest and cool down. There was a small pond there surrounded by trees. As I approached the pond, I noticed a pack of four or five dogs on the other side. They were rabidly snarling and snapping at each other as they ripped apart something on the ground- a carcass. When I came closer to have a look, I realized the carcass was my dead body! I panicked and started grabbing what I thought were sticks, throwing them at the dogs in desperation until I hit one in the head and they scampered away. I looked down at my feet and to my horror, I saw that I was picking up bones, not sticks! In fact, I was standing on piles of human bones!
The nightmare was part of a series of disturbing dreams that night. For a week, I went about my daily business in what a psychologist would describe as a dissociative state. I did emerge from this state, but never to be the same again. Sounds like a ridiculous episode of The 700 Club, you say? I ditched the I Ching, which proved to be unfathomable, my newsletter, which was expanding into subject matter I had little grasp of, and the marijuana which kept me… stuck. I focused more heavily on my music for a couple years, until I discovered the internet, which lured me away again into a world of online pagan chats and introduced me to a host of unstable characters, some of which I met “IRL.” I started smoking marijuana again. I continued down this lost and lonely road a little further, made a series of bad choices and wound up in a depression again over a couple failed relationships. A buddy of mine who had recently started studying with the Jehovah’s Witnesses started sharing their literature with me, but the message felt a little dumbed down for me. They were able to familiarize me with several basic Bible teachings, but I was not ready to believe.
Soon I would fall in love with my future wife. We separated from the online chat room where we met, as it was quickly degenerating into a den of gossip and debauchery. We chatted online and over the phone for two years before she bravely made the move from Missouri to California to be with me. We soon married and she became pregnant with our daughter. I was happier than I had ever been in my life, but as marriage inevitably does, all the problems I had sought to escape in my early twenties were exposed. I failed to confront my issues with anger, intimacy and honesty, still preferring to escape problems instead of dealing with them. Years of financial instability, constant moving and ongoing family disputes- but especially my repeated betrayals, including a shameful affair- nearly destroyed my marriage and left my wife in pieces. I felt empty inside too. I was blessed with a wonderful family, but struggled to connect with them because, essentially, I had lost my connection to the true and living God.
If it were not for my faithful and loving wife, I might have exited the story here. For months I threatened to leave, I acted incredibly selfish and cruel; I was in full recoil. I once told my wife that she was just holding on to me for fear of being cast into the void. When she asked a nun what she should do to help our marriage, the nun responded by telling her to pray for me, because it was I who was in the void. Despite my reprehensible treatment of my wife, she prayed for me; she prayed for our marriage, through all her fear and pain. Her commitment to our marriage taught me invaluable lessons about faith, sacrifice, trust and love.
In an effort to save my marriage, I went to my first confession and broke down about all my transgressions. I would meet monthly with the priest who heard my confession, a Jesuit. I desired spiritual counseling, as opposed to secular, psychological analysis. The priest was surprisingly down-to-earth and easy to talk with, to a fault; what I really needed was Jesus, not an easy-going priest. I wanted a moral reprimand; I wanted His love and direction. I felt I wasn’t getting the help I needed, and was left to fend for myself.
I was drawn to reggae music for a time. The idea that we were all living under oppression in a figurative Babylon seemed appropriate to living in America circa 2014. Biblical themes of justice, perseverance and reliance on God run throughout reggae music, with bands frequently incorporating Scripture into their song lyrics. While I understood the incompatibility of Rastafarianism and Christianity, I overlooked that for the moment and sought to connect with the broader, mystical “Jah” vibe.
Although I felt I was drawing closer to God, my heart was still languishing in sin. I continued to pray on a regular basis, for strength to defeat my demons and lift up my family. I did not understand what surrendering to God meant. It did not mean trying harder, it meant giving up and admitting defeat. Understanding this was the key to my conversion. I let go the reins of my life, handed them over to Jesus and said, “Only you can do this.” Instead of praying for strength, I began to pray for Jesus to transform my heart. He responded. Apparently, He was well aware of my lacking faith and skepticism. I was working out an intellectual understanding of God and Creation, but I was missing that heart-to-heart relationship with Jesus. Then, I experienced a visitation while at work:
I work in wood manufacturing. As I would normally do, I was sorting through wood frame pieces and grading their quality as they scooted toward me on a conveyor belt. From there I banded the pieces together and stacked the bundles on pallets. It is fast-paced and repetitive. Often the work becomes automatic and I find myself lost in my thoughts and the music playing in my headphones. One particular morning around 10 a.m. I noticed the ambient light of my workspace increase dramatically. Although I did not physically see it, I sensed a presence slightly behind and to the left of me that was very tall, radiating a golden-white light. I recognized the holiness of this being as it communicated with me, not with words but telepathically, through an “emotional uplink” of sorts. It is very hard to describe how this communication occurred. It was like having an intense spotlight on me, a light that burned through all my layers of protection, all my deceptions, all my excuses, from which there is no hiding. It was overwhelming and frightening but understanding and merciful at the same time. I was brought to tears. This was a messenger from God- an angel. I am henceforth convinced! I received the moral reprimand that I desired and the confirmation that my skeptical mind needed. This was a communication from God the Father, for it was a spiritual father whom I needed to direct me. I thought, if this is what it feels like to be in the presence of an angel, how incredible it must feel like in the presence of God Himself.
I developed a hunger for the Word. I began listening to Catholic radio. I began reading the Holy Scriptures. I began seeing the world through new eyes. It was like I was re-aligning myself with Truth; my questions were being answered; things I failed to understand starting making sense. I considered returning to the Church with a full confession to receive my confirmation. Thanks to my wife, I was already listening to The Alex Jones Show regularly and was quickly awakening to the state of the world. Not only was I transforming in my spirit, but my politics and worldview were changing as well. I recognized that Alex was a Christian. It was through him that I learned of Steve Quayle, whom he interviewed about Jade Helm back in April. I gravitated to Steve instantly, and sought out more of his interviews. I too had gotten swept up in the Ancient Aliens craze, but felt as if the alien explanation was missing something. After hearing a Steve Quayle interview in which he discussed the fallen angels and Nephilim, everything clicked. I found The Hagmann & Hagmann Report, where Steve is often brought on to speak with Pastor David Lankford, who became another favorite speaker of mine. I discovered Rick Wiles, Paul McGuire, Nathan Leal and other watchmen, all of whom resonated with me because of their passion for Jesus Christ and in-depth analysis of Scripture and Bible prophecy. Their general scorn towards the Roman Catholic Church, in particular the Pope and Vatican, has caused me to rethink where I belong within the body of the Church, but I’ll save that discussion for another post, This Is A Call (Part Two).
I abandoned ideas for novels and screenplays I was working on. The focus of this blog shifted. I have no doubt that it is the Holy Spirit who has acted on me and led me here, pulling me down from the fence and back into camp. I suppose it is the urgency of our times that is compelling people to decide on which side they fall. I believe there is a sorting occurring now. I predict in the coming weeks, months and years, we will experience many surprises as celebrities and other public figures choose sides. Those we thought were atheist may suddenly proclaim Jesus Christ; those we once thought righteous will come to embrace the Evil One. We will see this sorting amongst our friends and family as well. Believers will be challenged and faith will be put to the test.
While Christians are looking to science to prove the existence of God, scientists are turning to God for answers. It is strange that I am being called back to God and the Church at a time when Christians are under attack around the globe and the Catholic Church is headed up by a Pope that seems all too comfortable in the political realm. I find it ironic that I am returning to God during such a tumultuous time, when it would be far easier to embrace the wind and drift along with the current of the world’s hedonistic, YOLO ideology. Now more than ever, perversion is excused, blasphemy is celebrated and immorality is protected by law. The world today provides a very cozy environment for the unrepentant sinner.
But I know what that spotlight feels like…