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January 30, 2004

I've been busy and unsettled this week, but I've still been spending some spare time considering/trying to talk to God. I still haven't experienced anything that convinces me one way or the other, although I suppose many people would consider my need for a "convincing experience" the main reason I've not had one. Even when I am praying I feel full of doubt, and I feel like it is either God's job to remove my doubt or that it is my doubt which is keeping me from God. More than anything else, as with most things, I feel like I'm thinking this all to death, but I am unable to approach it in any other way.

I finished reading Numbers a few days ago, and was surprised to find that it was actually about numbers -- it might also have been called "Census" or "The Book of People Counting." There's a good story about Balaam and his talking, God-fearing donkey that should be made into a wacky spinoff book. The Israel blessing ("the Lord bless you and keep you...") is also in this book, which I am surprised/confused to see is identical to the "Irish Blessing" song I sang in high school choir. Beyond these things, I am eager for the people of Israel to get to the Promised Land already.

January 25, 2004

There's lots going on here, some of which makes me wonder whether my prayer is having any effect, some of which makes me think that God may be directing me in some seemingly undetectable way. There's been nothing that I would consider an answer to my requests for God to reveal Himself to me, not yet anyway. A few strange coincidences, but no more than ususal, and none that I would consider wholly remarkable. Actually, no... there's been two unusual coincidences, both of which involved her, as if she were my connection to God. The first is unimportant, the second occurred late last night...

I've been in the midst of a very important decision affecting my life here, one that has inherent questions of morality and personal responsibility subtly attached to it. While I had essentally made up my mind by last night, I was still morally conflicted about the ramifications of my actions. So, late last night I found myself praying to God to help me decide what to do, to reassure me about the morality of my decision, etc. Just then she called and did everything I'd asked God to do, in that way that only she can, and I haven't felt conflicted about it since.

January 21, 2004

Of the people I have told about my situation -- about the girl who won't marry me because I am not a Christian -- many have responded by saying something to the effect of: Have you ever thought about converting? Such a strange question. It implies that Christianity is just a choice one makes, that it isn't necessary to do anything but convert and maybe go to church in order to "be" a Christian. It seems to me that to embrace a complex belief system such as Christianity, a belief system that is so essential to the way one views the world, it ought to involve a great deal of soul searching and intense contemplation. As obvious as this may sound, I think that a person should sincerely believe in the Christian God before declaring oneself a Christian. The more I think about Christianity, the more I wonder how many people who call themselves Christians are actually sincere in their professed beliefs. How many people think that simply wearing a cross around their neck and going to church every Sunday is going to get them a ticket into heaven? How many people who call themselves a "Christian" are actually Christian?

January 18, 2004

I'm currently reading Leviticus, which is really a pretty boring book -- all about laws and skin infections and what animals not to eat. What did get my attention was this quote: "'Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable."(18:22) I'm bothered by the unwillingness of many Christians to accept homosexuality, and I'm assuming that this passage has quite a bit to do with this belief.. However, if that passage is to be taken and enforced literally, why is this passage: "Do not wear clothing woven of two kinds of material"(19:19), which appears only a page after the homosexuality one, seemingly ignored. Or what about "'If anyone curses his father or mother, he must be put to death"(20:9)? There's also a whole lot of talk about ritualistically killing animals to atone for one's sins, and about not touching women who are on their periods, and so forth, but I don't see these supposed "laws" being enforced with quite the same vigor as the homosexuality one. Am I missing something? Can someone please explain this to me?

Perhaps I sound as if I'm getting further from God, but I feel as if I'm getting closer. It's hard to shake the perceptions of Christianity that have been created by organized religion, but I'm trying.

January 17, 2004

My life here has taken a sharp turn to the left, or the right, or whichever direction of turning indicates an increase in strife. My life is going to change soon -- I'm going to have to enact change -- and the future is once again as uncertain as it was a year ago. A religious person would probably look at my circumstance as a push from God to find a better situation. I'm not sure if I'm ready to believe that, but I'm willing to give the idea the benefit of the doubt.

I have talked to her a few more times in the past couple days, and we've have now officially started a one-month communication haitus. If anything, this time apart will provide much-needed perspective, although I'd be surprised if my feelings for her waiver. God only knows what will happen with us, or perhaps in this case even he doesn't know.

I've been spending too much time alone lately, or maybe not. Maybe I need to get used to this.

January 15, 2004

Tonight I finished Exodus, which started off well but ended in an excess of details about the ark and the tent and etc. I found myself wondering exactly why all those exact measurements and materials were included in the Bible, but then I also think (as most people probably do) that I am missing something of tremendous import that would make my understanding much less foggy. I am getting the main ideas, at any rate, or at least feel that I am. God is quite the character in these early books -- all tempermental and vengeful and needy -- but I'm told that he mellows a bit with age.

I was swearing at the copy machine at work today because it wouldn't stop jamming, and I made a conscious effort to stop. I've never done that before, and I'm not sure why I did it today. I used to just swear and swear without giving it a second thought, but today I realized that I was swearing and tried to stop. Strange and perhaps ridiculous as that may sound, I felt that if I am going to make this genuine effort to find God that I should stop behaving in a way that might make him want to hide. Is that spiritually naive of me? I don't think there is such a thing as spiritual naivete.

January 14, 2004

A week ago today I was so miserable about being stuck in this place alone, but today, while not feeling entirely happy about where I am, I feel a strange sense of peace about my current life. It's a feeling that I never imagined being able to come across in this place again, but here it is. I have nine more months here, and while last week this seemed like an eternity, this week it seems like a drop in the bucket, like before I know it I'll be preparing to leave.

The essential question, in light of my current spiritual search, is: Would I feel this way had I not been praying every night for the past week? If not, does this indicate that God is intervening in my life, or just that the act of prayer itself helps one to get through difficult times? I'm told that once I start asking God to show Himself to me, and am seeking Him with an open mind, that His presence will become readily apparent. Thus far, I feel as if His presence has become at all apparent to me, it has been in ways so subtle that they might easily have been missed had I not been looking. Perhaps I've not been looking closely enough, or perhaps I am still not open enough to see His work.

I'm halfway through Exodus, and am still advancing through the Bible in a linear fashion, despite the fact that everyone has told me to do otherwise -- even secular friends. I feel that more than one bookmark would create confusion.

January 13, 2004

I finished C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity last night, and I'm still not a Christian. Maybe I need to read it again. I enjoyed parts of the book, other parts I found got bogged down in minutae and in responding to petty arguments against Christianity (and therefore justifying them). I did learn quite a bit about what it means to be a Christian, beyond just believing in the Christian God and reading the Bible, and about how Christian behavior differs from moral behavior.

She called me again this morning, saying that she just wanted things to be "normal" again. I do, too, so long as "normal" means that we are able to be together. Otherwise, I'm not sure if I should be talking to her. I told her this, essentially, and said that she really needs to figure all this out. I don't know how to feel about this anymore -- I thought she'd made up her mind when she told me we couldn't be together last week, but I'm once again wondering if this is the case. I understand that she's confused, too, but I really wish that she would either admit to her confusion and not make bold statements as she did last week, or take some time alone to dissect it.

January 12, 2004

I didn't mention that she called me on Sunday night, which is something that I'd expected yet which caught me off-guard all the same. It was good to hear her voice, and to know that she'd been thinking of me, yet hard to talk to her without knowing exactly what the future held for us. If our futures are indeed meant to be separate, then we probably shouldn't be communicating at this point, but if a future together is still a possibility, then... I don't know. She said she shouldn't have called, and I was kinda thinking the same thing, but I was desperate for her voice.

My greatest concern is that I'll remain emotionally affixed to her while she slowly peels away from me.

Oh, and the medicine I got from the church is working wonders -- healing me both physically and emotionally, although I'm not sure if that's just the pills. I'm told that once I ask for God to show himself to me, that His presence will become easily apparent to me -- my logic-based mind keeps wishing for a control group, an alternate life of mine where I didn't pray for anything.

I finished reading Genesis last night -- very interesting, and more engaging than I thought it would be.

Questions: Am I actually supposed to keep track of everyone's family tree, or is it just enough to understand that they all had lots of kids? Lots and lots of names that I'll never remember in there. Also, how did everyone actually live to be so old back then, or am I just missing something?

Surprises: Noah actually took seven (or fourteen) of every "clean" animal on the ark, and two (or four) of every "unclean" animal. Also surprised that the forbidden fruit is never actually identified as an apple, only as fruit from a tree.

Most disturbing event: After Shechem "violated" Dinah and then asked her family if he could marry her, Dinah's brothers told him that they would only let him marry her if all the males of his city were circumcised. Shechem agreed, and after all the males of his city were circumcised and in serious pain, the brothers went in and killed them all and took all their women.

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