The Long and Winding Road

I come from a big family. Two parents, Les and Sally Rowen. Four brothers, three sisters.

ColleenMarkJohnTomDeniseBruceBobJulie. My dad would say that when he was talking to one us and he couldn’t remember which one of us he was talking to. That happened more often than you might think. My dad seemed to be in a perpetual state of confusion when we were growing up.

One my younger brothers had a friend sleep over on a Friday night. We were eating breakfast in the kitchen the next morning when my dad walked into the kitchen looking like unto a bear that had just awakened from hibernation.

“Are you one of mine?” he grumbled at the kid, who froze, with a Cheerio hanging from his lower lip. The kid shook his quickly. “Okay. Real good then.” my dad said in relief, and poured a cup of coffee. “You had me scared there for a minute.”

My dad had worked for the ICBM Defense Program for most of my childhood. We moved roughly every two years from the time I started grade school until I was in the eighth grade. In 1968, my dad quit working for the missle guys, and we moved to Missoula, MT  My dad said we were going to live in Missoula for the rest of our lives.

We had all  heard that line before, many times. I doubt any of us believed it, including my mother. But two years came and went, and we didn’t move. And then another two years passed, and we were still in Missoula in 1972.

What do you know? Miracles do happen.

My sister Colleen is three years older than me. My brother that got dead from SIDS was born and died in between us. I think Colleen had graduated from high school 1971, but that’s where she met Rod Sanderson.

Rod was a year older than Colleen, and like unto a lots of guys, he fell in love with my sister the moment he saw her. Back in the day, Colleen was what was referred to as a stone cold fox. She was maybe 5′ 4″ tall, long light brown hair, and according to all my classmates, she looked like an angel. Actually, all of sisters are very attractive, except when they’re pissed off. Then they’re fucking scary. Real scary.

Colleen used to drop me off at school in the morning, and some of the guys in my class would hang around the front of the school, hoping to get a glimpse of her, or if God was truly benevolent, a word or two with her. All of my friends were in love with my sister, but she wasn’t interested in any of them. She already had a boyfriend.

Rod was an okay guy, I guess. He was the baby of his family, and I don’t know if spoiled is the correct term to describe him, but it’s the best term I can think of. If there was an easy way out of something that Rod didn’t want to do, he would find it. That didn’t make him a bad guy, but it hardly made him a stellar role model.

Rod’s parents, Vern and Jackie, doted on their only son. Like me, he had an older sister, but I didn’t really know her. Rod lacked nothing when he was growing up, and Rod liked toys. So, when he got older and his parents stopped buying him toys, if he saw something he liked, he bought it whether he could afford it or not.

All of Rod’s friends had hot muscle cars. Rod bought a Fastback Boss 302 Mustang. Dark blue. It was a beautiful car. He liked to hunt, and bought himself an arsenal of guns and rifles. And he bought a Harley Davidson motorcycle.

It wasn’t a big old good one kind of Harley hog, it was a 300 cc bike. As far as Harleys go, it wasn’t much of a street cruiser, but it was a street bike. Rod used it to cruise the backroads in the mountains to scout for good areas to shoot deer and elk and stuff. And he bought my sister an 80 cc Yamaha so she could ride the backroads with him. That was nice, but my sister didn’t really care for it much, and rarely rode it, but I loved it. Rod and I probably bonded riding the mountain roads outside of Missoula.

I know he also bought helmets, but we never used them.

Helmets were for fuckin’ sissies.

* * * *

Rod might have been a poser/wannabe all around he-man outdoorsman kind of guy, but his dad was the real deal. Vern was nothing short of legendary in certain circles. He was a hunter/fisherman/guide kind of guy. He had a lots of firearms and a whole lots of rods and reels and fishing tackle. And a boat.

Vern had a garage full of tools, and he knew how to use them all. He was a woodworker/carpenter.  He was a stonemason and a bricklayer. He was a plumber and an electrician.

Vern was essentially the opposite of my dad. Les didn’t hunt or fish. He wasn’t an outdoorsman. He probably would’ve gotten lost in our huge backyard if it hadn’t been fenced in. Les wasn’t an handy man. He had maybe seven tools, and he didn’t know how to use any of them.

Be that as it may, as Colleen and Rod’s relationship progressed, so did their relationship with each other’s family, and Vern and Les became pretty good drinking buddies. It was probably the only thing that they had in common.

Well, and they both loved Colleen. Seriously. I think Vern once asked Colleen what she saw in his deadbeat son.

Because she was the oldest daughter in my family, and the first girl to start dating, my dad spent a fair amount of time threatening to kill Rod to death for a list of infractions both real and imagined.

Getting drunk with his buddies. Getting my sister drunk. Getting me drunk. Bringing my sister home late. Bringing my drunk sister home late then passing out in his car in the driveway.

Rod eventually gave my dad a nickname: Ornery. And despite the fact that my dad did everything he could to make Rod’s life a living hell, Rod asked Colleen to marry him. And she said Yes!

* * * *

That’s probably enough of the backstory leading up the events that were about to unravel.

It was the Memorial Day weekend in 1972. Saturday, May 27th, to be precise. I had just completed my sophomore year of high school. I was sixteen years old, and I had just started working at the Go West Drive In.

My family went to a state park a few hours out of town to celebrate the holiday weekend. My mom cooked enough food and made enough sandwiches to feed an army. We were joined there by Rod and his parents. Vern had brought the motorcycles along in the back of his truck.

You never know, they might be fun, he said. And because Vern was anything but a fuckin’ sissy, he didn’t bring the helmets.

* * * *

I know I was reluctant to go with my family that day. I had to work, and I didn’t trust my dad when he said he’d drive me back to town in time to get to work. But Rod said not to worry, he’d drive me back in his Mustang. I quit arguing after that.

I know I drove out to the park with Rod and Colleen. We listened to one of my 8 track tapes on the way out. The Stylistics, a Philadelphia soul group that hit the top of the charts in the early 70’s. Rod was more of Country/Western guy, but even he liked their music.

“They’re pretty good for a bunch of niggers.” he said.

I can’t remember the name of the park anymore. I’m not sure I knew the name back then. It was a very scenic green valley at the foot of some mountains. A creek ran across the valley floor. There was a lots of room to run and play Frisbee. A rocky gravel road led up into the mountains. And the motorcycles turned out to be a flash of genius. Rod or Vern rode the Harley while me and two oldest brothers, John and Tom, took turns riding Colleen’s Yamaha up and down the road with one of our younger siblings as a passenger.

The road probably wasn’t all that different from any other mountain road in Montana. It had been blasted out of the side of the mountain in the 1940’s, maybe. The rock and boulders that been blasted loose building the road were moved to either side, forming a guardrail of granite. Some of those boulders were the size of a house.

I’m going to guess I spent roughly four hours or so out at the park, and then I had to go. As I was hugging my mom goodbye, my dad and Vern were climbing aboard the motorcycles. John and Tom were sulking because they couldn’t ride along on the bikes. True to his word, Rod drove me back to town, driving as fast as he dared down the curving road that cut through the mountains back into Missoula. And we listened to The Stylistics again.

I know I made it to work on time, and I know it was pretty much the same as any other night at the Go West. It was probably around 11:00 PM. We were cleaning up the concession stand and checking inventory when one of my gay bosses came out of his office and said, “Umm, Maark, could you come here? Your mother is on the phone…”

I walked to the office, and my other gay boss handed me the phone. I heard my mother crying.

“Mark? Oh, God! I don’t know where to begin, but right after you left, there was a terrible accident…”

* * * *

What follows is what I can remember hearing from the people who were there, and I also have to admit I have repressed, suppressed and denied these memories for so long it’s almost as if I had completely forgotten it even happened. But when I was writing my last post, Melpomene whispered in my ear, and the memories came flooding back.

* * * *

My dad wasn’t a outdoorsman/sportsman guy. He wasn’t handy at fixing anything. And he wasn’t very good at riding motorcycles either, so in that regard, it’s fortunate he didn’t take a passenger when he and Vern went for their ride on the bikes that Memorial Day weekend in 1972.

I don’t think my dad was drunk when I left. He’d been drinking that day, but my dad was Irish, and he could knock down some beers without outwardly appearing to be impaired. And to be fair, Vern had had his share of beer that day, too.

Vern drove Rod’s Harley. My dad drove Colleen’s Yamaha, and away they went, climbing up the mountain road. I have no idea how far up the road they went, no idea how long they were gone. I’m not even sure if they were driving up the road, or back down it when my dad lost control of his bike.

And sadly, the details I remember are sketchy. He was either going too fast and braked too hard, or he wasn’t going fast enough and lost control when he gunned the engine to increase his speed. He kind of weebled and wobbled, but didn’t fall over, then careened off the road, running headfirst into a pretty goddamn big boulder. The impact crumpled the front wheel of Colleen’s Yamaha like it was made of tin foil, and sent my dad flying over the handlebars.

The boulder my dad hit was big, but it wasn’t especially tall. The way I understand it, my dad essentially did a somersault over the boulder, just kind of kissing the top of the boulder with his forehead enough to sustain a couple of superficial cuts to his scalp. If he had collided with a taller boulder, he would’ve taken the top of his head off, and if he had been wearing an helmet, the only thing he would’ve injured would’ve been his pride.

Well, and the front wheel of my sister’s bike.

As I nurse, I can tell you that your scalp is a very vascular area, and even a small cut can bleed like the dickens. My dad was essentially uninjured, save for a couple of superficial cuts that bled like hell, creating the illusion that my dad had been mauled by a fucking Grizzly bear, and was about five minutes away from dying to death.

Vern possibly knew my dad wasn’t badly injured–he wasn’t unconscious, none of his bones were broken–but he was bleeding like a stuck pig, and that’s probably all Vern saw. He told my dad to lay still, and apply pressure to the cuts on his forehead, then Vern jumped on the Harley and tore off down the mountain.

Rod used his motorcycle to cruise up and down the mountain roads, but it wasn’t modified in any way to be a mountain bike. It was a street bike, and if you’re curious about the differences in the way the bikes look, you can do a Google search.

Even still, some explanation is required. Off road bikes have a beefed up suspension, and the engine and foot pedals are set on higher the frame for better clearance over things, like, rocks in the road and stuff like that.

I stated earlier this mountain road was probably much like any other mountain road, meaning it was dirt with rocks of varying sizes imbedded in the dirt, covered with varying levels of loose gravel. It was never designed to be driven at an excessive rate of speed, and certainly not a motorcycle designed for street use.

I doubt any of those things occurred to Vern on that day. His buddy had been injured, and was bleeding, a lots, and he needed help. Fast! Vern was a very good motorcyclist, but even good cyclists make mistakes, especially if they aren’t being careful, and Vern had thrown caution to the wind. I’m sure he never saw the rock sticking up out of the road, sticking up just high enough to catch the brake pedal on the unmodified bike he was driving, turning low to make that corner, racing down into the valley to get help for his friend.

* * * *

I don’t know how long my dad waited for Vern to return. I don’t think he even knew, but he did as he was told until he started thinking it was taking Vern an overly long time to return.

“I really wasn’t injured,” he told me later. “There was a little stream running along the side of the road. I soaked my handkerchief, and held it to my head. Once the bleeding slowed down, and Vern still hadn’t returned, I started walking down the mountain. I figured I would meet him on the way.”

And he did, only it wasn’t the way he had imagined. Instead of finding Vern leading a motorcade of vehicles coming to rescue him, he found Vern laying face up in the middle of the road, a large pool of blood under his head. Rod’s Harley was piled up on the boulders lining the side of the road about thirty feet away from Vern, the brake pedal bent at an impossibly acute angle.

Vern was breathing, but that’s all he was doing. He was unconscious, and he would not awaken. My dad checked to see where all the blood was flowing from. The back of Vern’s skull felt like a bag of loose change.

“I started running down the road, for maybe for a quarter of a mile,” my dad said. “And luckily, a car was coming up the road. I flagged them down, then we put Vern in the backseat, and drove down the mountain. When we got back to the valley, Jackie climbed in the car with him and they took off like a bat out of hell. Your mother and I packed up everything and the kids and followed them to the hospital.”

* * * *

One of my gay bosses volunteered to take me back to town immediately. The Go West was something like twenty miles outside of Missoula, pretty much in the middle of nowhere. It was further out of town than the airport. It was probably closer to Frenchtown than it was to Missoula. The only thing remotely close to it was the paper mill where Vern and Rod worked. Vern had gotten his son a job there after Rod graduated from high school.

I was in a state of shock, and it took me a minute or two to respond.

“I don’t think you need to do that. It doesn’t sound like I need to be anywhere immediately. My dad’s okay, but it doesn’t sound like Vern’s going to make it.”

Vern had been rushed to the hospital. His condition remained unchanged once he reached the hospital, he was breathing on his own, but still unconscious. The doctors told Jackie there wasn’t much of anything they could do. Vern had suffered a massive injury to his occipital lobe and cerebellum. The back of his skull had caved in like unto a broken eggshell. He might wake up, and then again…

“If he had only been wearing a helmet…” the ICU doctor said.

* * * *

My gay bosses dropped me off at the hospital around midnight, and gave me the rest of week off. If I needed more time, all I had to do was ask. I went up to the ICU waiting room where everyone else had gathered–Rod’s mother and sister, my mother and sister–and the person they had gathered around was my father. A couple of steri-strips had been applied to the cuts on his forehead. I think his clothes were dotted with his blood, and smeared with Vern’s, but I’m unsure about that. He probably changed when he took my brothers and sisters home before returning to the hospital.

My dad was beyond inconsolable. He blamed himself for the accident; placing full responsibility for what had happened squarely on his own shoulders. He kept saying he wished he could trade places with Vern. The women were trying to comfort him. I went over to talk to Rod. He told me everything he knew about what had happened, and he kept saying this,

“I wish to God I had never bought those goddamn motorcycles.”

After that, I sat down, and waited. There was nothing else to do, but wait.

That’s when I saw the book. It was small, rectangular black book, less than fifty pages, very plain in appearance. It was titled, The Impersonal Life. I picked it up and started reading. I finished it in less than half an hour, then started re-reading it from the beginning, slowly. I slipped it into my pocket, and took it home when I left the hospital. I hid it in my bedroom like it was a Penthouse® magazine. I’ve read it thousands of times over the years.

It was the book that would eventually lead me to believe that I was going to be a prophet someday.

* * * *

You can look it up online if you’re interested. You can even download a copy of it if you like, in PDF format. I have a copy on my Galaxy Tab S2®. And while I could probably wax philosophic about the contents of the book for hours, all I will say about it is this: it either contains the most sublime, simple truth about God and His Purpose ever written, or it’s the most convincing complicated lie about life and everything ever told. And to be sure, a very convincing lie has to contain at least some small measure of the truth

I’ve never been able to decide which of those two statements are correct.

Maybe they both are.

* * * *

I spent all day Sunday and Monday at the hospital, sitting with Jackie. She was surprised to see me there, and it wasn’t as if she had no one else to lean on during that time. Dozens, maybe hundreds of people dropped in to see her at the hospital and hold hands with her and cry.

On Monday evening, there was a change in Vern’s condition. He started having trouble breathing on his own. He was intubated. By Tuesday, he was no longer breathing on his own. Jackie decided to take her husband off of life support Tuesday evening, and Vern stopped breathing. He died on May 30th.

Little Known Footnote in History: both of my parents died in May. My mom in 2007, my dad in 2011.

Vern’s funeral was probably on Friday, maybe Saturday. I can’t remember when it was, I have no memory of even being there, but I know that I was. I remember how quiet it was in our house during that period of time, and our house was never quiet.

I remember sitting up in the living room with my dad after the funeral. It was late. Everyone else had gone to bed. We didn’t say much. We didn’t talk to each other much during that time, and that is all on me. But my dad finally spoke, and this is what he said,

“I can’t for the life of me figure out why this had to happen.”

“This might help.” I said, and I gave my dad the little black book I had taken from the ICU waiting room, and he read it. It would be just about the only thing we had in common for the next fifteen years or so.

* * * *

Rod took me along when he and his buddies went back to the park to pick up the motorcycles. They were still laying on the side of the road. The rock Vern hit with the brake pedal had a noticeable dent in it. Thirty feet away was another large rock in the road, this one covered with dried blood.

Rod attacked the bloody rock with tools and his hands, screaming and crying until he got it loose, then threw it as far as could down the side of the mountain, leaving a crater in the road. We drank a beer, and everyone said some words of farewell to Vern, then Rod gave me my 8 track tape back.

“I’m sorry, Mark. I can’t ever listen to it again.”

I left it on the side of the road.

I know the mangled motorcycles languished in Vern’s workshop for a very long time. I think Jackie finally made her son get rid of them, and he sold them to someone for parts. He never bought another motorcycle. And he traded his Mustang in on a four wheel drive pick up.

* * * *

Colleen married Rod in June of 1973. Maybe it was July. She was a beautiful bride, and Rod was happier than he had been in an year. I’m sure they loved each other, but as Colleen told me when her marriage was falling apart, “I just had to get out of the house. I couldn’t fucking take it anymore. I would’ve married the milkman if he had asked me. But I almost felt like I had to marry Rod, you know, especially after Vern died. Dad wasn’t the only one who felt responsible for Vern’s death. I did, too. It was my motorcycle!”

About ten years later, Jerry would be standing under a falling telephone pole, and I would learn the hard way that grief is the wrong reason to get involved with someone. Nancy and I stayed for maybe a year and a half before we called it quits. Colleen and Rod stayed married for maybe three years before they got divorced.

I think even Rod realized they had made a mistake. I talked to him a couple of times on the phone during that time, but I was fucked up on every drug on the planet, and I was drinking. My memories of this aren’t the best, but I have a vague, hazy, whisper of a memory of Rod saying that Colleen was just another toy in his collection. He didn’t value her for who and what she was, and he didn’t blame her for divorcing him.

* * * *

A lots of time has passed since Vern got killed to death, and a whole lots of stuff has happened since then. I have traveled a very long and winding road to get where I am, but my journey is not yet over. There may be a lots more twists and turns I’ll have to encounter before it ends. Life will do that to you in the blink of an eye.

I can’t say that I’ve spent much time thinking about this story. It’s a story that I’ve rarely told, if ever. Hell, until last week I had pretty much forgotten it even happened. But there is one issue that always rises to the surface whenever I think about it, and it popped into my head as I was writing this.

It’s probably why I’ve tried so hard to forget it.

My dad felt responsible for Vern’s death because he was a lousy motorcyclist, and Vern had gotten dead trying to help him. My sister felt responsible because our dad had crashed her motorcycle, and Vern had gotten dead trying to help our dad. Rod felt responsible because he had bought those goddamn motorcycles in the first place…

But I have my own what if in this story. What if God recycled Vern’s energy because He knew I would see that little black book in the ICU waiting room, and it was the only way He could think of to get it into my hands?

If that what if is true, then Vern’s death rests on my shoulders, and mine alone.

The Lord works in mysterious ways, does He not? I’ve always thought that was just another way of saying, isn’t that ironic? And yes, He does work in ironically mysterious ways. I don’t know anyone who believes in God that would argue against that statement.

And there’s this: what if I failed to achieve the qualities God requires of a prophet? What if I had my chance, and choked? What if I missed the critical free throws at the end of regulation, and I lost the game? If that is true, then Vern’s death was wasted, and God made an huge mistake, inflicting many people with unnecessary grief and loss for no good reason. And He should have recycled my energy long ago, rather than keeping my stupid ass alive when I was so determined to die young.

That’s a possibility, but it’s also possible that the time for me to assume that role is yet to come. The fact that I’m still alive and pondering this is enough to keep my hope alive that my delusional dream could still come true.

And finally, it’s possible that I misunderstood everything and my desire to be a prophet is nothing more than a delusion, as my lovely supermodel wife insists. And if that is true, then I have nothing do with any of this, and Vern died to death simply because he got careless when he was riding a motorcycle too fast for the terrain and road conditions. And I can go back to forgetting any of this shit ever happened.

Maybe The Horne was right about me when he nicknamed me Wrongway…

A lots of questions, not many answers.

There’s only one thing that’s clear to me. No matter how much I want this, I’m no prophet, and I know that to be the undisputed truth.

That’s one bit of truth I don’t have to do any seeking to find.

The Spirit of the Lord is Upon Me

Way back when I was young, I took a lots of strange paths while searching for the Truth. I discussed God and all things Divine with anyone who was willing to discuss these matters.

When I was in nursing school, I didn’t have to walk very far to meet some of these people. A few of them knocked on the door of my apartment.

Two young Mormon female missionaries knocked on my door and asked if they could talk to me about their religion. One of them said something like, “Our founder, Joseph Smith, started our religion because God talked to him!”

“If God talked to me, I’d start my own religion, too.” I replied.

“Oh!” they giggled, and looked at each other. “We never thought of that!” I asked them to come back after they had a better idea of what they were doing. I never saw either of them again.

The second such experience I had was with the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and the young blonde haired woman at my door had the most beautiful big blue…eyes… I had seen in awhile. She was also wearing a lovely light blue sweater. I was pretty sure I heard the voice of God when I saw her.

I was pretty serious about becoming a Jehovah’s Witness for about a year. But once I realized I was never going to make it to the Promised Land with the blue eyed blonde, I went back to being an hopeless sinner.

It wasn’t until we moved to Arizona that I found more discussion partners, and those all came courtesy of the church we were attending. The non-denominational Christian churches we attended back then were big into something called Small Groups.

These groups usually met once a week, and we discussed a lots of topics, and the discussion one night was about the Holy Spirit. I had been doing a lots of reading about the Holy Spirit, mostly because I had no idea who or what the Holy Spirit really was, so at the end of the discussion, I asked this question, “Can anyone tell me what the true purpose of the Holy Spirit is?”

And, no one could. So I said, “Okay. I’ll write something up and email it to you.”

That was when I discovered the limitations of organized religion. Religion is great, as long as you think the same things that everyone else in your religion believes. Creative thinking is not greatly appreciated in religion, and new ideas about God are practically viewed as heresy. Even today.

And that’s what happened to me. No one in my group wanted to discuss my treatise on the Holy Spirit. One of my group members even walked out of the room when I tried to get my group to discuss it. He was also the pastor of the church, so…

* * * *

At any rate, this is what I wrote:

It starts in the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 24: As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these are the beginning of birth pains.”

I submit for your consideration one obvious fact. All of the pre-conditions Jesus stated have been met. Every one of them. False prophets, wars, famines, earthquakes. The first sign of the end of times is false prophets. However, if there are going to be many false prophets, there has to be at least one true prophet.

I kind of figure that God is not going to throw his children to the wolves.

Jesus is the Good Shepherd; he protects his sheep. Jesus tells his followers he will send someone before his return in John, Chapter 13: “I tell you the truth, anyone who welcomes my messenger is welcoming me, and anyone who welcomes me is welcoming the Father who sent me.”

Okay. Simple enough so far. One of the things I learned when I rejoined the church is Scripture needs to be seen in the context in which it is written. John, Chapter 13 is the story of the Last Supper. Just before Jesus says this, he tells his disciples that one of them will betray him. And just after Jesus says this, he tells his disciples that one of them will betray him.

This line has no relevance to what happened before, nor what happened after. The only thing John didn’t do was put it in neon lights.

That’s what I see when I read this line, but I appear to be the only person that can see it. I’m like a dog that can see the colors of the rainbow, but dogs can’t see color. As my wife and most people I’ve discussed this with have been quick to point out, I am not a learned Bible scholar. I’m a drug addict alcoholic who thinks he’s seen something that no one else has.

And then he tells his followers who his messenger will be in John, Chapter 14: “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him.”

God will send the Holy Spirit into the world in much the same manner that the Father sent the Son. John, Chapter 1: The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him. He came to his own people, and even they rejected him.

When the end times begin, the Holy Spirit will make his appearance, but because no one on earth is looking for him, not many will recognize him when he comes. Let me ask you this, have you been looking forward to the coming of the Holy Spirit with eagerness and expectation?

Of course not. You didn’t know he was coming. You’ve been looking forward to the second coming of Christ, not the first appearance of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit will have a mission. Jesus continues in John, Chapter 14: “But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.” And in John, Chapter 15: “But I will send you the Advocate—the Spirit of truth. He will come to you from the Father and will testify all about me. “

Before Jesus began his ministry on earth, a man named John the Baptist appeared in the Judean desert saying, “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.” The Holy Spirit will have much the same mission of John the Baptist.

Jesus explains this in John, Chapter 16: And when he [The Holy Spirit] comes, he will convict the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment. But wait, there’s more: “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own but will tell you what he has heard. He will tell you about the future.”

There’s a Biblical word for foretelling the future: Prophecy. And if I ever become a prophet, it will be because of this.

In summary, at the beginning of the end of this age, to counter all the false prophets that will appear, one true prophet will come. He will testify about Jesus, lead into all truth, and he will reveal the future.

That, my friends, is the true purpose of the Holy Spirit. But here’s another thing about the Holy Spirit you didn’t know. He actually appears in the Bible as a person.

It happens in the Book of Revelation, Chapter 1.

10 It was the Lord’s Day, and I was worshiping in the Spirit. Suddenly, I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet blast… When I turned to see who was speaking to me, I saw seven gold lampstands. And standing in the middle of the lampstands was someone like the Son of Man.

The Son of Man was the title Jesus used to describe himself. John, the disciple of Jesus, probably knew Jesus in every stage of his development. They most likely grew up in the same area; they probably played together as children. John was one of his followers. John was present at the Transfiguration. John saw Jesus after his resurrection. If there was one person that would recognize Jesus, that person was John. Yet John doesn’t say it was Jesus that appeared to him. He says someone that looked like Jesus appeared to him.

That someone was the Holy Spirit. As near as I can tell, I’m the only person that sees this, too.

John gives us a description of what Jesus will look like when he returns in Revelation, Chapter 19: Then I saw heaven opened, and a white horse was standing there. Its rider was named Faithful and True…  His eyes were like flames of fire, and on his head were many crowns. A name was written on him that no one understood except himself. He wore a robe dipped in blood, and his title was the Word of God…  On his robe at his thigh was written this title: King of all kings and Lord of all lords.

John also describes the person that appeared to him, someone like the Son of Man: He was wearing a long robe with a gold sash across his chest. His head and his hair were white like wool, as white as snow. And his eyes were like flames of fire. His feet were like polished bronze refined in a furnace, and his voice thundered like mighty ocean waves. He held seven stars in his right hand, and a sharp two-edged sword came from his mouth. And his face was like the sun in all its brilliance.

Similar, but different.

The person standing in front of John speaks to him. “Don’t be afraid! I am the First and the Last. I am the living one. I died, but look—I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and the grave.”

But, isn’t Jesus is the First and the Last. He died, but lives forever and ever. Why would the Holy Spirit say that?

“He will not speak on his own but will tell you what he has heard.” Jesus didn’t come to testify about himself. He came to testify about the Father. The Holy Spirit will not come to testify about himself. He will come to testify about Jesus. He will say exactly what Jesus tells him to say.

Through the Holy Spirit, Jesus tells John he has seven messages for seven churches. And at the end of each message to each church is a separate message: “Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches. To everyone who is victorious I will give fruit from the tree of life in the paradise of God.”

Through the Holy Spirit, Jesus is telling us this: one is coming before me, and you must listen to him. If you do, you will be victorious. And I will give you some pretty impressive gifts.

“Vanna, show them what they’ve won.”

Whoever is victorious will not be harmed by the second death. To everyone who is victorious I will give some of the manna that has been hidden away in heaven. And I will give to each one a white stone, and on the stone will be engraved a new name that no one understands except the one who receives it.

Didn’t we hear that before? Oh yeah, when Jesus returns, he will have a new name too.

To all who are victorious, who obey me to the very end, to them I will give authority over all the nations. They will rule the nations with an iron rod and smash them like clay pots. They will have the same authority I received from my Father, and I will also give them the morning star!

All who are victorious will be clothed in white. I will never erase their names from the Book of Life, but I will announce before my Father and his angels that they are mine. All who are victorious will become pillars in the Temple of my God, and they will never have to leave it. And I will write on them the name of my God, and they will be citizens in the city of my God—the new Jerusalem that comes down from heaven from my God. And I will also write on them my new name.

“Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends. Those who are victorious will sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat with my Father on his throne. “Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches.”

All right, go ahead and say it. “Well, that’s very… interesting.”

I think it is. For most of you, if not all of you, this will be difficult to accept because you were never taught to believe it. And when it comes to God, what we believe dies ten minutes after we do. But the truth remains the truth, whether you believe it or not.

“Okay, I’ll believe it when I see it.”

No. You won’t.

If you can’t hear this truth, it isn’t going to make any difference what you see. You still won’t believe.

* * * *

And that, is my incredible revelation about the Holy Spirit and the End of Days. As usual, I have no proof of any of this. And while I can assure you I am not lying to you when I say I believe this to be true, I think it’s also safe to say I made all of this up. And by that I mean this is all my idea. This is not something I read in another book and decided to incorporate it into my belief system.

This, belongs to me.

As usual, you don’t have to believe any of this. I won’t do anything with garden hoses to you if you don’t. But if what I say is true, I’m the only person you’re going to hear it from. And this could be important. But only if I’m right. And as you should know by now, I am not a learned Bible scholar.

I have no idea how to prove if I’m correct.

And then there’s the flip side. What if I’m wrong? Then it would be better if I had never been born, and in this matter, this is one area where I would never intentionally deceive anyone.

So, am I a true prophet, or a false prophet? There’s a very simple test..

This Song Has No Title

It’s the first day of the new year. Our party went off without a hitch, thanks to the planning of my two wives, and the goodies our guests brought to the party.

I can’t remember the last time I stayed up until midnight to ring in the new year, but I was awake at midnight last night, thanks to the pyrotechnic barrage provided by the Mexican locals.

I’m getting used to the local customs. I barely notice the explosions most of the time now, and I was able to fall back asleep, even though the fireworks continued throughout the night.

¡Feliz año nuevo!

* * * *

Writing is a strange preoccupation. I can’t speak for any other writers, but I have to have a certain amount of inspiration in order to write successfully. Thankfully, not everything I do in life requires inspiration.

“Honey! The toilet is overflowing!!”

There’s no waiting for inspiration to strike in that situation. And if you have to wait to be inspired to act in that case, I don’t think there’s much help for you.

I’ve started writing three or four posts in last couple days, and I’ve scrapped them all. The thing I’ve been inspired to write about is pretty much the last thing I’d choose, but I’m going to be stuck here forever unless I heed the urging of my Muse. So let’s do this.

Several of my posts have been born out of a simple statement I made in a previous post, and I made one of those several days ago when I wrote about spending the summer months at my grandparents’ farm.

I casually mentioned my pedophile uncle.

One of the people that consistently reads my blog is my high school sweetheart, Maureen. She commented that this was something she didn’t know about me, and there’s a reason for that. I’m pretty sure I never told her that I had been sexually abused as a child.

It’s not something I’m proud of, and I can probably count the number of people I’ve talked to it about on one hand, if I don’t count my former patients. I don’t think I even talked about it in group when I was in treatment at the St Cloud VA. I wrote about it for my Fifth Step, and quickly covered that ground when I was talking to my counselor, then tried to bury it again.

It’s unfortunate I didn’t have the courage to face my demons when I was young. It would’ve saved me a whole lots of pain, misery and money in the long run because my main coping skill was drinking myself into a coma.

Since I decided to quit drinking, it’s been somewhat easier for me discuss, though I doubt I’ll ever be completely comfortable with the subject. Many of my former patients had the same issue I did, and I told a few of them my story, mostly to give them hope they could survive their trauma if they were willing to let go of it.

Sexual abuse is a profound psychic trauma, and it’ll flat out fuck with your mind. Two-thirds of people that seek treatment for drug and alcohol abuse report being abused as a child. The sad fact of the matter is this is a much more pervasive problem than most people would care to admit.

I was a dysfunctional mess for most of my life, until I learned to apply a valuable lesson to my life. It’s not what happens to us that’s important. It’s how we respond to it that determines what sort of person we become.

I had to learn to stop reacting, and stupidly fucking up my life, over and over again. Logic and reason are nice tools, but they do not suffice when you’re trying to figure out how you became a victim of something so… indescribable and…horrific.

* * * *

Hey! How’s it going? My name’s Ron.

Nice to meet you. I’m Mark.

Man, I had the best weekend ever! It took me seventeen years, but I got my first blowjob! How about you? Have you ever had a blowjob?

Um, yeah…

Really? How old were you?

Um, six or seven, I think.

Seriously? What were you, some kind of porn star?

No. It was my uncle, and he was drunk, so…

* * * *

Even now, I have to make a joke out of it.

Like many, if not all survivors of sexual abuse, I was beyond ashamed of what happened. It was my darkest secret, and I hid it under a deep layer of defense mechanisms to keep it hidden.

The only mechanism I didn’t utilize was Denial. In retrospect, the only thing I can say is it was something I couldn’t deny, no matter how much I would’ve liked to make it disappear.

Like many things in my life, I have vague memories of events and when they occurred. My uncle started exploiting me when I was six or seven years old. And it happened for three or four years.

I can’t even say I was an unwilling participant in what happened, and that just makes me feel worse. I knew there was something wrong going on because it was a secret, and I couldn’t tell anyone about it. It would be years before I spoke to anyone about it.

When I was a sophomore or junior in high school, I decided to tell my parents what happened when I spent my summers down on the farm, and their response was one reason I decided not to talk about it to anyone else. They didn’t believe me. Even when my brothers backed me up and said they had been abused too, my parents still refused to believe what they already knew was true.

My uncle lived in a small town. There are no secrets in a small town, especially in Minnesota. There had been rumors and whisperings about him for years.

But my uncle was also a very talented and charming guy. He was loved and respected by almost everyone living in and around Browerville. He was my mom’s big brother, and he had been my dad’s best friend when they were in the Army. He introduced my dad to the woman he would marry.

When my uncle died, my mother found his secret stash of photos he had taken over the years. There are no words to describe her visceral reaction to what she saw. She carried those pictures in her purse for years as a reminder to herself of how she had failed to protect her children.

I think I convinced my mom to finally rid herself of that burden, and rip the pictures up. But it’s not the kind of thing you totally recover from. You just learn to move on. I can’t remember if my dad ever said anything about it. Seeing how I can’t recall ever having that conversation with him, I’m going to say it never happened.

It kind of amazes today just how much my uncle’s indiscretions totally fucked up my family.

One of the people I chose to discuss this subject with is my lovely supermodel wife. But when I did so, I wasn’t prepared for the number of questions she’d have.

Oh, look at the time. I forgot to feed my turtle.

You don’t have a turtle.

Then I clearly need to get one.

Where are you going?

The Turtle Store. Don’t wait up. I’ll be back in a couple weeks.

She probably still has a lots of questions. I’m not sure I’ll ever feel comfortable enough to answer her.

* * * *

I generally enjoy working on my blog. Today, not so much. But it’s a new year. A new beginning, a new life. I’ve kept this part of my life locked up in the dark, buried in the deepest recesses of my heart and mind. It’s time to get it out, time to stare it down and tell it how incredibly fucking meaningless it is anymore.

And it can go crawl off into a corner by itself, and die. It doesn’t need me anymore, and I certainly don’t need it. We’ve hung out together long enough.

I’m sure I’ll still be a fucked up human being until the day I die, but I’ll be more insightfully fucked up from now on. I’ll have a better plan of response. And I’ll be far less likely to do something stupid, though you should never discount that possibility when it comes to me.

And while I’m not planning on dying to death any time soon, I’m certainly getting closer to the day when that will happen. I don’t know if God takes things like circumstance into consideration when he judges us, but if He does, maybe I can do a little plea bargaining with Him.

I have a lots of stupid stuff I have to answer for.

A Brief Treatise on God

I am aware I said I would brief. I’m not yet sure if that’s possible given the subject matter at hand.

A lots of stuff has been written and said about God. I tend to doubt I have any new insights to add about God, given everything that’s already been said, either by God Himself, or all the people that have theorized about Him. And while those things are good to know, it’s the things that aren’t said I find most interesting.

I’ve tried coming up with a personality profile of God. As the Fabulous Roya says, “I do not judge, I make assessments.” I can’t presume to judge God when I lack full knowledge of Him or his motives, but He’s pretty clear about what His primary objective is.

By myself I have sworn, my mouth has uttered in all integrity a word that will not be revoked: Before me every knee will bow; by me every tongue will swear.

For my money, that statement is more telling about God’s purpose than anything else He’s ever said. God swore an oath upon Himself that He would accomplish this.

Humans blithely swear oaths all the time without thinking about what they’re saying. I’m telling you the truth, I swear to God! I couldn’t tell you how many lies I’ve heard that were supported by that line.

An oath used to be something sacred. And binding. If an oath was sworn, it had to be fulfilled or there were dire consequences.

I have no idea what sort of consequences God would face if he fails to fulfill his oath. He swore upon Himself as there is no one higher than He. God would essentially have to impose a punishment upon himself if he fails, and that’s not likely. As near as I can tell, God has never lost at anything.

But let’s suppose God fails to achieve His prime objective. After all, He is dealing with humans, and if there’s one variable that can screw up any plan, it’s humans. In which case, I conclude the punishment falls not on God, but on us.

When you take a long look at this, God isn’t asking for much from us. Obedience and worship. But those two things, well, they’re pretty much everything. And those two things are choices we have to make.

Free will. God can’t make us do anything. If He could, I’m sure this world would be a far better place than it is now. But if everyone on this planet could perfectly perform those two actions, all the stupid shit would vanish in one day.

God just might be a little crazy. This is my assessment, so you don’t have to agree with me. But from my point of view, God has to be crazy for thinking humans are the perfect vessel to achieve His goals. According to God, we are his masterpiece.

And while we are capable of some pretty amazing stuff, humans have also done some pretty dark and heartless shit. And sadly, that aspect of human behavior appears to be getting worse, not better.

If I were God, I would’ve stopped with ants, or maybe bees. Their societies are far more harmonious and efficient than ours will probably ever be. Plus, bees can fly. And they make honey.

I have to believe God knows what He’s doing, and that is about the extent of my faith. When it comes to God, I have far more questions than I do answers. If you’re looking for a man of little faith, look no further. You’ve found him.

God is perceived to be All-knowing and All-powerful. Like most guys, I can’t wrap my mind around this. And I have a vivid imagination. I have trouble remembering my Social Security number anymore, and I’ve had it memorized since I was in Basic Training.

As for All-powerful, you’re talking to the wrong guy. Our cat seemingly has more control of my life than I do. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. She appears to know what she’s doing.

From what I can tell, we view God in this manner because that’s how He described Himself, much like the Great and Powerful Oz, and we all know how that story turned out.

But, God can’t lie!

He can’t?

No! It’s a sin! It’s one of the Ten Commandments!!

Yeah. There’s no commandment that says you cannot lie. You can’t bear false witness against someone else, but you can make up all the crap you want about yourself. I like to think that the laws that apply to us, must in some way also apply to God. Those who uphold the Law cannot themselves rebel against it.

All of the main characters in the first books of the Bible lied about something. Abraham, lied. Isaac, lied. Rebekah, lied. Jacob, really lied. David, lied his ass off! David, the beloved of God. David, the man after God’s own heart.

It wasn’t until after David had schemed to have Bathsheba’s husband killed that God finally said, Now you’ve gone too far. And God’s punishment for David was severe.

My Christian friends say these examples of human frailty illustrate how God can work wonders with imperfect people, and they completely miss the point. God didn’t care that his chosen people lied because if He did, that’s not something He would’ve been able to ignore.

God never looks the other way. God never sweeps anything under the carpet. He doesn’t give you a mulligan. Every swing counts.

Look. God is our Heavenly Father, right? And parents lie to their children all the time. Remember a guy named Santa Claus? Why do parents perpetuate a story they know is false? Because the story is magical, and everyone should believe in something magical, at least once.

Name one thing more inherently magical than God. I’ll wait…

So, is God really All-knowing? Even if He isn’t, He knows far more than we’ll ever know. He knows enough, and then some.

Is God really All-powerful? He’s powerful enough to to kick all of our asses, with one hand tied behind His back. He’s more than powerful enough.

I seriously doubt that God is exactly what we think He is, but the reality of what He might be in no way diminishes the amount of respect and awe that I have for Him. And that’s the most compelling reason I have to want to be a prophet.

God is worthy.

But that creates somewhat of a dilemma for me. I’m not aware of any prophet that had to apply for the job. From what I can tell, God chose them, not the other way around.

My lovely supermodel wife thinks I am absolutely crazy for wanting to do this. If I could speak feline, I’d ask my cat for her opinion, but she would probably discourage this ambition of mine. Unless God agreed to lift her up on the couch whenever she wanted. And give her a lots of pizza.

Yeah, my cat loves pizza.

Well, I did imply I’d be brief, so I’ll stop here. But I have a lots more to say about God. So we’ll visit this neighborhood again.

Have a great day, and Merry Christmas.