Assemble! …For What Purpose?

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Moving to West Virginia and living high in the mountains this last year has been a great challenge for me in many ways. I’ve been grateful for my wife and my in-laws who, after a bit of a rocky start, have been a great help for me in acclimating myself.

For example, the roads up here made me seasick for the longest time. The altitude got me because I was used to a much lower elevation. I was kinda prepared for the small town/wild living environment. It’s like living in Northern Wisconsin or the UP, but with mountains instead of lakes and bigger grades on the roads. Winters are nicer though, and the altitude helps with the summer.

…BUT… there’s been something spiritual gnawing at me. Not just work worries or Covidiocy inspired anxiety. No. It’s something spiritual and deep and unrelenting.

Why did God bring me down to this place? I felt, and still feel, like something is on the verge of bursting out in this place. A good, productive, and decent thing is hiding just under the surface, but is being held in check by apathy and hopelessness that I find rather disturbing. For months, I wasn’t sure what was going on or what I was sensing. I saw needs for improvements to the area, but was told that’s the way it always was. I hate that answer now.

My father joked that maybe God sent me down here to be a community organizer of some sort. To which I told him to ‘bite his tongue’. We laughed, but as the weeks rolled on, I started worrying that he may have been speaking something much more prophetic. I started worrying if this was not God speaking something through him. I don’t want to be a community organizer. It’s associated with so many people that have done the world great harm in the name of “the greater good”.

So that happened and I kept pondering.

I also have begun going to my wife’s church, and well… that’s been a bit more of a culture shock to all parties involved. The Darling Bride has said that I’m like a big boulder dropped into a small pond. Her assessment hasn’t been wrong. These wonderful people sure haven’t been able to make out whether I’m fish or fowl at times. I keep telling them I’m not going to ever be a Baptist, let alone a bad Baptist, but I’m Christian and fiercely faithful, even if it’s anti-denominational apostolic in nature compared to theirs. (Although “recovering Lutheran” is another good description for it.)

It’s also not been that easy for me either. I get all itchy and discombobulated with the cultural/religious aspects of the church. Sunday School in my experience was for the children, not the adults. The idea of “Three to Thrive” every week leaves me squirming. And of course the mantra “You need to be in church every time the doors are open” really chaps my ass (to borrow a phrase from Mike Rowe). If you’ve read my books, there’s a lot of Brother Finn in me, just as much as Reimar. But, God has continued to pester me and bid me keep going in spite of it.

So I kept praying and struggling with God as to why here? Why this place? What am I supposed to be doing for Him!? In His inimitable fashion and timing, God waited 6 months before revealing the title question.

But first some context. (I heard your facepalms from here.)

My church is shrinking. Dying really. But it has a chance to rebound, so don’t think I’m all gloom and doom here. There is a spiritual dryness going on that is something familiar to me. It is a drifting away that killed my childhood church (which was torn down recently after standing as a centerpiece for the city of Appleton, Wisconsin’s downtown for over a century) by lack of membership. The youth leaves, and the old die off till the remainder blow away.

But they’re fighting! Fighting hard to figure out how to bring people back and bring in the youth. So many fled because of COVID and are not coming back to the church. They stay at home and watch online instead. The heads of the church are hollering we need to get people in the pews! Only then will we grow! Special singers and preachers come in, discussions are held about a new youth ministry… But really, there is no growth. “Do not forsake the assembly!” they cry. “Do not forsake the assembly!”

And that’s when I heard it. “For what purpose?” came the whispered question.

We are assembling, but why? What mighty cause was the church taking up? What projects were happening under their watch? How were they leading the community? For what purpose was this body of Christ called together to serve the Lord? I’ve come to realize that a community needs a purpose to exist. Sitting in pews and listening to sermons 3 times a week and singing badly to hymns is not a draw, it’s rote. I talked to the deacons to ask what sort of projects were going on in the community right now? We’ve hosted missions groups, but what else are we as the church body doing? The answer was “nothing”. That’s when I realized the depth of what God was pointing out to me. The church I went to had no purpose for being anymore.

I asked my wife when the last call came in announcing another member died when the last wedding was before ours? Almost a decade. So again, I had pestering me, “Assemble for what purpose?”

My church and community right now may be a valley of dry bones, but there is something wonderful and big here just below the surface waiting to burst forth like a fresh spring from the rock. All it needs is for Moses to obey and touch the rock with his staff. (No I’m not making such grandiose assumptions about myself, but the metaphor is accurate. Someone must take their staff and touch the rock.) So we’re back to that whispered question which in the weeks since has become even more strident. Militant even.

“ASSEMBLE FOR WHAT PURPOSE!?”

We must all be asking ourselves this same question as we struggle against the rising tide of Mass Formation Psychosis (COVidiocy) that is sweeping the world. We are swamped with fear porn of the pandemic, of war drums, of supply chain shortages and economic collapse. We have a world where there is serious talk as well as government action taking place regarding the unvaxxed. They are being turned into the new pariahs… lepers of the modern world in a fashion not seen since 1930’s Berlin. To be shunned, hated and removed… if not exterminated by those who have been seduced by the new germophobic global world order siren song.

We, as individuals, or even church bodies can’t fight against such things. These are the powers and principalities contending for the shape of the world. We can only live in what is done and our only weapon there is prayer. Pray for His protection, guidance and providence.

But as we pray, we must start doing something to give ourselves more purpose. A Martha to balance out our Mary. Small things to help prepare for the trials and tribulations to come. We must ask ourselves in our churches this very same question. If we are not to forsake the body, and all seems to be dry bones or dying on the vine, what can we do to reverse this? How can we regain a practical purpose? What is it in the world you and I can control? How can we use this to make our worlds, and by extension our neighbor’s world a better place?

If we are not a light unto the world how can we lead out of darkness? What happens to salt that loses its savor? The Church in general as much as my church must find purpose. Now some are probably thriving, but many are most likely struggling. Many are suffering in the pews wondering why they’re even there. Always sick, never healing.

This is the pathway back to sanity and goodness. To give purpose to assembling as the Body of Christ.

Pray. And ask God to show you what His purpose is for you. Till then, find something you know will make your life and your neighbor’s better. Assembled together, with purpose, even if it’s as simple as having a meal together or picking up garbage from your neighborhood, or planting a vegetable garden to help stave off hunger for those who may be too poor to buy food thanks to inflation or job loss. In serving each other in Christ’s name, we gain purpose and reason that house by house, block by block, can save the world from insanity.

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Spiritual Warfare and Cultural Foundations of Akiniwazi

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I’ve made no bones about this fantasy world of mine being based not on paganism/polytheism/humanism like ohhhh almost all fantasy out there that we’ve generally heard of.  Yes I know there are several Christian authors, and 2 of the biggest fantasy authors based their worlds on Christian allegory.

But there’s that key word.  Allegory.

I’m not trying to use allegory, in part because I want to remain distinct from those two greats and dozens of other lesser known authors.  Instead, I focus my efforts on remaining true to scripture and what I’ve learned from deliverance ministries and the writings of some priests involved in exorcism, former witches and other related sources, writings and videos.  That’s why it’s hard to manage this.  Although I do retain the core of these concepts, I do allow for a little creative license.  Sort of a Dragnet-esque “Change the names to protect the innocent” kinda deal, but the principles are the same throughout.

Of course, that has made it difficult at times because ya gotta be consistent with your setting, even if the special effects go to 11.  Some of the fantastic stuff will have no explanation because that’s how God and the devil do from time to time.  It ain’t supernatural without a good reason, and the Gift of Miracles is a great catch-all for that stuff.

So, you experts out there who can run rings around me, know I’ve made a specific effort to follow this school of thought on the subject.  Y’all may know much more and much better than me, so forgive me my shortcomings.  After all, this is just the “magic system” of the story.  It is not meant to sermonize to people.  If you want to see how that wrecks things, watch Star Wars: The Last Jedi/Solo/Rogue One (or the Ghostbusters reboot).  There’s 4 secular SJW “sermons” before story for ya.

But recently, it has lead me to realize how much work I’ve needed in my life for repentance and deliverance.  Writing is hazardous that way, particularly when you invite God into the process.  On several occasions I’ve been saying “I’ll just take notes, Lord, you tell me what you want, okay?”

For those of you curious about some of the sources I’ve taken inspiration from in how things work in the spiritual realm (with the special effects turned up to 11 and a little creative license taken) you can check out the following authors and ministries.

Derek Prince Ministries.  A rock solid pillar and deliverance centered ministry.  I may not agree with all his suppositions, but I do agree on much of his teaching regarding deliverance.

Tony Evans.  His books and sermons on the activities of demons not to mention the names of God were extremely helpful

Rebecca Brown MD. (sometimes co-authored with her husband Daniel Yoder)  I never understood the concept of generational curses or cursed objects, till reading her work.  Furthermore, her writing with an anonymous witch and satanist clarified a lot of my own personal experiences with the occult from when I was younger and dumber.

Frank and Ida Mae Hammond.  “Pigs in the Parlor” is an excellent book on deliverance and what to watch for.

Some of you may not agree with these teachings, and that’s fine.  Just treat it the same as you would reading a type of philosophy or pagan pantheon you don’t believe in and stick to the entertainment value.  The rest of the religiosity you will find is a combination from several denominations, convoluted on my study of viking cultures and their adherant advancements through the culture of Norway, Iceland, Denmark, Sweden and to some extend Finland and the Sami, as well as Viking controlled areas of the Dane law of England, Scotland, and Ireland.

Combine this with centuries of separation from their home nations, and you get the polyglot mishmash goop of the Forsamling culture in the fantastic land of Akiniwazi.

Anyhoo… not sure why I felt the need to bring this topic out other than to maybe give those of you new to the series a bit of insight to what’s happening beneath the surface.  Oh!  Speaking of beneath the surface, Book 3 is almost done!  I know I’ve said that before, but I mean it.  Not sure if I have 2,3 or 4 chapters left.  Kinda depends how this one turns out.  My hope is to finish this week.  (I have vacation… woot!)

So here’s the latest autopsy on what’s been written since last I mentioned it:

Book 2 (A Land In Peril*) ->First Draft Done

Pages 211
Words 77122

Book 3 (Into the High Places*)

Pages 259
Words 92707
*working title

Neither of these include the glossary or “Encyclopaedia Akiniwazi” as of yet which may be kinda sizeable, and I may muddle a bit of where the ending is for book 2.  It may include a chapter or two more, but I’m not sure yet.  Meh.  We’ll figure it out as we go, right?

New chapters since last.  Luckily the chapter numbers are now becoming established order and the back-building is ending.

73. The Vultures Begin to Circle

76. The Burden of the Sword

80. A New Threat Is Discovered

82. Predator or Prey

That’s all for now.  Hope for a new post next week with shouts of “Good news, everyone!”

Ta!

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Perfectly Abnormal: A Review

Recently I was given a chance to review a book on a subject that hits close to home for me: chronic illness and disability.  Not only in my own life have I suffered it, through my shattered elbow, but in a very dear friend of mine, Bonnie Spencer, who suffered and succumbed to Sarcoidosis and Neuropathy.  This book is a great tool for those who have not experienced what these issues can do to your life even when it is not you suffering it.  When offered an early copy to review, I could not say no.

Moreover, I am glad I read it.

 

When Mr. Morris asked for reviewers for his book, I jumped at the chance. Through my friends, my family and myself I had seen and dealt with chronic health issues throughout my life. I was not sure how useful it would be since I had my own theories on it all, but was very pleasantly surprised at how thorough this book can be on the subject.

This book is a lifeline for those in the depths of the struggle, and a revelation for those who have just been indoctrinated into this world of imperfect health. It is trite to just say ‘you are not alone’, but even trite things have meaning from time to time, and this book is so much more than trite anecdotes and pop psyche feel good stories. It is a reminder that none of this is in vain. Sometimes, that is the best news that anyone facing these trials can get. You would be remiss in just clicking through.

“Perfectly Abnormal” covers a lot of the basics of what happens to those struggling with chronic illness and disability face and combat every day. It gives hope to those who may have lost it. I continually found tidbits of advice and reinforcement in faith sprinkled throughout the book like welcome oasis in the desert. Things I had forgotten, and things that had become weak in me.

Mr. Morris tackles the subject with logic, clarity and faith in a way that is both helpful and entertaining. His humor is both well timed and apt for the subject. Even in the bleakest of hours dealing with the pain of chronic illness and disability, a smile or laugh can be the best medicine.

For those who are in the throes of such trials, this book is a pleasant reminder that God is still with you. He has not thrown outside His grace, redemption or love. Mr. Morris debunks the myths that suffering in the form of illness is automatically “your fault and you deserve it for your sin”. Remember, Jesus could not have performed miracles of healing if there was no one to heal. God may use an illness, not just as a punishment, but to glorify Himself or for the benefit of others. That may be a hard pill for some to swallow, but it is essential to understand.

Being chronically ill or disabled is a huge, life consuming experience even for those not directly suffering. Mr. Morris makes sure to point out that even the caregivers who surround the suffering are doing God’s work and there is greater purpose for them in this. But furthermore, they too need to remember God’s in them with this and their experience too can minister to others. From the simplest act of kindness to a life long devotion with someone who can never get well. God is working through everyone involved. We should take heart that this is all according to His manifest will and cautions us not to shun those who are facing those trials, for even the caregivers need support.

The problem of chronic illness and disability will never go away. Jesus promises this, so we best be prepared to confront this. “Perfectly Abnormal” is an excellent tool for this. Take one and be a blessing unto others.