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Walking The HT

Started by NyawehNyoh, Sat Apr 20, 2024 - 12:38:15

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NyawehNyoh

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Hello;

There's hundreds of hikers out there this time of year walking across America on long distance trail systems like the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), the Continental Divide Trail (CDT), and the Appalachian Trail (AT) et al.

The PCT crosses the Columbia river at the community of Cascade Locks +/- 50 miles east from where I live in the Portland Metro area of Oregon. It's fun to see smelly hiker trash come straggling into town seeking a place to stock up on supplies, gorge on hamburgers and pancakes, take a bath, and of course get a tall ice cream cone from the Eastwind drive-in. (The little burger stand is a must-do stop over)

Beginning the HT (Heavenly Trail)

I was christened an infant into the Roman Catholic Church in 1944, and eventually attended catechism to complete First Holy Communion and Confirmation.

My siblings are Catholic, my mother was Catholic, my youngest brother was an altar body, my eldest brother entered the priesthood and made it to Friar before passing away in May 2018 of cancer.

My wife is a former Catholic, her dad was Catholic, his wife was Catholic, my aunt and uncle were Catholics, My sister-in-law was a "religious" for a number of years before falling out with the hierarchy that controlled her order, and my wife's cousins are Catholic; one of them is an ordained Deacon.

I was loyal to Rome up until I was 24, then one day I was approached by a Protestant who asked me if I was prepared for Christ's return.

Well; I must've been either asleep or absent the day that the nuns talked3 about Jesus coming back because that man's question was the very first time in my whole life that I can remember somebody telling me.

My initial reaction was alarm because I instinctively knew that were I called on the carpet for a face-to-face with Jesus, it would not go well for me because I had a lot to answer for. Well; I don't like being made to feel afraid so I became indignant and demanded to know why Jesus would come back. That's when I found out for the very first time that it was in the plan for Christ to take over the world. (I had somehow missed that in catechism too.)

Then the Protestant asked me if I was going to heaven. Well; of course I had no clue because Catholics honestly don't know what to expect when they pass away. I was crossing my fingers while in the back of my mind dreading the worst.

Then the man said; "Don't you know that Jesus died for your sins?"

Well; I had been taught in catechism that Jesus died for the sins of the world; that much I knew; but honestly believed all along that he had been a victim of unfortunate circumstances. It was a shock to discover that Jesus' trip to the cross was deliberate, and that his Father was thinking of me when His son passed away, viz: my sins were among the sins of the world that Jesus took to the cross with him.

At that very instant-- scarcely a nanosecond --something took over in my mind as I fully realized, to my great relief, that heaven was no longer out of reach, rather, well within my grasp!

That was an amazing experience. In just the two or three minutes of conversation with that Protestant, I obtained an understanding of Jesus' crucifixion that many tedious catechism classes had somehow failed to get across. Consequently, my confidence in the Roman Catholic Church was shattered like a bar of peanut brittle candy dropped to the sidewalk from the tippy top of the Chrysler building.

Long story short; I eventually went with that man to his church and, side by side with him and a couple of elders, knelt at the rail down front and prayed a really simple, naive prayer that went something like this:

"God, I know I'm a sinner. I would like to take advantage of your son's death"

My prayer wasn't much to brag about; but it was the smartest sixteen words I'd ever spoken up to that time.
_

NyawehNyoh

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I was living solo up in Oregon when my conversion from Catholicism to Protestantism took place in 1968. Right about that same time, my dad became disabled back in my home town of San Diego so I started packing to go down there and be with him.

Before leaving, the man instrumental in initiating my walk on the HT cautioned me about marriage. I was only 24 at the time and had not yet become interested in starting a family so he clued me into the fact that I must not take up with a girl whose beliefs differ from my own. I already knew that much from my Catholic training, but had never seen it in the Bible for myself. Well; it's there all right at 2Cor 6:14-18 which says:

"Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols?

. . . For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: "I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people. Therefore come out from them and be separate-- says the Lord - touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters-- says the Lord Almighty."

Well, guess what? Not long after I returned to San Diego, found a job, and was working steady; an olde girl friend showed up wanting to get back together; and she was eerily close to the very kind of woman that the Bible instructed me to avoid. HAW! I had scarcely gone but a few miles on the HT and was already encountering natural hazards.
_

NyawehNyoh

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Hikers on the long distance trails not only have to be wary of natural hazards, rodents, reptiles, beasts, and the elements; but also thieves. For example; Jesus spoke of thieves in the 10th chapter of John. Out west thieves that steal livestock are usually called rustlers.

Well; my first encounter with rustlers came about when a cheery Jehovah's Witness came down my dad's driveway bright and early one Saturday morning. I was still very inexperienced at that point, and honestly believed the JW was a fellow Christian well met.

You see: rustlers wear boots, hats, and chaps like real cowboys, they strap on six-guns like real cowboys, ride horses with a saddle and a lasso like real cowboys, and talk like real cowboys; so neither their looks nor their manners give them away. Well; that JW was well groomed and shiny like you'd expect a real Christian to be, and they carried a Bible like you'd expect a real Christian to do, and they were polite and courteous which is the kind of manners you'd expect from a real Christian.

But when I spoke of the JW with an elder; he became alarmed because he'd been around the block a time or two with those people and knew for himself just how dangerous they are to youngsters like myself who thus far don't have enough Bible under their belts to spot a thief when they see one.

Well; my friend told me that the first red flag I would see with JWs is their refusal to accept that Jesus is a divine theophany, viz; they do not believe he is a human form of God (a.k.a. Jehovah) instead they insist he was an angel in human form.

When the JW came back a week later to pick up where they left off; I tested them with what the elder told me and sure enough my friend was spot-on. What us sheep believe as the "deity of Christ" is not what they believe of him. Well; I reacted badly and angrily demanded they leave and not come back.

My friend the elder then urged me to purchase a little book titled "30 Years A Watchtower Slave" by William J. Schnell, which was a very useful source at the time because back in 1969 there were no internet services nor even yet personal computers to work with. In our day, I'd recommend YouTube for information related to the JWs though Mr. Schnell's book is still available via book stores and online venders like amazon dot com.
_

NyawehNyoh

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I was sort of a juvenile delinquent as a teen-ager with things like arson, petty theft, fighting, vandalism, possession of alcohol, and shop lifting-- and after high school did three years in the Army before taking up the welding trade. So at first my language was less than acceptable for a Christian.

But after three years on the HT, some of the rough and ready men I worked with began to comment. I mean, guys in my trade and with my background cuss; so why wasn't I cussing?

Well; oddly, I wasn't aware my language had improved until those guys said something. The change happened so gradually and so smoothly that I honestly hadn't noticed.

And that wasn't all. I was prone to deep dark funks wherein I became sullen, contrary, and very disagreeable. They had dropped off somewhere along the trail so that psychologically I was enjoying quite a lot of inward peace.

* Those funks concerned me because my mom had them all her life and I was beginning to worry I might have them that long too. But no; they were gone, and not just for a while, but instead: permanently-- in the 52 years since; they've never returned.

While living with my dad because of his disability, he mentioned that a large percentage of my contributions towards the food budget was going towards supplying myself with beer and wine. Well; normally I would've become indignant and defensive, but instead I instantly accepted that my drinking was impacting dad's quality of life. So I hopped on the wagon that very day and haven't touched a drop since; not even after he passed.

I know for myself that Christianity isn't just a code of rules and regulations to live by, but also provides a mysterious influence to exist by. I have no other explanation for what happened to my tongue, my mind, and my appetite for alcohol. Something not easily detected was going on with me very early in my experience that I wouldn't begin thinking about till further ahead on the HT.
_

NyawehNyoh

.
You had your time, you had the power,
You've yet to have your finest hour.

Radio Ga-Ga, QUEEN, 1984

Along about 1972 I was reading the Bible often enough but not really getting all that much out of it till I remembered that my Protestant friend had made me aware that there were Bible studies available on the radio.

So I began searching for some and eventually ran across programs like Thru The Bible w/J. Vernon McGee, Back To The Bible w/Ted Epp and Ord Morrow, The Family Altar w/Lester Roloff, and The Christian Jew Hour w/Charles Halff.

Those olde programs were the cat's meow for obtaining the solid material I needed at the time to prepare my mind for advanced concepts. Honestly, without their assistance, it's fairly certain I would've eventually become thoroughly confused and given up.

If I have seen further than others,
It is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.

Isaac Newton
_

NyawehNyoh

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Some of my very favorite science fiction movies came out during the last century's closing decades, for example: 2001 A Space Odyssey (1968) Star Wars (1977) Close Encounters Of A Third Kind (1977) E.T. the Extra Terrestrial (1982) and Contact (1997).

The best science fiction I'd seen in a theater up till those was War Of The Worlds (1953) which came out before the dawn of the space age when in 1957 Russia sent Sputnik1 into orbit. Science fiction was never quite the same after Sputnik because space travel was no longer a fantasy; it was suddenly a reality.

ET, Phone Home.

That weird hammer headed little guy --marooned on Earth-- needed desperately to rejoin his family in space because he wasn't biologically suited for life on our world, viz: ET was dying and only his own people had the means to keep him alive.

Well; I myself, unlike ET, was very stubborn and reluctant at first to get a dialogue going with Heaven, i.e. a rapport. Bible teachers on the radio, one after the other, kept insisting over and over again that it was essential for Christians to stay in contact with God per 1John 1:5-10. I knew within myself that they were right because not only was my Christian intuition seeing the truth in what they were saying, but my spiritual life's progress had stalled, i.e. I was dying, so to speak.

But at the time it made no sense to me why Christ's followers should speak with God about the sins in their lives. I mean; Jesus took them all to the cross so then why so much emphasis upon confession? Well; it turns out that God values honesty and transparency in His personal associations; plus, Christians get their feet dirty, so to speak, and need them scrubbed from time to time. (John 13:3-10) So after a while I gave in and complied. Well; my spiritual life's progress immediately brightened up, and I never left my phone to God off the hook ever again after that. (cf. Psalm 32)
_

NyawehNyoh

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When I was a little boy, my mom taught me how to say the "lay me down to sleep" prayer. Later, in catechism, I was taught advanced versions of rote prayer like the Hail Mary, the Our father, the Act of Contrition, and Grace Before Meals.

After converting to Protestantism, I discovered rote prayers may be an okay place to begin, but not a good way to continue.

Heb 4:15-16 . .We do not have an high priest who cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.

The Greek word translated "boldly" pertains to out-spokenness, i.e. candor, frankness, confidence, and bluntness.

So it was that I discovered God prefers conversational prayer rather than rote primarily because reciting the same lines verbatim over and over is impersonal, i.e. it neither speaks one's mind nor speaks in one's own words.

Well; this new approach was a bit strange at first, and a mite uncomfortable, but in time I came to appreciate addressing Heaven as I would confide in a familiar friend.

* The switch from Catholicism to Protestantism didn't give me a new God and/or a new Jesus to work with-- no; I kept the same God and the same Jesus with whom I'd grown up. But the switch sure did give me a much improved way to associate with them.
_

NyawehNyoh

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Phil 4:6-7 . . Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

I was diagnosed with esophageal cancer Nov 2024.

At the time, I was devastated; so much so that I feared a nervous breakdown and seriously considered suicide by drowning myself in the bathtub because if you know anything about esophageal cancer, then you know that the condition is bad enough but the treatment options are worse.

Well; as it turned out Phil 4:6-7 was my safety net-- not by reciting scripted prayers. I obtained freedom from anxiety by telling God in my own words exactly how I felt: straight from the shoulder, man to man.

Mother Teresa complained in her private letters written to spiritual counselors that she felt not the slightest glimmer of the Lord's presence during virtually the entire five decades she was a missionary in India; plus lamented that her prayers returned to her like sharp knives, cutting her soul. I'm not talking about intermittent returns; it was always that way with her, and it was very discouraging-- so discouraging that after a while Teresa began to seriously question whether there's really a God out there.

Well; I would hazard to guess that as a good Catholic girl, Teresa didn't practice conversational prayer, instead she practiced rosary prayer; and she likely expected God to read her thoughts so she wouldn't have to spell them out.

God's IQ is at least equal to that of our loved ones, our associates, our BFF, and the drivers that deliver pizza. Well; if we don't talk them in rote lest we appear to them as mental cases, then why in God's name are Christians talking to the creator of the universe-- all of its life, matter, and energy --as if He were a totem pole?

1Cor 13:11 . .When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, and I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.

* Honestly: some Christians really need to grow up.
_

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