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Occasional ramblings and writings. Occasional being the optimal word.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Five years later...

I got baptized tonight after putting it off for a while. It was an awesome experience. I thought it would be interesting to show you how my thinking has changed in the last few years.

If any of you have known me for a while, you know that I was pretty anti-religion, anti-God, anti-church, anti-faith, etc. for pretty much my whole adult life. However, a little over two years ago, that began to change.

What I'd like to share are two things I've written.

The first, "Confessional" is a monologue that was written while I was taking a theater class at Fresno City College in 2006. It was chosen to be performed during a show called "Teasers" which is all student-written, student-acted, and student-directed pieces. It basically sums up how I felt back then. Remember when you've read it that this was performed in front of a lot of people, and my name was attached to it. It got pretty good comments if I recall. [WARNING: Contains adult language!!]

The second is something that was written a few weeks ago called "The Hurricane of Sin." I'm not quite sure what to call it. An article? A message? Whatever it is, it's way different from what I wrote five years ago.

By Ernie Garcia

Place: A Confessional. 

Time: Present.  Time of day is not crucial.

ACTOR: Can be male or female.  Originally written for a male, but lines can be tweaked so that they apply for a female.

Stage Setup: Two chairs next to each other.  There can be a divider between the two chairs, but not necessary.

[Lights up on chair ACTOR is in, but dim as if audience is in the confessional with the ACTOR.  If it’s not possible, a spotlight will do.  The other chair should be in the dark and not even visible to the audience.  ACTOR sits in chair on SR holding a rosary.  He is unsure of what to do or how to begin.  It’s clear this is new for him.  He is nervous and deliberates over his words carefully before he begins.]


[Slowly makes the sign of the cross as if he’s just learned it.  He talks towards the direction of the other chair.] 

Forgive me Father, for I have sinned.  It’s been forever since my last confession.  Literally.  This is my first.  I don’t know why.  It’s not that I haven’t had anything to confess…because believe you me…..there’s been a lot to confess. [laughs nervously…sighs] Sorry, I’m nervous.  I try to joke to lighten the mood.  Where was I?  This is my first confession.  I’m not even Catholic.  I’m not sure what I am.   I tell people I’m [makes quote signs] “Christian.”  But I don’t even know what it means to be Christian.  I was big into church for awhile, but it wasn’t really for the right reason….if there is such a thing.  I did it because my friends were going.  It was fun, you know.  Gave me something to do.  Got to meet people.  I didn’t like a lot of them, but they were nice enough.  They were pretty fake, but nice.

[Thinks for a minute]  Anyways, I’m here to confess.  Sooo…what do you want to know?  Should I work my way up?  I did some research online about this stuff.  I wanted to be prepared and didn’t want to look like an ass in here.  Sorry about that.  I’m trying to curb that, but it sometime slips out.  Is ass really a bad word?  What’s the church’s stand? Ass.  I guess it could be bad.  I guess I meant I didn’t want to feel like a donkey and not a [rises a little from chair and pats rear] literal ass ya know?  I guess it doesn’t matter.  I read that cursing is just a venal sin anyways.  The way I understood it was that venal sins don’t really get us in trouble.  I guess that’s good.  They’re like getting a parking ticket, right?  On it’s own it’s no big deal, but if you let them accumulate they can turn into something bigger.  A mortal sin.  Those are the biggies.  I now you know this shit already… [realizes what he said] sorry.  I’m just trying to keep it all straight.  Let’s see [pulls a folded piece of paper out of his pocket and reads] “A sin is only a mortal sin if three criteria are met.  Number one:   Mortal sin is a sin of grave matter.”  That’s pretty bad.  Number two: “Mortal sin is committed with full knowledge of the sinner and Number three: “Mortal sin is committed with deliberate consent of the sinner.”  [Thinks.  Crumbles paper.  Tosses it on ground] Whatever.  Let’s assume that all sin is bad.  Mortal, venal.  Hell awaits either way.  That’s why I’m here.  I’ve gotta get it out of my system.  So, where should I start?  [Thinks.  Swings rosary around]  What am I doing with this thing?  I don’t even think I know the Rosary.  I just always see people with it, so I got one.  [Contemplates rosary]  Anyways.  I’m stalling.  Here we go.  What you’ve been waiting for.  The reason for the season so to speak.  There’s, of course, the swearing which we talked about.  Venal.  [Can’t think of where to go from here, almost can’t gather his thoughts.  Gets an idea]  How about this?  [Pulls folded sheet of paper from other pocket]  Let’s go over the seven deadlies and see where that gets us.  Okay.  Here we go.  Ready?  Sure you are.  I am.

Envy.  Are these supposed to be in any kind of order?  I put’em in alphabetical order.  Will that work?  Sure it will.   Okay.  For reals.  Here we go.  Envy.  Envy, envy.  I don’t really envy anyone.  I admire the things they might have, but I wouldn’t call it envy.  Would you?  So, we’ll cross that one off.

Gluttony.  I guess we’re all guilty of this.  I’ve super sized.  So has everyone else.  Is it that bad if everyone does it?  Everyone’s doing it.  God, I sound like an after school special.  [Mockingly]  Everyone’s doing it.  [Exhales sharply]  Ya know, this is getting us nowhere.  [Crumples paper and tosses it]  Let me just lay it out for you.  Some shit’s going down…sorry.  And I need some help.  At least I think I do.  I don’t know what’s what anymore.  I just feel like the world is caving in around me and I don’t know why. 

There’s, you know, work stuff.  My job is mind-numbing at best, but tolerable to an extent.  The money’s crap.  They pay me less than I’m worth, but just enough to keep me crawling back for more. 

There’s relationship, love kind of stuff….or lack thereof.  They say God has a plan for everyone and that he might plan for me to be alone.  Which is fine, believe me, I’m used to it.  I don’t think I’ve gone out on an honest to God date in years.  I guess I gave up after a while. 

[Chuckles to self.  Frustrated] What am I doing here?  Why did I show up here in this church today of all days?  A church I’ve never been to in all my life.  I guess I thought this is the place where people go for answers.  I figured it couldn’t hurt to give it a shot…not like I had anywhere else to be.

I guess what I’m trying to get at is that I don’t know what I want out of life.  I don’t know where to go from here.  Should I look upward or inward?  The question is: Am I alone?  Yes or no.  I need to know.  I just need some assurance.

Look.  I’m kind of a balls out person.  If I know I’m not alone, then I will be in church every fuckin’ Sunday….sorry.  Damn it….sorry.  I’ll be there on Sundays, Wednesdays, Fridays whenever.  I’ll be in the choir and I’ll work the carnival.  I just need to know that, well, that there is indeed a God.  But, if there’s not, then I’ll be on my way and I’ll know that I need to step up and take care of myself…which I can do.  That’s not the issue.

I know I’m asking like the question here.  So, here it is.  Flat out.  I want a yes or no answer.  Is there a God up there?  Am I alone?  Am I supposed to be devoting my life to someone or something that I’m not even sure exists?  [Waits for answer]  Well?  You’ve been pretty quiet.  I mean I know I haven’t given you a chance to say much, but here’s your chance padre.  Yes or no.  Confirm or deny.  [Waits]  Hello?

[He gets up and walks forward from chair.  Full lights come up as if he has just stepped out.  He sees empty chair.  Looks at it.  Takes it in. Kicks empty chair] 



Most of us have seen countless new reports about the devastating effects hurricanes have had on certain areas of our nation. Flooding, epic winds, total destruction, and even death are all things associated with hurricanes.
As I began to think about the principle of comparing sin to a hurricane, I first had to learn more about hurricanes (because, like you I’m sure, I know enough about sin).
Depending on where they develop, hurricanes can also be called cyclones or typhoons.
In a nutshell, hurricanes begin as weather disturbances and thunderstorms. When these disturbances come into contact with warm ocean waters (at least 80° and a depth of 150 feet), they begin to build up and strengthen. If the conditions remain “favorable” the wind speeds start to pick up, the storm grows, and it begins to take on the familiar spiral shape we see on The Weather Channel’s satellites. Feel free to consult a more authoritative source for specific details. I try to explain things as simply as possible mainly for my own benefit.
As I read these facts, began to see a correlation between a hurricane—one of the most destructive forces in the natural world—and sin—the most destructive force in the spiritual world.
Because I like things explained as simply as possible, I’ve tried to organize my thoughts into the following points:
1.     No matter what you call it, it’s the same thing.
Just like a hurricane can be called a cyclone or a typhoon, sin can also be called many different things.
At its core, sin is a violation of God’s Law.
In Exodus, 20:1-17, the Ten Commandments are given which are the basic building blocks of God’s Law. If you want to sin, just do the opposite of what it says.
In Galatians 5:19-21, Paul gives a brief list:
"The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (NIV)
These are by no means exhaustive lists (note how Paul included the phrase “and the like.”) Basically, sin is sin. Lust, gluttony, pride, “and the like” are all sin and we each have our own struggles.
There are varied opinions on whether or not all sin is equal. Lwt me use an example:
In our court system, if I were to steal a loaf of bread, and someone else were to muder 20 peiple, who would get the wose punishment? The murderer. The punishments are different because the crimes are different.

However, Romans 6:23 says, “The wages of sin is death…” It doesn't say the wages of really bad sin death and the not-so-bad stuff is just a slap on the wrost.

If the punishment is the same, then the crimes are the same.
Jesus paid the ultimate price for all of it, not just the bad stuff.
“He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” 1 John 2:2 (NIV)

2.     Every hurricane started as a small disturbance.
Hurricanes begin with small a disturbance which then combine with other disturbances and begin to gather heat and energy until they grow into a full-blown storm.

Before our issue became what it is (or was), it began as something smaller that began to build up.

Phrases commonly associated with this are:

“It’s just…” as in “It’s just one R-rated movie.” “It’s just one extra helping.”

"It’s only…” as in “It’s only flirting.” “It’s only text messaging.” “It’s only gossip.”

Any other form of justification like, “We’re going to get married anyway, so it’s ok.”

Righteousness never has to be justified.

James 1:15 says, “Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.” Sin has the ability to grow, and again, the consequence is the same.
3.     The environment is what feeds the storm.
Just as the hurricane grows because the conditions around it, so will our issue.

If you have a problem with viewing pornography, maybe the computer needs monitoring software. If you have a problem with alcohol or drugs, you shouldn’t be hanging around with people who fuel that behavior in you.

Since I’ve been on Weight Watchers I know there are foods I shouldn’t have in the house like cookies or ice cream, yet I occasionally have them anyway—and it show when I weigh in.

You may have to cut “the crew” loose. “Do not be so deceived and misled! Evil companionships (communion, associations) corrupt and deprave good manners and morals and character.”—1 Corinthians 15:33 (AMP)

4.     The bigger it gets, the wider the path of destruction.
Hurricanes can typically grow to 300 miles wide or more (about the same width as the state of Nevada). Hurricane Katrina’s diameter was 415 miles and proved to be one of the deadliest and costliest in US history.
As we allow our sin strengthen and grow, the more of what’s around us will be affected. We spiral out of control leaving devastation in our wake. After we’ve destroyed ourselves, our friends and relationships get pulled in. Our work life can suffer. Our family suffers. How selfish do we have to be to let that happen?
5.     No one has ever been surprised by a hurricane.
I doubt anyone has ever woken up, noticed the roof of their house was gone and said, “What the heck happened here? Honey? Is the roof in the shop or something?” A hurricane is fairly trackable and predictable. In fact, forecasters can often determine the exact moment (assuming the storm stays at a constant speed) that it will make landfall. There are all kinds of notices, alerts, and warnings. I highly doubt you or I would ignore Al Roker if he told us there was a deadly storm headed straight for our house, but that’s exactly what we do with sin.

I like to imagine the Holy Spirit as kind of like an Al Roker (blasphemy?). He’s inside saying, “There’s a storm coming. You’d better get out of town.” The more I try to ignore it, the louder it gets. Pretty soon there are those alarms that you hear in movies—kind of like air raid sirens. Before you know it, the storm’s hit and it’s too late. The levees are about to break.

No one’s ever found themselves at their lowest point and wondered how they got there. “No, I have no idea why my wife left me.” “I have absolutely no clue where all my money went.” “How’d I end up in this pig pen?” (Prodigal Son reference—Luke 15:11-32 if you want to check it out)
The thing about hurricanes is this: they always come to an end. Some take longer than others, but eventually they all dissipate. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: “Landfall typically shuts off the hurricane's main moisture source, and the surface circulation can be reduced by friction when it passes over land.”

In order for our hurricane to come to an end, the environment has to change. Something has to create friction with it. What creates friction with sin? Pretty much everything we’re not doing when we’re spinning out of control:
§  Prayer
§  Fasting        
§  The Word of God
§  Going to church (on time…sorry, had to toss that in)
§  Surrounding ourselves with Godly people.
Mark 4:35-41 gives probably the most famous depiction of a storm in the Bible.

35 On the same day, when evening had come, He said to them, “Let us cross over to the other side.”
36 Now when they had left the multitude, they took Him along in the boat as He was. And other little boats were also with Him. 37 And a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling. 38 But He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. And they awoke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?”39 Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!” And the wind ceased and there was a great calm. 40 But He said to them, “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?”

41 And they feared exceedingly, and said to one another, “Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him!” (NKJV)
What can we take away from this passage to relate to our hurricane?

1.     Jesus will silence your storm.
Plain and simple, but…

2.     You have to admit that you’re perishing.
His disciples didn’t go to Jesus and say, “Can’t you see it’s raining? Save us from this storm.” They admitted they were drowning. They acknowledged that the storm was too big for them.

3.     The storm didn’t move Jesus, the fact that His disciples were in trouble did.
Jesus was asleep on a pillow and this huge storm started blowing. The Amplified Bible says the storm was “of hurricane proportions,” yet Jesus was able to sleep through it. However, His disciples came to Him and sought his help and that’s what woke Him up.
Jesus doesn’t care about your problems, He cares about YOU. He will silence the storm if you call on Him and admit that you need Him.
In my translation of this account, verse 40 reads: “But He said to them, “Why you cryin’? You don’t get it yet that I got this?” In the preceding chapter (Mark 3), His disciples have seen Him heal a man’s hand (Mark 3:1-5), heal so many people that everyone with ailments clamored to try to reach Him (Mark 3:10), and drive out unclean spirits (Mark 3:11).
I like to imagine Jesus a little exasperated at this point after all that these men has seen Him do, yet they’re still scared of a little rain. I can say in all honesty, it would only take seeing one of these miracles for me to shut my mouth and recognize that He does in fact “got this.”
Again, back to my translation for verse 41: “The Disciples then were freaked out and asked themselves, ‘Who is this guy? Did He really just stop the storm?’”
After a hurricane strikes, there’s always some story that comes out of someone’s amazing survival. I think this is where our part comes in. Once our storm has been silenced, it’s our job to tell people who this guy is and how he rebuked the winds and finally ended our hurricane. We are that survivor, and by sharing our story, maybe we can save someone from their own storm.

What a difference five years makes.

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