Charlie's Blog: July 2019


Trust Without Understanding

Have confidence in the Lord with all thy heart, and lean not upon thy own prudence.
In all thy ways think on him, and he will direct thy steps.
Be not wise in thy own conceit: fear God, and depart from evil:
For it shall be health to thy navel, and moistening to thy bones.

Trust is an issue with me. People who I thought I could trust have burned me, and I can honestly say that I have never gotten over the betrayal. My rule now is to trust no one unless I have to trust them. Nothing has ever caused me more grief in life than other people.

I have the same trust issues with God. Unlike people, God will never betray you nor will He forsake you. But He will certainly not always meet your expectations of Him. When this happens, you will feel as if God has let you down. The temptation is to treat God like you would any other false friend and hang up the phone. I know this temptation well, and I yielded to it. I wouldn't speak to God for another 15 years.

Those were lost years for me. I became an atheist because I didn't understand God. I assumed that God was nothing more than me seeing patterns in random events. I felt like a fool who had been tricked. It was only later that God put Himself back into my life. I was not seeking Him, but He was always seeking me.

I wish I could say that everything is all clear now, but this wouldn't be true. Past events make more sense now, but present events do not. Whatever plans God has for me, He has not told me. I get a great picture from the rear view mirror, but the windshield is pitch black. I have no idea where I am going.

With God, you have to trust without understanding. This takes wisdom, faith, and maturity. At some point, you have to let go and let God handle things. You just have to focus on your part which is praying and working.

The alternative to this trust without understanding is to have no trust at all. This essentially changes nothing because you still don't have control over things. It just sets you free to stop praying and working and perhaps indulge a sinful lifestyle. That sinful lifestyle yields no satisfaction.

Trusting God is hard because the world tells you that God is a fairy tale. If God is real, He must not care as evidenced by all the evil and suffering in the world. And those who trust in God often suffer more than those who give God the finger.

After my accident, I encountered a lady who had been mowing the greens at a country club for her job when a tractor trailer that was going too fast left the road and slammed into the tractor she was driving. It was a horrible accident, and she suffered a broken back. It was awful. They told her she would never walk again. Those were tough times for her, but she would overcome her injuries and walk again. She gave me very encouraging words. God has the last word on these things.

I was inspired by her faith because she never lost her trust in God even when she was suffering and did not understand why this calamity had befallen her. She held on through her trial, and she glorified God. On Sunday, we read from Psalm 138, and I found real comfort in those words. Here they are:
R.(3a) Lord, on the day I called for help, you answered me.
I will give thanks to you, O LORD, with all my heart,
for you have heard the words of my mouth;
in the presence of the angels I will sing your praise;
I will worship at your holy temple
and give thanks to your name.
R. Lord, on the day I called for help, you answered me.
Because of your kindness and your truth;
for you have made great above all things
your name and your promise.
When I called you answered me;
you built up strength within me.
R. Lord, on the day I called for help, you answered me.
The LORD is exalted, yet the lowly he sees,
and the proud he knows from afar.
Though I walk amid distress, you preserve me;
against the anger of my enemies you raise your hand.
R. Lord, on the day I called for help, you answered me.
Your right hand saves me.
The LORD will complete what he has done for me;
your kindness, O LORD, endures forever;
forsake not the work of your hands.
R. Lord, on the day I called for help, you answered me.
God has the last word on things. He exalts the humble and humiliates the proud. You don't have to figure out what God is doing and what it all means. You just have to keep trusting Him and continue praying and working. Praying and working never change. We may not always know why things happen, but we always know what we are to do. We are to pray and work.

Resist the temptation to turn from God and to lean on your own understanding. If you read stories from the Bible and from the saints, you will see this same pattern in all of their lives. They didn't know what God was doing. They didn't understand. They simply got to a point in their lives where they just learned to obey like Abraham who did not question the Lord when he was commanded to sacrifice his son Isaac on the altar.

The story of Joseph from the Book of Genesis is a potent example of trust without understanding. Joseph was given some strange dream of future greatness which inspired the envy of his brothers. They conspired to kill him but relented and sold him into slavery instead. The text does not tell us how Joseph reacted to this treatment. He was in the dark as to why this hardship and calamity had come to him. But he obviously did not lose his faith as he was righteous in his service to his new master.

Joseph again had the screws put to him at the hands of his master's wife who was a wanton whore. Joseph refused to sleep with her, so she caluminated him which lead to Joseph being put in prison. By this point, I would be ready to hang it up on the Almighty. But Joseph hung in there despite the injustices that happened to him. He remained righteous and helpful giving interpretation to a fellow prisoner's dreams who promptly forgot him when he was sprung from jail. The fact that Joseph found favor with his jailers shows that his faith in God had remained intact despite being betrayed for a third time. And when it was done, Joseph found himself as the second in command of all Egypt. When he died, the Israelites took Joseph's bones with them to the Promised Land where they remain to this day.

I imagine what Joseph learned from his trials. Obviously, he learned humility. He also learned administration as he was over the house of his master and also over a prison. God was preparing Joseph for what was to come. I doubt Joseph understood any of it while it was happening.

There is a theme that you will find repeated in the Old Testament. We are not going to get all of the answers here. Habakkuk cried to God over the injustice and sin among the people of God, so God explained His plans to Habakkuk who was as perplexed afterwards with the answer he got as he was before.  Yet, Habakkuk praised God anyway knowing God knew what He was doing. Likewise, God answered Job and asked him if he was there when God made the world. Job was humbled because he had to admit that he did not understand any of it and never would.

God's ways are not our ways. His thoughts are higher than our thoughts. We hear this from Isaiah:
For my thoughts are not your thoughts: nor your ways my ways, saith the Lord.
For as the heavens are exalted above the earth, so are my ways exalted above your ways, and my thoughts above your thoughts. 
We live in an age of science and reason. Science offers us the possibility and hope of understanding the universe. Physicists search to find the Theory of Everything which will explain how all of the universe came to be. Yet, it eludes them. Their discoveries only deepen the mystery of it all. A common refrain from these atheists is this.  "The universe is not only stranger than we imagine, it is stranger than we can imagine." That is quite a staggering statement coming from people ambitious enough and proud enough to believe they can figure it all out. The reality is that they can't and never will. Yet, they can tell us with total confidence that God does not exist.

God does exist, but He is beyond the reach of our comprehension. This is because even His creation is beyond our comprehension. We don't know, and we never will know. It's like believing we can banish all the darkness in the universe if we just had a flashlight that was bright enough to do the job. This is absurd.

We will get some of the answers we seek, but we will never get them all. Mysteries will always remain even in Heaven. Trying to comprehend God completely is like trying to carry the ocean in a thimble. Even the angels with all of their intelligence are not able grasp God in His completeness. This is how the Archangel Michael got his name in his challenge to Lucifer. Who is like God? That is what Michael means in Hebrew. It is a rhetorical question that needs no answer. No one is like God. Yet, we attempt to be like God when we question His doings.

You only need two answers in life. God exists, and you are not God. God is there. You will not understand Him or His ways, but you can trust Him. God loves you. He has big plans for you. You will come to a good end if you just trust in Him. God knows His business, and you do not.

God has the last word on things. Do not lose heart. And do not lean on your own understanding in these things. Let me save you the wasted energy and emotions. You are not going to figure it all out. You can't think your way to the solution. We would rather think and ponder than pray and work. Just pray and work. You will get further along and do better with praying and working than trying to figure out God's business and what He is doing with the world and with you. Simplicity confounds the wise, and the simplest things you can do are to pray and work.

Be you humbled therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in the time of visitation: Casting all your care upon him, for he hath care of you. Be sober and watch: because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, goeth about seeking whom he may devour. Whom resist ye, strong in faith: knowing that the same affliction befalls your brethren who are in the world. But the God of all grace, who hath called us into his eternal glory in Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a little, will himself perfect you, and confirm you, and establish you.
To him be glory and empire for ever and ever. Amen.


The Bacon Factor

Bacon tastes gooood. Pork chops taste gooood.

If anyone asks me what I miss most since turning vegan, I tell them I miss Waffle House. I can live without McDonald's and Burger King, but I do miss sitting down at a Waffle House and eating some grits with eggs and bacon with a cup of weak coffee or a glass of sweet iced tea. Sometimes, I would get some hash browns or a patty melt. I have gone there many times especially after a late shift at work. But I don't miss not being able to squeeze into the booth. That last fact is why I am vegan now. As much as I miss eating that delicious crap, I will never go back.

I enjoy eating vegan now, but I must admit that I don't get that same fat fueled narcotic high eating salad and pasta. Food is just food now and not entertainment or psychological comfort. I eat because I am hungry or because I need some carbs for energy. Going vegan changed my relationship with food. I was a food junkie before. Now, I am not.

Meat and other animal products have an addictive substance. This substance is known as fat. You can derive fat from plant based sources such as avocados, olives, and nuts. But they don't compare with the levels of fat found in ice cream and cheeseburgers. High levels of fat affect the dopamine systems in our brains like cocaine. We develop a tolerance which requires ever increasing doses of fat to experience the same high. This is why chains like McDonald's and KFC enjoy such massive popularity even in foreign countries. They are fat delivery services where you can get your fix three times a day.

When I ate crap, I got high from it. I would chow down some fast food and just enjoy a feeling of calm in my brain even if it was creating turmoil in my intestines and arteries. It wasn't the taste of the fast food that I craved. I craved the feeling that food created in me. I never got the same feeling from eating sugar or drinking sugary soda. Sugar makes things taste better, but that's it. I think it is unfairly demonized.

Every person who I have convinced to try veganism has benefited from the change. They report feeling better and more energetic while trimming off weight. Others have reported better numbers on their blood work. But despite these benefits, they find their way back to eating meat. This corresponds with the reported 84% failure rate of vegans and vegetarians to remain with the program. What I have learned are these three things:
1. The vegan diet works for everyone who tries it. It is 100% successful.
2. Very few people try veganism. Less than 2% of the population identifies as vegetarian or vegan.
3. The overwhelming majority of them that do try veganism will quit being vegan.
Once a person tries veganism and feels the benefits, there's not much else that you can do for them. That is as informed as you can get. The question remains. Why do so many quit the vegan diet?

The answer to that question is obvious. Bacon tastes good. Pork chops taste good. Cheeseburgers covered in bacon taste good. People will think anything and say anything to keep eating that crap. They will ignore science and embrace pseudoscience. They will convince themselves that veganism is unhealthy while bacon is a health food. They will do stupid things like eat hamburgers without the buns and blame the carbs and the gluten in the buns for their ill health. Somehow, the staff of life became the stick of death for these people.

How do you get people to stick with a vegan diet? You can't. I can show some slaughterhouse videos or cite statistics concerning the fecal content of beef. The bottom line is that a salad cannot compete with an addictive substance that people have been consuming since they were children. How do you convince people to give up pleasure and embrace pain?

We live in a culture of hedonism that eschews pain and pursues pleasure. This is why we are fat, unchaste, drug addicted, drunk, and unable to drive a car without killing ourselves for the sake of a Facebook update. Hard work may pay off in the future, but laziness pays off now. In a world where everything pleasurable is illegal, immoral, or fattening, why should anyone care about eating a greasy cheeseburger?

It all comes down to hedonism. We can argue back and forth about the low carb fad diets like Atkins, Paleo, keto, and carnivore with one side ignoring every shred of science on the matter. Do we really need a scientific journal article to tell us that bacon is not a health food?

I remain vegan because I believe in pain. Because of my Catholicism, I already live a lifestyle of self-denial. The vegan thing is just one more element of that lifestyle. I feel a moral duty to try not to die by the time I am 50. I have people depending on me.

Not dying is more important to me than the pleasure of eating bacon. My pleasures in life come from higher things like my faith, my marriage, my relationships, and from learning new things and enjoying the pleasures of the mind. All of these things are predicated upon belief in God and a life after this one. Worldly things like money or cheeseburgers don't hold the same attraction for me anymore.

Being vegan is not fun. It is hard. That's what people discover when they try it. And since it is hard, they are not going to stick to it. Feeling good doesn't compare to the taste of that bacon and the good feelings that come from eating crap. I'm not going to moralize about it because we all have to die sometime, and we know not the day or the hour. But I think if people had the option to live forever, they would still choose to eat bacon and die.