Thursday, December 24, 2015

You know nothing Joel Vogt- Part 3

Several weeks ago I started a blog series detailing my journey to God as it stands so far.  I feel that today, on the eve of the birth of our savior, it is appropriate to continue this series.

Part 2 is here. Part 2  Please read one and two if you have not already done so.  There will be no test, but I do feel that it is important to grasp where I was coming from in this section.

     Something I haven't shared with you yet is the bouts of unexplained weirdness that surrounded and supplemented my faith in God while I was growing up.  I, on 4 separate occasions saw what I believed to be ghosts.  I sometimes knew things before they happened, but I could not control when or how that ability would appear (it was always insignificant stuff like randomly vocalizing the next card that a friend played in UNO right before she played it).  I felt that I had my own "proof" of God because I was "connected" to the supernatural.  I remember prayers that were answered VERY specifically.  I knew God existed because without God these supernatural things could not happen or exist.  I always said that God knew I was skeptical by nature, so he must have given me a little more proof than other normal people.

Right after I spoke with my Priest about becoming a priest I was asked to write a letter to the church announcing my interest in the priesthood.  I was unable to read it at church due to some crazy scheduling thing so my dad read it.  He read it in front of the church.  He told everyone how proud he was of me.
A few weeks later I realized that I didn't want to be a Catholic priest.  I did not want to be stuck in a commitment for the rest of my life without the ability to father children.  I did not want to give up on having amazing love and relationships.  I wanted to get married.  This was a huge mentality shift for me.  I believed that all I wanted was to be a priest and overnight it changed.  I was left with a hole to fill... my plan... my ambition. It didn't matter to me what God wanted me to do with my life.  IT WAS MY LIFE!!!  I was going to do what I Wanted.

I became embarrassed that I had given up.  I was embarrassed for my dad.  I didn't want to tell people that I changed my mind.  I didn't want to embarrass myself or my dad at the church by telling people that his son who just felt called so strongly had decided to turn from his decision so quickly and for such selfish reasons.  I contemplated lying to everyone about it as well, but I thought that would be significantly worse when the truth came out.  I finally decided.  I stopped attending church, but I didn't stop believing.

Still convinced that psychics and ghosts and spirits and things exist on our plane I read a book that my mother gave me.  It was written by Sylvia Brown the famous psychic.  It went into strong detail about what death would be like and what we could expect on the other side. She taught me techniques on reaching my spirit guide.  Surely I, someone of great spiritual power (in my mind)  could accomplish reaching my spirit guide as simply as she did.  After all I did hear millions of voices all talking at night.  She said that was an indicator of strong psychic powers that were just waiting to be tapped into.  I continued to speak at length with my friends about Christianity...meanwhile at night I was meditating trying to contact a spirit from the other side.  I started delving into Astrology along with this.

Around that time I went to a class for work.  It was a very in depth class about many things, but mostly about being in control of ones self and how one person can affect their self greatly. We stayed in a hotel overnight and one of the women in the class said that she did Tarot readings with regular playing cards.  She said that she practiced it as an almost lost art.

Several people went before me, and were all blown away by her accuracy.  I remember thinking to myself that I would show her something she had never seen.  I was going to use my "ability" that I still believed was mine to manipulate what she read.
I shuffled the cards per her instructions.
She pulled 3 jacks in a row... stared at me... asked if I did that on purpose... mumbled something about powerful... and the rest I don't remember.  Then she told me that I could learn.  she wanted to teach me.  I chose not to learn, but I took this as evidence that Christianity, as I was taught, was not the only truth out there.

Slowly I started finding ways to incorporate my Christianity into other belief structures.  I was shopping in a walmart for religions and I would take some of this, and some of that...

After all of this...When I still couldn't reach my spirit guide I went into depression, but I didn't realize that it was the trigger until very recently in my life.  I was looking for answers, but I was looking in the wrong places.   My religion that I had built in my mind was wrong.

I tried coming back to the Catholic church and I had many false starts... I would go 2 weeks in a row then stop going.  I could not get a healthy foundation for my beliefs.

I remember one prayer.  It was the first prayer that I prayed in over 2 years.
I had been living with two people who were constantly stealing things to pay rent.  They had stolen from other people, Walmart, and me.  We all basically lived in a drunken stupor.  All I was doing was working and drinking.  I wanted out, but I didn't know how.  I thought that if I had a girlfriend worth my time I would be able to straighten my life out.  I thought that if I could move out that I would be better off.  I had tried meeting women but I was not very good at talking to women.  At that point in my life I was very insecure.  I prayed....
I asked God to send me a woman.  I put in a very specific request.  I asked that she be funny, shorter than me, dark hair and light eyes.  I requested that she be sarcastic, and nice but mean enough to keep me in line.  I asked for her to fit in with my family.  Finally I asked that she one day make me a father.  I also asked for God's guidance in getting out of my living situation.

The very next day I met the woman who would later become my wife, and my roommates and I received an eviction notice because the landlord needed to move back home.

I will write more asap.  I promise.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

You Know Nothing Joel Vogt - Part 2

This is part 2 of a series that I started about a week ago.

Part 1 Is right here. Please read this before you read part 2.

If you are Christian that is not 100% grounded in your faith I must strongly recommend that you do not look up several things that I will write about during this series unfolding. I will Highlight specifics that I think are dangerous in red. Many things in this series may surprise you, or change your opinion of me. You may learn things that you do not know about me yet. You may be surprised, or upset, or angry at me if you love me. You may not feel any of these things at all and I may just be assuming things. I am trusting that God is with me while I write this, and I am praying that the message comes though very safely and clearly. Let's get right into it shall we?

When I entered High School I was finding myself through music. I came into marching band before school started and it became the center of my social circle. I made a few friends in the beginning of the year. they all played a card game every day. I became enthralled in this card game. it became the reason for me going to school every day. I focussed on getting better cards and becoming better at the game more than my work. Between this, and my fascination with the opposite sex I became 100% distracted from the foundation that my faith was built upon. I continued to play video games when I was home, and I spent a lot of time playing Final Fantasy at home in the first two years of high school.

I still attended church on the holidays, and I had a tendency to pray when I wanted something. Sometimes I even made bargains with God. Do this and I will do that... that kind of thing.

I attended CCD classes and I learned about what God was supposed to be.

I began to see strange things more and more at this age. I would catch a glimpse of someone in my peripheral vision. I would sometimes have long episodes of de ja vu. It would seem as though I had lived whole 10 minute periods before. I slowly became interested in Ghosts and other spiritual beings in my freshman year of High school.

I told my mother about these things and she encouraged me to listen more. I did more and more research on the paranormal. It began to overtake my Christian faith. I began to stop asking God for things and I simply used my "gifts" as I called them to justify what I believed. I did not need God or his word to tell me who I am or why I am here.

In my Junior year of High School I met a girl who would become my first super serious girlfriend. She was Pentecostal. It was important to her that I attend church with her for certain things so I did. I went to church with her on and off that year. I learned a lot about the Pentacostal religion and wondered why it seemed so different from what I was taught. I then attended an evangelical Christian church, and a baptist church, and an Episcopal church. I had realized that there was a hole in my spirit. I was trying to fill it.

Just before I received the Sacrament of Confirmation I had started to study Astrology. I was almost obsessed with spirits and ghosts, and I had continued to play video games almost obsessively. I was not able to stay stable in a social situation for very long.

Though it was not the case, I felt unloved by my family. I felt shutout from everything around me. I felt that everyone who once loved me was constantly attacking me. I only found comfort in playing music, video games, or hanging out with that girlfriend.... the one that I broke up with soon after confirmation.

In my senior year of High school is when it would all change. It was a false start that year, and it would not be the last.

It was when someone very close to me told me about the gifts of the Holy Spirit that something in me changed. I started reading the bible. I started asking questions of my friends. I tried to get closer to God. I prayed. I asked him to help me know him. I asked him to fill me with his spirit so that I could know him.

I was asking God to give me exactly what I wanted.

He had reached for my hand and I had said... no.. you have to do this for me.

I wanted this blessing so I could prove his existence to non believers.

I wanted to be the reason that people believed in God. I wanted to give them undeniable proof. I wanted this so badly that I attempted to write a research paper for my English class that would prove the existence of God. I wanted to do this mainly because I had been told that my English teacher was an Atheist and I wanted to prove him wrong.

I wanted to be a hero.

I wanted to be God's hero.

That research paper got a 41 out of 100 by the way.

That was the last time I tried to prove his existence. I stopped reading my Bible.

I didn't stop believing but I did not ever give my Life to God.

I always did what I wanted to do no matter what it meant to God.

I would apologize later and I would feel shame and guilt, but it did not stop me.

I stopped believing in Hell and Satan because I started to believe that, in my enlightened 18 year old mind, these things had to be simply created to scare people. (I thought that I knew everything)

I began slowly surrounding myself with people that believed in either nothing or another religion in an attempt to convert them with nothing but the summary of my beliefs. I must confess that I surely did more harm than good. I certainly had the "Holier than thou" part that I had been exposed to my whole life down... but a Biblical Scholar I was, and still am, not.

I slowly stopped caring...

Then my dad had a conversion moment back to Christ. He has a blog about it. I will link to it next post if I get his permission.

During this time we began attending church again. I got on a first name basis with the priest.

When I went off to College I still attended church with them for a little while.

One night when I was sitting in my bed in my dorm room I had a wild idea pop into my head.

I started to think that I should talk to my dad. I needed to tell him what I wanted to change my major to. I spoke with him. I talked to my friends. I explained it to my adviser. Then it was time to talk to my priest. I had to tell them all....

I felt that I was being called into the Catholic Priesthood.

That's it for part 2 Ladies and Gentlemen. This one was a little tougher to write. I hope that it wasn't too hard to read. A lot of time was cut out here, but I didn't want to include unneccessary filler material (normal life for someone that age).

It was hard to delve that deeply to pull as many of the ups and downs of my beliefs as I could.

I am mostly writing this as a record for myself, so that I do not have to keep digging up memories that sometimes are not completely there, but if this entertains, informs, or educates even one person on even one topic then I am glad to share it.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

You Know Nothing Joel Vogt - Part 1

It has been over a year since I have posted on this Blog.  I have many excuses, but it all comes down to my lack of direction in my writing.  My initial reason to start this blog was lost.  I forgot my purpose... my direction.

I am starting a series today.  This will be primarily about my journey to finding God.  If things of this nature typically offend you because you feel that they are preachy or talk down to people I Strongly encourage you to read this anyway.  I was just like you a few months ago.

 I am not sure how many parts there will be.  I will be sharing many things with you that I have mostly kept to myself.

If you are Christian that is not 100% grounded in your faith I must strongly recommend that you do not look up several things that I will write about during this series unfolding.  I will Highlight specifics that I think are dangerous in red. Many things in this series may surprise you, or change your opinion of me.  You may  learn things that you do not know about me yet.  You may be surprised, or upset, or angry at me if you love me.   You may not feel any of these things at all and I may just be assuming things.  I am trusting that God is with me while I write this, and I am praying that the message comes though very safely and clearly.  Let's get right into it shall we?

This next paragraph is how this story was relayed to me throughout my life.  Sorry Mom and Dad for any inaccuracies or continuity issues.

My mother and father met in high school.  My father was very active in the Catholic church and my mother became so after they got together.  When they were both 18 they found out that they were going to have a child together.  They got married before the birth and they began teaching CCD classes. (For my protestant friends it is best related to Sunday school, or religion classes).
March 7th, 1986 was a Friday.  At 5 pm on this Friday My mother gave birth to me after many many hours in labor.  Upon my exit I broke her tail bone.  This does not seem like an important event in my life, but it is.  I harmed my mother coming into this world.  I did not do it on purpose, but I did it nonetheless.  I did not want to come out, and I had to be pulled out with forceps. I had to be dragged into this world kicking and screaming, and in doing so the person I had been closest to in my life got hurt.

Being raised by two CCD teachers is an interesting life.  I knew the priests at our church.  I knew many people from the people who worked at the church or the CCD office.  I attended the Catholic School. Everyone that I met there knew me even if I didn't know them.  My life revolved around church, and everything I was taught involved God.  I was allowed to play Street Fighter and Donkey Kong and Mario, and I was allowed to watch Power Rangers, but I was not allowed to watch Ninja Turtles because they were too violent.
.  I remember something  that happened when I was 4 or 5.   I had a dream about Jesus.  I don't remember the actual dream, but I do remember telling my Granny that I had the dream.  I also remember lying to her about it later and telling her details that I knew weren't true.  This is the first lie that I remember telling.  I told her that it was baby Jesus that came to me, and I told her things that he said...

I had been raised to believe that the Devil was the worst thing that you should be afraid of.  I was terrified that the Devil was going to come take me away if I did something bad... even though that is likely not what I was taught.  I remember laying in bed and dreaming of him.  I DO remember this one.  I couldn't have been in bed for more than 20 minutes.  I Saw 3 wrinkled up balloons on the ground.  As I moved closer to inspect them they started to inflate.  Each balloon was morphing into a strange shape... it was a face.. and ANGRY face.  It was the face of a wrinkled up old angry man with ears that resembled Yoda's Ears.  I sprang out of bed crying.  I ran into the Living room where my mommy and daddy were and my daddy grabbed me up, and he asked me what was wrong.  When I told him he prayed with me for a good long time and he held me as I cried.    I felt safe because he told me that I was safe.  I knew that my guardian angel was there to protect me.  I knew that God was there to save me.  Mommy and Daddy were like superheroes, and I always trusted them.

Life continued in that way until my parents divorced when I was 7.

Divorce in itself can be difficult on a child, but this was something tougher for me to deal with than just a divorce.  We stopped attending church.  It wasn't right away, but it did happen.  I still attended CCD classes, but I did not attend church very often if at all.  My mommy stopped enforcing her rules about me only listening to Christian radio.  My daddy slowly became More and more angry about little things.  They both remarried and neither couple went to church weekly.  I stopped praying every night.  I was still a strong believer but I had no direction. I just believed what people told me and I did not have an age appropriate Children's Bible.  I slowly lost my core.  I lost what was the basis of my life.  This left a hole that needed filling, and Video games were the right shape and size to make me whole again.  They were challenging, and kept my mind off of the chaos that had become my life.  Video games slowly became my life.

When I needed to escape I could always find my escape in Zelda and Final Fantasy.  It was just challenging enough to keep my attention, but not so hard that it made me want to give up.  Just thinking about it now makes me want to go play.... but I won't.  Don't worry.  This is much more important to finish.  

I knew the ending, but I had to be the hero and save everyone.  I had to be the guy who defeated the evil.  I had to be the superhero.  I didn't realize it at the time, but what I was really feeling was that I had to be like Jesus... and Zelda and Final Fantasy helped me feel like I was accomplishing that.

That's all for part one.  I hope it was a relatively easy read.  I will start right where I left off for Part two.