Friday, April 28, 2006

My Pictures

I was Google-Searching images associated with "Dave Schmidt," out of curiosity, and I saw a picture I recognized - not of me, but a photo I put online @ (under my assumed name, renowiggum). It was on a blog of Haiku. You can find it here. I was even more stoked to recognize that since December 2005, not one but two of my pictures were associated with poetry. That was pretty cool. In fact, it made my day.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

A -Gasp- Different Church

I checked out the church a couple of my old firends go to last Sunday. I'm not very adventurous when it comes to such things, and had been back and forth on whether I should start seriously looking into other churches for a few months. I showed up a minute or two after the official start time (walking ever-so-gingerly on hiking-strained legs) and took a seat in the middle of the back row. The lighting was much dimmer than I am used to, and the worship leader was still getting set on stage. My friends showed up shortly before the service began, just long enough to say hi.

We were invited to stand or sit as we saw fit ("We're all adults and can make our own decisions.") I was glad for the note, but intended to sit anyway - standing being an arduous endeavor at that point. I didn't know what to expect. This is a "vineyard" church, which means it belongs to a different branch of the tree fom any church I had been to before. I was pleased that I knew all of the songs (only one I recognized but did not know by heart), though I didn't sing along. I agreed with the sentiment for the most part, but hesitate to proclaim the deep and emotional love for God that these songs expressed. I'm not feeling that at the moment, and prefer not to sing things I don't feel (a) in an attempt to by singing them to try and will those feelings into existence, or (b) to fit in.

The transitions to the music were much longer than I am used to. A minute or so as an intro and "outro" to each song would probably be a fair guess. The music felt much more ethereal than what I am used to. There was an electric violin with a pronounced echo/effects pedal on it, as well as an electric and acoustic guitar as well. I enjoyed not feeling as though the songs were being rushed through, but allowed to exist somewhat independently of each other. It felt more peaceful.

The sermon was pretty okay. I thought that some points were more than a little stretched, though I am not against cheerleading preaching per se, but only when the text feels abused to make it fit, or pulled out of context. If you go away from the text, fine. Just don't draw connections that don't exist. I liked a concept addressed later that was "I don't think God has a problem with a proliferation of denominations. Each one often seems to meet a pecuilar need, a particular calling in an area. What we need to do is find what we do well, and DO IT." I agree with the sentiment - I like the idea of many churches as members of the Body of Christ along with individuals. Both independent and interconnected.

I left pretty quickly. Still sore, and not really wanting to mingle, I got going. It was a good experience, though, and merits more than one visit.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Random Thoughts

I watched Chocolat last Sunday night. The idea was to watch the movie with a critical eye towards evangelism. I thought it was a good movie, and a good concept (and I don't just say that knowing the host reads this). I got caught up in the idea of chocolate as grace. Perhaps I was going for too much symbolism, because when the floor was opened for comments, I'm not sure I explained what I meant to say.

Philip Yancey talks about "grace avoidance." We might use the word leagalism, but some words can be leeched of meaning, and I think that one may be a good example. There is a scene where the stoic, good, righteous Pharisee of a character, seeming to have lost the battle tries to destroy the Chocolate. Stabbing, slashing, smashing, and breaking - he goes on quite the rampage. And then, a dab of chocolate touches his lips. He suddenly changes his rampage, gorging himself, rolling in the broken chocolate all around him, until he collapses weeping. He awakes the next morning, and is greeted by the kind shop owner, who gives him a glass of water.

In this, I see the effect of grace on a person who stubbornly avoids it. It is an amazing, other-worldly thing. It is so good, we hardly know what to make of it. The iconic scene where his tongue just touches the dab of chocolate made me think of "taste and see that the Lord is good." In the man I see the pull of grace, and the resistance of pride. "I don't want that, I can be good on my own, what would the others think." But the pride gives way before the irresistable pull of grace.

That's more of what I meant to say.

I also have thought (change gears.... now!) about the human body. My calves are aching from a hike I took Saturday. I often jog up the stairs at my apartment on just the balls of my feet, trying to cushion the impact so as not to disturb anyone else. I tried to do that today, just to see how my legs are. It hurt. A lot. I almost fell over. So thank God for calf muscles that work without complaining. It's just one of those things you don;t think of until you are deprived of it.

On another note (shifting wildly from point to point), I like photography. One reason why is that it gives me a chance to show the world as I see it to someone else. I cannot describe a sunset, a foggy morning, or a bolt of lightning. But if I can capture it on film, or find another visual representation of it, it gives me a chance to frame an image as it is framed when I see it. It is communication without the shotgun-pattern hit and miss bludgeoning of words I otherwise try to use.

Lightning is cool. It seems weird that I was driving home today counting nearby lightning not primarily by sight or thunder, but by the signal interruption on the radio. I drove through 3 distinct thunderstorm cells on my way home. I like the smell of the rain. I don't like other drivers reacting to it.

Friday, April 21, 2006


The past couple of days have been better for me. Not good, really, by any stretch of the imagination, but when you're as down as I've been, there is significant wiggle room between that place and good.

I think the biggest part is knowing that I need to find a new church. Not just, or even mostly to avoid a certain girl (though I can't say that isn't a factor), but mostly to find a group of Christians to hang out with. I've been lonely, not just because I'm single, but because I haven't hung out with anyone but my roommate and our collective friends in several months. The last group thing I participated in was going with a group of people to see the midnight release of Narnia in the movie theaters. Since then... nothing. I had a standing invitation to a Super Bowl Party, which I did not accept because of things that transpired just before. There was a potential trip to Yosemite that was snowed out. A guy invited me to a game night, another to his Bible Study, another to go have lunch. Since mid-December, that's it (excluding "give me a call sometime and we'll do stuff").

I know that part of the reason I hope to meet a girl is to improve my social life. It is a less than pleasant thing to know that people are regularly getting together to do things you'd love to participate in, but no one thinks to invite you. I had hoped that recently it was because I had been staying away from church that no one said anything, but it continued when I returned. And I understand that the situation with her might make things akward, but without the chance to be friendly in social situations and smooth everything over, how can that ever change? And I know that I'm hardly the most outgoing "hey, let's go and do stuff" person. But that is in large part because when I try, no one except my most doggedly loyal friends show up... and even then, only some of them. I want to watch movies, play games, go on road trips, and do all of the things that people do to have fun. It's even why I joined MySpace - I had heard that people made plans and got together to do things through it, so I looked to participate... not that it's been a rousing success.

But neither do I want to stomp around and demand to be seen. I don't want to whine my way into hanging out with people, because then I will wonder why I was "really" invited. I'll allow that there may be well-considered reasons for this, because I don't know everything. That does not, however, make being on the outside looking in any more agreeable.

I had talked about changing churches before, and this was a large part of the reason why. The past several years, I've felt disconnected in this way from my peers at my church for a variety of reasons. To tell the truth, I haven't really felt connected since shortly after I graduated from college.

So I'm really looking for someplace else to meet new friends. It's not that I don't like the ones I have - it's just that I'm not willing to bank my need for social companionship on waiting to be invited to hang out with them. At least with a new church, I benefit from the "make-the-new-guy-feel-welcome" effect.

When I realized that this week, I felt better. It was amazing to me how much of the angst I've been feeling wasn't just "no-girlfriend" lonely, but just "no-fellowship" lonely. Simply the hope of changing the latter, and knowing what I had to do to pursue it, gave me something to look forward to.

Is it any surprise, then, that the first church I plan to visit is one that I have some minor doctrinal differences with but is also one where I have been made to feel very welcome each of the few times I've done things with their 18-20somethings in the past? Can I say how nice it was when, running into one of them while helping my friends who go there move, I received not "Hey, I sort of recognize you. Have we met?" but "Hi, Dave! How have you been doing?"

Monday, April 17, 2006

It's Sunday...

Tony Campolo wrote a book about a sermon he heard once: "It's Friday... But Sunday's Coming

The point is that on Friday, things are bleak, but the deliverance, the miracle, the change is coming - applying the hope of the Easter message to life. All well and good.

But I had a thought, that the reverse is true? What about when it's Sunday, but Friday's coming? Imagine the scene on Palm Sunday - the greatest hopes of all the disciples seem to be coming true. Jesus has come to Jerusalem, seemingly riding to destiny. "Save us, Son of David!" The crowd seems to see Jesus as the saving deliverer. It is Sunday.

But Friday is coming. Their views will be shattered. Their dreams will die. It is easy to worship on Sunday, but that doesn't mean you won't flee on Friday. The journey from Friday to Sunday is to the mountaintop. The journey from Sunday to Friday is into the valley.

When your supports are gone, what will you do? When God seems silent as your Messiah is hauled away by an angry mob? When "Save us, Son of David" becomes "We have no king but Caesar! Crucify Him! Give us Barabbas!" When the palm branches at Jesus' feet become whips across his back?

For those who are living in Friday, we have the hope to know that Sunday is coming.
For those enjoying the glory of Sunday, remember that Friday is coming.

But God did not disappear, turn his back, or somehow skip over Friday. Indeed, it was on Friday that God's most amazing work was done. The resurrection is the proof that what was accomplished on Friday was accepted. But the work - the blood, sweat, and tears - came Friday.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Holy Week Thoughts

The following is a list of bulletins I posted on MySpace. Originally, it was meant to not that "hey, today's Passover." It turned into a few thoughts each day, except for Saturday's, which I posted Friday night. This is simple copy-and-paste, ordered for your sanity.

Wednesday, Passover
Passover begins TODAY, Wednesday April 12, at sunset. Take a moment to reflect on the historical significance of that event. Whenever the Israelites would look back on the power of God, this was the event they saw as the capstone - deliverance from slavery in Egypt. This day was set aside to remember that event. This weekend, we also celebrate another, even more impressive deliverance. But don't forget one for the sake of the other.

Maundy Thursday
I had no idea what "Maundy" was. I assumed it had some meaning akin to "depressing." Maundy Thursday being the Thursday before Easter, it seemed to fit.

On, the word has no meaning apart from it's relation to Easter. But instead of being about betrayal, death, sadness, or something like that, it was about the events of the evening. More specifically, it relates to Jesus washing the feet of his disciples.

I suppose I have often noticed, perhaps even considered that the well-known foot washing took place on the night of his betrayal. Today as I thought about it, the events around the table that evening and the events that were to unfold stood in stark contrast in my mind.

"Just before the Passover feast, Jesus knew that his time had come to depart from this world to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now loved them to the very end. The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, that he should betray Jesus. Because Jesus knew that the Father had handed all things over to him, and that he had come from God and was going back to Go, he got up from the meal, removed his outer clothes, took a towel and tied it around himself. He poured water into the washbasin and began to wash the disciples' feet and to dry them with the towel he had wrapped around himself." John 13:1-5

Within the next 24 hours, he will be sold out by a close companion, left to suffer in the garden with his closest friends within visual range fall asleep, be arrested (betrayed by the closest symbol of affection), bounced through the various courts in the land, beaten, beaten some more, beaten again for good measure, spat upon, beaten even more, hear a mob calling for his death, nailed to a cross for 6 hours, and die of a burst heart.

Jesus' final lessons are these:
1) Communion. "This is my body; this is my blood, given for you." Sacrifice.
2) The foot-washing. Degrading service, undertaken as his followers are debating who will be the greatest amongst them. Service.

Sacrifice and Service. "Go and do likewise."

"He came into the world not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."

Good Friday
Sacrifice. In today's world, the word has but a glimmer of the meaning it once did. It has the vague connotation of inconviniencing yourself in some way for someone else's sake. Like the sacrifice bunt of sacrifice fly in baseball - you get out, but someone on base advances.

Discuss with the Hebrews of 2,000 years ago the meaning of the word, and different images entirely spring to mind. Animals having their throats slit, whole bulls being burnt on the altar in the temple. The passover lamb, like a young puppy in your house for 2 weeks having its throat cut and your doorpost painted with its blood. This is how you appeased God - by killing things. You did wrong unintentionally, you sacrificed animals. You did wrong intentionally? Tough luck. God demanded blood. Over and over, employing a full time temple staff just to handle the steady flow of animals to their deaths.

We don't think of God that way so much anymore. Is that because His character has changed? Because we as a society have evolved beyond that? Or is it because on the cross, the infinite sacrifice was offered. In church we sing happy hymns about the wonderful blood of Jesus. But I fear that as we forget what the taking of the blood took, we lose sight of the true price of sin. We live in a bloodless society, with wounds covered by band-aids, the truly injured whisked away to sterile hospitals, with meat in clear plastic and styrofoam at the grocery store, far from the actual butchering.

Good Friday is not sterile. It is the doctor telling you it is cancer, it is a mother losing her child, a man being left at the altar, a dream collapsing beyond repair. It is a day of utmost pain, when evil triumphs over good, when the powerful throw away the lives of the innocent to further their careers, when mob rule saves murderers and condemns healers. It is the day when you simply let the phone slip from your hands as you curled up into a ball and wept. It is a day of pain, of blood, and of cruel, wrenching death.

Black Saturday
[Early, I know]

What do you think the disciples thought during the long Friday night, Saturday during the day, and Saturday night. Did they sleep? Did they observe the traditions of the Sabbath? Did they hide for fear of being arrested and crucified, too?

I make no great secret of the fact that I'd much rather trash 2006 and start over. I am the sort to replay things in my head, going back over them, trying to figure out where I went wrong. I wonder if the disciples did this. They knew that there had been false Messiahs for generations before them - the probably even got a laugh at those who were sucked in, believing it could never happen to them.

Did they look at the miracles, and wonder how he had tricked them? Did they feel betrayed by Jesus, like people strung along until everything fell apart? What did they have to say to God during that long, long day?

Everything, everything had fallen to ruin about them. They had left ther lives behind and followed this man for three and a half years, but stretching to the end of their days they had no idea where they would go next.

Did they pass out from exhaustion, only to awake and fervently wish it had all been a dream? They had only to see Mary weeping, and John trying to comfort her to know that it was absolutely real.

I wrote this last year, and I actually was complimented for it, so to stroke my ego I report it here:

I am too easily distracted - too easily lost in the work of the moment. Today is the day that typifies our lives, observing the heartbreak of the cross - the seeming victory of evil, the absence of God's justice, and every pain, every heartbreak screaming that God does not care - with only the faintest idea of what comes after. Which was worse - to watch Christ die on Friday, or to wake up and later fall asleep on Saturday knowing that he was dead - beaten, bloodied, and buried? To fear that this day would set the pattern for all those that followed?

We who know the ending too easily forget that our deepest cries against God were echoed that day by those our Lord had walked with. The cross remained - still crusted with the freshly spilt blood of the new covenant, the grave was full, the Christ was dead. The disciples hid in fear, the women wept. And all of this on the day set aside by God for rest and for worship.

They fell asleep Saturday fitful, frightened that the angry mob from yesterday would find them. Peter was racked with guilt - denying that he even knew Jesus as he watched his master led away to his death.

This was Easter Saturday. This is what we should remember this day - not someone's favorite flavor of chocolate.

Philip Yancey has mentioned (perhaps quoting another) that we all liv ein Easter Saturday. The world can be a dark, scary, unkind place. We have promises from God that seem to be impossible, and no way of knowing if they will be fufilled. We have seen the pain of Good Friday, but not the redemption of that pain on Easter Sunday.

Friday is the shock - the event that shatters everything.
Saturday is the grim reality - life as you know it has changed. It will never again be as it was. Hopes, dreams, plans - all lie as shattered monuments, taunting you for ever believing.

Easter Sunday
What does Easter Sunday mean?

It means that...

...the sacrifice Jesus offered is sufficient.

...Jesus had the power to raise himself from the dead.

...death does not have the final say.

...the dark moments do not have to go on forever.

...even the worst atrocities can be used by God to incalculable good.

...we have an example who has walked through the worst mankind could throw at him, and emerge victorious.

...the meek really will inherit the earth.

...the power given to earthly leaders to take life holds no comparison to that of God to give it.

...impossible hopes can come true. the darkest times, I have a sympathetic God who can say "I've been there."

...the cross endures as a symbol of love, sacrifice, death, and hope. give your life away is not by definition the utmost foolishness.

...God works in ways that you cannot understand.

We may go through dark valleys where the ground itself seems hidden from view. We may watch our lives shatter, our dreams die, our hope turn to a cruel taunt. We may see evil defeat good, injustice mock justice, and have our worst beliefs about the world confirmed. But that is not the end.

The end is hidden, unexpected, and surprising. You thought you had waited until the last moment, expecting anxiously the miracle you were sure would make it all clear, but what you thought was the last moment came and went. But it was not.

The night was spent in restless agony, the following day in the dazed stupor where even placing one foot in front of the other seemed pointless. Your life was destroyed, without even the pieces to begin rebuilding.

And then insult was added to injury: "they took the body, and I do not know where they have laid him." Do you suppose Mary wanted to curse God? To ask the embittered "What now? Was Friday not bad enough?" Was she shaking with anger as she turned to address the gardener that dared interrupt her mourning?

Easter means that when absolutely everything is stripped away and you can't seem to go on, God is doing things you cannot imagine. The story is still being written.

Why trust God? When all is lost, what basis do we have for belief? With the tangible effects of Friday hanging over us, as we live day-to-day in a seemingly endless Easter Saturday, we know that somewhere there is a Sunday yet to come.

Easter means light in the darkness, joy in the suffering, and hope in the emptiness.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Reasons I Love Third Day

In getting my new computer all configured, in this case reloading those CDs that I had lost a couple months ago when I transferred them to a new hard drive, on a whim I checked iTunes to see if I could find a Third Day single I had downloaded and subsequently lost (the horrors of digital music).

I stumbled across their latest album: Wherever You Are

The following is from the band's web site, describing the motivation for this album.

“We lost three family members last year and had a pastor who lost a father,” explains guitarist/songwriter Brad Avery. “We have friends who endured divorce and others who have fought financial problems. Those difficult sorts of loss and triumph fueled what we wanted to talk about and made the message a little more tangible to our listeners this time.”
I really like Third Day. I really like the music on the album. And every song I've listened to so far has touched my heart. If you want a glimmer of why, read some of the thoughts going into the songs here.

Meeting People

I find myself unsatisfied with where I am. It is, as you may have observed, my natural inclination to whine and moan about it but do very little to actually change things. That is largely because I feel I have exhausted those means that I have available and really don't know what direction to go forward.

So I am soliciting advice: how do I expand my horizons and meet other people my age - and more specifically, of course, single female people my age? I'm pretty flexible about people I could find interesting, though I certainly have a preference for those that I can share my interests with. Left to my own devices, I've exhausted what I know - but that wasn't much to begin with.

Second, I am more publicly announcing that if anyone knows single female people they think I should get to know better, I'm not opposed to the idea of being set up with someone. It is a route I did not want to pursue, because I can be incredibly shy around people, especially girls, tht I don't know. And I used to not want to even being approaching a relationship in any sense of the word that I was not sure going in I wanted to pursue. But this approach has thus far meant that I become very emotionally attached to someone who has no idea what I feel, and in the rare instance that I do something about it, I really set myself up for crushing rejection. I had thought that God might reward my attempts, because I was trying to watch out for the hearts of people I might otherwise have to reject, but that is not a proposition that I am no longer willing to go to the grave single defending.

I'm just trying to involve others' advice in this process. I had told myself that I'd allow six months before I began looking into online dating from the incident in January. That is the last avenue I'd like to pursue, because I'd prefer the advice and assistance of people I know over that of a computer. But if I simply accept the status quo and wait for something to fall into my lap, I have no confidence that something will in fact fall into my lap.

Is it too soon since my last rejection? I don't know. I am still very hurt by it, but I don't know when, or if, that will go away. I am still hurt to a point that it affects me by such rejections from almost a decade ago, so I don't think that just sitting and waiting for those feelings to go away will do much good, but I know of no other measure to define "ready." But I know that if I allow the fact that I have been so hurt in the past prevent me from moving forward, then I set those feelings of rejection in stone. I may be "meant" to be alone. But I do not know the divine plan of God and if I am to be alone, it will not be because I did not try to change that.

Friday, April 14, 2006


I was looking for an old quote about Easter Saturday to put back up on MySpace when I ran across this. What thoughts I had.

Conference Update

Saturday, April 08, 2006


Is there anything tangible we can rely on God for?

I say no. At least, nothing beyond the realm of reasonable uncertainty. How I got my current job is a good example. It seemed to come right out of the blue, providing something I had been looking for in an unexpected way, and going better than I could have imagined in the process. But I can look at a perfectly ordinary chain of events that caused it, with no direct evidence of divine intervention. Fortunate accidents happen to people all over the world, not just Christians. We can choose to look at it as ordinary life, or we can look at it as the manifestations of divine concern.

But God through these does not make His presence obvious, provable beyond any doubt. And God does not always answer prayers. Hearts are broken, sick people die, famine and disease still work out their effects. Tragedy strikes both those who believe and those who do not. And I would not consider it unreasonable for someone to look at the world and say that God does not exist, or to adopt an at most deistic perspective - the world may have divine origins, but it now goes on "much as it has this past age."

So where does that leave me? Feeling as though, when at the end of my rope I received a firm kick in the face so as to knock me off. When I prayed for relief, I received more arrows in my heart. When I begged God to answer, He did not. What am I to make of this.

I cannot say there is no God, though I have wanted to. While I can see why some people do not believe, I cannot look at nature and see a mistake. In my world, the heavens really do declare the glory of God; the skies, the works of His hands. But though I still believe there is a God, that is but a small bit of the puzzle.

It could be that God simply has a grudge against me. That perhaps He enjoys twisting the knife in my heart and watching me cry out in pain.Certainly the world is a cruel and unkind place for many people, and there are so many who have suffered more than I... but should the relative smallness of my own heartache not make it that much easier to fix?

I can see why people might say that there may well be a God, but if there is He's no one I'd want to know. God could answer. But God won't answer. When misery piles on misery, to say thanks but no thanks and try to strike out a course through life as far from Him as possible is very appealing.

But I look at the cross, and I see in that the proof of the character of God. That I really am an unrighteous pig, an enemy of God. But God himself became man, and died a cruel death at the hands of men such as I to demonstrate both the gulf that exists between unclean man and a holy God, and the lengths that God is willing to go to to recconcile us to Him.

So there is a God, and despite the fact that life sucks right now, He is good in the end. That I do not know everything is no small news to me, though it can be easy to forget. But if there is a God who could make things better, and who doesn't just enjoy watching me squirm for kicks, why do bad things happen? Why am I here, heartbroken and confused, having invested and lost what hope I had left to muster?

I felt most prompted to write all this down when I read a line on a frien'd profile on MySpace (quoting yet someone else) that had to do with a change in attitude from wondering if God would come through to asking Him to do so again after having proven Himself faithful so many times in the past. (I'd quote it precisely, but still waiting on components for my desktop means looking up another webpage, especially on MySpace is too taxing for my poor old laptop to handle.) I felt cheated, in part because my path seems to be going the other direction. I used to pray confidently for the impossible, I now wonder if it's worth praying for the more than likely. I do not pray per se for the momentous things in my friend's live in part because it seems all my prayers don;t just fall silent, but get twisted to the opposite of what I am seeking, and I don't want to bring bad things on them simply because I asked that things go well. And I don't bring these requests because someone approaching God "must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him" and the latter half of that is giving me trouble.

I am trying to give you a glimpse of how I feel inside. On the one hand I have my reasons for believing things about God, and on the other hand I have my experiences, especially the past several months, seeming to fly directly in the face of those reasons. My experiences have the advantages of being immediate, tangible things that twist my stomach and stain my pillow with tears. My reasons for believing are ephemeral, based on ancient history and the warm fuzzy feelins I get from looking at nature. Would I not be a fool to ignore what seems to real for that which seems so unreal?

I want you to know how I feel inside because I want what I have to say next to have the proper context. I still believe. I don't know why life is going the way it seems to be going; why God remains silent while the pain is so immense; why every prayer I offer seems rejected and every fear I have seems to be realized. The events from the past few months have pushed me from the rope I held onto - the ideas I had about what the good direction each rejection since high school had led me. I feel lost in a storm without direction, footing, or hope that it will pass. I hurt, more than I can ever recall hurting before. And I have no idea what God could be doing.

But I have faith. It is a vague faith, not believing that God will do this or that, but that God is somehow there, even in this. And it is a weak faith, forcing me to the edge and perhaps beyond of what I can hold on to, so I can not even make any promises about whether I will still hold it even tomorrow. It is the uncertain assurance that the cries of a broken man do not necessarily go unheard, even when there is no response. And that is all I have. But I also have hope that it is enough.

Monday, April 03, 2006


What, if anything, can we count on God for? Is there any concrete thing we can expect God to do in response to prayer? From a mountain hurling itself into the sea, to the dead living again, to... what?

It was the college group's summer retreat. It was probably the summer of 1998, maybe 1999. I was pretty depressed concerning a girl I had been very close to who had in the prior couple months letting me know in no uncertain terms that she wanted nothing to do with me "like that." I believe by this point she had said that one reason was that I was just "too innocent." But I digress.

We were at Antelope Lake in California. I was actually baptizing my best friend (I dropped him, and proceeded to fall in as well). For trivia's sake, I believe another girl who would break my heart in early 2006 was baptized the same weekend. I noticed her even then, though I cannot honestly say I had a crush on her at the time.

I confessed to him that I wasn't sure if God was there in any way that mattered. I knew He existed, but in a way that I couldn't percieve. A concept I had relied upon throughout the lonliness of a single life in Junior High, High School, and the beginning of college had been recently shattered, never to recover (that if I could just get close enough to a girl to let her see who I was inside, if she could appreciate that, then I'd have a chance to pursue romance -- and to this day I regard the "It's who you are on the inside that matters" argument/story/plot as cruel lies that only spawn false hopes). I wanted to believe, but wasn't sure I could.

I went on a solitary walk, praying, weeping, pleading for God to... help in ways I couldn;t begin to express. I laid bare my soul to God. On an impulse, I lay prostrate in the middle of the road (though a long, straight segment on a road that had seen no cars in hours, where if one came I'd nevertheless have time to make myself not a speedbump). I thought I felt the ground trrembling, with rhythmic waves that I could feel moving from my hands through my legs. Vague impressions about the presence of God shaking the foundations of the earth sprung to mind.

"This is it!" I thought. I had my sign, God was there and cared. I was happy. All the other crap in my life fell by the wayside. I told people about my experience, and was on cloud nine. I was sure there had been some slight earthquake, barely perceptible, but enough for a man lying on the ground to notice. As I talked to people after returning to camp, I asked if they had felt the earthquake. None had. This bothered me slightly, but I was willing to allow that it could have been missed. I returned home, and checked the seismograph through the UNR Geology department, which reports even imperceptible tremors. Nothing.

Some time later, I was lying on the floor at my parent's house, watching TV, when I felt the same rhythmic waves. The thing was, they kept going, and if I altered my bodily position, they moved with me. There was no miracle. What I felt was (I think) the flowing of blood through my arteries, else some trick of the mind. As I lie in my bed, I can generate the exact same sensation at will, moving any direction I so desire.

I won't say that this false miracle started me on the road to unbelief, that would be an exaggeration, though it remains an ominous question in my mind. But in the current angst I feel, as I again plead for relief from the pain, comfort in my affliction, or even (though no longer without any expectation of an answer) for a "suitable helper" such as seems to be provided innumerable times in the Scriptures (Even Joseph, who was banished to a far off land and endured seemingly countless years of seeming abandonment by God and Job (though she could hardly be considered a great encouragment by her recorded words) were allowed that much), I find myself flashing back to that moment.

When I thought God had answered, it was instead my own desperate mind inserting an answer where none existed. When between August and December of last year I prayed for guidance, not knowing which direction to pursue, hoping for some sign as to the proper course, willing to abandon the pursuit of the one thing in all the world I wanted if needed; upon recieving what seemed to be clear direction... I acted on it. And with hardly a second thought, was once again soundly rejected. Not worth even a chance at a relationship. So undesireable that she was certain without a single date that there was absolutely no way she could possibly be interested in me "like that."

There's a scene in Office Space where the title character describes each day as being worse than the one before, making each day the worst day of his life. That has been the past 2 or 3 weeks for me. Hurt, confused, lonely, isolated. Begging for relief, a balm, a repreive... something. But the heavens stay silent. Or rather, God stays silent.

Is there anything concrete we can depend on God for? Any reason to pray expecting an answer? I have a conclusion to this thought, but have run out of time. In the meantime, pray for me if you think it does any good, or just write me and say hi. Of the two, the latter would be much more encouraging.