There are Murderers among us!

I remember hearing this declaration, and looking around, and wondering who the murderers were. I have heard the same and similar proclamations throughout my life. Most recently it was at Rock the Desert, when Lacey Sturm (formerly of FlyLeaf) was talking about her history of abuse, drug abuse and other horrific events in her life. I have always seen the glorification of the sinner repentant, the escalation of the changed druggie or gang member or murderer. I have always wondered, what about me? What about the common Christian, the one without major stain, the one who consistently keeps their head down and chooses righteousness. Not perfect, not nearly perfect, not even approaching perfection, but, if there is such a thing, normal. Struggling with his own temptations, but victorious more often than conquered. Perhaps it is the same feeling of the brother of the prodigal son. Perhaps it is the feeling of the 99, when the Master goes after the 1.

And then I find myself being that one, and I understand.

Overwrought prose aside, I was wrong. I thought I knew better, but I was wrong.

Time for some new content

So I was doing some reminiscing and realized that we used to get 7-10 posts a week on this site. It really was a family journal for a long, long time. I think it is time to make it so again.

My plan is to write more, but also to set Seporah and Felicity up to write their own stuff, and I will also write Phillip specific posts under his name until he is old enough to write for himself. We will see how it works out.  Probably 2 months from now there won’t have been any updates. =)

Seporah and Felicity also will be set up at and, as well as Phillip at, so that their posts here mirror over there. One day they will take over their own domains, maybe for personal, maybe for professional use, who knows. Their email addresses are in case anyone is curious, although I don’t think I have set up Phillip yet.

Independence Day Weekend

Comanche Trail Park

Lots of plans for this weekend.  We will leave after work and drive to Big Spring. We plan on camping at Comanche Trail Park, so we will probably go there first and set up the tent. No telling how long that will take, as I am not the best at that sort of thing, but we will get it done. If we have time after, we will probably go swimming or playing at the playground. I doubt I will want to cook anything on a grill that night, so we might eat out. Saturday we will divide our time between Comanche Trail Park, Big Spring State Park, and maybe Moss Lake Park.  Comanche and Big Spring are free, and probably have plenty to keep us entertained, but Moss looks much nicer, and is a bit more remote, and costs a little money while the others are free. It might tempt us.

Flexifoil Buzz Kite

We will probably fly this kite a bit. I really like it, and have purchased two now, giving one to my mom because she liked it so much. Also, my mom is coming down to have grandkid time!  Last time we flew the kite in Abilene, and between me, her, Seporah and Felicity, there just wasn’t enough kite to go around. Maybe if we can double up, 2 to a kite (one thrower, one flyer) it will be enough.

We will have camp food for breakfast and dinner. I am pretty good with foil meals now, as it is just too hot to cook in the house, so I have been using the grill for weeks. Märia is a fan, and the kids choke it down about as well as they do kitchen food. (This isn’t quite fair to Seporah, she eats well. Felicity and Phillip are crazy picky though.)

We will see how we feel on Sunday. If we are tired, we will probably head back. Should be a fun weekend. Stay tuned for pictures.

Life Public

Please read the whole thing if you plan on commenting. Some of what I write will probably offend LDS folk. Some of what I will write will offend protestant folk. Know that I am not intending to offend anyone, but only writing my personal experiences.

I have been very unhappy in the LDS faith for a long time. Without going into specifics, it started with the temple, forever ago, and just never went away. I felt like I had been had. I tried to get over it. For the first couple years after the temple, I tried to go all the time, to get used to it. I couldn’t. Then I tried to ignore it for a decade, only going when I had to for ward participation or when my wife wanted to go. Finally not even going then. It is somewhat hard to be LDS with a positive belief that nothing that happens in the temple is of God. It just doesn’t work.

And yet, LDS folk are some of the best people I have ever known. It is hard to accept that so many people of high intelligence and high integrity could believe if it isn’t true. Of course this is nonsense – there are doctors and dentists and artists and smart folk and dumb folk and people of integrity and people without in all religions. But being on the inside, seeing the people, how they work together, it is just different. It makes you want to believe, want to be a part of it all. Many of you outside the LDS faith will say it is the same in your church, or community program or even in some of your workplaces. You will say that that doesn’t prove anything, and intellectually I get it, but it is still hard to accept from the inside.

Let me start by saying where I am NOT. I am no enemy of the LDS faith. I don’t believe that it takes more faith, or more suspension of disbelief to accept golden plates and modern-day prophets than say, a virgin birth or resurrection. I am not calling Mormons stupid or naïve or ignorant. I am no enemy of the LDS church. I’m not going to write some book or website or tell all my friends that I finally got out of a cult. The LDS faith is full of good people who are honestly seeking God, and I personally have no fear for the salvation of anyone honestly seeking God.

My conscience is leading me a different way. I reassessed the church I came from, on a small scale in the Baptist church, and on a large scale in the Evangelical Protestant church. I just don’t and can’t accept sola scriptura and sola fide. I cannot accept that God set up a system whereby we are all only accountable to our own consciences on how we interpret scripture. The idea that all the knowledge that is needful from God is contained in the Bible is how we got tens of thousands of churches, each teaching their own interpretation. I understand that the vast majority believe core teachings the same, particularly the creed. I understand that they are far more united in belief than is taught in the LDS church. The differences are still stark enough that scripture alone cannot be the metric for truth. There has to be someone or something that can interpret that truth, correctly. God has to have left us more than a Bible.

After generally rejecting Evangelical Protestantism, I started looking at liturgical faiths. This actually started in Afghanistan. There was a protestant liturgical service in Afghanistan on a base that had no LDS service. I started attending it on Sundays, and immediately felt a draw towards it. Specifically, there was a corporate confession, where all together confessed their shortcomings in a general way before God. There was a seriousness with respect to communion that I never feel in the LDS church, where what they call the Sacrament is often taken too lightly, at least in my experience. (This has actually been addressed in recent conference talks, and appears to be a point that LDS leadership are attempting to improve upon, along with Sabbath observance.) But the most important part, the thing that I drunk up as a man in the desert drinks water, was the corporate worship. I felt like actual worship was taking place. Not the guitars and drums and cowbell you might find in modern Evangelical services but a reverent approaching of God in worship. Corporate prayer just felt so very right. It was what I needed.

Unfortunately, it didn’t last. The service was very poorly attended, and eventually cancelled. Modern military Protestantism is almost universally a “praise and worship” service with loud music and dancing. The soldiers didn’t want reverence.

All of this time I really delved into the scriptures. I tried to read the New Testament as if for the first time, if that makes sense. I tried to shuck any preconceived notions of what something meant, based on either LDS thought or my knowledge of protestant thought. I realized that while LDS beliefs can be defended with individual scripture verses, no one would read scripture whole and come out with LDS beliefs. It really requires picking the scriptures you read, and leaving a whole lot alone.

I read the whole of the Book of Mormon twice while in Afghanistan the first year, and again each of the following 3 years (2013 – 2015). I also tried to read it without preconceived beliefs. I prayed and prayed about it. I was constantly struck by how very Trinitarian the Book of Mormon really is. No one would ever read the Book of Mormon, absent any guidance from the LDS church, and come out with anything like the LDS conception of the Godhead. It is a Trinitarian book, and I would later learn that it is actually LESS Trinitarian due to changes made to it a century after it was written. I believe now that it reflects the beliefs of the young Joseph Smith when it was written, and those were Trinitarian beliefs as evidenced by all of his early teaching, his written account of the First Vision, and certainly by the Book of Mormon.

Between my New Testament reading, my Book of Mormon reading, and my reading of early church (early Christian church, not early LDS church, this distinction is made to determine timeline, not to insult the LDS church or call it non-Christian) doctrines, it became clear that the LDS church had gotten many things very very wrong. I could not be a polytheist. I just couldn’t. I could not believe that Jesus is God, and he has a Father, who is God, and there is a pantheon of Gods, and I can be destined to join them as a God in my own right. I understand that Mormons argue that because they only worship the Father, that they are not polytheists. I simply reject that argument.

My second stint in Afghanistan left me on a German/NATO base in Afghanistan. I started attending the local Catholic services. Sometimes they were in English, and sometimes in German. They were always beautiful. I fell in love with the Mass. Again, corporate worship and corporate prayer spoke to me. Everything that I read of early Christian worship looked liturgical. It felt so very right.

I did take issue with some Catholic beliefs. Papal Infallibility, Original Sin, the Immaculate Conception, Purgatory, and the near worship of Mary (I understand that Catholics would reject the idea that they worship Mary, but it felt like too much to me), all these and more didn’t quite feel right. But how worship was accomplished, the centrality of Christ and the Eucharist, so much felt very very right. (LDS folk will be irritated at the implication that Christ is not central in their service. It is right there in the name! I asked Seporah to help me count the number of times that Jesus was mentioned, or scripture was quoted in the last 2 weeks in the LDS service, during the talks, and in both weeks, it didn’t happen. Once. Seriously. [This was written months ago, there have been a few talks that referenced Christ recently])

So I came home from Afghanistan, and it was back to the real world. I was going back to church with good people, but a doctrine that I had rejected. In March of 2015 I finally told Märia how I felt. It wasn’t easy. It isn’t easy now.

With more study, I became aware of the Orthodox Church. Its worship is liturgical, and very close to the Catholic Church, but it maintains the beliefs held by the earliest Christians. In every single instance where Catholic and Orthodox beliefs differ, I tend to believe that the evidence supports Orthodox beliefs. For a little more than a year I have been attending the Orthodox Church in addition to LDS services. For almost a year, my children have been attending with me. For nearly 9 months, my wonderful wife has attended with us. She is still very much in the Mormon camp; whatever ill feelings you might have for me, please reserve them for me.

Eventually I will probably become a catechumen, and probably join the Orthodox Church. I will probably put in a letter with the LDS Church, simply to save the time and effort that would go into an excommunication (excommunications are mandatory for LDS members who officially join other churches). An official split with the LDS Church isn’t something that I want, but something that will be thrust upon me whether I want it or not, and I might as well make it easy.

So, comments. Just don’t. Comments are going to come in some very formulaic ways. There will be those who cheer me. There will be those who jeer me. There will be those who pray that I come back to my senses. There will be some who pray that my wife and children join me. There will be some who bear their testimony, one way or the other. Don’t. A testimony is a statement of belief, of faith. Whatever you believe, there are those who believe a different way, with equal or more evidence to support their belief. They also have a strong belief that they are sustained by God, that their testimony is given by the Holy Spirit. There is nothing you can say to each other, or to me, to determine whose “testimony” is of themselves, and whose comes from the Holy Spirit. So just don’t. Part of my rejection of the LDS Church is a rejection of a subjective feeling as the basis for my membership in any church. I am reading the Bible, reading early church scholars, saints and martyrs. Praying to God for guidance, but accepting that that guidance will mostly come from using my faculties to study history and see which church looks like what history has recorded the earliest churches looked like. To me, that is the Orthodox Church. I am still learning.

“But Steven, just above you talked about how the Orthodox Church, and the Catholic Church before it ‘felt’ right”. Yeah yeah. I am saying that a feeling will not be my sole, or even my primary basis for membership in a church. I am not saying that I reject that God can influence me through emotion. I am saying that I have to test those emotions rationally, and maintain a sense of skepticism, lest I fool myself into a belief that my own feelings are God. I would make a God of myself that way, which is the worst form of idolatry.

Pray for me. Tell me you are praying for me, if you wish. I just don’t think there is much else you can say that will not devolve into arguments and hurt feelings.

I’m 35!

So it has been a few days.

On the 5th, I had to stay at the bank until about 11, working on disaster recovery failover. The tests went well enough, it was just a really long day.  Kevin Bushman came over and watched the kids, put them to bed. The power went out. There was an accident that took out some powerlines and the girls apparently put on a performance about being afraid of the dark, so Kevin’s mom came over with some flashlights. I don’t know if we ever got those back to them, I should figure that out. Märia was at work.

The next day was Wednesday. It is the day (6 January) traditionally celebrated as the day Christ was baptized in the Jordan. The first mention of Theophany as being 6 January, according to Wikipedia, was in the 300s. It is typically celebrated with the Liturgy of St. Basil the Great, which is almost 1700 years old now. It truly feels ancient, even though it is only a little older than the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom.  I wonder if the English translation of the Basil’s liturgy is written to sound much older than Chrysostom’s on purpose, to make the few times it (Basil’s) is used feel more holy.

Thursday was just a day, my 35th birthday. Märia and the kiddos took me out to eat at Texas Roadhouse. I never get steak when we eat out, I normally get some sort of seafood, but I got a steak so I could share with Märia, who wasn’t sure what kind of steak she wanted. The kids gave me a fun little Star Wars game, which we played today, and some other assorted Star Wars nicknacks. We got some lightsabers to stab each other with. =) Lots of fun!

Today I drove to Lubbock for the Gotcha meeting. I got a raise. It wasn’t much of one, 2%, 60 cents, but my boss said I was doing good work and that was this years raise, given to all the folk who are doing good work. I really wasn’t expecting one, so it was nice.

What have I read and watched?  I read Archie episode 5 I believe. I saw the most recent Modern Family and Brooklyn 99, and several Hawaii 5-O episodes. I listened to about 2 hours of “Beginning to Pray” on the drive to Lubbock today. I think that is it.

Medical Insurance

On 18 December I went to the emergency room. I was pretty sick. I could not speak, could not swallow, was having a very difficult time breathing. I ended up having Strep. I was there maybe 3 hours, got 4 or 5 medications, and was sent on my way. Today I got the bill.

The hospital billed my insurance $3798. Of that, my insurance wrote off $2318, about 60%. Right there is the primary benefit of insurance. They make deals with hospitals to pay about what they think services are worth, or that is how I think it is supposed to work. If the hospital and insurance agree that the service is actually worth about 60% less than what the hospital charges, why do they charge 60% more? Is it really to cover those who just won’t or can’t pay? Of the $1480 left over, insurance paid $1104 and left me to pay $376. Seriously, how do people survive without insurance? Is there really no better way?

Ok, really going to bed now.

Sick Seporah

Today started poorly. About 0530 I woke up to Seporah breathing like a goose. I have become quite accustomed to my children coughing like geese, but she was breathing like a goose. It was one of the weirdest sounds I have ever heard. It wasn’t weird at all to Märia; she hears it all the time at work. Märia sent me out to get a pulse oximeter. I asked her if CVS and Walgreens were open this early, and she said of course they are, drive fast. So I check google maps, and go to the nearest Walgreens, and of course it is closed until 0700. It never occurred to her that I would go to the nearest Walgreens rather than the one all the way over by the hospital. I guess she sees that one so often that she doesn’t think of the one closer to the house, but the other direction from the hospital.  Anyway, I got back to the house, and Seporah already sounded much better. Märia had given her a breathing treatment. She really is the best mom and nurse. Turns out Seporah has some viral flu like sickness that wouldn’t touch most kids her age, but affects her worse than most due to her asthma. She will be fine

Work was ok. I went to Heritage USA FCU today and installed an environmental monitoring unit. Never got email alerting working just right, but I made certain that it is open to remote configuration, so I can look into it tomorrow. RamQuest is still being difficult, but today they were another coworker’s problem, not mine. I will have to call them back tomorrow though, and see if we can get stuff straightened out.

Today’s reading was 1 Corinthian’s 4. Paul could be biting and sarcastic, and yet I really don’t sense any bitterness, but perhaps some disappointment in the local church. The Gospel reading was John 1:18-28.

Today I watched Hawaii Five-0, season 5 episode 13. Nothing else so far, and I expect to go to sleep shortly.

Fast Failed Miserably

Well, I probably already should have known this, but I really should not try to fast the night of a big UFC event. Or perhaps the worthier statement is I shouldn’t watch a UFC event the night of a fast. Honestly, staying up and watching UFC isn’t compatible with a spirit of fasting for anyone, but especially for me, as just staying up after bedtime makes me want to eat, and it didn’t help that we had leftover Olive Garden in the fridge.  I made the Orthodox fast though, as it starts at midnight and ends at the Eucharist.

I did thoroughly enjoy UFC 195, even if I thought poor Carlos Condit was robbed by the split decision for Robbie Lawler. I like Robbie too though, didn’t want to see either lose.

I started the day today in prayer, but Phillip was calling “I have to go potty” about halfway through, and I never finished. Once you start with the kiddos in the morning, personal time is over. We went to church this morning, and then came home.  I made spaghetti for lunch, read “I am a hug monster” for Phillip again (must be up to 10 times now) and then Seporah and I worked on her science fair project. It was a pretty good day.

I heard the readings during Liturgy, and just now read them again. The first 8 verses of Mark, and part of 2 Timothy 4, where Paul speaks of fighting the good fight and finishing the race. I hope one day to be able to speak with the same confidence concerning my standing before Christ.

I also read a good portion of the first chapter of “Beginning to Pray”. It is especially touching when the author says that God is not some robot, that you say the right words and he is suddenly giving you wonderful spiritual experiences. We must foster a relationship with God, nurture it. We cannot expect Him to be right there for the 5 minutes a day we ask for His Presence, if we ignore him the other 23 hours and 55 minutes during the day when he requests our attention.

Added 1045pm – I stayed up, watched DutchBoyd stream poker on Twitch.  I really enjoy watching him play.  He came in 14th out of 145 folk, and took home something like $375, although I am not sure what the buy-in was. Had very abbreviated prayers tonight, didn’t want to wake up Märia to go get a book. Time for bed.

UFC 195

Well, to finish up yesterday, we watched Matilda, the girls and I. Seporah asked, she really likes it. I ended the day in prayer, and slept.

This morning I awoke with prayer, read the readings of the day. From Timothy 3: “God was monifested in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen by angels, preached among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.” Beautiful Trinitarian expression. “Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by giving heed to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, … who enjoin abstinence from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving; for then it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.”

Matthew 3:1-6 was the gospel reading, and from it I just remembered that one of the two central teachings of Christ was first declared (in the new testament) by John the forerunner: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner.

This morning my mom came over and watched Star Wars, The Force Awakens with me and the kiddos. It was all of our 3rd times watching the movie, although the first time we had seen it together. I just noticed for the first time that Rey had been dreaming of Luke, or at least where he was. I really like the movie, infinitely better than the new movies, and right on par with the original trilogy.

Right now I am watching UFC 195. I am 0-5 with my picks so far. =)  Tonight is just not my night.

UFC 195 picks

New Year, New Me

Well, not really. I am going to be the same old me, but hopefully with a little more discipline and accountability.  Sometime in October my site was suspended by DreamHost due to it having been hacked.  They gave me a list of hundreds of files that had to be deleted due their being malware. It took me until last night, but, over time, I deleted them all, changed all passwords (mysql, wordpress admin, dreamhost account, ftp) and finally got the site back online.

So It is a new year. I am starting the new year at about 280 lbs, a little less than the most I have ever weighed myself at, which was 287, a few months before I went to Afghanistan.  What am I going to do about it?  Well, for the first time in my adult life, I plan on fasting, really fasting. We, as a family, will do the once monthly fast expected of LDS folk. I will also do the fasting expected of good Orthodox Christians, which is a little different, but requires more discipline.

We are going to Disneyland in March, and between Christmas and Disneyland tickets and hotel already purchased, we have dug ourselves a little hole.  This year I will do what I have talked about doing every year since 2011 when I opened the account; I will count every penny in Mint.  That will help with weight as well, as if I know that I will be watching money, I will eat out much less.

And today. Well, today I opened with a good prayer rule, out of the little red prayer book, and read today’s readings.

Colossians 2: 8-12 About Baptism being the new circumcision. While much speaking of baptism in the Bible speaks about it washing away sin, here there is no mention of washing sin away, but rather it talks about being united with Christ through baptism, which is it’s proper function. When you realize that baptism’s true function is to unite a person with Christ, and the washing away of sin being a necessary part of being united with Christ, rather than the whole of it, then it puts away any objection concerning baptizing very young children. Those who object often state that they don’t need it because they don’t have sin, but the point is to unite them into Christ’s covenant people, to make them a part of the Body of Christ which is His church. It is exactly the same as circumcision was in the old covenant, the uniting of the people into the Abrahamic covenant.

The Gospel reading was Luke 2: 20-52. I enjoyed the reading here, but all I could think of was that Joseph and Mary here would have had Christ taken from them by CPS in today’s society. I am certain they were good parents, and good parents can lose their children occasionally.

What I have read, watched, listened to today:

Today I only read a few comics. Paper Girls Issue 3, in which Erin gets shot, the shiny armored guys look like they are going to be baddies, and it looks like the plagued mummies might actually be the good guys. I am enjoying it, we will see how many more issues I read.  Jughead Issue 3 – Jughead is really just dumb fun. It is much less dumb than the old comics, but still dumb fun. Saga Issue 32 – I can’t say enough good things about Saga. Finally Marko and Alana are friends and lovers again. I was so afraid they would divorce for a bit, but forgiveness and patience and love won out. Here is to hoping they find Izabel.