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Daniel of Doulogos Name:Daniel
Home: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
About Me: I used to believe that evolution was reasonable, that homosexuality was genetic, and that people became Christians because they couldn't deal with the 'reality' that this life was all there was. I used to believe, that if there was a heaven - I could get there by being good - and I used to think I was more or less a good person. I was wrong on all counts. One day I finally had my eyes opened and I saw that I was not going to go to heaven, but that I was certainly going to suffer the wrath of God for all my sin. I saw myself as a treasonous rebel at heart - I hated God for creating me just to send me to Hell - and I was wretched beyond my own comprehension. Into this spiritual vacuum Jesus Christ came and he opened my understanding - delivering me from God's wrath into God's grace. I was "saved" as an adult, and now my life is hid in Christ. I am by no means sinless, but by God's grace I am a repenting believer - a born again Christian.
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Daniel's posts are almost always pastoral and God centered. I appreciate and am challenged by them frequently. He has a great sense of humor as well.
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Thursday, September 29, 2005
Dances With Fire.
First I apologize for the length of this post. I was just reading Dan’s blog entry about camping – and thought it might be edifying to share one of my most memorable camping experiences. It is memorable not because it was so great, but because it happened before I came to Christ and is a testimony to where my life was heading.

The Abattoir

My story begins in grade four. I was attending a French school in a small provincial community. My father had just purchased an abattoir (slaughter house), and the house in which we lived was on the same property as the business. It was a wonderful life, sort of.

Not many eight year olds have been to a killing floor, let alone become so acclimatized to the smell of death that they take it for granted. To be sure, the smell of death is really just the smell of rotting blood – and it usually takes a lot of blood to generate such a smell. To this day I get nostalgic when I smell a slaughterhouse. We used to go skating in the winter time on the slue.

The slue, by the way, was the place where anything that went down the killing floor drain was pumped into. After butchering a cow, you would hose down all the blood and gore down the drain, and the pump would send it out back to the slue. The ice was always brown.

Seriously though, the property was otherwise great – there was a large garden, a colorful orchard, and plenty of green grass and even large climbable trees. These things, however beautiful to my minds eye today, were pretty much inconsequential to the mind of an eight year old boy however. I wanted a bike, or perhaps some cool toys. I played in the house more than outside, so when Christmas came and the pile of treasure beneath the tree threatened to bury the tree – I was enthused. Really, that image of the tree practically buried under the presents stood in my memory as the measure of all other Christmases since.

I mention the Christmas tree by way of introduction. My father’s business was doing quite well, and the treasure hoard beneath the Christmas tree was just an expression of our sudden prosperity.

My father has always been ‘gifted’ as an entrepreneur – or maybe he was just so brash that he could do anything he put his heart to. Whatever the case, after working a number of years in someone else’s slaughterhouse, he seized upon an unlikely opportunity and ended up buying the slaughterhouse previously mentioned. The sales deal is the stuff that legends are made of – he bought the business with $10.00 down (it was a quarter million dollar deal back when a quarter of a million would buy you a whole city block), and the business was worth twice what he paid for it.

It was just outside a rural town which was practically owned by one local family. The patriarch of this family had started the abattoir and built it into a thriving business. From there he expanded into many other capital ventures in that community – and really the town more or less grew up around his businesses. He was not only wealthy, but had a sort of power that comes when you have your finger in everyone’s pie. One of his sons had joined the RCMP and was stationed in town. They don’t do that any more (Station a constable in his home town), but at the time it was pretty common.

This patriarch, in his generosity, determined to bequeath his inheritance into the hands of his sons while he was still alive to see it. In this bequeathing, the abattoir was the crown jewel – the slaughterhouse that had made him who he was. He bequeathed it to his eldest son who promptly sold it to the very first person to make him an offer – my dad. My Father’s offer was almost a joke – it was so low, but the guy had dollar signs for eyes, and a quarter of a million bucks in your hands means you don’t have to go to work in a slaughterhouse just to please dad.

Well, as much as that grieved the father, it was more grievous I suppose that my father was immediately turning a rich profit. My dad had connections inside the Canadian National Railway, and on account of some wonderful personal innovation on his part, my father managed to augment the local income from the slaughtering business with a lucrative processing contract as well.

In a word, as successful as the business had been in the past, my father had in the first six months tripled or even quadrupled it’s return. The business projections suggested that within only a couple of years my father would have the business entirely paid off, while turning out enough profit each year to live quite comfortably. So it was no surprise when the patriarch of this family came to my dad came one day and made him a -generous- offer to buy back the business.

I don’t know if my father understood that it was one of those “or else” kind of offers, but my father refused to sell, and this is where the story twists.

Threats were made, followed by ‘accidents’. Our dog was shot to death on our front steps (which angered my father – whom, if you will remember had been the primary cause of many a dog death in our family). Shots were also fired into the yard at night, even causing my father to stay out with a rifle one night and have a real western shootout with someone (my dad shot the guy in the leg!). When things got too hot, my father moved the family off the premises and onto my grandparents farm. There we lived until the abattoir blew up.

Huh? Blew up you say? Yup. One day in the early hours of the morning, after all the meat processing equipment in the building was removed, the huge propane tank that stood beside the main building curiously/spontaneously exploded. The explosion leveled the business and house at the same time.

Needless to say, my father didn’t have insurance for sabotage, and lost his shirt – even having a nervous breakdown. We moved back to the city after that, but my father was a different man after that. Cold, bitter, and angry – where once he was even cheerful, from that time on my memories of my father are quite dark indeed. It changed him for the worse, but that is another story.

After a time my dad got a day job working with his father as a school janitor. In the strength of that income he rented the cheapest house he could to rear his five children, and it happened that the only community wherein such a thing was possible on his modest income, was not one of the cozy parts of town. Yet it was there – in the armpit of our city, that I met a friend who would eventually be a pivotal (though unwitting) player in the Lord drawing me to himself - Russell.

Russell

We were in grade five together, and became fast friends. We were the kind of friends that naturally fuse together in that sort of urban crucible. Russell and I were both small for our age, and both of us had just moved into the neighborhood from a better tax bracket. I never really learned the full story about his family, but it is enough to say that he didn’t fit in with the typical riff-raff of the area, and to some degree I too was outside my comfort zone in these new settings. We bonded almost immediately.

How I would love to regale you with some of the wacky things we did as kids – but time does not permit. It is enough to say that in the space of 18 months Russell’s family moved away. They moved during summer holidays, and because of his bizarre family situation, I was not allowed to have his home phone number. Shortly after we moved, my father got our number unlisted and changed, so that Russell couldn’t get a hold of me. Our friendship, had been a profound thing in both of our lives, and perhaps because of the way it ended, we both independently determined that one day we would find each other and resume our friendship.

It was a curious and bizarre chain of events that brought Russell momentarily back into my life. The nature of this connection however is so bizarre that I feel obligated to explain it.

Phone Madness

In Winnipeg, during my teen years a telephone system anomaly allowed hormonally charged teenagers to call one another. It worked like this: when you dialed a busy line, you could hear anyone else in the city who dialed a busy line from the same telephone exchange. That is, if you were to dial 774-xxxx and it was busy, and someone else dialed 774-yyyy and it was busy for them – you could hear one another talk over the sound of the busy signal. I don’t know how the thing came to be known – but my cousin one day introduced me into this culture – and it was perhaps the single most morally devastating thing to ever happen to me.

I worked like this, and I sigh at how pathetic this is, never the less I go one. I would call a number that was typically busy from that exchange –radio stations were good, or really busy businesses. There was no call waiting back then. Upon getting the busy signal I would speak in between the beeps/buzzes. Into that audio hollow I would scream my telephone number or listen for girls yelling out their telephone number - in the hopes that someone likeminded of the opposite sex was listening.

The pattern would be, call a busy line.

Listen.

BUZZ…BUZZ…BUZZ

Yell whatever you were going to say (some voices came through loud, some faint, so you always yelled:
BUZZ… Are there …BUZZ… any girls …BUZZ… out there? …BUZZ

Wait.

The reply you were looking for was a feminine voice in equal strain yelling out across the line, “…BUZZ… What’s …BUZZ… your …BUZZ… number? …BUZZ…”

At that point you always entered into a bidding war with other frantic and desperate young men who wanted to have a conversation with this young lady. Some of them, having worn out their own voices long ago, were no longer shouting out their numbers, but sat patiently waiting and listening –eventually some lady would give them a number, all they had to do was wait. I called these guys skimmers - parasites really. But only slightly lower on the pathetic scale than the rest of us.

When a girl decided that she wanted your number, or any number really, every able guy on the line began to shriek out their own phone number. You always entered into this shouting frenzy as one of many – a cross city competition with anywhere from three to twenty other losers who were trying to shout their phone number over you shouting yours.

“…BUZZ… Six …BUZZ… Six …BUZZ… Seven …BUZZ… Four… …BUZZ… etc.”

You would repeat the process until they would give the much anticipated seal of approval, “…BUZZ… hang up …BUZZ… …BUZZ… …BUZZ… and I will …BUZZ… call …BUZZ… you. …BUZZ…”

At that point you hung up the phone and hoped that you were the person the girl was talking to. Sometimes a guy would call.

Ick!

If the phone didn’t ring in a minute or two, you would call back and continue the process. Sometimes it took hours to get a girl, and usually you had to weed through a few weirdo’s to get there.

Did I mention you never did this when your parents were home? When I began to use this “service” I would get phone calls at all hours of the night. People would write down your number, and try and phone – it would be busy, and so they would try again another time. It must have seemed like I had overnight popularity to my parents when suddenly I was getting all manner of phone calls all the time.

After going through this ritual - someone would eventually phone you and the next phase of the process could ensue.

“What is your eye color, hair color, weight and height? How old are you? On a scale of one to ten, how attractive are you? Do you look like anyone famous?” These may seem almost calloused, but the culture around this particular line was geared heavily towards hormonally active teenagers, and the sort of people who prey on them. Before finding out about this phone thing my dating life was pretty tame. I had never kissed a girl, and was more or less a “frustrated” young man.

This phone thing seemed great. Suddenly I was talking to girls, even naughty girls, and even meeting some.

It is enough to say that I was young and unsaved. This phone thing catered to that, and would eventually became the source of much regret in my later life.

Coincidence

It was through this phone thing however that I began speaking with a young lady who thought my voice sounded familiar. She wanted to know if my name was Russell.

I hadn’t seen Russell in ten years, but apparently we sounded alike. Her brother, as it turned out was a close friend of Russell’s and through her I got in touch once again with Russell.

Now, as I mentioned elsewhere, I was an avid Role Player. And as it turned out, so was Russell! So it was the most natural thing in the world to invite me into his Role Playing circle. I was well liked in that group.

Daniel: The History of a Jerk

I should mention that I entered into a relationship with that young lady that lasted a least a year. She was a liar and manipulative, and as it turned out, much younger than she at first claimed to be. When she tried to end the relationship I turned into a jealous freak. I was still young and naïve, and this relationship had cost me – and that produced a nasty sort of jealousy in me. I was being more than a little needy – calling every five minutes – you know the typical jealous freak. I had never been in a relationship before, and when my neurosis become more than she was willing to put up with she dumped me. In fact, it was through the ending of our relationship that I came to the Lord.

When she dumped me, she did it in a marvelously wicked way. She called me, and began to tell me how it was over and whatnot, so I tried to weep and plead my way into keeping the relationship going. When that became too pathetic, I moved it up a notch.

I recall bumping into her shortly thereafter downtown. She was with another fellow who was clearly not her boyfriend. I wanted to talk, and she wanted to get out of there – and the guy was totally uncomfortable. I should mention that I had a certain “look” about me that I nurtured while growing up. I looked like someone who wanted to start a fight – I had long hair, wore a black leather jacket (that was a mean thing to do in my day) and I carried myself with the air of someone who was dangerous. Of course I wasn’t any of that – but I wanted people to think I was. I call it the Napoleon complex. I made up for my rather smallish stature (5’8”) by pretending to be tough.

So this guy who was with her, dressed in a long fancy coat – complete with grey leather gloves – was making every effort possible to let me know (without talking) that he was -NOT- romantically involved with my “ex.” I came upon them in a bus shelter, and I recall asking the fellow if he wouldn’t mind leaving to give us some privacy. He looked at her as if to ask whether she would be alright – and when he took his eyes off of my I smashed my fist into the window of the shelter – making a large noise, and returning his attention to me. I was such a jerk. Anyway, that settled it for him – he went out side mild as a kitten, and I tried again to woo my old girlfriend.

I mention this to paint the picture right – I was a total idiot, and pretty much unstable.

When all my efforts weren’t working I became desperate and called one night. I was angry and jealous, and because life hadn’t yet taught me how stupid it was – I was even threatening and down right abusive.

Her mother was employed as a child social worker, and unbeknownst to me, was listening in to my rant on another line. She silently endured every derogatory and abusive thing that came out of my mouth directed at her daughter, and when I had completely shamed myself – only then did she tear into me. She told me in no uncertain terms that my behavior was unacceptable, not only as someone who ostensibly was trying to win back the affection of her daughter, but more importantly as a person. To her credit she was business like and even polite about it, but it was merciless nevertheless, and I deserved every ounce of it.

Of course, I was mortified to have anyone witness the kind of threats and abuse I had poured out on my ex that night – and more so that it the witness happened to be her own mother. If I had any hope for that relationship, that conversation removed it.

I am thankful however that her mother not only heard me make a fool of myself, but also that she waited until I had done a full job of it. Had she entered into the conversation sooner, I might have been able to save face, or tell myself I was really a okay guy. But she waited till the right moment and that old bird put me in my place it had a profound effect. I sometimes wish I could thank her for that scolding – it was almost parental, and I needed to hear it all.

At the end of that conversation my ex-girlfriend suggested that I “grow up and get a life” – she even suggested I become a missionary somewhere far away in order to get over her.

I Think I Should Be a Missionary!


Her suggestion struck me as interesting. I was living on social assistance at the time, and really one of the reasons our relationship ended is because it was obvious I had no future. Until she dumped me I hadn’t really looked at my life as other people might see it, and the picture it painted was pretty sad. Perhaps being a missionary would be a good thing to do! I wouldn’t have to get a job, I could see the world, and be a nice charitable guy at the same time - perhaps she would take me back if I demonstrated what a great guy I was by taking her advice? (sigh, what a loser I was.)

That same week I checked the yellow pages and found a nearby church was advertising their sponsorship of missionaries. I had absolutely no concept of how missions worked, so I arranged to have an interview with the pastor. I expected I would tell him where I wanted to go, he would set me up with a sweet deal, and butta-bing butta-boom, I would soon be sipping wine on some exotic seashore far away, perhaps building churches or something on the weekends.

When I went in to see the pastor he sat me down and asked me all about myself. I gave him what I thought were the pertinent details, and then I asked about the “missions” thing. Did I get to choose where they sent me? What sort of stuff would I be doing? Etc. He explained that they were an evangelical church and that they generally sent people out on evangelical missions. I wasn’t really sure what that was, so he patiently explained that it was the spreading of the gospel. When I still looked clueless, he simplified it - telling other people about how Jesus Christ can save them. He sort of unsettled me a bit by suggesting that it would be best for me to be a missionary here in town for a couple of years. I almost got up and left. I assured him that I was only interested in being a foreign missionary. He then began to ask me about my own salvation – and I assured him that I had already been baptized as a baby. He seemed to be of the opinion that I was not a Christian – though he didn’t say so. I was filled with indignation nevertheless – how dare he!

When I realized what was going on I told him to his face that he needn’t worry about whether I was a Christian, I was a Roman Catholic – you don’t get more Christian than that. All my life I had checked the “Christian” box on any survey or form that asked my religion – I was most certainly a Christian.

So he asked me if I would be going to heaven when I died. I said I wasn’t sure – that in fact no one could be sure. He then asked me how I planned to get there if I do – and I explained that God was merciful and good, and that if I lived a good life, God would judge me and eventually I would get to heaven.

I could tell though from his questions that he saw right through my façade. You see, I was trying to sound all spiritual and religious so that he could send me to some tropical resort, and my little play was falling apart. Yet somewhere in the conversation I began to have serious questions about my religion - especially when he started talking about sin.

Had I ever sinned? Yes, of course I had sinned – why ask such a question? Did I believe that Jesus was God? Yes, yes, yes. Is the bible true? Of course it is – God wrote it didn’t he? Do I know what the bible says about sin? Well I think I know – I haven’t actually sat down and studied it – but I have a pretty good idea what it says. Do I want to see what it says? Sure.

In a few verses, my world fell out from under me. I came under profound conviction that I was not only a sinner, but that I was a sinner who most certainly was bound for hell. All doubt was removed – I read it with my own eyes – the penalty for sin is death…, all liars will be in cast into the lake of fire… you all know the verses. For the first time in my life I understood something from scripture – and all I understood was that God had every right to damn me – and that I was most certainly damned already. If I should trip off the curb on the way home, hit my head and die – Zoom! Straight to hell, no doubt in my mind.

That understanding made me dreadfully fearful for my soul. Like the men in Jerusalem who heard Peter’s sermon I too croaked out the words – what can I do then? Is there no hope for me?

Then and only then did the gospel come to me – There is hope. God knew you would sin so He sent His Son Jesus who didn’t sin, to die in your place – if you are willing to give up your old life and put on a new life – if you are willing to accept Christ’s sacrifice as sufficient for your soul – if you will trust that God is not lying in making you this offer – you can pray and God will answer your prayer and save you from his wrath.

I did. I gave my entirely self to God – and a feeling of utter holiness washed over me – I tremble to think about it.

I could write a hundred pages on that day, but it is really a tangent to the story I am getting to, so I will leave it there- it is enough to say that my girlfriend dumping me was used by the Lord to bring this sinner to the throne of grace.

The Camping Story At Last!

Now while I was still dating this girl, I was asked to go camping with her brother, my friend Russell, and a number of the other “gamers” from their group. One fellow -Tim- was in the armed forces, and he was a real gung-ho survivalist… and crazy too, but in a nice way. It was Tim who one day decided that all of us gamers should go camping together.

There was a boy scout camp miles out of town, and being late in the autumn the camp had closed for the season. We showed up with our gaming stuff, and some camping stuff. I wasn’t saved yet, so some of this isn’t going to sound all that great. I am pretty sure that I was in an altered state of consciousness due to my taking drugs or alcohol, or more than likely, a mixture of both - I really don’t remember.

Tim got the idea that because it was so cold out (it was late in the autumn) we should build a fire. We were all foolish enough to partake of drugs and/or alcohol so the idea of making the biggest bonfire ever seemed tame and reasonable. So Tim gets out his hatchet and with the unyielding focus of an intoxicated buffoon, he starts cutting down trees. I don’t know how many he gave up on half way – but because trees are difficult to cut down with a hatchet, he only actually fully cut down –one- tree. Later he butchered another tree half way, but I will get to that in a bit. The tree that he did cut down, he dragged to our campsite and soaking it in gasoline he started a pretty big fire. The fire wasn’t big enough for him however (I wonder if he was a pyromaniac!), so finding some of those huge round bails of hay in an adjacent field, he, along with a bunch of us, went and rolled a bail or two into the fire.

The flames were now leaping well above our heads - Tim nevertheless decided this particular fire required another tree, so he started chopping one down that was nearby. As I think about it, he might even have even started chopping it down because of its proximity to our fire – that is, it might have caught fire before he started chopping it down. Either way, he didn’t really get it chopped down before it was already on fire. Hacking away at this thing madly, he managed to get it to crack, and with a bunch of us pulling on this burning tree we pulled it into the other fire as well – broken in half and still connected to the stump. Eventually it either burned off, or was chopped off I don’t remember really.

The next part seemed at the time to be the most natural thing in the world for a bunch of intoxicated morons freezing in the cold November air (November in Canada is already cold enough to kill people) to do.

We began to leap over the bonfire. It was warm, and manly – and as soon as Tim did it, we all had to do it.

Tim ran at the blaze from a good pace back – and having set a stump in front to spring off, he leapt over the bulk of the wood, and straight into the glowing flames. They still shot thirty feet above his head – but he landed on the other side on his hands, and rolled out of it. We all thought that was pretty cool. To be fair, Tim didn’t actually clear all of the fire – but landed in a softer burning part and sort of rolled out more or less unharmed.

It became both a challenge to our collective manhood to be the first person to clear the fire.

You had to run at it full steam, then stepping up onto the stump for height, you could leap forward like a springing leopard, landing on the other side, counting on your momentum to carry you out of the fire should any mishap befall you.

I don’t know how many times we leapt over that stupid fire, but it apparently kept us amused for some time.

When we decided to go to sleep, we threw a mountain of dirt on the fire, and when it seemed to be in its death throes we rolled out our sleeping bags, crawled in and lay dead until morning.

I woke up -and without a word of exaggeration- both my ankles were sprained, and one wrist. I couldn’t even crawl to the bush to relieve myself. The morning dew (actually it was frost) mixed in my lungs and throat with all the smoke from the night before to form a thick sediment that started on my tongue and coated my mouth, throat, and surely my lungs as well. All the spastic coughing in the world didn’t seem to be doing much to loosen.

I determined that day, as I lie there shivering in melted frost, drenched and shivering – staring up into a grey belly of cloud that looked to pour freezing rain onto us at any moment – I decided as I grit my teeth against the pain in my wrist and ankles - I prefer to sleep in a tent. I can take the bugs, and the cold, and whatnot – but the morning frost really sucked.
posted by Daniel @ 1:38 PM  
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