I wrestled with the decision for weeks. It is truth. What am I going to do with it?
I prayed for the light of God's guidance. I read the Bible. I searched the pamphlets for errors. I read the Bible more -- whole sections, whole books. What's the WHOLE picture? I asked over and over again.
From time to time Annette suggested places in the Bible to look for texts that talked about life and death. One day when frustration was boiling inside me, I asked her if she could stop by my apartment after work and answer some questions for me.
She squinted, like she was checking her mental calendar. "Sure. Tonight I could stop by. I don't know if I can answer your questions, but I can always say 'I don't know,' and we can look together for the answer, or I can go home and study the Bible till I find it."
Annette arrived at my door that evening, her peaceful, relaxed self. Within minutes her face had changed -- calmness had disappeared, taut lines pulled at her cheeks. It was almost like I'd seen the Tennessee hills change when golden sunlight disappeared and charcoal thunderclouds rolled in.
"Jay," she gasped, "I've got to get out of here." She stood and headed for the door. Her face was flushed. She coughed. She wheezed. She choked out the words, "I can't breathe!"
Puzzled, I followed her outside. "What's wrong? Can I help?"
"Let's walk," she said.
At least she was breathing now.
I made sure the door was closed so Inki couldn't follow us. We headed up the middle of the little-used side street in silence.
We'd walked about a quarter of a block when I noticed a puppy ahead on the sidewalk bouncing around on its leash. It had grown beyond the cute cuddly stage, into the awkward, gangly, big-feet stage. Then the puppy looked our direction. Immediately, it yelped and started barking. But its bark was no puppy yip. It was a repeated wail of terror.
The middle-aged man holding the dog's leash looked around at us then back at the puppy. "It's all right, Mack. It's all right. Come."
The puppy didn't come. He stared our direction. He strained backwards on his leash, keeping as far away from us as possible. He howled. He growled.
We kept walking toward the dog and his owner, but in the middle of the street.
The puppy took a couple halting steps toward us, as if he thought he ought to attack. Then he shrank back, his tail between his legs.
"Easy, Mack," the owner comforted. "Come," he ordered again.
Mack didn't come. His eyes were riveted toward Annette and me. His hackles raised.
As we neared, I noticed Mack was not looking at me. I glanced over at Annette, then back at the puppy. He was not looking at Annette either. He was looking around us -- above us and on either side.
Mack's owner walked toward him, shortening the leash as he went. He knelt beside the dog and pulled him close. "It's OK, Mack. Quiet." He patted the dog. "It's OK."
Mack kept barking, growling, and howling. His eyes kept darting around Annette and me.
The owner looked up as we passed. He looked totally baffled. "I'm sorry." He shook his head. "I don't know what got into him. He's never done this before."
I shrugged. "It's OK."
"I take him walking every night," he continued. "We've met up with all kinds of people. With animals, skateboards, bicycles, motorcycles. He's never acted like this. I don't know what's wrong with him."
In my days in the occult, I'd experienced terror when I saw a spirit. I'd read that animals sometimes see into a dimension that humans can't. That they can see spirits -- either good or bad ones. I was convinced the puppy saw something no one else saw. Given the terror he exhibited, what he saw had to be evil.
The commotion stopped after we'd passed.
"Any idea what was going on?" I asked Annette.
"I don't know ... but it's weird," she responded. "From the moment ... I entered ... your apartment ... I felt a chill. A dark ... heavy presence. I heard voices. I felt ... like someone was going to stab me ... in the back. Like a vice ... tightened around my lungs. Like someone ... was squeezing my throat. Like someone was trying... IS trying... to choke me."
"Have you ever had anything like this happen before?"
"The other couple times ... I stopped at your apartment ... I felt like a heavy... darkness was closing in on me ... and I heard voices. But it was ... much, much worse ... this time."
We turned a corner. "Something strange is ... still all around me." Annette shuddered. "It's dark. It's heavy."
"I don't know why," I said, "but I think something evil is attacking you. I think we ought to pray."
We prayed for God's protection from evil spirits. The voices and oppression Annette experienced eased a little. We kept walking and praying. By the time we'd walked several blocks, Annette could breathe deeply enough that she could pray in whole sentences.
We walked and prayed, walked and talked, walked and prayed for nearly an hour. By the time we approached my apartment, Annette could inhale deeply. The tension in her face had eased. She seemed relaxed again.
Annette didn't go back into my apartment that evening. When she left, I had more questions than before she arrived. Was the puppy seeing spirits? What is going on? Why would evil spirits want to attack Annette?
That evening's events only added fuel to the turmoil simmering in my mind. I don't have a problem with anything I've studied in the Bible except this last topic. Everything else I could make fit with NewAge thinking. But if what I studied about death is true, what am I going to do with it?
My insides felt as if they were boiling. I can't go on like this, I told myself. I can't keep evaluating every little thing in life by both New Age and Christianity! I have to decide! Soon!
But when? How?
I took a day off work that weekend. In my boat, I headed to a quiet cove on the lake. Anchored, I pulled out my Bible. There, I again read the texts that people used to promote immortality of the soul. I reread them, gleaning every bit of information I could to try to understand what they were really saying. Then I compared those verses with the whole body of Bible texts that related to death.
When I put all the Scriptures together, I realized that many texts stated unconsciousness after death very clearly. The few texts that some used to suggest immortality immediately after death seemed rather muddled and had to be interpreted. Never did the Bible hint that humans would have a second chance. Nothing from the first to the last page said we continued to exist right after death. But clear passages said we didn't.
Inki came out from the shade under the dashboard. She hopped up on the padded bench with me, stood with her paws on the edge of the boat, and whined. I tied a thin rope onto her collar and lowered her into the lake to cool off. She paddled about joyously. My mind rumbled with questions.
After a few minutes, Inki was back by the boat, looking up. Yip. Yip.
I hauled her in. She showered me with her shaking then settled herself in the sun.
"So," I asked aloud, "if this is truth, how would it affect what I have believed for years?"
I laid down on the bench at the back of the boat with my feet hanging over the edge. Thoughts came slowly at first. If there is no consciousness immediately after death, there is no way we can be reincarnated into another body and pay for our sins through karma.
Then thoughts clamored over each other as they rushed in on me. If there is no consciousness, dead souls cannot contact us through mediums. There can be no ascended masters that can speak to us through channelers. No former Indian chief to pass along their beliefs in spirits and Mother Earth. No spirit forms to appear to us.
If people live only one life before heaven, they cannot have lived previous lives. So, of course, they cannot regress into them.
"But, what about Charles Lindbergh, Jr.?" I asked aloud. Inki thumped her tail against the boat floor.
"Ah-h-h! I can't be Charles Lindbergh, Jr.!" I basked in relief more comfortable than golden sun on a chilly day. "I'm not!"
Shortly I asked aloud, "But what about all my visions?"
A few fluffy white clouds floated slowly across the blue sky.
The devil and his demon angels saw me watching Old West movies. They could have put bits and pieces I had seen together in supposed regressions.
"And Charles Lindbergh, Jr.?"
The devil and his demon angels saw what happened with the Lindberghs and saw my interest. They could have showed me what really occurred. OR they could have made it all up. They just wanted to keep me trapped in reincarnation lies.
I reviewed the voices, the visions, the regressions. "Everything," I said aloud, "every belief in New Age depends on some form of consciousness continuing after death. ... Satan's lie ... that's what he told Eve ... you won't die."
Ripples lapped against the side of the boat.
Suddenly, I paled. The bottom line hit me straight between the eyes like a bolt of lightning. "I have the same choice Adam and Eve had. Will I believe God? Or will I believe the devil?"
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