“…Not so much make it, but it was more like a release….”-Matt Smitty
All journal entries are inspired by true events. Some of the characters, names, businesses, incidents, and certain locations and events have been fictionalized for dramatic purposes. Any similarity to the name, character or history of any person is entirely coincidental and unintentional.
By Mingjie Zhai
Bethlehem and Beit Jala
The taxi driver is highly attracted to you. There were a few taxi drivers who gave you their number, but what inspired you to call him back again was because he played Aviici’s Deepsoul remix while driving through Old City Bethlehem, through the narrow passage, and this time you are mindful that you are experiencing a positive affective valence—more so, another affirmation from the holy spirit.
The passage to heaven is narrow.
He was driving you to Beit Jala, at Nour Printing, so you may pick up the first two copies of The Producer’s Playbook.
Wake me up when it’s all over. When I’m wiser when I’m older. All this time I was finding myself, I did not know I was lost.
There you are, in spiritual flow, in wonderment, knowing you are beyond a shadow of a doubt in this world, but not of this world, like Neo in the Matrix, who comes back now with eyes wide open.
You have a mission.
Just like many others in this matrix has a mission.
But you have been given the next set of commands, revealed through Pope Francis and Paul from the Letters of the Hebrews:
Run the race set before you.
I tried carrying the weight of the world, but I only have two hands. I hope I get a chance to travel the world, but I don’t have any plans.
You remember the first time you heard this song, you had been biking at your parents’ neighborhood, at a very quiet park, alone, and it occurred to you then how smart you are, how beautiful you are, and how not to listen to the voice that keeps nagging you—
You are such a loser. Look at you. You are so weak. You are so helpless.
And when you heard this song to drown out the nagging spirit of fear, another voice had told you, I have great things planned for you child.
You will travel the world.
And there you are.
You are now hearing the same song—like the portals of StoneHenge—transported across time, space, and distance.
Feel my way through the darkness.
You say I’m caught up in a dream…
You are in a dream.
Now you are going through the ancient paths of the Good Shepherds, searching.
Right now, you are experiencing sanctum.
A moment of clarity.
You are traveling.
You are traveling.
And there you are.
The truth hits you.
You are loved so lovingly.
It hits you hard.
God loves you so much.
There you are.
Being escorted by a Good Shepherd, one of God’s finest creatures—Adam’s seed…
He is in his early twenties, with a Charlie Chaplan mustache, a transporter by day and an artist under the moon, playing all the music you love. He wants to take you to the Dead Sea when you mentioned it, and be more than just your taxi driver. He wants to take you out, but knows he has a mother to support so he has to stay focused on the money.
You were short on change but told him you would pay him back later when you flag him again to take you from checkpoint to your home in Beit Sahour in Palestine, in the area called West Bank, where you are staying for the month.
You cracked your phone. You dropped it while you were scuffling to enter inside the gates of Old City Jerusalem when you were perched on a bench overlooking the outer cities rising up like the hills of East Los Angeles, and so when two Israeli defense soldiers began closing the gates, you and Wang, a kindred Chinese traveler from Hong Kong you met just hours earlier, told them to wait so the two of you can enter.
After you dropped your phone in that scuffle to get inside the Old City, your cracked phone ended up looking like a sharpened spider web just waiting for you cut your fingers upon. And you almost did.
So that evening, when you crossed checkpoint, and Mohammad had picked you up, it was he who took you to the cell phone store at nine in the evening. “I send you to someone I trust. If he doesn’t do a good job, you call me.”
This trusted cell phone dealer gave you both a good price and fast service on replacing the screen. It is a thirty minutes wait, and your place is only 5 minutes drive away from the store, but you are on friendly terms with Mohammad, and you ask him if he wouldn’t mind if you just accompanied him while he works for the night run. You thought you were just accompanying him and he thought he was getting extra money for the night.
Whatever the case, both people win that evening, because you find yourself in a dream once again. He is playing techno music, but the kind that you are familiar with, but when paired with the big round orange moon, watching and guiding the city of Ancient Jerusalem, the holy land, the portal from one realm to the next, you are awakened to a fundamental understanding. God loves you.
You are very special.
So Good To Me
He played this on his console as you two cruised through Bethlehem night. It is cool like the Mediterranean of Italy and Croatia, like the cool of LA nights driving through the Ocean Park Blvd. in Santa Monica, and yet tonight, there it is again—sanctum under the cheshire cat.
There you are.
Shadows and All.
The night is when you are most alive and the time, place, and distance where the dream world and this world blends.
The city lights of Bethlehem look like stars mirroring the stars of the illuminated sky. Illuminated by the Ochre Round moon, and he speeds through the hills, up and down dips, and all. Tonight it is parties all around for students who have finished major exams that is to determine their next marker in life—their jobs and their positions in society—high scores give them the option to attend medical, law, and engineering schools and lower scores are going to other disciplines. Some scores are going to do the kind of labor that we all overlook, yet without it, we all can not exist.
You realize God works in mysterious ways—truly—the lowest scores become the most valuable in this world. Under the night sky, all are partying together, falling in and out of love, young love, hearts coming together and breaking.
He picks up a group of girls and drops them off to the graduation party. They are nervous. After he drops them off, he heads a few kilometers to the next party where he picks up a young boy who bums a cigarette from the driver. The boy is dressed to the tilt, but something worries him, so he smokes like a chimney, needing the nicotine as a way to relax. And you understand this, because at one point you had smoked a pack a day.
Up and down the valley under the night stars you go.
You noticed there are a lot of beautiful Arabic women, when the next group of girls come. They are quiet because there is a foreign Chinese woman sitting next to Mohammad, perhaps a cousin, a brother, whoever it may be, but the energy shifts when you are singing to John Legend in perfect American English.
A few days later, the prettiest Arabic muslim woman approaches you at Zuwaden, a juicery for the growing younger Palestinians. She is attending school for education. You two converse about the state of affairs here. You tell her what you are up to and you ask her about what she is up to.
“The way we learn needs to change. It is still traditional. Yes, we do need to address emotional education. Yes, there is so much pain among our people and hardly any outlet to express it.”
You want to recruit her right then and there, but you know you don’t have the bandwidth, the discipline, nor the money to retain her, but your heart wants her to anchor Love Story here and you know she would enjoy it too.
You saw three orange cats today, but you are supposed to sleep right now so you don’t want to bother telling the play by play of what happened the past two days. You want to sleep but you are not asleep. Perhaps it’s the addiction you have with coffee now that has you up at night. Or perhaps you are still bipolar.
You are still bipolar.
You think of your mother’s voice: “Just sleep.”
Honor thy mother and father, the commands of the tablets guides.
So you’ll be brief.
Today the numbers popped up even more.
You woke up with numb hands but something about the dream satisfies you.
You wanted to add Aaron to the dedication alongside Rylie’s name but right when you thought about doing that you crushed into a bitter pumpkin seed in your mouth. The timing was just right, and you are paying attention now.
You’ve been so conflicted between Aaron and Rylie.
It started two days before when you were on the bus from Jerusalem to Nazareth. There was a seat lit up by the sunlight but you hesitated on sitting there because two young boys looking like they were four and seven sat right behind this chair and you know that by sitting there, you’d feel their kicking. You did not want to, but you’ve been seeing pairs of everything and the number two as well. There were two Jewish women with babies that gave you their card for you to swipe for them since the train was crowded, signs of twos, and now the two boys in the backseat.
You didn’t want to sit there because you knew the boy would kick and he did, but every time he did kick, you strangely found it comforting, like a baby kicking your belly.
Then, the Al-Alon group started the call. The topic was on letting go and letting God handle things. You told the group that it is out of necessity that you had to let go and let God handle it, because now you are on your journey handling your own while trusting in God to handle the things you know needs to be handled.
There was a question about how bad was it when you were still co-dependent. You told the groups that you got threats from two men for harassment…well, in your total history, perhaps 5 or more…but then you brought up being the loner when you were a little kid because nobody wanted to play with miss-know-it-all that wanted to dominate everybody, criticize, and tell everybody what they should do and how they should do it to make their lives better if they only listened to you.
It’s a mental disease that you were brought up with by generational bad parenting. Still, you no longer blame them because both your mom and dad had it way worse than you. In your dad’s case, a lot worse. Such is communism: Do as I say, not as I do…but as long as you do everything I say exactly as I shall see fit, then utopia would finally be achieved.
There was a man who was saying, “awww,” and that annoyed you.
No cross talk or attached feelings, yet it was there, and it annoyed you.
Now you know how both Rylie and Aaron felt when you brought on that control-prone energy to the foray of dating.
Then that same guy shared the time he spiraled into depression because the boss he was formerly working for was a bitch and he absolutely couldn’t stand her and she couldn’t stand him, and there was a new boss that he wanted to work for but that new boss couldn’t make up his own mind. They had talks about starting together but it never went through. He then thought himself stuck in an old relationship he absolutely hated, but found the silver lining in re-centering his attention on cultivating a relationship with his kids.
For some reason, you thought about Aaron. It suddenly occurs to you…what if you were approaching the entire thing with Aaron the wrong way?
You two both met in church…not just any church, but the church you consider your “home base” after attending for almost three years now, where one day you hoped to meet someone here, fall in love, and build a family like some of the young folks you see building lives and growing their families there, and that’s where you met Aaron, on the balcony when he reached out to touch Roxy.
Next, Aaron showed up. He showed up at the journaling circle, he showed up to discuss the CTO position, he showed up to eat dinner with you, he showed up to make love to you, he showed up to tell you to come back home, over and over and over again for the past 8 months, and he showed up to care after your keys when your friend was leaving Los Angeles for the next phase of her life in Puerto Rico.
Aaron chose you and was ready to move forward and build a relationship with you. He told you to move in with him and he told you he loved you. Those were not mistakes. Aaron was your plan b, but what if your plan b is God’s plan A?
What if you have made yourself the victim and Sonny the villain so now that the shoe is on the other foot and you find yourself as the other woman, you think that any man who is willing to leave a toxic relationship with the possibility of a healthier one is the villain?
What if your sponsor was right and you were trying to manipulate yourself as the villain, break your own emotional sobriety, just so you can convince Aaron to rough through the patches of something that may not be workable? What if it is truly none of your business?
Then, the next day, you were listening to Pastor Steven Furtick, and Furtick mentioned the same exact thing… “Your Plan B may be God’s plan A.”
The night before while you were packing at Beit Sahour the message through Churchome is how rejection is sometimes God’s protection.
Who rejected you?
At Beit Sahour while going through the final edits of The Producer’s Playbook, you came upon the discussing the inclination to project alchemized shadows. You realize that Rylie projected onto you his alchemized shadow.
Rylie was saying to you:
I am sick.
I need help.
Please stay away for your own good.
And there it was.
Rylie was warning you.
He was so messed up he wasn’t ready.
All you could do is pray for him.
He was going through an existential crisis.
You wonder if he’s still alive the way Green Eyes wondered about you.
Whatever it was, something told you that Rylie has already moved on. He’s either completely fallen in love, gotten married, or gotten a girl pregnant. That’s the best case scenario.
The worst case is that he is no longer alive.
You hope for the best and plan for the worst.
True to your original intention, you dedicated the Playbook to him.
Once upon a time ago, on the mountains of Angeles Forest, he had told you he thought of joining the Satanist club, and you had asked him if you could put your hands on him and pray for him. He said yes, and you closed your eyes, put your hands on his shoulder, and asked Jesus to deliver him.
You hope he is good today. You imagine he is in the recovery rooms listening to the stories just like how you started. You imagine he has visited the most updated website and is secretly proud of you. You imagine that wherever he is, he knows that you think highly of him, that you love him, and that you want the best for him, even if it is not with you.
You told him once upon a time ago that he would probably want to marry a Christian woman and he had asked you why. You told him, “because a Christian women will actually listen to her man.”
And you listened to Rylie.
You admit you are sick. Check.
You are getting help. Check.
You are staying away from him. Check.
Get some self-respect.
You’re working on that…you’re about 80% getting it. Check.
Hey progress, not perfection.
Jesus was perfect, and they still nailed him to the cross.
When Jesus Met Mary
The first night after you arrived at Nazareth, you saw the beautiful view and thought that this is the place where Jesus fell in love with Mary, where Jesus discovered and experienced carnal love.
You believe the samaritan woman is Mary Magdalene.
The first day walking Roxy to the Church of Mary
A dog started beelining it to attack the two of you.
You headed towards the barking dog and made a war cry.
The dog backed off.
You passed by another orange cat. This one stared at you and Roxy hard. The market was empty on a Saturday morning. You found this odd. Everything seems closed. You wonder if people just are not religious anymore so pay no attention to Jesus’ hometown.
You went to sit inside the church of Mary. The gardener allowed Roxy to sit next to you while you edit The Producer’s Playbook, but it was the manager that frowned and shooed you both off the premises. You took your time to leave. You find old religion quite interesting. No dogs yet god spelled backward is dog. The most humble creature is a dog.
Season of Obscurity
You listen to Pastor Steven Furtick discusses the season of obscurity before you activate and serve your purpose. You are literally in Nazareth when you hear this sermon. You realize this is not a coincidence.
You do wonder what you are doing here.
You arrive at the Basilica of the Annunciation and you go to a private pew surrounded by the orange glass to your right but straight ahead is royal blue and you kneel.
You begin crying.
Grieving for the little girl that suffered so much inside.
A good girl.
You weep for her.
You weep for all the girls in this world who suffer.
You weep for so many children who grew up surrounded by broken people.
You weep for your parents who were once children who just did not get the kind of love they deserved.
You weep for the generational trauma that the world bears.
It goes deeper than your story, the stories of people you know and love…it goes all the way to the origins of spiritual intelligence.
God died so we may be reborn again.
This is the ultimate void.
And that is the noose Mary discusses. It is the small hope inside the heart of darkness. It is the portal to heaven. The return.