Welcome to my blog. I thought I would never write one but I always thought I should. I know there is a cacophony (I’ll try not to use weird words too much) of voices out there. My hope is to be real here and hopefully offer some encouragement along the way to the reader no matter what their journey looks like.
Every human being is a blend of identities and priorities. I am no exception and bring a variety. Here is the jist of what I think it will look like as of this writing. Catholicism, social work, Protestantism, family, marriage, politics and cults/religion recovery.
The category that I am the most engrossed in right now is Catholicism. For those of you that have known me for some time this may come as a shock: I will be formally entering the Catholic Church next Saturday night. I have come to this after several months of prayer and study.
I should probably take a step back and share my background so you can appreciate how I got here.
I was raised in a suburban neighborhood in the Portland, Oregon area in the 70’s and 80’s. I was not spiritually formed in any formal manner by my parents. Despite that, my cousin shared with the message of Jesus when I was 11. I prayed “The Sinners Prayer” with her and in that experienced having Jesus in my heart. I was glad but had to wait for a few more years before I was in any formal church setting.
From 8th grade to 12th grade I was in the Foursquare Church. It was a good time of formation about the scriptures and the work of the Holy Spirit. I will always remember the summer that my youth group went through an intensive study of Romans 6,7, and 8. It was great seeing the kingdom of God as a tapestry regarding salvation. That was a great scene to center myself at times. I say at times because I had two other sides to me.
One was hellfire and brimstone. If holiness in God was real to me, then it applied to anyone else I met. And if my manner of preaching came off too strong then that was their problem (I say this with no pride). There was even a time where my youth pastor told me that I stabbing people with the Word of God and thinking I was doing God a favor.
Another side was being quite carnal when I would not get my way. I regularly disrespected my parents and justified it by saying that they did not respect me. Also, to fill the insecurities of my self-esteem deficit I pursued relationships that were not healthy.
To top it off on the insecurity mix I had learning disabilities growing up that were not addressed holistically by school staff or my parents. It was a thorn in my flesh that I did not see with grace until far into adulthood.
So along came “Brad”. In my senior year I was signed up for the army to please my parents. I was compared to my brother who had demonstrated with his mainstream brain real stability and was ”on the ball” academically.
An older man that came into my life used very spiritual terms about leading a spiritual life and gained a following among several impressionable young men and women like myself. In the developing years the group moved incrementally to Longview, Washington with a very communal intent. The movements that we borrowed from included Word of Faith, Toronto Blessing, Discipleship leanings and several home-made doctrines that exalted Brad with Messianic overtones. During that time I got married and had three kids. After 7 years as a disciple of Brad it got really weird. I want this blog to be family friendly so I will spare the reader much of the details but suffice it to say that people were hurt, burnt out, frivolously excommunicated and even compartmentalized from each other on sharing what was said.
Suffice it to say, the weirdness of that last year was not a help for my marriage. As one of the twelve apostle (yep, weird) I commuted far from Portland since we had moved back so I could be in the meetings. I knew the marriage was not going well so we went to Brad for marriage counseling.
His advice was as follows.
1: There was too much of the “religious spirit” in my life. I should “put the bible on the back burner for now.”
2:Stop prayer for my personal needs but step up my prayer life.
3: Stop leaning on others in the Body of Christ.
The overall warning was that if I do not apply these principles I would not fit any longer in this fellowship and could lose my marriage. When my ex left me the second in command told me “you were warned”. And I believed him fervently.
A month later my then-wife left me for another man. Taking out children ages 5, 3 and 9-months old. I was devastated and fell into a deep depression and nearly lost my job due to its symptoms. Through a good church and several friends both old and new I got my feet back under me. For a year I carried my bible around with me all the time but made sure that it was not loaded with commentaries. I wanted to simplify my life.
My church journey for the next several years had a swing on being in touch with God in a holistic sense. That church that helped me was great for a while but after three years I had a very toxic incident with a pastor that rivaled and maybe in some ways surpassed the spiritual authoritarian abuse of Brad. I did not want to live impulsively any more about any decisions I made in the Body of Christ. So I left a year later. I went to a presbyerian church for a year and then discovered Imago Dei Community.
Since I gave you a spoiler about being Catholic, you may mistakenly think that was my first Catholic experience. It was not. It was an Emergent Church style church that had a motto of taking “The whole gospel to the whole person to the whole world.” It did a good job at that actually. It avoided being politically partisan, worshipped God with art as well as music, urged people to downsize their Christmas shopping and use the difference to help the poor. It was good stuff and to this day I would highly recommend them as a protestant church in the Portland area. And by the way, Imago does lent.
At this point I should share a minute about breadcrumbs. In relation to where I am now, I can see in the past how the Lord was giving me some hints about the Catholic Church. In Portland we have The Grotto Monastery. It is a great place with an upper and lower level to visit. By the time my ex-wife left me I had visited that place for spiritual reflection with friends ironically including Brad. But the day that my family was leaving I was drawn there for its tranquility. In the recent prior years I was getting the Whore of Babylon line fed to me by my cult including even the Protestant expression. But I went there anyway despite not being really deprogrammed yet because I was too hungry for God. I saw a wood sculpture that represented Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness and felt sensed God’s leading that living in relationship with God comes down to love, trust and respect. And He still says so today.
So after several years of going to Imago I met Summer. She was playing a gig with a mutual friend of ours on SE Hawthorne in Portland. She had an angelic voice and played guitar. I spoke with her during the break and we hit it off. It was not until over a year later that we spoke again on the phone due to a ministry she was doing. It took a while to connect her face with the voice. By the time I got off of the phone I thought “I wonder what our kids would look like?” Creepy and cute at the same time on my part I know.
We were married a year later. She took onto my kids well and I did likewise with her brother, sister and two sets of parents. Also in these years, with endless thanks to Summer for her encouragement I have earned a Bachelors in Social Work. I will be starting the advanced standing track for Masters in Social Work in late May at Arizona State University. Yeah, that’s right. Sunny Arizona. Really awesome here.
Another breadcrumb is my twenty- year old daughter Alayna. She told me she was converting to The Catholic Church. I thought that was cool since they ascribe to the Council of Nicea like Protestants. Then several months later two more things happened. I became obsessed out of nowhere with The Lord’s Prayer. I came away with a desire for a fuller understanding of God’s kingdom and worship.
Along came Scott Hahn. I was flipping through the channels one night and found an engaging theologian who pointed to Jesus being the fulfillment of the scriptures like I had not seen in a long time. He was interesting enough that I bought one of his books. Then another. In a month I went to my first mass. I have been plunging deeper ever since. I am even praying about a ministry in the Catholic Church called the permanent diaconate. I am really excited to learn.
As for all of what God has for me, God knows. But I am optimistic that in the days ahead where there area challenges and joy that God will continue to be real to Summer, Judah, Meriella and I Those are the two kids we have together. And hopefully in the walk of faith ahead of me I will see the world through their childish eyes as well.