How did I get here?

For many, this is unnecessary background information on me.  Some may even consider me as self centered for thinking my own story is worthy of posting so publically.  The beauty of blogging is that I get to decide what I want to write and anyone reading this can determine to skip over it or follow along.  I decided that to provide some history on how I got to the place I am today could help someone that might stumble into a similar place.  When my journey took a sharp right turn without warning, I spent a lot of time scouring the internet for others like me trying to not feel alone.  If you don’t enjoy the story, find it boring, or just can’t relate, no hard feelings.  If you enjoy the story or even better, can relate, I’m glad you found this page, however you stumbled upon it.

At around 9 years old, an aunt offered to take me to a church camp for a week over the summer that she was working as a camp counselor.  I’m sure my parents were thrilled to have me occupied for an entire week.  I don’t remember much about that week at camp, but I do remember during the Wednesday afternoon chapel service, the pastor said something that scared me.  I couldn’t tell you what he said, but I still play the video in my head of me laying on my bunk after that chapel service waiting for dinner.  I was crying, scared, and said to God, “Please save me.  I don’t want to go to that other place. {I thought saying hell was a curse word}  I want Jesus to save me and live in my heart.”

I didn’t have the courage to go in front of the whole tent during chapel time.  Because I didn’t have the courage, I thought I did it wrong.  I felt as if all of the other kids knew what was going on and I was the weird one that was going to that other place and I didn’t want to be the impostor.  On the last day of camp, I vaguely remember the pastor asking all of the kids to raise their hands that had asked Jesus into their hearts.  I saw several hands raise so I didn’t feel left out to raise my own.  After chapel, my aunt rushed over to me and hugged me and was so excited and proud.  I didn’t really understand but I knew I did something right.

Upon returning home, my dad went to talk to the pastor about what happened to me, returned home, dumped all of his beer and alcohol down the kitchen sink and our family changed.  We were baptized as a family shortly thereafter, which I barely remember, and my Christian journey started.

I was asked to recall this story occasionally, mostly as a child or teenager.  It became an event that I still remember, almost 35 years later, even if fuzzy around the edges.  Over the following 30+ years the most consistent part of my Christian walk, was my inconsistency.  My family stayed connected to church for another 5 years until I was an early teenager.  After a painful church split and several hurt feelings, I remember our family not returning to church.  I started going to youth group occasionally with a friend.  Not as much for the lessons or my devotion to God, but more because there were cute girls and the youth group did fun things like water and snow ski.  I enjoyed the activities, but lost the point of church.

When I joined the military church became unimportant.  I spent the better part of my first 3 years in the Air Force enjoying my new freedom away from my parents.  I remember thinking about God and feeling guilty from time to time, but always reminded myself that I was saved and could come back and ask forgiveness later with no hard feelings.  I also vaguely remember at one point reading some books about other religions wondering what else was out there.  I married young at 20 years old and attended a Lutheran church on the major Christian holidays because my wife was Lutheran.  Lutheran by family, not necessarily by practice or personal commitment.  After our second son was born I decided that we better get right with God if we were going to raise these kids properly.  I convinced her why Baptist was better than Lutheran because of the emphasis on a personal relationship with God instead of just a Sunday, Christmas, or Easter relationship.  After all, that’s what I was taught, and it just made logical sense.

I need to back track a bit.  At this point, I can remember looking back on my childhood and teen years realizing that I was a Baptist for the same reason my wife was a Lutheran.  That’s what my family chose.  We had attended a couple of churches and I heard the same message.  Our denomination was right and others had it wrong.  We would be more favored in heaven than others because we were the “right religion.”  I remember being 14 or 15 years old and getting up the guts to question my dad about this concept.  I remember sitting on the couch, terrified, and asking how it was possible that our small little church was right, and all of the millions of other people were wrong.  My dad was an intimidating man.  He did not like to be questioned in his leadership.  He entertained me for a few minutes and tried to explain and show me scriptures of why we were right. I kept asking, “But what if someone else reads it different and they’re right?”  Finally he told me that I needed to stop questioning and learn to accept that not understanding but believing anyway is what faith is.

So there I was, young, married, two children, and a wife that had never been around the Baptist religion.  She started asking me questions about why.  I didn’t have the answers so I fell back on the standard answer of having a personal relationship and having faith.  The more she asked questions, I knew I had to call in the big dogs and had the pastor come over to help her understand.  Through conversation, he determined that she had unknowingly been saved at one point because she had actually asked God to help her live her life.  Therefore, he told her, she had faith without even knowing it.  I was amazed at his ability to guide her and she was proud that she had been saved on her own without a church to tell her.  She was baptized soon thereafter and we were on our way to getting right with God.  We moved around with the military a bit and found new churches each time we moved.

I was into the motions of church.  I even helped teach adult Sunday school or bible studies.  I was young but I loved knowledge.  That thirst for knowledge kept me studying and learning.  Over the years I kept attending churches, for the most part, with some gaps in between.  The common theme I noticed was that questioning the theology of a church did not do me any favors.  In my adulthood, I changed churches 3 different times because I began to question a particular theology and the pastor didn’t like my questioning, relationships would change and attending became awkward.  I eventually stopped questioning the churches, became less personally involved, and would quietly leave and find a different one.  I switched between big churches, small churches, Baptist, Non-denominational, Assembly of God, etc.  The common theme was that I never felt at home, yet never really understood why.  I would blame the size of the church, age of the congregation, wrong music, sermon or lesson content, too much leadership, not enough leadership, too many activities, not enough activities, too formal or not formal enough.  The good news is that there was always another church to try.

I even endured going through pain with churches.  I remember the pastor of one particular church regularly sharing some gossip with us about other people in the church.  He would not actually sit and gossip, but instead say something like, “Just between us, so and so is struggling with,” or “Please pray for so and so because of such and such, but keep it private.” It dawned on me that if he would share that with us, then I’m sure our private conversations were being shared.  When I questioned this, I found that I was questioning his integrity and after asking a few other members I was the outsider that didn’t belong anymore.  Time to move again.

Probably the biggest hurt I dealt with, in a church, was when I was part of a large church and met every week with a small men’s group for breakfast with one of the pastors.  We’d meet once per week for breakfast and share struggles or encouragement in our life.  I was going through a very difficult time in my marriage and would share, seeking advice and help. The group would pray for me almost every week.  The day after my wife and I separated, I called this pastor and left a message to call me back.  I did this three different times over a two week period and never heard back.  I found out several months later that the study group and pastor were told I had cheated on my wife and abandoned her, one of my sons, and turned the other son against her.  It wasn’t true, but I’m not getting into that story here.  The point is that I reached out and needed help, and even if that story was true, isn’t that all the more reason that this pastor or someone from the group should have reached out?  I was beyond hurt.  So much so that I didn’t just walk away from church, I ran and jumped feet first back into the party life.

I remarried and my wife and I cleaned up our party life and started attending church together.  We had similar beliefs so we didn’t have to argue about what to look for.  Both of us, for different reasons, typically felt unsatisfied and we kept searching around.  In two years, I think we taste-tested at least six churches, and probably more.  Four years ago my wife and I made a lifestyle choice to leave the city and plant roots in rural America.  Realizing that there weren’t a lot of churches to choose from out here, we settled on a small church close to home.  The people were open and welcoming.  What I liked the most was that the attenders seemed to be a mix of beliefs.  Even though it has a denomination, I call the church the local “non-Lutheran, non-Catholic community church.”  Because the predominant religion in this region is either Lutheran or Catholic, having a mixed body of attenders that do not fit into either of those meant a good mix of ideas.

I remember a sermon preached that I had heard numerous times in my life in different formats.  Dedicate time to spend with God each day.  This particular sermon had a guest speaker video that recalled his “rocking chair moments” with God every morning and how those rocking chair moments changed his life.  I don’t remember the speaker, but I remember walking away from the sermon not thinking much.  Unlike the numerous times I had heard that message throughout my life, this message nagged at me for days.  Almost a week later, I succumbed to the feeling, set my alarm clock 15 minutes early and started waking up just to pray.  At first I had no idea how I was going to fill 15 minutes of prayer time.  I started by reading all of the prayer requests on the back of the church bulletin.  I did that for a few days and felt invigorated.  It was easy to fill 15 minutes.  There was one request I didn’t understand.  “Pray for the protection of Israel.”  Why?  First of all, you should know that I was raised to believe that Israel was no longer physical but replaced with the “spiritual Israel,” also known as the bigger body of Christian believers.  I didn’t know it at the time, but this is called Replacement Theology.  After a few days of praying for Israel because the bulletin said to, I finally stopped and said to God, “OK, God, why should I pray for the protection of Israel?  If they really are chosen, then you’re going to take care of them.  If they aren’t chosen anymore and are meant to be punished for killing your son, then why would I pray for them?”  This happened for a couple of days.  Then, unlike anything that had ever happened to me before, I felt an urge to open my bible and search.  I found Acts 1:6, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” (ESV).  Reading that, at the moment, I was stunned.  I saw the words and they seemed to be bold and highlighted on the page.  I realized that the chosen Israel was physical.  I spent the next few days praying and reading.  Finding scripture that pointed to Israel as the chosen nation and race.  The scripture changed and I couldn’t explain it.

A lot happened over a few weeks.  I don’t remember it all, but I remember talking to my wife about this and she was surprised I would have ever believed Israel was not intended literal.  At one point she directed me to a lady at church that she had heard talk about Israel often, and in reference to prophecy.  I told her about my experience and she had tears in her eyes.  She answered a few questions, and offered me a book or CD with some teaching to point me in the right direction.  I called to talk to a trusted acquaintance whom was a traveling minister.  I didn’t know him real well, but I had heard him speak a few times and had spent enough time with him to know he had the gift of discernment.  I was relying on him to explain these new thoughts I had.  I think we had almost a two hour conversation and he encouraged me to continue learning.

I kept my new found beliefs mostly hidden.  Our family was invited to another family’s house for a Friday night fellowship.  Just a few people from the church getting together on Fridays for dinner and fellowship.  After a few times attending dinner on Fridays, the wife of that couple chose to share that for many years she had been studying and practicing a more Jewish perspective of scripture.  I almost fell out of my dinner chair.  I think most of the table was just nodding and thinking how nice of her to share.  I had chills.  I had been feeling the same thing for weeks when reading scripture.  I felt weird, alone, and afraid to share with anyone.  From that point forward we continued to attend this Friday night fellowship and the fellowship morphed into a few regular attenders that all had a heart for Israel and a few had deep interests to study the Jewish perspective on scripture and how to apply that to our lives today.

I have long since come out of the spiritual closet and anyone semi-close to me knows the basics of my position.  That caused some challenges and some discomfort, especially at a small rural, conservative church.  I don’t believe I am supposed to find a new church.  I believe God wants me to stay put for now, be humble, love others, build relationships, be part of the community, and live out my beliefs with honesty.

As far as I know, I am not Jewish, and do not intend to convert.  However, I feel such a strong pull and connection towards Jewish understanding and tradition.  I continue to take the Sabbath off and use it to study, relax, and spend time as a family.  At the time of writing this, I do not observe a formal Sabbath yet, but I hope to respectfully incorporate some Jewish traditions into our family Sabbath observance and the biblical festivals over the coming months.

I believe the scriptures were written from a Jewish perspective.  Every one of them.  I believe that Israel as a nation and the Jewish people as a group were and are chosen by God and were given an unconditional covenant.  I believe that I, as a Gentile have a place in God’s kingdom.  I believe that God provided us, as mankind, with a set of instructions on how to live life.  These instructions include clear directions on how to love Him and how to love our neighbor.  Some call this the Old Testament Law, the Law of Moses, or the Old Covenant.  I call it God’s word.  I believe these instructions apply to all of us, but not all instructions apply to all people.  God gave specific instructions to Israel as a nation, Jews as a people, even special roles to specific tribes, and even instructions for Gentiles and other nations.

This blog is my forum to process my thoughts.  I am learning.  I hope to continue to learn every day.  I hope to honor God through my words.

2 thoughts on “How did I get here?

  1. Pingback: Galatians – About the Author | Processing Thoughts

  2. Pingback: Book Review: The Hebrew Yeshua vs The Greek Jesus | Processing Thoughts

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