I was born December 26, 1951. On May 15, 2011, my wife, Kelly Rae, and I celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary. We have been blessed with 4 fantastic kids. Kristi is the oldest, followed by Tamara, Robb, and Mike and they have in turn, blessed us in many ways. Their partners in life, Mike, Lonnie, Olivia and Lucy, respectively, are wonderful. Those partnerships have resulted in 10 grandchildren so far, each grandchild unique and precious. Nine of them, Joshua, Tyler, Alexandra, Olivia, Jonathan, Andrew, Elizabeth, Abigail and Alyssa visit often, some on an almost daily basis. Owen, number 9 in the order, decided that this world didn’t seem all that thrilling so he decided to skip his time on earth this time around. We look forward to the day when we see him later on though at the risk of sounding somewhat crazy and without getting into detail, I am not sure that we haven’t already. We are blessed even more because Kristi and family live a couple of houses away from us. Robb and family are a 5 minute walk away and Tamara and family are a 10 minute drive. Only Mike and Lucy are far from us as they are currently teaching in Lucy’s home country, England though we hope to have them back in Canada by 2012.
Kelly and I reside in Windsor, Ontario, Canada where I have headed up a nonprofit group focused on spiritual growth. With some friends, we have gathered for the past 10 years on a regular basis to discuss the experiences we are each having on our spiritual journeys, journeys that have definitely involved some major changes over the past few years. If you need every “i” dotted and every “t” crossed, we are definitely not the group for you. For some people, religious or spiritual beliefs are basically carved in stone and the idea of changing them significantly borders on the inconceivable. It would be tantamount to heresy. Needless to say, we have a somewhat different outlook and mindset which this web site will definitely reflect.
Our Spiritual Journey
As youngsters, Kelly and I both attended Sunday School, in the Presbyterian and United Churches respectively. By the time we married and throughout our twenties, we were C & E Christians, attending mainly at Christmas and Easter and rarely any other time. Due to circumstances in our lives, all that changed around 1980 and we entered the world of evangelical, fundamental Christianity. To put it another way, we identified ourselves as “born again Christians.” For nearly 20 years I spent most weeks teaching one or two Bible studies at various evangelical fundamental churches in the Windsor area. In 1998 we started up Eagles’ Nest Ministries. A small fellowship group formed in 2001 and despite the fact that our spiritual path and focus have changed a great deal, that small group still meets today although the participants have changed over the years.
A Major Transition
In both 2000 and 2001 we found ourselves making major transitions in our spiritual journeys. In 2000 we attended a conference in Michigan organized to celebrate the birth of Jesus. However, this conference was in September, not December, at the time Jewish people were celebrating the Feast of Trumpets or Rosh Hoshanah. At that conference, my views concerning a number of Christian practices and beliefs got challenged. One of the major challenges involved the concept of God punishing people forever in a place called “hell” and/or the “lake of fire.” This was a concept I was never comfortable with but for the first time in my religious experience, the concept was being challenged from a biblical perspective.
In an effort to clarify my view regarding “hell,” I studied the Bible even more which to my surprise ended up creating a domino effect. Ultimately I came to the conclusion that many doctrines and practices within the evangelical, fundamental Christian world weren’t biblical. I am convinced that a lot of core Christian beliefs and the resulting practices are simply the traditions of men, some of which I have come to discover were “created” in order to control the masses and keep power and authority in the hands of certain people, primarily men. Initially this process led us out of fundamental Christianity and into what is often called the “Messianic Movement.” In 2001 we started celebrating Passover and Tabernacles and other feasts mentioned in Leviticus 23 and Saturday, the 7th day, became our day of worship. At the time it appeared to me that the Messianic Movement was more “biblical” than fundamental Christianity and if there was anything I wanted to be, it was “biblical.”
From 2000 to 2005 we had several guest speakers come to Windsor and speak to our group, some from as far away as Israel. Between 2002 and 2005 I had the opportunity to speak at Messianic conferences in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Maine and New Hampshire. I also presented seminars locally in my home province of Ontario.
I must admit that I thought the Messianic Movement would be our home for a very long time but in the end we were part of it for about 4 years. Without question those 4 years within the Messianic movement were vital and necessary to bring Kelly and I to the place where we find ourselves today. We were very blessed to become friends with some terrific people involved in that movement. Some of them, including some friends in the northeast United States, ended up travelling a path very similar to our own and it has been exciting to talk with them and see how similar, both in direction and timing, our journeys seem to be progressing. Sadly, the loss of some relationships is often the cost of a spiritual transition and transformation and that has also been part of our experience as well.
In 2004 and 2005, things really started to change again. In 2003 I went to Maine where I spoke at a Tabernacles conference. Kelly and I and 3 other people from our group made the 800 mile trip. In the week or so we were out there, we became great friends with 3 couples who were very instrumental in organizing the event. I was honoured to get invited back in 2004. This time however, I headed east with some questions about the Messianic Movement and the spiritual path I found myself on. Arriving out east I was surprised to discover that my “east coast” friends had the same questions. When I made a 3rd trip east in 2005, the questions had only intensified. Again I found that my friends were experiencing the same thing and had the same questions. When I returned home in October of 2005, I went from actively speaking, teaching and participating in the Messianic world, and to some degree the evangelical, fundamental Christian world, to doing nothing publicly. Instead I devoted myself to reading and studying, focusing on the issues that had risen over the past year or two. It didn’t take long before Kelly and I found our spirituality undergoing some major changes once again.
My Library - The Best Illustration
Looking at the books on my bookshelf is probably the best illustration of the changes we have experienced. Prior to 2001 my bookshelves were lined with almost 100% evangelical, fundamental Christian books. Then more and more books from a Messianic Jewish point of view started to appear on the shelves. Now my library has went through another major transition. Books by Eckhart Tolle, Neale Donald Walsch, Wayne Dyer, Caroline Myss, Thick Nhat Hanh, Don Miguel Ruiz, Deepak Chopra, Gregg Braden, Dan Millman and James Redfield have taken up a prominent place in my library. Many of these authors are of course located in the self-help or new age sections of bookstores, a fact that may cause some consternation among my more evangelical Christian and Messianic friends.
You will also find books by “non-fundamental” Christians such as Marcus Borg and Bishop John Shelby Spong. To make matters even “worse,” I now have books on the Sacred Feminine, the Mayan calendar and in fact, have books on topics that would be considered off-limits by many within fundamental Christianity such as astrology, I Ching and Wicca. I must admit that if you had told me years ago that I would go from celebrating Christmas and Easter, to Tabernacles and Passover and now would be open to celebrating more nature based holidays such as the solstices and equinoxes, I would have never believed it. Life is very strange.
One thing that didn’t change was my belief that the teachings of Jesus are phenomenally important so I still have lots of books that deal with the teachings of Jesus although many of them present a much different “Jesus” than the one portrayed by fundamental Christianity.
How does someone go from a library filled with exclusively evangelical, fundamental Christian books to a library much more diverse and definitely far more inclusive when it comes to different faiths and points of view? How do I go from a “faith” that was so black and white that you were either in or out, headed for heaven or headed for hell to where I now find myself which is a spirituality that is much more inclusive and far more willing to look within a variety of religious and spiritual traditions in an effort to discover the “truth?” This web site is my attempt to share with you that journey. Each article on this web site is a snap shot of our journey to discover a relevant and vibrant spirituality through which we can directly experience “God.” To our surprise, it has led us down a very different path, a path that we never expected. As I said, if you had told me 5 years ago that I would be spiritually where I now find myself, I might have suggested that you were out of your mind.
Are You Still A Christian?
That question has come up on more than occasion and it is certainly a fair question. I have no doubt that many within fundamental Christianity or the Messianic world would not see Kelly or I as Christians anymore. I understand very well why those people would come to that conclusion. I may very well have come to the same conclusion a few years ago.
Before addressing the question directly, it would be nice to get to the place where we lose the need to label people. I say that with some sense of hypocrisy since in this article and throughout this web site I do the same thing, i.e. labelling people as fundamental Christians. The need to label others seems to be an obsession within humanity. I remember being in a store in the Jewish quarter of old Jerusalem back in 2002. The store owner asked me to “label” myself regarding my beliefs so he could identify who I was and slot me into the appropriate place within his world view. I struggled to do it then and nothing has changed.
Am I a Christian? Certainly not if you define a Christian by a set of creeds or doctrines found within most evangelical, fundamental Christian denominations or within the Messianic Movement. But... if you ask me “Am I trying to follow the teachings of Jesus?” my answer would be “Yes” although I am very aware of the far too many times I miss the mark. My selfishness, insecurities, fears, etc. surface far too often and take over and sometimes, despite knowing that there is a better way, I still find myself acting in ways that create pain and suffering in others as well as myself. One of the great quotes that I read was this - Only man would build something like the Empire State Building and then throw himself off of it. Though I hope it is much less than in the past, I find that I still create and build needless and self-inflicted suffering in my world. I still build the building and then jump off of it far too often.
If a Christian is one who is doing the best he or she can to follow the teachings of Jesus within this physical realm, if it is embracing all of my humanness including my “weaknesses” while pursuing divineness, then I would say that I am a Christian. That doesn’t mean that I have a monopoly on the truth or the path to God. I am simply doing the best I can to find a spiritual path that enables me to experience the transformation that will enable me to live as Jesus lived, to understand the teachings of Jesus in a new way that makes that transformation possible.
As I said to our group...
“When I see you in me and me in you and when I can see God in both of us... that is true transformation. When you can do the same, we can experience oneness, peace and unity. When I see the least lovable person in my life as the one who needs the most love... that is true transformation. When I see the dirtiest, smelliest, street person and realize that God is within that person just as much as anyone else on this planet... that is true transformation!”
“When, Lord,” the righteous will reply, “did we see Thee hungry and feed Thee; or thirsty, and give Thee drink? When did we see Thee homeless, and give Thee a welcome? or ill-clad, and clothe Thee? When did we see Thee sick or in prison, and come to see Thee?” But the King will answer them, “In solemn truth I tell you that in so far as you rendered such services to one of the humblest of these my brethren, you rendered them to myself.”