I was very fortunate as a small child to be taught from the Bible by my great-grandmother. She did not read Bible stories to me. She taught directly from her King James Bible. She must have thought that preschoolers could gain an understanding from the Bible without a lot of embellishment. Her love of the Bible was contagious. I loved visiting her and listening to her teachings.
My mother raised me in an evangelical church. Every Sunday I heard a strong Gospel message after having first attended church school where there was much emphasis on learning “memory verses.” Summers were filled with Vacation Bible School. We had “sword drills” to see who could find a particular passage in the Bible the quickest.
About age ten I felt a strong conviction of sin and the need for the forgiveness of God and salvation through faith in Jesus’ shed blood on the cross. It was with tears that I walked down the aisle of the church to ask the minister if I could be baptized and received into the church. I carried my faith convictions all through high school and into the U. S Naval Academy. It was there that I discovered another aspect of the Christian faith: help for the here and now. I was over my head and struggling academically. I was lead to attend the midweek Communion service in the Academy chapel. I really did not understand the service but I felt that it sustained me in some way for the rigors that I was facing.
I was commissioned in the Navy. I married a lovely Italian beauty. I missed my honeymoon because I was called at the last-minute to train Naval Academy midshipmen on shipboard guided missiles. Soon after I received orders to go to Vietnam, not on a deploying ship, but as an in-country adviser to the South Vietnamese Navy. While there my first child was born. I did not see her until she was three months old. I had some rather lengthy deployments oversees: around Africa to the Middle East on one and circumnavigating South America on another. Fortunately during my first shore-duty after spending six years at sea my wife gave birth a second time. We had twin girls and I was not missing in action this times. It took two adults to handle them.
When I was at sea I attended Protestant services on board ship. In fact, I led some of them occasionally. My wife was Roman Catholic and attended her own church services. We decided that we needed to go to the same church now that I was on shore. We settled on the Episcopal Church which seemed life a good compromise for us. It proved more than a compromise because my wife and I grew spiritually as we broadened our understanding of the Gospel. The Holy Communion became central to my faith and worship. I did not, however, give up any of my cherished evangelical beliefs.
I served honorably but the Navy no longer needed me. I was crushed on the one hand, but on the other I felt somewhat relieved. I did not want to go to sea again. It was recommended that I should consider further sea duty if I wanted any possibility of continuing my career. Together, my wife and I decided against it.
I had little idea what type of work I wanted to do. My worry and uncertainty started to take its toll on my body. I took up Yoga and meditation to help cope with some of the stress. The Yoga proved to be valuable physical exercise. Unfortunately, this new discipline was leading my away from my core Christian beliefs. I tried to integrate Eastern mysticism with Christianity. Others have also tried it but I found that it was not working for me. I felt confused. I was seeking a deeper relationship with God but I seemed to be discovering an empty void instead.
Someone came to me out of the blue and told me that I was going in the wrong direction. This person said that God had sent him to show me the right path again. Through his leadership I experienced what some have called a “Charismatic Renewal” and others have called a “Pentecostal experience.” Either way, I can say that my heart was “strangely warmed” if I may borrow from John Wesley. I did not give up any of my evangelical or liturgical understandings of the faith. I just added to them. A friend said that I was unusual in that I went through various phases of my understanding of the church without discarding any of my former understandings. Some might say that barnacles have grown on the ship but I would say that, for me, the ship has become more seaworthy than ever.
After a few false starts in seeking a new career I settled on teaching math and science at the high school level. I did so at an Episcopal boarding school for boys. Soon I was spending as much time with talking with my students after class as I was in class. They had questions about their faith. Some were on drugs and needed deliverance. One boy was so dramatically changed that I got into trouble for it. His father was in the mental health field and wanted to know what I had done with his son. I asked him if he thought the changes were an improvement and he reluctantly said “yes.” Of course, I made none of these changes. God did. I was simply called to be a witness.
Through my work with these boarding students I felt a call into the ordained ministry. I made the mistake of going to a very fine but traditional seminary. It was good for me. It stretched my faith. Unfortunately, during my first year I was led to pray for a seminary student who was experiencing a “bad trip” on drugs. I won’t go into all the details but was branded as someone who performed an “unauthorized exorcism” in the dormitory. It was the beginning of my being treated as an outsider in the church in which I felt God had called me.
Over the years I alternated between serving in parishes and teaching high school in Christian schools. My passions have been the preaching and teaching of the Gospel and the healing and deliverance ministries. I am no longer affiliated with any particular church or denomination, though I am not against them. It is my hope that every church can have elements of evangelical, liturgical, and pentecostal traditions. Thus, the approach I take with the mobilizes in this blog is an ecumenical one. It is not my intention to emphasize one denomination or doctrine over another.
I have always wanted to integrate lively praise and the liturgical worship experience. Some of the praise leaders I served with came close but many fell into the temptation of taking the praise of God upon themselves. My wife and I were blessed to have a son late in life. He is very gifted musically. For a short glorious period before he went to college he led praise in our parish by simply offering up his own praise to God as a prayer and not as a performance. This praise was very contagious in the way that my great-grandmother’s love of the Bible was contagious. On the other hand, who can resist Bach played on a pipe organ? Certain traditional hymns have become timeless classics. The form of praise must always be secondary to the praise itself. God wants our hearts.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. (Colossians 3:16)
The “Reflections” down the right column of this blog have been gathered from my various experiences in ministry. They help tell more of my story. It is my hope that they may help stimulate some of your own thinking about preaching and ministry. Please feel free to challenge them as well as share some of your own ideas and concerns.
May our Lord bless you and your ministry as you continue to seek Him. I hope this blog may be helpful to you. Please do not hesitate to share your feedback.
Yours in Christ,