Wednesday, August 28, 1996

Church Search, Week 16

Week 16: St. Francis' Episcopal Church (4th visit)

I've pretty much stopped church-shopping, as can be seen from my church choices the last few weeks. I'm just so tired of it. I've visited 9 or 10 churches. Isn't that enough?

Tuesday, August 27, 1996

Leaving Wicca further behind

Sunday afternoon I spent the time going through various Pagan things and getting rid of them: I cut my tarot cards in half, threw out my dried flower crowns from Beltane, ripped up all the pages from my Book of Shadows that I've written on (and threw out the rest of the book that hadn't been written in), buried my cords from Mystery Circle, my initiation, and my measure, and burned my dedication and initiation papers. Busy, busy, busy, huh? But after my baptism Saturday, these things had to be done.

A couple further comments regarding the breaking of the bottle {at my baptism}. First, right after I broke it I remained squatting there at least a full five seconds, letting the enormity of what I had done come over me. What had I just done? Why did I break this bottle, this symbol of my Wiccan initiation?

Second, I went looking for it later. I asked Bruce where he'd thrown it out. I had to see it. Knowing it was broken, hearing it break, wasn't enough. Bruce seemed to understand.

Monday, August 26, 1996

Got dunked!

Getting dunked {on Saturday} was pretty cool. I liked being baptized. "Spirit," Bruce said, "I baptize you in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit." And I held my nose, went under, and came up.

Originally Bruce said I would be baptized between 1 and 4, but we got the morning part of the meeting done early, so Bruce proposed we do the baptism before lunch. It was about 20 minutes to 12 when we sat down in the living room and he introduced me and my story. Then I told my conversion story, and explained about the bottle. Bruce said he wanted to do the bottle-breaking first - death before new life.

Then everyone gathered out by the pool, and Bruce and I changed clothes. We went poolside. I showed everyone the bottle before placing it in a paper bag, and that in a Hefty plastic bag. I squeezed some of the air out, found the bottle by feel, and tapped it with the hammer a couple times so I wouldn't miss when I hit it for real. Tap, tap, smash. A good hit. The bottle broke. The wine bottle from my initiation was no more.

Then Bruce said a prayer over me. He mentioned something about being released from any vows I had taken, and coming against any demonic influence. He said more, but that's all I can remember.

After the prayer, we went into the pool. He told me to hold my nose. He said the invocation and dunked me. As I came up people applauded, and again as I climbed out of the pool. I had given Amber my camera and she took pictures of me, as I took pictures of Joanne at her baptism in the Merced River.

Then I changed clothes into my swimming apparel - a t-shirt and shorts. (My baptism clothing was the pink dress my sister had handmade for me.) Pretty soon lunch was served, then everyone played volleyball, lounged in the sun, or just hung out.

I was the first to break this by going into the pool - by the diving board. Pretty soon others joined in. Amber made a joke about going off the diving board of grace into the swimming pool of eternal salvation.

Somehow Bruce started teaching me how to dive, and I did okay. I was doing things that actually resembled dives, and a few were what I might classify as "pretty good" - clean entry and such. I practiced for quite a while and eventually stopped holding my nose, diving in with both arms in front of me.

Too soon it was dinner time. Then we had our evening meeting where we talked about the details of student outreach, I was being handed fliers just like everyone else, and participating in the discussion like everyone else. I was being expected to get involved, and I was talking as if I was going to. Somewhere in the midst of all this it hit me: I was one of them! I am an accepted part of this group. I belong to InterVarsity. I belong. It was a revelation. The walls that had been slowly dissolving suddenly fell away. I was no longer on the outside looking in. I was in.

Saturday, August 24, 1996

poem: Cleansing Waters

Cleansing Waters

How could I have thought He wouldn't ask for more,
Us in the boat as He rows from the shore?
The land now recedes, midnight becomes noon,
Dark becomes light, the sun takes the moon.

Crosses and stars, other symbols so grand,
Water and fire, sunlight on the land.
Sun becomes Son, and the moon, El Shaddai,
Symbols are real, and symbols don't lie.

The hammer that nailed is now the hammer that breaks
The past from the future, erasing mistakes.
The shattering hurts, breaking the past,
But Father, Son, Spirit--these things will last.

(A poem about my baptism.)

Friday, August 23, 1996

Leaving the Circle, take 2

I had a good long time to chat with H. in the car between Walnut Creek BART and his home, as I had talked with R. quite a bit on the phone earlier.

When we got there they started working on dinner. As I talked with R. her first reaction was anger. Getting past that was saddness. She was afraid of losing me as a friend and "sister." I comforted her in the kitchen as she got weepy-eyed, and we hugged a long hug before I left. The three of us talked a long time as dinner was cooked and eaten. They finally gave me a handwritten leave of absense certificate, near as I can tell the first of its kind.

H. drove the car as R. and I sat in the back seat and talked more. I think we left the house around 11. By the time I got BART over to the City it was about a quarter after 12. I took the 38 to Van Ness and knew I'd have a long wait for the 90 Owl. BY sometime after one the bus still hadn't come. I don't know when it did come, but I think I got home about 10 minutes to 2.

I'm still kind of tired today.

Bruce said something regarding my experience under the oak tree at AW. I had told him how God wouldn't go away after I told Him to. Bruce said that he wouldn't go away because (since I was a Christian) I had invited Him into my life. If I wasn't Christian, Bruce said, He would have gone away.

Thursday, August 22, 1996

Talking about Baptism, take 2

Bruce picked me up at 12 for our pre-baptism meeting. We went to his house and he proceded to ask questions and I proceded to spill my guts to him about the last 5 months or so of my life. We had lunch and talked. Some thing that I said about Paganism and rituals and the fun I have must have prompted him to ask this question: am I planning on going to any more rituals? The implication here is if I'm going to completely forsake Paganism - no Pagan activities. I said I didn't know. There must have been something about the question or the wau that he asked it that told me it had a lot to do with my baptism. My answer was not the right one to get his approval, but it was honest. What it boils down to, he said, was that unless I was ready to completely forgo all Pagan activities he wouldn't baptize me.

I was hurt. But I could see his point. He said he had been so willing to baptize me before because he thought I was willing for forswear it. He said he'd give me some time to think it over and if I could say I was willing to give it all up by Saturday morning, he would baptize me. He said to call him tomorrow regarding the meeting I had with H. and R. tonight to let him know how it went.

I was ready to give it all up right there - painful, yes, but I want to be baptized. And pride enters the oicture. I have already told everyone it would happen. If I backed out now I'd lose face. I told him I would give him his answer tomorrow when I called him about H. and R. We left about 3 and he dropped me off at a 29 bus stop to head home. I went home. Then I cried for a while about all I was being asked to give up before getting myself together and leaving for the meeting with H. and R.

Sunday, August 18, 1996

Church Search, Week 15

Week 15: Vineyard (3rd visit)

This is a really intense spiritual place. They lay heavy emphasis on prayer, intercessory and otherwise. Walking in there really brings out issues for me, and it feels like there's a real battle going on - it intensifies the spiritual battles in my own life. After 2 weeks of Vineyard I'm ready to go back to St. Francis' quiet liturgy.

Friday, August 16, 1996

Talking about Baptism

I had called Bruce (with IV) a day or two ago, and last night he returned the call. Unfortunately it was during the movie {I rented "Jesus Christ Superstar"} and the volume was so high I didn't know until after. I called him about 11.

The reason I had called him was to discuss baptism, so we discussed it last night. He said IV was having a party at his parents' house on the 24th and they had a pool. Would it be okay if I was dunked in the pool? I said sure. I asked Carlos yesterday for that day off, and he said he'd take me off the schedule, so I should be able to go. Wow! Eight days off. {I think I mean eight days until the baptism.}

Baptism will mean much more than what I know it symbolizes. It will be a beginning yes, but an ending, too. Just as my Wiccan initiation was the outward sign of something that had already happened, so will this be. In a very real way, I gave up my initiation at my conversion. But I wasn't willing to let go of it then. Now I am. Baptism will be the end of my initiation. I also, therefore, need to find some symbolic way of getting rid of the empty bottle of red wine that was used at my initiation. I would prefer to do it by breaking, but this probably won't be possible at the peoples' house. That bottle has been a symbol in my life for 3 years. I've had it 'on display" whenever possible during that time.

Sunday, August 11, 1996

Church Search, Week 14

Week 14: Vineyard Christian Fellowship

Pretty cool. During the service when they said anyone desiring prayer could come up after the service, I felt like I should go, but couldn't imagine myself actually doing it. But at the end of the service, they said something like it, phrasing it differently or something. I saw Lila get up and walk to the front. I decided to follow, and walked up front. A couple people with a prayer team prayer for me. So it happened anyway, even though I couldn't imagine it.

We (Lila, America, and a woman's I've never met before) arrived really late, missing most of worship. But we caught the last couple songs. I could feel myself wanting to raise my hands. (It's very common at Vineyard so I don't have to feel weird.) I did raise my hands a little, first my left and then my right.

Last night there was a massive power outage at about 3:50 or 3:55 p.m. (It was spotted over 9 states, and even parts of Canada and Mexico.) I had just gone down to the bakery to get the dirty dishes and bring them upstairs. I was in the elevator, just me and the dishes. I hit the emergency stop switch to take a couple second breather. (I was having a bad day and was in a rotten mood.) At the exact moment I did that, the power completely failed. The light in the elevator went out and there I was in complete darkness between two floors. Flipping the switch between stop and run did nothing. I was trapped.

Looking up and down I could see a little light, but inside the elevator I could see nothing. The darkness was scary. I called out...

{The entry leaves off here and does not resume.}

Wednesday, August 07, 1996

Leaving the Circle

Talked to R. last night. We had a long talk. I told her I needed to talk to her and H., but it needed to be done face to face. She managed to guess it had to do with me leaving the circle. I told her I wanted to speak with them about going inactive. It hurt her, as I knew it would, but I'm in the untenable situation of having to hurt these people I care for. We need to set up a time for the three of us to sit down and talk. R. asked if I would still be friends with her and H.; I said of course. They are my friends, regardless of what religion I am.

Sunday, August 04, 1996

Church Search, Week 13

Week 13: Cornerstone

Protestant church. Similar worship style to Vineyard, with slightly lower energy. Smaller congregation. The worship seemed shorter than at Vineyard and some of it was done sitting instead of the higher energy of standing that is found at Vineyard. I came here because I met a woman named Marga on the bus one day when I was headed to a Bible Study, I think one at Mike's house. I like Vineyard better.

Saturday, August 03, 1996

Telling Dad I'm Christian

When Dad was here visiting on Thursday we got some time alone and had a long talk. I told him everything about the last few months along religious lines, and how I became a Christian. I told him about the concert, the dreams I had - everything I could remember. He was very understanding. Then he said something that took me completely off guard. He said, "You give Christianity a good name."

A couple more comments: today is my three month anniversary of becoming Christian. Kinda cool, huh? Second, and related, I was going through the old notes between Charles and me. I found a note from June 3rd that said I had just started working as a dishwasher and things were find, but that it might just be the novelty of it all. The note said that if I were still doing my job without complaining in two months, then I might believe that God had really changed something. Well guess what? Today marks two months exactly! Don't you love coincidences? And I'm still plugging along doing the job. Maybe God really has touched my life.