Thursday, June 27, 1996

Meeting with the Pastor

Talked to the pastor at the Baptist church today (the one across the street from the UUs). He was pretty understanding when I talked about how I can't commit to God 100%. He gave a couple practical suggestions. First, that I should start in the NT with Matthew and read 5-10 chapters a day (because I have time since it's summer). He also recommended their discipleship program, where I would meet with someone for one hour once a week for study and prayer. They took my name, address, and phone and said someone would be in contact within a week. The whole meeting lasted, give or take, about 45 minutes. Oh, the discipleship program is 12 weeks long.

It was nice to talk with the pastor, but I have to keep my church searching to myself. I don't feel drawn to join their church. I feel drawn to St. Mary's Catholic Church, and I really like the Episcopals - all the Catholic ritual without the communion restrictions and some of the dogma. Yet I'm continually drawn to St. Mary's and I don't know why.

I also talked to the pastor today about the two dreams I had, about the concert, and a little about my Paganism. It was good that he wasn't condemning of me.

Tuesday, June 25, 1996

Gifts from God, Gifts from Them

Both Wicca and Christianity have something to offer me. On Friday at the Intervarsity going-away dinner for the Peterson's, I made contact with Melissa and had a good chat with her. On Sunday at NROOGD someone left behind a bottle of good wine {as in, a perfectly good bottle of wine, not an expensive bottle} and no one claimed it after the "potluck." It was also unopened. As one of the last people to leave I snagged it. Then I got drunk that night. So I was given something by both. God gave me a gift, and the gods gave me a gift. And I was only a teeny bit hungover - and a bath cleared most of that.

Monday, June 24, 1996

Knowing Too Much

I used to say that "I know too much to ever be a Christian again." This is precisely what is making faith right now a difficult proposition. As a wannabe scholar I know too much. I can't take the Bible literally, and much of what must be taken on faith is, well, hard to believe: the virgin birth, the resurrection.

Sunday, June 23, 1996

Church Search, Week 7

Week 7: St. Francis' Episcopal Church
St. Mary's for 7:30 a.m. services

This church was much more ritualized that St. Peter's. It was also larger, with real pews. (St. Peter's has been meeting in a "basement" room as their sanctuary was damaged in the '89 quake. So they have chairs rather than pews.) Anyway, when they were going through the motions of the Eucharist, I noticed all the way from my pew that they were using pita bread! I've seen so many different things used for communion - crackers, english muffins, "Catholic" wafers, and now pita bread.

They also had the Book of Common Prayer available for use in the pews, alongside the hymnals. Oh, and the service included reciting the Nicene Creed, which I was able to follow and declaim as it's in the Prayer Books. I don't think I've ever said it before (possibly at Catholic Easter, but I think not), and I don't think I've seen any of the Episcopal churches I've been to use it. It was a nice surprise to see it here. A real plus.

Communion went well. Everyone goes up front and kneels near and in front of the altar (at a "handrail"/railing). Everyone got a bit of pita bread, and a sip of wine from the cup. It seemed to be a blush or white wine.

They also had a kneeler of a sort; rectangular boxes with (insufficient) padding and covered with reddish velvet.

This church was high on ritual and very Catholic-y. I mostly liked it.

After seeing the different between this church and St. Peter's last week, I"m beginning to realize the good points to church shopping. Mostly, I'm seeing lots of different Christian denominations, and within the Episcopal tradition, I'm seeing different ways of practicing the same tradition. In a way, it's all very exciting and is a learning experience most people never get. This is God's gift to me in my church search. I also get to meet lots of people and talk with them, which is two edged. They're all really cool people to meeting and talk to, but most of them I will never see again. But at least I finally am seeing something good come out of this search.

Yesterday was NROOGD's Summer Solstice in Live Oak Park. It was okay, but really short. I met B. in West Oakland and we went together. We got there a little late. They had already started the meeting dance. It was a small crowd. E. (from AW) and her hubby (?) D. were there. It was not the best of experiences and certainly didn't help my Christian faith any.

My faith is doing a little better today. St. Mary's this morning prepared me for St. Francis' Eucharist. So I got to take communion which is good, because I was wondering if I should with my faith so low.

Listening to Sandi Patti's Le Voyage take as a Christian is a slightly different experience than as a Pagan. The songs also take on a different meaning as my life changes - the words still apply, but in other ways. The song Home Will find You used to give me hope about coming to SF. Now I can see it as a song about finding a church home. And with Long Look I can see that I got my long look when I moved here. That look ended March 30th with the concert; God showed me what lay ahead, then pushed me back down the hill toward that. In No Place To Lay My Head I can see how I have no place - no church home, and I'll be moving soon. I got my long look. Now I'm on the move again.

Friday, June 21, 1996


America invited me on Thursday to a Christian thing on Friday. (It was a farewell dinner for Mike and Cindy Peterson.) I don't really know them, but I figured the dinner was a good opportunity to meet people. I had to skip the Gardnerian Solstice to go to this, since they did theirs one day late, yesterday. But I talked extensively there with a woman named Melissa, and if God wills we'll get together and talk sometime.

While God will not abandon me, He will let me suffer the consequences of my actions of such things as going to AW. When my faith ebbs due to Pagan events and contacts, He will let me experience the consequences to teach me that I shouldn't do it.

My faith it at a very low ebb right now and my interest in Wicca increases in direct proportion to my faith ebbing. I won't give up on Jehovah that easily because He's put effort toward me, but I can't deny a strong pull back. I could feel when I prayed last night that God won't give up on me because I'm still involved in Wicca, but He will let me suffer the consequences of Wiccan involvement. It is that that I am suffering now. To rescue me so easily and restore my faith would be to encourage me to go to rituals - God will rescue me so it doesn't matter what I do. So I must suffer this.

Wine can bring out reason. What has this God given me but hurt? Why should my only reason for following Him - love - be enough? He claims He's the answer, but He's not enough. Yet He gives me nothing else and expects me to follow Him?

Sunday, June 16, 1996

Church Search, Week 6

I never would have begun looking into liturgical traditions (like Catholic and Episcopal) if I hadn't had the assignment in my Christian History class to go to a Catholic Easter service. Additionally, meeting Paul must have had an effect. So now I am looking at liturgical traditions.

Week 6: St. Peter's Episcopal Church

They had the communion wafers like I've seen at the Catholic Church. We dipped them in the wine and then ate them. I thought about Jesus' sacrifice for me. I don't like the "dipping," though is worked great this week because I'm still sick and couldn't drink for the cup. Some people drank from the cup (before the rest of us gathered for the "dipping" communion). I don't know if that just for the clergy and choir, or if it's for anyone who doesn't mind drinking from the communal cup.

Sunday, June 09, 1996

Ancient Ways, Day 5

The main ritual last night (put on by NROOGD) was great! A wonderful ritual with one of the best post-ritual highs I've ever been on. So high. How am I supposed to leave this all behind to follow Jehovah? He asks too much. The festival, the ritual, the people, the energy. I'm just beginning to get known in the community. How can I leave it all behind?

Saturday, June 08, 1996

Ancient Ways, Day 4

Had my picture taken today with D., G., and R. of Hole in the Stone. (They're here all the way from Denver.) I first met them Wednesday (?) and one of them told me they really liked my Coming Home article. She also said that my Pagan Standard Time article will appear in the next (Summer) issue.

Talking with someone in the kitchen area today they were talking about Jehovah and other gods. They were saying that Jehovah was just one god, one who wanted all power, and no power for any other god. How can I leave the Goddess behind? She's real. She loves me. How can I worship a God that would not let me worship Her? She doesn't care if I worship others, but He does. He's not being very fair.

Whatever your philosophy, Christian or not, I'm a walking target, especially at this gathering. The orthodox Christian viewpoint would say that as a new Christian, walking into a Pagan gathering is just asking for trouble from demons that would have me remain Pagan and keep me from the One True God. The non-Christian who still believes in demons who simply want to prevent us from growing spiritually would say that I am therefore a walking target as I try to take the next step. Either way, I'm a walking target.

Everything here makes me question whether I'm Christian or not, and whether I even want to be. The Goddess and God are real. How can I deny Them to follow a God that would deny Them? How can a God that would usurp all power for Himself be a good God? How can I worship and love That? So am I a Christian now? Where do my loyalties lie?

Tried talking with God down by the river. I know He heard at least part of what I said. I came to the center of the problem I think. Between being here and the conversation with the person in the kitchen area earlier today, I have lost my faith. I will need God's help to come back to Him. I can't do it alone. I told Him that. I asked Him to draw close, to be with me. He denied me this. I think He's angry. I don't like worshipping such an angry God. I told Him that I can't worship or love Him right now. I have lost my faith. The conversation in the kitchen made it so I can't go back to Him on my own. I have lost my faith. When I asked Him to help me, the only impression I received was to read the Bible. Whatever happens, if God is going to come get me I will have to be an active participant.

Psalm 88:18
Psalm 35:3
2 Corinthians 12:9
2 Corinthians 12:10

Friday, June 07, 1996

Ancient Ways, Day 3

I am also dealing with feelings of guilt and betrayal toward the Pagan community. How can I just leave? Not only am I starting to get better known, which strokes my ego, and there is so much work to do, and all my friends are in this community and they are good people, but how could any loving God send all these fine people to hell? How could any loving God send all non-Christians to hell? No. That kind of God is unacceptable.

Why do I not do the right thing and go back and reconcile with Him (assuming I ignored the above issues)? Because I want to have some fun and don't care if it's at the expense of taking advantage of His love. I want to be in circle; I want to do ritual; I want to worship in the old ways I know. And if He doesn't like it? Tough shit. He loves me; He'll take me back, if I choose to go back. Right now it's a choice of my will. I want to have fun. The old ways are fun. I want the old ways. Besides, it's a feeling of power to tell God to go away, to turn your back and walk away, to snub God.

Now to entertain for just a moment that Jehovah is the one true God and that all the Pagans here are being deceived. If that were true, then walking in here as a Christian, especially wearing my cross, and cross and pentacle, necklaces would instantly make me a target of the spiritual opposition. Also, their work would be very easy in this atmosphere. The mere fact of being surrounded by so many Pagans does all the hard work - effects that I was able to fight off in the city. Of course, all the spirits would do all they could to "unsave" me. Spiritually, I would be a major target.

Last night on the phone Charles said not to worry - once saved, always saved. I don't know what he means by this.

Through it all I can feel God out there just waiting for me to come back. I know if I called on Him to come back into my life and be taken back by Him, that He would be there. I just know it. He's...sad that I've gone away. But He knows I have no intention of coming back right now. I intend to steer clear of Him for the rest of the Festival. If I talk to Him it will only be to get mad.

Charles was right about how He'll listen. I was afraid last night He wouldn't listen if I talked to Him, but He did. And after, instead of the feeling of Him being so far, He felt nearer. It was a maddening, loving kind of nearness so I told Him to get lost. When He didn't, I walked away, for all the good that did. Even today, He seems (to me) nearer and less angry than He seemed before our talk. Why, I can't say. It's not a real close nearness, but He's not far off, and He's waiting.

I told someone regarding what's going on that I know what I should be doing, am not doing it, and am going to have a good time not doing it. R.G. asked, "What should you be doing?" Just then I overheard something outside talking to someone else - "Going home." I thought it was funny after Charles' advice last night to leave.

I did something this evening that I don't remember ever doing before - I left a ritual while it was still going on. It was CAW {Church of All Worlds}, and they had just invoked the deities, six of them. They started with Lilith - bad enough for me - and progressed through Pan, Aphrodite, Bacchus, and one other I can't remember (no problem with any of these). Then the clincher - they invoked Jesus! Not only that, but (of course) they played down the guilt and shame stuff they say he preached, and played up the love. If that wasn't enough, they spoke of the scene where he turned over the money changers in the temple saying that he was a "tax rebel." Mark 12:13 and Luke 20:20-16 are two places where Jesus clearly says that people should pay taxes. It's the story of the coin with Caesar's picture on it. "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's. Give to God what is God's." Calling Jesus a tax rebel, for me, crossed the line over into heresy. They invoke Jesus at a Pagan ritual, then completely misrepresent Him. I picked up my belongings, cut a doorway, and split.

After I left the ritual, I ended up talking to J. (of hospitality) for a good three hours. Talking with him oddly made me feel better. I know now that I came to Ancient Ways to say good-bye, to experience it all once more before turning to Him. I will go to the main ritual tomorrow, but it will not be out of rebellion against God; it will be doing the old, familiar, fun things one last time. My rebellion ended tonight. I'm willing to go back to Him, if He will take me, but first I have to finish the Festival. I'm sure He's not even happy about the form (going to rituals) of my good-bye, so I will not begin formal prayers again until the Festival is over. I'm tired now, but perhaps I will speak with Him tomorrow.

Thursday, June 06, 1996

Ancient Ways, Day 2

First complete day.

There is more to what is going on than mere dissonance. I only wish it were that simple. What is happening is so obvious that I can't believe it never occurred to me that it would happen - being among all these Pagans, back at this Festival, is bringing back so many memories. Memories of the happiness at festivals past; memories of experiences of the Goddess and God being real - memories that battle it out with the "concert experience." Just being around all these Pagan people. The whole atmosphere of the place - no one thing in particular - is weakening and undermining my Christian faith. I've been feeling separated from the Christian God. I know He doesn't approve of me being here, and that He doesn't want me to go to any rituals. (I haven't been to any yet, but I know He wants me to worship Him alone.) So I didn't pray to Him last night knowing He was mad at me and afraid He wouldn't listen.

So I called Charles (using my phone card) from a pay phone here at Harbin a bit past 10 tonight. He helped me to see the issue more clearly, and talking to him also helped me to define better where I'm coming from. It is an issue of will, and I plan to stay firmly in control for now. He advised I catch the first bus home, even though he knew I probably wouldn't do it, which I won't. He also advised that I talk to God about it. I said I was afraid that since He was mad at me, He would not listen to me. He said God always listens. I told him that I knew what I should do, and that I was abusing God's love and disobeying Him, but that I wasn't going to do it. I was going to the circles. I am going to go to the circles. I am staying in control. And oh what a feeling of power that is! Never mind the emptiness or loneliness of the feeling of being separated from God.

So skip ahead in time to 2-3 hours later. I sit by the oak tree meeting place behind the Meadow Building, one of the few places accessible without a flashlight where it is quiet and I could be left alone. And I talk to God. (I talked to Him a little on the way back from the pools, but nothing was solved.) So I talk to Him again and nothing's getting solved until I get angry and tell Him to get lost. Just go away and I would talk with Him when I was ready. I felt He heard my "prayer" and I knew He wasn't far off. He didn't move off when I told Him to go away, even though I told Him more than once. I finally had to get up, turn my back on Him, and walk away. Even then, however, even now, I don't have the feeling of Him really going completely away. I'm disconnected from that Power, yes, but It hasn't gone away. I will tell Him again to go away before bed. Maybe He will then. If not, maybe when I attend my first festival "circle" (A Yemaya devotional) tomorrow. If I get Him angry enough, perhaps then He will go away and leave me in peace for a couple days.

First it felt like two opposing forces, like a handkerchief tied to two ropes. Now it seems like maybe I must go back, but I must do the Pagan stuff one last time. It was like this before, before going into the "handkerchief" phase, and now it is mostly back again. I pretty much have to follow Him - but not at this moment. At this moment the Lady and Lord have a chance to prove Themselves. At this moment, I am not His.

Wednesday, June 05, 1996

Ancient Ways, Day 1

As a Christian, how do I feel about being here? I feel okay, at least about the hot tubbing, but not so much about the rituals. I feel, if evil spirits do exist and hang out around ceremonial magicians or unethical people, like a walking target as a Christian, even more so with my cross. As a Pagan I am, of course, delighted to be here. As the Festival wears on, the dissonance between the two will, I am sure, increase.

Sunday, June 02, 1996

Church Search, Week 5

Week 5 - St. Gregory's Episcopal for early morning Eucharist and services. Only 9 people were there for the 8 a.m. service. Much larger crowd (I am told) at 10. The Eucharist had a very "holy" feel to it for me. (It's all in the state of mind.)

I was running early and made it to Hamilton Baptist Church by around 9:30. Services don't start until 10:50 but the doors were open. I asked the pastor what was up; he said Bible Study. I could pick between one on the family or on Genesis. I chose Genesis.

These people are so literate {I meant literal} in Bible interpretation it drives me crazy! After the studies Wednesday and this morning I thought I would be just as uncomfortable at the regular service, but not so. It was okay. We even sang a hymn I remembered from my earlier Christian days, but I don't remember which one it was anymore.

They do communion once a month and they did it today. The pastor made it very clear what it's meaning is and who can and can't take it. I, of course, took it. They used these little tiny cracker-like things and grape juice in the teeny plastic cups. (Seventh Day Adventist flash back!) :)

I'm beginning to see church shopping as not a matter of black and white - either hating or loving every church. There is a large gray area - Hamilton Baptist fits that gray area.

I'm also beginning to define what kind of church I'm looking for. I like liturgical churches. I like being able to take the Eucharist. I don't like literal translations {I meant interpretations} of the Bible. I not only want a Christian community, but a Christian family. I want a place where God is because any place God is, also is mercy and love. Not necessarily from the churchgoers,no, but from the God that is there.

But for now I wait in the hallway {C.S. Lewis metaphor}, slowly tasting Christianity's "flavors," but a long way from deciding which cone to buy. Will He help me find the right door to knock on, the right flavor to buy?

God was at both services I was at today, but it was a different experience in each church - a slightly different flavor to that God. Here is where words fail. Also in the experiences of the Eucharist and communion - slightly different meanings producing different experiences.

Hah! Feast or famine. Two communions this week; there will be none next week.

Sunday number 5 of searching; four weeks and 2 days since becoming a Christian; tomorrow will mark one month. Oh, sorrow! No one to mark it with. Such is waiting in the hallway. Anniversaries are "celebrated" alone. Though He keep me waiting, though the powerful experiences of the "calling" are no more, yet I will follow Him. He didn't give up on me easily. How can I then so easily give up on Him?