This week’s blog post is the preface to my new book, How to Make Love (the Agape Kind) with Jesus, available now. As always, let me know what you think.
God is the same as nature.
—Sister Julian of Norwich
A six-year-old girl stood in front of her parents and emphatically stated, “Why should I outgrow my invisible friend? Isn’t God your invisible friend?” Why is this six-year-old so right?
To live life to the fullest, one has to keep evolving, even at ninety years old. For me, evolving means questioning, changing, growing, and transforming.
My evolving life began in 1932 under the tutelage of my dad, “Ham” (Hamilton), an Episcopal priest, and my mom, “Saint” Pearl.
I was a great Episcopalian, as was Jesus—or so I thought.
In 1950, I went to college. This was my first transformation. I became my own person, no longer Ham’s little boy. While there I divorced God, Jesus, and the Episcopal church and married Saint Cerveza.
After college, I was commissioned in the Marine Corps (my second transformation), where I found foxhole religion. After serving for three years, I felt that I would rather love people than kill them. (But it was and still is an honor to have served our great country.)
So I went to seminary, where I had my third transforming experience, the start of my spiritual (meaning “authentic”) journey in life.
I had my fourth transformation while in seminary. Riding on my motorcycle, I was broadsided by a fire engine. My best friend was killed in the accident, which left me asking, “Why? Where was God?”
I found that answer: She had nothing to do with the accident. Free will did. (God did not tell me to buy that murdercycle.)
The church might not like that answer because its leaders keep inferring that God is running the earth (or is it now the universe?), God is directly involved in our lives (She “planned” the accident), and God’s “Son” died for our sins. Ugh!
No way did I want to tell the church that the theology about some master puppeteer god who lived above the flat earth in a mansion made no sense today. So quietly I started calling God “Creation.” No one has called me on that yet.
Then I met and married a wonderful woman and had my fifth transformation. I had been a bachelor for twenty-eight years and now had to learn to be one with my Annie while each of us still maintained our individuality. This has been hard work but most rewarding. We celebrated our sixty-second anniversary in June 2023, and she is still my beautiful best friend.
Our second daughter (born in 1965), a rubella baby, was multichallenged. This was my sixth transforming experience. Annie and I were not at all ready for this challenge, but together, we grew in the faith, became a stronger team, and worked extremely hard to teach her to be independent, which she is. Today she lives and works in Seattle.
As my ministry progressed, I was able to do what Jesus asked me to do, “love the least of these” (Matt. 25:40) and had fantastic ministries.
In 1969, very loudly I stated, “The war in Vietnam is wrong.” The church, where I had a youth ministry involving 2,500 young people, fired me—for being against war. I’m still processing that.
Being fired was my seventh transformation. My faith sustained me, and I kept moving forward, trying to build the Kin-dom (our faith is about real people, kin, not kings) of love in Hawai‘i with all sorts of exciting projects.
In 1975, we moved to Southern California for better educational opportunities for our differently abled but bright ten-year-old daughter.
However, the Episcopal Diocese in Los Angeles was not welcoming. I suspect that I was too progressive. I fought for ordaining women clergy, supporting equality for the LGBTQIA+ community, remarrying divorced people, constantly updating the Book of Common Prayer, looking at the Bible through Jewish eyes, redefining God, rediscovering the historical Jesus, changing the role of seminaries, redesigning the institutional church, and standing up against fundamentalism as well as bad government, to name a few items on my agenda.
For the past forty-seven years, while working in secular fields, I have been actively involved in semiprogressive churches as either a poorly paid assistant or volunteer.
After being fired again (1988) by an incompetent priest (he was fired six months later), I, along with Annie, became a member of Saint Mattress, staying in bed on Sunday mornings. Although we missed being members of an agape-centered community, this independence allowed me to be totally honest about my beliefs, doubts, faith, and growth and to expose the roadblocks preventing the institutional church from being all it can be.
In 2008, a clergy friend (a United Church of Christ pastor) asked me where we were going to church. He laughed when I said, “Saint Mattress,” then responded, “When you have too many bedsores, take a look at Irvine United Congregational Church.” We did, and I had another transformation: an Episcopal priest becoming a member of a UCC congregation in the company of other progressive retired clergy who were Lutheran, Disciples of Christ, Methodist, Presbyterian, and even Southern Baptist. The pastor at that time, the Reverend Dr. Paul Tellström, was most welcoming and became a good friend. He retired in 2019.
I have had a rich and full ministry here, all as a volunteer, in the midst of a diverse, accepting, and socially active group of Followers. I have continued evolving here as I share the message that Jesus was about agape, the highest form of love.
My most radical and probably impossible project: replace the gruesome symbol of Christianity, a torturous cross, with a dove, a symbol of love and peace.
My hope is that you are interested in changing and evolving in your life. In order to change, we need to know where we came from, what we were originally taught (in religious school or by our parents and teachers), whether it is still applicable today, and what new directions we might want to follow. So let’s start at the beginning.
Peace Love Joy Hope