ofNaturesGod is about building awareness and an experience with the Holy. Religion comes from “religio” which means “to bind us back.” Meaning to bind us back, not to ritual and an organization, but to the Source of All Life, Das Ding An Sich, The Ineffable, the Triune-Light, what Tillich called The Ground of All Being. I was disappointed with my service to a religion as my emphasis was on building a relationship with the Divine and helping people experience the Presence of that which cannot be readily described. (This is a long one but only the first part is necessary to read the rest is just about my story since some have asked.)

There are three types of knowledge of the Source of All Life. There is Wisdom, which is experiencing God through his presence in life and nature; there is revelation where a person has a vision or a gift of knowledge to pass on to others, and there is the scripture where, if read in the presence of the Holy Spirit and we “listen with the ears of our heart” the Divine will speak to us through the Word. Revelation and Wisdom teachers are often derived from mystics. Mystics are people who experience the Presence of the Ineffable directly. While the Divine will reach out to all of us, Mystics cultivate “listening with the ears of their heart” and learning to have “eyes to see” and “ears to hear” what the Living Force has to say to us. God has called me to help people “listen with the ears of their heart” and gain the “eyes to see” and “ears to hear” what God is saying to them directly. So much ofNaturesGod.com will be about spiritual disciplines and learning to hear what God is saying to us. I will share with you what God has said to me, and for my followers on Patreon, I will help give you more instruction on how to do this. I know it is not for everyone and the general website is for everyone. People who are being called to move closer to the Divine I will work with through Patreon. This is what God called me to do and it was difficult to do that in the Church. I am not running this through any organized religion but my own non-profit company. Although I do attend church, pray, meditate, and minister to others I no longer obey a church structure. I feel the Divine gives me direction and I found churches have other ideas sometimes. But, still, if you don’t discipline yourself in a spiritual discipline and just amble around and do what you want I feel you are in danger of being misled. I don’t care what tradition you follow but you should follow one. Very few people can “make it” on their own. Although God is open to anyone we have so many distractions in life that we are easily led astray.

The road to God is straight and narrow and if you step off the path to the left or the right you will miss it. Amazing but true. Although the Living Force surrounds us, penetrates us, and is always there to guide us not everything mystical or unseen is good. I wondered about this scripture about there being one way when there are so many religions, denominations, and ideas. In meditation, the Divine enlightened me using something as simple as the plastic lid of a cold drink.

We are a point on the outer circle of the cup lid. God is the center of everything. If we draw a line from us to the center there is only one direct path and if you deviate to the left or the right you will miss the center. we must be cautious. Here is a popular explanation similar to how I view the presence of God and the Holy Spirit. It is God in whom we live, move, and have our being. But the best way to get to God is through a proven religious discipline.

Doubtless, some will say that “you don’t belong to a church.” No, I don’t have church membership anywhere at the moment but I do attend worship, pray, meditate, and do daily devotions. I am part of the Church, the mystical Body of Christ. I am a child of God and I serve God, I attend a church but don’t allow it to interfere in what God has called me to do as it once did. As I once told a pastor-parish relations committee. This church didn’t call me into the ministry God did and if what the church wants me to do is counter to what God has called me to do I will obey the Living God, the God of Isaac, and Abraham, Nature’s God. Let me tell you why I left the parish ministry – I thought of starting a house church but that is not where God led me. He has led me to here and though I have resisted the responsibility I can do nothing else.

Here is what separated me from a church structure, I won’t tell you what denomination because there are many good people and good pastors in that church. Although lately one of their churches has taught Critical Race Theory in a Bible Study class and that theory directly opposes the scripture on many points. The Evil One always hides his lies by wrapping them in truth and good intentions. That is why you need to follow spiritual disciplines and, preferably a church, but don’t blindly follow. Always listen to that still small voice within. Test it, make sure it is of God, but listen.

This is already long so don’t feel you have to read on. I have said all you need about ofNaturesGod. If you want to know some of my journey here is a very brief explanation for those still reading:

Unfortunately, it seemed to me I had Bishops, District Superintendents, and others in the hierarchy who were more interested in membership and apportionments. I had a District Superintendent frown when I began talking about my Spiritual Gifts class and how people were discovering their spiritual gifts and blooming as the Body of Christ and how neat it was to watch them “come alive.” “But your churches are dead,” he said. “Its membership has not grown since you have been there.” This same person wanted to know why my wife was on sick leave and doubted her dedication that she felt she needed time off after a difficult pregnancy where she almost miscarried and her health had crashed. But he thought she should be back at work a month later. Now, understand, that he had criticized my membership numbers after I completed a year in which I conducted 55 funerals of members. In case you’re counting that is more than one funeral a week and a funeral is not just a service. It includes weeks of ministry to the family, which included several households. Yet my membership had not shrunk at all, though it had barely grown. He and the Bishop determined to move me, although after it was announced I would be moving I was told that every family in the parish had written a letter to keep me in place as their pastor. Then, when appointments rolled around they offered me a half-time church (because of my wife’s disability as she had by now also fallen into postpartum depression.) “But we have full-time bills,” I said. Their compassion consisted of, “Well, if you want to minister this is what you are offered.”

But God called me to ministry, not the Church. I had other options. I went to transfer to another denomination and moved to take care of my mother in another state who had Parkinson’s. This other denomination was eager to have me, although I didn’t like the call system where you had to “sell” yourself to church pastor-seeking committees. I never was a good salesman. Let me back up a moment, I mentioned my wife had “post-partum depression” yet I am not sure that is the whole story there. I had a prayer group of pastors I was a part of where we could gather together and discuss ministry, pray for one another, and support each other in ministry. The church started these because it was alarmed at the number of pastors they were losing. It was the most wonderful group the church mandated. Now they had innumerable meetings to teach us how to make our churches more “hip” how to avoid lawsuits and how we should refrain from hugging or even touching parishioners because some were sensitive and easily offended (one of these classes upset my wife so much she was in tears “How can we do ministry if all we are concerned with is not getting sued. How can you minister to someone who just lost a child or their mother without holding them or at least holding their hand?” I had no answer for her. I was disappointed. And that prayer group of ministers? In the last five years of my ministry in this church, the other five pastors in the group had all left the church and were being treated for depression. The interesting thing was these had ALL been dedicated pastors who loved ministering to and helping people. But they were depressed and beaten down by the church administration, its programs, and ever-increasing requirements. The church finally acted to stop this hemorrhage of pastors. They mandate that we attend a meeting once a month ( a meeting we had to drive 3 hours to get to) so that they could support us and they added a new week-long retreat for ordinands. I heard some pastors seated near me groan when it was announced.

So, the church didn’t need my full-time ministry but my mom was ill and she did. I went there and worked at Pinkertons Detective Agency (using old skills I had acquired before ministry – note I had offered my services to the Church when they said they were forming a team to investigate accusations of abuse but they formed their “witch hunt” with untrained amateurs. I could go on and on about my own experiences with organized religion but you have probably heard enough.

After this, it may surprise you that I think the best path for people to grow closer to God is to follow a religious discipline that is best acquired from organized religion. The experience is different as a lay person. I have found that I nearly always get along with monastics and missionaries. These are the bright parts of the Church and among the best, the Church has to offer. The people in the pews can be equally wonderful and I miss ministry to them on a daily basis immensely. I don’t miss the structure.

Gesellschafts vs. Gemeinschaft. The spiritual church vs. the physical structure has always been a challenging tension. I didn’t leave the church until it interfered in my life and ministry. I had gotten one of the most expensive educations out there to work in the lowest paying professional career in America. People do not do that who are not dedicated and I have never left the ministry although I feel the Church left me. I found a church to maintain the ordination that allows me to minister as God calls me to do so. It meets all of the legal requirements that I need to qualify legally and maintains the records of my ordination in their files.

Needless to say, I became very discouraged after my pastoral experience, I chaffed at the things youth said in the small town after they drove me out of my parish. People didn’t complain about the church in front of me but I still sometimes heard them complain about what they did. “Can they do that to him? Isn’t that a sin? Why didn’t they listen to the families?” The people who were saying this were not even part of my church they were from other churches in town so I don’t know what they had heard. It was probably juicier than the truth. Rumor usually is. When I heard them I pointed out to them what I point out to you now. There is nothing wrong with the church except there are people in it. When I was in seminary I read a book by Reinhold Niebuhr called “Moral Man and Immoral Society.” I thought it was a dumb title and even after reading it I was skeptical. How could good people create and operate a system that was immoral and destructive? I didn’t believe the book so I guess God spent the next few years showing me how a group of overwhelmingly good people could become an oppressive tyranny. Fortunately, not all have had the experience I have had although I know far too many who do.

September 11th, 2001 occurred as I was taking Hebrew at seminary to meet my new church’s ordination requirements. As the tragedy developed and the country mobilized I took a job as a security director for a major pharmaceutical company while I sought a place in the government to return to use my skills. I still preached, performed weddings and funerals and I started other ministries to reach out to those who had rejected the church – I felt I could understand their pain – but I am quick to point out the experience of the Church is NOT necessarily the experience of God. The church makes mistakes, God fixes them.

But as things developed I was in a car accident and mostly bedridden for several years, I had to retire on disability, I was in a wheelchair and told I would probably not be able to walk again without a walker. I got out of the wheelchair and then left the walker behind and now I just have a cane when I get fatigued. In March of 2020, I had Covid and was hospitalized on oxygen treatments, fortunately, they didn’t use a tube but the same kind they used for asthma. Later they discontinued that treatment because it spread the disease in the air. But my lungs recovered, after surgery to drain them 3 or 4 times. You’d think I would remember that but after Covid, it seemed to attack my liver and my liver failed. I went into the hospital 27 times that year (I went to the emergency room almost weekly but I was hospitalized from a couple of nights to ten days 27 times that year. It culminated with a 2:00 a.m. ambulance ride to UKMC four hours away from where I lived to stabilize me. I shot to the top of the transplant list and they installed a new liver – I confronted another prejudice I had. I thought everyone who got a new liver did so because of drinking but it is a minority who do so. Most, like me, were diagnosed with NASH, Non-Alcoholic-Big Word-Hepatitis.

[Interestingly enough the church organization accused me of drinking during an ordination retreat. I didn’t but they were obsessed with the idea I had. The only thing I can figure out is that the retreat center only had Pepsi and I and a friend really don’t like Pepsi. I drank Coke and he drank Dr. Pepper. During a break, I went to the corner market and bought two half-liter bottles. One Coke and one Dr. Pepper for my friend. I thought I would be cute and put it in my leather jacket and walked up to him (he was playing pool in the rec room,) “Hey,” I said. “I bought the good stuff.” And I opened my jacket so he could see as if it was some sort of contraband or something. He laughed and so did I and I gave him his Dr. Pepper and I drank my coke. I think someone saw that exchange, thought they had a juicy story, and told someone. So, for ordination they have three experienced pastors meet with you and interview you. Then they take their findings to the council. The three pastors who met with me for over an hour unanimously recommended me for ordination. The council said no and recommended that I seek alcohol treatment. They wrote a formal letter and I took it to a lawyer to discuss suing the church for slander. He couldn’t believe an organization would actually write such a thing. In the end, I decided against the lawsuit because the controversy would hurt the church as a whole and many whose faith was weak and it would probably do absolutely nothing to any who made such an unjust decision. The only thing wrong with the church is it has people in it. This has been my experience of nearly all human organizations – although the Army used to take better care of its people it also was not exactly fair. I Anyway, after that, although my sister and wife were still in that denomination and both my grandfather and my wife’s grandfather had been ordained in that church I sought my ordination elsewhere. The reason I was taking Hebrew is that the denomination I went to required Hebrew or Greek from all their ordained pastors. I had another friend who was wrongfully accused and tried to go through all the hoops and counseling the church demanded. Each year they would reconvene and he would present the paperwork that he had completed what they asked and they would say something like “OK, you did that successfully, now we want you to go through this program.” He would then dutifully obey and return next year to the same result. I watched him go on this merry-go-round for years trying to get re-appointed to a church but he finally died before they ever let him back in. You see, the church actually invented cancel culture except they used to call it ‘shunning’. ]

Still, organized religion is the best game in town. Every now and then someone comes along who knows God directly, afterward, people try to codify what he did. “They were amazing! Let’s all do what they did!” They do that and makeup rules to follow what their spiritual leader did. Then we have a new church or denomination. But it was not the actions that made the remarkable spiritual leader. It was his or her relationship with the Divine Presence the reflection of that Divinity that was shown through their lives. That is why I strive to teach people to have their own relationship with the Living Force.

It was a grueling surgery. I couldn’t move afterward and for the first time in my life, I screamed in pain when 4 strong nurses grabbed the corner of my sheet to lift me a few inches on the ICU bed. It was hard on my wife I was in such pain I just said “Help me Janey-Bug.” There was nothing she could do. But, I came out of the surgery, about 8% don’t, and I must have had a meeting with God or something. (I had a near-death experience when I was 21 so this must have been the second round.) I was in ICU but God had a mission for me. The doctor was talking to me about the surgery and being positive that things had gone so well. I knew that another 5% would die in the coming year after the surgery but I didn’t think I would be one of them. A janitor came in. A black man with one of the kindest faces I have ever seen. Without thinking about it I interrupted the doctor and called him over. “The Lord has called upon me to give you his blessing. He wants you to know that he has seen you and watched you, “Well done good and faithful servant.” And he wants me to tell you to tell your friend not to despair, The lord has heard his cries and has already delivered him from his trials.”

The room was silent. The doctors must have thought I was high on the pain killers. Later, I began to wonder. After I left ICU the janitor found me in another part of the hospital to thank me. He needed that encouragement. He was about to leave and said, “By the way, my friend had everything turn around in his life a couple of days after you gave me the message to give him.” I was still groggy on pain and pain killers and it never occurred to me to ask him what his friend had gone through. But I was happy. God had continued to give me gifts of knowledge and to work in my life but many of those gifts of knowledge had to do with gloom and doom. I could write a book about all the miracles that have occurred in my life and around me. God is good and, contrary to what so many seem to think he/she/it is active, close, and active in our lives. Prayer and the presence of God has resulted in my unprecedented speed of healing and my quick return to God’s service. Lets pray it continues so I can finish what God sent me here to do. If you haven’t experienced that, or if you have, stay with me and let’s walk together in the light of the Living God.