So where do I go from here? I know that I can't go back to the Charismatic church and where I thought I was supposed to be was now validated to me as full of idolatry and sacrilege, from somebody that was of influence in my life and well respected in my community. It was then that I started the search. What denomination did I agree the MOST with. Baptist was out; they were to Pre-Millenial. Episcopal; nope--to liberal for my taste. Methodist; ditto. What was I to do. It was then that I remembered that I had some exposure in my younger days to the Presbyterian Church. In my childhood days when I lived in Jackson, I remember going to Twin Lakes retreat outside of Florence, MS. This was where a day camp was held that was run by First Presbyterian Church in Downtown Jackson. At that point I started my research. What I had found out is that there were two major Presbyterian denominations....there are many more, but I focused on the PCUSA (Presbyterian Church, USA) and the PCA (Presbyterian Church of America). I found out that the PCA was much more conservative in their beliefs and from what I knew much more orthodox in their teachings. I also knew that they had a Catechism. This was a very good thing, as this is what I was looking for in order for the children to have a solid understanding of their faith.
It was about this time that I came across a friend that I had known from working with the youth at Liberty. A gentleman by the name of Brent was a youth pastor from another Charismatic church and he and I had youth events together. I had heard through the grapevine that he was at a Presbyterian Church, so he and I decided to have breakfast one morning. That was another one that I will remember. That was probably the first time that I had vocalized to somebody outside of my wife my issues that I was dealing with. I just remember feeling so nervous actually saying these things. I felt like I was betraying something or somebody that was my closest friend, yet I knew I was doing the right thing. Amazingly, Brent and I were dealing with many of the same issues in regard to our background. He had already made a transition to the Presbyterian Church and he was so excited. He told me that we needed to visit. So....off we went to McIwain Presbyterian Church. It was awesome. I finally felt at home.....sort of. It did take some getting used to. It was much more reserved, but that is what I was looking for. Hymns.Reflection. It was about this time that I finally had a revelation. One that I hadn't had before. If you were to ask the majority of people why they go to church or why they go to a specific church, they probably will answer with one of the following: we like the music, we are getting fed, they have a good children's program, we like the pastor, they have a good women's ministry, the service doesn't last forever, they have a good Singles ministry, I feel accepted....the list could go on....and on....and on. What I realized though was that church was not for US. What I mean is that the reason that we go to church is not to go to some Spiritual pep-rally, or to come out feeling good, or to be entertained. If this is the reason you are going to church, (God bless you for being there), it is the wrong reason. We are going to church to lay ourselves at the feet of an Almighty God who is ever deserving of our worship and devotion. That was it! That was the missing key that I had been searching after for years. It was not about how much I got out of it, but how much God got out of me and how much I became part of Him.
It was during our "orientation" at McIlwain that I learned about parts of Theology that I had not entered into before. I started hearing terms like "Total Depravity of Man", "Sola Scriptura", "Sola Fide" and "Sola Gracia"......oh yeah.....the biggie was "Predestination". For those of you who are familiar with Reformed Theology, you will understand the imagery on the right. T.U.L.I.P. That is another long story for another blog. There were a few sticking points that I had with the Presbyterian Theology, but in general I was very happy and learned to overlook the little questions that I still had and that I always had. I figured it was going to always be that way. But I wasn't searching any further.
I wanted to get more involved with the church, but due to my job at the time along with other circumstances, it just never did work out. It was a little frustrating, but I just dealt with it. The people at McIlwain were great and Rob, the Sr. Pastor was awesome. Rob was about my age, maybe a little older, and we really hit it off well. We had him and Lisa over a couple times for dinner and really enjoyed them. I can say that it was the closest relationship that I had had with a pastor and his wife. They were real people who weren't on a pedestal somewhere and the best thing is that they were accessible. We didn't have to make an appointment with a secretary who had to contact his secretary. At that point in our lives that was something that we needed. While we were at McIlwain, we adopted Abigail (2003). That was the first time we had a baby baptized. It was quite an emotional time in our lives. We really didn't understand what that meant, but according to the Reformed Theology, it was an external sign; A commitment by us to her as a child, not a Sacrament that actually conferred grace.
About a year and a half later in March of 2005, was when we got a phone call to make a trip down to West Palm Beach to get Isabella. I was very excited about our daughter and I had never been to South Florida, so what I figured out that I could do while I was down there was to visit Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church. I had watched Dr. Kennedy for years and really admired him and his message. I remember driving down to West Palm Beach with Laura, Alli (my sister in law) and Abigail. After almost 12 hours in the car, we dropped at the hotel, then I drove from West Palm to Ft. Lauderdale to the church. I remember thinking how awesome it was to be able to hear Dr. Kennedy speak in person, as a matter of fact, I was able to chat with him for a few moments after the service. He was a kind and loving man. I explained why I was down in West Palm Beach and he was very understanding to our position as he and his wife had also adopted children in their family.
As a side note, no matter what Theological differences the Reformed Church and the Catholic church has, Dr. D. James Kennedy and his ministry truly stood by the children and the Unborn. May God bless them.
It was shortly after this trip back that things began to go haywire. For those of you that know me, I am a NEWS HOUND...do you hear me? I continually keep up with the day's events and like to know what is going on. It was on March 31, 2oo5 that my head snapped around. I remember I was at work at BMW and there was a news flash that Pope John Paul II had been admitted to the Gemelli Hospital with high fever and a low blood pressure. I really didn't pay that much attention to the Pope during my life, but now I was. All I knew is that he was a fixture in our world. I had heard a lot of things about Catholics and the like, but I never really payed any of them any attention....I had no need to. But this was different. It was interesting........it was sad. To me at that point, it was just another sign that our world was changing. I had followed the death of former President Ronald Reagan, and Nixon, but this was something different. It was different because I knew this man was important to Faith. Little did I know , soon it would be my faith. Then, on April 2nd, 2005,
it finally happened. This great man left us. For the first time in my life that I can remember I started paying attention to details of the Catholic Church. All eyes were pointed to Rome, and rightfully so. My head started spinning with everything that was going on. I wanted to know why things were done. What does all this mean? I was starting to wade into the Tiber.....