Joining the ministry of heretics

I’m scared to share this post.

I’ve been on the verge of sharing it for almost a year. It’s been sitting here in ‘draft’ mode.

I jump in and edit a thing or two. 
Then I’ll close it again for a month or so.

But I’ve held back hitting that ‘Publish’ button out of sheer terror.

For one thing, I’m scared of commitment when it comes to careers or vocations.

Looking back at my life is like seeing a new Jonas being born and killed off after a life span of only a few years, max.

Jonas, the golf professional. (RIP 2011)
Jonas, the black belt martial artist on the way to owning a dojo (RIP 2013).
Jonas, the professional day trader (RIP 2008).

And now… Jonas the Minister.

Whuh?! Minister?! Jonas?!

A little big for your britches, aren’t ya, Jonas?

My ego is having a field day right now.

But it’s true, right? Who am I to think I could hold the high seat of minister?

I mean, just the word, the label — ‘Minister’ — reeks of fundamentalism and all the negative juju around the G-word (yep, ‘God’) that I grew up with. (You know the ‘God’ I’m talking about, right? The big douchebag in the clouds? Yeah, that one…)

But Jonas, you might ask… You’re not even ‘religious’? How can you say you want to become a minister?

I’ll tell you how.

I’ve found a church that only grants heretics passage to the podium.

A little context…

When I was a kid, I wasn’t a big fan of church. My mom introduced me to the Catholic church, and the only religious thing I did was religiously fall asleep 20 minutes into mass.

But I became a good, God-fearing ‘merican like I thought I should be.

Soon, even this concept got old. My mom died. My dad went broke. We lost our house. Life started sucking. Hard.

How was this so? I mean, I followed the rules. I’d feared God like I was supposed to. I wasn’t hard-core religious, but I was a good kid. Seriously.

Why didn’t God give me what I wanted?

So I dropped the whole God-fearing thing and turned away completely for a long time. I wasn’t an atheist. I wasn’t religious. I was merely uninterested in this “God”.

I started getting in touch with my own thoughts on who and what God really is. I couldn’t peg this God as a man or a woman. I had a sense that God was more of a feeling. But that’s where I left it for a long time.

And then, I saw a Wayne Dyer PBS special.

Here was someone finishing the thoughts I was recently having about God and life and living an awesome life. Wow!

But wait. He’s going against what I knew of ‘religion’. The icky parts of religion, at least. He was rebelling against the tenets of fundamentalism I despised, but in a way that carried so much… love. And joy. And enthusiasm.

I was hooked. Wayne was the gateway drug into this world of ‘heretics’.

For the latter half of my life, I’ve taken it upon myself to study this more progressive form of spirituality and Christianity.

I’ve read all of it. And it healed my mind. It gave me the awareness to start looking at myself and my beliefs as things I could mold as opposed to something I was stuck with for life.

The poverty mindset I’d inherited and the scared child I still was started shedding its skin.

And it felt. 

Eventually, I stumbled on an author who combined the best parts of all of the authors and I’d previously read. He was like Wayne Dyer on steroids. That man was Ernest Holmes.

Ernie and Me

I started reading Holmes (I like to call him Ernie) when my life was in a — shall we say — valley.

His words carried power and comfort. For the first time, I found a comprehensive, clearly-written, practical guide to put this stuff into use. It was magical.

Soon after discovering Holmes, I found out there was actually a spiritual center in town founded by Ernest Holmes. How awesome is that? In Reno, NV — a church founded by one of my favorite thinkers in history.

So, I proceeded to shrug it off. For one, my wife was a recently disappointed Catholic at the time. She was at the stage where anything that rhymed with church made her cringe.

Plus, I thought, who’d actually go to a church founded by Ernest Holmes? There’s no guilt or shame to keep them there.

I figured it was probably just a trailer at a local elementary school rented by a few weirdos like me.

A few years later, Alex and I welcomed our first child. At the same time, we began the journey of self-employment.

Smart, right? 

Life was great, but it was trying. When you work for yourself, as you may know, you find that your boss turns into the worst boss ever. They make you work long hours and brow-beat you every chance they get.

We were getting burned out. We needed something. A community. A safe haven. Spiritual healing without the nonsense of the old church. Plus, we wanted a sense of direction for Rory.

So we gave Ernie’s place a shot. And, low and behold, it was a real church. With a foyer and a sanctuary and a lot of people in attendance.

But we noticed something strange. When we entered the sanctuary, we saw that this was not the church of our childhood.

There was no cross. There was a buddha statue on the stage. And some healing stones and crystals. And some hindu beads. Oh, wait… There was a statue of Jesus. (The nice-looking Jesus. Not the gruesome, bloodied, terrifying one we were used to.)

And then, the congregants. They were (this is weird, brace yourself)… Happy.

Yep, people. 
In church. 

All talking, hugging, smiling, laughing, and buzzing.

And there was a choir. Rory was dancing in the isle with everyone else as they cheered her on.

This church seemed… Fun. And uplifting. 
I was sure God was going to strike us down with a lightning bolt any moment.

But there’s more… When the minister took the stage, I knew we were in a house of sin…

The minister was (hold on for this one)…
A woman!

Yep, a female. On the pulpit.

What. In God’s. Good name. Was going on here?

The sermon, instead of making me bow my head in guilt and shame, lifted my soul. I wanted to shake off my ailments like a cloak of rusty iron and be free of them. I couldn’t wait to get out of there so I could live this life to the fullest.

This was it. We were home. My wife and I looked at each other and both knew it. We were both holding back tears throughout the whole service. Tears of joy. Of transformation.

I was being re-introduced to God. Not the terrifying mythical God of my childhood. But my God.

Not a person — not a deity who judges me from the sky just waiting for me to die so he can get his angry hands on me — but a Presence that is closer than my breath and has never left me, even when I thought I was alone. A God who’s a friend. One who’s seen my foibles and fumbles and has cheered me on in spite of it all. A God who wants nothing more than to express every moment in me, as me.

This is the core of Ernie’s teachings (along with about every other ‘heretic’ I’d been reading).

Sure, I’d say a good number of our sermons are based on the Bible. But we also welcome sermons from Buddhism. Or Hinduism. Sometimes they’ll be based on great philosophers like Ralph Waldo Emerson or Marcus Aurelius. I’ve even seen a sermon based on Abraham Lincoln.

Do you know how amazing it is standing in church next to Christians, Buddhists, Zoroastrians, Jews, Agnostics (and even some atheists, believe it or not)? It’s beautiful.

This church of heresy doesn’t preach a dogma. We know there is not only one way to the top of the mountain, but an infinite number of paths. And we also know that when we reach the top of that mountain, another one will likely appear.

After a few Sundays of going to the Center, on the drive home, Alex turned to me…

“You need to do this,” she said.

“Whuh? Need to do what?” I replied, in my usual state of bewilderment when faced with a personal challenge (even though I knew what she was eluding to).

“You need to become a minister. This is your stuff. I’ve seen your highlights and notes in the margins of the books you read. I can’t even read the text anymore. This is your element.”

As much as I wanted to deny it, something deep within me knew this to be true. I knew it before she even said it (but her saying it added that much more truth to it).

Decisions, decisions

That was about a year ago. Since then, I’ve been going back and forth about it.

See, my uncle is a pastor. And he’s a great guy. I always loved hanging out with him as a kid because he played a mean guitar and sang the only Christian music that I could stomach (I actually loved it — from him).

But I could never see myself doing what he does. He LOVES the Bible. Not I, so much.

A few weeks ago, I actually thought I’d talked myself out of it.

That’s it. My ego is off the hook. I’m not gonna do it. Too much work, expense, and emotional stick-my-neck-out-edness.

What the hell was I thinking? Whew, glad that passed.

And then, I had an intuitive hit bigger than any I’ve ever gotten.

I knew — not just believed, but knew — that I had to do this. Even though it went dead against the past version of me. Even though it scared the hell out of me.

It was then I figured

if it scares the hell out of me, I guess that’s a good thing. Because maybe it’ll make room for heaven.

Not in the clouds after I die. But right now. In this existence. Doing this work — the work that I do writing here every day — but in-person and on a far larger scale.

I know that to live a fulfilling life, we must find a mission greater than ourselves. Greater than a paycheck or a societal trophy.

Well, I’m blessed to say, I just found mine...

A greater mission

It’s election season. I used to think that if we put the right person in office, life would be sooo much better.

Throughout time, some people I liked got voted in. Some people I didn’t like got voted in. But all in all, things pretty much stayed the same.

It was only after years of spiritual study that I realized one simple truth…

Our world will never change externally if we don’t change internally.

I want to help usher in the emerging conscious alignment of humanity. The shift is happening. But why not help it along?

I don’t know where this path will take me. The world is being shaken up (in a good way) with the internet. The future of the ‘church’ will likely be nothing like it is now. Ernie’s church may even become a relic.

Will I start a church? Or will I pull a Ralph Waldo and get my ministerial credentials but decide to just go rogue? I don’t know.

I’m sharing this with you, not for praise or even support or critique. I’m sharing it publicly with you to affirm to myself my commitment to this path — wherever it takes me.

It’ll be far harder to let myself off the hook again after I hit that ‘Publish’ button.

Here’s to heresy in motion.

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Jonas writes short daily remarks here at Higher Thoughts. To get them delivered straight to your inbox as soon as they’re live, click here.