Pepper Grinder: About Me

I was born in upstate New York.  My father was a university professor, and my mother was a mother and an artist.  My family went to a Unitarian church.  If you don’t know about Unitarians, the best way I could describe them is as people who want to go to church but don’t want to believe standard Christian doctrines.  In my experience with the Unitarian church, I would say that you can believe pretty much anything you want as long as you are politically liberal and don’t believe in Biblical Christianity. Pepper portrait

I was a nerdy kid who spent lots of time by myself, outdoors.  As a teenager, I started hanging out with a few hippie wanna-bes (this was probably a little after the hippie movement had peaked, but my friends and I still wanted to be like them).  I grew as much of my hair long as my mother would let me (all but the bangs, which were cut straight across above my eyebrows—ugh) and tried marijuana a couple times.

Then the older brother of a friend became a Christian.  He told my friend about it, who told me.  I started listening to Christian radio shows, and one evening, while listening to Pat Robertson, I asked Jesus to forgive me and to run my life. 

I began to inhale the Bible.  Even though I was reading the King James Version at the time, I read chapter after chapter every day and it soaked into my mind and soul.  To this day, I still think of many passages with their King James phrasing.

Changes happened.  I started at a black Pentecostal church, switched to a Jesus-freaky type of church that met in a refurbished barn, and then my parents and I moved to Massachusetts.  I went away to Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania (motto, as Dave Barry said about Haverford:  “We never heard of you, either”). 
Both before and after I became a Christian, I struggled with the fear of rejection that is one of my greatest enemies to this day.  I hardly ever let people see who I really was.  I put on a bland exterior or tried to act in a way I thought would make me likable to the person I was with.  The more time I spent immersed in a non-Christian environment trying to please the people around me, the more my beliefs started to drift.  I ended up in college as an Eastern Religions major who, every morning, read the Bible and did Zen meditation.

Then I started to become friends with the woman who is now my wife.  She had had a journey remarkably like mine.  Raised in a Unitarian intellectual family, she became a Christian as a teenager and later renounced her faith in Jesus, though she still strongly believed she had a relationship with a personal god.  What was different about her was that while I was still thinking of Jesus as one of many legitimate paths to God, she (in her own journey) came back to Christian orthodoxy. 

I could talk to my wife-to-be in a way that I had never been able to talk to anyone in my life before.  She was very honest.  She didn’t pressure me to believe what she believed, but after a while, I realized that the belief system I had created for myself was inconsistent.  Like lots of religious seekers, I thought of Jesus as a good guy.  I was also reading the Bible regularly.  Yet, I was ignoring the fact that, according to the Bible, Jesus had said that he was the way, the truth, and the life, and that no one could come to the Father except through him (John 14:6).  It finally sank into my deliberately clouded brain that there were really only 3 choices.

  1. Jesus didn’t really say that.  This would mean that the Bible was lying and I had to reject it as a source of wisdom, since I couldn’t be sure what was or wasn’t true in it.
  2. Jesus did say that, but he was either an egomaniac or insane.
  3. Jesus said it because it was true.

I had been trying to have it both ways.  I was saying that Jesus was cool and the Bible was good, but that I could approach God any way that suited my fancy.  By God’s mercy, I chose to resolve this conflict by once more submitting my mind and will to Jesus and accepting the Bible as God’s words to us.

My wife and I were married a few months after we graduated from college.  I discovered the surprising fact that there weren’t lots of jobs just waiting for people with a B.A. in Eastern Religions.  I started working with people with disabilities.  I did that for about two and a half years and then I went to Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.

I didn’t actually go to seminary because I wanted to be a pastor.  I went because I wanted to learn to study the Bible in its original languages.  I loved the language classes and I loved learning to do exegesis (a fancy word for studying a Bible passage).  Some of the other classes I took bored me silly.  I considered dropping out after learning the things I cared about, but my wife and I felt that I was supposed to see it through and get a Master of Divinity (as if any human, other than Jesus, could ever accept that title!). 

There was more and more pressure as I progressed through seminary to settle into either the pastor track or the missionary track.  I considered both and also campus ministry, but ended up working three simultaneous non-ministry part-time jobs after I graduated, because I just didn’t feel that any of the paths I had considered were what I was meant to do.  I felt that I had a calling to study and teach about the Bible, but I really didn’t know how or where I was supposed to do that.  We ended up moving back to Pennsylvania, and after a brief stint working on an Amish carpentry crew, I went back to working with people with disabilities. 

After a while, I became interested in computers, and I went back to school yet again to get a B.S. in computer science.  Since then, I’ve been working in I.T.  Computers can certainly be maddening at times, but overall, I like the work and it’s something that comes pretty naturally to me.

Over the years, I have, from time to time, struggled with how to fulfill my calling to be a teacher of the Bible.  I’ve taught adult Sunday school classes, been one of several preachers in an informal church, and even pastored a VERY small church.  I have also tried to get myself to write a book.  None of it really seemed to fit me.

One day, I was reading about someone who had been in a ministry that published tracts.  She was talking about how many people they could reach through tracts at a relatively small cost, and it suddenly hit me that the Internet gave the potential opportunity to reach many MORE people at an even smaller cost.  This sounds pretty utilitarian and obvious, but it was like God turned on a light bulb in my brain.  Suddenly, I knew how I was supposed to carry out my calling, at least for now.  I started planning The Pepper Grinder, and researching and writing posts ahead.  I found that, whereas researching and writing a book seemed completely overwhelming, doing short to medium postings seemed perfect for my somewhat A.D.D.-ish brain.

There you have it.  My entire life with an incredible amount left out.  I have been married to the honest-talking woman who became my best friend in college for over 37 years, and she is still my best friend on earth.  We have 8 children ranging in age from 36 to 15, all of whom we have home educated or are home educating.  So far we have 8 grandchildren.

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