Adopted as an infant into a middle-class suburban Evangelical Christian family, I was raised in the context of faith. My mom often told me that I recited the Sinner's Prayer and so "accepted Jesus into my heart" when I was five years old. I attended conservative private and, mostly, public schools in Schaumburg, IL. During my formative years the churches I went to were Evangelical Free and non-denominational. My dad worked for Moody Bible Institute in accounting, and Moody remained and remains a significant influence in my thinking. I was a science and nature enthusiast, and I spent much of my free time outside fishing, collecting herpitiles and invertebrates for my terrariums, bird watching, and exploring.
During my adolescent years I took ownership of my faith. It was during this time that I became a Young-Earth Creationist after several dozen books worth of self-indoctrination. I also became an avid Bible reader—reading it through annually every year for seven years in my teens. During this time I also began to veer away from the default Evangelicalism of my parents. I undertook a series of doctrinal developments that built upon one another and lead me away from my parents' church. In order, I went through the following church types: mega-church non-denominational, Assembly of God, fundamentalist Baptist, Seventh-day Adventist, and then Messianic Jewish/Christian.
Landing upon Messianic Judaism was a major step for me. With each new development in my faith I became increasingly critical of larger and larger segments of the Evangelical church, and Messianic Judaism was the most critical last stop before my next major permutation. From its platform I concluded that Christianity had veered away from the faith of Jesus and the apostles into accepting pagan ways and abandoning the Torah including Sabbath observance, kosher food laws, the festivals, tzit-tziyot (tassels), etc. However, the more I learned about Torah observance, the more I saw that applying the Pentateuch (five books of Moses) as Torah today was impossible without a living tradition. And so I expanded my criticism to include Messianic Judaism and I decided to become a Jew.
To Be a Jew
I did not go the easy route: I decided to become an Orthodox Jew. I moved to West Rogers Park in Chicago where I was immersed in an Orthodox Charedi Jewish community and was under the individual tutelage of an Orthodox rabbi mentor. For almost two years I could be found for some five to six hours every Saturday at synagogue and for an additional two evenings a week praying and learning. During this time I learned to read liturgical and biblical Hebrew, and I became aware of what it felt like to be a conspicuous minority. I donned my kippa (viz., yamaka) everyday to work where I dispatched movers and met face-to-face with over-the-road drivers from all over the country. Until this time I never realized how "Christian" even the most secular mainstream was.
For reasons beyond the scope of this brief bio, I left Orthodox Judaism to return to Messianic Judaism. My ex-wife and I at this time had two toddlers (thanks in part to Jewish proscriptions against certain forms of birth control), and we moved out of Chicago to buy a place in Schaumburg, near my parents. I returned to Messianic Judaism now not so critical of Christianity. I had come to realize the value in different cultures of spirituality; however, I maintained most aspects of Jewish Torah observance including Shabbat and kosher. My time in Judaism was certainly life changing, and my placement again in Christianity was with a very different set of perspectives.
Return of Science
In 2003 my dad passed away. He was diagnosed in July with pancreatic cancer and was gone by the end of September. He left my mother well provided for, but no one expected his quick passing. Circumstantial or causal, I do not know, but in early 2004 I began to reconsider what I believed about Young-Earth Creationism. Even though I had embraced this model in my early adolescence, what I knew about science and the natural world caused me frequent doubts. I asked, "If there was no death in the world before the Fall, why are so many animals biologically adapted to predate or to avoid predation?" My understanding of food webs and trophic levels made it very difficult for me to accept status-quo Young-Earth ideas.
I might have continued in my embrace of Young-Earth Creationism had it not been for my continued Bible learning. I came to the conclusion in early 2004 that the Bible presented an unscientific (or pre-scientific) and false model of the physical universe—one in which the Earth was flat and domed. Being that I knew this was false, I entered into a crisis of faith that pitted my faith in the Bible even more against what I knew from my observational world. I reasoned, "If I can show the Bible wrong in this simple matter, why should I accept 'scientific' models that are based on the Bible?" So began my three-year waltz between faith and doubt.
Every relationship has its troubles and tensions, but when I began to express my doubts about the Bible and God and my acceptance of evolution, my ex-wife felt we had reached a threshold. She tolerated my studies and doubts for as long as she cold. I learned to keep most of my doubts internal and not to trouble her with them, but they occupied much of my thinking. During this time I went through seasons of doubt and seasons of faith. Often the toggle between the two was quick and took place within as short a time span as a day or a week. Other times I would put aside my doubts for a few months of faith.
My ex-wife and I began to host a Bible study at our house in order to promote Messianic Judaism. We began this in 2002, and two of the attendees, Kate and Sara, were students at Moody Bible Institute . Sara and Kate were interested in Messianic Judaism and Torah, but we do not agree on everything. Sara expressed perspectives on Israel-Palestine that I did not often hear in the Evangelical world. Later her views heavily influenced my own, though it took a few years of heavy resistance before I embraced her conclusions.
Sara and I lost contact for about six months due to a temporary fallout between her and Kate. During this time my ex-wife and I separated and prepared for divorce. Our divorce took nearly two years and many disappointments to complete. She was granted custodial residential privilege of the kids, and my mom was diagnosed with Stave IV metastatic breast cancer.
I married Sara in June of 2008—one of the best decisions of my life. My mother passed in January 2009 after battling breast cancer for two years. After twelve years, I finished my teaching certification in May 2009. Sara spent a summer away while pregnant as a volunteer group coordinator in the West Bank-Palestine. On December 31, 2009, Sara went into early labor and my fourth child Asher was born at 12:23AM on January 1, 2010.
Due to both a desire to live closer to Sara's family after Asher was born and to work options, Sara and I moved to Grand Rapids in July 2010. We are happy in Grand Rapids and plan to raise our family here. My three older children still live in Chicago where I visit them as often as I can—I miss them terribly. Sara and I now attend Fountain Street Church* in downtown Grand Rapids. Since moving here our family has grown with the birth of Zaydok (Zayde) who was born on January 13, 2012.
*Note: my views and opinions expressed on my blog are mine; they do not necessarily represent Fountain Street Church which encourages its members to craft their own journeys individually and in reliance on each other.