Wednesday, November 26, 2008

An Unwanted Journey: Day 1099 - Spirituality (#3)


My Father and I never talked about religion. He never went to church. He was clearly conservative in his political affiliations, but ideology per se never seemed to be the driving force. Instead, his political viewpoints traced a kind of common-sense fiscal conservatism. He was a practical man. So, not attending church wasn't some kind of statement about a theoretical agnosticism so much as it was an affirmation that Sunday was his one true day off work, once you included all the Saturday family duties tacked on to his paid work week.

Mom was the ideologue in the family. She was also a very young woman who will be the first to admit that she was still very immature when she got married and had given birth to her first child. Unlike Dad, she wasn't very practical at all. Also unlike Dad, she was very vocal about all her opinions and viewpoints. Those viewpoints tended to occur in the stratosphere, with the practical implications being irritating details someone else should figure out. She still has this endearing characteristic!

They were, in many ways, an odd couple, Mom having graduated from Grade 13, Dad dropping out in Grade 9. Mom being quite musical, playing the piano and having what I considered to be a very pleasing singing voice. Dad, on the other hand, seemed to be the only one on his side of the family that didn't make music so much as appreciate it. Apart from that, they clearly loved one another and each child born into the quite regular intervals.

One of the most important gifts Mom and Dad gave to each of their children was freedom and independence. Whatever political or religious opinions we developed, they would never stifle expression or attempts to articulate those viewpoints.

So, when I decided to become intensely involved in Hi-Way Pentecostal Church (including mid-week prayer and Bible study, Friday night youth services, Sunday School, and two worship services), they might not like it, but they never prevented it. All the more impressive considering I had weekly concert band practices and depended on getting to and from school by joining Dad early in the morning (7:00 am) and late in the afternoon (5:00 pm). I also decided to purchase and learn the bass guitar, to lug it to at least 2 services a week, to join a new gospel band in the church which quickly became well-known enough and talented enough to travel to other churches in south-western Ontario for a modest fee.

As those church friendships developed, I gradually became interested in the Pentecostal "message" apart from just the social interaction provided by the church. I had some talent in public speaking, so I was invited frequently to participate as a "youth" speaker, to represent our church in regional events, and to lead meetings, Bible studies and informal discussions about practical theology. So by the end of Grade 13, not only was I ready academically for studies at the University of Waterloo in computer science or pharmacology at the University of Toronto, I was primed too for a "calling" into the Pentecostal ministry. In September 1971, at age 18, I left home to go to college, never to return except for visits and holidays.

By the end of high school, I was the perfect example of the insider/outsider - an outsider with talent and knowledge at school, an insider with talent and knowledge and clear leadership potential at church. And I had become quite skilled at adapting to new situations, making new friends, assuming positions of leadership, relishing chances to learn anything new and enjoying friendships as much, if not more, than family ties.


csnewfie said...

Hi Don
Not sure if you will remember me, I work with your wife. We have met a few times over the years mostly at the Christmas dinner.
I had a similar background as you; my father went to church only when he had no choice such as a wedding or funeral. My mother on the other hand went when she had the chance. I at the age of ten decided to go to a different church, which both my parents supported, even though they never went. I am a strong believer in the faith if I was not I am not sure where I would be today. unlike you I have not had to battle cancer to date however five of my uncles on my mom side have all had cancer one died a few years ago my grandfather had cancer when he dies and another of my uncles is fighting right now with cancer for the second time like you. He is currently in hospital in St John's NF, the other three have won the battle with it once and I hope they do not get it again. I am a firm believe that God does not give us more than we can handle. Trust me there were days when I did not think I believed that when I had to go through my pain but he got me through.
I have had health problems from the day I was born, having had two open heart surgery one at five the other at 31 and also a brain bleed ( I can’t spell the actual name of it) but my faith and my family are what got me through and so will yours. God is the only one who knows what His plans are for us, if he wants you home with him He as a reason for it. We however sometimes have a hard time understanding that. You have a wonderful family they will be at your side as Jesus is at all times. One of my favorite poems is Footprints keep it in mind. Take care and say hi to your wonderful wife for me. You will be in my prayers as you have been for some time.

Cindy Sheppard

Eric said...

Thanks for this last entry. It was a good read. Its a subject I enjoy discussing 'Why did we make the choices we made and how were they influenced'.

I do read your other stuff but, sadly, I can't relate on an emotional level. I read and simply say to myself 'holy s@#t', which might be a good goal.....


Don Spencer said...


There will be some more in this sub-thread in the days ahead. It should also help some relatives who wonder actively how I have changed so much over the years. I like to turn the question around, of course, "How can you have had so many experiences and not changed your world view?"

On the other point, since you're my brother, I think I can be quite direct here and say that I think you're copping out on this one.

If you told me that a blog about dealing with cancer doesn't resonate for you, that you don't like my writing, or that you would write in a different way, then we could talk about that some more.

But when you say that you can't relate on an emotional level, I shrug my shoulders and wonder why the hell not? We've all had close friends and family members who have died or passed away under miserable circumstances. Each new experience like this offers us another opportunity to re-evaluate our values and make small adjustments in our own plans about death and dying.

"Nobody knows the trouble I've seen" is true for everyone, not just cancer patients. And knowing you for the curious person you are, I just don't think you're being honest with either me or yourself.

Some people can't read my blog entries because they become too emotionally involved. Others don't read it because they find being on the computer a stressful experience in itself. Others don't read the entries because the don't like the detail....and so on. There are lots of legitimate reasons.

But for my own brother to suggest that there is nothing which relates to him on an emotional level...well, I just don't buy it.

In love and brutal honesty,


Brie said...


I'm glad you're having a day where you're able to go back to the story of your spiritual journey, partly because it suggest that it's a better day for you, partly because I enjoy the read.

Your parents sound like really interesting couple!

Have I ever mentioned how much I enjoy and appreciate your writing style and your use of the English language? How did a "techie" get to be such a poet at heart ... or should it be "how did such a poet become a techie" ? :-)