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Sunday, December 28, 2014

From Monastery to Free Grace. The Journey and Testimony of a Friend.

From Monastery To Free Grace , by Tim Grady .
{1. Beginnings .}

My name is Tim Grady . Born Aug. 21 , 1958 in Kankakee , Illinois to Dr. and Mrs. Grady , and had ten brothers and sisters : seven sisters , and three brothers .

I was raised in an Irish Roman Catholic home , and was an altar boy for nearly 10 years , with a tremendous respect for the clergy ; all things traditional , religious , and Roman Catholic . I  remember having a serious interest in one day donning the holy vestments .

After eight years of Catholic grade school (St. Theresa's) , I followed my three older siblings to Bishop McNamara high school , where I spent two years , until transferring to a public high school (Eastridge)  for the remaining two years .

Life was changing , and my interests and values were in flux .

After enrolling at Loyola University in Chicago during the fall of 1976 , I was convinced by the Dean Of Studies , that taking off from school and moving to California , would be a better option . I put my thumb out on Interstate #80 , and headed West !

{2. "Head west , young man"... the land of the mystics .} 

Arriving in Pacific Grove , California , was a welcomed shock . Life was noticeably different - right away .

Surrounded by the majestic mountains which meet the Pacific Ocean , was far more compelling than the sight of endless corn and bean fields on the flat Midwestern plains .

 The cultural differences provided an even greater contrast . The '60's culture of the 'Summer Of Love' ; Berkeley's  Haight Ashbury and the "Grateful Dead/surfer dude vibe", was instantly recognizable . The openness to all-things-spiritual was in the air .  

 As time went by  , on the Monterey Peninsula , I became closely associated with a mystical community of Catholics at the Carmelite Monastery off of Highway 1 , just south of Carmel . Nestled amidst the florid Juniper trees , the pounding waves of the Pacific Ocean provided the pulse for this surreal and poetic enclave . 

 Often , I would hitchhike in the morning from Pacific Grove to the Monastery - perhaps 10 miles -  followed by breakfast in Carmel with Catholic friends . a good way to kick off the otherwise mundane events of work and study (Monterey Peninsula College) .

 This period saw my interest in reading Catholic mystics accelerate (St. Theresa of Avila ; St. John Of The Cross ; Thomas A Kempis ; The Desert Fathers - Philokalia ; and everything written by Trappist monk Thomas Merton ) . 

 Through these friends , I was directed to a bookstore in Carmel , owned by the sister of a monk from the Immaculate Heart Hermitage in Big Sur , California ; some 56 miles south of Carmel on the majestic Coastal route (Highway 1) . 

 My fascination was instantly piqued , and I arranged to go down for a "retreat" for three days , while contemplating the meaning of life , and my place in  it .

 {3. The climb to the Cloister ... to be a Benedictine .}

 Once again , I stuck my thumb out , and hitched a ride down the winding and spectacular Highway 1 to the 

 (Benedictine) Monastery known as 'New Camaldoli' ; the American branch of the Italian motherhouse .

 See the Monastery here :

Getting out of the vehicle , I started climbing the access road 3.5 miles to the top , where it levels out , and the grounds of the Monastery are evident . Overlooking Santa Lucia Bay of the Pacific Ocean , one becomes instantly transfixed with the textures , sights , smells , and sounds  of one of the best meetings of land and sea in the world .  The peace I felt was other worldly .

It seemed , after several retreats in Big Sur , that this indeed was my calling. I phoned Father Louis at New Camaldoli , and arranged for a meeting with the Abbot Father Bruno ,  and Father Adam - who was the Novice Master in 1977 . It was as though the portals to heaven had swung wide open , and life would no longer be a question mark , but an answered prayer . I would be entering the Novitiate for the summer of 1977 .

It seemed as if the  collective thoughts of the Catholic saints and mystics I had  treasured , was now being realized for me . This was profoundly moving , and a cause for great joy and expectation .

As it turned out , the rhythm of monastic life was quite agreeable . Rising at 3:30 a.m. for morning prayer . Back at 6:00 a.m. for Mass , followed by breakfast and free time until 12:00 lunch . Then , four hours of work - whether in the garden ; cleaning rooms , in the kitchen , or cutting firewood (etc.) . The days had a definite pattern that provided stability .

What was intriguing was the manner of the older brethren and the conversations that took place , when time allowed . I was in awe of the rectitude they showed in their fastings and devotions , whether praying the rosary daily , or  incessantly (under the breath) repeating the 'Hesychyst prayer' from the Early Desert Fathers : "Lord Jesus , have mercy upon me a sinner" .

I wanted dearly to emulate their example . Some of them , like Father Bede , would go weeks without any human contact , because there is a housing area of "cells"  specifically for that on the eastern flanks of the grounds .

The isolation ; focus on prayer ; contemplation ; self denial by fasting or wearing uncomfortable items (hairshirts etc.) ; praying to the saints and the Virgin Mary for intercession ; the holy sacrifice of the Mass - were the heartbeat of this "spiritual factory" . 

As it turned out , Father Adam was headed to Italy for a meeting of all the Novice Masters and Abbots of the Camaldolese Order , at the end of the summer of 1977 . As such , he spoke with me about my future and recommended that I go back out in the "world" , and commit to vows later in life . Most of the monks  , over the years , made this decision in their late 20's , whereas , I had just turned 19 . I agreed that this made sense , and at the end of that summer , I headed back to Monterey , along with a short visit back to Illinois .

 {4. Re-entry to the "world" ... sort of .}

 Upon returning to the Monterey Peninsula , I joined the Oratorian community Of St. Philip Neri , where I stayed for nearly three years in a semi-monastic setting . Father Emeric Doman was its Rector , and I drove him each day to say Mass at the Navy Postgraduate School , among other parishes. Brother(s) Peter , Matthew, and Richard were all studying theology in Berkeley for the priesthood , and lived in quarters next  to mine .

This is when , for two years , I taught the high school Confirmation/Catechism class at St. Angela's Parish in Pacific Grove . The interaction was very invigorating , being around so many hopeful young people on their way to promising careers , soon to be in  the collegiate ranks .

See here : St. Angela Merici parish ; Pacific Grove , California : ...

 These were some of the best times of my life . I had great chats with these folks about so many burning issues , while majoring in philosophy at the  college . Frequently encounters in all manner of spiritual dialogue , was a daily expectation . The challenges were many , and the responses varied while applying the maxim :  "why do you believe that to be true ?". Truth continued to sort out the winds of doctrine , circulating at a fever pitch .

Around this time (1980)  , I had developed a friendship with several "evangelical bible believers", who introduced me to some rather startling information - speaking of challenges . They were quite friendly and engaging . I was invited to their homes for dinner and bible study where the conversations became more specific . What they pointed out , was that salvation had nothing to do with belonging to an organization , but a personal relationship with Jesus , as found in the bible . I did not fully grasp what this meant , but it opened another door of curiosity .

Later , other areas of doctrine were being questioned by my "Jesus freak" friends . This was a time of great unrest and discomfort for me . All that I thought I believed , was now under close scrutiny . I felt like I was on the defensive , and my answers were getting harder to summon .

{5.  Grace breaks through .}

 Soon thereafter , it became evident that the bible was clear about this "personal relationship thing" , and that it truly is a matter of believing , as opposed to belonging to an Institution or outward Organization . I did not really grasp all the implications of this world changing realization , but a step toward what I perceived of as freedom , was clearly taken .

Shortly thereafter , in 1980 , I left the Oratorian Community and moved outside where I lived in makeshift tents on the beach (Spanish Bay in Pacific Grove/Pebble Beach) , and forested areas near Carmel , for nearly  11 years . It seemed as though I was living in a John Steinback novel . In fact , this was where Steinbeck used to hang out with friends while writing books like 'Cannery Row' . The pounding tones of the surf , and the invigorating odors of the sea breeze , lent an air of  tranquility that helped in working through the issues I was confronting .

Through the '80's , I became involved in Classical music as a vocal performer in ensembles , and as a soloist   in the Carmel Bach Festival ; the Monterey Symphony ; Pro Musica of Utah (Salt Lake City) ; Camerata Singers of Salinas ; and as  a founding member of I Cantori Di Carmel . These were days filled with the glories of sharing in some of the greatest artistic expressions ever authored , and the camaraderie among fellow participants .

As well , I became heavily involved in the political arena . I ran against Clint Eastwood for mayor of Carmel in '86 ; again in '88 ; and several other offices on the Monterey Peninsula  (along with a couple in Siskiyou County (Mount Shasta)  , California ('92-'98) .

 Along with those engagements , there came a developing sense of spiritual/worldview refinement . I was attending Calvary Chapel in Pacific Grove , and had several friends there who proved helpful in answering crucial questions . 

{6. Clarifying Grace .}

 A lingering question was : how does anyone know that they are saved ? I was finding the answer to this question quite elusive . My question became : how do you KNOW that you know ? 

 I was persuaded that John 3:16 was plain enough to answer that , though there were friends who believed that one could "lose salvation" through bad behavior , or  by way of "apostasy/falling away" . Or , there were those who held that lots of sin/"bad fruit" would surely indicate that someone was unsaved , and that they were not somehow one of God's "elect" . These were the conflicting opinions I was finding within "evangelicalism" .

 During the late '80's I would listen to Christian radio throughout the day , and would practically set my clock by Dr. Walter Martin's apologetic show 'The Bible Answer Man' . Reading apologetic texts from he (and others from the Christian Research Institute)  , along with all things written by  Dr. Norman Geisler and Dr. Francis Schaeffer - became the daily rhythm that explained so much of the enduring "why's" of this life . This , coupled with majoring in Philosophy in college , underscored a continuing thirst to give reasons for "why I believe WHAT I believe" . In short , it provided the mechanics to wade through all the competing winds of doctrinal truth claims . 

 Going back to college in '90 at Eastern Mennonite U. (Harrisonburg , VA.) , was an experiment on several levels . I had become influenced heavily by the pacifist writings of Leo Tolstoy , that led to an interest in the Amish/Mennonite worldview . In taking an old Testament course from a Princeton Phd. professor , who held to the view that the bible was NOT - in fact -   historical , my views sharpened with respect to Mennonite theology , and led to an in depth appraisal of their doctrine concerning pacifism . And , most importantly - justification/salvation .

 On both counts , I became persuaded that neither view held up to biblical scrutiny . After one semester in the books  , it was "back to California", once again .

 {6. Northbound - freedom bound in Mt. Shasta/Weed .}

 Shortly thereafter , it became clear that it was time to head for other environs . I had developed a keen interest in wilderness trekking while frequently exploring the Los Padres National Forest near Big Sur , California . Looking at the maps of the Mount Shasta/Weed area , and being interested in attending Weed's College of the Siskiyous , it seemed agreeable to my growing disenchantment with the $ high rollin'/overly  commercialized/overdeveloped California "dream" .

  Having been through the Weed area before , I recalled how easy it was to feel anonymous there , being surrounded by boundless acres of timber , trails and peaks . This seemed the perfect remedy for disillusion .

1992 would be another turning point . My sense of freedom was growing . Behind me lay a series of events that led to an ever increasing desire to clarify that liberty . 

 Going to the Weed Berean church , along with small group  bible studies , widened the circle of friends while living there from '92 until '99 . This was an era marked by clarification of life's most important question : what must I do to be saved?

 Just prior to this span , Dr. John MacArthur's book 'The Gospel According To Jesus', hit the shelves . I was familiar with his radio broadcast 'Grace To You' , which aired daily on the Redding , Ca. Christian radio station . A friend from the church had a copy , and another book with a competing viewpoint titled 'Absolutely Free' , by Dr. Zane Hodges .

 {7. Center of the dartboard .}

 It was instantly evident that this issue - justification by faith - was indeed the center of the dartboard . In reading through both views , I was struck with how Hodge's view seems so easy to parallel with scripture , which so clearly affirms assurance of eternal life as a present possession . MacArthur's view seemed to suspend any such certainty , and made living the Christian life a constant guessing game . His popularization of "Lordship Salvation" blurred the distinction between justification and sanctification , and turned a once-in-a-moment event of believing , into a process known as 'discipleship' . Some of the finer points of this issue awaited further refinement , but the door to the heart of truth was opened .

 After commercial fishing out of Seward Alaska in '94 , I returned to the Weed/Mt. Shasta area and finished off studies at College Of The Siskiyous in late May of '95 . Then it was time to hike the Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada - a 2,750 mile trek through the mountains and wilderness stretches in California , Oregon , and Washington . This would take 134 days to complete , and was  a profound life - changer  .

 Nearing the conclusion , between Stehekin Wash. and Rainy Pass (Wash Hwy. 20) , a 25 mile stretch , I encountered eight bears in one day ; seven blacks , and one Grizzly . One was a momma black and her cub , and I was in between them ... not exactly a desirable scenario ! But , she let me go , which explains why I'm still writing this !

There were so many invaluable encounters with people on the trail , often discussing worldview issues and what was most meaningful in their lives . Well over 90% of them came from a humanist and/or New Age perspective , with an implicit faith in some form of macro-Evolutionary Cosmology . Coming from a Creationist biblical worldview will often make one feel like a stranger in a strange land !

 This trek provided ample proof of the Lord's faithfulness in supplying comfort and wisdom in very challenging circumstances . It was so clear how there really is nothing to worry about , as I frequently read from Luke chapter 12 :

 "22Then, turning to his disciples, Jesus said, “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food to eat or enough clothes to wear. 23For life is more than food, and your body more than clothing. 24Look at the ravens. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for God feeds them. And you are far more valuable to him than any birds! 25Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? 26And if worry can’t accomplish a little thing like that, what’s the use of worrying over bigger things?

27“Look at the lilies and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. 28And if God cares so wonderfully for flowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?

29“And don’t be concerned about what to eat and what to drink. Don’t worry about such things. 30These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers all over the world, but your Father already knows your needs. 31Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need.

32“So don’t be afraid, little flock. For it gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom" .

 Re-entry back into the work-a-day world after the trail was a difficult transition . Settling back in , and working as a tree faller while operating a firewood business , was truly satisfying in many ways . Being out there in the altitude of the mountains amongst the trees , vistas ,  and open spaces ; without time constraint or a boss for several years , rated at the top for the jobs I've had .

This time also saw tremendous growth in clarifying biblical truth , and honing in on the "center of the dartboard" .

{8. Back to the Bay ... Area.}  

 It was not long after returning to Weed , that a friend and his family whom I'd lived with were going to move to the bay area and he'd work with a Grading & Paving Co. out of Pleasanton , California . They would live in Tracy , just east over the Livermore grade . I was invited to join them , and decided that $27.00/hr. might not be a bad idea after all !

As it turned out , I stayed until mid '2000 . During this time , I had met a former Jesuit priest (18 years head of St. Joseph's parish , San Jose ,  Cal.) named Bob Bush , and his wife . After hearing them on a 50,000 watt Christian radio station in Oakdale , California (KCBC) , I phoned them to talk about Jesus , the bible , salvation , and having been a Benedictine monk . They lived near Oakdale , and invited me for a visit .

 They then invited me to participate with them on-air during their broadcasts . This would last for nearly two years . It was truly amazing to have so many callers understand that they too could have certainty of eternal life simply by believing Jesus' promise (John 6:47) . Much of the time , we would read straight out of the Catholic Catechism ; The Canons And decrees Of The Council Of Trent ; or Vatican Council 2  , to prove - from Official Catholic sources - what they taught about authority  , tradition , sin , salvation/justification, purgatory , indulgences (etc.) . In comparing tradition with the bible , some were persuaded that the two were irreconcilable .

 Once again , the operative principle is that the bible alone is the authority , and if anything contradicts what it says , "anything" must go - not the reverse .

 The message that grace is unmerited favor and cannot be earned , was received by some . I found tremendous hunger in more than a few of the callers .  I look back fondly on those days , as a profitable venue for bringing people out of bondage to works righteousness , and their uncertainty of salvation . 

 My love for Roman Catholics continues to be deep . Echoing the Apostle Paul : "I tell the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit,   that I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart.   For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren...' (Romans 9:1-3) ; and : "What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness of faith;   but Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness. Why? Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumbling stone.  As it is written: “Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offense,
And whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame . Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved.   For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.   For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God.  For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes" (Romans 9:30-10:4)" .

 {9. Clarifying Calvinism.}

 After  Y2K passed , life in the Bay Area for me was coming to a close . It was also becoming evident that people within the 'Ex-Catholics For Christ Conferences' community - including Bob Bush , Dr. John MacArthur , Dave Hunt & the Berean Call , and many other ex-priests and nuns - had sharp disagreements about what the "center of the dartboard"  was .

 In studying the history  of  Calvinism at that time , particularly  Dr. Laurence Vance's 'The Other Side Of Calvinism' , it was clear that those who promoted a ..."you can't be saved if you have bad fruit (works) in your life" view , were tied to this 5 point Calvinist system . Dr. R.C. Sproul , Dr. James White , Dr. John Gerstner et al ,were some of the most eloquent apologists for that position , and had a tremendous sway over many friends .

Their position reduced to : you CANNOT be certain that you are one of God's secret and unknowable "elect" , because you must persevere till the end of your life in faith and good works to "prove" it .

 As well , there were several - including Bob Bush & his wife - who believed you could "lose your salvation" .  This has been termed the "Arminian" position , though it is found in belief systems unattached to that tradition .

It seemed to me that either way , Calvinist or Arminian , one could not be sure  of what Jesus had so clearly guaranteed . In the end , either way , one would be in doubt of salvation until death . Both were looking at  performance(works) instead of looking to Jesus for what He certifies . Again , Jesus' words in the bible could not be reconciled with either view ( John 3:16,5:24,6:47,11:17-27,20:31 etc.) . 

Yet again , the bible alone is the authority . Not any institution , tradition , or person .

 A book I read , at that time , sharpened the focus on this all important issue . Dr. Bob Wilkin's "Confident in Christ" was a further elaboration on Dr. Zane Hodges "Absolutely Free", written more than 10 years earlier . Written in an easy-to-understand fashion , this book crystallized and articulated all that seemed to be on my plate , at precisely the right time . Wilkin's website at became my daily "pilgrimage" , as I would copy all the journal articles before leaving the library . His subsequent books 'Secure And Sure', and 'Road To Reward' (and 'The Ten Most Misunderstood words In The Bible', which I have not yet read), remain invaluable resources in understanding the freedom and liberty that  salvation by grace through faith connotes . 

Over these books , and what they articulate - that certainty of eternal life IS the good news - a parting of the ways happened with many friends and associates , some of whom I'd known for many years . Jesus made it clear that He and His word are to be valued above all allegiances in this world , and that division based on truth is imperative (Matthew 10) . 

 To this day , I am not at all surprised that the majority have never been right about what matters most : truth . And in this case , the truth of everlasting life .

 {10. North to Wahington ; Peru ; Marriage/Family Life}

 As it turned out , I moved to Anacortes , Washington in 2001 and have done road construction ; worked as a scaffold erector in the refineries ; worked at Boeing in Everett ;  and  a flagger on the highways .

 In 2003 & in 2005, I was able to hike the Continental Divide Trail (3,100 miles) from above Glacier Natl. Park , Montana/Canada , to the Mexican border at Columbus , New Mexico . In '05 , it was a benefit for the Crisis Pregnancy Center in Salida , Colorado . Both treks took 102 days to complete , again providing incalculable moments to treasure . God's handiwork (creation) is the greatest art form and never fails to challenge point to the One who  !

Since then , I was tremendously privileged to mountaineer and trek in Peru , Chile , Bolivia , and Argentina in 2007. Twice more to Peru involved meeting my wife (Vanessa) , and returning with her in 2008 . We now have two sons : Solomon Jehoshua (age 5) ; and Josiah Hezekiah (age 3) . Her family continues to reside in an eastern district of Lima  (La Molina)  , Peru's capital . In a better world , we would live six months there ... during their summer , of course !

We continue to live twenty miles from Anacortes , in Sedro Woolley , Washington - five miles east of I-5 on the way to the glorious North Cascades .

 {11. In Conclusion}

Above all , the journey called "life"  takes all sorts of twists and turns , where each of us walks a slightly different trail . What remains true for all is that everything in this world changes and cannot afford certainty . Interestingly , we measure ourselves , and others , against the backdrop of "achievement", thereby hoping to find and project some form of "identity".

Yet , these phenomena are subject to the modulations of circumstance .

  In sum , things that change cannot give certainty .  Only the Promise of the One who cannot lie , nor change , gives such assurance . 

While at the tomb of Lazarus (John 11:17-27)  , His beloved friend , Jesus clearly affirmed the certainty of eternal life to all who are persuaded that He will give it to them , by believing in Him for it :
 " So when Jesus came, He found that he had already been in the tomb four days.   Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles away.  And many of the Jews had joined the women around Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother.

 Now Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met Him, but Mary was sitting in the house.   Now Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.   But even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.”
 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”
 Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.  And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?”
 She said to Him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”

He did not lie to Martha and Mary . He did not lie to me .

 He took me from climbing the mountains of changing works (the monastery/religiosity)  , to the solid rock of unmerited favor . There is no rest while climbing .

 His guarantee is the only thing that is certain , and gives eternal rest ... without cost .