I was not raised in religion. My interest in spirituality is entirely self-motivated. When I was seven years old, I asked to attend a Vacation Bible School, so I could ask questions like:
"Is Mother Nature God's wife?"
"If God didn't want them to eat that Tree, why didn't he just plant it somewhere else?"
"How can it be Heaven if your pets aren't there?"
*This episode features a full text transcript below.
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HOST LINKS - SLADE ROBERSON
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Hey, thanks for listening to the Shift Your Spirits podcast.
I’m your host Slade Roberson. For eleven years, I’ve been a professional intuitive and the author of the blog Shift Your Spirits, where I try to write about spirituality with fewer hearts and flowers than most New Age blather.
I also mentor emerging intuitives, psychics, and healers in a program called Automatic Intuition.
Today’s introduction is probably not going to be as lengthy as the last one — I’m recording these episodes close together, so I’m not sure how much more original insightful life experience has occurred in my world in such a short span of time. We’re on the backside of Hurricane Irma, as I record this, in a lovely cold drizzling rain. We lost power here only briefly from about 10 pm at night to 7 o’clock this morning. I mean, if you’re going to lose power, that was an ideal window. I can’t really complain about it at all, but I am stunned to experience the winds we had last night, this deep inland, in the mountains of Tennessee.
I really truly hate it for all of you who are still without power across the Southeast. Or suffering from lack of the basics. I cannot even imagine. I am truly grateful for my luck and privilege. If there is anyone in our community in need with like a GoFund Me page or another organization they’d prefer we support, please contact me if you can and I will lend whatever I can in terms of sharing your needs with my platform and audience, helping to expand the reach of your requests and messages.
I hope everyone and their pets came through this okay. I have absolutely no wacky supernatural meanings or godly messages to attach to these storms. Because I’m not Kirk Cameron.
But I do have an oracle message for you at the end of the show. So stay tuned after the final links and credits.
I do have one new tool I started using in the last few days. My friend Matt posted this on Facebook:
"My serenity is inversely proportional to my expectations. The higher my expectations of other people are, the lower is my serenity. I can watch my serenity level rise when I discard my expectations.”
He has a personal note: try also replacing "expectations" with “attachment.”
I looked it up to find the source, and it is actually from the Alcoholics Anonymous handbook. Page 452. That’s cool. I’m not in AA but I love a good re-framing technique.
Remember my not-complaining for a month back in the spring? I continue to fail at this, pretty miserably. I have to admit it. It’s really hard not to complain. People are frustrating and disappointing. They are.
So, I like this idea that lowering my expectations, increases my sense of peace. When I notice my internal chatter critiquing something (especially someone) I just say “Lowering my expectations. No expectations. Just doing my thing. Just moving through here.”
And it’s pretty powerful in the short term. It’s an almost immediate interruption of negative internal dialogue.
You can refer back to the show notes and try it out. I always like to tweak these mantras and make them personal, my own words, in my own voice.
Since I am recording again back to back, I don’t have a lot of new patrons to call out.
But I see Wendy Bassett did just slip in with a pledge. Thanks Wendy!
If you started supporting the show this week, between the last few episodes, I have not forgotten you. I will thank you personally next time. It’s a time delay issue between recording and publishing.
I appreciate all of you who have pledged your support and I’m really excited to see the new names each week. It demonstrates that you’re enjoying the show and want it to continue. That’s very encouraging to me, so thank you.
You can support my time in producing this show by pledging on Patreon.
For as little as $1 a month, listeners who support on Patreon can also access bonus Q&A episodes, where you send in questions, I record answers to them, and they go out to patrons of the show exclusively. There is also a level of support that includes a free download of the guided meditation “Messages from your Spirit Guides."
So, if you want to find out how you can become a patron, and access some of this extra audio content, please go to patreon.com/shiftyourspirits
Today, I want to tell you a story about when I went to Vacation Bible School where I infamously posed the question: “Is Mother Nature God’s Wife?”. I am proud to say I became a full blown heretic before I even got to third grade.
As I’ve talked about before, I was not raised in religion. My interest in spirituality is entirely self-motivated. I’m sure my parents must have kind of wondered where this little mystic kid came from. Because nobody had to shove it down my throat, I was into it! I can make a case that I was into it in a completely authentic way that never would have happened if I had been indoctrinated by adults.
When I was seven years old, I asked my parents to let me attend a Christian institution known as Vacation Bible School.
We have to take a minute to talk about this diploma or "certificate of recognition," as it’s technically called. I snapped a pic of it with my phone from my mother’s archives and I’ve posted it on my blog so you can check it out.
The Jesus in this illustration is giving me Kris Kristofferson. With maybe a little Kenny Loggins/ Dan Fogelberg… You know, singer-songwriter vibe.
He’s a white guy, of course, bearded, pretty ruddy complexion actually. He could almost be related to the Brawny paper towel guy. He looks like a young guy from a 1950s Boy Scouts of America pamphlet grew up to become a hippie. He’s wearing a creamy hemp poncho with a hood and he’s got this far away expression on his face, faintly smiling at whatever he’s seeing in the distance. And he’s making this complicated hand gesture. He’s working magic, I guess. I mean, the hand positioning reminds me of something you’d see Quentin do on The Magicians.
But then there’s this small guy in the foreground in a leather skirt and sandals with a do rag who looks a little Native American at first glance - and honestly, as a kid, I thought he was and wasn’t really sure what the connection was supposed to be. Now I see this guy is tossing handfuls of seed from a fanny pack contraption onto this barren looking ground with gnarled and twisted plants. So I guess Jesus is working some crop magic for this guy.
Maybe for someone who’s more educated in children’s bible stories, this will ring a bell, or when you see it, you see all my misperceptions and know what it’s truly intended to be … but I still for the life of me can’t imagine what this scene has to do with Vacation Bible School.
But. It is pretty. And there’s something delicious and utopian about these campy mid century church illustrations that I admit appealed to me.
As a kid I was as an easy recruit (initially) for Church-sponsored functions. Beyond the promised hype of craft projects and pizza socials, I was hungry for hard-core religious experience.
My serious dedication is evidenced by this certificate that I was just describing, which has a little gold foil seal on it that says "Perfect Attendance."
CHURCH-SANCTIONED SPIRIT POSSESSION
Someone had explained to me the Southern Baptist phenomenon of Being Saved, in which any average child on Earth can experience a life-long form of holy possession by the Son of God Himself — simply by asking for it to happen.
This was incredible news! I already knew I was protected by an enormously tall lady who looked like Catwoman in a nightgown and no child ever believed in, stalked, and engaged with fairies more than me.
Not only did I applaud my belief in fairies to save Tinkerbell when Peter Pan came on TV, I dressed up in full green Peter Pan attire — green tights and felt elf shoes — one of a handful of "Halloween" costumes that I found reason to wear on several other occasions throughout the year. Considering I never set foot in a Catholic Church until I was 19, my intense longing from the age of 5 to "go as" a Catholic Priest or a Franciscan Monk for Halloween does make me open to the traditional notion of past-life memories.
In her incredible work on modern Neo-Paganism Drawing Down the Moon, Margot Adler finds a common thread among the witches she interviewed — an instinct for engaging in spontaneous ritual theater at a very early age, despite socialization toward any particular religious tradition.
I certainly built enough henges in the woods behind our house, charged enough mystical paraphernalia — wands, crystals, arrowheads, amulets, potion bottles — and entertained an audience of invisible spirit guides and guardian angels with an artistic commitment and devotion only rivaled by my current will to podcast…
And while all these mystical experiences would be quickly dismissed or, at best, patronized by adults — and I knew not to discuss such things with unsympathetic audiences — here was a similar magical experience that was not only socially-acceptable, it was praised, encouraged, an absolute sin if you missed out on it.
You didn’t need to tell me twice — sign me up!
As if that wasn't promising enough, the Baptist Church attended by most families in our neighborhood was called Mars Hill — which I took as an affirmation of my desire to one day be part of the future mission to colonize the Red Planet. At the time, I really thought Being Saved could propel me in my aspirations to become a Priest and an Astronaut — simultaneously!
It would be a few years before I came to understand that in polite white Christian America, there is a thin line between piety and stigma. You're supposed to be a good Christian — but you're not supposed to be too good at it.
The same behavior that defines the believer also damns the mystic.
- Believe in God, pray every day — just don't tell anyone if He answers you
- Stand up in church and sing — but without emotion or fervor — do not speak in tongues or writhe in ecstasy — if by chance you really feel something, for God's sake, keep it to yourself
- Do not rest until you've forced your belief on everyone you encounter — but don't make the mistake of behaving like you mean it.
- Ask What Would Jesus Do? and if all else fails, set an example of what not to do by reminding everyone what judgment feels like
I took the school in Vacation Bible School pretty literally. I came with some challenging philosophical questions. I genuinely thought this teacher — Miss Alice something, it’s noted on the certificate — might have some answers for me.
She required you to stand up in the class to ask your questions.
I opened with “Is Mother Nature God’s wife?”
She tittered and kinda laughed it off, and talked about the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. And I was like “Yes, exactly. Where’s the mom? Everybody has a mom…”
She waved me back down into my chair and tried to change the subject. Looking back, I’m sure she didn’t know what to say or how to handle it, she probably was philosophically challenged—she was probably, what, in her twenties? That seems old to a child, but to most of us, now, she was a child herself, parroting some Bible School teachings to a room full of six- and seven-year-olds.
I remember feeling put out and angry that she wouldn’t call on me anymore, but I was able to channel my emotions into creating a really intensely colorful God’s Eye out of yarn and popsicle sticks. An object I was not surprised to discover years later is actually a ritual tool, magical object, and cultural symbol evoking the weaving motif and its spiritual associations of for the indigenous people of western Mexico.
I waited a day or two and she finally called on me again to stand up and ask another question:
"If God didn't want Adam and Eve to eat that Tree, why didn't He plant it somewhere else?”
She exhaled in loud exasperation, pursed her lips and, again, waving for me to sit down, shot me a glare as she continued on with her Rated-G version of naked people, forbidden fruit, and Original Sin.
That day’s arts and crafts project was drawing scenes from the Garden of Eden story.
I was a huge fan of Disney’s original animated film of The Jungle Book, which came out a few years before I was born. People used to tell me I looked like Mowgli, probably because I was skinny and tan and had long brown hair.
One of the most compelling scenes for me was when Kaa, the serpent, hypnotizes Mowgli while singing “Trust in Me.” (Sidebar: Siouxsie and the Banshees recorded a great cover version of that song.)
I envisioned the serpent tempting Eve with its evil magic had to look something like this, so I drew a big close up of a colorful snake with psychedelic eyes.
Miss Alice whoever she was actually confiscated this illustration before I even finished coloring it in. I’m actually pissed that it’s not in my mother’s child art archives. It was a really pop art concept piece.
She whispered to me the snake was not an appropriate subject and suggested I draw something “prettier” because, you know, it’s the Garden of Eden; it’s full of animals and plants and...
(Honestly, it’s hard for most people of any age, let alone kids, to get past the nudity in the Garden of Eden myth. Am I right?)
So, I drew a picture of Adam and Eve, buck ass naked, picking fruit and surrounded by cute animals beneath a lush jungle canopy.
Now, as I saw it depicted in a television miniseries, the crotch region was artfully blocked by bushes and waist high plants. I went with that coverage for both figures, but the Eve in my picture is reaching for an apple overhead (of course) and I rendered her knockers in full detail.
What? She’s picking fruit. She’s naked. It would look stupid to put her entire body behind a bush.
But, that is exactly what Miss Alice demanded I do in a furious whisper.
You can tell by looking at the finished drawing that the full body bush in front of Eve was an after the fact censorship bar.
It ruined the picture, if you asked me.
I made it to the end of the week, but I wasn’t leaving without putting forward one of my biggest beefs with Christianity. Fortunately, we were discussing Heaven. Unfortunately, Miss Alice would not call on me.
I finally just stood up and blurted out “How can it be Heaven if our pets aren’t there?”
She told me to sit down, that I had not been called on.
“If you can have anything you want in Heaven that makes you happy, then why can’t you have your pets there?”
She actually bared her teeth at me at this point. “Sit. Down. And shut up."
As I slowly lowered myself into my chair I said "I don’t want to go to Heaven if my pets aren’t going to be there.”
I remember looking around the room at all these kids staring at me, their faces masks of shock and anxiety. And when Miss Alice asked for another question, every hand in the room shot up.
Guess what everybody wanted clarified?
But you won’t believe what happened next.
I was sent to a church psychologist. Immediately. Right then. Removed from class and sent to someone in the building who ran “tests to see how smart I was.”
Looking back, these activities resembled those assessments for kids with behavioral issues — or possibly “gifted” designation. Pictures where you describe the emotional dynamic taking place, etc.
At one point, the lady gave me one of those eight-pack jumbo crayons sets, like the ones for really little kids, and asked me to draw a picture of God.
Well, I thought about the old bearded man in a robe sitting on a throne of clouds… I could visualize it, but honestly, rendering that much white, in crayon, is problematic. It was too ambitious for the circumstances.
So I went with my Starry Night technique. I had discovered if you drew with two or three crayons of similar or complementary hues as if they are one crayon, you can achieve a kind of Vincent Van Gogh effect.
I took the yellow, the red, and the orange, and drew a big, thick stroke sun in the center of the page. Not the son like Jesus, s-u-n like the big fiery globe of molten life-giving light and heat at the center of our natural existence.
Sun worship. The ultimate pagan religious expression.
I pretty sure they called my parents in and just asked them not to bring me back.
I remember feeling like they were insulted after meeting with that church psychologist.
But believe it or not, I still chose to be saved and baptized there and went through with it. I’m pretty sure it happened that Sunday after the close of Vacation Bible School. And that’s a whole other tale of disappointment and disillusionment I’ll have to share another time.
Ultimately, with the odd exception of a Halloween party where I technically didn’t make it past the parking lot, we never really went back to that church.
But as I sit here right now thinking back on that time, without malice or disgust, I am 100% positive if Jesus had been teaching that class, I would have been his favorite person in the room.
Thanks again for listening to the Shift Your Spirits podcast.
For show notes, links, transcripts and all the past episodes please visit shiftyourspirits.com
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If you’d like to get an intuitive reading with me, or download a free ebook and meditation to help you connect with your guides please go to sladeroberson.com
and if you’re interested in my professional intuitive training program, you can start the course for free by downloading the Attunement at automaticintuition.com
BEFORE I GO
I promised to leave you a message in answer to a question or a concern you may have.
So take a moment to think about that — hold it in your mind or speak it out loud. I’ll pause for just a few seconds….right…now.
MESSAGE Go back in time. What were your original thoughts and intentions? Return to your earliest authentic impulses. Recommit to those.
Shed everybody else’s noise. Everyone else’s opinions and advice and judgments — even though they may be coming from a good place — it’s all too much. You need to tell the world to shut up so you can hear yourself think.
Turn off the radio and drive with just your thoughts. Get back to you. To your truth.
And I’ll talk to you later.