4,000 posts isn't a lot when compared with some other Hatrackers. However, it's been about five years since my first foray into Hatrackland -- don't know the exact day because it was in the BML days, but I know it was before I registered the name Uncle Moose on May 14th, 1999. Same day as TomDavidson, so you know I've been here a long time.
I'm not sure what to say that would be landmarkish. I already posted a landmark that talked about me, and one that talked about my family. I looked at some of the other landmarks recently, as I often do, and nothing jumped out at me as a template for my 4,000th.
Ok, this is my fourth  fifth [edit -- sheesh!] sixth time from this point on, and on the other tries I kept ending up with something I either didn't want to say, or didn't feel at all landmarky. I don't know where to go from here.
Ok, I've decided. I think. In my first landmark, I mentioned my process of getting accepted into college, and that that experience is one of many pieces of personal experiential evidence I use for the existence of God. As I mentioned there, it's not evidence I expect anyone else to accept, but it is evidence I can't compel myself to discount. So I'm going to share another -- possibly opening myself to ridicule, removing any chance of political office in the future should someone find this, but since I have no interest in a political office, that's not a biggie for me.
A small caveat -- I did not take notes at the time, so any quotes may not be verbatim, but they're close, and I'm confident the gist is intact.
It was Wednesday, February 15th, 1989 -- my sophomore year in college, and I'm planning on heading for San Diego for a long weekend -- all my classes (aside from one discussion section) are on Mon-Wed-Fri, and it was already a 3-day weekend because of president's day. I decide to bail on one day of class (my birthday), and take a 6-day weekend to celebrate.
Thursday morning, I wake up feeling horrible. My head hurts, my body aches, my throat is sore, my stomach is growling, I'm slightly feverish and feeling lethargic. What a great weekend this is going to be.
Well, my plans were made, so I was sticking with 'em. I headed down for the weekend, with no particular plans to do anything other than be away from college. Well, maybe spend some time with my family. I didn't do much Thursday after arriving, since I felt pretty bad. And Friday, even though it was my birthday, didn't hold much for me, either. I don't remember, but I probably watched TV or something, and maybe talked my mom into taking me out for lunch. I went to bed relatively early that night (it was pretty early for me then, but probably about the time I go to sleep every night now -- I'm so old), still feeling horrible. I woke up around midnight, sheets soaked with sweat, fevered and yet shivering from the cold, aching everywhere, and thought to myself, "Ok, I can't sleep, so I'm gonna have a quiet time."
(For those who haven't heard the term before, "quiet time" doesn't refer to a time-out or anything. It is, at least in the way I'm using it, a semi-structured time spent alone reading the Bible and praying. At that point in my life, it was a fairly regular, though not quite daily, occurrence.)
I didn't want to freeze (being all sweaty and having the chills and such), so I ran myself a nice warm bath. I placed a towel over the side of the tub, and lay my open Bible on it -- I had just finished Hebrews in my personal study, and hadn't yet chosen what to read next, so I continued on into James. The beginning was familiar, since my mom has always been big on wisdom, and asking for it was part of her regular routine, a part I tried to emulate. I kept reading, and next was:
quote:But let him ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea driven and tossed by the wind.
So in context, this seems to refer specifically to asking for wisdom, but I figured it was probably pretty good to put into practice on all types of asking God.
Well, in my weekly Bible study at school, we'd been studying I Peter, and had gotten to chapter 5, home of the relatively well-known "Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you." Well, I'd been anxious at the time, because I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, or more specifically what He wanted me to do with my life. I felt confident that I was supposed to be at UCSB, but didn't know what was next, in the near or far future.
Thus, I decided to ask. I closed my eyes, lay back in the tub, and prayed. I wanted to know what my future held. It was causing anxiety, and I was supposed to cast it on Him. I asked, and decided I would wait for a clear answer, trusting that I would get one, asking in faith, without doubting.
So maybe ten minutes have gone by. I can keep waiting. Another five. Am I just being silly? No, I can't doubt. C'mon, stick with it. Another five or ten minutes.
Shoot. I woke someone up by taking a bath in the middle of the night. I think it's my dad. I turn to the door. "Yeah?"
And a sense of understanding hits me. It's not my father. It's my Father. I'm kind of afraid, but then I remember He always says "Don't be afraid" or "Do not fear" or something.
"You called Me. You wanted something?" (I'm certain this conversation would have been different if my translation of choice at the time had been King James, but I was a New International Version user. I remember thinking at the time that I expected Him to sound more formal.)
"Well, You said to cast all my anxiety on You. I'm pretty anxious about my future, so I was hoping You could tell me about it so I wouldn't have to worry about it any more."
"Well I'm not going to tell you your future, because that's not how I do things. But I will tell you this. This summer, when you're at Forest Home, you'll meet a man named Jack. He looks somewhat like John Losey, but he doesn't have a beard. He will give you an idea as to what your future holds. Ok?"
"That's great, thank You. Um, can I ask something else?"
"Well, I'm kinda sick. With you being 'The Great Physician' and all, I was wondering if you could help me out with feeling better."
"Tell you what. The fever, the chills, the headache, stomach ache, soreness -- all that will be gone by morning. But can you give me until Tuesday on the sore throat?"
"Um, sure. Yes, Lord. Thank you again."
I got out, dried off, went back to bed. A little freaked out, but not as much as I might have expected after such a conversation. When I got back to my bed, I was frustrated that it was still soaking wet from all the sweating I'd done beforehand, so I pulled the sheets off and slept on top of half the blanket with the other half folded over me. Had I read Ender's Game by that age, I'm sure I would have recalled his frustration with wet sheets.
When I woke up in the morning, it was just as I had been told -- I felt fine, except my throat still hurt. That, however, faded over the next few days and was gone by Tuesday. To be honest, though, that wasn't the part of the previous conversation in which I was most interested.
I didn't want to tell people. They'd think I was nuts. Heck, maybe I was.
I hadn't gotten the job at Forest Home yet, though I had applied. Forest Home, by the way, is the summer camp I went to nearly every year as I was growing up (for So-Cal'ers, no, it is not to be confused with the cemetery with the similar name). I had gone there the previous summer for three weeks as a junior-high counselor, but had applied for a full-time live-in summer staff position this year. John Losey, who did have a beard, was a staff member there that previous year.
Well, I didn't tell anyone in my family, but I did tell someone -- Dave, the guy who was going to be my roommate the next year. Rather than being skeptical, he was excited about it, and made me promise to tell him about it when we returned to school in the fall. When I saw him then, the first thing out of his mouth was, "Did you meet Jack?"
Well, here's what happened. I did get the summer staff job, and it started out with about a week of orientation. We sorta figured out what our jobs entailed and how to do them (I was working at the "Clubhouse," which was basically the main camp snack bar, and the toughest part of the job was learning how to make chocolate-chip shakes without the mixer slicing through the Styrofoam cups). During this orientation time, I was keeping my eyes out all over camp for Jack.
So one of the staff advisors could pass for John Losey without a beard. And I find out his name -- "Buck." Could I have heard wrong, and it wasn't Jack, but Buck? Well, that wouldn't be without doubts, would it, so no, I gotta wait and find Jack. Well, I found out a couple days later that Buck is actually his nickname, not his real name. His real name is…
?! That's so close! Am I sure I didn't hear wrong? Well, I assume it was up to God to make sure I understood, so I'm going to continue to look for Jack. But maybe I should say something to Buck/Rick, just in case? Hedge my bets? No, that wouldn't be acting in faith. Wasn't this process supposed to reduce my anxiety?
So it's a good long time before I've met all the staff, or at least found out who they are -- even at the all-staff functions, there's not time to meet everyone. We're a few weeks into the summer by the time I've determined that there is no "Jack" on staff. Ok, so he must be a camper -- now I gotta keep an eye out for campers. Great. Well, at least I know what he looks like, or who he looks like anyway.
Working at the Clubhouse is one of the "rotational" positions -- that is, every few weeks, a worker rotates out into being a counselor at one of the camps. Basically they hire six people, but only four or five are necessary at any one time. So I get rotated out to the 4th-6th-grade camp, called Indian Village. I did not want Indian Village. I wanted The Ranch (junior high), and I had made that preference known to everyone. As a kid, I hated Indian Village, and all my memories of it were bad. It rained all week. The teepee was infested with bugs. I hated all the games. The night where you cook your own food I got a hole in my aluminum foil and dinner burned -- I ended up with Cajun meatballs.
But that's where they needed people, so off I went. I did make the best of it, and had a wonderful week with the kids, despite my not wanting to be there. When waiting in line to find out my tribal assignment, I got into a conversation with the people behind me in line. Matt was the kid, and it was his first time going to camp without either a buddy or a brother in the same area -- he was gonna be alone. Well, it turned out he was in my teepee, we high-fived, and his parents were pretty thankful because I seemed like a nice enough guy and they'd had that little opportunity to tell me what was up. Matt was pretty homesick -- sick to his stomach over it the first night, but by the end of the week he was sad that he had to leave early (he was playing in a baseball game on Saturday, so they had to leave Friday night). I and some friends ended up spending an afternoon at their house -- I had told the parents about a beginning-of-year retreat for the core leadership of the Christian Fellowship I was in at college, and we were going to be camping only about 5 miles from their house. So they made me promise to extend the offer of a barbecue at their house to the other folks. We accepted and had a wonderful time, and the parents were grateful that their kids got to see some older people actually being good Christians. I and a different group went there the following year, too -- but that's really not a huge part of this story.
Anyway, part of the negative aspect of Indian Village for counselors is that there was only an hour of free time per day (and only on four of the days), so it was precious. Well the first night there I discovered pretty quickly that I'd forgotten my flashlight. Also, my regular staff cabin was the farthest one from main camp -- I think it was called "Kerfoot" -- so I was going to use most of my time just getting there and back. I considered just buying a new flashlight to save myself the trip, but decided to go ahead and get mine, because the new ones available were cheap plastic and always had pathetic batteries which might not even last the week. And mine was a MagLite.
So I walk down to my cabin, grab the flashlight, and head back up -- arriving in main camp to have half my free-time gone. However, as I'm walking along the road, just entering the main camp area, I say hello to a gentleman walking the other way. He says hello, and asks me if the pool is back the way I was coming from. No, that's all staff cabins -- the pool is <gesture> just down this hill and off to your left. If you hit the main road through camp, you've gone too far, but you really can't miss it.
"So you're on staff here?"
"Yeah. I usually work in the clubhouse, but this week I'm counseling at Indian Village."
"Do you work here year 'round?"
"No, just for the summer. I'm a student at UCSB during the year."
"What are you studying?"
"So what does working at this camp have to do with studying math?"
"Well, I count back change really well. No, it really doesn't have anything to do with math. I just have great memories of this place from when I was growing up, so I wanted to come back and work here." This conversation is certainly getting much longer than I expected -- I was only saying hello -- but what can I do with half an hour of free time anyway?
"That's great. What do you do at USCB other than study?" He probably knows the reputation of UCSB -- U Can Study Buzzed -- and is figuring out what type of staff people this camp hires, right?
"Well, I don't really study, not much anyway. I'm pretty involved in the Intervarsity Christian Fellowship group on campus, and I've actually been doing some very informal outreach. A friend and I kinda felt 'led,' and we started attending the 'Gay Men's Drop-In Rap Group.' We don't go to preach or picket or anything, but just to listen and learn, and let them see that there are Christians in the world who don't hate them. It's actually been pretty interesting. When I went, I told them who I was and why I was there even though I wasn't gay, and that if they wanted me to leave I would. They were actually happy to have me stay, because they figured they could learn stuff from me, too.
"It was also eye-opening, because although my non-gay status was mentioned more than once, it wasn't at every meeting, and there were one or two times where I experienced what some people might call heterophobia, or maybe homosexism. It was interesting to see how I was stereotyped, and it brought out some really good discussion in the group when others got uncomfortable on my behalf.
"What about you? What do you do?"
At this point he told me his job, but I honestly have no recollection whatsoever what it was. But he also had an informal type of ministry….
"My son told me he wanted to start a club. I told him that it sounded great, and his club could meet at our house, and I'd provide snacks and drinks, and drive them places sometimes, but I had one condition. They had to call their group 'The Jesus Club.' Didn't have to study the Bible or pray or anything they didn't want to do -- I just wanted them to use that name. Well, they did, and they had a lot of fun. They also did decide to have Bible studies and prayer times. There were five kids, then six, then eight, and word was spreading among these kids that they were having fun.
"It's been a little over three years since they started, and instead of one group of eight kids meeting at my house, there are eleven separate groups, each one with about 30-40 kids! I've talked with some of the other dads, and they're all as amazed as I am. But the kids love it."
"Well, Mr. Carpenter," I said (having read his nametag), "I'd love to hear more, but I'm afraid my free-time is just about up, and I have to get back to my tribe at the village."
"Well, have a great time there… what was your name?"
"Well, my name is Michael, but I've been going by the nickname Moose for a couple of years now. Works out really well at Indian Village, too… there's a 'Running Deer' and a 'Charging Bear' -- I'm now known as 'Styling Moose.'" <Laughter.>
"Ok, I'm heading off to the pool. Maybe I'll see you again before the week is out."
So I didn't think all that much about the conversation after that -- back to the business of corralling nine little kids. Saturday afternoon, after the week's camping was over, I went to spend a little time at the pool, and one of the lifeguards came up to me.
"You're Moose, aren't you?"
"Well, I'm supposed to give you a message. One of the campers here said he had a really great conversation up the road from here with a staffer named Moose. He wanted me to tell you that he enjoyed talking with you and was sorry he didn't see you again before he left."
"Yeah, I remember him. I had to get back to Indian Village. Mr. Carpenter, wasn't it?"
"Yep. Jack Carpenter. Well, that's the message, and I have to get back to work."
Jack Carpenter. Jack. <Thinks back.> Yeah, he kinda looked like John Losey, and he didn't have a beard. I missed it! He was right there, I wasn't paying attention, and I missed it entirely!
But then I experienced a calming. It wasn't an audible voice, but it wasn't unclear, either. "You didn't miss anything. You heard exactly what I wanted you to hear." And it's true. If I had known it was Jack at the time, I'm certain I would have messed something up. "God told me I was going to meet you" -- yeah, that'd keep a nice relaxed atmosphere.
The only drawback (which probably isn't a drawback in the grand scheme of things) is that I'm not entirely sure what it meant/means for my life. But I really haven't had the anxiety over it since then. My best guess for what to take from it (so far) is this -- my job, what I do to earn money, that's not going to be the important thing in my life. So I don't have to feel bad that I didn't become a long-term foreign missionary or a pastor or anything. The valuable things in my life, and the ways in which I serve God, will be the things I do with the rest of my time. It'll probably involve kids (I've always loved kids), and likely involve my own kids (which might be why I haven't started whatever it is yet).
Right now I'm completely confident that I'm still being prepared for whatever wonderful thing it is that I am to do. Being a stay-at-home dad has been a wonderful exercise in patience, love, selflessness, time-management, etc. I believe that all I'm learning, whether I'm aware of it or not, will serve me in whatever is to come. I'm just trying to stay open to figuring out what it will be, and noticing it when opportunity knocks.
I realize some questions are raised. Why me? Why not him or her? What did I do to deserve this? Why didn't I ask better questions? Why didn't He tell me more? Am I really understanding this? I don't know the answers. The things on which I was given no direction -- I figure I must not be far enough off that there was a need to correct me, otherwise I would have been corrected. I plan to keep living my life basically the way I have been, but open to learning and change, because I was open to learning and change back then.
A question I ask myself -- it worked once, why not ask again? Reasonable. Whenever I've thought of asking something and waiting for an answer like this one, it's always felt wrong. I don't think it's a lack of faith, or a fear that I'll lose faith if I don't get an answer next time. Rather, it's the sense that it shouldn't be necessary. That was a low point in my spiritual well being, even though I was an active church member with what from the outside appeared to be a healthy spiritual life. I think maybe I relied a little too much on process back then. I don't know. Things will still change over time, and maybe some time I will ask again. I must admit I hope never to be in that place again, though. Weird, when I try to put it into words.
As with the other event I talked about -- this is personal. This is part of my evidence. I really don't expect anyone else to accept it at face value. I have no witnesses that it happened. The series of events could be explained a number of other ways, though I think all of them (including mine) seem unlikely at best. But real or not, personal or not, correctly-interpreted or not, it's certainly part of what makes me who I am now, and that's what I really wanted to share. For those who were waiting to read this, I hope it was worth it.
Wow. That's so... Wow. I think that God speaks to those who are able to listen. I'm not sure, and I can't be sure, whether or not I've ever heard His voice, but I have, from time to time, spoken to Him and felt as though He had replied. I did so recently, actually... With some... surprising results. To say the least.
That's very very cool, Pops. It was well worth the wait.
I am experiencing one of those moments where I feel inadequate to say anything meaningful.
I don't know where I stand on religious issues anymore. But I do know that my immediate reaction upon virtually meeting you here, and more so upon meeting you in real life, was that you are a person of amazing qualities. I really regret that you live so far away . . . I think you and I would be really close friends if we were in the same town. (Then again, everybody who knows you probably feels this way. )
You are one of the people I thank Hatrack for introducing into my life. It's mind-boggling how much Hatrack has enriched me.
Pop- It takes an amazing amount of courage to show such naked faith in yourself as well as in your God.
Though I have never heard His voice in my waking life, I have felt Him constantly when I have been in pain or alone. I am so thankful for that presence. It is more real to me than the floor I'm standing on. I can't recall ever making a decision to believe, just as I never chose to accept gravity. It just is.
Thank you for bringing yourself and your family to enrich our lives. Thank you for trusting us with your faith.
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Pop - that was very interesting and has mdae me reflect upon a few things.
I'd also like to say I love you actions at college in attending gay meetings. I think that reflects both tolerance and open-mindedness that almost everyone preaches but not many people actually possess. Certainly not to the extent you have demonstrated.
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Pop - what an incredible (and I mean that in the sense of "neat", not in the sense of "not credible") to have had. Thank you so much for sharing.
Forest Home, huh? I went to summer camp there two summers - long before you were there, of coruse. Those tepees were something else. And I feel like such a fool, becuase I'm sitting here in suddenly in tears as I write this from the memories of the place your post brings back.
(((Pop))) As usual with landmarks I hadn't read yours just now, I'll do it tomorrow and offline, but I like to tell a big Congratulation for all landmarks ! Pop, you're a very important part of Hatrack, and we love you. Posts: 3524 | Registered: Oct 2001
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Papa Moose, were you struck by the "Carpenter" part, as well?
Oh heavens, you are the bedrock of this place. I can love my life a little more for bringing you to me, even as a virtual friend.
[I reread that and it sounds so sappy, but I mean it. Going about my day is easier having good people to mull on and remember. You are right up there for pulling me out of the blues, or for help in squeezing out that extra bit of calm patience. Thank you, Moose.]
Yep Pop, you're doing just fine and it seems that you're ministering to more than children. I know that after reading that I've been lifted up just a bit. Thank you, friend, thank you.
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Bedrock, I think, is a totally appropriate description, CT.
Pop, I could read your stories all day. I am amazed to find out we are essentially the same age... you seem so much wiser than I, I just assumed you were older.
Posts: 3846 | Registered: Apr 2004
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What a wonderful landmark. Thank you for sharing. I always love reading landmarks, though I rarely have anything intelligent to say. But I wanted to thank you, especially, since I'm finding myself in a similar quandry, and reading your encouraging words gives me hope.
Wow Myself being a sophomore in college, a camp counselor, having been to some Intervarsity meetings and hanging out at the Diversity House (which is run by the GLBT), among other parallels, your story really got to me. Thanks for sharing!
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Papa Moose, I think that this prophecy was incredibly accurate. I see what you did for Jack Carpenter as a beautiful act. You welcomed him and made him feel comfortable. You were a wonderful host, and you listened to him. You made a connection, even though it was one of those "ships passing in the night" sorts of things.
Do you not realize this is precisely the sort of role you play at Hatrack?
And perhaps these are things you do in Real Life, as well. It certainly seems to be a part of who you are.
My you find your paths blessed wherever you go!
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Papa Moose, I love to read your stories. And what a one this was! Amazing. And, you've reminded me of some things that I still have waiting to be dealt with. Thank you.
Posts: 2661 | Registered: Apr 2002
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Thank you all for the kind and supportive comments. A few responses to some of you:
AJ -- I have no idea. I've never seen nor heard from Jack Carpenter since, I have no reason to assume he's from this area (since Forest Home is in the San Bernardino mountains), and I don't know Tim Carpenter. A possibility, though, I suppose.
Fallow -- I have no idea. I think I've had food poisoning before, though, and it didn't affect me the same way. I was living in the dorms, though, and eating dorm food, so I guess it wouldn't be that unlikely.
Kama -- I did originally think the sound was on the other side of the door. I'm sure He was respecting my privacy.
CT -- as with the name Jack, I caught it afterward, but not at the time. If I'd been paying attention....
Sopwith and Jenny -- hadn't thought of it that way. I'd always assumed that whatever I ended up doing as my official "serving God" thing would be more structured, but maybe my day-to-day life is just another facet of what I'm supposed to do in regard to this experience. Now I'm gonna have to get all introspective about this again.
And Ladydove -- as I mentioned in the chatroom last night, you identified quite clearly why I was hesitant to post what I did. It's pretty scary to put this out there for all the world to see, and indeed made me feel more naked now than I did in that bathtub. Maybe those who are more skeptical about my experience are simply being kind enough not to post it here -- I have difficulty believing there aren't such people here.
I've said before that some people believe there is a God, and some people conclude it. Those who've concluded it may change, but those who believe it never will. That may or may not be true for other people -- it's not like I have a way to test it, and to a degree it's a tautology, since I'm the one defining the difference. But I think it's experiences like the one above that move me into the believing category. I hope and pray that those who want or more accurately need such experiences have them, and that they'd be as valuable to those people as mine was to me.
"Maybe those who are more skeptical about my experience are simply being kind enough not to post it here..."
That would be the case. I like you, Moose, and respect you, and don't feel the need to pull a "dwarf in the stable" thing and dance all over your testimony. But that doesn't mean I'm not consciously holding my tongue.
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Thank you, Papa Moose. I always love your autobiographical posts.
For your consideration while getting introspective – there is a character in one of Gail Godwin’s books, Father Melancholy’s Daughter, who says of another man who is concerned about whether he’s doing “meaningful” ministry, “he lives by the grace of daily obligation.” It is one of the highest compliments I can think of, as it defines a holy life. If someday you are called to a more structured service, I have no doubt you’ll do it well, but don’t ever think that you’re not serving now.
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Thank you Pop for sharing that. I felt a spiritual boost that was much needed. Where ever lifes paths take you, you will be blessed and those around you will be blessed.
Posts: 1125 | Registered: A Long Time Ago!
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Pop, I found this after seeing that your post count was just over 4000. I'm very touched by your testimony. I'm glad you took the risk and I hope I can have the courage to write about my calling to my life's work someday.
And I'll try to read the second page and beyond more faithfully. I can't believe I almost missed this.
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I'm a cynic, but also curious. I like your story and I think it's cool to share, but I do have questions about romantic contrivances (sp?). Also, I believe in maintaining character in a fictional setting like this.
Fallow: Because people here respect PapaMoose, and love the fact that he feels comfortable enough to share this with us. Challanging him on this, for no good reason, does no good and could hurt him enough that he wouldn't want to share these type of things again. Your opinion, or mine, doesn't really matter, as this isn't our Landmark. Also, these events can't be proven or disproven, so why bother trying. After all, it is a personal experience that has had a great impact on him.
PapaMoose: Thank you for sharing this story with us. I don't know if this really happened but it is obvious to me that it really had a strong impact on you. Keep in mind that Jesus never founded a church, but his teachings changed the world. Not all callings have to be a formal ministry; as a matter of fact, I think that formalizing it can actually lessen it, in that it becomes less personal in some ways. One person interacts with many people throughout his/her lifetime, and I believe that we always underestimate our effect on other people.
It could be that your calling is to interact with others on a daily basis the same way you act to people here, by being warm, welcoming, and steadfast in your beliefs. That is a very powerful message, and one that is better shown on a personal level than in a formal setting of a church or temple.
As long as it matters to you, then it matters to those who care about you. Even if many of us never really meet you face to face....
Fallow, this is unique from other threads, because instead of being a discussion over a hot topic, or fluff, or just general discussion, this is Papa Moose sharing with us one of his most meaningful experiences. He asked us to respect, what for him is (most understsandably) a sacred experience. Papa Moose is a wonderful and caring man (and father) and I think it's beyond fair to expect people to comport themselves polietly as asked after he allowed them to view something that meant so much to him.