THE CONVERSATION STARTED ON 4/20/2019 AT COACHELLA EASTER WEEKEND -

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x What Do You Think About Cannabis?

The Email That Started It All

Hey Guys!

I’m forty-three and grew up in a youth group that encouraged the literal burning all of my satanic rock music tape cassettes.

Because of that, my musical spectrum only consisted of black and white. Only two types of music – or, art in general, for that matter – existed: Secular and Christian.

There were wordly movies and Christian movies.

Public Schools and Christian Schools.

But the Jesus I now know came to end exclusion, and preached a different message than the ones I heard growing up… He speaks of God’s inclusive kingdom.

So, my questions for you are these:

What do you think about this domain I bought? What is your initial reaction? Do you have any issues with it? Does it concern you? Do you have any thoughts on what I could do with it, or – perhaps – ideas about a product based upon it?

The domain is www.christiancannabis.com.

I purchased it because of my personal experience with cannabis, which I have now used medically since 2013 – back before the recreational consumption of marijuana was legalized.

I wanted to share some of that story with you, and have included it below.

I’ll be honest – except for one time in early 2018 through my personal Facebook page – I’ve never shared hardly any of what you are about to read, publicly…


Journal Entries Circa 2013 – Present

I have smoked a total of ten cigarettes in my lifetime, and the closest I’ve ever come to enjoying smoking is an occasional vanilla-or-chocolate flavored cigar (which – I’m willing to bet – doesn’t even appear as a blip on the radar of a true connoisseur).

I got drunk once on my 21st birthday, and never again. If and when I do drink, now, I try to make sure my beverage is sweet and fruity enough to come with an umbrella.

I didn’t try any drugs until I was 37 years old, and before you judge me on that one… it was legal.

In other words, when it comes to physical health, I’m perfectly bland. I’ve never even broken a bone.

Shortly after my dad’s passing, though, it seemed as though all my good luck had finally run out on me.

The year was brutal. I lost my father, my wife Jeanette was diagnosed with stage four endometriosis necessitating surgery, and then – one weekend in Amarillo – I thought I was dying (and no, that’s not the name of a bad country song).

I don’t mean “dying” in the Texas is really humid and I’m gonna keel over sense. It was more like oh my gosh my brain is actually exploding inside of my head. I even recorded an “I love you” video for Jeanette and the kids while the ambulance rushed me to the emergency room, genuinely unsure about whether or not I was going to make it…

Obviously, I did make it. The pain went away almost as suddenly as it came, but it always returned with a vengeance, and continued to come and go many times throughout the ensuing nine months that it took for me to find a solution.

June 7, 2013 marked the first of what became a series of these blinding headaches. They would appear unexpectedly, wrapping my brain in their vice-like grip, buckling my knees and paralyzing me for hours until – for reasons as unexplainable as their appearance – they disappeared.

I became a hospital frequent-er, landing in emergency rooms and doctors’ offices in Texas, Arizona, Nevada and Illinois. I called 911 three times, and two of them turned into ambulance rides. Hospitals don’t mix well with the unknown. Each visit turned into test after test after test to try to discover what was going on with me. I had more blood drawn out of my body than I ever realized it was capable of holding.

I had x-rays, CAT scans, spinal taps.

I had a MRI, a MRA of the brain and chest, and was screened for diseases like multiple sclerosis. I saw over twenty doctors and specialists – including a rheumatologist, a neurologist, a cardiologist, and other -gists that I can’t even pronounce, let alone spell.

You name it. I did it. Or rather, I had it done to me. I sat beneath microscopes and had exams out the wazoo, many of which hurt as badly as the headaches.

And every single time, they told me I was fine.

No worries.

On paper, I’m in perfect health.

“Here,” they’d inevitably say, scribbling on a pad, “This is a prescription to help you with the headaches.” Then they’d hand me a slip of paper that I could trade in at the pharmacy for Ibuprofen 800, Prozac, Oxycontin, or some other migraine medication.

I never filled any of them. I didn’t want to cover up what was really going on in my head… I wanted to discover the real issue. Plus, I’m not comfortable with the side effects and/or dangers that some of these medicines threaten (which is not to indict anyone who does or must go the pharmaceutical route – only to say that, personally, I chose not to). Instead, I maxed out my insurance plan going from doctor to doctor, trying to figure out what was wrong with me.

I sought out psychiatric help. Maybe it was – no pun intended – all in my head? But meeting with them only served to further convince me that this was a medical issue, and that I didn’t want to treat it with the pills I’d been offered. Call it fear or call it wisdom – there was simply too much potential for side-effected wreckage than I was comfortable with.

That said, let me tell you about my experience with God’s forsaken devil’s lettuce.

One night, while my wife Jeanette slept in our bed next to me, I was watching CNN and Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s documentary Weed came on.

I was fascinated. I hadn’t been paying much attention to our nation’s pot legalization debates because it never held much of my interest. I’ve never messed around with marijuana in my life. It wasn’t even on my radar. But I was drawn in by this special, and the perspective it offered of this little plant and what it’s capable of, as well as what other countries are doing with it.

The special ended with the story of a five-year-old girl from Colorado. She was dying until her parents looked into medical marijuana, extracted into a liquid form, that ended up saving her life. Her 300+ seizures a week had been reduced – literally – to one. Plus, she was now able to talk. Best of all, it seemed like the side effects were mild, especially when compared to the crazy stuff I’d been reading about these other pills available at my local pharmacy.

Could this be what I needed?

I started to consider everything I had tried to cure what was ailing me – tests, medicines, therapies – each with little to no results. I started to consider trying something a little less… mainstream.

Was pot the cure I’d been looking for?

The next day I applied for (and received – yes, things happen fast in California) my shiny, new, state-issued medical marijuana license.

I’m not going to lie, the “doctor’s office” was… sketchy. Although, the licensers did share their space with a foot-fungal specialist who would perform surgeries in the office, so that had a lot to do with it. (Public Service Announcement: try not to visit pot-docs co-renting spaces with foot lovers.)

The system is strange. Absurd, even. It took all of twenty minutes to have a Skype conference with the doctor (he wasn’t even there in person… a receptionist literally ushered me into a room with a busted-up Windows desktop to discuss my symptoms with whoever he was, wherever he was). Seventy bucks and a couple signatures later, the receptionist’s printer pushed out my card, which gave me the legal right to possess up to eight ounces of marijuana, and grow up to twelve plants. For what it’s worth… that’s a lot of weed, and this dumb piece of plastic with my name on it was the only thing separating my allowances from those of a person caught without it, who would’ve been subject to heavy-handed fines and – potentially – imprisonment.

Like I said – absurd… almost as absurd at the first dispensary I visited that same afternoon.

It had no name and no signage – just a red door on some building across the street from a 76 gas station. A friend of mine – someone with a past more, uh… “colorful” than my own – joined me for the day’s excursions, and after our cards were verified, a woman at the front counter buzzed us through the doors separating the lobby from the back room, where the actual shopping experience took place.

I was expecting a clean, well-lit and minimalistic space – something like an Apple store for potheads – but this was… not that.

Instead, I entered a cramped, crowded, illegal-feeling room packed with pot paraphernalia, complete with bizarre names rivaling some of the best (or most ridiculous) porn star monikers I’ve heard during my years as “The Porn Pastor.”

The place looked nothing like what I saw in Gupta’s CNN special, and even though my presence there was entirely legal, the atmosphere perpetuated all my preconceived, religiously-inspired notions about Reefer Madness, and made feel like I was doing something wrong.

But I had been desperate to find a cure for my headaches – desperate enough to skip church and end up here on a Sunday morning. I wanted to experience some sort of normalcy in my life again, so I chose to brave the unknown. After all… I’d already come this far. I had no idea that marijuana could be ingested in so many different ways. I spoke to the budtender (yes, they’re actually called budtenders) – a pleasant Russian woman behind the counter – about my condition and what I was trying to medicate, searching my memory for the terminology Dr. Gupta used in his documentary…

Something about high CBD and low THC? Was that right?

I was not comfortable smoking, so something like traditional flower or a pre-packaged joint were out of the question, and I wasn’t about to be sold on some weird, phallic-looking bong anyway. I do love candy and chocolate, though, and it just so happens that edibles aren’t limited to gummy bears (who knew)?! I chose a cannabis-infused cake pop, a couple of brownies and chai tea.

It was lunchtime when we finally wrapped up the morning’s activities, and I decided to get extra stereotypical for the family: I ordered two extra-large pizzas so that I’d have leftovers that night… just in case I got the munchies (you know, I’d heard about them on TV).

I don’t know what I was expecting that first night, my virgin-self now tainted by a drug that had always been demonized, but it’s safe to say my experience was… underwhelming.

But I didn’t know what else to do, and I also didn’t understand a single thing about marijuana, or what it meant that different strains had different effects. My headache didn’t go away (yet), but I was determined to find something that worked.

In the midst of all of this, stacked atop the unknowns in a world I’d never experienced before, was the creeping condemnation of a world I was intimately familiar with – the one I grew up in. The one I am still very much a part of. Like most Christians, I had always associated what I was beginning to dip my toes into as an enemy of the faith. As inherently sinful.

What’s the Christian’s responsibility when it comes to this stuff?

I have a pastor friend who takes Zoloft, and no one bats an eye. Should it be okay for me to take weed? Would it be okay if I didn’t smoke it, but instead got it through a brownie or a cup of tea?

Did anyone have any definitive answers? Anything I could trust?

Anyone?

I only medicated with cannabis maybe fifteen to twenty times over the course of next four years. I told no one – save a few friends – opting to avoid the controversy that I was convinced it would cause, especially because of my ministry work, where I feared people wouldn’t understand.

One day, though, I came across some infused mints that looked like Altoids (and tasted like them, too). Each mint contained a small dose – 5 mg – of THC, and they ran about twenty bucks for one-hundred of them. Little did I know, this “microdose” was the perfect amount for me, and that little can of mints ended up changed my life.

Shortly after my discovery, in January 2017, I flew to Las Vegas for the annual AVN show that our ministry, XXXchurch, attends every year. There – in the midst of a break from the convention at the Cosmopolitan hotel – the Lord met me in ways more powerful than I have ever known in my forty-two years on this earth.

My head stopped spinning and I heard His voice. I got clarity. I got direction. I got out of my head, and I let God into my heart in a lasting, visceral way.

You might remember my full, spa day experience…

When I returned from Vegas, I told some of my close friends about the incredible encounters I’d had with God… always carefully leaving out that – before each session – I would take one of my little “magic” mints. I was scared to tell anyone because they were drugs, right? Drugs had been off-topic and taboo for my entire life. It never occured to me that some drugs might not be bad (at least, not in-and-of themselves), let alone entertained the idea that they could ever be good.

Was weed helping me draw near to the Lord?

No, I thought. That’s crazy talk. I’d better keep this to myself. And I did – for years – until eventually, after an entire life spent encouraging others that transparency was a gift to be shared, I became convicted that this secret was no longer mine to keep. I did what all reasonable people do…

I recorded a Facebook Live video about my experience as the pastor “gone to pot.” Frankly, the relative non-response to something that I had been previously terrified of sharing publicly left me wondering just what I had been so afraid of.

The more I began to unpack those experiences in my own mind, the more I began to realize: my life is busy. Too busy. Marriage, two kids, insane work schedules, directing a non-profit, managing side-business projects, and each and every idea that I am constantly moving on.

Some days, I forget to eat. I don’t stop working for long enough to go to the bathroom. Sadly, I realized that entire days would go by without lifting my head for air out of whatever project was in front of me. I could have been sitting in a room with my kids, or my wife, or you… but it’d always be clear that I was somewhere else.

I was there, but I wasn’t THERE.

I haven’t slowed down as I’ve gotten older. Instead, forty-two-me is running circles around twenty-two-me. I had the best year of my career in 2017 – new projects and growth in all the companies and ministries I am involved in.

At the same time, I could have lost my marriage in 2017 had I not been open to some sort of new change or running/ walking at a slower speed.

Work never stops, there is ALWAYS something to do. Even with two virtual assistants at my disposal, there are not enough hours in the day.

So it probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise that, out of nowhere, I started to get that feeling again:

My head was heading for explosion.

Without going back into every shortcoming that I’ve already detailed in previous stories, I had to change. It was as though God was forcing change upon me. I had to apologize to my family for the unbalanced life I’d been living.

I had to tell them how I knew that I was heading for an explosion in my head again. I had to tell them how I had been failing, and all of my plans to change…

But then I heard the Lord add, “Also… tell them about the dots you’ve been connecting to your moments of respite. Tell them about how you have come to hear my voice now more than ever…”

Those damn mints.

I can’t naturally shut off and so… I just keep going. I’ll sit down to meditate and pray and end up thinking about a to-do list, or trying to solve a work-related problem in my head.

It.

Just.

Never.

Ends.

Eventually, I was convicted that I not only I needed to share these things with my family, but I need to tell others about my experience, too. I believe marijuana can be hugely, medicinally beneficial. It certainly has been for me. My health has never been better. Beyond that – and you might think I’ve gone crazy here – I also believe that I have benefitted spiritually because of the mental and physical wellness that I have gained.

I’ve become a better dad, husband, lover (sorry to gross you out, kids, but it’s the truth), boss, business partner and overall human being because of it.

I don’t see a way for a person to be held accountable without him or her also being transparent. I’ve been involved in everything you can imagine related to accountability – from creating software to writing books and organizing groups – and am a huge advocate for living life together.

And yet, in full contradiction to all that I’ve dedicated myself to throughout the course of my adult life, I have somehow felt as though these are things that I can’t share publicly…

Deep down, I have no reason to believe that, save the fear that keeps me from speaking it out into the open.

So for now, I will not be ashamed of something that has done this much good in my life. Something that has brought me so close to the Lord. Something that I believe He, Himself, revealed to me.

Maybe weed could be a good thing – something that God uses to get our attention. It’s certainly how he got mine.

Resorting to drugs? Using drugs? If the pharmacist at Walgreens was filling them, I wouldn’t even consider the possibility of shame… so why the abashment just because I happened to fill mine at a store with a green cross over its entryway?

Call me crazy, but that little green cross pointed my eyes toward the real Cross, and I finally saw it.

After having gone through this process, I have to say that most of my preconceived notions about marijuana have flown straight out the window. I haven’t turned into a mellow stoner. I haven’t begun to slide slopes slippery enough to find myself in gutters with track marks lining my arms.

I have learned, however, that suffering from a debilitating medical condition gets all the more frustrating when all the doctors and specialists in the world tell you that they can’t help you.

I have learned that however cliche the phrase God works in mysterious ways is… he is certainly working a mystery in me.

Now, when I wonder whether it’s okay for me (or other Christians, for that matter), to consider myself “pro-pot,” I tend to live in the kind of tension that I find in the Bible, and in the whole of the Christian experience.

We want definitive answers for controversial conversations, but definitive answers often evade us.

What was once so black and white might not be as clear-cut as it seemed. Perhaps there is room for color in the margins.

I’m not going to be anyone’s ticket to ride, or their permission slip. I’m fully aware of the fact that my experience isn’t a universal one… but neither, it seems, is the image of madness and debauchery that so haunted every association with cannabis up until this point in my life.

Besides, as I said, I’ve had a front row ticket to the mysterious ways God works lately. I’m a slow learner, but I sometimes wonder… wouldn’t it be just like Him to give us a life-changing plant, and wouldn’t it be just like us to call it a weed?


So, guys…

I just shared a lot with you for the sake of context, but my point is that Christians are always late the party.

We’re the last ones to change, and yet we serve a creator God whose work is the epitome of innovation (a dramatic understatement for the One who created life out of nothing).

Where has our creativity gone?

I live in California, where recreational – not just medical – marijuana is now fully legal. And yet – whether here, or in other recreational states like Washington, Colorado, Oregon and Nevada – I’ve not heard of or spoken to a single church leader who has broached the topic with his or her congregation. I know of zero staff policies that have been discussed regarding this “devil’s lettuce,” the way that many exist for alcohol-related church regulation. I realize that just because I don’t know about it doesn’t mean that cannabis isn’t being discussed, but it is certainly not being discussed for or amongst the wider church body.

I think that Christians have more freedom in this arena than we’ve traditionally allowed for.

What if Christians were to begin understanding how something like cannabis could be used in beneficial ways to supports their lives?

What if we were to entertain the idea that legality is not the equivalent of licentiousness, but neither must we demonize and condemn every single thing that we don’t quite understand?

What if – rather than trading our feelings for platitudes and “should-bes” – we were to begin to better understand them?

What if cannabis proved to enhance mental clarity, diminish anxiety, and lend itself toward physical healing and integrative wellness?

What if cannabis proved to dissolve the self constantly getting in the way, enabling one to better prioritize others and the qualities and relationships that make for a full and vibrant life?

This has been, in part, my experience.

All from a plant.

I can’t wait for SNL to spoof this one.

I know people in the Christian space who would promote it.

(I also know guys in the Christian space who will hate it… but I doubt whether they’ll be able to full explain why.)

We could develop different video series that would open people’s minds, discussing both science and the spirituality we are familiar with.

We could work with a legitimate company to create products defined by their excellence, oversee their distribution, and bring them to market. That company (or those companies) then retain and keep us involved for further product development, design, copy, marketing and connection inside the world we’d seek to navigate.

Personally, my excitement about the whole idea comes from potential engagement with the world beyond “our own” – this whole world that has been created, and in which we have been commissioned to go and engage – much like the opportunities that have come from my work with XXXchurch.

We could create other products that a cannabis company wouldn’t, as well. Merch. Videos. You name it. Whatever will prove helpful, as we own the domain, and create a built-in marketplace there for everything… except the cannabis, itself.

I never thought a porn shop would order (and sell) Jesus Loves Porn Star bibles, but they have….

I am of the opinion that being on this side of the cannabis conversation will prove to be a good thing. We would be early enough to the game to be the first ones “on the field,” and I’m willing to bet we’d had a full roster of influencers who wouldn’t shy away from helping us get the word out, either.

We would work with experts and dispensaries to come up with our perfect blends – perhaps something that we might recommend for the purpose of healing, or pain relief, or enhancing spiritual practice.

That’s it.

Well… that’s it for Christian Cannabis.

Will I lose my job if I pursue this? Would you be interested in partnering with me on whatever it could become?

Let me know,

Craig

What Do You Think About Cannabis?

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