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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

A Priest Walks Into A Bar.....A book review of The Beer Drinker's Guide to God

A priest walks into a bar — Walks up to the register, counts the till and turns the open sign on. So what's the punch line? There's not one. You are at Padre's in Texas and if Father William Miller is in town you just might find him doing any of the above including pouring and toasting stouts with his compadre's.
What you ask. A priest that owns a bar? Oh yes, but Episcopalian priest Father William Miller's heavenly spirit (insert cloud opening revelation music here) and earthly spirit's (better than Budweiser) filled life is so much more. We SHALL conclude that the bar was a logical business venture that stemmed from his calling to test the spirits of goodness. And we SHALL call his transparent book The Beer Drinker’s Guide to God a blessing that naturally ensued. His name is not just a signature on the joint venture, it is his life's pursuit to experience true holiness.
I had the opportunity to interview Father Bill last week while he was on a book tour for the incredibly entertaining book "The Beer Drinker’s Guide to God."
I told Father Bill that I spit wine onto my computer screen while belly laughing when I received the request from Charleston Grit to do his book interview. He quickly (priest tone) assured me "Spitting onto your computer screen is a waste of good wine." We were off, it was an incredible interview with a man who clearly loves life, the afterlife, laughter and a good aperitif.
I asked if he had the WWJD (What would Jesus Drink) bracelets in his Marfa Texas bar, aptly name Padre's. He laughed and said "No, but that is a good idea."
He's the real deal alright, no mail order ministry here. His bio states "Father William "Bill" Miller studied at Abilene Christian University, McCormick Seminary in Chicago, the Seminary of the Southwest in Austin. He has been awarded numerous academic honors. He has served congregations in Austin, Houston, and Hawaii and his churches have experienced exponential growth and become centers for the intersection of the arts, spirituality and creativity. He is the author of two popular, engaging and critically-acclaimed books: The Beer Drinker's Guide to God: The Whole and Holy Truth About Lager, Loving, and Living (Simon and Schuster/Howard Books) and The Gospel According to Sam: Animal Stories for the Soul (Church Publishing/Seabury Books). He loves music and has founded three jazz festivals and collaborated with musicians on various creative projects. He is the priest at St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church on the island of Kauai, where he lives with his dog Nawiliwili Nelson.
The Beer Drinker’s Guide to God  is the insightful written journey of Father Miller's quest for lightening up and enjoying the blessings of his creator. When the book arrived I knew that I was going to have to delve in hard to read it before the interview. I can't read in bed anymore — at least more than two paragraphs because books are my Ambien. So— this left me with ~old school~ cramming before the interview. I honestly held this book in my hand while stirring pasta sauce for Chicken Parmesan and walked from my kitchen to the mailbox at end of drive while reading it. I have laughed out loud, gasped, contemplated, questioned, researched, underscored and highlighted this book!
One thing is quite clear, Father Bill has a sense of humor and evidently God does too. I asked, "Father Bill, tell me one of your ~God has a sense of humor moments.~
"Ok, It's Easter Sunday and I'm pastoring a church in Austin Texas. There is a big Easter egg hunt scheduled after the service. We have hired character entertainment, a costumed Easter Bunny to surprise the kids and walk out behind me at the closing of the service and into the church yard where the children hunt for Easter eggs. I'm closing the service and nervously looking about for the furry mascot rabbit. He's nowhere to be found. I couldn't prolong the service any longer and closed. Heading down the aisle past the apprehensive faces of the parishioners and anxious children I prayed silently, Lord, please let the Easter bunny show up. I realized the absurdity of this request but continued on. As I continued down the aisle I noticed the congregation was wide eyed, staring at something behind me. I just knew I would turn to see the furry costumed Easter Bunny, I didn’t. But— beyond the  large bay windows looking out into the churchyard, there was a perfect white rabbit standing on it's hind legs and looking into the church window! The costume bunny eventually showed up, but it wasn't nearly as good as the God winked Easter bunny in the window.” He finished with a laugh.
Father Bill’s laughter made me think of a paragraph from the preface of The Beer Drinker’s Guide to God, “Rarely does a contemporary religious work reveal anything funny about God. We are much too serious in our attempts to understand a God who is far more playful than those who claim to speak on his behalf. The trust is that serial solemnity and spiritual awareness have nothing in common. God is funny. God is the originator of irony, the progenitor of the punch line.”
And finally I asked “Overall what do you think the Christian community’s response is to a priest with a growler in hand?”
Father Bill answered, “Far and wide the message seems to be well received. I have talked to every denomination in every location that you can imagine — including conversing Buddhism with Trappist monks in Tibet and theology with Oxford scholars at a bar. A good stout is universal. It opens up the lines of communication between us.”
The Beer Drinkers Guide to God is chock full of personal stories and adventures in Father William Miller's quest for the good grapes or mead. Come out and meet Father Bill, buy the book, talk to him and have a good meet and greet downtown Charleston, Monday August 18th at 5 pm at Blue Bicycle Books.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Drift Away In A Float Tank!

It had been a week from hell. The quick onset of a mystery illness gave me quite a scare and had me in the hospital for 4 1/2 days last week. I had to cancel a family picnic on Daniel Island and a much anticipated trip to Daufuskie on Friday with the Facebook group Charleston History Before 1945.   But — the following Saturday I was treated to 4 fabulous hours of pampering. It was the most phenomenal recovery that I have ever experienced. So what did I do?  I floated.
Yep, I went floating. Not the clubhouse or backyard pool type of floating where the sun is beating down on you and someone does a cannon ball and totally screws up your chi.  No — I floated in a facility that offers floating as undisturbed ultimate relaxation. Glo Spa, Charleston's first and only float tank facility and — it's in our very own East Cooper neighborhood.
I was apprehensive at first. It sounded kind of gimmicky so I Googled it. Sensory deprivation floating tanks are actually not a new concept at all. The flotation tank was developed in 1954 by John C. Lilly, a medical practitioner and neuro-psychiatrist. During his training in psychoanalysis at the US National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), Lilly commenced experiments with sensory deprivation and neurophysiology.
The appeal to me was simple. I am a floater, part mermaid you see. My fascination with tub buoyancy started with my first (by myself, without brother or sister) bath. It was an old claw foot tub. I filled it to the rim and let it swallow me up. Floating. The only sound was my heartbeat and the occasional drip from the old faucet. Everything went away and I became semi-weightless. However, something always intervened, bringing this nirvana to a screeching halt. The water would get cold, the phone would ring, someone would beat on the door to get in....
So— the idea that someone could offer me a solid hour of tranquil nothingness was a no-brainer. I'm all in. Owner Steve Eppell conversed with me about the experience and the totality of making it a full spa day.
All of the services are A la carte.  I participated in the combo of 1/2 hour steam room, 1 hour float tank and ended with a 1 hour massage.
Every single thing was set up and in place. No need to take anything! The facility was clean and systematic — a visually and sensually soothing environment.
I am going to include their website so that I don't elongate on the procedure and factual side in lieu of offering my personal experience. Here is what to expect from the float tank.....Nothing!  Nothing is wonderful!  Your brain registers the 93.5 degree water temperature as skin receptor neutral. Combine this with darkness and lack of gravity and you won't know where your body ends and the water begins.
The float tanks are designed to mimic (as closely as possible) sensory deprivation. So, no clothes (unless you actually want to wear them) no jewelry, no hair clips. Nothing but you, the water and darkness — complete darkness. I literally could not see my hand in front of my face. I put in some ear plugs laid back and totally let go. So what do you do with just yourself when nothing but the sound of your heartbeat is infiltrating your brain for an hour?  I left myself drift out to sea, flitted back and forth with the awe of weightlessness and then actually created a new character for my novel and two new rabbit trails to run down in the adventures of the plot.
I am a restless creature and didn't imagine that I would stay the entire hour. I was surprised when the gentle music filled the chamber signaling the time was over. I showered, dried off and put on another warm robe and headed to my massage. I tried to talk myself out of the massage. Which would have been a huge mistake! I have never —I repeat, NEVER had such a healing, therapeutic and holistic massage... ever. Kelci Eppel, my hats off to you, that was truly a religious experience. I  walked out of Glo Spa feeling like Gumby on Prozac and questioned momentarily my ability to drive.
Cleanliness?  Top notch!  The water filtration started immediately after my timer signaled I was done. There were fabulous showers, fresh bath robes for each room, towels, spa shoes, ear plugs, infused water. Top of the line shampoo's, conditioners, soap and lotions.
Hours later I tried to think if there was anything that could even have been improved upon. Zilch. My only disappointment was that the experience was so good that I was a little let down when I opened the door to leave and found myself in a parking lot and not the balcony of a paradise tropical location with someone fanning me and feeding me grapes. The serenity and peace along with the holistic benefits of the steam, float and massage were ethereal.
~Seeds of great discoveries are constantly floating around us, but they only take root in minds well prepared to receive them~  Joseph Henry
Glow Spa
Call Steve Eppel (owner)
320 W Coleman Blvd #H
Mt. Pleasant, SC 29464