June 8th – Year 1 of the Vow
On the last leg of the tour, we were at a total dive bar. The air filled with cig smoke and the potent cocktail aroma of cheap, pissy beer and furious body odor. The building was built like a log cabin. Heads of slain hunting game mounted on every wall, a stuffed bear by the entrance, and, the crown jewel, a marble tiger statue in front of the stage. We were “LIVE” at the Tiger Hunt in the Sheer Mountains of Forestry Heights, Arizona .
The Sheer Mountains were a popular tourist spot in the winter for snowboarding and skiing. In the summertime, the area was flooded with wealthy city-slickers trying to escape the blazing heat of the capital city, Valley, Arizona. Year round, though, the natives to the area were mostly poor.
The Jordans and I were ready to get home to Paradise Falls, but at the same time, our hearts started aching because the tour was done. Until we turned a profit from our current album online and our merch store, it was back to finding regular jobs to pay rent and put food on the table.
We all had a little saved up. From my savings, I could comfortably live for three months until the money ran out, but it was time to make more dough to put down roots.
Lacey and Jordan Jaye just bought a house in the suburbs, a fair distance from the Light Line, and they’re expecting their first bambino. I’m not sure I’d ditch my loft for a house, but marriage and family… it was odd, but that was something I wanted for me and Celly.
Celly drove me crazy. She was the most non-committal-committed-girlfriend on the planet. As a boy, I didn’t daydream and fantasize about a future bride, but if I did, I wouldn’t have dreamed up Celeste Vallmond. We’re complete opposites.
The band’s song, Caged Spirit, was about her. One of our most popular songs, but it wasn’t on the set list tonight because she hated it. She claimed it guilt-tripped her into being a better person. That the song paints me as some saint loving some heathen. Fans online did not develop that theory when trying to translate the meaning of my art. They think the “Caged Spirit” represents true freedom and that real love really can conquer all. No idea who got that deep and why. If I confessed to the fans it was about my girlfriend, I feel like it would kill the magic it brought to people’s souls.
Of course, maybe I don’t want marriage and the whole baby carriage thing. I’m only 25. I got time. Plus, if Celly had a bun in the oven, she couldn’t be on the road with us, at the merch table night after night promoting our band. We’d have to hire help or beg for volunteers.
The lights changed from hues of red to hues of blue and green, which meant we were closing our show for the night. Lately, I’ve been on autopilot going through the motions. But our last song was Finding Paradise in the Fall. Fans think the song glorified ditching religion and living for self, but it was literally about me moving to Paradise Falls and pursuing my passion of music, which was viewed by family as “Following the Devil’s Path”. Fun fact: I considered naming the song “Following the Devil’s Path”, but I couldn’t contribute to misleading people with the meaning. I don’t actually want to aid the devil in winning souls for hell.
Celly stared at me from the front. She held a beer bottle with one hand and had her other hand stuffed into her tight black slacks. Two ringlets of her wavy black hair hung down by each ear, as the rest of her long, bushy, thick hair was bundled up into a sloppy bun. Her mascara was raccoon-level heavy and she wore chocolate brown lipstick. Her icy-tone, porcelain pale skin nearly lit the darkness of the crowd. She sported a scarlet red tank spaghetti strap top. She wasn’t wearing a bra, and we argued for like 40 minutes before leaving the motel, she still didn’t agree to wear one.
During my guitar solo, everything got weird. Her radiant beauty got morbidly gross. Her skin chipped away slowly until she looked like a mummified skeleton, her hazel eyes dissolved into empty eye-sockets with maggots pouring out like a crawling waterfall. I thought for a moment maybe I was high. Sometimes, Celly spikes my drinks so she can have fun with me after the show. I know that sounds awful, but her and I haven’t done anything sexual while I was sober. We had a really long talk about it and I said that I really didn’t want us having sex until we were married. And no, we didn’t ever go all the way.
We just play around, but I still feel super guilty afterward. I feel like God’s so disappointed in me. She joked once that she would just have to start drugging me to play along and a few years ago she did it. During a gig in Fumbling Stone, Georgia, she brought us drinks in between set changes and what-not. A few songs to the end, I started seeing weird things toward the last song. I was higher than I’d ever been on anything, and sure enough, when I woke up in the morning, it was so obvious we did stuff. At first I was angry… I felt violated… but then I forgave her because a small part of me didn’t regret it. It was weird. Like I looked over at her lying next to me, and I was spellbound… like there was something that made it impossible for me to be mad at her.
I blinked my eyes real fast a few times and it got worse…
A choker locked around her neck and shackles locked onto her wrist and behind her stood the freakiest beast I’d ever seen. Like Mephistopheles and a Baphomet and a snake had a child. Yep, Mephistopheles- the little devil goat man on your shoulder, and Baphomet- the mascot for Satanism. What made it snake-like was its eyes and its rattlesnake tail. The creature held the chains and moved her as a puppet.
The only reason I could keep playing was because I’d seen gnarly stuff like this growing up. And maybe I was experiencing some PTSD from a few childhood events that shouldn’t have happened. Who knew but God.
The entire bar was filled with ghastly demonic creatures and the sins that people struggled with were seared like a brand onto their zombie, rotted skin.
Celly’s body was branded with the words: lustful, liar, drunkard, fornicator, manipulator, temptress, and witchcraft… Witchcraft? Yes, she was a rebel but she was really good about following orders.
The stench got worse switching to the combo of sewage and dead-for-days-decaying-body.
Abruptly, the sites of my tattoos began to burn like I had been stung by a bee in each spot. I struggled to play through the end of the song, since most of my tattoos are on my forearms.
Then I started to hear bad-thoughts and it was almost like I could pick a beast out from the sea of the walking dead and match it with a thought in my head.
I knew what was happening to me but it couldn’t be so… I didn’t take the Vow.
The thoughts of sexual perversion, suicide, and hate got so loud, between that and the music and the stinging pain, I couldn’t take it. I quickly undo my guitar strap and throw my precious electric guitar down on the stage. I cover my ears and holler leaping off the stage. Celly tried to reach for me, to comfort me and to figure out what was going on but repelled by her current appearance I just ran away to the outdoors.
The full moon in the sky gave me an uneasy feeling. I heard music made of drums. On display, on the moon, I saw a show of shadows play like a cartoon. A group of women gathered in a forest around a cauldron and they sacrificed animals to put in it. They chanted to the music and performed some sort of ritual under the moon. I sensed that was insight to witchcraft taking place somewhere nearby in this little town on a mountain. It’s odd to say, but one could “feel the evil”.
“Son,” I heard father from behind me.
Scared, I spun around and it was actually him. Mother beside him. They looked like a motorcycle-gang-couple with their leather jackets, tees, jeans, and boots on. Unlike a crooked-biker-couple they glowed with a heavenly radiance that I just knew was the Holy Spirit dwelling in them from the inside out.
Needing peace, I hugged dad and clung to him desperate to feel relief from all the torment of seeing the wickedness that surrounded us. Sure enough, I found a calmness in father’s arms. He smelled like aftershave and cinnamon. I didn’t realize I missed him that much. I hadn’t seen him since we parted ways seven years ago.
Still embracing each other, because I needed to hold onto to this serenity, I asked, “How did you two find me? What are you doing here?”
“The Lord led us here.” Mother said.
Then she started crying, which made me nudge father away and I immediately held onto her. She folded me into her arms like I was a tether to life. And then I knew before she said it and I began to weep… Levi was dead.
Life appeared incomprehensible without Levi. In no way could I ever be the impeccable man my brother was. “Honorable. Reliable. Protector. Friend. Son. Brother.” Those words could all be placed on his tombstone. He was only 27-years-old. Unmarried. No children. Without an heir, that meant I was expected to take over the family business.
It was odd to call it a “Family Business”. It was more of a priesthood given to clans that carried from one generation to the next. Long ago, before any book was ever written. The Creator called one pagan man to be His friend, and from that ONE MAN, the Creator birthed a chosen nation. Then, a little later on, after this mighty nation had many tribes, some people from these tribes decided to devote themselves to God and to live Set-Apart.
They lived away from everyone else. They didn’t drink wine. And they commonly ate locust and honey, living in the deserts of the Middle East. When they felt ready, they would go to a priest of the Creator and they took the Vow making the official commitment to live solely for the Living God.
They continued to live apart from the common people of this chosen nation and strangers too. They continued to NOT drink wine or any type of alcohol. They also didn’t cut their hair while serving under the Vow. After they ended their service, they could take a razor to their hair again. Very rarely did anyone break their Vow to God.
The most famous person in History that belonged to this unique sect of people was Samson from the Bible. Then again, some wonder if he was real, because not everyone trusted the Bible as a reliable source. Which was funny, because there was no book on earth that had been checked more for its accuracy and cross-referenced to other accepted historical texts than the Holy Bible.
Samson got seduced by a woman from his enemy and she cut his hair while he was sleeping. What was so special about the hair? Well, the hair, “the crown of his glory”, was the source of his power that made him superhuman strong.
Samson was a Nazarite.
People think that after the Savior of the World came, lived, died, and rose again that Nazarites ceased to exist.
My family proves otherwise.
When mother explained the history of our family, I was a little bored and I thought of piano scales in my head. I was eight and I was learning how to play the instrument.
What I do recall was that about 50 years after Jesus ascended into heaven, a few hundred men were called by God through a series of dreams. All of them were from Jerusalem, and as soon as they could, they all went to see their rabbis and pleaded to be allowed to take the Nazarite Vow. Now, there was a small hitch. All these men had left traditional synagogues and became followers of the Way. Believing Jesus the Nazarene (not the Nazarite) was the Messiah was blasphemy in the eyes of the rabbis and they were denied their pleads.
A teacher, to both Jews and Gentiles, heard about these men that desired to become Nazarites. He invited all of them to his home, for he, surprisingly, had substantial wealth, and he believed their dreams were from God. He helped the men take the Vow, three days after the dreams came to the men.
The men left their jobs and their lives behind and went out battling the forces of darkness, much in a way that seemed improbable and highly fictitious. Yes, they sought out demons and creatures in lieu of the Devil and defeated them. No, they didn’t use fancy spells or ancient, secret sayings, nor did they use any paganism to battle the demons. Most of the time, demons were defeated through evangelism: sharing the Gospel. Occasionally, when an unrepentant soul liked their demonic company, super strength and some combat was needed. Well, weapons to fight against witches and warlocks were needed. Magic didn’t really work like telekinesis after dark-art-practitioners said the spell like in the books and the movies. Spells and hexes take time and, even then, they don’t work well on people who believe in and follow the One True God.
My brother, Levi, was born to be a Nazarite. Literally and figuratively. He was born first, so he was expected to carry father’s legacy and take the Vow to become a Modern Nazarite. He also loved rules and order. He loved the LORD with all his heart, all his mind, all his soul, and all his strength. Plus, hand-to-hand combat and sharing the Gospel came easy to him.
Me. I’m not cut out for this line of work!
Music is my thing… was my thing…
Immediately, at 18, I parted ways with my family and settled in Paradise Falls, Nevada. Yes, I knew the place was Sin Town. I’ll confess I was hungry to experience the vexing of temptation. Dare I say I wanted to know what it felt like to do something just because I WANTED TO and what I WANTED TO DO would FEEL GOOD.
Unfortunately, for my sin nature, my parents did too great a job of raising me. I couldn’t escape the Love of God and my love for Him wouldn’t wane. Sin Town sort of disgusted me the minute I walked down the Light Line. On the Light Line, clubs, hotels, and casinos lined each side of the main street that went straight through the Paradise Falls. People could pick where they got drunk, hooked up, and gambled away their paychecks or their inheritances. It was a slice of Hell on earth.
Yuck. I sound so judgy sometimes, but the truth can hurt, right?
Seven years ago, I only had $2,000 in cash, and I needed a job with the first place that interviewed me. That fortunate establishment to receive me as an employee was The Moroccan Palace.
The MP was the tallest and the largest extravagant hotel on the Light Line. Driving into the city, off the highway, it was the preeminently noticeable property of Sin Town. Without this replica of a Moroccan Monarchy Estate, Jude and the Jordans wouldn’t exist! The Jordans and I are family, not by blood, but by choice.
Jordan Jaye was a dishwasher in the kitchen, and our extraordinary drummer.
Jordan Dalton was a waiter at the posh MP restaurant, and our stellar bassist and backup vocals.
Jordan Seely was a fellow bellhop at MP, and killer keyboardist.
I, obviously, was the lead guitarist and lead singer… the frontman.
We started the band a couple of months after I moved to Sin Town. It took a year and a half to grow a solid following. It wasn’t until JJ and I met our better halves we started merch and making digital albums to sell. But we were blessed to do something we love, make a profit, and be able to live decently from project to project. We still needed regular jobs for the months we weren’t making anything, but we knew it was worth it to keep pursuing our dream… or at least it was…
It has been a few months since I’ve seen the Jordans. That night at the Tiger Hunt on the Sheer Mountains, I explained my brother died, and I had to go be with my family. Celly begged to come with but I knew my parents wouldn’t approve, so I told her I would call her later.
I completely ghosted her.
At first, it wasn’t intentional. I was grieving and the next 72 hours were a big deal. I had 72 hours to decide if I wanted to take my brother’s place or just let him be the last Priestly to be a Modern Nazarite.
Based where I am today, I clearly made the tougher choice, I chose to carry on our family’s legacy. No regrets. Really.
I had to get my tattoos removed, which was painful, and once I took the Vow I had to be prepared to see the spirit realm more often than I wanted to… like all the time. And unless I could get Celly to marry me, I had to stay away from her.
Modern Nazarites were held to a higher standard than the Biblical Nazarites… Basically, the more one knew, the greater responsibility they had to live on the side of truth, not error.
Mother suggested I don’t contact her. Celly did have control issues, she probably would have hunted me down to be with me if I reached out to her.
Right?! Like, why am I with- I mean, why was I with such a psychopath? I don’t know.
Father criticized me often for not journaling daily, especially after major, eventful days and missions, but I’ve never been a journaler. My parents didn’t encourage me as much as they encouraged Levi to journal. So, I like to collect my thoughts before I sit down and write it all down.
The only things I’ve deeply enjoyed about the past few months were reconnecting with God in an intimate way, and spending time with father and mother in my training. We all miss Levi like mad, but we were confident he was with Christ Jesus now, and that we would see him again one day.
Then again, maybe I could try journaling nightly… tomorrow, father and I travel to New Mexico for my first mission in the Navajo Nation. Father won’t be helping me, just observing me. If all goes well, I’ll get the green-light to work solo, because my training will be complete. Mother would hang back because the Lord had her on an independent project she couldn’t tell us anything about.
Note from the Author
Thank you for reading the first installment of The Jude Priestly Journals. My apologies for not posting it sooner. My father was ill and just recently passed away. Don’t worry, it wasn’t Covid-19.
Instead of retreating and deserting my passion projects, I find myself diving into them!
I’m especially close to this project because my dad loved stories of this nature, you know, this super-nature… LOL! Total dad joke, right?
Like any blogger, I ask that you like, comment, and share to let people know about this incredible series.
Be on the look out for updates with the Blog and expect to come back Saturday all month long for more of JPJ.
*Edited by Kristen Wenneborg
(Except the “Note from the Author”)
Below you can click the link to listen to the companion podcast to this remarkable series and learn more about the heart and the thought process that goes into each journal entry.