Sinking Sand/Solid Rock – An Anthology #16 Epilogue

Monterey Pebble Beach

Continuing on for 50 Years…

Now, as I look out over the 18th green from the 19th hole at the Carmel Country Club with the Pacific Ocean breeze wafting across my face, enchanting waves are kissing the shore humming a soothing lullaby of eternity, beckoning long lost hurts, anger, insecurities, inferiorities and sins – ah yes, memories!  All of those noxious and pernicious negativities of childhood, and acidic experiences of life are barely visible through the fog of time.  They’ve been cast into the sea of God’s forgetfulness. (Micah 7:19)  Sinking sand is no more.  The Solid Rock is forever!   Continue reading “Sinking Sand/Solid Rock – An Anthology #16 Epilogue”

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Sinking Sand/Solid Rock – An Anthology #15 Sacramento

sacramento-1970s

Driving into Sacramento; I had no idea where we were going.  There was no GPS to rely on and the map wasn’t complete.  Calling a number sent to me, I was told to go to a certain very inexpensive motel and register.  The church had no money.  The year before our arrival the gross income for the church was reported as $19,000 and some change, and 300+ in attendance consisting of 79% children under high school age.  We stayed in the motel for three weeks with our first day visiting the church on Friday June 19, 1970.

We were finally allowed to drive to the parsonage.  This was the beginning of our trek through the Sinai desert.  The place was spik and span, but it sure wasn’t like the new parsonage we purchased in Albuquerque and for sure not like Dallas.  It was located in a rather low income area.  That was alright.  My style.

Pulling into the parking lot of the church passing a vacant lot of star thistles, I entered the church that could seat about 200 people and walked back to the pastor’s study.  Welcoming me was a floor of rat droppings – that’s it.  No desk, no chair.  Guess who showed up to welcome me with a big ol’ smile!  Right.  How did you know?  He said, “You’re a loser!”  Satan is an evil angel cast out of heaven.   His express purpose is to defeat and destroy God’s good purpose in our life. Continue reading “Sinking Sand/Solid Rock – An Anthology #15 Sacramento”

Sinking Sand/Solid Rock – An Anthology #14 Albuquerque

albuquerque
Albuquerque, New Mexico – a photo from some time ago.

I left the Methodist church in Dallas under an enormous cloud of embarrassment.  Not forced, mind you.  We had only been there for a little over 8 months.  This had become a habit.  Stupid-stupid-stupid!  I lost control of my life.  It seems that I always get right to the point of success and then make a stupid decision or, more particularly, allow others to make a decision for me.  Does this go back to that horrible day when I was taken advantage of as a five or six year old?  These stupid decisions always reminded me of the quicksand when Daddy and Harold had to take that limb and rescue me from sinking in the Rio Grande.  It was almost as though I was dying; scared, ready to give up.  On top of this was that thing in my nose and relentless bullying because of my size and weight.

 

Just getting by won’t do anymore. Barely surviving was not enough at my age of twenty-six.  Keeping my nose above the water was not going to bring life.  Had I been out there sinning my head off?  No!  Had I been stupid again?  Maybe.  In fact, it seemed that I was on my road to success by moving to Dallas in the first place.  Now, by leaving, it seemed I was going right back – this time willingly or being pushed – into the quicksand.

Friends and family thought I had lost it for going to the Methodists.  Now here I was sinking down to where I belonged because I didn’t deserve any better.  Before Dallas, dirt roads had become normal.  Didn’t all these people who were pushing me back realize they were pushing me down?  Didn’t they know I had exulted in the applause of hundreds upon hundreds?  Didn’t they know I preached to thousands in Dallas?  Didn’t they know I was driving a new car?   Didn’t they know past trauma was holding my spiritual legs crushing me beneath my insecurities, my hurts, my loneliness, and my uncertainties?  I was being pressured by others to accept my infirmities and I was letting them do it!  This had nothing to do, for all practical purposes, with Methodism as far as I was concerned.  This sinking down had to do with my pathology!

Continue reading “Sinking Sand/Solid Rock – An Anthology #14 Albuquerque”

Sinking Sand/Solid Rock – An Anthology #13 Dallas

tyler-street-methodist-church
Tyler Street Methodist Church, Dallas.

Even though these were days of distress, our hearts were lifted to the heavens when a real moving truck backed up to our apartment and moved our things to Dallas, paid for by the Methodist church. They even paid for our personal expenses, gasoline and everything! We had Whataburgers along the way.

I had not seen the home they provided. Both wife and I were apprehensive to say the least. My parents joined us in Dallas as we gazed upon our new home. This was not a snout-house with the garage sticking out front like a pig’s nose. No. As in much of Dallas, the garage was approached from behind along the concrete alley. This was a four bedroom brick home in an upper middleclass area, fireplace and all. Can you believe this? In all our four year marriage we had never had the pleasure of such luxury. Yes, we were human with desires like everyone else to have nice things.

The people of this large church welcomed us with such overpowering friendship and love, no judgmentalism, only warmhearted acceptance. I wasn’t worthy of this, but I sure opened my heart to it. It’s amazing how God’s will is in harmony with increases in our standard of living. I didn’t know if these Methodists were Christian or not because they weren’t a Naz and if you weren’t a Naz …. Continue reading “Sinking Sand/Solid Rock – An Anthology #13 Dallas”

Sinking Sand/Solid Rock – An Anthology |Interlude

THE VIRGIN MARY’S PATH TO BELIEVING

Immaculate Conception - Pascal Deloche / Getty Images

The dark world of human forgetfulness ensures that most of us will be forgotten.  Few will visit our graves; perhaps family, but they, too, will only visit when passing through town and maybe not even then.  Many of us will pass into eternity with a heart crushed by disappointment, fear or embarrassment, perhaps all three.

The parents of that precious little girl named Mary are not even mentioned in the Bible.  They probably wanted it that way.  I don’t know.  Only ancient tradition tells us their names as Joaquim and Ann.  No one really knows.  They were probably a typical family of that day and age.  There may have been other children in their family with all the sounds of kids playing, running in and out, food cooking, doing chores.  Family.  Typical.  I really don’t know and neither does anyone else.  That family is lost; disappeared and forgotten.

Mary may have been around 12 years of age when she was engaged to marry Joseph as was tradition in those days.  She was only twelve for Pete’s sake.  Twelve!   Yes, apparently her parents promised her to Joseph in marriage.  I would imagine that they were excited and happy.  This was normal back in those days. Joseph was a good man and they trusted him with their precious daughter.  To be engaged was a commitment almost like marriage, but without any kind of physical relationship.  Then the crash came!  I’m beginning to cry.  Can’t help it.  This father was caught between anger and disappointment.  The mother of Mary – unbelievably heartbroken.  Crying their eyes out, their bitterness most assuredly exploded and questioning God, “Why!  Why, O God!  We tried to do our best.   Where did we fail?  We gave her our all.  We tried to protect her and love her; now this!  Why?”

So now they separated themselves and their family from friends and relatives.  They hid.  They might have even moved away so that no one would know who they were.  Mary tried to tell her parents that an angel blessed her and that she was still a virgin and had not been intimate with Joseph.  There she was, pregnant.   If she had older brothers, they may have even slapped her around.  “You’re a virgin?  Do you think we are a stupid?  Get outta here!”

In the dark of night this family snuck away with embarrassment never to be heard from again. Continue reading “Sinking Sand/Solid Rock – An Anthology |Interlude”

Sinking Sand/Solid Rock – An Anthology # 12 El Paso

el-paso-to-juarez  1960 El Paso into Juarez, Mexico

El Paso # 12

Thank God for Daddy and Mama.  We arrived at 9:00pm on Thursday night traveling all day from Pueblo with everything we owned in a small trailer.  Daddy was a master at packing and Mama helped with our baby son.  Wife was pregnant with our second child.  The parsonage was right next door to the church and things didn’t look all that bad – at night.

Early the next morning I was up and ready to be the pastor of my very own church.  One of the faithful had left a key in an outside box for us to enter the parsonage and keys to the church.  Excitedly, I opened the door of the church.

My dad was already up and around.  His custom was to get up early, read his Bible and pray.  The two of us entered the church.  We stopped dead in our tracks.  “Daddy, what is this?”  Daddy had extensive experience in building churches.  In fact, he could do anything and knew how to assess things quickly.  He said, “It looks like they used low test concrete.”  The building was one of those steel fabricated things with aluminum and steel construction set on a concrete floor.  Unfortunately the concrete did not have the correct consistency when poured in place.  There were 2 inch cracks all through the floor from front to back, sideways and all around.  Furthermore, the concrete had not been sealed so cement dust was everywhere.  The seats were pews (long benches) brought over from a church that went out of business.  Filthy.  Well, at least there were 19,000 cars per day passing along the front of the church on the dirt road.  Out back was a field of weeds native to a desert environment.  But we had great exposure!

Young, bright eyed and bushy tailed, nothing deterred me.  Nineteen faithful people were there the first Sunday morning plus my parents.  Nine of the attendees were adults.  No problem.  We had a piano.  I played it, sang the special and preached a sermon entitled “We Have a Message” from First Corinthians 2:1-10.  I preached like a bishop as though there were a thousand people there.  Oh, and I wore my deep blue, pin-striped suit with white shirt and red tie, tie tack and cuff links.  No one there told me it was sinful.  Well, at least I didn’t wear lipstick.  My salary was about $30.00 per week ($800 per month in today’s dollars) plus we could live in the adobe house for free.  Not bad, huh?

The long and short of the first few months was that I mobilized a couple of guys and we cleaned the place.  The only person available to act as janitor was numero uno (I thought I would inject a little Spanish).  I still played the piano, sang specials, preached and visited everybody in that part of town.  We had a water pipe running into the parsonage supplying the kitchen, bathroom and back porch shower.  At first the shower had a family of scorpions hanging from the top.  I politely asked them to move on down the road.  With the help of my broom they complied.

I joined every organization I could find.  Soon I was elected to serve as the president of the ministerial organization of the city, vice president of a local service club and became a member of the Sun Bowl group bringing football to the city.  Man, I was involved.  I became close friends with a nearby pastor of a large Methodist church.  That was before the Methodist church started to lose members and before their political liberalism.  He mentored me through the maze of my first time ministry.  Daddy did too, but they had gone back to Cisco and he was getting old.  The more secure Nazarene pastors didn’t want to get involved with mentoring because members might leave their church and go somewhere else, maybe to my church on the dirt road.   Continue reading “Sinking Sand/Solid Rock – An Anthology # 12 El Paso”

Sinking Sand/Solid Rock – An Anthology Pueblo #11

pueblo-cfi-steel-mill-copy

Pueblo # 11

A semi-large church located in a steel town made an attractive offer to be their assistant pastor promising a nice home and the largest salary I had ever made.  I took the job and moved to where the smoke stacks said, “Come on in!”   My wife and I were looking forward to living in a promised nice home for the first time in our troubled marriage.  Sorry Charlie!  We were unceremoniously deposited in the Sunday school wing of the church and essentially told to “root hog or die.”  For all practical purposes, we died.  With wife and 2 year old son it was difficult to say the least – church kids running, music blaring, knocking on the door, blasting through the door if we had inadvertenly left it unlocked.  I had no indication the big guy, my superior, was having an affair with the church secretary.  The general church had very little experience dealing with assistant pastors back in those days since most denominational churches were less than 100 members.  There was no need to think through how things would work with additional staff members.  Therefore, staff members were expendable and usually blamed and/or fired.

I received a call from the Colorado DBS asking me to be available for a meeting.  He arrived with two other pastors.  Confused at about 24 year of age, I ushered them to a small room as I animatedly and happily welcomed them.  As we sat he began to what could rightly be called an interrogation session.  I had no idea what he was talking about.  Apparently the pastor used me for his lack of acceptance by the congregation, blaming me for splitting the church.  I had been there less than four months for pete’s-sake, and was not acquainted with the politics of the people.  I was totally bumfuzzled!

The powers that be of the local congregation had picked up on something nefarious going on between the senior pastor and the secretary, but the DBS was trying to cover his tail by blaming me for the church division.  I had only arrived as assistant less than four months prior and hardly knew anyone much less how I could split people up into warring factions.  After all, the pastor was a big golfer so we golfed about 4 times each week.  This, I thought, was what big church pastors were supposed to do.  I thought everything was great.  I was in tall cotton.  The DBS was known for his heavy-handed administration, but what was that to me – “follow thou me.”  Around 8:00pm after this 6 hour interrogation, some members of the church board heard about the meeting, just about broke the door down and ordered the DBS and his two pastors to leave.  Six hours, no food, no water, no bathroom break, just question after question.  Well, the die was cast!

This position lasted a short six months so off we went to a small church two miles from the Mexican border on a dirt road to live in an adobe parsonage right next to the church.  Sinking sand … again!

Sinking Sand/Solid Rock – An Anthology #10 Seminary

Seminary #10

Arriving at seminary was akin to viewing that shining city on a hill.  Some called it cemetery.  There was a little exclusivism present in the church because we were transitioning from the “corn-field preacher” mentality to high class philosophy.   It was a place of solemnity, or was supposed to be; a place where the “brothers” were to study about theology, the Bible, and how to be a cleric.  We didn’t wear our collars backwards though.  Architecturally, it appeared to be a cathedral and classrooms all in one great, big, holy mass of heaven on earth.  It wasn’t, but I was mesmerized.  The church part was indeed a sanctuary, stained glass windows and everything; pulpit, altar, the whole works.  The classrooms were classrooms.  The coffee shop/lounge was a sanctuary in itself.  Most of the brothers worked at outside jobs and came to class worn out and with little sleep.  Therefore, the lounge became a place to sit down and take a power nap.  I learned to sleep for 10 minutes and wake up as though I had been asleep for 2 hours.

Within walking distance a few bigshots owned rental properties that they rented to seminary students.  They weren’t slumlords.  The slumlords rented down on Troost or farther toward downtown on The Paseo.  Nevertheless, big cheeses competed for the rental income of seminary students.  Get it while you can.  That must have been OK.  I had other fish to fry.

We arrived as pore [poor] as Job’s turkey.  A large, single family home owned by a church executive was to be vacated due to his move to a very large church on the west coast.  It was not only offered to us, but we were welcomed with open arms.   He and his wife really wanted us to rent their house and at a reduced price.  That was not to be.  Newly married, I soon learned that nothing was not to be and I went along allowing other people to make choices for me.  I couldn’t understand why, but we rented an apartment in the slums paying more for rent than we would have paid for the mansion.  Praise God!

I’m telling you, I had a vision of learning stuff and pastoring a church.  I was hell-bent on keeping people out of hell.   As in the first grade, I should have been held back.  Here again, with my maturity level, someone should have told me the truth and the truth was that I had no business getting married, no business entering a graduate program and no business leading others down the path to Christian living when I hadn’t been there with any degree of understanding.  I loved Jesus, as much as possible, but how can a guide lead someone on a journey when he had never been there?  It’s like the blind leading the blind!  “Hold your horses” is what I wish someone had told me.  All I knew at the time was singing and focusing on the ministry.

Married the previous summer didn’t help.  I had no idea what marriage should be other than everything would be hunkydorey.  All aspiring preachers were supposed to get married, preferably to a woman who could play the piano.  It was not to be, that is, the piano part.

The winter was harsh as were a few other things in my life.  Ice, snow, freezing rain.  Scraping 2 inches of ice and snow off my 1961 Ford Falcon at 7 o’clock in the morning and rushing to class on icy roads for class at 7:30am was not a pretty picture especially after arriving home at my slum area apartment at 12:00am and studying until 2:00am.  I was in good physical shape due to years of training in high school for boxing and having plenty of exercise in college with the quartet guys playing tennis and lifting weights.  It was a good thing because my schedule was brutal. Continue reading “Sinking Sand/Solid Rock – An Anthology #10 Seminary”

Sinking Sand/Solid Rock – An Anthology: College #9

College Years – # 9

quartet

There I stood on the curb of Highway 66 watching my folks drive away, crying.  Yeah, it affected me a little bit, but I was a grownup now – free as a bird!  I was enrolled in college, had a roommate in F Hall, things were exciting.  I had become a Christian so this was like heaven to me without crossing over Jordan.

It was heaven until I found out that I am me and people are people.  Geological solid rock is not solid in its absolute.  Nothing on this earth is.  Changes in temperature, expansion and contraction, movements deep in the earth all present a non-perfect picture.  It may be solid in comparison to something else, but nothing, absolutely nothing on this earth is perfect in its essence.  There are elliptical flaws or cracks in all rocks.   Even El Capitan of Yosemite National Park expands and contracts leaving slight cracks that some say could cause it to break away a gillion years from now if the creek don’t rise and the Lord don’t come.  I was on The Solid Rock, more particularly, Christ the Solid Rock. There are no flaws in this Rock.  There are no changes in this Christ.   But where was that childlike joy and happiness I knew as a little guy growing up?  Where were those days of purity, hope, innocence, and acceptance?  I thought I would be as a solid rock like my daddy and my mama.

I soon found out that there were kids, people from all walks of life, all backgrounds who were at college.  There were kids who had come from pastors’ homes, bigshots’ homes, blue collar homes, some who had been to another college, some were older having had adult experiences, some who were from alcoholics’ homes, the innocents, the savvy, former military guys, the mature and immature, big, little, great and small.  Everyone brought with them their flaws.  Some had been Christians for a long time and some weren’t Christians at all.  I learned that people are always going to act like people.  For the most part, other than the arrogant and snooty ones, everyone was nice.

Here I was all saddled up and religioned ready, ready to enjoy church college camp or college church camp, whatever.  I was a dry sponge wanting to be liked, wanting to participate, wanting to achieve, wanting to be a part of something.  What I didn’t realize in my 12 year old mind at eighteen was: (a) this was a college, not church camp; (b) this was root hog or die; (c) no one is going to bow down and call me blessed; (d) I was still me with all my flaws, problems, disappointments and stupidities; (e) I was a new Christian, like a newborn baby in everything trying to ambulate through my first few years of life, crying, falling and pooping my communal  and spiritual pants.  Mama was clean, washed and ironed my clothes teaching me to do the same.  F Hall was a piece of you know what, like living in the ghetto.  Two weeks was enough for me.  I needed a job, I thought. [Did I have ADHD?  I don’t know.  Did people even have ADHD back then?] Continue reading “Sinking Sand/Solid Rock – An Anthology: College #9”