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#59 With A Little Help From My Friend

“…the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.” Jesus as quoted by John, his disciple

Sissy had asked me to attend a Bible study after our first date. I really did not want to attend a Bible Study. Heck, as you know by now I had read the entire Bible through three times and could vomit scripture out at will.

In fact thought of going to a Bible study actually made me want to vomit.

But I would have walked on hot coals to spend another couple of hours with Sissy during the week so I went for that reason only.

My mind was as open as a wall with regards to anything of the Bible.

But God will have His way, won’t He?

Despite my admonitions to God to, “Stay the hell out of my life,” I would soon see His hand on my life again.

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Now a MCM study or sermon always started with a premise (not that MCM would ever have used that term). This premise always supported whatever MCM had decided to do or decided to make the sheep do.

That pretty much sums up the purposes of MCM’s studies, sermons and theology.

Before we delve into MCM’s method of indoctrination it might be helpful to look at common methods of preaching and teaching. One method, topical teaching or preaching, expounds on what the Bible says about a specific topic. It involves, or should involve, looking at multiple scriptures throughout the Bible to see what multiple scriptures say about the premise (again I don’t like this approach but that is one reason Baskin Robbin’s ice cream has more than one flavor).

What MCM employed (and what I believe EN employs) is the topical method  with a subtle variation which using what Mary Alice Chrnalogar calls,  “Twisting and Bending” [Mary Alice Chrnalogar author of a great read on this subject called “Twisted Scriptures” I use her descriptions and conclusions extensively in this post].

“Twisting and Bending” is a subtle and dangerous use of the Topical Preaching method.  Dangerous because it involves looking only at passages and scriptures that support the premise, regardless of the context, or what other scriptural texts on the subject might seem to say. It scours the Bible for any and all texts that support the premise and ignores any that do not, however numerous.

I have given a couple of examples of this Twisting and Bending to teaching approach earlier in this Blog.

For example MCM’s teaching of total commitment to Christ started with the premise that since Jesus calling his followers to live a totally committed life everyone should “give it all up for MCM” including the  requirements of being shepherded and of bearing fruit (bringing others to Christ).

The MCM teacher/preacher would scour the Bible looking for any, and all, passages that might possibly support this predetermined premise. Any scriptures that might run counter to the premise or caution against it pwere ignored.

Well there ARE plenty of scriptures that could be interpreted to support this view (the need for  complete and total commitment to be a Christian, being shepherded, and bearing fruit). However, if I could show you ONE passage that did NOT support this view, one example of someone believing in Jesus and going directly to heaven without doing a THING for Jesus, then this might give you, the adherent, pause before going crazy and driving a complete theological framework and a Church (or cult) around this teaching.

One might only point out that the thief on the cross, an admitted sinner, who died soon after his conversation with Christ, and went to paradise. No confession of sin on his part, no hootah sessions, no converting anybody, no lengthy all night prayer sessions, no Bible studies, no baptism no nothing but stating, “Truly You are the Son of God,” and asking Jesus to “Remember me in paradise”.

The thief was a sinner one minute, asking Christ to take him the next, in paradise the next. One could, as I pointed out earlier, also look to the parable of the late worker who received the same of pay those that had worked all day for the master.

Sure there is room for argument here, of course,…my point is not that anyone accept the COUNTERVIEW view I just proposed to the radical commitment to Jesus premise. My point is simply that ALL scripture should be weighed and considered before a theological position is taken.

But of course MCM used this Twisting and Bending method with all its teachings …and to compound this fundamental teaching error …anyone who did bring up a countervailing scripture(s) would quickly find themselves in a hootah session or worse.

***********

Well, it soon clear to me that this Bible study of Sissy’s was radically different from the MCM studies/sermons and the fill in the blank MCM gobble-ti-gook nonsense of the Red, Green,Brown, Blue, and Pink Books (yes Pink!) Book Studies that I had poisoned my mind with for five years.

For Bible study I went to with Sissy started with no premise.

None.

It was not about “Believing in Miracles”, or “The Laws of God’s Prosperity”, or “Spiritual Warfare”, or “Claiming the Healing Power of Jesus’, or “Discipleship, God’s Way”, or “Converting Souls for Jesus”, or “Why You Should Give to a Special Offering”, or “Gods Annointing on the Leadership and Why You Should Obey Them Always No Matter What”.

It was a premise free, topic free, study.

Let me correct that. It was a study whose topic was simply, “The Book of Romans”.

Now when I started attending the study, the group was going word by word, line by line and verse by verse through Romans; they were just starting on the 2nd Chapter after sixteen weekly one and a half hour studies.

When Sissy told me all of this I could not have imagined anything more BORING. Nothing to get excited about, at all, from my perspective.

I was merely hoping to keep conscious during the hour and a half study.

I mean how many times had I heard, or [cringe] did I say, “Tonight God has an earth shattering important word on…well…Faith or Healing or Saving Souls or Giving or Demons or Ruling and Reigning or Give God (me) All Your Money?”

But a study on Romans????…just Romans…well it sounded as appetizing as a bowl of day old oatmeal with no sugar in it to me.

Sissy brought an oversized parallel Bible with her (the kind that tracks KJV, NIV, NAS and RSV side by side) and something I had never seen before; something called Young’s Literal Translation which was a word for word Greek to English translation of the NT.

Now what did I bring?

Well I brought one of those little green Gideon’s New Testament since my other Bible was moldering in the woods; highlights, notes and all. (I wonder if it is still there…in my parent’s back yard…?)

So we started in on the second chapter of Romans and spent one and half hour on the following:

“You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.”

We looked up the Greek word for therefore and excuse, we looked up all potential English translations for them. We did the same for the words judgment and someone. We looked at probably twenty other scriptures around these words and concepts. We went back to Chapter 1 to see what the there was there for (ha ha ha). We spent time discussing why Paul was writing the church in Rome and where he probably was when he wrote the letter.

About 45 minutes into this thing I suddenly found that I was enjoying it.

I mean we were parsing the Word of God, examining it up and down, sideways and backwards…no premise…no huge points…we were letting the Bible Speak to us… just speak…no hushed tones then loud screams by the teacher, no hand gestures, no leaning forward when a huge point was made, no accusations, no condemnation, no band playing some emotionally laden song at the end of the study, no hootahing, no tears… no one telling us we were not trying hard enough, or our souls were in jeopardy… it was just a pure and simple study of the Bible.

Later we spent four weeks studying the greetings to and from the early Christians at the end of Romans, tracing Rufus and learning about his mother…it was one of the most exciting studies I had ever been through.

You see I this was my first exposure to expository teaching, exegesis, and Biblical hermeneutics for the first time.

Exegesis involves determining the literal meaning of each word of scripture and the relationship to other words, and the context of the scripture (those verses and words immediately before and after).

The other principles being used in this study was that of hermeneutics and weight of the scripture. This is simply trying to understand the proper interpretation of scripture using the exegesis, context and weight of all the scriptures to develop a view or interpretation rather than gathering disparate texts.

Our teacher, a seminarian,  used a very simple explanation for the way he was teaching:

“Suppose you walk into a room and two people are conversing and you hear one say, ‘I hate it when you say that.’ Now, you might, based on that one statement, come to a conclusion…being that the speaker hates the other person or what they are saying.”

“But if you investigate the context of the conversation, look into the entire conversation, explore the relationship between the two people, look at how the words are used in relationship to each other. You might actually find out that the person who said ‘I hate it’ actually liked what was being said, and was getting ready to laugh at a very, very funny joke.”

Well at that time I did not understand all of this, that is for certain.

And I did not realize it during that first study I attended, nor the fifth, nor the tenth, but sometime during the next 12 months real faith began taking root in my heart.

Not a faith that I grasped or or conjured up through an effort of will… but a faith that was growing without my effort, or perhaps, in SPITE of my efforts.

For as I later learned faith comes… by… Hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.

And for the first time in my life, I was simply sitting and studying the Word, not to learn how to get more souls for Jesus, or to become a, “Mighty man of God,” and or a, “CHAMP,” not to prove a point I already had in mind, or someone else had in mind, nor to impress my shepherd, nor to impress God, nor to get deliverance…but simply to study and hear the Bible “speak”.

It truly was like drinking out of a clear and cool fountain on a hot and dusty day.

*********

And day by day, little by little, with the help of this simple weekly study along with the advice and counsel of my special brown-eyed friend, I begin unlocking the rusty shackles and chains that I, with help from MCM, had wound tightly around both my mind and spirit.

#58 Out of the Ditch I Come

I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church in Cenchreae.  I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of His people and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been the benefactor of many people, including me.”  Paul writing to the Church in Rome and referencing Phoebe, a deacon in the Church in Cenchreae, who Paul entrusted to deliver his important letter.

Out of the Ditch I Come

It turned out that I had gotten up enough guts, the previous night, to call the brown-eyed beauty that had constantly occupied my thoughts since last Saturday. Her name was Sissy. She was a Christian, and a junior at a private Baptist College in town.

I had asked her out for dinner and, to my complete and total surprise, she said, “Yes I would love to.”

************

Well, I picked up her up at her dorm around 7:00 pm in the evening, the same day that Phil called me.

In the car, before we got underway, Sissy insisted on praying.

Now keep in my mind, except for my prayer that God would commit an unnatural act on the leadership and on Himself, I had not prayed in about a year. So I was a bit skittish about praying, but if being with her meant a small  prayer or two, then I was willing to make that sacrifice.

She took me off guard with her prayer that night, really she had me pretty much discombobulated all evening.

Here was Sissy’s prayer that evening:

”Hi God, I had a great day today…not sure about Tikie here. He looks okay, but something is on his mind. I hope you will help him with it. I think whatever it is, it is bothering him, maybe he will tell me about it. Look, you know we are both going out to dinner tonight and I hope we have some fun and get to know each other too. Oh, I forgot to tell you this afternoon that Dad is planning a party for Mom’s birthday and is looking for a restaurant to have it in. Could you give him an idea of where to do this? Okay, please help us keep You in mind tonight and thanks for answering my prayer and getting Tikie here to ask me out…uh…,” and she looked over at me, “Tikie is there anything you want to add?…”

I just looked at her.

Not a weirdo I hoped. Dang it, she had seemed so nice and normal at the clothing store on Saturday.

Just what I needed: a night with a religious nut hatch.

I licked my lips and said my first prayer in over twelve months, “Dear God thanks for Sissy and I hope we have a good time, uh,… Amen.” I hoped that would satisfy her.

”Amen,” she said, and then she looked at me and for the first time that night her left eye brow up cocked up.

“Just so you know I am hungry and don’t expect me to order a bunch of fru fru stuff…are you interested in steaks? Because there is a great steak and fries place down the road if you are.”

I looked at her and said “…Uh…sure… that sounds okay, good.”

On the way to the restaurant I asked her what in the world she was thinking, going out with some guy she did not even know and who had walked in off the street to buy clothes from her.

Well she laughed and said, “Oh, I knew right away you were a sweetheart of a guy, I just knew it…and I knew you were going to call me… I asked God to make that happen. And my intuition about people never fails me. Never.”

And I can tell you that was a true statement. Sissy is equipped, with a people radar that never lets her down. She can tell in about thirty seconds whether a person is a good person or a bad person.

That sums up her categorization of people: they are either good or bad. They fall into one category or the other.

End of story.

She told me that as we were walking into the steakhouse, “You see Tikie there are two kinds of people in the world, there are good people and bad people and that is about all you need to know about people. You can’t change a good person into a bad person nor a bad person into a good one. They can’t even change themselves, the bad people, why they don’t even want to change themselves.”

“But what about Christ,” I asked?” Can’t he change them?”

She again cocked up her left eyebrow up again and paused.

“Well, He IS the one that actually makes them good,” she said with that really cute half-smile, “or decides to leave them the way they are naturally…which is bad. Either way humans are either good or bad…and there is not anything man can do about it.”

“Not a thing.”

I interjected: “But we, all of us, don’t we have a responsibility to seek Jesus and lay hold of Him and live the overcoming life?…the Bible says that…can’t a bad person say a prayer and have Jesus change them and step out to start following him… I know you need Grace but the Bible says….” my voice trailed off to nothing.

I started to take her on MCM style with a bevy of memorized scriptures and things that I was taught and had taught others. It was a Pavlovian response on my part. I mean, I practically had the entire New Testament memorized.

This was no exaggeration.

Marty had us use the Navigator’s card memorization system and I am sure I had memorized close to three hundred versus. I actually can still quote the book of James verbatim.

But I stopped short and wisely shut my mouth mid sentence.

I realized that I did not know jack about Christianity. Despite all my studying and memorization, prayers, “hootah” sessions, and the prophetic utterances over me I had flunked out of Christianity.

I had not and could not measure up to being like Christ.  I did not know crap about God or Christ, I thought. Not really. Oh I knew all about Them, but I did not know Them.

How could I argue with this girl about Christianity, even though I thought she was as wrong as could be?

The answer was that I could not.

She laughed, “Tikie your problem is that you give God too LITTLE credit and man way too MUCH credit. We are nothing but worms. The only reason we can seek God is because HE puts the desire in us. We can only see if HE opens our eyes. It takes ALL the pressure off.”

“But, what if you fall into sin?…and start sinning.. doesn’t that make you bad? and then wouldn’t that make you unsaved?”

She looked me up and down, “Why Tik that is what Christ was talking about when he spoke of a fig tree bearing figs and a thorn tree bearing thorns. Neither has to try. They just do. Why if you are a Christian you don’t WANT to do bad things. The fruit of Christ just flows from your life.”

She looked at me and furrowed her brow,  “See? The reason we act like Christians is because we ARE CHRISTIANS. Get it?”

I did not.

She continued, “We don’t act like Christians to become Christians, we act like Christians because we WANT to please God. He gives us the desire to do so.”

Now it took me ten years to REALLY understand that statement and how profound it was and how deep and how simple Sissy’s faith really was.

I was starting to realize thirty minutes into our date that she was different from anyone I had ever met.

First and foremost she was a Christian. But she did not try to be one; she just WAS one.

It was cool.

I found her earlier prayer most unusual’ and now twenty-three years later I still find her prayer style unusual. It can actually unnerve some people.

Not that she notices or would care even if she did notice.

She does not  get into the cant of, “Dear God please this and please that and bless this and bless that,” and the, “Name it and claim it stuff,” associated with being serious about God.

She neither sees God as a giant vending machine or as an unapproachable King.

He is and was her heavenly Father. It was that simple to her. I first saw it that night, the night of our first date.

I continue to see it.

Her faith in her Father was, and is, very, very, simple and uncomplicated.

Of course as I have found out simple is hard and complicated is easy; in life as well as in business.

Well, we talked for about 45 minutes in the waiting area of the steak house and finally I went to check with the hostess about our table that was to be ready in fifteen minutes. It turned out our names were called about a half hour before…but we were so engrossed in conversation we had not noticed.

The waitress came to take our order and this brown eyed girl flummoxed me again.

At MCM the sisters were on a perpetual watercress and water diet, always trying measure up to the Laura Ashely/rail thin Rose Weiner image of a perfect Christian woman. So in public to be seen to have an appetite or to do anything other than pick at your food would place a girl way down on the totem pole of single sister spirituality.

Well, I looked at Sissy when the waitress asked us for our order and Sissy folded her menu and said, “I would like the full prime rib, rare, with baked potato…and could you load that potato with sour cream and bacon?”

She sat back and smiled at me again with that secret knowing smile; like she knew exactly what I was thinking.

She did.

Who was this girl?…for goodness sakes was she actually going to eat her food instead of picking at it?.

Well, she ate, she dug into that prime rib like it was her last meal.

As we got started she asked me, “So…what do you think about Auburn?’

What did she mean, “What did I think about Auburn?”…then I went cold.

Surely she had not found out about me and MCM…surely she was not asking me about the MCM Auburn Ministry and what was happening there. I shivered and a knot formed in my stomach.

So I took a long drink of water to steady myself and buy some time and then I said softly, “Well…I am not sure…about Auburn.”

She pointed at me with her fork, “Well I am…I say give Dye one more year, he had better win eight this year…”

My head was spinning. What in the world was she talking about?…Dye???…wait a minute…she was talking about Pat Dye, the new head coach Auburn had hired in 1982. I had once followed SEC football (college southeastern US football) closely…but had given it up when I joined MCM…I was too busy for that junk and besides it was not spiritual. Who cared about it?

“Okay” I thought, “Tikie you had better get the conversational ball in play here”

“Do you really think so?” I asked.

“Yeah, and Auburn just might pull it off. Did you see the Sports Page this morning? Dye recruited that kid out of McCallah, Alabama, Bo Jackson is his name, this  will be in his third year. He gained over 2,000 yards his first two years. Bama did not even look at him, of course Bryant has four starting tail backs returning so you can’t fault him for that. And with football scholarships now limited to fifty Bryant can’t stack the decks like he used to…”

And we went on a tour of the entire SEC (Southeastern Conference) football line up from Vince Dooley to Herchel Walker…”Did I think Florida State would join the SEC?”…and how she hated Notre Dame…and “Was it possible that I had season tickets?”… She would love to go to an Auburn football game if I could swing it.

After about an hour of this I made myself a note to buy every back issue of Sports Illustrated I could get my hands on…and I had better start a subscription to the Birmingham News so I could scan the sports page daily.

Oh, she had eaten every bite on her plate.

Nothing left. I fully expected her to take a roll and wipe it across her plate and then ask for seconds.

I loved that she chowed down without any self-consciousness whatsoever.

The waitress showed up, “Can I get you kids any desert?”

Sissy smiled “Got any of that cheese cake?”

“Sure honey.”

“Can you have’em throw some whipped cream on top?”

I looked up at her and in return she gave me the half grin again.

“Gotta keep my strength up Tikie!”

She was wearing one of these sleeveless tops and her slender long arms looked like they were made of iron. She was about my height, pretty much all legs as far as I could tell…”Hmm,mm,” I thought, “probably weighs in at 110 pounds.”

“How does she do it?”

Well as we sat through desert I found out. She was a state finalist tennis player in high school and played tennis five or six times a week.

“You up for a set this week Tikie?” I hesitated and then nodded. Uh, I will not recount the thrashing I took on the court that next Wednesday evening.

She played on her sorority basketball team. Later I saw her score 24 of 27 points her team made during one game.

She was a track star. She set a school record for the 100 meter dash.

For her thirtieth birthday I gave her a set of ten golf lessons with a Lady Pro (LPGA Pro). We went out to the range together and the LPGA Pro gave her some basic instructions on swinging the club, etc.

“Now Sissy,” I cautioned, “Golf is NOT a natural game, you will need to be patient.”

“Okay Tikie,” she said as she got ready to try her first drive.

So she swings the club to a “1:00 position” (a feat I find impossible BTW) and the club head travels in a perfect arc downward and then, CRACK… she strikes the ball with perfection and drives it out 200 yards…and it hooks slightly at the end landing about 20 yards off-center.

“Yeah,” she said, “I see what you mean, it is pretty hard to keep it in the center, isn’t it?”

The LPGA pro and I just shrugged at each other.

Well during coffee that night she suddenly stopped talking and looked at me…and I felt the same thing happening that had occurred in the clothing store. I was being scanned again, she was looking at me closely…and it felt very uncomfortable.

“So…enough about me and about sports…what is it you do for fun Tikie, what makes you TICK?”

I had told her all about my job while I was shopping last week…so I could not deflect the conversation there. What did I do for fun…uh…having fun? Could I tell her that I did nothing…for fun?

“Well…with my job and all it’s been very hectic…”

Her eyebrow was up again and she said in a low steady tone, “You don’t have much to say about yourself do you? What is going on up there…it seems like there is something bothering you…but what is it?”

And she reached over and tapped my temple.

What could I say, “Hey a guy from the cult I was in, who thinks he is John the Baptist reincarnated, who phoned me this afternoon and told me God’s anointing was still on me and that Jesus Himself had asked him to call me? That I should head to California and study the Bible with this guy while sitting next to a swimming pool?”

Really, I thought if I told her what was going on in my head and what I was thinking about she would probably stand up and run out of the restaurant screaming and yelling for help.

Arrgggghh..it was such a nice evening…what was it with this girl?…couldn’t she leave my thoughts out of all this?…Let’s just talk sports and eat steaks…why did what I was thinking about matter anyway?

My head was full of garbage, who would want anything to do with it?

But I was saved…temporarily…

“I hate to break the party up kids…but we are closing down.” It was our waitress. I glanced at my watch: 11:00 pm. Wow…three and half hours had seemed like ten minutes…

*************

So we headed back to her dorm.

“Are you sure you don’t want to talk about what is on your mind…what is bothering you?” she asked as we pulled up into the drive.

This was making me hot and sweaty.

“Okay” I said. “Why don’t we get out of this car and go sit on the bench by the stairs there.”

So we headed over to the bench and sat down. I guess I had better get this over with and ruin it right away. She would find out that not only was I a nut case but that she was going out with a guy who was in league with Satan.

“Look Sissy, I was with a really bad group for about four years at Auburn. They were a Christian Group…with good ideals…but it turned out that it was about money, and manipulation and controlling people…and we tried to do good stuff but it went really bad…but they sucked me in, or I sucked myself in. I did some pretty bad stuff to people and ended up working full-time with them. They were really bad and I was bad as well.”

I took a breath.

“Last year I just could not stomach it any more so I quit. I walked out and came back with my tail between my legs and got a job at MPI.”

There it was out.  That was that. I actually felt relief. I could forget about tonight, about her, and get back to my work and the huge pity party I continued to throw every waking hour.

Poor me. Poor, poor, pitiful me.

She stared at me. Her radar look came on just for a second then she frowned.

“Do you owe them any money?”

“Uh, no of course not.”

“Do they owe you any money?”

Good question…

“No, but they stole four and a half years of my life though.”

“Tik did you break any laws?”

Another good question. “I don’t think so. I hope not. I broke some moral laws and some of God’s laws.”

“Are they still calling you Tikie, are they harassing you?”

I told her about Phil and his phone call today.

“That was what was on my mind Sissy. I was thinking about this guy calling me out of the blue, asking me, no begging me, to come back.”

“I see.” she said. “A word of advice for you Tikie…I have this way of knowing when something is bothering someone I like [did she just say she LIKED me???] so,” and she laughed, …”save yourself some time and fess up right away.”

We both sat there.

“Hmmm…” she finally said…”what is the big deal?…you quit, they don’t like you…you don’t like them…it sounds like this Bob Shiner and Joe, whatever his name is, are bad people and you had enough good sense to get away from them. You were doing bad things and now you are not doing them.”

Silence.

She made it sound so simple.

“There is one other thing Sissy, you should know.”

The left eyebrow cocked up again.

“What?” she asked.

“I cursed God and I don’t think I am a Christian.”

“Ohhh,” she said, “you should NEVER do that. That is a bad thing to curse God.”

So we talked about the day I chunked my Bible and what I had said to God.

She sat back and said, “Look Tikie, none of that Maranannnntah (she mispronounced it) stuff is of God. He had NOTHING to do with it. Oh, He will somehow use all of that terrible stuff to his Glory, but He is not the author of sin, and the guys running it…why they are simply BAD people. End of story.”

“But I am not a Christian.”

“Were you a Christian before you started at Maranannnnntah Tikie?”

“Well, I think so Sissy.”

“No, you either were or you weren’t.  Which was it?”

“Okay I was. I know I was.”

“Good. You are a Christian. Now you know it, I know it, and God knows it.”

I looked at her closely. “How do YOU know it?”

“Oh, Tikie, I just do, there are lots of things I know about you.” She smiled that half-smile and her eyebrow cocked up yet again.

“And what about me cursing God, how about that?”

“That, Tikie, well, it is not a good thing to do, in fact it is a sin…but God is your Father Tikie, he has ALREADY forgiven you. The blood of Christ and all that.”

She stood up.

“Cmon Tikie, it’s getting late, be a gentleman and walk me to the door, okay?”

So we got up and I walked her to the dorm entrance.

I had not considered this moment.

Think about it: I had not been on a date with a girl in over five years. In fact, I had not spent 20 minutes alone with a female, other than my Mother, since 1978. Certainly not with a single sister. We could not be alone with a single sister at MCM…it just did NOT happen. We might ravage each other.

So we got to the door and she turned around.

Now I was standing there like a fifteen year old on his first date and I stuck my hand out…what was I supposed to do?…give her one of those goofy side to side brother-sister hugs from my MCM days?

She took my hand and flashed another half smile.

“You know Tikie, after such a great night I think you deserve more than a handshake.”

I did?

And she took my head in her hands and brought it towards her and gently and sweetly kissed me.

Were those flames coming out of my ears?

I was certain bolts of electricity were coming out of my hands and feet. I hoped I was not going to electrocute both of us.

And what was happening up and down my spine????????????

YOWZA WOW!!!!!!! Whew WEEEEEEE!

And then… it was over… and I was looking into those big brown beautiful eyes.

She threw her head back and laughed.

“Now, Mr. Tik Tok a girl likes a call the day after the first date, especially when they get a kiss, so I expect a call tomorrow. You understand me?”

And with that she turned and disappeared into the dorm.

**************

I walked across the drive and sat back down on the bench where Sissy and I had chatted.  I gazed at the full the moon lighting up the night sky.

It would not have surprised me if I had seen Sissy flying through the sky with her Superwoman outfit on, cape and all.

Who was this girl?

And I realized that night that for the past year I had been throwing a pity party and this person, this wonderful person, was she an Angel sent by God?…had just pulled me out of the ditch.

 

#57 A Siren Song

“Square in your ship’s path are Sirens, crying 
beauty to bewitch men coasting by; 
woe to the innocent who hears that sound…
…the Sirens will sing his mind away 
on their sweet meadow lolling. There are bones 
of dead men rotting in a pile beside them 
and flayed skins shrivel around the spot. 
Steer wide; 
keep well to seaward; plug your oarsmen’s ears 
with beeswax kneaded soft; none of the rest 
should ever hear that song.”  Homer, writing of the fabled Sirens in the Odyssey

A Siren Call

[Editor’s Note: Phil  Bonasso went to University of Southern California in MCM’s so called “great send out” and established what became the largest MCM site on the west coast of the US. Later after MCM imploded he, along with Rice Broocks, Steve Murrell, and Greg Ball, founded Morning Star International (MSI) which later became Every Nation Church (EN). Amid allegations of financial misconduct and moral failings in the  churches he oversaw, Phil resigned from EN a short time after Tikie published his original posts. He is now listed as a missionary of Bethel World Outreach (BWO) and is pastor of a church in Los Angeles CA called Story Teller Church.  Although it is not clear from BWO’s website, Rice Broocks, an Ex MCM Pastor, is the Bishop of BWO and is on the board of Every Nation Church. BWO is apparently nested within Every Nation churches.]

1983

I picked the phone up on the second ring.

“Hello?”

B-R-O-T-H-E-R … TICKIE!…ohhhh it is so goooood to hear you s-p-e-a-k,” said a familiar baritone voice.

The unmistakable sound of Phil Bonasso’s voice came rumbling through the telephone handset. Phil had headed to USC in the great send out and was enjoying great success there.

I did not say anything. I had not spoken to a “MCMer” in over twelve months.

“Tikie, b-r-o-t-h-e-r”, he rolled the “r” in an almost Spanish way, “are you there???…is that you…?”

What in the world was Phil calling me for? Well, time to find out, I guessed.

“Yeah Phil, it’s me…it’s Tikie here…”

“Hey Bro…just calling to tell you I miss you…Karen and I have been thinking of you and p-r-a-y-i-n-g for you brother. How A-R-E you doing?”

I clipped my words “Fine, Phil, I am fine.”

“Look Bro, I know that things have been hard, and some unfair things have been said about you Tikie. I don’t believe any of the stuff I heard. I know your heart….,” he paused, “…And I know God’s anointing on you Tikie. I truly do. GLORY!”

I stiffened, all of his MCM jargon was grating on me, but I determined that I would be unfailingly polite, and besides, MCM was still tugging at me, believe it or not. I had gone into a black hole with regards to news of my old friends, and as far as I knew, Bob Weiner and the Pope were getting married next week.

Maybe Phil could give me some news about what was up with everyone.

And it was actually good to hear his voice. It was comforting in an odd sort of way.

“Thanks Phil, it was no big deal actually,” I lied, “I just needed to get out of MCM… to get away. The things I saw, they were just not right and I could no longer support them.”

The memories that I worked daily to keep out of my head were now back with Phil’s call, invading my brain and constricting my breathing. It was funny I would go days without thinking about MCM, then I would see a Bible, or cut on a Christian radio station by mistake, or see something that triggered the memories.

Good or bad memories, it did not matter, they all seem to hurt my head, paralyze me, and bring tears to my eyes.

That was why I liked work…it helped me block out all of that stuff, especially the memories.

“Of course Tikie, of course,” he purred into the phone. “There are some things that ARE bad, that we are working to… well, to change and clear up. I am leading this effort…” his voice dropped to a whisper, “from the inside Tikie…from the inside.”

“Great Phil, that is great,” my voice dead panned.

”I know you are hurt Tikie; sure I do. I feel it. I hurt with you Tikie; but I think about you Tikie. I think about what God will do here on earth. Could do…through you.”

“Guess what Tikie?”

“What Phil?”

“Jesus has appeared to me three straight nights in a dream…really…it is getting where I am afraid to go to sleep, really I am.”

“Uh huh,” I grunted.

“And do you know what He said to me Tikie? Can you guess what Jesus said?”

Sweat started beading on my forehead.

“What Phil, what did Jesus say to you?”

“He told me to call you Tikie. To get on the phone and call you. I have resisted it Tikie, because I KNOW you are hurting…but the L-O-R-D told me to call you.”

I was really sweating now. This stuff still had an effect on me and it surprised me that I was reacting to it.

“Tikie, you know God has his hand on you. You KNOW he does. And the reasons you left, I KNOW about, I know WHY. You saw the bad stuff, I heard about Nick and all that, and I know you burnt out, and I know that Bob had, well, beaten you up. Bob can be unthinking, we all know that. But Tikie, B-R-O-T-H-E-R- we are doing a different thing out here on the West Coast. We are building something new…”

I said nothing but maintained my death grip on the phone.

He continued, “Something that will do away with the BAD things and KEEP the good things. The GOOD things that we both saw, and loved, when we got into MCM and the work of His Kingdom.”

“Look Phil, thanks but no thanks, I am through with MCM.”

“So am I Tikie, so am I. I mean, God is changing MCM, we are doing things differently like I said.”

Phil continued “A few of us have talked, the good guys. You know, Greg, Phil, Jim, Rice and others. You know Roger [my former frat brother], you love him, you guys are buds. Roger is my right hand guy, he is. It is all sweetness here Tikie, no condemnation, we don’t allow those hard-core guys to meddle with us. No Nick out here…. NO Joe Smith, I told Joe and Nick STAY AWAY. And you know when I say things I stand by them…you know that Tikie! You DO know that!”

I kept listening.

”And Greg, why he was out here last month, he and Helen; well we were talking about you… we ALL were…the fact that none of us reached out to you…well shame on us is what I say. Shame on us! Shame on me!…Shame on everyone!…we should all repent and I am repenting now…it was a b-a-d thing, it was, but we will make it right, we can, you know Tikie, you and me, we can make it right B-R-O-T-H-E-R!”

Phil, thanks for the apology and it is great talking to you.”

This was starting to scare the hell out of me and my hand holding the telephone was now shaking. I had to get off this call.

Quickly.

“Hold on Tikie hold on for just another minute my friend. LISTEN TO ME and see if you bear witness, to that small still voice, no pressure on you…none W-H-A-T-S-O-E-V-E-R.”

“Look…you come out here, I’ll front the airline ticket, no obligation. None. You move in with me and Karen– we have a nice place with a pool. You will love it. We will study the word, just me and you…no Bob, no Joe, no Nick. I don’t like that guy. Never had. He is a bully. It is sunny out here Tik. Southern California. Beautiful. I have this place on auto pilot Tik. I do. God does ALL the work. And we will get into the WORD and God will start his work in both of us…just me and you …and Jesus… we can do anything with Him…we can build it our way…the way God intended it. We will learn from each other we will. None of this MCM junk…Tik…you can just preach the word, no counseling, no discipling…Roger and me…we are doing a different thing here with Jesus and we are going to change all of MCM. God is going to do it through us!”

Well I listened to this stuff for about ten minutes. And it almost gave me flashbacks… and there was a small part of me that was saying “hmmm… just preaching…just the word… just me and Phil, hmmm.”

But I sissy slapped that thought down after about ten seconds.

“No thanks Phil. I do want you to know that it was nice of you to call and please tell Karen and Roger hello for me.”

“Don’t say no Tikie…pray about it first. Okay, you pray about it and call me back, promise?”

“Okay Phil, thanks again for calling.”

That was the first and only time I spoke with Phil post MCM.

*****************
You can draw your own conclusions about why Phil called and his motives for doing so.

The conversation unsettled me that is for sure. My clothes had soaked through with sweat during that fifteen minute call.

Unsettling for me because for a minute or two it sounded good…everything once again wrapped up in a pretty bow, neat and settled, good vs. evil, working for the kingdom, a purpose for my life that involved a higher calling. And for that reason Phil’s call probably scared me more than the call I had with Joe Smith when I had tried to reach Matt and Allie.

For it made me realize just how weak and pathetic I was some twelve months after leaving MCM.

 

 

#56 My Brown Eyed Girl

Hey where did we go,
Days when the rains came
Down in the hollow,
Playin’ a new game,
Laughing and a running hey, hey
Skipping and a jumping
In the misty morning fog with
Our hearts a thumpin’ and… you…

My brown eyed girl,
You… my brown eyed girl.

So hard to find my way,
Now that I’m all on my own.
I saw you just the other day,
My how you have grown,
Cast my memory back there, Lord
Sometime I’m overcome thinking ’bout…
You… my, my, my brown eyed girl.
Do you remember when we used to sing?
“Brown Eyed Girl” by Van Morrison”

 

My Brown Eyed Girl- Birmingham Spring 1984

My miracle unfolded in an ordinary way on an ordinary day.

Mr. Morton and I were on site one day at a Southern Company power plant [the largest power provider in the southeast], and they wanted a bid from us on upgrading their existing equipment, and for installing some scrubbers on their belching, coal-fired, power plant.

Anyway we were looking at some thirty year old pumps so I leaned over one of them to check out the re-rout piping, and, as I turned around, Mr. Morton and the plant manager started chuckling.

“Well Tikie, it looks like ole Jeb here (the plant manager) is going to have to buy you a new suit,” said Mr. Morton.

Both men looked at each other, and then at me, and continued chuckling.

I looked down and there was a huge dripping oil stain on my tie, my shirt, and worst of all, on my suit jacket. And, since this was the 1980s, MPI did not allow splits (sports jacket and pants), only dark suits; so I was in real trouble.

I only had two suits. At MCM I had always worn the frat boy outfit of a sport jacket and slacks when I needed to dress up. But at MPI when you were with a customer it was dark suits,white shirts, and a tie.

Now thanks to my clumsiness I was now down to one suit, and I had volunteered,  next week, to go on a road trip with Mr. Morton.

So I was going to HAVE to spend my hard-earned money, that I was now banking, on a new suit or two.

That next day, Saturday, I wheeled into Mountain Brook Village, in Birmingham, an exclusive shopping area with a men’s clothing store. Lawyers and corporate types bought their clothes there.

I had not been in there in a couple of years at least. And if I walked into a clothing store you could be SURE I was not there to browse. I would find what I wanted, buy it, and get the heck out as quickly as I could.

I was a sales clerk’s dream customer.

So in I walk to the men’s clothing store, turn to the right, where the suits should have been, only to realize the store had been rearranged, and that I was heading, wrongly, into the boy’s clothing section.

I begin turning around, scanning the store for the suit racks. And as I got about halfway through my scan I stopped moving, stop breathing, stopped everything.

The lenses on my eyes focused, unfocused, refocused, defocused and did other weird things.

For standing in front of me, about a foot away from me, was the most beautiful, the loveliest, the sexiest, thing I had ever seen in my life.

She had a pencil stuck behind one ear, a lovely delicate ear that looked like a piece of fine china. In her beautiful long slender fingers there was a measuring tape, oh boy.  “I wonder if I could maneuver her into measuring my waist and my chest?”

And I found myself looking into the biggest, prettiest, brown eyes that I had ever seen and  I noticed that they came equipped with incredibly long black lashes.

“Hi,” she said.

I stood there. Not moving, for I could not move. My tongue stuck to the top of my mouth as if welded place.

I was paralyzed. Completely  and utterly.

“Are you okay?” she reached out and touched my arm with her hand.

I wonder if I could get her to put her other hand on me?

That would be nice.

Finally my tongue decided to start working.

“Uh…yeah…uh…I am fine. Um…I am looking for some…clothes… yes clothes. But…uh…I am really undecided about EXACTLY what I need…so I will be in here a really LONG time…and will need LOTS of help…is that okay? Do you mind spending a couple of hours helping me?”

She smiled a half Mona Lisa smile.

And as she did this her eyes locked on me.

I felt like she was turning on some type of radar, that she was searching me up and down and side to side. It seem to penetrate my mind and my soul and after this radar look was through, somehow I knew, that she knew exactly who I was, who I REALLY was, what I had been through and what I was thinking.

And of course, as I was to find out later, that was exactly what she WAS doing and what HAD happened.

************

“Well,” she finally  said, “that is fine, I’ll be glad to help you. What would you like to look at first?”

I paused.

“You,” I said.

“I would like to just stand and look at you.”

#55 A True Friend

A True Friend

May 2006; The Tok Household: New England, USA

It was 9:00 pm, about 30 minutes past my seven year old son, Lil Tikie’s, bedtime. He was busy, very busy, building a lego robot and, like his father, he can be very intent on the task at hand, with no thought as to what is going on around him. I had given him two warnings already that, “In five minutes it was bedtime and it was a school night and you need to start winding down, okay?”

Finally I walked into the playroom and said, “Okay Lil Tikie time to wrap this up-you are going to bed, now.”

He stood up, cocked his arm, and as hard as he could, he hurled the half completed robot at me, just missing my nose. He then stamped his leg, crossed his arms and screamed out as loud as he could, “You are being mean to me and I HATE YOU!!!!!!!!”

His face glowered with a frown and his large brown eyes glared at me.

I almost burst into laughter, but this being a parenting moment, I managed to control myself.

I walked across the room and knelt down I front of him.

“First let don’t ever talk to your Father like that again. Do you understand me?”

A tear trickled down his face.

“Secondly I KNOW that you actually DON’T hate me. In fact you love me. I know this and it does not matter what you say, I know this for a fact.”

More tears came trickling down his cheeks.

“Thirdly, you will never understand how much I love you, until you have your own son. Believe it or not I am not being mean to you, as a matter of fact, it is because I love you that I am insisting that you go to bed. So I expect you to obey and respect me.”

Lil Tickie’s chin quivered and he fell into my arms crying. I scooped him up and walked him to his darkened bedroom and laid him in his bed. As I rubbed his back and he drifted off to sleep I marveled at the love I felt for this little guy. My heart was close to bursting as I looked at his beautiful face and his long brown eyelashes. But what was even more marvelous, I thought, is the fact that our Heavenly Father’s love for us is far, far, greater than the love that I have for my son. It is incomprehensible to me.

It is a mystery.

But it is true.

**********

“Big Joe Toks” House: Birmingham, Alabama 33 years before

I got up the next morning. If I got any sleep I do not remember it. I started making phone calls, but the response was the same for each of the four or five MCM people I actually reached.

The response was…

“Tik, what has come over you? We are praying for you. We heard you fell into sin, please come to [their MCM location] and we will counsel and work with you.”

or worse…

“We have been told not to talk to you, you have been given over to Satan. I heard you actually stole money from the ministry…[add one or two other sins]…”

Finally my hand was holding the telephone receiver and my fingers were getting ready to dial Miltie Toast’s number up in Ann Arbor, where he had moved with Mike and Missy for the Great Send Out.

But I slowly put the receiver back into the cradle.

I knew for sure Miltie would not yell at me or question my Christianity. But I was frightened that he would talk me into coming up to Ann Arbor and that he would lure me back to MCM.

And I could not allow that.

Anger filled my chest.

It seems laughable to me at this point in my life, but I still thought that God stood behind MCM…and that I rebelled against Him.

So I was pissed off at God, pissed off that His Kingdom (MCM) would be so corrupt, abusive and horrible. That His Kingdom focused on money, power, greed, and manipulation. His Kingdom was horrible… so He must be horrible.

I snapped.

I did not lose my mind, on the contrary, I suddenly felt cold and hard; my thinking cleared up, or at least I thought my thinking, had cleared up.

In fact, it would take close to ten years of reading, thinking, attending conferences, and praying for me to fully understand and comprehend the true nature of MCM, and, the reasons (that I have discussed thus far) that things happened the way they did at MCM.

But that morning I rooted around in one of my unpacked bags and pulled out my leather-bound, oversized, NIV Bible.

I had purchased this Bible right after joining MCM. And my Bible had notes and scribblings on almost every page and every verse. These scribblings represented thousands of hours of study, sermons, and lessons. Additionally almost every chapter was highlighted, and over highlighted, with most pages looking like a rainbow.

It proved my spirituality.

It proved how much I read and studied the Word. It showed that I was on top of things; that I was in the groove with God’s Green Berets.

It provided an outward sign of my leadership and commitment.

Anyway, I grabbed this Bible and walked out into my parent’s back yard. There I faced the grove of pine trees at the edge of the lawn. I put this marked up Bible in my right hand and cocked my arm back… and with all my might I hurled it far as I could into the pine trees.

I watched it spin over and over with the pages flapping like some kind of wounded bird and I heard it land with a smack, out of sight in the thicket of trees.

I immediately regretted having done this, because I realized burning it in a bon fire would have been more satisfying, or, even better if I had burned it page by page.

But I was too lazy to go searching through the woods for it.

Then I stood facing the horizon, and, while shaking my fists in the air, I shouted at the top of my lungs “God, if you are with MCM you can go F*** [unnatural act] yourself. And while you are at it you can go F***[unnatural act] Joe Smith and Bob Weiner!!!! And Nick P and the entire board of elders… while you are at it.”

I continued to stand there and then I made a rude gesture with my hand and screamed out, “And if MCMers are your Green Berets then consider me an ally of the Devil himself…now stay the hell out of my life and leave me the hell alone!”

And I stormed back into my house and into my bedroom muttering, “Screw them, screw God, screw the whole thing.”

I sat at my desk, and, as I am inclined to do when things get tight, I composed myself and started thinking about the actions I needed to take. I started to using the logic that so irritated the leaders at MCM.

First I needed a job.

A real one, by the way, where I would not abuse and take advantage of people. Maybe a job where I could contribute to society rather than taking from and destroying needy people.

Also I had a lease on an apartment in the Midwest, that would cost me $ 250/month for the next five months. And stupidly, I had leased a brand new “T Bird” to the tune of $ 300/month. I determined to honor those debts.

But I was going to make my own way, I would not depend on my parents or anyone else.

That was that.

But who could, or would, help me?

Working for my Dad was out of the question for me. I just knew I could not do that, just like I knew I would never return to MCM.

I sat still for about five minutes and then… I thought of him…could he come through again?

Would he?

A straight shooter, he had never wavered in his behavior, or attitude, about life, or anything else in the seven years that I had known him.

So I walked into my parent’s family room, picked up the phone and dialed the number of a real card carrying agnostic/atheist who openly made fun of of the idea of a caring God .

Waiting…one… two…three rings…then:

“Dick Carl, may I help you?’

”Dr. Carl, it is Tik Tok here.”

It was Dr. Carl, my former student advisor and professor in engineering.

“Mr .Tok…how are the offerings these days? [big belly laugh]”

“I am out of the preaching business Dr. Carl. I am done with it.”

“Good for you. Those people are crazy, and, as I told you it was a complete waste of your talent. Glad you got it out of your system. Reminds me of my six months in the Peace Corps in 1965…”

I talked right over him, “Look, Dr. Carl, I know this is strange, but would it be possible to still snag that teaching assistant’s job we discussed last year?”

Pause.

“Sorry Mr. Tok, we have both slots filled for the next two years…[pause]… but you know I was having lunch with Elliot at MPI up in Birmingham last week, a consulting gig for me you know;helps pay the bills. Well they are hurting for engineers who can actually carry on a conversation with people.”

More laughter.

He was talking about Mr. Elliot Albright, the U.S. Southeastern General Manager for MPI, Multi-National Projects Inc., one of the world’s largest companies that specialized in power and oil plant construction. I had interviewed with both he and another MPI associate, Mr. Morton, and had gotten a job offer from them last year at graduation.

A job offer I had turned down, like an idiot.

He continued, “Let me call Elliot and tell him that you have seen the light and can’t stomach taking money from little old ladies anymore.” He burst out laughing again.

“Wow, that would be great Dr. Carl. Thanks!”

”I’ll call you back Tikie, okay?”

“Okay.”

I hung up and realized that for the first time Dr. Carl had called me Tikie instead of Mr. Tok.

For some reason that small touch, that small thing, cast some sunlight into the darkness. And for the first time in a long time I smiled a deep, heart-felt, smile.

Did Dr. Carl guess my mental state?…or had it just been slip of his tongue?…or was it his way of saying, “Hey we are friends, okay?”

Well thanks to Dr. Carl I landed a job as an assistant contracting engineer.

It sounded like a big job, I guess, but the reality was that I was a glorified gopher and assistant to Ted Morton, one of the top contracting engineers at MPI. He was essentially a rain-maker, an engineer, with great people skills, who worked with power companies, oil companies, and governments to get them to use MPI to build power plants, refineries, hydroelectric damns etc.

Most of the deals were north of $ 50 million bucks at a minimum.

He was 58 years old, and a legend in the business, he had helped negotiate the first MPI projects in Libya and the later with ARAMCO in the late sixties and early seventies.

He was smart, hardworking, and personable.

What blew my mind, though, was how unfailingly courteous and how gracious he was to me, a glorified flunky, who knew just enough to get himself into trouble.

He was also teaching me about business, how the customer was king, how to really listen to the customer, how to build relationships…he was a wonderful role model and very successful, and, very modest.

In fact at his funeral in I found out that he had served with the 82nd Airborne in Normandy and won the Silver Star during World War II.

I never heard him mention it.

And to top it off every two weeks I got a paycheck. I did not have to raise money, to beg poor kids for money, to worry where the money was coming from, and how it would be used.

My conscience was clear.

I threw myself into my work, which after MCM, was like shooting fish in a barrel.

And I applied the horrible lessons, of what not to do, and how not to treat people, that I had learned from MCM, to my new corporate life. I determined to be an anti-MCM person. My mantra became, “What would Joe Smith and Bob Weiner do in a situation?” and then do the opposite.

I worked so hard that Mr. Morton would physically throw me out of the office most nights and he would, on Sunday afternoons, call into my office extension, and order me to leave.

“Damn it Tikie,” he would say in his growling voice “you are twenty-two years old…get a life for Christ’s sake.” And then mutter to himself something to the effect of, “Youth being wasted on the young”.

I soon became his golden-haired boy and the customers liked me (most of them were in their late fifties and saw me as a son) and things professionally were great.

At my one year anniversary Mr. Morton and Mr. Elliot took me out to The Club on the edge of Red Mountain for a dinner celebration. They both reminisced about their careers and what an encouragement it was to see a young guy like me so eager to learn and so eager to do a good job.

But at night, after coming home as late as I possibly could, there was a hole in my heart.

There was an ache.

I knew I was separated from God, that I was lost, that there was no hope for my soul.

Probably I was hell bound.

Outside of my work associates, I had no friends, no social life. I refused to go to church with my parents, or to attend any church, for that matter.

I went to work whenever I could, and as long as I could, because I had nothing else to do.

I volunteered for every assignment I could think of, and, in fact, I practically pestered Mr. Morton for more work. Anything to keep from being by myself.

From facing who I was, or worse, who I had been.

For I was terribly lonely.

I had gone from the most incredible band of brothers, and intense camaraderie, to a life that seemed to have no larger purpose or meaning.

As far as I thought, at this point, God had deserted me, and I had deserted Him, and told Him to stick it, literally.

For I meant what I had said to Him and had no regrets about what I had said.

None.

But God was there the whole time, of course. Christ Himself was walking by my side, and really did not care that I had hurled my “lego robot” at Him and stomped my foot and screamed out, “I hate you,” or something to that effect.

And God Was at work, and to prove it, a miracle, that changed my life forever, occurred.

A real miracle, not a, “ Joe Smith making some poor lady’s leg grow an inch, fake kind of miracle with a bunch of hootahing and yelling and screaming and running around with my chest puffed up saying lookie what I have done for God,” miracle.

**********

The miracle, as you will see, was the answer to my simple, desperate prayer, spoken over a year ago,  for Christ to help me.

 

 

#54 No Where To Turn

“If you board the wrong train, it is no use running along the corridor in the other direction.”  Dietrich Bonhoeffer , Lutheran Pastor and Nazi resistor, who perished in a concentration camp.

For two days I sat in my room. I did drink some water. But I went another two days without eating a thing. The thought of eating made me sick.

Then I had a good thought. I knew someone who could help me.

Matt and Allie.

They protected me in the early days of MCM. Matt had set me free, without meaning to, by his lack of hootahing craziness and by taking me into the Auburn band. They were my best friends in the world.

Possibly the only friends I had.

So I picked up the phone and dialed their apartment in the Maranatha House at Auburn where they served as full time pastors.

“Please Dear God, let Matt or Allie answer.”

“Hello?”

Matt’s soft Alabama accented voice came on the line.

“Matt, it’s me Tikie.”

“Tikie, what in the world is going on with you? I heard from Jim that you bolted. They called here wanting to see if you were going to show up. Where are you?’

”I am home, with my folks Matt, I can’t take it…and of all people I am sure you know why.”

A pause and then a  subtle change came into in Matt’s tone. I could not pinpoint what was going on but his voice sounded strained.

”I am concerned about you big time brother. About your salvation and your soul.”

”What????” I thought, “This does not sound like Matt, not the Matt I know.”

He used MCM goobeldy gook, and, unlike me, Matt had never used that language. In fact, he and Miltie had running joke about it and would imitate Marty’s use of that double speak.

My radar went up immediately.

Perhaps I had upset Matt by my snub of him at the recent leadership conferences and MLTS.

“C’mon Matt, don’t give me that junk. You and I both know that this thing is rancid. It’s wrong. You and Allie of all people; why you knew it before I did, and I KNOW THAT YOU KNOW THAT! So don’t give me that MCM official jive!”

“You are wrong Tikie… you need to come down here to Auburn or get to Gainesville…brother you need help…,”he paused.

Strange… it seemed someone was talking in his ear.Telling him what to say. Surely Allie was not feeding this junk. Other than Mitlie, Matt was the one guy I could be real with.  I always felt could take off the MCM mask, with no fear, in front of him.

“Matt, I am not getting anywhere near those people. Sure I’ll come see you, but we have to talk now Matt. What I have seen over the last ten months has sickened me. I should have seen it sooner or recognized it sooner, or admitted I was a stupid dupe.  I know you guys can help me… maybe we can help each other!”

Nothing on the other end…then this, “Tikie, you need to know that Joe Smith is here at Auburn, in fact he is standing beside me and wants to talk to you.”

My heart dropped and my knees buckled. This was unbelievable.

I called my best, and possibly only, friend in the world to honestly talk things over, and I get a one on one counseling session with Joe Smith instead.

The other guy with the flashlight in my nightmare was now going to counsel me.

“Tikie, what’s gotten into you son?” It was Joe Smith, Kentucky twang and all.

“You know better than just to run off without telling anyone what you are doing and where you are going. Satan is after you son…you just get in that car and drive on down to Auburn. You are in serious trouble and you need help NOW!”

I could sense the tension in Joe’s voice and the anger.

“But Joe…” I started.

“Tik, Tik… Tik- now you listen to me- Satan is grabbing you- I want you to down here now.”

I crouched down on my knees, the phone cradled against my ear, straining the cord and almost pulling it out of the wall. Tears streamed down my face and my stomach felt like someone was kicking me there, hard.

The voice on the other continued in that deep baritone twang, “Tik, I am very, very fearful for your eternal salvation and for your soul,” he said.

He was speaking as the official prophet and second in command of MCM.

“If you leave the ministry I will tell you that there is almost a 100% chance that you will backslide into sin, but there is an even more serious matter that concerns me.”

I grunted, and had now fallen almost face down into the shag carpet in my parents’ family room.

“The Bible,” Joe continued with his deep voice now taking on the tone of Gospel preaching, “says that it is better to have a millstone tied around your neck and to be thrown into the sea than to lead the little ones astray. When you moved into full-time ministry, Tik, you became a leader with great responsibility. If you leave Maranatha it could cause those you are shepherding to lose their faith and then their blood will be on your hands! And you will be cut off from the both the vine and your spiritual family and in turn be thrown onto the fires of hell!”

“Tik you not only will damn yourself but you could put other souls in jeopardy. A dog returns to its vomit; just remember what I am telling you and don’t say you have not been warned. I am giving you one last chance here and then I am turning you over to Satan.”

That was code for telling everyone to turn their backs on me at MCM, and believe it or not I knew that it meant that many in the ministry would pray against me, pray that God would break me, show me the evil of my ways, literally pray for my failure so that I would return beaten and defeated back to MCM.

But at least in that case I would have my mortal soul back, if nothing else.

“I have made my mind up Joe. I cannot be part of MCM any longer not as a brother, a member, certainly not as a pastor. It may have started with good intentions…but MCM has gone bad.”

“Fine Tik. Fine. You have made your bed, now sleep in it.”

And this time I got hung up on.

I was doomed.

I could not get up. My Mom found me laying on their carpet still crying about an hour later. She called my Dad and they were making noises about taking me to the hospital, but I managed to get myself back together enough to talk them out of that.

Nothing mattered to me, my life’s purpose was not only over, but my purpose had been an evil thing.

But at least I wasn’t part of hurting anyone anymore. I lay on my bed and stared at the ceiling.

I had said a simple sincere prayer the night of the blizzard.

But had Christ answered my prayer that night, or had Satan?

Or had I just been talking to myself?

**********

[Note the following is based on e-mail exchanges between Matt and Tik in 2006]

Auburn- at the same time- in Matt and Allie’s Pastor’s apartment in the Maranatha House: Auburn Alabama

Tikie, on a personal note, it was one of the lowest days in my history with MCM. Joe Smith had been ‘counseling’ with us all that day–delving into areas that he really had no business, like a physic does, suggesting things as to why Auburn was failing. What was wrong with us and our faith. He had been there for three days and I was whipped.

And then you called.

Oh, and another thing…my tone ‘might’ have been simply to try and prove myself in front of him, but I can’t honestly say I would have changed my response had Joe Smith not been there. I was in, as you said, hook, line and sinker.

So we sit there listening to Joe talking to you- really coming down on you hard. Allie and I vividly remember is him interrupting you every time you started to talk with …..”TIK..TIK……TIK!…TIK!…. he simply wouldn’t let you talk. I remember us cutting our eyes at one another, just silent, listening to our friend get chewed up.

Finally Joe hangs up the telephone, turns to us, and says about our best friend, Tikie, a guy who has given five years  to MCM, “Well, we now wash our hands of him and give him over to Satan. I don’t want you two having any contact with Tik. He is cut off from us now. He has made his choice… Now, Allie why don’t we go out and get a bite to eat and save you some work in the kitchen?”

The whole incident shows the pure intimidation factor of Joe Smith, he had us both by the throat and knew it.

That was the turning point for us, for late that night Allie said to me “Matt this thing is wrong and we have to get out.”

Well, Bill McCaig was a visiting speaker and ‘felt the call’ to take over. The Auburn ministry chewed him up and spit him out in a matter of weeks. Allie and I packed all our belongings and headed to Ann Arbor to be part of Mike and Missy’s fellowship. Little did I know, it would be the long journey that would eventually settle us back in Alabama, 50 miles from Auburn, but one million miles from MCM.

#53 A Drowning Life Guard

“Tikie, it is hard for a drowning man to be a life guard.” Mike Caulk, former MCM Pastor in an email to Tikie, dated 2006, comforting him on his guilt in  being unable to get his converts out of MCM when he walked away in 1982.

**************

I could see them running down the dark hallway with huge torch-flashlights in their hands. Bob Weiner and Joe Smith were looking for me.

Bob pointed in my direction with his handheld light and called to Joe, “There he goes… that way!”

I took off running to my left, turning onto another darkened hall that ran at right angles to the one that they both hurtled down.

 I passed door after door,  I was out of breath and knew I could not keep running; for my legs ached and my lungs burned. I reached out and turned the knob on one of the doors. It opened and I stepped onto a landing at the top of a dimly lit stair case.

Peering over the side of the stairs I could see, below me, another door marked with a flickering EXIT sign.  

Excellent!  I could still get out. Pounding down the stairs I heard the door at the top of the landing swing open.

“I see him!” shouted Bob as the beam of his flashlight swept the stairs I was hustling down.

“Tik Tok you better stop running, your soul is in mortal danger!” I heard Joe’s bass voice boom above me.

My hand hit the knob on the exit door and I turned it, hard. But it would not budge. I heaved my entire body into the wooden door, banging my forehead against it… the wooden door was hard…very hard and uncomfortable…hard…I had to move…hard…uncomfortable…hard…

My eyes shuttered open, the wooden kitchen table top was about a quarter-inch away, and a pool of drool  seeped onto the open Safeco ledger and accounting book underneath me. I sat up and looked around. Completely quite reigned.  The only sound came from the faint hum of the electric kitchen clock on the window sill beside me.

“No wind, no rattling…the blizzard must have blown through during the night,” I thought.

I walked over to the front door of my apartment and slipped on my over boots. My nose wrinkled at the smell of burnt coffee wafting over from the still hot pot in the kitchen.

I tried to open the front door, but apparently snow jammed against it.

Then putting all my weight and strength into it I managed to wedge the door open about 18 inches. Snow came cascading into the apartment and I stepped through the open door into about 2 feet of drifting snow.

I now stood on the open steps at the front of my one bedroom apartment.

The only sound came from the light whistle of a breeze pushing over the drifts of snow that rolled out over Main Street and onto the campus about a half mile away. Ice glistened from the tops of the gabled slate roofs of the dorms. Not a soul in stirred.

My lungs and nosed crackled as I drew a deep breath of the cold air. For five minutes I stood there watching the sun break over ice  blue horizon. I did not move and don’t remember even a stray thought entering my head for a long while.

Even today, I think, because of that morning, I love brutally cold winters and blizzards. I have taught myself to skate and ski…and to me there is nothing better than skating on a New England Pond in 20 degree F temperatures with the wind at my back and no sound but the scrape, scrape, scrape of my skates and the grunt of my own breathing. That morning the cold air also refreshed me and heightened all my senses.

For I knew what I must do now.

I tell you I did not even understand completely what this action would mean, and what it would do to me, or even what the consequences, good, evil, or indifferent, were.

I simply knew that I could not keep on.

The future be damned. Suddenly I simply did not care.

And I am glad I could not reason through the chain of events I now unleashed on my insignificant life.

Could I, would I, have gone through with my resolution if I had KNOWN what was in store for me?

Now, Dear Reader, if this were a novel or a good screen play, at this point I would turn, around walk back into my apartment, and have leveled with Tikietwo.

I would have told him, “Look my friend, get the heck out of here, don’t even think about dropping out of school and let me tell you in detail why MCM is a sociological cult.”

And I would also write to you, if in a novel, about how I had an epiphany of the nature of MCM that morning and how I was free as the cardinal that I spied flitting from frost covered fir tree to fir tree.

And Tikietwo would then throw his arms around me shouting, “Thank you for saving my life Tik, you are so brave and such an example of a Godly and courageous man.”

Well, this is NOT a novel, and it is NOT a screenplay (at least not YET) and so this is NOT what happened. For life is not that simple.

Rather than looking at my departure from MCM as the Jail break from MCM by one of the gang from the Mission Impossible movie, a better analogy would be of an exhausted guy, neck-deep in muck and quick sand, who has just grabbed a thin, and not so strong, vine. And using that one vine he  has to pull his way, hand over hand, out of the pit, or drown in the gunk that is starting to pour down his nostrils.

To quote Mike Caulk, “Tikie, it is hard for a drowning man to be a life guard.” And that drowning man at this point was me.

So I walked back into the apartment, scrambled some eggs, fried some bacon,roused TikieTwo from his slumber, and fed us both breakfast.

“Look Tikietwo I think we need to give this more prayer; about you going full-time I mean. Let’s plan on talking to your folks about all this, you simply cannot drop out of school.  Your witness is desperately needed there.”

I figured that would hold him in place for a while. In the meantime I had to continue to pull on that vine and get out of the muck of MCM to save my own skin.

Then I could worry about Tikietwo.

But as you will see, I was unable to help Tikietwo.

I should have known that the MCM’s multi-layered defenses would soon kick in and label me as Satanic, a Judas, demon possessed, a liar, and a thief.

So I saw Tickietwo off that morning back to his frat house with a promise from him to make no rash decisions.

Then I  got out my $ 5.00 plastic snow shovel (lesson learned: never skimp on snow shovels) and begin the four-hour job of shoveling my car out of the parking lot.

By 2:00 pm I was ready to go and with the streets now ploughed and salted  I headed over to Jim and Dana’s (my co-pastors) house.

Jim was about half way through shoveling his drive, so I grabbed my $ $5.00 special and spent the next hour shoveling and grunting with him. Finally we were through.

“Jim, can we sit in my car for a minute. I need to talk to you.”

I did not want to go in his house, I wanted to be on my own turf and I did not want Dana involved, I really liked her, and I was afraid she could, and would, sway me from doing what I was now determined to do.

Jim gave me a puzzled look and said, “Sure,” and we got into my car.

“Jim, I can’t keep doing this. I want out, and I am getting out.”

He looked at me and said slowly, “Uh-huuuuh.”

I explained about Tikietwo and my discussion last night.

“Look brother you are just exhausted, and you are too emotionally caught up with your sheep and their traumas. I have seen this happen before. You cannot bear all of their burdens, you have to trust God. He will take care of this flock Tikie …you can’t do it all.”

“Jim, stop it alright with the pat MCM answers? It is not about the work load, it is NOT about Tickietwo, it is about EVERYTHING.”

“That is just plain silly…” Jim started to say.

But I cut right over him saying, “I mean EVERYTHING is wrong…look you are a sweetheart of a guy and you are smart too. You saw what went on when Nick was here. That is just a symptom of all of MCM. But it is even more than that, it is Bob, Joe, the whole she-bang- and what we are putting these kids through. You have been to the same staff meetings I have been to. It is about ego, pride, ambition money, and numbers; it is not about Jesus, and certainly not about God’s love.”

He smiled, “Tikie. Look, you are just worn out and I know the finances are getting to you. Let’s go inside, let Dana fix you some supper. Let’s get on the phone and call Bob. You’ll see… you are just in a funk.” He put his hand on my shoulder with a grin.

Now Jim was smart and good guy. If he had started in on that demon possession stuff I would have driven off with him in the car all the way back to Alabama. Somehow he knew that.

He a fireman trying to talk a jumper down off a ledge. And I was the jumper with no parachute.

“I don’t think so Jim. It’s over for me… really it is.”

“Now Tik, just cut that talk out. You know you will be one of the top guys at MCM. Everyone compares you to Rice or Greg.”

“Don’t you get it Jim????…I don’t WANT to be like those guys. The comparison to them makes me sick to my stomach!”

“Okay Tik, I am going to tell you something. Something Dana and I know that you don’t know. Something that we were not going to tell you for another forty-five days or so.” He cocked his head knowingly.

“We have a word for you from the elders.”

I can tell you that a feeling of doom and dread, a premonition of disaster, came over me. A dark cloud was heading over the horizon right at me and I got a sick feeling in my gut. I could taste acid in my mouth.

He leaned into me.

“Your name was submitted by a sister to the elders,” he said. Then he sat back.

He meant a sister had submitted my name to the elders for an arranged MCM marriage.

I felt like puking as bile gurgled in my throat.

“It was submitted about two months ago, and if you did not get the Word (meaning if God did not tell me) Dana and I were going to talk to you about it in March.”

I was clueless, there was not a sister that I was now attracted to anywhere in MCM, or that I had even flirted with since my infatuation with Ellen.

“I think that this whole thing is God showing you that you can’t make it without a helpmate. I certainly could not make it without Dana. You need to get married,” Jim continued.

It was true. Dana took care of everything for Jim so he could concentrate on the ministry, plus, along with our single staff sister, she handled counseling the sisters.

I shook my head. “I can tell you Jim that this is not of God, that I do not bear witness and that I am out of here… Gone!”

“The elders DO think it is God, and I think what you are going through is simply God speaking to you about your need for a helpmate. We all agree it would be a perfect fit, this sister has the gift of prophecy and she will complement your warm approach. You are simply too nice Tik, you take too much of the brother’s and the ministry’s burdens on yourself. She can help you with that and balance your personality.”

He told me her name.

I was aghast. And a light clicked on for me.

I was going to be stuck with one of the single prophetic sisters who would, “Kick me in the ass”, keep me from, Being “too nice and not tough enough,” and help hold me on the MCM reservation.

That did it. Whatever bond that held me in placed snapped. I swear I heard the thing pop in that car.

“Jim, I’m out of here…you are either coming with me or you can step out of this car. This whole thing is no good, I can’t keep inflicting this MCM crap on people. I have tried to do it differently up here… to protect the brothers from the bad stuff, but it is of no use… the whole thing is rotten. No one can fix it.”

Jim, a really nice and soft-spoken guy, a guy I liked a whole lot, and now he had a look of terror on his face.

“Don’t do it Tikie, I beg you. You will be walking out on God, walking out on the brothers that you have brought in, you will be walking out on Dana and me. Look I am a good pastor, but well, we both know that you are the guy that makes this thing spark. What about my family? This whole thing could come apart on us. You are deserting us… your family…my family…you just can’t do that.”

I was crying now, he was right, everything he said was on the money.

Jim was a great guy, his kids, seven and five years of age, called me Uncle Tikie and Dana was like an older sister. And I knew this place might flounder without me.

“Look Jim, you know MCM is rotten, I know your heart, why don’t you get out too? Let’s get the brothers and sisters at our ministry together and tell them that we are out, why we are out, and let’s go back to real-life.”

Now we were both crying.

Jim said through his tears, “God is in this Tikie, sure there are problems, but this is God’s movement and this is my family. And I will live or die with it. Don’t Tikie, please don’t… come inside, let’s talk this over, you know Dana has a great heart and head, let’s spend some time in prayer. Okay?”

I started the car.

“Jim I am loading up tonight then I am out of here as soon as possible. And that is that. Maybe I am deserting you and God, I just know I have to go, I must go, no matter what. Now get out of the car or you are coming with me, I MEAN IT!”

He opened the door and got out.

“Tikie, let me pray for you.”

“Sorry Jim, I am past being prayed for. You are a good guy…God bless you.”

I pulled out of his drive way and turned the corner and drove about a half mile and pulled the car off to the side of the road. I had to. I find it impossible to drive when crying.

I finally got control of myself. “Okay, I gotta get moving, I gotta get the hell out of here.”

It did not seem real, and I felt like I was watching a movie of myself loading my suitcases in my apartment.

I really did not have a clue about what I was going to do and where I was going. I had about $ 200 in my checking account. And because of the snow storms the banks were not shut, and I had neither a credit card or ATM.

That realization set me back. I could not leave until in the morning. I had to have some cash. I went and fueled my car with the money I had on me. When I walked back into my apartment the telephone was ringing.

I picked it up.

It was the guy with the flashlight from my dream last night.

Bob Weiner.

With a really cheery happy sounding, “Hi Tikie, brother are you doing okay?”

He sounded so NICE that he scared me. In fact I had heard Bob passionate, angry, I had heard him plead, cajole and beg. But I had never heard him sound chirpy and light hearted.

“Yeah Bob, I am doing fine. “

“Look Tik, I spoke with uh…(two second pause: was he looking at his notes?)…uh…Jim, and he tells me that you are well, thinking about leaving the ministry? Is that right?”

“That pretty much sums it up Bob, I can’t take it anymore, I don’t feel right about what we are doing…I mean what is really in this for the kids we are bringing in? I think we have lost our way somehow.”

“Now Tik, we all get in the dumps, why even I do on occasion [big laugh]. But Rose, well, she has a way of snapping me out of it. Everyone needs a break and rest…you have done great work, super work I say, why I think you have the potential to be one of our top evangelists. Joe and I both think so. Look, I want to get you out of that depressing snow for a couple of weeks. You have been working non-stop for six months. We’ll get you down to Gainesville, you know, let you kick back a little while…let you unwind and we’ll give you some good one on one ministry with Joe Smith and me. Okay? I have already ordered a first class airline ticket for you, you can fly out in the morning. It’s done, it is on HQ… okay?”

Wow, it sounded great, first class tickets, Bob himself wanting to minister to me…he sounded so warm and reassuring. And it would be good to get back to some warm weather…then I snapped to.

Bob– I appreciate the offer. Overwork is not the problem; the problems are…well the whole thing is not right. What we are doing is wrong.”

“Look Tikie,  sure the ministry needs some course corrections.  That is why we need guys like you. God has given you so much talent, don’t waste it… honor the talents He has given you.”

I would have much preferred a screaming match with Bob; this was NOT what I had expected.

He was so pleasant.  Somehow he KNEW where to go with the conversation and he was starting to reel me in. But I kept hold of the vine I was clinging to; and no matter what he said he could not convince me that the cold, muck filled, quicksand pit I was in was a nice warm swimming pool. I had seen too much, done too much, done too many bad things to others.

I had looked into the heart of the ministry and it repelled me.

Bob, sorry, I am checking out.  Call it quitting. Call it whatever you want but I am through with this thing.”

“Tikie I am really concerned about you; about…your walk… your soul…don’t walk out on God. Please…”

I had to end this thing now.

Bob, I gotta go. I’ll think about what you said but I am hanging up now.”

And I put the receiver down.

I had hung up on Bob Weiner.

I had to. I thought if I kept listening to him I would wind up on that airplane and then I would end up in Gainesville and never leave.

I slept fitfully that night. The phone rang about four times but I did not answer it. Early the next morning I called my parents.

My mother answered.

“Mama, I am calling it quits… I am coming home, is that okay?’

“Are you sure honey? You seemed so happy when we came to see you in October.”

They came just as Greg and Helen were on their way out and they had been both dazzled, and taken in, by what was going on; they were especially taken with Greg and Helen.

“Mama, I just can’t keep this up; not sure what I am going to do. Can I bunk in with you guys for a while?”

She laughed, “What a silly question, honey you have always bedroom here, now don’t ever forget that. Why don’t you come to work for Daddy?’

“No way,” I thought. But I said, “We’ll see.”

I headed across campus. I stopped by the Maranatha Hall and laid the operating manual and the Safeco Ledger and Accounting Book on the desk. Then I headed to frat row.

To TikieTwo’s frat house.

I pounded up the stairs and rapped on the door to his room.

It opened.

It was him.

“Oh, uh, hi Tik.” His normal ear to ear grin was gone.

“Hey Tikietwo, I need to talk to you. About me. I’m leaving.”

“I know, Jim and Janet (our single sister) were here last night. They told me not to talk to you; that you were in trouble… that they were trying to get you into counseling down in Gainesville. That you had fallen in sin.”

“No…that is not the case at all Tikietwo. Not at all. I should have leveled with you the other night. But I had to straighten my thinking out. C’mon, I’ll buy you breakfast. I need to help you see what is going on with me and to help you with your thinking.”

He did not move.

“I can’t talk to you Tik…not until I talk to Jim or Janet. Jim told me you might come by here and that I should have you call him if you did. Look I have to take a shower. I have an early morning lab… so… well… I’ll call you later.”

The door shut.

I walked out and sat on the steps in front of the frat house. I could make him understand I was sure…but that would have to wait. I could feel the ministry pulling at me; my own prize, Tickietwo, had literally slammed the door in my face.

What would become of me?

If I stayed and tried to reason with him I would end up talking to Jim , Dana, and Janet and I might get sucked back into MCM. Perhaps Bob was flying up here even now to meet me in person.

I did not trust myself. I had to go and go NOW.

So I headed out-of-town with my car crammed with my clothes, stuff, and every nickel of cash I had. It was eighteen hours of driving to Alabama and it seemed like it was eighteen days.

****************

I pulled up to my parents’ home and before I opened the car door my mom was out of the front door and at the car. She gave me a hug.

But I didn’t hug back. It was like I was dead.

And I was.

I knew that my life was over.

I had jettisoned all my college friends pre-MCM. My high school friends were scattered all over the southeast. Everything I had given myself to over the last four and half years was in vain.

The only thing I left in my life was my kid brother, who was still at home, and my Mom and Dad.

I wasn’t hungry even though the last meal I had eaten was breakfast some forty-eight hours earlier with Tikietwo.

There was nothing to say to my parents and no answers to their questions.

For my parents did not even know what questions to ask; for they could not possibly understand what was happening to me and had happened to me.

To them it seemed that I had simply decided church work was not for me and I was going to go into engineering.

But from my view I was cast adrift and, for the first time in almost five years, I had no one telling me where to go, what to do, no mandatory prayer sessions, no calls to Gainesville, no witnessing plans, no special offerings and fundraisers, no clubs to organize, no tracts to hand out, no posters to put up all over campus, no “hootah” and counseling sessions with the brothers, no all-night prayer meetings, no sermons to be listened to or prepared; no Red, Green,Blue, Brown or Pink books to work through, no satellite MLTS meetings, no MLTS conferences, no upcoming road trips to other ministries, no earth shattering revelations or prophecies to look forward to, no certainty about life and my purpose.

No marriage or marriage partner.

No heaven.

No nothing.

Only darkness

#52 A Simple Prayer

Sometimes the simplest prayers are the best” 

Johannes Oecolampadius, the reformer of Basil, 1526

MLTS: Tulsa, Oklahoma 1982

Just after my appearance before the magistrate, we took our 120 plus kids down to MLTS, my notes are sketchy, but I think it was in Tulsa.

On the second afternoon at MLTS I was on my way to one of the workshops when I spied Nick P, Leo Lawson, and Bob Weiner heading down the hall towards me.

Bob looked up and said, “Tik come with us,” and he motioned with his arm. We sat down on some couches in an alcove. Leo, by this time, stuck to Bob like a scab on a wound. It actually reminded me of some mob figure with a body-guard.

He glared at me through slitted eyes, while Nick P leaned back with his arm draped behind Bob’s shoulder.

Nick began, “Tik, although your ministry has shown great growth in numbers we wonder about your ability to lead the ministry and to grow it financially. You have got to really develop your style and your leadership image. It is important that your flock see you in the correct light. You see you need to…”

Bob cut Nick off with his usual brashness, “Tik, you’ve got to set the pace, the brothers and sisters will only follow Jesus, the Word, and  the Ministry to the degree that you do. Let me tell you when I look around MLTS I can spot the real leaders…do you know how?”

“How”? I asked.

“Well leaders and winners congregate together; they hang out together. I mean  who is Greg Ball  hanging around with? Why with Rice [Broocks] and Dennis [Darville] that’s who… and Leo, here,” he elbowed Leo Lawson, “Leo here hangs out with Nick and with Joe [Smith] every chance he gets.”

“Okay.” I said.

I was hoping against hope Bob was not suggesting I start hanging out with Nick.

Leo looked up at me and said, “I noticed you spending time around some brothers that are struggling.”

“That guy,” Leo looked over at Bob, “you know Bob, the guy at Auburn, what’s his name?  Tik is spending a lot of time with him, what’s his name?”

“Max,” said Nick, “His name is Max Hatter.”

“Matt.” I corrected him.

“Regardless,” said Nick, “that ministry is on the skids, after being one of the strongest in the country. Even your ministry, Tik, is bringing at least 75 more people to MLTS than that one and Auburn has been around for five plus years.”

“Winners hang around winners Tik. The guys who are struggling will sow doubt in your mind, and will bring you down. You need to polish your image, okay?” and with that Bob dismissed me with a wave of his hand.

I got the message. And I turned my back on my best friends.

I am ashamed that when Matt and Allie asked if I wanted to join them for dinner that night I said, “I have plans”.

And I conveniently forgot about our usual breakfast at MLTS where we caught up and gossiped and laughed at Phil Bonasso’s latest antics to get noticed.

And at the leadership conference in Dallas two months later I walked right by an open seat next to Matt and Allie, my “old” best friends, the couple who had been my refuge at Auburn and who had made my life livable there, to take a seat next to Helen Ball while Greg opened up the session.

It was as if Matt and Allie no longer existed for me.

I knew, that Matt knew, by this time, that I was avoiding and ignoring him.

I did it so I would not be, “Brought down,” as Nick put it. So I would be seen as a winner by the MCM leadership. I closed my heart to Matt and Allie and set my face towards the leadership with my ambition to secure a place in the top ranks of MCM.

It was a terrific betrayal of their friendship and I feel my face burning as I write this.

As Matt later told me, “Allie and I thought we had lost you forever Tikie.”

*************
Blizzard- Midwest 1983
Well, all of this, that I have shared with you, was flashing through my mind as I poured a cup of coffee for “Tikietwo”, my sharpest convert, the night of that terrible blizzard in 1983.

Tiketwo cupped his hands around the steaming coffee and blew into it.

“So what made you risk your life tonight? You really have me worried traipsing over here in a blizzard,” I asked.

“I just can’t take it any more Tik,” he said. The the snow from his pants and shoes was melting, puddling on the carpet.

”The school load, the work load at my frat, the Bible Studies and witnessing. My parents were here yesterday and they have become convinced that I am in a cult and are threatening to cut me off financially.”

I continued to listen, not saying anything, stock still in my chair.

He smiled and said, “I want to be like you Tik. Nick prophesied over me that I would be a warrior and full-time for the ministry. I want to quit school. I think God is telling me to quit. I will get  a job and study full-time under you and help you with the ministry. I want to work full-time in God’s Kingdom. I am totally and radically committed to Jesus, just like you Tikie.”

I stared at him.

Did he really want to be like me?

Did he really understand what I did and went through?

I glanced over at the Safeco ledger book on my small kitchen table.

We were about two weeks away from running out of cash. Supposedly we were to pay MCM corporate back $ 800/month for the $ 10,000 seed money, but after a shouting match with Bob Weiner, Bob Nolte, and the finance guys I had gotten us a 90 day reprieve.

And here was this sharp, brilliant, good-looking guy in the palm of my hand.

He would do whatever I wanted him to do. I could probably get him to hock his late model car and throw the proceeds into our offering plate on Sunday to buy us another month of operating cash.

But unknown to him the old Tik was running amok; yelling and shouting in my head. That Tik would not go back into the closet. Not anymore. And the old Tik was asking some pretty tough questions:

“Do you want this kid dropping out of college on your conscience?’

“And if he drops out does he REALLY know what he is doing?”

“Does he REALLY WANT TO BE THE TORMENTED PERSON YOU ARE?”

And even worse were the questions like:

“Can you live with yourself if you keep sucking people into this …thing… whatever it was… whatever it has become?”

I looked at Tikietwo.

Then I said softly, “Look its late and you are exhausted. Why don’t you rack out in my bed. I have a little work to do and I’ll get some sleep on the couch. Let’s talk about all this in the morning.”

Reluctantly he agreed and thirty minutes later he was snoozing in my bed.

I sat back down at the kitchen table.

What was I doing with my life?

Was God in this? Had He ever been?

Could I continue doing what I suspected, no what I now knew, was wrong?

Could I perpetuate the lie of God’s Green Berets?

And what about this young man who trusted me…and the forty other young brothers who were looking to me for answers? What of them?

But this ministry was my life, my family, my home, MCM was everything I had.

Without MCM I was nothing.

I bowed my head.

Dear Jesus, please help me, please.”

#51 I Fall Into A Burning Ring of Fire Part 3

Burning Ring Of Fire part 3

 Nick P,  the Lead Evangelist and winner of souls for MCM came to town the week after the article appeared.

Nick was a second generation Greek.

He was a shouting hell and brimstone type preacher. He was gruff and rough but he could preach for two hours straight and could quote scripture after scripture from memory.

Bob Weiner thought he was MCM’s best evangelist. Maybe he was.

Well he arrives and we put him up in Jim and Dana’s (our pastor’s) dilapidated rental house. Nick shows up after one night at Jim and Dana’s House and confronts me.

”Look brother I can’t stay in that house under those conditions.”

“What conditions?” I asked him.

“The kids [Jim and Dana’s children], they are too noisy, I need time alone with God, quiet time, I can’t concentrate on my preparation and prayer time. Besides, their place is a dump.”

“Okay, Nick, you can bunk in with me if you would like.”

He stepped back and gave me a look of disdain and sputtered, “Brother, I am God’s anointed, and I need to separate myself. I want you to book me into University Hotel.”

I groaned inwardly. Our cash situation was not desperate; but it would become desperate in a matter of weeks.

“Nick, we simply don’t have the funds to do that, we are counting every penny.”

”Your problem brother, is that you have no FAITH and your people ARE NOT Giving. You are too easy on them, and because you are NOT challenging them to give you are ROBBING them and GOD of a huge blessing. Jim showed me your cont list (this was a list kept of the weekly contributions by each member with names, dates and amounts shown) and the amount being given by your converts is pitiful, terrible.”

He had stepped up and pushed his chest into mine. He was about an inch taller then me.

I did not flinch.

I won a high school state championship wrestling trophy and I knew could take this bully down in about two seconds and have him begging for mercy from a full nelson hold.

Those thoughts actually ran through my mind. I kind of wish I had acted on them… it would have saved everyone a lot of trouble and anguish.

“Look Nick, these are poor college kids, we only have a handful of people with full time jobs. We can’t beat these kids over the head; they are getting their money from their parents or from  scholarships,” I replied stone faced.

My mind shot back to my first few months in MCM. I wanted to protect my sheep from what happened to me.

I had not yet realize that I could NOT do this.  That I was at the mercy of the leadership of MCM and people like Nick.

“B-r-o-t-h-e-r.” he slurred the words out slowly. “You are doomed to failure with this type of faith and belief. You are the leader here and your demonic attitude about faith and money will infect your flock. I am going to have to straighten you and your flock out. You guys are a terrible mess.”

This went on for about twenty minutes. With me being under the mistaken impression that this was my church and that I actually had a say in what Nick could do or say.

Then all of the sudden Nick had the phone in his hand and he was calling Gainesville.

”Hey Charlene, is Bob in?…. yeah its Nick…okay I’ll hold.”

He cupped the receiver with his hand, “We are going to straighten this right now so that there is no question about who is in control here, do you understand?’

He straightened up. “Hey Bob, it is Nick. Yeah the flight was fine. I am up here at XXXX University with Tik Tok. This place is a complete mess; just like I thought it would be. Greg did his usual schtick, got a bunch of people coming to the service but no real commitment, no passion as usual. Tik and Jim are not showing any courage or backbone. Their finances are a mess because they are not believing God to provide.”

He listened and nodded. In the meantime I was seeing red stars. No passion? No commitment?  Did this idiot think that all this just happened by accident?

Greg and Helen had busted their rear-ends with never a complaint. Did he know that all of us had been working fifteen and twenty hours a day for the last three months? Where did he think the 120 kids came from???

When he got off the phone I was going to tear into him.

He kept up the, “Uh huhs and the hmm- hmm,” for about a minute, then he looked up and winked at me and spoke into the phone and said, “He’s right here.”

Nick looked up at me,“Its Bob Weiner, he wants to speak to you.”

He handed me the receiver.

“Hey Tik, what in the world is going on up there? We set you guys up there, give you $ 10,000 and now you are stumbling. You have to be strong brother, buck up. I don’t like what I am hearing.”

“But Bob, things are going great, Greg did a great job, it just that we have a bunch of kids with no money, and Nick is making a wholesale judgment about this ministry and he has not even been here for 24 hours.”

“Listen Tik- Nick is my man. And I sent him up there because I figured you were too new and inexperienced to handle this stage of the ministry. He has my blessing… you get out of his way and he will straighten the finances out-he is a man of real faith… so you had better support him. Do you understand?”

I did understand.

I understood that no matter what the reality of the situation, no matter the fact that I had worked harder and smarter than I ever had in my life, that Bob was basically saying, “I can take you out… and I will… unless you let Nick have his way.”

So I caved in. What would you have done? I make no excuses but I will point out that I was only 21 years old.

I learned a lesson that day I have kept with me, and it has played a very real role in whatever little success I have enjoyed in life. And that lesson is this:

“Anyone who mistreats someone with less power than themselves, whether they are talking to an employee or a waiter, is a bad person and should be avoided at all costs.”

Well, it continued to go downhill at our ministry.

At our Saturday night service we had about 130 people there, our 120 members plus 10 visitors. And Nick launched into a sermon about Esther, and God planting her among the enemies and God being faithful.

There was A BIG problem that night.

Nick was quoting and preaching, almost verbatim, one of Greg Ball’s standard stump speech sermons. I had heard Greg give this sermon three times, twice at outreaches that I had worked on and at our second Saturday service here. It was a magnificent sermon, really a huge story woven with the passion and word pictures, that Greg was so good at painting.

I had no problem with Greg re-preaching his sermons- to different crowds. He had perfected it and it was every effective.

But now Nick was preaching Greg’s EXACT sermon, not nearly as effectively, and I caught the eye of my star convert, Tikietwo, who gave me a weird look and a shrug of his shoulders.

The other thing that caught my ear was that in his sermon Nick again made reference to the fact that he had dropped out of medical school to pursue full time ministry.

I knew for a fact that this was a bald faced lie and not true.  So in the midst of plagiarizing a sermon that most of the people here had heard only two weeks before he was also lying.

At the end of the service Nick spent ten minutes talking about giving, and robbing God of his tithes, and how they were letting the ministry and God down, and how if giving did not increase that, “Tik’s job was on the line,”or something to that affect.

I was appalled and disgusted by the whole thing.

Afterwards, when the place was almost cleared out, I asked Nick to come back to the office.

“Look Nick I have some real problems with what went on tonight.”

“Like what?” he said.

”Well first, your sermon. That was Greg’s sermon, I have heard him preach it three times. You stole it.”

He was out of his chair and on top of me in a flash, he bared his teeth.

“Don’t every accuse me of stealing, do you understand me? You are nothing here. NOTHING! I am in charge; didn’t you hear Bob this morning? I’ll have you sent packing in one minute. Secondly I did not steal the sermon; I actually wrote it and gave it to Greg and gave him permission to use it. He is a good preacher; but he has trouble coming up with material.”

Nick towered over me. What could I say? I knew Greg wrote his own material.

Nick was lying.

“Well maybe so Nick, but I plan on asking Greg about it.”

I continued, “And not only that but you are telling my people that you went to medical school. This is not true and I will not have you telling lies!”

He put his fist in my face and muttered, “Look my uncle was a doctor and I was in pre-med [Tik’s note: this was also not true]. I am doing what Paul did, being all things to all men. Brother, I would suggest that you worry about your own problems here, or life could get tough for you, understand?”

I could not believe it.

Who did this guy think he was, Marlon Brando in the God Father? He was threatening me, and unfortunately I was pretty sure that he was not bluffing…and his threat was real.

So I wimped out and let Nick run roughshod over me and the ministry for the next three weeks.

He insulted me in front of my congregation and he suggested that I should let my hair grow out [it was to short and I looked like a marine]. He suggested, and I am not kidding, that I needed to buy some expensive watches and jewelry so I could demonstrate my prosperity to the brothers. This in a ministry that was so cash negative that I could hear the sucking sound in the bank account.

My co-pastor Jim was so intimidated by Nick that he actually got physically sick and was incapacitated for about half the time Nick was here with shingles.

Finally Nick was there when the next set of Forerunners were delivered.

”What is the plan with these Tik? We got to get these out to campus ASAP.”

I explained what had happened and how I had narrowly avoided being taken to court and being fined for placing the Forerunner all over campus.

He snorted at me and said, “What a wimp, no wonder this place is such a mess. You are afraid of a little persecution. Do you think Peter and Paul would have worried about a fine? Get some back bone. I want the brothers here this afternoon and we are going to get these things all over campus- and I want you to personally deliver a stack to the student affairs building. And I mean it.”

I gulped and we did it.

Nick left three days later, and it was one of the highlights of my life to see him get on the airplane.
**********

Seventy two hours later I found myself answering a summons and standing in front of a judge and explaining why we did not have or need a permit and being fined $ 1,500 and being told I was lucky that I was not going in the slammer for a day or so.

 

 

#50 I Fall Into A Burning Ring Of Fire Part 2

I Fall Into A Burning Ring of Fire Part 2

We had converted some campus leaders, including the President of the largest Greek Fraternity on campus. I will call him “Tiketwo” because he reminded me of myself, and people actually thought we looked and acted like brothers. He was a Methodist and dissatisfied with his church. Go back and read Parts 1-5 of this Blog and the same thing happened to him that happened to me; I hate to tell you.

He had a steady girlfriend who I will call “Sheilatwo’, because she looked like my old friend Sheila, only in this case we converted her as well and used her to pop Helen Ball into her sorority and snag about seven of her sorority sisters for MCM.

Tikietwo and Sheilatwo brought in, personally, at least twenty kids.

“Tiketwo” really, really looked up to me as an ideal”Christian, one who could do no wrong and that scared me.

And weighed heavily on my conscience.

So I started the daily Red Book and shepherding sessions, and casting demons out of kids who were just being kids and got them on board and committed, and started witnessing classes. We got a Christian Prof to front a Victory Club which in turn converted two baseball players through a jointly sponsored event with the respected Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

Then, with almost no warning things begin to go downhill quickly.

First, Headquarters in Gainesville loaded us up with corporate literature and brochures for the tune of $ 4,000.  This ate big time into the war-chest that I had established on my own. As I mentioned our seed money from corporate had evaporated.

Second, about five thousand Forerunner Magazine Newspapers, at 50 cents a throw, begin to show up every other month. I mean stacks and stacks of these things. These cost us, if my memory is right, about $ 2,500 a whack. And there was no arguing with Gainesville about accepting or paying for these things, as I will show.

The Forerunner was Rose Weiner’s brainchild . Rose wanted to start A Mother Jones newspaper, but instead of being a leftie rag, she wanted a  rightie rag. Chockfull of articles by Theonomy writers pontificating about the establishment of God’s Kingdom on earth etc. etc. etc. Simply put the Forerunner celebrated the Manifest Destiny of America theory but repackaged to highlight the kooky and inane doctrines of MCM.

Well we were supposed to sell these things at best, or at least give them away. Either was very hard to do, it turned out.

So like a good trooper, and to get them out of the meeting hall, I organized work parties to put these things out in stacks on campus. And this was during autumn.

A very windy autumn.

And the wind blew the papers all over campus.

I mean no one was actually picking these things up to read them. At least the campus commie left wing rag had a sense of humor and some funny, if rather strange, cartoons. The Forerunner was about as interesting as the pages of  a dictionary if every page were the same. It was chloroform in print.

Now we had stupidly taken the time, and effort, to stamp our local ministry address and phone number on every paper.

This was infinitely stupid.

Because I got a phone call-from the campus police.

“Hello,” I said as I answered the telephone.

“Yes this is Captain Jim Smith of the campus police. I am trying to reach the person in charge of MCM at Big University.”

“That would be me, Tik Tok.”

“Well Mr. Tok you have managed to cover the university with your papers, they are every where, in the trees, in the fountains and complaints are coming in from all over the place.First you don’t have a permit to distribute papers on campus, second, even if you did, we must have approved paper boxes. Third it is going to cost us at least $ 10,000 to clean up the campus. I am going to give you a break… either you clean these up in the next 24 hours or I am going to bring you in on a misdemeanor charge of littering and creating a public nuisance. Any questions?”

So we went back and for fourteen straight hours we cleaned up papers.

And the Forerunner, literally being all over campus, piqued the interest of the editor of the student newspaper. Who, being a smart kid, called me up to try to find out WHAT we were doing and exactly who we were doing it for.

Our converting over 100 kids, the infiltration of fraternities, conversions of a couple of baseball players, and three sold out Saturday nights at the Maranatha Hall had gotten a lot of attention on campus. And our newspapers being literally everywhere piqued his interest, as I said.

When the phone rang, and it was the editor of the campus newspaper, I was to naïve to give it much thought. He asked questions about me, my background, where I came from, about Greg, what MCM was, who headed it and where we had come from.

About a week after Greg and Helen had left Jim, my co-pastor, walked in with a paper under his arm.

”See this yet?” he asked.

“Don’t tell me that you found another Forerunner in a bush,” I laughed.

”Tikie this is serious!” and he laid the newspaper out in front of me.

Front and center, the headline on the weekly campus news read “Cult on Campus?”

And below it in a printed frame was a photo of Greg and me on campus with about eight or ten students gathered around us praying.

The story read:

“Maranatha Christian Ministries came to town last month with a splash. Their new meeting Hall is packed out every week and their posters promise, “Real Christian Answer to Life’s Pressing Questions”. But who are they and what do they want? Despite their claims to lead students to an Abundant Christian Life their reputation at other college campuses tells a different story. “I would not recommend this ministry to any student,” said Dr. Herb Butz, Dean of Student Affairs at the University of Florida. “We believe that this group uses cult like tactics to entrap and cut off lonely or idealistic students, interfering with their studies and recruiting them to perpetuate the group and it’s goals.”

It got worse from there and they quoted me as Pastor Tikie and laid into the tactics we used including posing as a campus sponsored club when in fact this was not the case.

It also had interviews with fraternity members, where Greg and I had preached, accusing us of coming into the frat under false pretenses, stealing their members, then effectively cutting them off. The head of one frat said that I had posed as an official university affiliated non-denominational minister, which he said was a lie.

The article also questioned where our finances were coming from and that we expected the students to tithe and support us. It contrasted our taking of offerings from poor students with that of other ministries like Campus Crusade and the Baptist Student Union that asked for no donations.

Although there was much truth to this, there were some differences between what they wrote and what was actually happening. One inaccuracy was that we had not encouraged the fraternity and sorority members to leave their organization. I felt like that they could do more good inside the frats than if they left them.

But of course since we WERE MCM so we ate up all their free time, they began making radical lifestyle changes that we encouraged.  And, as I related, although I never claimed to be an official university sponsored chaplain, I never corrected the wrong assumptions made about me and MCM.

The article was a disaster.

We now had about 120 members, counting the ten that had come for the planting. It was a great start,but only a start. And now with the spate of articles about MCM Jim and I noticed that our first time visitor attendance dropped off dramatically.

Another part of the problem centered on our finances. Jim did not have enough outside support coming in for him and his family. We knew this was a problem upfront but thought it would solve itself once we had the ministry rolling.

So I was subsidizing him out of my $ 1,500 per month in outside contributions I had pledged to me. The rent, because of the wonderful location right next to campus, was about $ 1,800/month. The cost of our initial blitz had taken our seed money to zeros plus my own war-chest balance was now down to about $ 2,000.

Our offerings were only averaging about $ 300/week despite our success in numbers after three months. If I had any sense I would have calculated that at our giving rate we would need well over 1,200 college kids tithing out of their funds just to break even. Could we have gotten more out of them? Probably, but I was reluctant to hit these kids up hard, like Mike did at Auburn, because of the pain it had caused me as a new recruit.

I have mentioned that I paid a MCM tax of about 12% on my monthly $ 1,500 plus I threw 10% of that in the plate. And on top of that 10% of our local ministries gross income for the Ministry went right back to Gainesville.

Could it get any worse for me and our new church plant?

The answer, as you probably guessed, was yes, it could, and did, get worse.

Much worse.