#21 Cutting Myself Off

 

Editors Note: Here Tikie shows us how members of sociological cults begin cutting themselves off from their friends; the very people that might help keep them from ensnaring themselves further in the cult.

“I’ve got a river of life flowing out of me:
It makes the lame to walk
and the blind to see,
Opens prison doors sets the captives free,
I have got a river of life flowing out of me.”
From a favorite chorus of MCM in the 1970s

 

I had now been a member of MCM for just about three weeks and had seen over ten of my friends join MCM and at least four of them had  brought other people into the Ministry. I had participated in at least 15 discipleship sessions with Marty and attended at least eighteen two hour MCM services. I was babbling on and on, to anyone who would listen, about God’s Kingdom, the need to leave everything for Jesus and be totally committed to Him and the Body.

But the  “old Tik” was still able to take control at this point in my journey.

It was as if he, the “old Tik”, was banished to the small closet in the back of my mind. The same closet containing the four or five weird Maranatha doctrines as well as my unanswered questions about its unceasing demands on me.

I am not into the pyscho-babble, Freud, and all that stuff.

In fact, I fully expect to get e-mails from outraged psychiatrists telling me that this stuff about the “old Tik” being shunted aside and locked in a closet is a bunch of junk.

Maybe it is.

All I can tell you, my friend, is that throughout my time in MCM the “old Tik” was always inside my head somewhere.  Or perhaps I was simply insane the entire time I was a member of MCM. I sometimes believe that-  looking back on this experience.

Sometimes “the Old Tik” would yell and scream from inside the closet, “ARE YOU CRAZY? HAVE YOU LOST ALL YOUR SENSE OF HUMANITY”????

At other times he would merely whisper, or sit staring at the wall and brood. The “Old Tik” would especially get upset when I put the Kingdom ahead of everything else especially people, their lives and their feelings.

Which, after a while, I did routinely.

At this point in my MCM journey the “old Tik” [the Tik, by the way, that is typing this on a laptop as I watch my twin seven year olds at a gymnastics session] was still occasionally let out of the closet and allowed to takeover.

To run things as he saw fit.

But gradually the “old Tik” [me!, that is!] was banished to this closet, then eventually the closet was locked, and finally the “new Tik” and my overseers, with help from the head honchos at MCM, tried to wall the door to the closet up with the bricks and mortar made of twisted scripture, all night counseling (shepherding) “hootah sessions”, discipleship classes, deliverance sessions, Bible Studies, endless work on behalf of MCM and conferences like Maranatha Leadership Training School (MLTS) where we would hear sermon after sermon from top leaders in the shepherding movement.

This was done so that the “old Tik” would never emerge again…ever… and so all of us would comply willingly with the will of the elders of MCM.

However the “old Tik” took control immediately after the service on this night, however.

For once, post- service, no one was taking the slightest notice of me.

Good. Time to make my get-away.

I hurried out of the front door.

It was 8:15 pm; the earliest I had ever left the MCM House after a night service.

Once at the frat house I picked up my telephone and called Sheila’s dorm room. I was determined to talk to her before the weekend was out. I was using the excuse of confirming our lunch appointment on Monday to do so.

I mean I couldn’t just call to talk to her without an excuse could I?

“Hello.”

It was Jane, her roommate.

“Hi Jane, it is me, Tik.”

“Hi Tikie.”

“Is Sheila there?”

“Just a minute”

I could hear her hand covering the speaker on the handset, but I could not hear what was being said. I could, however, make out a muffled exchange of voices.

“She is not here.”

“C’mon Jane, cut the baloney. I know she is there I just heard you talk to her.”

Jane was a sweet heart but she had the mentality of a, well, a parakeet and the voice to match.

She also had the emotional maturity of a five year old. This was her third year of rooming with Sheila. Honestly I don’t see how Sheila stood it.

“I was talking to myself,” Jane said.

Great.

“Jane, tell Sheila to grow up and stop acting like a kindergartener.”

Another muffled exchange.

“She’s busy.”

This time I heard Sheila break into that husky laugh of hers. Then she picked up the phone.

“What.”

It was a flat, hard, statement, not a question, from Sheila.

“What do you mean ‘What’?” I asked,

“I mean WHAT. That’s what.”

Then she and Jane started laughing.

That’s one of the things I liked about Sheila- she could “fire and forget.”

Sure, she was going to give me a hard time, she was going to jerk me around a little, but she was not going to pout and stay mad.

Not Sheila.

“Look I wanted to talk about Saturday and missing our date at the game. It was a jerky thing to do- but I got tied up and ran about an hour and a half late. I tried calling your dorm, the sorority, and then the frat house. I got JD on the phone and asked him to find you… but we got cut off. Please forgive me, it was unintentional, I promise.”

“Don’t sweat it Tik. It is just not that big of a deal. I am a big girl. Besides we are just friends, right?”

Emphasis on the “are”.

I hated that term “just friends” and Sheila knew it. But I let it slide. I was being an “oh so humble Tik” tonight.

“Right,” I answered.

“So are we on for tomorrow?” I asked.

“Sounds great,” she said. “See you at noon at the Calf.”

That next morning in class Dr. Carl’s face was frozen in a frown as he handed me the graded structures exam.  The exam that I had taken and sweated over on Friday morning.

“Very disappointing, Mr. Tok, very disappointing. And you failed to come by my office Friday afternoon like I requested.”

The tests had been stacked on his desk.

It was a ritual flagellation for those who did not measure up, at least, to retrieve your graded test.

To get our graded tests we had to walk up to his desk, sign a book, and then he would pull the graded test out of a folding file. Those who measured up to his expectations got a comment of “Okay”, or “All right”. Those who did not measure up were beneficiaries of a more personalized comment on their performance in front of everyone.

Like the comment he had just given me.

I peeked at the top of the page. My stomach turned: the score was a 68, a “D,” and it was the lowest exam score I had gotten in two years.

Dr. Carl did not believe in curves. “Who knows,” he said, “there is a small chance that one day I will have a class the superior of Einstein and if I grade on the curve I could really screw things up.”

I already knew where I had goofed up. I had  spent three hours last night in the library mastering ‘inderminate structures”.

That was not the problem. The problem was that I should have mastered them before Friday’s test.

Oh, and there was another problem.

I had a thermo-dynamics test tomorrow that I should have been prepping for last night rather than catching up on indeterminate structures theory. My plan the night prior was, well, to pull another “all-nighter” Monday night, after the Maranatha service.

That plan had been put on hold because of my “all- nighter” casting demons out of a brother with Sam and Marty that evening. I was exhausted once again and I knew I did not have the physical or mental stamina to go seventy two hours without sleep.

So I prayed, “God you know my heart, Your Word says to seek first the Kingdom of God and everything else will be added to me.”

Marty had shared that with our group on Saturday morning.

“I am trusting you to do that God,” I added.

Maybe a miracle would occur and I could get through my thermo test intact. But it looked like my new Maranatha activities were quickly getting me into academic trouble.

At noon I headed up to the War Eagle to meet Sheila.

I was anxious to catch up with her and to see what was going on. Meeting Sheila for lunch was a hobby of mine- she was interesting and smart and had a very dry cynical sense of humor. She was also a straight arrow and a devoted Christian. At least I used to think she was before that day I met Bob Weiner.

At lunch we would get in our spot and talk about anything and everything. Sometimes it was the latest gossip- who was dating whom- who was dropping whom- who had flunked out. Sometimes it was a deep discussion of our Christian faith and what it meant to be a Christian.

Sometimes it was about our two childhoods, which could not have been more different. She was fascinated by my upbringing. I grew up on the wrong side of the tracks in Birmingham, one of eight kids; my parents had a struggling business and there was never enough money to go around.

I had saved enough money, by the time I had graduated high school, to pay for about a year of college.  By combining that money with my “free ride’ at the frat with room and board, and a “books and tuition” scholarship awarded at the end of my freshman year by Tau Beta Pi (the engineering honor society) I had cobbled together a way to get through school.

This set up also gave me a reasonably decent social life.

It was a shoestring existence all the way around, however.

And it was dependent on me maintaining a “B” average in my core engineering studies and my “free ride” at the frat as President and maybe next year as Steward.

Sheila, on the other hand had grown up as an only child of a prominent wealthy family in Selma, Alabama.

She had a brand new car. I had a bike.

She always had the latest clothes and she had all the things materially I never had. In fact she said her parents would pretty much give her whatever she wanted and needed. She found the contrast in the way we were making it through school fascinating.

And I liked the fact, that despite the piles of money and material possessions, she was as down to earth and as nice as anyone I had ever met.

Funny to boot.

In some ways it was hard for me to figure out why we had become friends. I met her at Freshmen Forum and then again at a IFC/Panhellenic Pledge social our freshman year.

We had ended up at both functions talking to each other almost exclusively; with me spending most of the time laughing at her cynical humor. Over the next two years our paths had taken a similar trajectory- we were both Rush Chairmen and we were both elected President of our Greek chapters for our junior years. And, because she detested the “nose in the air” attitude of the frat that her sorority normally associated with, we had schemed to bring her sorority and my fraternity together for fundraising and social events last year.

We grabbed our sandwiches and went to our normal hangout spot to watch the world go by on the lawn in front of Haley Center.

But, something was different today.

With Sheila I never had to think about conversation. It just happened. It was a stream of consciousness.

But today the conversation was… and I am trying to recreate the scene in my mind right now… it was… stilted.

I mean usually I had something on my mind and just blurted it out. Or she had something to say and she did the same.  Many times we would each launch into a machine gun burst of conversation at the same time- cracking each other up…but not today.

And I knew why that was.

Because today I was doing something I had never thought about doing with Sheila: weighing what to talk about… and what not to talk about.

For example:

My almost flunking Dr.Carl’s test was at the top of my mind.  Now if I mentioned that I would have to tell her the reason I had flunked the test and all that had happened that had kept me from mastering the material. That is that I had spent 30+ hours in five days on Maranatha related stuff instead of  using that time to study like I normally would have.

Could I tell her about Rick and Rhonda and their “conversion”?

Maybe… in Sheila’s opinion Rhonda was a “slut” for practically living in the house. But if I went into the change that had taken place with Ronda then I would have to talk about Maranatha and all of that had happened since the previous week.

And I knew she did not like or approve of what she had seen of Bob Weiner and Maranatha.

Of course the same would happen if I discussed Fred’s, Ricky’s and Roger’s conversions.

So WHAT could we talk about?

Not the frat. I had been missing in action so to speak for the last three weeks. I had missed two chapter meetings and business review for goodness sake. Did I really want to go into that with her? Perhaps she knew about it from Mom and would bring it up on her own.

As we walked to the lawn in front of Haley Center I suddenly realized, that for the first time in two years, I might have NOTHING to talk about to the person who had probably been my best friend at Auburn.

And I remember breaking out in a cold sweat at that thought.

She launched into a funny story about two of her sorority sisters mixing up their contact lenses on Sunday morning and that got me laughing as she went into the hilarious details about what transpired.

But after 10 minutes, like I had feared, we ran out of conversational steam.

What was there left to talk about, the weather?

The Kingdom and the work of Maranatha were on my mind first and foremost- that is what I was excited about: the ETERNAL things.

I knew that this would go nowhere with Sheila. She was stuck in the  world of “temporary” things.

For a minute we sat there in silence.

Not the, “Isn’t this a great day kind and lets enjoy it,” silence but more like the, “I am on an elevator with a complete stranger and can’t wait to get off,” silence.

I hope you know what I mean.

Then I realized Sheila was staring at me.

“Tik, is everything okay?”

“Sure, why?”

“I am not sure what is going on, but I am sure that something is not right. Anything on your mind? You seem a thousand miles away.”

More like a dimension or a couple of light years away.

But what was I supposed to say?

“Hey Sheila, you will never guess what happened two nights ago we cast demons out of this guy who was on the verge of suicide!!”

I sort of knew that that line of conversation was not a wise one with her… or was it?

Did I miss a chance to let my guard down to tell her EVERYTHING about MCM?  The good plus my doubts and some of the things that did not seem right to me?

What would have happened that day if I had let my guard down and really confided in her?

What if I had really trusted her?

I actually briefly considered doing this but did not.

I’m not sure why I did not act on this impulse. It was another lost opportunity to get off the track I was headed down.

I was rapidly narrowing my mind and my options.

Anyway I glanced at my watch- it was 12:25 pm.

Usually when I was having lunch with Sheila a glance at my watch would spark the reaction, “Yikes- late again!” But today I was hoping my watch WOULD read 1:00 pm instead of reading 12:25 pm, as it actually did.

“Hey Sheila, sorry to eat and run but I promised Dr. Carl that I would stop by his class before lab to discuss my exam results.”

I was lying.

Dr. Carl would not be back in his office until 4:00 pm. He had a level 1 lab from 12-3 pm today.

I stood up and she was watching me very closely, her eyes narrowing as I gathered my books and gave her a quick wave.

“Uh, okay Tik. See you…well…see you soon.”

“Sure Sheila, see you soon.”

I turned and walked away.

What was wrong with Sheila?

What in the world was wrong with me?

#17 A Completely New Family

Saturday October 1978

The crowd in the stadium rose as one and cheered, “Waaarr EEAAAGLE!” as Auburn scored a touchdown.

But at that moment my mind was on other matters.

First, there was my problem with Sheila. She had called me to make peace after our blow up about who was, and was not, a Christian… and to talk about my involvement in Maranatha.

To seal that peace, and because, well, I missed seeing her, I had made a non-date  date with her to go to the football game. Now I had done something really rude to a very good friend. I stood her up and left her hanging at the frat house for at least an hour by herself.

I felt bad about this, well, at least part of me did.

But that part of me that felt bad, the part that was ruminating on how in the world I could have done such a thing to a good friend, was being challenged by someone else.

A new comer.

The new comer that had been forming in me over the last seven days. A soon to be tyranical new comer that I gladly welcomed in to my head, my heart and my soul; that I happily fed, watered and eventually, as you will see, let take over every aspect of my life.

The new comer, the other part of me, that was saying, “The Kingdom must come first” and the one reciting Marty and Bob’s words about being an, “Over-coming Christian and setting an example for the Body.”

I thought, “All this-worldly stuff, ALL of it is of no consequence. My luke warm Christian and heathen friends in the fraternity are not of God. The dead Christian groups like CCC and BSU that never bore fruit are nothing but fronted social clubs.”

I glanced around at the screaming football fans and the revelry taking place in the stadium; all of this was temporal, I thought, while the Kingdom was permanent.

These eternal things were what the only  important things, or so I told myself.

Or was it this “newcomer”, the “new” Tik, that was thinking this?

“I should get away from this debauchery ….especially since God has picked me out for leadership,” I thought.

Isn’t that what Jesus would do, separate himself from the sinful stuff and the drunken harlots and whore-mongers?

And that new  part of me, the part that was on fire for Jesus, the part that was totally committed, the part that saw problems with watered down Christianity; well, this new part of me was shoving the old Tik into the same small closet that held some of the weird doctrines and practices that I had seen so far during my involvement in Maranatha.

Now to be fair I was NOT thinking in those terms.

Well, not exactly.

But I certainly was experiencing what sociologists, including cult experts like Janha Lalich, term cognitive dissonance, which apparently all sociological cult members seem to experience to some degree. Cognitive dissonance seems to occur frequently with those who are just moving into such a sociological cult (I will speak to cognitive dissonance and how individuals are assimilated into such groups later on).

But now my thoughts now focused on what MCM termed the old man versus the new man I was becoming; as I sat silent among the throngs cheering and screaming fans around me.

In fact Maranatha (Marty, Bob, Randy and Sam, thus far) had actually told me that the old man might try to come back. For sure Baptism in Faith and the  Baptism of Fire in the Holy Spirit would help prevent that the return of that dead old man.

But I was warned to stay away from that old man- the old Tik. The old Tik had been cut away and buried in Baptism. I must not, “Let him drag himself out of the grave” (an actual quote and teaching of MCM).

Isn’t that what Bob and Marty had told me to do?

That I was to, “Mortify the flesh, to kill the old man daily and let the new man come to life?”

Isn’t that that was what discipleship and total commitment to Jesus and His Body required?

The shepherds over us, I had been told, were to help discipline us in our walk with Jesus. They held us accountable for staying close to God, for watching over our spiritual well being, and, to help us keep the old man, and our former life, in the grave where Water Baptism had put him.

Friday night (the night prior) during my brief chastisement session Marty read the following verse to me: “Like a dog that returns to his vomit is a fool that repeats his folly.”

I looked around me at the hundred fifty plus frat brothers, dates and little sisters of the frat. Some were drunk, most were yelling and cheering. Thousands of people moved their shakers in clockwork rhythm as they yelled, screamed and hugged each other. It seemed to me, at least, that I was the only one in the whole crowd not in this worldly groove, if you will.

Despite this was I like the dog Marty had spoken of last night that was returning to it’s vomit?

Were the frat activities and all of this worldly stuff going on at the game the vomit that Marty and the Bible spoke about?

How about Sheila?

I knew in my heart that Sheila had rejected Maranatha, despite our effort to patch things up on the phone.

We were good friends. I did not like the term just friends because it implied a diminution of our relationship. But where did Sheila, my friend, fit in with God’s plan if she were not going to be an over comer?

Where did any of my old friends fit in?

A mere seven days into Maranatha and I had already categorized people as either old friends or my new friends; actually these new friends were my  new family to quote Marty, Randy, and Bob.

New brothers and sisters in Jesus they were.

An eternal family of God, for me, it seemed.

In my mind I was also starting to categorize activities as either eternal and of the “kingdom or of the world; that is temporary, fleeting and sinful.

Reality broke in as Auburn intercepted a pass sending the crowd into more fits of  screaming and cheering.

I thought, “Why can’t these people scream and yell about the miracles and  the goodness of God who gives them their very breath? Sheila said she thought the Maranatha service was strange the other night, but no stranger than what is going on here with 80,000 people yelling and screaming about a zipped up ball of air.”

Then Jenny leaned over and put her head in my lap; her strawberry blonde hair now hanging down to my shins.  And then she passed out with a small sigh.

“Sorry Tik,” laughed Mom. “I think the excitement was too much for her today!”

I stood up, cradling Jenny’s head and then laid her gently down onto the vacant stadium bench seat.

“Hey Mom I just can’t get into this game.  I think I am going to head back to the frat house.”

He smiled, “Worried about Sheila, hey?”

I just nodded and headed out of the stadium to find my bike. I had dropped it in the grass outside the stadium.

I hoped it had not been stolen.

It was there where I left it, thank goodness. I got on it and started pedaling aimlessly up campus.

About five minutes later I found myself sitting on the same brick steps near the Haley Center where Sheila and I had spent many an hour talking. I just looked across the empty green common while the roar from  loudspeakers and the crowd in the stadium washed over me.

I was tossing all of the thoughts I had about God, Jesus, the world, the Kingdom, my old life. my old friends and new-found family around and around in my head.

Suddenly something snapped inside of me. I jumped on my bike and sped to the Hill, and Sheila’s dorm, pumping my legs as hard as I could.

With a force of will the old Tik had broken his out of that partially closed closet in my mind and had taken control again.

At least for now.

Now men were not allowed into the women’s dorms with few exceptions.

But I knew that the side door by one of the patios at Sheila’s dorm was always open and it would allow me to bypass the Pinkie on guard (these were the security guards employed by Pinkerton; we called them pinkies).

I made my way up to Sheila’s room and knocked.

No answer.

I went down to the social room on that floor and got a pen and paper and then scrounged for scotch tape with no luck.

Just to think, I was on the verge of discovering post-it notes in 1978!

Oh Well.

I scribbled the following: “Sorry I was so late, I tried to find you at the frat house and the game. Please forgive me & call me! Your Friend, Tik”.

Then I scrawled at the bottom of the note.

“PS: Your are the ever BEST friend ever!”

I slid the note under the door to her room.

Back at the frat house I scrounged for some food in the walk in freezer. There was some frozen fried chicken that Annie, our cook, had put in baggies; so I threw it in the oven and watched the band for the post game frat party set up in our social room whilst I listened to the game on the radio and chugged a coke.

I was not required to come to the frat parties, the social chairman was, but it was expected that I would be there as the President.

And sure enough I was almost always was at the post game frat parties, but never took part in the hard-drinking and carousing. I just hung around and talked and occasionally got talked into a dance by one of the little sisters or Sheila.

Funny, Sheila was not a frat little sister, heck she was not even officially associated with the frat, but she usually came to our post game parties and hung out with me. We would laugh at the antics of our friends, occasionally dance and jitter-bug if we liked the song being played. By 11:30 pm, just prior to the party closing down, we would usually find ourselves sitting on the six-foot high retaining wall, at the back of the Frat parking lot, kicking our legs and talking about life.

But I could not attend the frat party tonight. Tonight was the love feast being put on for all the new brothers and sisters.

So I ambled down Magnolia Street to the Maranatha House with my potluck contribution under my arm. As I walked up the street I could see people streaming into the front door.

The stage was still in the meeting room but that morning we had put up about 20 tables seating 10 per table that morning.

The  head table on the stage where the Praise Band Equipment usually played had Bob Weiner, some visiting pastors and Mike and Missy Caulk, the Auburn Pastors seated at it, in places of honor.

Two members of the Praise Band were strumming on acoustic guitars and as I walked in  they broke into song. I saw Bob with a microphone,seated at the front table, holding it to his mouth, singing loudly into it.

That seemed quirky to me, but I shook it off and plopped down at a table where a couple had just taken a seat.

They wore the same preppy clothing, popular at that time, as I did, he with parted short hair, and she with dimples, dark hair in braids and blue sparking blue eyes that seemed to flare brightly when she smiled at me. I smiled back and before I could speak we all joined in singing with the band.

After a couple of these songs Bob Weiner stood up and said, “Praise God- this is our third week at Auburn and we are seeing a mighty revival here. It is part of the new thing that God is doing on His earth. Tonight for the first time the new Body here at Auburn will break bread together like the early Christians always did.”

He pointed us to the scripture in Acts on how the new church broke bread and fellow-shipped together routinely and weekly.

He continued “This is our new family our brothers and sisters in Christ, our adopted family because we are adopted sons of God and heirs to His Kingdom. Amen????”

There was clapping and shouting.

“Tonight we are going to enjoy some Godly music, some food and we will have about ten baptisms tonight!!! PRAISE GOD ALMIGHTY! JESUS REIGNS!,shouted Bob.

“AMEN BROTHER!!!”came a shout from the crowd and there were cheers,  applause, and stomping of feet.

Bob waited until the noise subsided.

It was a dramatic pause. Bob had/has an unbelievable sense of timing; of how to build a story; of how to build drama when he spoke…even into the announcements like this. During this pause, and as the room grew silent, his face showed keen anticipation.

I found that the anticipation of what he was about so say growing in me as well.

“… and on Sunday night, after our blow out Sunday Morning Worship Service tomorrow morning, I will be speaking on an extremely important topic, a true revelation from God, that will prevent the hurt and injury that we see today in the world. You see God’s church, the Body of Christ, is called to be different in every way from the world. For those of you who have made a commitment to Jesus, that are committed to being radical over-comers,  you simply will not want to miss this session on Sunday night.”

“What is he going to be speaking about? What could be so revolutionary?” I wondered.

“…tomorrow night I will be speaking on God’s perfect choice and his plan for your life and you life-mate. It is an exciting topic and a plan that God has given to us, His Church and His Apostles in this end time. I will show you how God intends to bring brothers and sister together into holy and noble marriage with none of the hurts and the scars that the world leaves people in the sinful and lustful dating game that the world plays!”

“Amen?” he shouted and cupped his hand to his ear.

“Amen!” we all shouted back in unison.

“Wonder what in the world all that stuff was about?” I thought.

After getting through the pot luck line with a plate of food I sat back down at the table next to the young couple.

“We have been watching you at the services since last Sunday night,” said the girl. She introduced herself as Allie.

“This is my husband Matt.”

“You seem so on fire so alive to Jesus,” she said as she tore off  a piece of bread from her plate and popped it into her mouth.

It was a very nice compliment she gave me, I thought, and I liked hearing it.

It turned out that Allie was in nursing school and Matt was completing his master’s degree in sociology, or something like that. Although Allie was only one year older than me, and Matt four years older; their maturity levels, both as people, and as Christians, were much, much higher than mine.

They had both come from a charismatic Christian church in Montgomery and were dissatisfied with their walk and what they saw in the commitment to Jesus by other members in that church.

We spent the entire dinner talking about Jesus and what He was doing and the gifts of the Spirit and our mutual radical commitment to Him.

It was evident that they were far better versed in scripture and had a much deeper walk with the Lord than I did; this despite my constant attendance at the Baptist church and Bible studies on Campus over the past two years.

I did not know it then but Matt and Allie were to become my surrogate parents, at least that is the way I saw them, over the next three years while I was at Auburn.

They were  to become refuge for me at Maranatha when my “shepherds’ started whacking out and going nuts. Which happened often I would soon find out.

Matt and Allie were sincere and humble with a true desire to know God. Like others, including me, they were being sucked into a machine that did not reward humbleness, piety, or a servant’s spirit.

Ultimately, like almost all of us, who found their way to MCM, they ended up paying the price in hurts and scars and torments. Those who were the most sincere, the most devout, and humble ultimately paid a greater price in the arrogant and controlling atmosphere that Maranatha became, or actually, I think, already was.

It was also Matt and Allie who introduced me to a couple that would also have an affect on my life:

Karen and Phil Bonasso.

But all of this would come much later.

But tonight was simply was a night of fellowship and fun all centered on the Bible, and Jesus and Maranatha.

Matt introduced me to Mike and Missy Caulk (their real names are used with their permission) the new pastors at Auburn. I did not mention to Mike Caulk that I had met him earlier that week. I did not think he would remember that encounter.

During my conversation with Mike Caulk I learned he was an ex-Marine and had been quarterback for the Marine Corps football team. He seemed like a very personable and genuinely funny guy.

I immediately liked him. I was glad he was going to be our Pastor.

Throughout our conversation, however, which lasted about ten minutes, I noticed that Mike Caulk’s eyes would periodically follow Bob around the room. I could not put my finger on it, but it seemed that Mike Caulk, a big striking muscular guy, a handsome looking guy with a face a sculptor would love, was in awe of, and, it seemed to me, intimidated by, Bob Weiner. Mike watched Bob like a dog would watch a harsh master intent on the master’s every move and awaiting the inevitable punishment.

At the end of the service Bob called Mike and Missy Caulk up to the stage.

“Now,” Bob said, “I am going to be here preaching at Auburn only two more nights more, at least for right now”

There was a groan from the crowd and shouts of “stay longer and don’t leave.”

“Now, now,” said Bob, “it is God that is doing the things here..I am just sowing the seeds. Trust me I will be back and keep tabs on things here!”

And he laughed.

“Next week you are going to have a real treat in store. You see I am the evangelist that lays the ground work that gets the Ministry going; the one ploughs up the earth and plants the seeds. But starting Monday the person who will water and tend the soil is coming.  A person who will help build up this work into the mighty fortress of God.”

He paused.

“The man who is coming has a deep and passionate understanding of God. He is a true and real prophet of God in these last days: his name is Joe Smith. He is anointed by God and will be a true blessing to all of you. He will prophesy over you and change your lives.”

Then he looked at Mike and Missy Caulk.

“Now of course,” he continued,” these are your pastors Mike and Missy Caulk who are coming from Oxford, MS to lead this ministry. Praise God!”

And with that he waved Mike and Missy to stand up.

There was shouting and whooping like at the football game this afternoon. Then Bob said something really odd, something I thought strange at the time; something that has stuck with me verbatim some thirty years later.

He said, “We are counting on Mike and Missy Caulk to make this place grow, we have invested a lot of time and money in this ministry…. and they had better not mess it up!

I may be disremembering (is that a word??? If not it should be!) some twenty-seven years later, but the entire place seemed to let out an audible gasp, at least I am sure that I did.

Both Mike and Missy had a stunned expression on their face.

Bob seemed oblivious to all of this and yelled out: “Let’s close with the song ‘what a mighty God we serve’! And tomorrow morning invite all of your friends for I will be preaching on the mighty blood of Jesus!”

I stayed for another hour talking with Matt and Allie and visiting with Mike Caulk.

As I walked back up “mag” towards my frat house I thought, “What a great family I have become part of.”

Maranatha would become my complete and total “family”, in almost every sense, over the next five years.

And I would come to learn, in time, that this “family” was also completely and totally dysfunctional.