Wednesday, October 18, 1978
I was in a huge hall with massive columns that extended to the right and left of me as far as I could see.
Around me, for I was floating in space, were thousands of people lined up above, below, and alongside me.
Each person held a lit candle and over their heads there hovered a small flame. We sang “Jesus Name above All Names” in beautiful harmony. I looked up and suddenly we stood in front of, and below, a huge granite throne from which came a brilliant light. All of us around the throne begin chanting “kolachakca uhl kolachacka my kolachakca” over and over and the sound filled the air and our chest and our heads.
Then bells began ringing in time with our chant, louder and louder they rang…ring… ring… rrriinng… rrrrringgg
Still murmuring “kolachaka” I looked up.
The phone on the stand beside my bed clanged away. I glanced at the clock on the stand as I pulled the receiver to my ear.
It read 7:45 am.
Yikes! I had an 8:00 am structures class!
“Hello,” I muttered into the handset.
“Well, the mystery man is still alive and made it back home.”
It was Sheila.
“Where in the world did you get to last night? I looked for you after the service and then waited around for almost forty-five minutes. I thought you had been kidnapped!”
She then burst into her trademark husky laughter.
“Sorry Sheila about last night,” I said. “I went upstairs to talk to a couple of the guys and time got away from me. When I came downstairs it was after 10:00 and you were gone.”
I paused, gathering my thoughts, shaking the sleep from my head.
“Look I have to get off,” I continued, “I have got to grab a shower and make my 8:00 class.”
“Want to meet me at the War Eagle Cafeteria at noon?” she asked.
“Sure, sounds great… see you then,” I answered back and hung up the phone.
Sheila and I would meet at the “calf”, as we called the War Eagle Cafeteria, a couple of times a week. There we would grab a sandwich and sit out on the wall across from Haley Center, the massive hub of the campus, and talk and watch the world go by.
I raced down the hall to the shower. As president of the fraternity I had one of the few private rooms in the house.
The other two sleeping rooms on the first floor were occupied by our house mother (actually a male grad student who was stuck with the nickname “Mom”) and the house Steward who ran the day to day business of the house in exchange for room, board, and $ 50/month.
The three of us, because of our responsibilities, got free room and board. Next year, upon stepping down as Frat President, I was already assured of getting the job of steward at the house.
It was a good gig and would help me front the bills next year.
Our three rooms were off a hallway next to the TV room and also had the advantage of being relatively quiet, at least for a frat house. I grabbed a piece of toast from Betty, our cook, and threw my backpack over my shoulder, jumped on my bike, and raced down East Magnolia Avenue to the Engineering College.
My thoughts were of my commitment to “Jesus” and as I prayed to Him my heart warmed and I reflected on the amazing experience I had last night. I felt like I was “in love” and on a first date. My heart raced as I relived that experience.
Pedaling down Magnolia I passed the Maranatha House.
It seemed peaceful and dark this morning in contrast to the excitement and light that had spilled out of the house last night. I craned my neck to catch sight of the parking lot out back. A number of cars were parked there. Mostly older clunkers.
No sign of Bob’s white Mercedes.
I wondered where Bob was staying.
At Dr. Carl’s structure’s class, I tried to concentrate but found myself either praying or thinking about Jesus and being a first century Christian. I was an inveterate note taker in class, and I still am in business meetings. But this morning I wrote not a single scribble.
About half way through Dr. Carl’s lecture one of my classmates leaned over and whispered, “Hey Tik, did you get stoned last night… or are you just day dreaming about getting some nookie? You have have this silly grin on your face and you have not written one thing down this morning.”
I started in my seat and begin to try to concentrate on the lecture and school but found this impossible to do.
At noon I made my way to the “calf” and found Sheila waiting for me, with her short blond hair pushed back from her forehead by sunglasses. We grabbed a sandwich and walked over to the broad sloping lawn next to Haley center and plopped down.
Sheila and I had become close friends over the last two years. Many people thought we were a “thing”, but we were not. The “it” required for the dating/love thing was not there. I was way too busy to worry about the girlfriend – boyfriend thing. And with Sheila, thank goodness, I did not have to worry about all of that and, besides, I really liked her and liked being around her.
“So what happened to you last night Tik?” she asked. “I worried myself sick about you. I waited around until almost 9:30 for you at the house last night.”
“Well Sheila,” I said, “something incredible happened to me last night. I think for the first time I understand what it means to be a Christian, the kind of Christian that Paul was in the first century.”
I excitedly explained what happened, how they (Randy, Marty and Sam) knew, from a word God had given them, about everything that was going on in my life. I told her about the power of their faith and about the way their prayers pierced my soul. About them being sold out and committed. About the fact that I had come to see that I was lukewarm and a water-downed Christian. I told her about my baptism last night and how the power of God Almighty had filled me just the way I had read about in the book of Acts.
I left out the speaking in tongues part and the dancing and all of that. I thought at this point that would be too much for her.
As she listened closely she munched on her sandwich-occasionally interjecting with a “hmmm” or “really?”.
After I finished telling her about what had happened she sat there for a moment with a puzzled expression on her face.
Tikie,” she said “I don’t get it. You are a good guy. You don’t walk or chew or run with those who do. You are a good Christian man. You are a straight arrow and a kind hearted person. How in the world could you doubt your salvation?’
“No one is good but God,” I answered.
I then quoted the verse: “Be ye perfect as I am perfect.”
Of course I was actually quoting Bob Weiner but taking it for granted that this was actually in the Bible. It was, but the verse was, of course, totally taken totally out of context in Bob’s sermon last night. But I was running with Bob’s bad exegesis as fast as I could!
“But Tikie, Christ has forgiven you, His blood was shed so you don’t have to be perfect. You know all this, in fact I have heard you talk about that fact.”
“Sheila,” I challenged her, “find me one verse where it says all you have to do is say the sinner’s prayer and you will be saved. You won’t be able to. The first century Christians gave it all up for Jesus. I am telling you the more I read the New Testament the more I am convinced that the old line churches have lost it. They and everyone in them is dead spiritually.”
She was silent for about a minute.
“Tik, I just don’t like it. Forget everything else, the scriptures, their view of the Bible, all of it. I am talking about those people at Maranatha. Something does not feel right, I am telling you it was creepy… the whole thing was strange.”
She paused for a moment.
“The girls last night practically pulled me away from you and made sure that when the service started I was boxed in and could not get out and get near you.”
I laughed, “Sheila- c’mon – you got to be kidding me. You can’t believe that.”
“No I am telling you Tikie that is what happened. They purposely separated us. And then after the service three of them jumped me. They sat down with me and started asking about my walk with Christ and was I sold out and did I have sin in my life and had I been baptized and did I have the gift of the Holy Spirit and a bunch of very personal questions that, frankly, I found offensive. I am telling you it was weird. Strange. Like I said… creepy.”
“And another thing,” she continued, “the service…we were standing and singing for 45 minutes. My head was spinning by the end of all those choruses. Then that sermon by that Bob Weiner; the guy makes my skin crawl. The whole service was set up to get everyone in the mood, I think, to put us into a sort of trance. Everything to me looked staged and fake, the fake smiles from the band, Bob yelling and screaming for about an hour, the fake friendliness when we arrived… all of it. Tik, I tell you I could not wait to get the heck out of there. But then you had vanished so I stuck around longer than I wanted, waiting on you. Thanks a lot buddy!!”
She burst into laughter.
Sheila and I were polar opposites.
She had this sweet Selma, Alabama accent and was a petite pretty blond; but underneath she was cynical and skeptical. I always wanted to believe the best in people and help them out and give people second, or even third, chances. I tended to give everyone the benefit of the doubt.
Not Sheila- if they are guilty give it to them- the full treatment complete with water torture.
Before rush that year one of our frat brothers got it into his head, after consuming a case of beer, that he was going to streak Noble Hall, one of the women’s dorm. He got nailed by security butt naked and was hauled before the University disciplinary committee.
The committee recommended he be expelled. “Mom” (our graduate resident advisor) and I rounded up a couple of profs, the President of Pan Hellenic (the inter-sorority counsel) and our chaplain and went before the counsel and pled for his life. They let the idiot off.
Sheila’s reaction: “He’s a drunken fool and expulsion will teach him a good lesson.”
This was Sheila at her finest.
“Look Tik,” she said, “before you get involved with this group lets go to “Rat” (John “Rat” Riley of Campus Crusade for Christ) or Chris (the head of BSU) and get their take on this group and what they are teaching.”
“But Sheila,” my voice was getting louder, “they are part of the problem; not the solution [this time I thought I was quoting Bob but I was actually quoting Bob quoting Eldridge Cleaver]. Rat and Chris represent the established stuck in the mud churches. Look at your own church in Selma. You complain yourself that it is a social club and full of gossiping women.”
“Tik, ya wanna perfect church you are going to have to look a long time for it because it is not out there. Look Tik, forget all of the problems with our church and CCC and BSU. You know that the outer circle in these groups will always be there for the social part…but you also KNOW that there are strong Christians in these groups.”
She paused and took a sip of the Coke she was holding before continuing.
“Tikie are you actually telling me that you think “Rat” (John Riley) is a fake and watered down Christian?”
She had me.
Rat was a former football player and personified what a Christian could be. Humble, funny, good looking a former football player, Rat attracted people and witnessed incessantly. His weekly CCC bible study attracted 400-500 people minimum and he was hard pressed to find a place that would hold everyone. He drove a 10-year-old Dodge Dart had a wife and a new baby and was subsisting on love offerings from his supporters.
“You know I like and respect Rat,” I said. “That’s not the issue; the problem is with his fruit.”
Now I was going to quote Marty quoting the Bible: “Can a fruit tree bear fruit for if it bears thistles it will be chopped down and burned.”
“That’s straight from the Bible,” I said and crossed my arms over my chest.
Sheila stood up and I saw that laser like look of anger turned on me for the very first time.
“Tik Tok what in the world has got in to you? Why are you throwing up all this scripture in my face? What do you mean by that? Do you really think that God is going to cut down Rat and burn him up because some kids come to hear a Bible Study and then go out and party? Get real!… would it be better if he did not have his study and these kids hung out in their dorm rooms getting stoned?”
“What are you driving at exactly, Tik… WHAT?”
She had her hands on her hips, a sure sign of danger, and her pale face now burned crimson.
“I am saying only what is in the Bible and no more,” I said.
I felt the blood rushing to my head as well. I was getting upset.
I could not, in the two years I had known Sheila, recall us ever having a fight or even a disagreement about anything. I was so excited that day to see her and just knew she would be excited about what had happened to me last night. And I wanted her to be part of what I had experienced.
I wanted her to share what I had now. I wanted her to be an overcoming first century Christian.
But she continued to stand there with her hands on her hips staring a hole through me.
“And…,” she paused for a moment or two…,”what does the Bible say about me?”
I gulped. Sam, Randy, and Marty had told me the Word of God was sharper than a sword, but now I was not sure if I liked who it was cutting and how it was cutting.
This was no fun.
“C’mon Sheila, relax,” I said. I am naturally a peacemaker, but not Sheila, not when something mattered to her.
“No,” she said, raising her voice, “I mean it. What does the Bible say about me? Am I lukewarm? Am I a Christian or not? … well Mr. Tik Tok?”
“Okay,” I thought, “she wants to know, she is asking me, so why not? Why not tell her the truth?”
“Are you sold out Sheila, really sold out? Because if you are not sold out then you are NOT a Christian.”
There, I said what I was really thinking and had been thinking!
She glared at me.
“How dare you Tik Tok. You of all people. When did you become the expert on who and who is not saved?”
“Like I said, Sheila, it’s what the Word of God says not what I say.”
She turned to walk off and then spun around to face me her face now burning a solid red.
“Tik, you can make the Bible say anything… but I think you are in trouble-and you just really hurt my feelings.”
She paused and then, with her voice breaking, shouted: “So here’s one for you and it’s not in the Bible: DROP DEAD TIK TOK!”
And with that she spun back around and stalked away from me towards her dorm on the hill.
“Wow,” I thought, “this radical stand for Jesus stuff is not going to be so easy.”