#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

#39 I Hit Bottom

 

I Hit Bottom

You may recall that my missing a shepherding meeting early in my experience with MCM had earned a rebuke from Marty, MCM Auburn administrator and my shepherd.

But that was all that came of it.

However, later on whilst I was still slinging pizzas 25 hours/week and with a full-time school load, I was thirty minutes late to set chairs up for a midweek evening service.

The rule was that the chairs must be set up by 6:00 pm in order to not interfere with the music group’s 6:00 pm to 6:30 pm pre-meeting rehearsal.

Well I did not get there until 6:00 and I proceeded to set up chairs during the music group’s warmup. Matt (the leader) did not say one word to me as I humped it to complete the chair set up in record time.

Well I get through with the set-up at about 6:45 pm, in time for the 7:00pm service. I am sweating like a pig by this time when suddenly Marty grabs me by the arm and pulls me into his office.

“Brother, you are have lax in your duties; you just completely disrupted the Music Group’s rehearsal and you are setting a poor example for the younger brothers. You need to learn to manage your time more wisely.”

I will tell you that I was dog tired, I was averaging not more than 5 hours of sleep a night, my Tuesday structures lab had run late because of equipment problems and I knew that after this service I would head to the pizza joint for a four hour shift while Marty was doing God knows what.

So I lost it.

“Look Marty, I just finished nine hours of class and study, my lab ran late and after the service, while you are fellowshipping, I will be slinging pizza and will be lucky to get to bed by 1:00 am. How dare you confront me on time management!”

I found my voice rising to a shout.

Which was utterly and completely stupid of me. I had just trashed the ministry administrator and my shepherd. Looking back on it I should have simply said, “Yes brother I was lax and I promise it will never happen again.”

That would have ended it.

In response to my outburst Marty raised his arm and then stabbed a finger into my chest, and with each jab of his finger emphasizing his points saying, “Brother, you have a bad attitude and I sense bitterness toward the ministry and what is God is doing here… What time will you get back tonight? [he meant from my pizza job]”

“Midnight,” I answered.

And thus was birthed my first “hootah session*” …to cast out demons of rebellion out of me.

For those of you who did not endure one or for those who are clueless about this MCM ritual, I will inflict this description of my hootah session on you.

First rest assured that Marty was not going to risk taking on these demons alone.

Not a chance on that.

For indeed, unbeknownst to me  but knownst to Marty, I had seeds of bitterness and a spirit of rebellion. If left unchecked, these demons would lead to my utter doom, and even worse I was contagious and thus could infect the weaker brothers. For demons it seems are much like the common cold  they can leap from brother to brother and perhaps from brother to sister.

So Marty recruited Joe, a morose frat boy convert that I knew and disliked in my earlier life, and Paul a red-haired well-meaning guy who seemed to permanently live in another dimension with angels, visions of God and apparently audible voices from unseen beings.

In other words Paul was a well-meaning, sweet spirited, kook.

Well, I left the service that night feeling pretty upbeat, Mike Caulk’s sermon was a good one. I had calmed down from one of my very rare blow ups. I thought that I should apologize to Marty while explaining that my blow up was caused by a lack of sleep and the pressure I was feeling from my heavy class load.

Silly me.

For when I returned at 1:00 am from my 4 hour pizza shift, smelling like a 160 pound garlic clove, there was Joe, Pat and Marty waiting on me in the entrance way.

Marty stood up when I walked into the floral wall papered entry way.

“Tik, I have been praying about you and have discerned that you are having some real struggles.”

I looked at Mike and then to Joe and Paul. “What in the heck was going on here?” I thought.

“Tik lets step into my office.  We are going to pray for you and help you get your life back on track,” Marty continued as he waved us all into his office.

I did not move but instead suggested, “Hey Marty, why don’t Paul and Joe hit the sack? I have thought about what happened earlier and would like to talk to you about it privately.”

Marty pushed his glasses up onto his nose. “Brother I spoke with Mike Caulk about this and we are in agreement that we need to pray over you and break this demonic strong hold over you, for you are in rebellion.”

So we stepped into the office and I sat down in a chair, and the others pulled their chairs up around me.

“Brother,” Marty intoned “You were in rebellion tonight and also exhibited the roots of bitterness. The old man was cut away and you are a new man for certain, but I have discerned demons in your attitude, demons that we must destroy or it will bring death.”

Paul opened his Bible and read a verse, I am too weary to look it up, but it was about the seeds of bitterness leading to death.

I said, “Look guys, I was not planning on getting into this in a group setting but I was simply worn out and tired… and I snapped at Marty. I am sorry, alright? I should not have snapped at you Marty, it was wrong.”

I continued, “But Marty, you might have asked me WHY I was late and maybe shown a little mercy, and maybe have even offered to help me set up the chairs.”

I said this in a reasonable tone, I had long since calmed down. But it was an idiotic thing to say.

Marty, Joe and Pat looked at one another then back at me.

Marty said, “This is EXACTLY what I am talking about Tik. You have a spirit of rebellion. Now you are blaming your sin on others. Your blaming YOUR temper tantrum on me failing to offer help shows that the seeds of bitterness are bearing fruit in your heart. You have obviously been mulling over some perceived  slights and it [the demon] is feeding on these thoughts.”

They proceeded to pepper me with questions:

“How was my prayer life, was I praying in the spirit?”

“Was I in the Word enough?”

”How much time was I spending studying?”

“Was I masturbating?”

I had to answer among other things that I  was, “Not praying as much when I first joined MCM. That I was to0 busy to pray as much as I wanted to. Blah blah blah!”

Joe chimed in, “But not too busy to play a game of football on Sunday afternoon.”

He was right.

Sunday afternoon I joined the brothers in playing in a football game organized by Miltie Toast and Mike Caulk during the fall and spring.  We went out to the drill field and proceeded to try break each other’s legs and collar bones while we slung a football around. This three to four hours after the church service on Sunday morning were the only relaxation I ever took.

They also discerned that I had a spirit of intellectualism because I countered their accusations with facts and made the mistake of mentioning that I was studying twenty-five to thirty hours a week in addition to my classroom time of seventeen hours a week.

“Guys,” I said, ”if you add it up that is 45 hours a week on school, twenty-five to thirty hours a week at Domino’s Pizza and another thirty hours at MCM not counting services. That does not include things like cooking dinner, cleaning up dishes at the communal dinner, or any other thing that pops up in the week that the ministry needs help with.

“That proves it Tik. You are not a good time manager. Why I have As and Bs and only study ten or twelve hours a week,” Joe said.

“But Joe, for goodness sake you are a business major and are taking 10 hours a term. No offense but my course load is a lot harder, I am taking 17 hours and engineering is a lot more strenuous than business.”

You might think that I would have learned to put a sock in it by now.

“Maybe you need to give it up for the Lord Brother and drop out of engineering school. I see a spirit of intellectualism in you as well,” Mike said in a threatening tone.

That did it.

I had to stop this madness or I would end up dropping out of engineering school and majoring in, say, basket weaving.

So I did the smart thing. I surrendered and confessed to the sins of rebellion, idleness, bitterness and mind worship and whatever else they forced me to confess. It was late, I was tired and in the back of my mind the threat of dropping out of engineering school pushed me into submission. I probably would have confessed to making love to the devil’s sister that evening if it would have gotten me out of Marty’s office and into my bed.

So they cast at least three demons out of me. When we finished it was 3:00 am just in time to get three hours of sleep and be up for a shepherding session with Marty’s sheep at 6:00 am.

But at least I was free of demons, right?

And lest you think I am exaggerating; what I just described was not unusual at MCM.

I can assure you it was typical.

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

*It is my understanding that these demon exorcising sessions became known as “hootah” sessions because when Bob Weiner started speaking in tongues, many times the first words out of his mouth was “Hootah… followed by some nonsensical chant, as in “hootah ala shaba randosomo.”

When Bob was casting demons out of brothers in the early days of MCM he would pray in tongues whilst casting out said demons with an utterance that began with “Hootah…”

Thus was born the name “Hootah session” or so the MCM legend had it.

#32 The Shunning of Peter

One fellow that I really grew to like and admire is a brother I’ll call Peter.

Peter was probably about 27, but he seemed ancient to me at my then 19 years of age. He was a very successful real estate agent in Auburn and a real catch for the ministry. Peter brought a lot of vitality and maturity to the group of single brothers, he was an athlete, good looking and modest.

Peter had been a Christian for a while and I think he liked our (the younger single brothers) enthusiasm, and, probably our naiveté about the whole Christian experience.

He had been a member of the XXX frat and he could relate to my experience. His advice was to stay in the frat. He said that, ” You should be the salt there Tik  and to plough the field that God has put you in.”

I really liked him and found his counsel to be both wise and gentle. He was the only one who did not seem thrilled about me leaving the frat when it was announced in November of the last year.

I later learned that Peter had refused to be re-baptized, or admit that he had not been a Christian, prior to joining MCM. My guess is that this was let slide because of the sizable checks he was probably dropping in the offering plate due his very successful real estate business.

Before long I found myself gravitating to Peter with questions I had and wishing secretly  that he was my shepherd.

He was never dogmatic and encouraged me to seek God or pray about issues. Rather than spouting off quick answers to some of my difficult questions, more than likely than not, my requests for guidance would be met with, “What do you think God is telling you?” or, “What do you think the Bible says?”

Of course he could not be my shepherd because he had not proven himself to the local leadership over time.

From a MCM perspective this prove yourself first mentality before being made a shepherd was a wise policy in Peter’s case.

Peter had a beautiful town house within walking distance of the campus.  He invited us to to use his well-equipped home gym whenever we wanted and also to play basketball in his driveway. He opened his home to us on Sunday afternoons and would feed us pizza and buckets of KFC while we talked about the things of Christ and his thoughts on the Christian walk.

I am not sure that the leadership of Auburn knew about these impromptu sessions.

At least not at first.

Peter would freely admit at these sessions, or in our talks one on one, that to the questions I had posed about some bedrock MCM doctrines there were no right, or wrong, answers. When pressed by me about some of the strange doctrines (for example, water Baptism for cutting away the old man) he would shrug his shoulders and tell me that I should test these in prayer and with scripture.

Another example of his counsel concerned his view of MCM prophetic utterances and words from God. He told us one afternoon that, “We should test any prophetic utterance against what the Word of God says and against our conscience; and if any word from a prophet was contrary to either of these, we should ignore it.”

After the incident with Joe Smith prophesying to that friend Daniel  reconciling with his dead father I asked Peter how Joe could have gotten it so wrong.

Peter sat there for a minute seated on the leather couch in his living room and said, “Well Tik, Paul says we prophesy in part…and well Joe is just human. As I would suggested earlier you should test all prophecy against the conscience God has given you and against the Word. If your conscience tells you no, or if prophecy is contrary to the Word, I would ignore any prophecy no matter what the source, even if it is Joe Smith; even if it is me.”

He also warned me and a couple of other brothers about being overly dependent on advice from elders or anyone else and, “That we should seek multiple counsel about major life decisions.”

He was especially concerned about me withdrawing from the frat.

“Tik I think you should really think long and hard about that one. There are financial practical ramifications, and besides you are a great witness there. Just back off a bit with your MCM work so you can do what you need to do as President.”

Well, you can imagine that this guy rapidly became our hero (that is the four or five single brothers he befriended). He was welcoming, humble, successful and very knowledgeable about scripture and he was great in one-one pickup basketball, elbows, shoving and all.

I grew in five short months to feel like I was Timothy to his Paul.

In March of 1979, about six months after I had joined MCM, I bumped into Peter on the steps of the Maranatha House on a Sunday afternoon.

“Hey bro!” I said with a  smile while lifting my hand for a high-five.

I loved seeing Peter, he always had something positive to say; he always had a word of encouragement. As I told you he was the Christian I wanted to be someday.

He stepped back from me and for once there was no smile on his face and no high-five back.

“Hey Tikie, I am in a bit of a hurry, but can you call me tonight? I want to talk to you about something important.”

“Sure,” I said, and seeing the expression on his face I continued, “is there anything wrong Peter, anything I can do to help you?”

Just then  the front door opened  and out stepped Marty, my shepherd, onto the columned porch.

Peter looked at Marty quizzically and then patted me on the shoulder, “See you around Tikie.” Then he walked up the street.

I looked from him to Marty and then back again to the figure of Peter retreating up the street.

“Anything wrong with Peter?” I asked Marty.

“Tik, he said, “we need to talk.”

We went into the administration office and Marty shut the door.

“Tik, I have something I need to tell you, something of a very serious nature.”

My first thoughts were, “Have I done something, or failed to do something?”

Marty continued, “You need to know that Peter has been asked to leave the congregation, he is in sin.”

I was stunned, my stomach did a flip. Peter was almost a hero to me. I really looked up to him as an older brother in the faith, as I said.

“But how… why?” I stammered.

Marty scratched his head and looked over my head into the air; a sort of detached look on his face.

“You see Tik, God has called the Body to have one mind to display the unity of spirit. In Ephesians, in fact, Paul tells us to endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bonds of peace. Without unity and without peace we will become just like the world; with arguments and factions and infighting and without any real direction or purpose.”

Well, one of the reasons I had been dissatisfied with the BSU and First Baptist Church was a lack of a clear sense of direction and purpose.  But I was unsure of how all this tied to Peter… Peter of all people leaving God’s chosen group!

My chest tightened.

“But I don’t understand Marty. Peter loved what we were doing. Nobody is more on fire for Jesus than Peter and he was a real encouragement to all of us… remember Joe Smith’s prophecy over Peter, ‘That he would be a rock like his name sake?”

“Yes,” Marty said, “but you see the Devil is seeking to devour and destroy those that he can. And the easiest way to do this is to plant seeds of bitterness and divisiveness in the Body. And Peter started listening to Satan and because of this he started gossiping and slandering the leadership.”

I just sat there. I could not believe what I was hearing.

Peter in league with Satan?

“You see if we have a disagreement with the leadership we should approach them in love and discuss the disagreement. But ultimately we should submit to each other, just like Jesus submitted to the Father. The Church must submit to Jesus and, in turn, the sheep must submit to the shepherd. But Peter could not, or would, not submit his life to being discipled by the elders. He was too proud to admit his own sin.”

Marty’s voice became quiet and he spoke almost in a whisper, “We went to Peter three times to correct him. Paul tells us to be prepared in season and out of season, to correct and rebuke and encourage with great patience and instruction. But Peter was determined to continue in his rebellion just like Korah. He was sinning against the church and against the brothers when he did this.”

Marty opened his Bible and read, “When you sin against your brothers in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death

“Allowing Peter to continue in rebellion would have given birth to sin and then to death. The Bible says that we are to allow no one to miss the grace of God and to not allow the root of bitterness to cause trouble and infect the entire congregation.”

I interrupted Marty, “But what was Peter objecting to? He never showed any sign of sin to me; and certainly not bitterness. He is one of the most kind, thoughtful and gentle people I have ever known.”

It was true. Peter had a real solid quietness about him.

“Tik, I am not going to go into SPECIFIC sins,” he strung out the word specific softly and slowly, “but the sin was real and could affect the ministry and the spiritual growth of others.”

He leaned forward and took my arm.

“In fact Mike [Caulk] and I were especially worried about new brothers like you. We knew that Peter had been cultivating friendships with the younger single brothers. I understand Peter counseled some of you to ignore the advice and guidance of your shepherds. You younger Christians are vulnerable to Satan who roars like a lion.”

I paused and thought about it. Well, it was true that Peter had told us to judge prophecies and teachings of MCM using Scripture and my conscience … but wasn’t I doing that?

“But Marty, I never heard Peter say anything about not listening to the leadership.”

“Maybe not directly”, he said, “but he had a spirit of rebellion. The Bible says that a spirit of rebellion is akin to witchcraft. Peter is against the work we are doing and so we shall give him over to Satan to be sifted.”

“What does that mean?” I asked.

”It means what Paul says in Corinthians” and Marty flipped his Bible open and started reading a passage from Corinthians  and I followed along with him.

But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat. What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside?”

“Are you saying that Peter has been involved in immorality?”

I was incredulous, I knew this could not be true.

“I am not going to go into detail about ALL of his sins; but feel compelled to tell you that among other sins he has been slanderous of the leadership. And this clearly tells us that we are not even to associate with him.”

I must have had an expression of horror on my face. Because this is what I was feeling.

“Now Tik,” he said softly and with compassion, “this is for Peter’s own good. Here is what Paul says about situations like this,” and he pointed to a scripture in Corinthians and then continued, “…hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord.’ Unless we give him over to Satan his mortal soul may be in danger.”

I made no response.

What was I supposed to say?Now I was staring off into space.

He put his face into my line of sight.

“Tik, I know this must be a real blow to you, believe me, I felt the same way when I first found out.”

“Yeah Marty, I just don’t get it.”

“God will make it clear to you Tik. Let’s pray now.”

And Marty launched into a sincere prayer for Peter’s soul and a heartfelt plea for Peter’s repentance and he thanked God for my example and walk.

As I left his office he took my shoulder and looked directly into my eyes, “Now remember, no contact with Peter, he is deceived by Satan and has a spirit of witchcraft and rebellion. You are vulnerable to this since you are a new Christian and also because of your friendship with Peter. You must be careful that you do not shipwreck your faith.”

I nodded yes and trudged up the stairs.

Peter had asked me to call him tonight.

But now I had heard he was in deception, that he had a spirit of witchcraft.

If I called him I might not only put my salvation in question, but I would also be violating what the Bible said about “handing him over to Satan” to save Peter’s mortal soul.

And to protect mine.

I shivered.

If I called Peter I could be putting both his and my salvation at risk..

And that was simply a chance I could not and would not take.

For Peter was of Satan and we brothers would now avoid him at all cost.

#27 Robbing the Poor for Jesus

Editor’s Note: In this chapter Tik reveals one source of MCM’s income but not its only, or even its most important, revenue source. In a later post Tik goes into detail on how MCM derived revenue from its operations and describes MCM’s  business model. None the less this chapter demonstrates how destructive sociological groups use member’s money not only to enrich themselves but to also impoverish members which in turn, makes these members even more dependent on the group.

The night, after the uproar at my Frat House, I attended another Maranatha Service hosted by Joe Smith.

Joe had been at Auburn for about three weeks, preaching, prophesying and healing.

At that service that I was hailed like a conquering hero.

I was brought up on stage by Mike Caulk and Joe Smith who announced to the capacity crowd that, “This is what an overcoming Christian looks like. Tik, here, has taken a radical stand in his frat, he has seen many people in his frat saved and brought out of the frat. Because of this he is being persecuted and God has called him to shake the dust from that place off his sandals.”

Maybe I was being persecuted…but I also had stopped doing my work as President.

The fact of the matter was that no one in the frat was suggesting that I leave the frat because I was involved in Maranatha. But they WERE suggesting that if I were going to accept room and board for being President that I should attend to my duties.

It was that simple.

Up on stage Joe got that far away prophet look of his, and with a beaming smile said, “You know Tik I believe that the Lord has a word for you.”

He then placed his hands on my head.

I looked up at him expectantly.

“Thus saith the Lord of Hosts I am well pleased with my servant Tik for he has been obedient to my call and I have given him the first fruits. You have become a mighty warrior for me and yea the enemy is now fleeing from you. And behold, I am calling you as a mighty evangelist and I say that if you are faithful to me, and if you bear fruit, and if you are faithful to my Body, I, the Lord God of Hosts, will use you mightily and thousands will be saved because of your ministry.”

It was a thrilling prophecy.

This was especially so since it was coming from the number two man at Maranatha and it’s chief prophet. Essentially the prophesy said that I was being called to full time ministry.

Being called to full time service was a huge thing in the MCM hierarchy, for it meant that you had God’s anointing, the same anointing that, perhaps, Silas and Paul had possessed.

Of course, as you probably noticed, and I did not at that time, there were a whole bunch of “ifs” tied to being full time: “if” I was faithful to God, “if” I bore fruit, and “if” I was faithful to the Body, then yes, I would be a full time evangelist.

After the service I spoke with Marty about the arrangements for moving into the Maranatha House.

There were about 15 brothers living there in 20 rooms at the House. Five of my frat brothers, following my example were leaving the frat. Three of them would move into the Maranatha House to live. The other two were living off campus. They would not be moving in to the Maranatha House because of lease considerations.

The rent at the Maranatha house was $ 85 per month, about $100 less than the frat house rent for a room/month.

The catch was that the savings were illusory; because I had not had to pay rent since my freshman year because as Rush Chairman last year (a job that actually took more time than being President) and, as President this year, I got a free ride for rent and food.

Now my food at MCM would cost about $ 100/month. The single brothers and sisters pooled their money and took turns cooking and cleaning up. And  single brothers and sisters would eat their meals at the House every evening. Once again this was cheaper than the frat house, but since my meals were part of my free “package” as frat president, it actually cost me money.

Back at the frat house that night I did the calculations. This was going to cost me at least $ 185 per month and I currently had about $ 700 in the bank. Enough for five months- but without ANY spending money left over. No trips home, no phone calls no nothing.

Oh, and there was ONE other thing I have forgotten to mention.

Something that had happened after one of the services that week.

Marty had pulled me aside after a service and said, “Brother, we need to talk about something.”

“Okay,” I said and we went into main office on the first floor.

He shut the door. “You know Tik, everything we have belongs to God.”

Then he pointed out a scripture in James and read loud, “Every good and perfect gift comes from God.”

“All we have comes from God- and God asks that we give a portion of it back to Him.” He pointed to the scripture in Malachi that said bring your tithes to the store house. He also then referenced the scripture that states that if you fail to tithe you are, “…robbing from God.”

I just looked at him.

I believed everything he said, for goodness sake I was raised a Southern Baptist and they preached on tithing and giving like nobody’s business.

“I believe what you are saying is true, Marty.”

“Maybe so Tik, but I have been watching you the last two weeks and I have not seen you put any money into the offering.”

“Marty, there is a simple reason for that, I don’t have any money and I have zero income,” I laughed. It was true- other than selling books door to door in the summer for a Bible publishing company I had zero income.

“How are you going to school then? How are you paying your way?” he asked.

I explained to him my free ride at the Frat and told about my engineering scholarship money and the fact that I worked a job in the summer to save enough for spending money during the year.

Marty said, “God is not going to bless you unless you return a portion of your money to him. You should plan on giving at least 10% every week of what you have every week- and then also give money above this- this additional giving is called an offering. He read the scripture to me out of Malachi that described tithes and offerings.

“Otherwise you are not being obedient to God.”

Marty was dead serious.

He meant that if I did not give money to Maranatha I was robbing from God and was being disobedient.

I said, “Marty I am not sure how I am going to pull this off.”

“Brother lets pray that God will work this out.”

And we prayed. But my mind continued to worry this like a dog picking at a bone.

On the way home I continued to recite the scripture that, “God will take of my needs according to His riches in glory.”

#26 Walking Away

November 1978

On all my mid-term I scored grades of Cs and Ds. Mathematically I knew that pulling my grades up to a B average for this term was impossible.

And Sheila?

Well, other than one or two lunch meetings, and a note or two for her and from her, we were incommunicado.

In fact I pretty much had cut myself off from my former friends and they had cut themselves off from me.

Other than my Christian clan  all of the frat members avoided me. And JD was leading the charge to have me thrown out as President.

I spoke to Marty, my shepherd in Maranatha, about JD’s plan to impeach me; but he showed me numerous scriptures that demonstrated that, “We overcoming Christians will be persecuted and scorned for our Kingdom work.”

Furthermore, he said that I should rejoice in what was happening and, besides, at least fifteen people had come to Jesus because of me and my stand.

Marty said, “Those souls you have played a part in bringing to Jesus are eternal stuff, Kingdom stuff, and the very proof that God is leading you in His powerful work.” He then quoted the scripture about the flowers not having to toil and work.

The day before the monthly Frat business meeting I told Marty, “I have to miss the Maranatha service tonight.”

He did not like it, but when  I told him I had to be there and that it would be a chance for me to witness to 120 frat members he smiled and said, “God’s blessing on it, I bear witness to this decision, Tik.”

That was MCM speak for, “Okay you can do it.”

And, as it turned out, this was to be my last frat chapter meeting.

As I walked into the chapter room I saw JD sitting at the ornate desk used by the frat President and about 120 brothers, lined up in in row upon row of folding chairs, facing the small raised speaker’s platform.

“Oh,” JD said as he stood up from the ceremonial president’s chair, “I was getting used to sitting here. This certainly is a surprise seeing you here Tik and it is not even dinner time!”

Laughter reverberated throughout the room.

The meeting moved along in a boring fashion just like every other chapter meeting I had attended since being initiated as a frosh.

I called the members to order and the treasurer and members of the house corporation made their presentation. Usual stuff: money in, expenses out, we were going to have to replace the roof next year, and eventually the air conditioning system, which was on its last leg.

Then the new business session started as I slammed down the gavel on the small table to my right .

JD immediately stood up from his front row officer’s seat walked to the speaker’s platform and, like an attorney making a plea before a jury thundered, “Brothers I have a serious charge to make and I want to bring a motion to the floor.”

He stood for a moment looking around the room and tucked his thumbs into his belt loop before going on, “Our President, Tik Tok, has been derelict in his duties, he has been absent from almost all activities over the last month, he would hardly qualify as an active member much less as a President. I would like to move that we bring a vote of impeachment against him and then vote to remove him from office.”

Well the place went crazy, with a small group of my pledge brothers defending me; but none of my Christian frat clan because they were all at the Maranatha Service that was now underway.

I looked over at Mom and, as usual during a chapter meeting, he was saying nothing, just stroking his red mustache, seated in a stuffed wing back chair just to my right.

It went back and forth, and I, in my Maranatha arrogance, thought of Jesus being,“Silent before his accusers”.

It is embarrassing for me now that I was comparing myself to Jesus and the martyrs for the faith; but there you have it. They were innocent of the charges against them, but I was guilty as charged that night.

For the truth I had been given a job for which I was paid in free room and board, and had, for all intents and purposes, walked away from this job.

JD was rallying his forces and everyone was jabbering and interrupting each other and it looked like they could get a vote for a move to start impeachment proceedings when Mom stood up and then walked next to where I was seated.

Mom rarely spoke at these meetings, other than to occasionally pull two quarreling members apart before they came to blows.

He placed his hand on my shoulder and said, “Hold it brothers. Tik here has not said a word. Brothers, if Tik will commit to doing his duties, to making all our events, to attending all chapter and business meetings, can we just drop this garbage.? This is going to tear our frat in half.”

The place went silent. And everyone looked at me.

What was I could I say?

I hardly had time to breathe with the 40 hours plus of MCM activities, and I was falling further and further behind in my studies. I knew that it truly was either Maranatha or the fraternity. There was hardly time for my studies; much less my job as Frat President, that was apparent.

I needed to take a stand here in front of my accusers, it seemed to me. Isn’t that what Bob had said the first day I met him, “To be either hot or cold but not lukewarm?”

The reality was that the frat held no appeal for me anymore.

Maranatha was the eternal stuff, the real stuff, the Kingdom, and Jesus, and changing the world. Saving souls, right?????

And I made what I confess to be a snap decision.

In the world I was now inhabiting, the world of radical overcoming Christianity, the World of Seeking First the Kingdom, the World of God supplying everything I needed, the world of making Jesus Lord of All, why, my decision made perfect sense.

But to all my frat friends, to “Mom”, to everyone who knew me before MCM entered my life, it was an insane decision.

It seems insane to me now- looking back at that night.

I swallowed and looked up at the 120 faces staring at me.

“Fellows,” I said softly from my seat, “JD is right. I have been neglecting my duties. ”

“I have been neglecting them because I have a new life  for I am a now radical follower of Jesus. And that new faith makes it impossible for me to act as President. So I resign effective immediately.”

No one said a thing. Not a person moved or seemed to breath. I could  feel Mom’s hand on my shoulder; his grip tightening there.

“Not only that I have come to realize over the last four weeks that this fraternity is no place for me to be. It has no appeal to me. I am seeking the things of God, and again, I invite you all to seek Him with me. Because of my commitment to Jesus I am also resigning my membership in the fraternity immediately.”

Bedlam broke loose.

JD let out a loud laugh and three of my friends, members of BSU, walked over and tried to speak with me.

But I pushed past them, ignoring Mom’s plea of, “Tik hold your G*d d*amned horses” and walked over to where JD stood.

I handed the ceremonial gavel to JD.

“It’s your’s now JD,” I whispered and then walked out of the chapter room and down the hall to my sleeping room.

I locked the door, took my phone off the hook, and knelt to pray, ignoring four or five knocks that pounded on my door for the next hour or so.

I was relieved that I confronted the issue of ignoring my duties head on.

And I would talk to Marty about moving into the Maranatha House in the morning.

But I had a nagging fear as I stood up from an hour of prayer to crawl into bed.  How in the world would I come up with the money for room and board now?

As I went to sleep that night I recited the scripture, “He will supply all my needs according to his riches in glory.”

I was leaving the fraternity and walking away from the world.

#23 False Teaching

Editors note: Tikie now discusses some of the false teachings given by MCM leadership. The larger point is not the teachings themselves, but rather how these teachings were used to reinforce the power of the leadership and to extend that power down through the MCM hierarchy of elders, pastors and sheep. These tactics are common amongst sociological cults: set the leadership up as infallible; ensure that their directives are seen as coming straight from an unimpeachable source, and then make it impossible for their followers to confront, or even question, the leadership’s actions or motives.

The False Teachings of Joe Smith 

Prophets and Apostles

At the rest of the Maranatha services that week Joe Smith cited the fact that MCM, just like the first century church, had apostles and prophets anointed by God and filled with the Spirit.

And, he stated, there was a clear reason for this.

“My brothers and sisters the Bible says that God’s church is ‘built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone,” said Joe, quoting Paul in the book of Ephesians.

“And any true church, any overcoming church, any church that is the real Body of Christ therefore must have apostles and prophets or it has no solid  foundation. So these fake, watered down, Christian have no real foundation; for without leaders anointed with His Spirit they cannot demonstrate God’s power and His Word.”

Joe frowned, and then paused, and then looked up at us for at least a minute, his head turning slowly back and forth as he gazed out at the congregation from the stage.

In response to this the whole congregation seemed to lean up, on the very edge of their seats, to see what Joe would say next.

Then suddenly Joe’s face broke into a broad smile and his eyes lit up like a kid seeing a birthday cake with candles and he shouted, “But praise God His Spirit has given His church, His new work on earth elders, apostles, and prophets to provide a firm foundation! AMEN AND AMEN!!”

The congregation then broke into loud applause with shouts of, “Praise God and Hallelujah,” while Joe stepped back and took a long drink of water from a glass on the podium.

Then he leaned back over the podium and raised his hand palm up  and just as suddenly as the crowd had erupted with their approval- it once again became silent.

“Therefore my brothers and sisters you can take comfort that God is directing His work through His anointed elders, not those appointed by man’s power, and that, because of this, the gates of hell will not prevail against the Church of God that is doing his work today!” As he finished a slow smile, and a look of satisfaction, spread across his face while the music kicked in and the ushers began collecting the offering.

******

Only true Christians will rule and reign with Jesus

Joe Smith, that week, also taught us that how we, God’s Green Berets, would, “Literally rule the Nations as Princes,” since we were now, “The Sons and Daughters of God”. We would literally (and he meant physically) make, “The wicked bow before us after His return,” Joe told us.

“So church you see that the old dead mainline churches’  idea of namby pamby Christians sitting round on clouds, strumming little golden harps, and singing their little sweet songs for eternity is a lie from hell! But, my brothers and sisters, it is clear that if you want to rule and reign with Jesus then you have to be an overcomer in today’s world!”

Joe quoted First John, “Little children, let no one deceive you: The one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as Christ is righteous.”

And then he combined it with this admonition from Ephesians, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.”

“Note brothers and sisters the phrase ‘parents in the Lord,” said Joe.

“Who are your parents in the lord?” he asked us .

Then quickly answering his on question he stated, “Well Jesus clearly tells us that we must be willing to leave our father and mothers… so the apostle Paul cannot be referring to your earthly parents.”

“No it is very clear from the Word that your parents in the Lord are your shepherds who provide for your spiritual safety,”  Joe continued.

“So flock you see that if we practice that Christian righteousness and if we obey our parents in the Lord then we will rule and reign with Jesus as the Sons and Daughters of God when He returns.”

“Isn’t that a wonderful thought? Can you say AMEN CHURCH?… WE WILL RULE AND REIGN WITH HIM AND THE GATES OF HELL SHALL NOT PREVAIL AGAINST HIM IF WE SIMPLY KEEP HIS COMMANDMENT!”

And the place went berserk as music kicked in and we all joined in singing John Saw the Multitude of the Overcomers and soon the crowd spilled out into the aisles dancing that MCM Hebrew jig in their excitement of learning that they would rule and reign with Christ.

But despite my addled state much I had heard that night concerned me. And even as I was dancing in the aisle with my new found Christian brothers and sisters I was troubled by Joe’s pronouncements.

For Joe made had it clear that those who were, “Not in right standing with Christ  could not, and would not, be Sons and Daughters of God”.

And who, or what, determined if a person was or was not in right standing with Christ?

It seemed clear as to who determined a sheep’s standing with Christ; Their shepherd and the elders that were over the shepherd…right on up the line to Joe Smith, Bob Weiner and Bob Nolte: the Apostles and Prophets of MCM.

And the what that a sheep did to keep their standing with Christ  seemed to mean obeying God’s word as given by the elders of MCM.

Those were serious long term issues that I should have been worried about at a that point.

But there were actually more pressing issues that evening I had not considered yet; my job as President of my frat.

Because things were heating up at the frat.

And I would soon learn that I could ignore my duties as frat president for only so long.

#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.

#16 Starting to Break Away

Saturday Morning

I slept in on Saturday morning with not a dream all night, nothing.

I awoke to Jenny’s laughter in the hallway about 9:00 am. Jenny was “Mom’s” girlfriend and my room was next to Mom’s (Mom as noted was our male frat house-mother with the flaming red hair). Apparently she and “Mom” were finishing a conjugal shower that morning.

Another typical morning at my frat house.

Funny thing was, even though this was my second year living here, none of this stuff had bothered me before. Now I thought, “I can’t believe our supposed role model, our graduate student advisor, is shacking up in the house every night with his girlfriend.”

Those thoughts and feelings were starting to build inside me.

Regardless, by 9:00 am I was speeding my way to the Maranatha House on my bike with my Bible and Red Book slung over my shoulder in a backpack. Marty had mentioned last night that our MCM discipleship group was going to start working through the Red Book or Firm Foundation studies “methodically” before we went to Opelika that morning to unload the tables.

And he really meant we were going to be methodical with the Red Book Study.

In fact, our group of brothers would take about 5 months in meticulously reviewing these studies. Saturday morning’s session was held in the same third floor room as on Wednesday morning. To my surprise both Ricky and Fred “my” newly saved frat brothers, from last night, were waiting  in the room for the session to start, as was Robert “my” earlier convert.

I glowed with pride as I realized that one-quarter of Marty’s sheep that morning were my converts.

For that is how I thought of them: “my fruit” or “my converts.”

As we waited for Marty to get started I wondered briefly if Rhonda, Ricky’s girlfriend, was in a girl’s study like ours. So far I had had little interaction with the sisters, as we called our female counterparts, other than some brief conversations.

Marty said a prayer and then we moved around the half circle of his seated sheep with each of the brothers confessing their sin as had they had done last time.

The confessions seemed pretty real to me: lusting after girls, not reading the Bible, or not praying enough or pigging out at Mama Goldberg’s etc.

When it was my turn to confess sin I was stumped yet again. So I blurted out that I regretted missing the discipleship session yesterday and asked for everyone’s forgiveness for letting them and the Body down.

I glanced up to see that Marty had a look of satisfaction on his face.

Then we started working through the first study of the Bible Study by Bob & Rose Weiner called Firm Foundations.

It had a red cover so we all called it the Red Book. The first study was entitled God’s atonement and provision of sin. It was a very detailed review starting in Genesis and discussed our sin natures, the lust of the eyes, the boastful pride of life, and our rebellion.

One key point that struck me from the study was the emphasis (by the study and by Marty) that the blood of Jesus not only atoned for our sins but also delivered us from sickness, the curse and demons.

This was new to me.

Marty made a big deal of this; that if we were covered by the blood in faith we would not get sick, and not only that, we would be delivered from curses as long as His blood covered us.

“Curses?” I thought, “Like the evil eye? What in the world did this mean?”

But no one else seemed to have any question about this point so I filed it away in my little closet in the back of my mind where I was storing a number of those strange MCM doctrines and practices.

We prayed  about individual requests from the MCM brothers and then it looked like we were through.

The session had gone much, much longer than I had anticipated. When we got through with the prayer requests, and our discipline session, it was about 11:15 am. There was still time for me to meet Sheila at the Frat House porch at 12:30 pm before the ball game.

“Now brothers,” Marty said, “as you know we are having our first ever fellowship dinner tonight. All are welcome to come, but we are not advertising this and the dinner really is to welcome all  the new brothers and sisters to the Body; to let them get to know the staff and those who have come here from other ministries to plant the Auburn Fellowship.”

I knew about this, of course, because Bob had mentioned it during the Thursday and Friday night services. I was looking forward to meeting and talking to Marty and Missy Caulk, our pastor and his wife, who I had met briefly, and the older brothers and sisters who had come full-time to Auburn from other MCM sites.

It sounded fun.

It was a potluck dinner and I was planning on bringing a dish of something, not sure what, that I would scrounge from the frat house kitchen.

“Since we don’t have any tables here so the Jewish Community Center in Opelika has agreed to let us borrow twenty folding tables and chairs,” intoned Marty. He continued, “So we have rounded up three pick -up trucks and we will all head out to Opelika to pick up the tables. Then we will come back and put all the meeting chairs up and set up the tables in the big room.”

Marty looked us over and asked, “ Amen???”

I did not answer.

I had a semi-date with Sheila, not that we were boyfriend-girlfriend or anything like that, but the fact was we had a date.

In fact I had set it up this date.

I did some quick mental calculations. Opelika was at least 30 minutes one way from Auburn. So we had at least a sixty minute round trip plus 30 minutes to load tables at one and another 30 minutes to unload table at this end and whatever else we had to do.

For sure I was looking at least 2.5 hours of work here. At least.

My watch read 11:30 am now.

At the very earliest we would be through at 2:00 pm. I was supposed to meet Sheila at 12:30 pm and head to the game at 1:30.

I raised my hand. Marty looked up at me.

I was about to tell Marty what was going on about my plans with Sheila; but Marty’s words last night about “God’s Green Berets”, and his words on, “Being a leader,”  “setting an example”, “encouraging the others,” and “the single brothers being unencumbered,” came roaring back to me.

“Yes Tik?” he asked.

“Uh…. Could I use the phone in your office?”

“Sure, go ahead. The rest of you guys hit the restrooms and meet out back in the parking lot in five minutes. We have a lot of work to get done!” Marty barked.

For those of you youngsters, this may seem hard to believe, and it is even hard for me to think back to those days, but, there were no cell phones, texting, answering machines, PDAs, pagers or any of such things.

These were the days of IBM type writers, carbon paper, secretaries and receptionists.

Canceling a meeting, or getting in touch with someone on a few minutes notice, was really tough. I ran to the office grabbed the phone and dialed Sheila’s dorm room.

Ring. RIIIIIIIINNNG.

“C’mon’,”I muttered, “ANSWER!”

Rinnnng. Rinnng. RInnnnnnnnng.

No answer. I hung up.

Got to think quick.

I dialed her sorority number.

Riiing….Rinngg Rinnnng… then pick-up:“Alpha Alpha Alpha Sorority” said a female voice.

“Hey, its Tik Tok here I am looking for Sheila X.”

“Oh Hi Tickie, its Wendy. Hows it goin my main man?”

“Great Wendy. Hey I am in a hurry… have you seen Sheila?”

“Yeah, she was here earlier, but she was on her way to the library…I think… I know she had her books with her.”

I dialed the frat house.

There were two public phones on the second and third floor. Other than that only “Mom”, the steward, and I had private phones in our rooms. Remember there were NO cell phones in 1978!

Riinnng. Rinnng. Rinnnggggg.

I tried the third floor phone. The brothers were notorious for letting the phone ring off the hook.

One more shot I rang Mom’s room phone.

No dice. Strike three.

Suddenly Marty was standing in the office door.

“Hey Tik we are all loaded up and ready to go and we are waiting on you!”

With a sinking feeling in my stomach I walked out to the parking lot. Maybe I could find a phone in Opelika and reach Sheila.

In Opelika I called from the Jewish Community Center’s one phone. It was 12:30 pm when I dialed the phone… exactly when I was supposed to meet Sheila on the Porch of the Frat House and head to the game.

I took one more shot at calling the frat house phone while the last of the tables were loaded onto the truck by our MCM team of brothers in Opelia.

Rinnnng. Rinnnngggg. Rinnnggggg.. Rinnng.

Then BINGO!

“HELLO” yelled a voice.

There was the normal frat house Saturday game-day afternoon pandemonium in the background. Yelling, screaming, laughing, then a girl giggled very close to the speaker.

“Hey, its Tik here. Who is this?”

“Its JD, Tikie, whats going on?”

Just my luck, JD of all people.

JD was Vice President, a tough hombre whom I had beaten in the election for Frat President last May. He had a visceral dislike of me ever since we were pledges and I was elected Pledge class President when we both ran for that office and I beat him.

He had the manners and attitude of a pig, as far as I was concerned.

A girl’s laughter in the background cut in really loud and then I made out her slurred words among the cacophony of sound, “C’mon JD baby- you promised me a DRINK! WOO-HOOO!”

“Hey JD,” I found myself shouting, “HEY HAVE YOU SEEN SHEILA?????”

“NO!” came the answer, and then away from the phone I head him yell, “PEGGY YOU SEEN THAT LITTLE BLOND HAIRED [expletive deleted] SHEILA?”

Loud laughter from both of them almost deafened me.

“I AM SERIOUS JD, I NEED YOU TO FIND SHEILA AND ASK HER TO COME TO THE PHONE.”

I was almost screaming and then through the glass door of the J Center in Opelika I saw Marty stop and look quizzically across the hallway and into the office where I was standing.

I lowered my voice.

“JD, please, as a favor to me, can you bring Sheila to the phone?’

“Do I always have to do your dirty work????… OKAY,” he shouted, and I could hear shouts and more laughter in the background.

Waiting…one, two, three minutes, no JD, then “click, buzz”. Someone had hung up the phone.

I frantically dialed back.

RINNNNNG….RINNNG. RINNGGGGG.

It rang and rang but no answer.

Marty stuck his head in the door. “Hey you okay?’

“Yeah,” I answered, “no problem at all.”

“The trucks are loaded…are you ready to go???”

Well as you have probably guessed we got back to the Maranatha House at 1:45 pm.  I snuck to the office and tried both public phones at the frat house and then rang “Mom’s” phone.

No luck. No answer.

I went back to the parking lot to help finish unloading the tables and then setting them up with chairs etc.

Finally we were through.

It was 2:15 pm. Almost two hours after Sheila and I were supposed to meet.

“See you tonight guys,” said Marty.

No thanks… no nothing.

I flew on my bike back up  West Magnolia. I dropped the bike in the back parking lot and sprinted up the back steps to the rear porch of the Frat House. No one was there other than a couple of completely drunken pledges and our pledge trainer; who had passed out in his own vomit.

The grills were still hot and the Kegs still had beer, but everyone had left for the game.

“Maybe there is hope,” I thought and jumped on my Bike and shot off for Cliff Hare Stadium.

It was 2:15 pm.

The game started at 3:00 pm but seating in the student section was on a first come first serve basis. The frat section (where we staked our claim) was at the turn of the stadium, right at the five yard line half way up in the student section.

The band was playing and I could hear the yell of the crowd as I neared the gigantic brick oval.

Entry to the student section was through two special gates. All you had to do was to show your student ID.

The line was backed up about 50 yards from the gate outside and I could see, past the gate, the same line snaking up the ramps. This was exactly why the frat group usually left at least an hour and a half before kick-off: in order to stake our claim on decent seats.

“I’ll be lucky if I can even get to the frat section by game time.”

The wait was excruciating and once through the gates, using my knees and elbows and ignoring the rude looks and comments like, “Hey no breaking buddy,” I made it up the ramp in about 10 minutes.

I walked out to the sunlit stadium. The students were jammed together and  overflowed into the aisles. Looking up into the sun I could make out, about 20 yards away, the section where we usually sat.

The frat was there all right.

I could see Mom’s (our male house-mother) flaming red hair and mustache. He was sitting with Jenny his live in girlfriend. The game was underway and I bulled my way through the crowd, ducking a couple of haymakers thrown by drunken irate upper class-men along the way.

Finally I made it.

I scanned the section the frat brothers and little sisters occupied. No Sheila!

One more time. Nope, she was not there and there was not a seat to be had in our section.

Mom caught my eye and motioned me up to him with his arm while he put his girlfriend, Jenny, on his lap. I made my way to the seat he had just created for me.

“Running a little late huh Tik?” he shouted.

I nodded.

A lump was in my throat.

I had stood Sheila up.

Mom leaned over and spoke, “You know Sheila was looking for you at the house before the game ? She was wandering around the frat house like a little lost puppy for about an hour with this doleful look on her face.”

“Yeah, I was running late Mom, I tried to leave word at the frat house that I was going to be a bit late but someone hung up on me.”

He put his arm around me and gave me his “I am the older, more wiser, man than you” look.

“Tik, look at me. Sheila clearly has a thing for you. Seriously You DO know that don’t you, you are not that stupid are you?”

“She sure does Tik…no kidding.”

It was Jenny chiming in.

“You guys are both crazy,” I said, “Sheila is like a sister to me, nothing more or less.”

“Well Tik,” said Jenny, narrowing her eyes, “that may be, but I can tell you one thing: your sister is really pissed off at you for standing her up today.”

With that she pulled a flask out of her purse removed the cap simultaneously saluting me with it and offering up a swig of bourbon.

I shook my head no.

She turned the flask up, put it to her lips, took a long pull and then handed it to Mom. Mom did the same; taking a long swig of the cool liquor inside.

He smiled at me and said, “From the look on Sheila’s face I think you are going to need some of this brew before the weekend is through ole Tikie my friend. ”

He and Jenny burst into laughter.

Looking back on that day it was actually not such a bad suggestion.