#47 The Great Send Out

Editor: Tikie’s story now continues in chronological fashion. In 1981 the elders of MCM decided to take a great leap forward and double the number of MCM ministries in one year. Tikie was part of that expansion.

The Great Send Out- June 1981

Well, in 1980 all the shepherds who were labeled as having full-time potential gathered in Mike Caulk’s office.

This was a called Monday afternoon meeting and we did not know what to expect.

Matt and I thought that perhaps Mike and Missy were going to plant a new ministry, or God forbid,  an announcement  on some new crazy venture was going to be made.

Mike waited until we were all in his office and he looked around. “As you folks know I just returned from Gainesville yesterday. God has shown the elders that it is time for us to break out and to  get ready to build the Kingdom and to start moving quickly to set up the His true church.”

I glanced around; everyone listened intently to Mike’s words.

He continued, “There is an immediate need for pastors and evangelists and full-time sisters, and we have to find these at each ministry.”

Everyone started murmuring and talking: my heart leapt with anticipation.

This was it.

We had talked for three years about His kingdom coming and the great explosion of converts, and now it was actually happening.

“Well we are going to photograph all you high potential brothers and sisters (all of us gathered there). You will need to write a two page essay on your walk with Jesus, your conversion experience and what you have accomplished in the Kingdom. Also we are going to contract with the University to video tape a five-minute session of the brothers preaching on a topic of their choice. Here is the schedule, we start next Thursday and we will be filming at the campus a/v studio.”

And he handed out a schedule to the ten brothers standing there. The sisters would not audition, but would send their photos and essays to HQ.

Matt, Phil Bonasso and I were hugging and slapping each other on the backs; with Phil jabbering about the, “Great commission and the fields being white with the harvest,”…actually all three of us were doing this non-stop.

I was so excited that I could hardly sleep.

I asked myself what was Bob Weiner looking for in the video tape? He was NOT looking for a sermon on the “power of the word”.

He WAS looking for an energetic preacher who could snag a couple of hundred souls. Someone who would stand out on campus. He was looking for  the total package.

Now Marty had already cautioned me, “Don’t get your hopes up Tikie, we don’t think you are ready to be a Pastor, maybe not even an evangelist, perhaps you need to go out as a lay helper.”

Well this time Mary was correct, and I wish I had followed his lead here.

So I went to work. I picked my five-minute sermon – one that I thought that would stand out from what I figured the pack of 100 sermons on the power of the Word that would be filmed all over MCM that week.

Later in life I read where Winston Churchill used this same over-prepare and appear spontaneous approach.

In fact I have now to spoken publicly in front of hundreds of people many many times. I am not ashamed to say that I used the approach that I learned while with MCM.

We all met at the video recording studio, and unlike the other Auburn brothers, I was rehearsed. During my sermon used the same arm and hand gestures that I had seen Bob use. In fact I tried to imitate Bob’s sense of urgency as well as his intonation and it seemed to work; during my five minute sermon (MCM pablum) the other brothers and Mike Caulk were actually taking notes.

And it is the same approach I used in planting the church for MCM later on. I can assure you that some part of me was sincere about whatever message I delivered; but the overriding goal was simple: be named a Pastor and not an evangelist.

And it worked. It was canned, it appeared natural, but was unnatural, and the message tailored to create and effect that said “WOW” by those who listened. Later Bob told me that my five-minute sermonette had been among the best.

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

Six weeks later at a concave at MCM Auburn the great assignments were announced and  a huge map showing where we would be going pinned up to a wall.

Now it turned out that Mike and Missy would be leaving for Ann Arbor to plant a church.

Matt and Allie  would be heading up the Auburn Ministry after Mike and Missy left.

Phil and Karen Bonnasso and my former frat brother Roger would be going to USC in Southern California.

The Auburn ministry sent about 80% of their  brothers and sisters out to other ministries.

I would be going, as a Head Pastor, to a large midwestern university along with a couple I had never met and a single sister I knew slightly from another ministry.

Well it was a huge night for the Auburn Ministry and a festive night when the appointments and maps were put up in the main meeting room. In about 8 weeks most of us would all be heading out to our new jobs as full timers, or to temporary jobs that we would take until we went full time.

Mike Caulk announced that there would be a boot camp in Gainesville for all new pastors in about seven weeks and I would be attending that class.

***********

The afternoon our assignments were announced I stopped by to visit with Dr. Carl, my advisor and professor in engineering school, and to show him the latest iteration on the senior design project I had slaved over.

“Well Mr. Tok, you must be pretty happy about this- you pulled yourself out of your slump and you are going to finish up with just above a B average. I think you were capable of better…but not bad, not bad after the slump you went into.”

I grinned, a not bad from Dr. Carl was like anyone else doing cartwheels in front of me.

“How did your interviews go?” he asked.

I had snagged six interviews for jobs: one with a major oil company (this at the height of the energy crisis of the early 1980s) two with Gulf explorations companies, and one with a huge multi-national company as part of their nuclear power development program.

It was pretty exciting and thanks to Dr. Carl’s prep for the interviews and his rigorous instruction over the last three years I had landed four offers for more money than I could imagine.

I paused…,”Well Dr. Carl I have four offers…”

“Very good Mr. Tok- who are you going with? Wow- to be twenty one again and have the world by the tail!”

His face framed by his long hair broke into a broad grin.

“…but…” I continued, “…I have decided to turn them all down…”

Before I could finish he broke in and his face widened to a true smile, “Great! That’s great; so are you going to take Dr. Jenkins and me up on the masters offer?’

They had approached me a month ago about a teaching assistant job, it paid a pittance but it came complete with free tuition and fees for a master’s degree in engineering at Auburn.

I am sure if the MCM “Great Send Out” had not occurred I would have stayed in Auburn with MCM and done this two-year gig, gotten my masters and my life now would now be completely different.

“Uh …no…,” I answered.

He sat up and peered at me through his long bangs.

“Then what are you doing?”

“Well, you know this group I am with?”

“Look Mr. Tok, this group, I know all about it because Mr. XXXX (he meant “Mom” our frat RA and the engineering graduate assistant who had left last year with his masters) was aghast at your involvement with it. Although I never mentioned it I was pretty sure that these people were responsible for both your financial and academic problems three years ago. So what are you going to be doing with them?”

“Well, I am going to be a full time worker for them.”

He looked at me for a full minute.

“Well, if you were my son I would give you an old-fashioned whooping right now. What a complete and utter waste of talent! Look, Mr. Tok, we all know you are a religious fanatic, it’s a free country right, but do you have to throw away all of your talent and hard work to boot?”

I looked out of the window for a moment.

The old Tik was rattling around again; making noises and whispering in my ear. What about my education, and what about the money I could earn; could I really walk away from these job offers? And what about the problems  in MCM that Miltie had spoken of and that I knew were real?

But I shook off those growing concerns.

“Dr. Carl you have been a great friend and mentor to me. But I have to do what God is telling me to do.”

”And are you SURE this is God?” he asked.

“I am sure it IS God, I am sure of it!’ I said.

But I wasn’t at all.

#45 What It Took To Succeed At MCM

 

Editors: Tikie now introduces us to Phil Bonasso one of his close friends at Auburn. Phil later moved to into the top level of leadership within MCM. After MCM imploded, Phil, Rice Brooks, Steve Murrel along with other MCM pastors founded what is now Every Nation Church (EN).

Tikie and others (including Edward Dalcour) believed that EN has many, but not all, of the same abusive practices of MCM.

In this chapter Tik, using Phil as an example, shows what kind of person it took to climb into the upper level of MCM.

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

How To Succeed at MCM

Auburn, Alabama August 1979

“Eager for action and hot for the game
The coming attraction, the drop of a name
They knew all the right people, they took
all the right pills
They threw outrageous parties, they paid heavenly bills
There were lines on the mirror, lines on her face
She pretended not to notice, she was caught up
in the race

Out every evening, until it was light
He was too tired to make it, she was too tired
to fight about it”

“Life in the Fast Lane”  by the Eagles

***************
By the end of my story you will see that I was a miserable failure as a full-time Pastor and leader at MCM.

But not everyone failed and stumbled the way I did. Some thrived and grew like weeds in a well-watered field. Phil Bonasso was just such a person and had what it took to succeed within MCM and more.

He and a few others engineered the MCM break up (not the public story given about the break-up) overthrew Bob and Joe. They then built what became Every Nation out of the ashes of MCM.

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

I headed to the west side of Campus on a warm sunny afternoon to visit my friends Matt and Annie at campus married student housing

Arriving I saw my friend Matt coming down the ramp of a U-Haul moving van struggling with a piece of furniture. In the background a stereo blared music and I caught myself keeping time with the Eagles song “Life in the Fast Lane”.

I started.  No one in MCM would play rock and roll and certainly not a song by the Eagles.

I dropped my bike and ran up to help Matt. Sweat was pouring down his face.

“Thanks Bro,” he puffed as we manhandled a recliner down the ramp.

Then I heard a shout in a baritone voice: “G-L-O-R-Y !!!! T-O G-O-D!!!!!!!!!! G-L-O-R-Y!!!!!!! H-A-L-L-E-U-J-A-H !!!!

Startled, I looked up and saw a stocky figure with a shock of black bushy hair step out of the apartment door.

PRAISE JESUS- GLORY!” he continued yelling. The guy shouting sounded like one of the old-time tent revivalists that I use to hear at my Grandmother’s country church.

I did not know what to make of it.

Then Matt shouted back to him, “H-A-L-L-E-L-U-J-A-H NASSO!”

The stocky guy burst into peals of laughter as we put the recliner down.

I looked the newcomer over as he walked over to me. He stood about 5’ 6″ tall with a huge shock of curly black hair, bushy eyebrows, full lips and large blue eyes.

His face lit up in a broad smile that reached to the corner of his eyes and then baritone voice boomed, full of laughter and good will.  “Mattie, my brother, is this the Tik you’ve been telling me about? The famous Tikie???”

”You got it bro!” shouted Matt.

This new guy put his arms around me in a bear hug and said in a low rumbly voice, “Praise God Brother, Matt has told me so much about you and the great work that God is doing here at Auburn! Glory!”

He said all this with rumbling chuckle and I realized that the “Glories to God” and “Praise Gods” that he and Matt exchanged were half serious and half in jest.

Matt looked to me and said “Tikie this is the brother I have told you about Phil Bonasso, or Nasso as I call him!”

The rock music continued to blare in the background. Phil continued to talk, shout, and sing nonstop the entire three hours we were there. I would learn this was pretty much the way he always was in his waking hours.

It was not the irritating hyperactivity of Bob Weiner; Phil’s constant monologue had a cheerful humor to it.

Later that night we sat on the apartment floor eating pizza and listening to Phil expound on how God was going to use him to bring God’s kingdom back to earth just like the Force had used Luke Skywalker in the recently released second episode of Star Wars.

Little did I know that day that Phil would rise into the top ranks of MCM. There he would be part of the coterie that “overthrew” Bob and Joe, and  would then use some of the disparate ministries that survived the break-up to form what became Every Nation church, which in many ways what I believe to be one of the successors to MCM.

***********

Here are a few vignettes about Phil, not in chronological order by the way, that show the type of person that could rise into the upper-echelons of MCM.

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

Bob had his eye on me in late 1980 and, when the Auburn Music Group went to Georgia Tech to help with the outreach there, he pulled me out front to give a 5 minute testimony before he launched into his sermon. Afterwards, ignoring all the sheep, Bob had approached me saying, “Great work brother, and great message.”

You should understand that those who worked with Bob regularly knew that good work went unnoticed, usually, and any infraction, perceived or real, found his immediate disfavor with rapid punishment following.

So being around Bob for extended periods was all downside, no upside.

Of course, we non full-time “sheep” were not aware of this, but the brothers who were at this outreach, including Phil, were very impressed that Bob and I talked frequently.

As I think about it many brothers, including Matt and Miltie, scattered when Bob approached; instinctively they knew that being in his immediate vicinity, especially during a busy and hectic ministry opening, could only bring more work, more exhortation, and perhaps punishment. I think I was to naïve to understand this, and perhaps too cocky to believe that I could get nailed.

But standing right there with me whenever Bob stopped to speak to me that weekend was Phil; and he was both impressed and extremely interested in all of this.

Phil hovered around Bob all weekend.

Afterwards He said “Tikie, I really want to talk to you about something, something I have noticed about you.”

I thought he was going to ask me about my fruit or prayer or something like that. He leaned over and asked, “How do you do it?”

“Do what?” I asked.

“Get Bob’s attention, he’s all over you. How did you get him to notice you? I want to get next to him to get to know him. I think Maranatha’s got the right stuff; and if I can show them the latent power of God present in the W-O-R-D,” he drawled this “word” out in his deep baritone voice dripping with drama and intensity, “this thing [meaning MCM] will go places that no other group can go. It will explode in terms of Fruit. G-L-O-R-Y!”

He did not ask me about getting close to Jesus, rather he obsessed about getting close to Bob.

He did not hide this and, in fact, later said “I am going will be Bob’s right hand man, just watch me, Glory to God!”

“I am going to BE someone in MCM, I am Tikie, I promise!”

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

We went in 1980 or 81 (just before going I went full time) to the massive “Washington for Jesus” rally in DC with another brother “Bert”.

Typical Maranatha. None of us, including Phil had any money to speak of.

Together the three of us had pooled about $100 and we caravanned up with about 150 other Auburnites. No hotels for Phil, Bert, or me, we were going to sleep where-ever, as was the rest of our group.

Benches, grates whatever, that is where we would sleep for we were God’s Green Berets right? We could tough it out.

So much for the prosperity message.

Well the “ Washington for Jesus” festival complete with speakers and Bands and such was at JFK stadium in DC. We arrived late that afternoon and attended the first evening opening session and applauded the speakers as the droned on about God’s new kingdom.

At the end of the session Mike Caulk and Mike Godwin told us Auburnites where to gather the next morning at 9:00 am and they split.

Bob had spoken at this huge opening rally and we understood he was staying at the Washington Hilton with the other top leaders.

Afterwards we decided to find a place to bed down and sleep with the rest of the Auburnites, none of whom had hotel reservations, nor could a afford a room, regardless.

Now there was one problem with MCM’s plan, or lack thereof.

Those pesky DC police, for some reason, would not allow anyone to sleep in a public space (you can imagine that if they allowed this DC would be over-run with campers non stop). So there we were, along with 4,000 other MCMers, with our sleeping bags, and blankets, with the DC police chasing us all around the city.

And all the while Bob and Rose Weiner are enjoying the luxury of a suite at the Washington Hilton where I imagine they had room service delivered for breakfast the next morning.

Finally, and it is around 1:00 am, we are punch drunk and dead tired after a 10 hour car ride and attending an exhausting five-hour rally. The police have arrested a few folks who gave up and put their bags down and tried to get a little sleep. Right into the paddy wagon they went along with drunks, crack addicts, and common criminals.

No thanks!

So Bert, Phil, and I sneak into a courtyard with a small garden near the FBI building.

Mind you the city is lousy with police, kicking people out of their sleeping backs and threatening to arrest them if they stop moving, much less if they lay down again.

But Phil stands up and in his best MCM Prophet’s voice shouts out, “I command you demons to leave here so God’s children can get some rest and in the mighty name of Jesus I blind these police, GLORY TO GOD shabalalla ba shallala!!”

Now, I am looking at him like he is crazy.

We had learned the hard way, over the last hour, that sleeping at night in a public place in DC is against the law and that the police were enforcing this law whether we like it or not.

And I didn’t particularly want to spend a night in the DC jail being a “butch” for some ugly six-foot nine criminal named Big Al.

But Phil turns to Bert and me and says, “Okay brothers- its nap time.” He proceeds to unroll his sleeping bag and foam mat, and then, he gets in the bag, and is snoring in about two minutes.

Just like that.

Me, I turn, look at Bert, and say, “You heard him, its nap time”.

And in about a minute we are all laying in our sleeping bags, dead to the world, and not a cop sees us, or notices us, all night. I am pretty sure, from what I heard afterwards, that no one, in the Auburn Ministry, with the exception of Bert, Phil, or me, got any sleep that night.

Was it luck we did not get arrested or were the cops actually blinded to our presence that night?

The plan called for meeting the MCM Auburn team promptly at 9:00am the next morning or we would face the wrath of Marty. But, believe it or not, we did not wake up in our little sleeping garden outside of the FBI until 8:30 am. Unlike everyone else we got about 7 hours of sleep.

Now I was a “do bee” and Phil was a “God is in control not Marty” kind of guy.

I shook Phil and Bert and said, “C’mon guys, we have to meet at the Lincoln Mall in 30 minutes. I don’t want to get grief from Marty.”

It was at least a twenty-minute walk so I was right to tell the guys to get moving. We could not be late or Marty would punish us, I told them.

Phil looked at me from his heavy-lidded eyes and said, “First Tikie we aren’t going anywhere until we grab some breakfast. We gotta have our strength. Second, who made Marty pope? He isn’t anything to me, praise Jesus!!!!!”

By this time he was standing up with a big wide grin on his face.

“You know Tikie your problem is you THINK too much, just go with the flow and look for the opportunity. You put Marty in his place and people will see you have power!” and he laughed with that beautiful deep laughter of his.

“You see Tikie you need to turn THIS OFF,” and he slapped my head and continued, “before God can turn THIS ON” and he slapped my chest..

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

Many a night I spent at the Bonnasso’s with Matt and Allie, or with Phil and Karen at Matt and Allie’s place.

Or perhaps Mitlie, Matt, Phil, and I were hanging out at Chanello’s Pizza playing PacMan and Space Invaders together doing these“guy” kind of things. But Phil was always talking about his destiny regardless of the setting.

One night in his apartment, after Karen had hit the sack, Phil and I talked about my concerns with MCM, Bob Weiner, and how the whole thing operated. Phil listened closely and attentively as I shared my feelings and he never took issue with anything I was saying.

But he said something I thought was strange.

“Tikie,” he said, “I am pretty much convinced that this thing is a cult, but how else are we going to control these people? They are adrift and need direction. It is the only way to bring God’s Kingdom to reality!”

And with that he slapped me on the back and asked, “How about some popcorn bro?”

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

After the great send-out Phil’s ministry grew like a weed and he rapidly moved into the upper-echelons of MCM. Phil hung around Bob at MLTS and outreaches constantly, fetching him water, praising his every word, doing anything he could to get noticed.

He really had no true respect for either Bob or Joe, I think.

Rather he, like some other Pastors, saw MCM as an opportunity to set up his own church and build his power base.

And my understanding is that he, along with some other key pastors, were sick of Bob’s threats and antics. We will see later what they did about this and why… the real secret to MCM’s breakup… not the public pablum that was put out afterwards.

 

#41 Things Start Looking Up

Things Start Looking Up

In my last post I described how music, and the music group, played a pivotal role at each MCM site including the Auburn Ministry.

Bob understood how important music was to his success, and the success of MCM, so a lot of effort was put into this. And it worked; for you may recall that part of  the MCM trap that I ensnared myself in included the incredibly talented MCM Praise Band and their beautiful lead singer Ellen.

Because of this members of the Auburn music group seemed to both the sheep, and pastors, as being specially chosen and anointed by God for their roles.

And this had to be so; in MCM the music group members had been entrusted with bringing God’s Green Berets right into the very throne room of heaven for worship at the four weekly meetings.

In addition the music group (our band was called Kindred Spirit) was the center piece of all outreach efforts; it played upbeat Christian rock music on campus, in malls, schools, or any place where MCM could get a foothold.

Getting into the music group immediately elevated ones status and power within the ministry as you might imagine.

Now the members of the Auburn music group were extremely talented and had proven themselves in the ministry.

Matt, who you met earlier, was an outstanding guitar player, and more importantly, as the group leader, had the knack of working with Mike Caulk, during services, seamlessly.

Jenny was the group pianist; she had graduated with a Degree in Fine arts focused on piano from Murray State. She was was an incredible musician with an alto voice that could make a grown man cry. She was also a member of the special coterie of single sisters who were prophets; for she had been shepherded by none other than Rose Weiner.

Allie had a superb soprano voice and played the tambourine. Allie, of course, was married to Matt and had a considerable say in what happened in the ministry being close friends with Missy Caulk, the pastor’s wife.

JC was the jack of all trades and could, and did, play any instrument from guitar to clarinet. He was an extremely talented arranger, musician, and vocalist and helped give the band its unique sound. He would later become part of the second National MCM Praise Band.

Lydia was the star of the band. She was a plain looking girl with a raspy voice, but if you put a twelve string guitar in her hand she turned into a guitar playing angel from heaven. She undoubtedly is one of the best guitar players on earth and was/is a terrific song writer to boot. She was extremely humble and a real sweetheart of a person.

Let me put Lydia’s talent into perspective; during the last three weeks (in April and May 2006) my Congregational Church has sung, during worship, at least three of the choruses that she wrote. IF your church sings any praise and worship type choruses then you  will have sung at least one of her songs in the last month and I am not exaggerating.  Today she makes a nice royalty from the ASCAP fees that are sent her way every month and she deserves every penny of it.

Mimi was a talented flute player had a fine voice with a BA in music specializing in reed instruments.

This rundown of the music group at Auburn gives you an idea of the importance of music to MCM and the quality of the musicians  at the local level at MCM.

Although I think Auburn did have one of the best local bands and may have been exceptional in this area.

So the brothers and sisters in the music group had more privilege and status than anyone in the local MCM ministry; excepting Mike and Missy Caul, my shepherd Marty and the single sisters who were prophets. The music group was entrusted with worship, they were incredibly talented and good looking to boot. I am not sure which of these was more important to the leadership.

Well, I had no inclination to get into the music group. Music mania ruled, at least at Auburn; with almost all the brothers I knew having purchased a guitar and learned how to play it with varying degrees of success.

I had taken piano and guitar lessons for eight years.  But as soon as I was able to quit I did so, despite my Mother’s protests, because I wanted to spend my time playing football and baseball.

I knew how to sight read music and during high school joined what amounted to a singing fraternity. I had also been in a barbershop quartet that won a state wide contest and I had  been accepted as one of a thousand Outstanding High School Musicians of America my senior year in high school.

But at Auburn as a freshman I had dropped all of this music stuff because of my busy schedule at the frat and frankly I gave it no thought.

No one at MCM even knew of my past musical experience and any musical talent I might possess.

So what happened next is a puzzle to me. It is one of those things I simply cannot explain.

Was it a word from God, a coincidence, or pure luck?

That summer the official national MCM  Praise Band, that Ellen sang in, disbanded.  JC, a member of the Auburn music group, tried out for the new national Praise band and had won a place in it.

JC’s departure left an opening in the Auburn MCM music group and tryouts commenced. There was a mad scramble by anyone and everyone with a lick of musical talent at the Auburn Ministry to fill his place.

Auditions were to take place on Thursday night for three weeks service with the band members, Mike and Missy as the judges.

I did not try out. I did not even consider doing so.

As I said I had no fantasy of joining the band.

Now with the exception of Mike Caulk, no one had more power in at the Auburn site than Missy Caulk excepting, perhaps, Patti, who was also one of the single sister prophetess (she had been shepherded by Rose Weiner).

For some reason Patti had taken a liking to me. She had Missy’s ear and Missy had taken a liking to me as well. Being a clueless doofus I had not realized any of this.

So ole Tikie, not understanding MCM’s power politics and hierarchy, now had two powerful prophetic sisters on his side, both of them shepherded by the most powerful women at MCM (Rose and Mildred) and one of them married to the local pastor.

Like I said  I was completely clueless and naive about any of this stuff. Even if I had realized it my thought probably would have been, “Why should this matter?”

But it mattered as I soon learned.

It came as a complete shock when Missy and Patti stopped me after a meeting one evening, with no Marty in sight, and said, “Tikie, Patti has a Word from God: you should be in the Band.”

I was staggered.

In MCM’s special language one of the prophetesses having a Word from God meant, in plain English, “Hey Buster this is what you are supposed to do, and are you going to do it, and if anyone says otherwise they are in big trouble; I might sic Rose Weiner on them so watch out.”

But acting like I did not understand the meaning of this phrase (and believe me I did) I answered,“But I have hardly touched an instrument in five years; there are much more talented people than me who could do this!!!”

And that was true; there were actually about six or seven music majors in the ministry who were trying out for the band, all of them crazy-good and all them able to play multiple instruments.

MCM seemed to attract musicians like flies to honey.

Oddly, or maybe not so oddly, my protests seemed to do nothing but confirm God had chosen me for this role.

So Patti and Missy took me by the arm over to Matt.

“Matt, we have a word that Tikie is to be in the band. What is your witness?’ [Translation- do you agree?]

Matt looked at me and then handed me an instrument. “Play something and sing,” he said.

Although Matt and I had become good friends we had never talked about my music background so he did not know what I was going to do.

So I gulped, picked  up the guitar and strummed a few chords, then started playing, from instinct, the song In the name of Jesus; belting out the words in my upper baritone register.

He smiled, shook his head, and said, “Well, Tikie, you certainly are full of surprises aren’t you?”

Missy and Patti beamed at me.

After all of the try outs, after all of the brothers and sisters practicing and praying about getting into the band, it came down to this:

Patti having a Word from God  and me strumming out a few chords and singing for two minutes or so.

So I was in the music group just like that.

There was no second guessing that decision because the both pastor’s wife (a prophetess) and the most powerful single sister (a prophetess) in the Auburn Ministry had declared that this was God’s will.

And this changed my life because I was now exempt from all duties except for the weekly music group practice on Friday nights, attending services (which I did anyway), and, even better than that, I escaped being shepherded by Marty.

For no sooner did I join the music group than I got new shepherds.

Matt and Allie on the spot, intuitively knowing that I was suffering under Marty’s shepherding, had suggested to Missy, “Well we are going to be spending a lot of time with Tik- so why don’t you let us take over as his shepherds?”

When Missy and Patti both assented with, “I bear witness,” I did not know whether to keel over and die on the spot, or, wait a few minutes to do so.

You might understand that I felt like I had gotten a get out of jail free card.

In place of Marty’s dour counseling sessions, laying on of hands and asking very personal questions about my growth, and about any perverted sexual thoughts I might be having about MCM sisters, I now got Matt’s grin and a, “Hey lets go grab a Frosty and I’m paying.”

You may think I am kidding after all I have told you about all tribulations I endured under Marty, but 90% of my counseling from Matt and Allie came sitting at a table at Wendy’s (just up the street from the MCM house) eating a Frosty or mooching a free home cooked dinner at their apartment.

I was free… and and I felt a great deal of guilt about the other single brothers, including five I had brought into MCM, who were still in Marty’s shepherding group. But you know what they say about a drowning man.

I was on easy street!

The whole thing, by the way, was presented to Marty as a fait acompli and there was nothing he could do about it even if he wanted to.

For he could not trump Patti the single sister prophet, Missy Caulk the Pastor’s wife, Matt the leader of the music group, and he would not have dared to cross Allie, who was one tough cookie as well.

These three women and Matt probably saved my life and kept me in engineering school, that is for for certain.

***********

At the same time Dr. Carl, concerned about my plummeting grades and my 25 hours a week at the pizza joint, had wrangled a job for me at the local Goodrich Tire Dealership that a graduating engineering senior, a student of his, was vacating.

I would work Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1:00-6:00 pm and Saturdays from 7:00 am to 1:00 pm. It reduced my working hours from 25-30 hours a week to  about fifteen hours a week, plus, no more working to midnights.

It was a sales job.

Now my Dad had always distained sales as mere pedaling. When he brought it up I protested to Dr. Carl that, “I know nothing about sales”.

He retorted, “Don’t kid yourself, Mr. Tok, you could sell ice cubes to Eskimo’s and it will give you more money in less time.”

And he was right.

It was a classic draw against commission job that consisted of upgrading customers to more expensive shocks, selling premium tires, or getting the “price conscious” customers to buy “retreads” which had fantastic margins and commissions to match.

The first Saturday on the job I made $ 100 in commission, more than I made in an entire week slinging pizza. It brought in more than I made donating plasma in a week so I gave that up. In fact I was so successful that the owner offered to let me buy in and go full time within a year.

But I did not want to be in the tire business.

On average, in my new sales job, I started earned about $ 200/week the equivalent of $ 500/week in 2006 dollars (the equivalent to $ 30k/year in 2006). I was now working half as many hours as I had been it effectively quadrupled my salary. This was fantastic money for me  a poor college student. It also was the first time I had considered that I might be cut out for sales and marketing.

The new job, (with fewer hours and more money) combined with my new status and the correspondingly reduced work load at MCM, gave me more time to study. The draining of my plasma for money, which was not helping me, I also stopped, giving me more energy in return.

My grades started gradually improving because of all of this, although they never reached the level of my pre-MCM GPA.

I was starting to find my balance at MCM and continued to reel in old friends into the Ministry, much to my amazement and pleasure.

This was important because it meant I was still bearing fruit and making converts.

After nine months in the ministry, after some pretty tough  trials and tribulations things were looking up for my MCM walk, my finances, and my grades.

Plus I was actually having fun on a consistent basis, playing in the music group and hanging around Matt and Allie and their two best friends (also married) Miltie and Roseanne.

#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.

#28 Confronting My Parents

Confrontation

The next day was Thursday and that afternoon I headed to the frat house to start packing.

I planned on moving my stuff from the frat house to the MCM House with the help of one of the single brothers I had struck a friendship with, Miltie, that afternoon.

On my way back from class I noticed a white Mercury with Birmingham plates parked out back of the frat house. My heart jumped and I bounded over to the car.

On the bumper was a sticker reading Auburn Engineers Build Dreams.

It was my parent’s car.

But this weekend was an “away” game for Auburn and they had made no mention of coming to see me.

I shot up the steps through the back door to my room. There was a hand written note taped to my door: “You have visitors in the living room”.

It was in Mom’s handwriting.

I ran down the hall to the living room. This was the show piece of the house and no frat members were allowed in the living room without a date or unless they were with their parents.

It was essentially unused, and pristine, sort of like your grandmother’s living room with the plastic on the furniture waiting for the Pope to visit her.

Through the crack in half-open French doors I caught sight of my parents sitting on a couch, and beside them, in one of the leather chairs, was Chris, the head of BSU.

My blood boiled, I concluded that Mom had called my parents and had them drive to Auburn to try to talk me out of leaving the frat.

I raced back down the hall to Moms’ room and barged in without knocking. Mom looked up from his desk where he was writing in an engineering note-book.

“What do you mean calling my parents and bringing them down here?” I shouted.

“Hold your horses, Tonto.”

Mom pushed back from his desk and in a low steady voice said, “Like I told you Tik on Wednesday,  you are a big boy, and if you don’t want to listen to reason and want to screw your life up, well, that is your business. You are what, almost 20 years old? Go for it. I am done with you. As to who got your parents down here I don’t know, and frankly, I don’t care. But I would suspect Chris (the head of BSU) is the culprit. Now, could you please go see what your Mommy and Daddy want with you and let me have some peace?”

With that I backed out His room and headed back down the hall towards the living room of the frat house.

My mother and father had a struggling business and for both of them to head down here during a work week was very unusual.

I walked into the living room and my father and Chris both stood.

“What in the world are you guys doing here? “I asked, looking back and forth from my mother to my father.

“Well honey,” my mother drawled in her thick Alabama accent, “ when we heard that you were leaving the fraternity and that you were involved in this, this… this…fanatical religious group, why we wanted to come and talk to you about it.”

My father looked me over with a frown on his face and said, in his gravelly voice, “Tik, we are concerned about you. We are very concerned, especially after talking to Chris about this group you are in. He tells us that a number of parents have contacted him about their kids and some strange things this group is doing to them.

I looked at Chris, “Why didn’t you talk to me first before you called my parents? Why bring them all the way down here without even asking me about it Chris?”

My father motioned me to take a seat with the admonition, ”Now Tik just calm down and take a seat, you are not on trial here, we just want to understand what is going on with you. We have heard some disturbing things about how you are behaving and just want to talk things over with you.”

They both took a seat while I took a deep breath and then sat in one of the leather wing chairs just across from the frat’s huge brick fronted fire-place.

Chris sat up in his chair and cleared his throat saying, “First Tik I did not call your parents, they called me. Second, I can’t ever find you to talk to begin with. You dropped out of BSU after the start of term,  you stopped coming to First Baptist Church and you are never here at the frat house. I left numerous notes for you to call me. I have been by here,” and he waved his arms in a sweeping gesture, “at least a dozen times in the last month, but you are never here.”

It was true; I had ignored Chris’ notes and, frankly, I was simply to busy to bother with him.

Besides, he was part of the traditional church that was stuck in the past and why would I ever attend one of his social events that focused on silly games like a Bible scavenger hunt and then watch the group spend most of their time gossiping amongst themselves?

Chris slowly opened a folder he had in his lap.

“I showed your parents these articles when we met this morning.”

The folder was full of newspaper clippings.

I could see one entitled Aggressive Recruiting Tactics Worry Campus Administrators and another spilled out the headline: Cult or Campus Ministry? A Question Hangs Over Maranatha Christian Ministries. There appeared to be a half dozen, maybe more, clippings in the folder. The articles appeared to be from campus newspapers of around the southeast including the Universities of Florida, Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi State.

“Not only do I have concern about Maranatha,” Chris said as he leafed through the clippings, “but so does Auburn’s Administration and other campus administrations as well. I spoke to BSU directors at Florida , Ole Miss, Georgia, and Miss State. They all say the same thing. This group is very aggressive and they draw idealistic young people in, change them, and then cut them off from friends and parents. Many drop out of school after joining the group and then, in a year or two, they packed them off to start Maranatha sites at some other campuses. Many parents, whose children join Maranatha, have no idea what their kids even are anymore.”

My Mom had tears in her eyes and my Dad had a very grim expression on his craggy face.

Chris leaned forward with his hands folded on his knees and said in a low voice, “Martin  [the frat RA we called “Mom”] says that you quit coming to all frat functions last month and then you showed up at this week’s chapter meeting and resigned as President and as a member. You know I am no fan of fraternities Tik, but you love this place and you were a great influence here. I am afraid these guys from Maranatha are playing on your idealism, naiveté and your desire to make something out of yourself.”

Chris paused.

All I could hear was the ticking of the grandfather clock across the room.

“Do you really know what Maranatha is ?” Chris asked after a moment.

My face turned red.

“Yeah, actually I do Chris. They are the over comers the Bible talks about in Acts. That are the first century church I heard about in high school. They are living, or trying to live, the real Christian life, they are totally committed to Jesus, that is who they are.”

I looked at my mother. “Mama, do you remember how I became a Christian when I was twelve?”

Of course she did, she had wept with joy that night. My mother was, and is, a very gentle kindly and Godly woman.

“Well, for the next seven years I did not bring one person, not one person to Jesus. If fact I never even witnessed. And in the last four weeks fifteen people, FIFTEEN, have become Christians because of my witness. I am talking about some hard-core partiers. So, Chris, I know this: that the brothers and sisters of MCM are making a real stand for Christ.  They are not PRETEND Christians I see all around me.”

This was a real slap at Chris and the BSU but he showed no reaction. He simply took his glasses off and polished them with the edge of the cardigan sweater he was wearing.

He waited a good minute before speaking.

“Tik” he said, “We are not here to minister to those that are well, but to the sick. To those who need a place to come for fellowship in college. We take kids as they are, not as we WANT them to be. The kids at BSU are here to get an education first and foremost. I would be careful about deciding who is a real Christian and who is, as you put it, a PRETEND Christian. Ultimately, the Bible tells us that only God knows the heart. And we can only look at the fruit of a person’s life but we CANNOT know their hearts.”

“Exactly Chris. But as you say we can look at the fruit. How many of the BSU Kids are witnessing and converting people, like the first century Christians did? NONE OF THEM!, that is how many. And the reason what I am doing looks so different to you is that I am actually living the Christian life of the first century. Every… single…day.”

Chris shook his head and said “Tikie who told you bearing fruit had anything to do with converting people? I…”

But My father cut Chris off before he could finish.

“Son, I am concerned that you are letting your schoolwork go. Martin [that is, Mom, our frat RA] told Chris you are missing classes and that your grades are down. Your scholarship is very important. Your classwork has to come first. It’s your future.”

“You are wrong Dad, the Bible says ‘Seek first the kingdom of God and all these other things will be added unto you.”

“Are you sure,” asked Chris,” that you what are seeking IS the Kingdom of God? Is Maranatha the Kingdom of God?”

“Well,” I said, “it is a lot closer to the kingdom than First Baptist or the BSU where everyone sits around talking about who is dating whom, who kissed who, and the latest football score.”

My father, stood up and crossed his arms over his chest and glared at me.

Then in his Korean War commander’s voice he spoke, “Now I think you ought to drop this crazy thing right now and get back to real life. You have a lot of great things going for you. Don’t throw your life and your future away.”

I knew I was about to get the, “How hard it was in the depression talk and how I had the opportunity that he never had,” lecture from my father. I was not going to listen to any lecture from father right now. And, I thought, I don’t have to.

So I took an unfair shot at my kind, loving and caring parents; I am ashamed to say.

“Dad, guess what? I pay my own way in this world and have for the last two and a half years. I love you and Mom but this is what I am doing and that is that …and frankly I am my own person. I don’t need your advice and I don’t want it.”

My Mom started crying, the tears running down her cheeks, and through her tears she said, “But Honey, we are so concerned about you. And what about Sheila? She was so upset last night when she called us. She begged us to come down to see you. She thinks you are in real trouble. She is so worried about what you are doing and this group you are in. She says that they have brainwashed you, she thinks this group is a cult like those moon heads selling flowers on the road. And that poor girl was sobbing so hard on the phone last night she could hardly get her breath to speak. It almost broke my heart.”

So that was it, heh?

Sheila was nosing into my business; calling and upsetting my parents; meddling in my life. She had rejected the gospel and what I was doing and now she was trying to get in the way of God’s calling on me.

Did she not have any decency left  in her?

My parents left after about an hour of fruitless talk.

It was not a conversation; we just talked at each other. I would not listen to them. And although they listened carefully to what I had to say they simply could not understand what was going on with me. All they could see was that their son, who seemed to have everything going for him, was heading down a completely different, and, to them, a bizarre path, throwing away what they called, “An opportunity of a lifetime.”

I did not even wave goodbye to them when they left or even shake Chris’s pro-offered hand.

I stalked out of the frat house and headed for “the hill”.

I was fuming.

I was planning on giving Sheila a piece of my mind.

 

#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.

#24 My Troubles Begin

It was no shocker, but I was still disappointed in myself. I continued to stare at the test as if that would somehow change the score circled in red at the top of the page.

I had garnered a test score of 76, or a middle C, on my thermodynamics test, the one I had failed to study for because of my “kingdom” activities during the last two weeks.

This term I had scored grades of  Ds and Cs on every test thus far. It was my poorest performance since entering Auburn University over two years ago. In fact, last year I had scored A grades in 10 of my engineering courses and a B in the remaining two. My freshman year GPA had only been just slightly lower. And for this I had been awarded a full books and tuition scholarship by Tau Beta Pi, the engineering honor society.

If I could pull off high Bs and one A on all the remaining tests and exams then a B grade point average for the term was not out of reach for me.

But if I did not earn that B grade point average for the term  then I lost that books and tuition scholarship.

However, on the Kingdom front everything was on a roll, it seemed.

Four more of my frat brothers had made a commitment to Jesus. They had started attending Maranatha Services and were being shepherded and discipled by older MCM brothers.

This meant a total of 15 people from my frat had become radical Christians in the span of about four weeks. “At this rate,” I thought, “within one year over 150 people will have come to Jesus through me.”

My heart glowed with pride.

Joe Smith had promised that tonight that God was going to heal people just like He did in the first century church.

Of course, if you have bothered to slog your way through my story thus far,  you know that as frat President I was supposed to attend a weekly Chapter Night meeting. At these meetings we reviewed the week’s events, talked about issues and projects, socials, fundraisers, and made our plans for the coming term.

In addition there was the infamous  pass the gavel session, where the chapter gavel was passed from member to member and each brother had up to five minutes (if they wanted it) to discuss what was on their mind.

So once I again I was scrambling.

My head hurt.

First, I did not want to miss the show of first century miracles that were supposed to occur tonight at the MCM House according to Marty, my shepherd.

Second, I did not want to miss the preaching on, “The right relationship with Jesus,” that Joe Smith had said, “would be fundamental to my faith.”

Finally, but no less importantly,  I did not want to disappoint my older brothers and my Shepherd at Maranatha, that is, my new family.

So I was going to try to wiggle out of yet another frat chapter meeting tonight.

I headed to JD’s room.

As Vice President JD led a number of committees but was he also second in line if for some reason I could not fulfill my duties. This had happened occasionally in the past, but it was a rare occurrence.

JD’s bedroom door was open and I could hear the sound of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s hit song Give Me Three Steps blasting out of his stereo system.

I peeked in and saw JD with his head buried in a text book. How he could get any studying done with rock music blaring was a mystery to me.

I knocked at his open door. No response.

Again. No response.

So I stepped in and reached over and cranked the volume down on the stereo.

JD looked up immediately.

“Run out of people to proselytize Tik?” he laughed.

“Well you are barking up the wrong tree if you are looking to dunk me in a swimming pool and have me blabbering like a baby!”

JD and I had a very strained relationship at best and it was all over the frat house that twelve of the brothers had become Jesus Freaks and that our sleep in slut, Rhonda, had moved out of the house and back to her dorm room.

“I hear you broke up Rhonda and Ricky as well…,” then he snickered.

I was not taking the bait.

“Look JD I wanted to see…”

Before I could finish JD cut me off with, “Tik, if you are up here to see if I am going to cover for you for the chapter meeting you need to save your breath. I am not your f**k*ng baby sitter and nurse maid.”

His face was red.

“Calm down JD, why are you so upset?”

“I’ll tell you why, hot-shot. You are everybody’s golden boy, you crap golden apples as far as the brothers, well at least some of them, are concerned, and your red-headed stepmother (he was referring Mom our resident advisor) keeps his protective apron around you.”

He stood up and sneered at me.

“If any other frat officer, like yours truly,” and he pointed at his chest with a thumb, “missed a business meeting and three chapter meetings, skipped out on two of our post game parties, played hooky during the Gamma Delta social, and then failed to show up Thursday afternoon for this term’s pledge report out, they would be hauled before the chapter and thrown out of office; if not thrown out of the frat altogether.”

He was right of course, as President I not only had ceremonial responsibility to welcome the sorority girls, to pat the pledges on the back and make them feel special; I had an obligation to preside over the frat’s business at meetings.

But the Kingdom came first, right?

Weren’t the frat brothers just playing camp? Wasn’t the frat house a den of debauchery every Saturday night after a home game?

“JD, you know that nothing important is going to happen at the chapter meeting tonight. The only thing on the agenda is Jack’s monthly plea to give the upper classmen priority parking spaces, that’s all.”

“How do you know that Tik…what makes you so sure???” and he grinned and pushed his chair back against the wall.

He looked very satisfied with himself.

“We both know that there is nothing urgent that is going to come up that’s why,” I said.

“Well, I can tell you one thing, if our Frat President, Mr. Tik Tok is not at the meeting then I am going to move that we start impeachment proceedings against him and have him thrown out of office.”

I laughed, he was joking and needling me.

“I am NOT kidding, Tik,” he said.

“Listen, twelve  of our brothers are missing practically every frat function thanks to the proselytizing of our Frat President; whose MAIN job, by the way, is to rally the frat around the chapter not get members to desert,” he almost shouted.

He sat back down, but his voice grew louder as he said, “And YOU, MR PRESIDENT,” and JD then saluted me with two fingers, “YOU have been missing in action, AWOL…no has seen from you or heard from you in the last four weeks; unless of course its meal time. You always seem to make those surprisingly enough.”

My face turned red this time.

Okay, I did not like JD, he was cynical, he was a smart ass, he was crude, but this time he was right.

What could I say?

“JD I have done a lot for the frat,” I said. “Things will get back to normal once the rally is over at Maranatha.”

“But would they every get back to normal?” I thought.

“Yeah, okay, you did a good job as rush chairman last year, I grant you Tik. But you SUCK as a President and you know what pisses me off, you are not doing JACK around here and you are getting free room and board at the expense of every cotton picking dues paying brother.”

I was completely conflicted.

I had my duty to the Kingdom, but I had a job to do at the frat as well. I knew the ups and downs of being frat president; all of it.

But the mantra in my head ran, “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and these things will be added unto you.” I was going to seek the Kingdom first no matter what.

That was what over-comers did. They did not worry about the world.

“Well JD, I understand how you feel, but I will not be at the chapter meeting tonight and as VP you will need to cover for me.”

“Suit your own self Tik. Do what you think is best. But you can’t say I did not warn you.”

JD crossed his arms. My stomach was turning over.

I decided to head down to the Maranatha House and skip dinner with the frat. brothers.

I just wasn’t hungry.

As I walked down Magnolia Street I became angry with JD and his attitude. I thought about all of the rude things that I had seen him do to people over the years. I found my face getting hot as I replayed the crudity of his accusations.

I knew that the chances of me being impeached were about nil, but I also knew that JD would raise a stink about me and about my absences. He would get a handful of the brothers in his corner.

But the real damage would be to my reputation and would put me under the microscope of all the frat members.

I walked into the MCM house and found my shepherd Marty seated behind his desk. I explained how upset I was and that I was worried about what might happen at the frat. tonight.

Marty paused and thought before he spoke, sitting back in his chair and crossing his arms over his chest.

“First, what is happening to you is exactly what happened to the early Christians,” he said slowly.

“They were persecuted for the beliefs and stand. That is what Jesus meant when he said ‘I did not come to bring peace’.. our stand for Jesus are going to bring the attacks of the devil. We should rejoice that this is happening.” And with that he uncrossed his arms and pushed his glasses back up onto the bridge of his nose.

Now I did not feel so happy about this persecution, for I knew I actually deserved it. Although JD was crude, he was correct, I was shirking my duties for which I was paid in room and board.

“Look Tik you are in the frat right now because God has you there to harvest souls. Maybe He will call you out of the frat. That may happen. This is all in God’s hand and as long as you are doing His will then it will be okay.”

“But, “ I said, “the Frat pays my room and board and it amounts to $ 2,400 a year that I save in living expenses by being President.”

Now in 2006 that may not seem like a great deal of cash but in inflation adjusted dollars it represents about $ 7,000/year in today’s dollars.

And for a poor guy like me that was a small fortune.

How would I ever make up that budget shortfall?

“God will take care of his faithful Tik. Remember that you do not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

He was right, I thought, I had no previous persecution in my life because I had never done anything for Jesus.

Of course this felt uncomfortable.

This persecution happened because I was overcoming the world and saving souls. This made the devil attack me. Surely God would figure out how to finance my schooling if I lost my position of frat President.

Right?

Jesus would take care of His Green Berets, I was sure of it.

#18 The Fruit Keeps Dropping

Sunday October 1978
I picked the phone up to call Sheila’s dorm room. It was 8:30 am.

“Hello?” it was Jane, Sheila’s roommate answering.

“Hi Jane, it’s Tik, is Sheila in?”

”Hi Tickie,” came the answer, “she just this minute walked out of the door. Chris [from BSU] is picking a bunch of the girls up at the turnaround [the drive at the top of the “Hill”] to take them to First [Baptist] Opelika. Are you heading there this morning?”

“Not today Jane”.

I planned on attending Bob Weiner’s “blowout” Maranatha Sunday morning service at 10:55 am. Bob was leaving tomorrow and I wanted hear every second of his preaching that I could.

“Could you tell her I called Jane.”

“Sure will Tik,” she said. “Hey, did you guys have fun last night?”

“Uh…sure,” I said.

Was she talking about the “celebration family dinner” at Maranatha last night?

I didn’t think so. I had not mentioned it to Sheila and I knew for certain she would probably not get near the MCM House anyway.

“Sheila said you guys had Smoke Rise playing at the frat house last night… I LOVE them!”

Smoke Rise was a local band and very popular with the students. They were the band I had been watching set up yesterday while I was waiting to leave the frat house for the MCM love feast.

Had Sheila stopped by the frat house last night?

Did she know that I had played hookey from the frat party?

I caught myself and thought, “Now WHY in the world am I worried about whether Sheila was at the frat house or for that matter what Jane thinks. Who cares what she thinks???”

“Well…I did not make the party; but yes SmokeRise was there… I saw them setting up yesterday afternoon.”

Silence.

“Tik, uh… of course it none of my business, but, well… are you and Sheila doing okay?”

Good Lord not her too?

What was this with everyone asking about Sheila and me, for crying out loud.? The next thing I know my Mother will be calling to ask about me and Sheila!

“Yeah- everything is great just tell her I called.”

I jumped in the shower thinking, “Now that was one weird conversation”.

My MCM chums, Fred, Robert, Ricky and Rhonda were there within the next hour to head down to the Maranatha House. I had also invited Jim, one of my frat brothers to the service. I also invited another frat brother Kent as well.

Jim was a Yankee through and through, with nasal accent and all. It is ironic that I used to make fun of his accent since I later married a Yankee and have spent most of my life post-Maranatha north of the Mason Dixon Line.

Who says God does not have a sense of humor?

Jim had round tortoise-shell glasses and his curt and direct responses like “you are completely full of [expletive deleted]”  irritated many people.

But I liked him a lot; he was full of energy and I found his very direct “good is good” and “bad is bad” approach to life refreshing.

Kent was a music major that I had become friends with at the frat.

He had turned into a real party animal, one of those Southern Baptist guys that when he had the chance, went nuts. He had gone on academic probation last year and was trying to work himself off it with little success, because he could not lay off the booze. I was pretty sure Kent was smoking dope as well. Probably late at night on the porch out back

But I really did not want to know about it, being Frat. President and all.

So we all walked down Magnolia Street to the Maranatha House.

There we found the  Praise Band in great form playing hard core Christian rock and roll  with my “friend” Ellen singing a beautiful solo. The Praise Band would be leaving with Bob after today and I was very sorry to see them go. I thought that their music and presence on stage were fantastic.

And I was sort of sad that I found little time to ever really get to know Ellen; they very person who had helped bring me into MCM.

After the songs there was a very long prophetic utterance.

This time the “prophecy” did not catch me off guard, but I could tell that Jim and Kent were freaking out; first glaring at me and then looking at each other with their eyebrows raised..

This prophesying stuff made me nervous.

First how could anyone be sure that it was of God?

Second to speak on behalf of God, in a literal sense, seemed extremely dangerous. I made a note to ask Mike Caulk or Marty about this.

Of course my gut was right.

Prophesying, is, of course scriptural. But it should be undertaken with great care and caution.

Maranatha, I will show, as well as associated groups, abused this gift and used the threat and gift of prophesying to control and manipulate people. I believe that God knows the damage false prophecy can wreak.

Regardless, the Praise Band, after the prophesy, rolled right into another upbeat song  and the ushers passed around an offering plate. The fact is that the offering occurred every night and the other fact was that I had not put a nickel in the plate.

And this was for one simple reason: I did not have a nickel. No money. I am not exaggerating. Later I will cover my expenses and how Maranatha almost shipwrecked me both financially (which was not hard to do since I was penniless!) and scholastically.

Then Bob Weiner got up and lit into one of the most fast paced scriptural wind sprints I have ever seen before or since.

First he launched into the evilness of man. That, he said was scriptural and self evident. How man was rebellious and hated God. Then Bob charged through the third chapter of Romans.

“There is non- righteous NOT ONE. No fornicator, adulterer, drunkard, homosexual or liar shall enter heaven. ”

“In fact,” Bob shouted, “Jesus says that if you even HAVE a wicked or lustful thought it is as if you ACTUALLY committed the sin and the act.’

“Hh oh,” I thought.

“I say again no homosexual, no deviant, no liar, none who have sin shall enter the Kingdom. But let me give you a warning.”

He stopped. Dead silence. Not a sound.

Only the breathing of the crowd.

Then a whisper, “Jesus says that it is better to be cold and in sin, completely in sin and rebellious than to be a pretend Christian. To go to church on Sunday, or a Bible Study and then to engage in sinful acts the rest of the week in secret. But nothing is secret from God. Not one thing.”

He was hunched over almost double speaking into the microphone as he whispered this.

Then he jerked straight up pointing his arm into the crowd with a flourish.

And he shouted “Jesus says it is better to be HOT or COLD for if you are LUKEWARM I WILL SPEW YOU OUT OF MY MOUTH!!!!! He will say DEPART FROM ME FOR I NEVER KNEW YOU!!!!”

He stood stock still. Silence again. One…two…three…

Then in a low voice “If you are in sin, if you are leading a double life, if you want to avoid the wrath of God that is coming in these end times- then you MUST take a stand. What better time than now. Because none of us knows what will happen today.”

“There is a person here, who is engaged in sexual deviancy, I tell you that God is telling me that unless they repent today they will be struck down and spend eternity in hell. This IS a life and death matter.”

The Praise Band took the stage and started playing one of their softer tunes as Bob spoke in a whisper.

“You must take the first step. Jesus died for you. Don’t ignore Him. Come now. Don’t ignore what might be your last chance.”

I begin praying and closed my eyes.

After about two minutes I looked up and Jim my Yankee frat brother was up front talking to the counselors. And believe it or not there was standing room only at the stage. At least 20-30 people, probably a good 10% of the audience were up front kneeling or crying.

It was incredible.

Walking back to the frat house Fred, Robert, Rhonda, Rickey, Jim  and I were all talking about Jesus. Jim was ecstatic and had gotten a copy of the Red Book and was going to go through a couple of studies that afternoon. He was scheduled later that day to meet with Sam and he told me that he wanted to be Baptized that night. He was yammering away on being committed and being a radical Christian.

I was beside myself with pride.

Six people brought to Jesus in my frat in just over a week.

Bob seemed to have the right of it. God was doing a mighty thing at Auburn and I was part of it.

Maybe even at the center of it.

I walked down the hall to my room just as  Mom was sliding a note under my door.

“Wacha got “Mom?” I asked.

“Sheila called about a half hour ago and she spoke to Jenny. She tried to call your room first and ended up calling mine. She wants to know if you could meet her for lunch at noon on Monday at the War Eagle, that’s all.”

I took the note. It was in Jenny’s handwriting.

“Oh Tik,” Mom said, “did you know that Sheila was hanging around the frat house all night? ”

He was eyeing me up and down. “You did not stand her up again did you?”

“No Mom I did NOT know she was here last night (or did I?… exactly what had her roommate told me??) and besides I had no plans to meet her. Look it’s a free country,  Sheila comes to our parties all the time!”

“Hmmmph,” he grunted, “well…she looked mighty lonely last night. You need to help that girl out, know what I mean, Tikie?? Young nookie is wasted on the young!” and he laughed as he made an obscene gesture with his hands.

“Just shuddup would ya “Mom?” I exclaimed as I wadded up the note and threw it at him.  I then told him to try to keep clothes on  Jenny when she walked down the hall to our shared bath; if that was not too much trouble.

I tried calling Sheila’s dorm room, but there was no answer. I headed to the engineering lab to try to figure indeterminate structures out.

I sure wished I had figured it out before Dr. Carl’s test on Friday.

#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.