Behind Closed Doors

doorCampus politics were very strange indeed. It was a never-ending stream of shifting positions for power and control. It was one such shift that resulted in a very bizarre story that is about to unfold.

The call came to report to the boss’s office immediately! This was a bit unusual but not a total surprise. Since my job of research (horticultural and environmental) was multifaceted, it sometimes required immediate resolution to a problem, which required his input.

Upon arriving, I was greeted by his secretary. With the tone of urgency in her voice, she directed me to report directly and immediately to the ministerial services office, no explanation was given. This was rather unsettling to say the least. Generally, such visits resulted in a witch-hunting minister looking for hidden sins or problems where none existed. Moreover, since the office was at the opposite end of the 40-acre campus so I had plenty of time to speculate what this meeting was all about. None of the speculations were good, for often-such visits lead to termination. For sure, something unsavory was brewing and the pot was about to boil over.

Arriving at the office, I was surprised as a campus security officer ushered me into a rather large conference room. As it turned out, I was among 30 other men. This was a bit of relief as misery likes company. I discreetly asked some of the men what was going on. No one knew which added to the stress of the situation. A meeting with an unknown agenda was a little disquieting, especially when it was one initiated by the ministry…all of us arrived just feeling a little anxious, one young man even threw up from the stress. (The ministry was more feared than respected.)

As I took my seat, I could not help but notice that the door was locked behind the last man in and a security guard stood as a sentry. He was not a little guy either, no one but no one was going to get through that door unless he allowed it. I felt sure I, as well as the others, were in deep trouble. Looking around it was obvious that we were a collection of the most freethinking and independent individuals employed by the college. That is a polite way of saying we were considered rebels. We probably accounted for most of the headaches that our department managers experienced.

Something else I found very unsettling, in the room with us were several Pastor ranked (rank is a bad odor) ministers. In the administrative hierarchy of the church and college, a Pastor ranked minister wielded an extreme amount of power. Literally, our destiny and future was in their hands. Very scary indeed; trapped with so many politically powerful men made even the most stouthearted individual and independent man there very compliant and quiet.

door 4It was then one of the church Pastors came to the podium and proceeded to address the group of men. We were amazed and a little astounded as he began to speak. He actually gave us praise and said we were among the most honorable and trustworthy men in the church, (yeah, sure and the moon is made of cheese too!)

It was not that under different circumstances what we were being told couldn’t be true, at least for some of the men, it’s just that it seemed like we were being setup, but for what? It was almost as if we had entered an alternate universe! They were not out to get us at all, on the contrary, they were there to ask for our…well I am getting a little ahead of myself so let me back up a little bit so you can have a clearer picture of what was happening and why it was so frightfully puzzling.

To begin with, all the employees that worked on campus had one thing in common regardless which department they worked for; no employee worked on the Sabbath, EVER! To do so would have been cause for immediate termination and loss of salvation (we thought they had that much authority; big mistake on our part).
Well, not exactly true, as you will see.

The problem that the ministry had to resolve was campus security on the Sabbaths. The church and college was not about to be irresponsible enough to trust their god to protect the campus during this holy time. Therefore, the problem became what to do. They could not leave the campus, and the church facilities unprotected at such a critical 24-hour period. On the other hand, they could not allow the regular full time security personnel to work, that would break church policy.

The answer to the problem came as a stroke of genius. Simply, they would set up an auxiliary security patrol based on volunteers and have them work that shift that was taboo for the full time men to work. To accomplish this bizarre task, they in their infinite god inspired wisdom declared and appointed us as the Auxiliary Security Patrol. To make it legal they gave us the title of “Spiritual Levites” (only Levites, they were priests of God, were allowed to perform their jobs on the Sabbath).

So the reason for the meeting; they desperately needed our help and cooperation to make this bit of weirdness work.

During the meeting, the Pastor told us he had personally chosen each of us because of our unique abilities. He went to great lengths to explain the problem and their proposed solution. We would work one four-hour shift per month, somewhere between Friday sunset and Saturday sunset. The security supervisor would set up the schedule far in advance and assign us a time and date.

He went on to explain that by declaring us spiritual Levites it would be OK for us to work as security personnel during the Sabbaths. He further stated that they considered us as having the office of a local church Elder (lesser rank, but still wielded very powerful authority over the lives of the ordinary church and college employees).
They needed us in that position (as Elders) otherwise they could not consider us as Levites. Not that any of us would be ordained as elders, we would simply share the priesthood office with them thereby being able to work on the Sabbath. At the time it sounded very reasonable, after all who are we to question the wisdom of the ministry?

Looking around the room at the rag-tag collection of misfits (myself included) I knew right off that this was headed for some serious problems. For sure, it was a disaster in the making.

This pastor had just opened Pandora’s Box and what was about to leap out was frightening. He did not have the god-inspired sense to realize what he had just done. He did not have a clue what was about to take place. His god filled his mind with foolishness and delusion, as you will soon see. The situation when fully developed was about to bite him in the rear!

As the meeting closed, there was a question and answer period. Sure enough, the fun was about to begin. One man asked a question about our eldership. The speaker again tried to clarify it by stating that in theory not in practice the men would have the office of elder.

This was nothing more than a legal dodge that allowed them to tell us it was OK to break the Sabbath. His explanation was too little too late, all that some of the men heard was they now possessed the power and authority of elders….now that’s when the trouble really began.

The questions poured in…and no, you will not carry any firearms or even think about using guard dogs! The situation grew tense as more questions poured in. Really, to give most of these men such (assumed) authority was a step toward insanity.

It was not long, the next day, that some of the men began to address the real elders and ministers by their first names (this was an absolute taboo; we only addressed them as “Mr….”).  A few men became obsessed with their newfound power and authority. They even insisted on going to the ministerial lunch, which was a big NO NO! They were lucky fire did not come down from heaven and consume them. The lunches were reserved for the élite ministry only, and they, the élite, did not like to share. That is where it all finally came to a crashing end. Enough is enough! The actual ministry was outraged! They were not about to allow such lowly scum to invade their most sacred places.

It was less than a week later; the call came to attend an emergency meeting. It did not take a genius to figure out what was up. The problem was, what were they now going to do about it? The Pastor in charge of the meeting began by thanking us for our dedication and loyalty. Right then I knew the hammer was about to fall. He went on to politely but firmly explain that perhaps he had been a little to zealous in suggesting that we hold the office, in theory and not practical fact, of an elder. He said after much prayerful consideration (and getting his butt chewed out for what had happened) our position would be more appropriately looked upon as that of a deacon. I could not help but shake my head and think to myself, this minister is obviously a slow learner. We would share the office of deacon in theory only; we would not be ordained or actually hold the office of deacon.

You guessed it! There was another horrendous clash. A few of the men took it upon themselves to exercise the office of deacon and tried to tell the real deacons where to go. door 5That really rattled the cages of the real deacons. They went to the ministry crying and lamenting about their plight and the fact that some lowly scum were stealing their show. For several weeks havoc reigned. It was fun while it lasted…

He called another emergency meeting of the Auxiliary Security Personnel. This time the Pastor (he got his butt chewed out again) went right for the throat. He told us in no way should we consider ourselves an elder or deacon! He told us we ought to be thankful he considered us for this wonderful opportunity. He went on to state we were acting in the office of the Levitical Priesthood, not by authority, not by rank, and definitely not by power. He told us to just shut up and do the job!

Well, that was clear and right to the point! There was a great deal of mumbling among the men. Once again, more questions… would they allow the men to carry guns or nightsticks. That question really got the speaker HOT!! Before he was done we had a sneak preview of hell fire and damnation!! Boy was he HOT!! I was thankful I had the good sense to sit toward the back of the room.

No, the men did not carry guns or nightsticks…but they did for a very short period of time use dogs to assist in security…that is until a dog bit a child of a visitor on campus…seems as though there was one Pastor (guess who) that at one time had been involved in security, then all of a sudden his supervisors shipped him out to the east coast to pastor a church in some small obscure town. I wonder why?

Life on campus was like a lunatic on the loose; an adventure of Alice in Wonderland…They called it the “Worldwide Church of God”. They left the name of Christ out, and well they should for their attitudes and actions were and are, even today, anything but Christ-like. We followed them unquestioningly. They were and are the blind leaders; so all of us fell into one ditch after another with them.

Christ never intended His ministry to exercise rulership but rather leadership. This leadership is supposed to be by His example; which is one of humility, kindness and compassion. Sure, occasionally they must take firm action and use their authority for the overall good. However, such occasions should and are very rare.
If you are going to follow any man’s lead, make sure you can see the life of our Savior reflected. If His life is not there, then perhaps the direction is wrong. Perhaps you are trusting in the wrong guidance.

Some of you are still following the blind leadership from one ditch into another. The truth is not in the ministry of blind men, it is in the light of Jesus Christ and Him alone. When will we learn?

Most church leaders are and never were shepherds, they never were. They are resource managers and manipulators.

Our Savior has always been and is available. Do you hear His gentle call? It is there and He is waiting with arms open wide, and a welcoming smile on His face.

They Broke Our Hearts

broken heartThe reception area to his office was very plush with a couch and several overstuffed chairs. The pictures on the wall were reminiscent of a world of hope and peace. There were fresh cut flowers on the table. Under most circumstances, one would feel very comfortable in such a peaceful setting. However, for me it did not help.  For deep within me I was feeling a gnawing and an aching. It felt like my insides were being twisted and every ounce of strength was being squeezed from me. I was emotionally crushed, battered and beaten.

The receptionist informed me he was ready to see me. I stood staring at his office door for the longest time just staring at it. Running through my mind at a frantic pace were the events of the past year, and especially the disaster of the past week.

I was in turmoil unlike anything I had ever experienced. Uncertainty, doubt and fear gripped my heart like a vice. I was terrified to go in and horrified to what might happen if I didn’t.

I knew that on the other side of the door was a man of God, at least I thought so. He was a man that would hold the destiny of my life in his hands. I had come to trust him because he at one time was a man of integrity that genuinely cared about God’s people.

Somehow, as the years passed he became hardened almost brutal. He had lost the focus of the ministry; that being one of compassionate service. It was as if his whole purpose anymore was that of ruling and administering; controlling the lives of those that came under his authority so he could advance to a higher office. This only added to my already overwhelming discomfort.

With hopeful expectations, I contemplated what the outcome of the meeting would be. I had every confidence that his advice would be based on principles of love and caring. There was a certain amount of comfort knowing that his god would inspire him to help me. Nevertheless, in all honesty I did not know how it would turn out. So I entered his office feeling the full burden of what had transpired.

He greeted me with somewhat of a scowl which had become his trademark. As his cold blue eyes narrowed, I felt as though he could see right through me. It made me very uncomfortable and uneasy. For a moment, I felt a twinge of uncertainty about the meeting.

After the usual exchange of meaningless niceties, he began to grill me; of all things, with questions about some very private and personal matters. He was trying to discover some secret sin in my life that was causing his god to punish me. There were no secret sins. This flustered him greatly. I almost felt he was going to accuse me of deception or lying. I was neither deceptive nor lying. I knew at that point that the outcome was going to forever change my life, and not for the good. I just did not have a clue that it would be so very destructive and damaging. Even now, after more than 50 years the memories still bring a great deal of pain and deep inner sorrow.

If ever a person felt like a lamb being lead to the slaughter, it was I right there at that point in time. My heart felt like a big lump in my throat. I found it difficult to hold back the tears; nonetheless, I did, as I unloaded the deepest hurts and grief in my life. I had no idea which direction to take. I just ached and wanted someone with a direct connection to God to tell me what I must do and the course of action I needed to take. I was desperately looking for loving kindness and support. What I received was totally unexpected or anticipated.

I related to him how serious and upsetting this latest development was.

He knew about my plans for marriage from a previous meeting in which I shared with him my hopes and dreams. Now somehow this dream that young lovers have was turning into a nightmare.

I began to relate to him how it all started….

While at Lake Tahoe in California, I was attending a church convention (which lasted 8 days). The first day I met a young woman from Canada. WOW!! She was one of the sweetest and kindness young women I had ever met, and beautiful too! We immediately struck up a friendship and spent the eight days of the conference together.

Over the following several months our relationship began to develop via the U.S. mail. It had reached the point where we felt it would be the most wonderful thing if she would come to Pasadena where I worked and lived. This would give us an opportunity to explore our relationship and to see if perhaps it would develop into a life long commitment.

When she arrived, my sister and her husband provided her with a place to live. Her living close by gave us the opportunity we really needed to get to know each other better. It was a wonderful time to be young, alive and so much in love.

Now headed in the right direction, it was beautiful; we received ministerial approval to become engaged. We had the world in the palm of our hands. It was the happiest I had ever been, at that point and time in my life.

Then something unexpected happened. Her mom became seriously and mysteriously ill. It became necessary for my love to fly home and help her family in need. Our parting was sad, but we knew it would not be forever. Little did either of us realize how our lives were about to forever change. What was to follow was like a nightmarish adventure into the “Twilight Zone”.

The situation with her family became difficult and complicated, very complicated. Her father beat her. He accused her of coming to Pasadena to have an abortion, which was false.  His accusations and treatment of his daughter were irrational and irresponsible. Her dad and two older brothers beat and raped her….

To make matters more complicated, her family became embittered about the church and its ministry over unknown situations, unknown at least to me. They quit attending church and forced her to do the same. They threatened to kill me if I ever showed up or interfered.

I was frantic about what was going on. Not knowing what to do I asked for his ministerial advice and help. So there I sat in his office hoping for wise guidance and understanding.

Church law and protocol required his permission to allow me to go to Canada and bring her back….”No! Came his firm, dogmatic and authoritative reply! You must not go! You must call her and if she has left the church, tell her it is over and the marriage is off.” He commanded me to tell her that I will never speak to her again until she repents. The seriousness of the situation did not matter, only the fact she was either in or out of the church. So just like that, he wanted me to put her out of my life, forever!

I was horrified and taken back by his advice. “No! I can not do that to her!” I told him. He rose up from his desk, placed his hands flat on the desk, towering over me he looked me straight in the eye, almost glaring. He told me that if I went after her, he would see that I would be fired from my college job and he would personally kick me out of the church! He knew what I was thinking, and in one swift and powerful move, he crushed my hope and broke my heart.

This cut and hurt deeper than anything I had ever experienced. It was far worse than the death of my mother. It was as if he ripped a vital part from my innermost being. I was very much dazed and disoriented. I wanted with all my heart to obey God. I also desperately wanted to rescue my love; she was in the deepest of pain and distress of her life. I desperately wanted to protect and rescue her….The ache inside was almost unbearable.

It makes me sick at heart to think about what followed next. I was stupid; like a good and obedient church member, I called her. The situation had gotten worse. She feared for her very life…Then I related to her… it is hard writing this… that our marriage and relationship was over. In a very mechanical manner, I told her not to write or call until she repented and started attending church again. It broke her heart. She wept with bitter tears and told me that she loved me and that she would never forget me. The conversation went on a little longer with words that expressed the feelings of love, sorrow, hurt, and utter despair that are impossible to express in writing. I then said a final good-bye; it was over. I could not believe it was over. I put down the phone and stared it for what seemed like hours. I was in an emotional state of shock.

I am not an emotional man but I cried bitterly for two days straight until I was numb with grief. It was a good thing I was able to work outside by myself where no one could hear my bitter cries of anguish. A few friends knew something was wrong. They sincerely asked if they could help. I hurt too much and to deep; talking at that point was not an option… So I carried the emotional load alone. I felt abandoned and betrayed by my God.

I have always deeply regretted what happened. Not because we did not get married but because I turned my back on a dear love that was desperately reaching out for help. Sometimes I hate myself for having been so heartless and causing her untold hurt. No one deserves that kind of treatment, no one! I abandoned her when she needed me most. I was a good little soldier and did what I was told to do…it was wrong, all horribly wrong! Jesus would never have treated anyone in this manner. Yet in the name of Worldwide Church of God, I did; it makes me sick at heart to think about it.

Shortly after I the relationship ended, I found out her mother committed suicide by jumping down a well…and I had the unmitigated gall to tell her to repent. How utterly and totally was I engulfed by this church! Now I am embarrassed and bitterly ashamed that I allowed a minister’s advice to destroy me and deeply hurt a wonderful young woman I dearly loved.

We implicitly trusted and almost worshipped the ministry as being great men of God that were divinely inspired. It was almost as if the only real contact with God came through them, and our only hope for wisdom and understand would be through these men. Most of them took advantage of their office of service and turned it into the office of a taskmaster. One minister told an individual, “Do what I tell you! If you do not, your salvation is in my hands, and I will crush you!” Rather scary to believe that they thought and we believed they had that much control and power over our lives.

If indeed they spoke for god it was not the God of the Bible. He is the One that loves you so much that He allowed His Son to die for you. He took a horrible beating and He died in your place! Then on that third day, He rose and gave us His eternal life.

In contrast, their god was one that they imagined in their own wicked and perverted minds. He was one that judged, condemned and punished. He was one that was slow to forgive…..

We wrongly believed they were our only contact for us to know His will. Our lives were truly not our own.

Whatever the ministry said we did. We feared to disobey. Losing one’s salvation and facing eternal separation from God was a frightening prospect. They were masters at using it against us.

The church, and it ministry has caused a mountain of hurt and misery during the past decades. If change is indeed to come then it must start here today with me. All of us are responsible to change what we can, and what we cannot change, the Lord will, in His time.

I wanted to take time to relate to you this very personal story. For a moment, I have let down my guard and lay before you my heart-felt feeling about one situation that forever changed my life. It is painful for me to bring this back in focus and look at it again. However, I feel it is worth it, for some of you will truly understand and identify with what I have written. Some of you will scoff and blame me for what happened. I do bear the responsibility, I made the fearful decision. Nevertheless, I did not wield the hammer that smashed and destroyed the hopes and dreams of young love.

When I turned my life over to, not Jesus Christ, but the Worldwide Church of God ministry, I did it completely and I trusted explicitly in their ability of their god to speak to me through them. I know now how stupid, foolish and ignorant I was.

Yes, I have tried seemingly endless times over the past decades to locate Janet. Not to resume a romantic relationship but rather to deeply and sincerely apologize for the way I allowed the church to manipulate me with threats of death (spiritual) and being fired. More importantly, to apologize to her for the harshness in which I broke up the relationship and the hurt and sadness it caused.

I am left with the wondering and uncertainty as to what became of her. I would like to think that she found true love and she is now a gracefully aging grandmother surrounded by her loving family; she deserves a life of love and kindness.

For me, after more than 50 years I now have just recently found peace. For I have turned it over to the Lord and Savior of all who will trust in Him. His shoulders are broad, and His heart is kind. He is more than willing and up to the task to bare my sorrow and grief. Now that it is on His shoulders, I no longer feel the oppressive guilt. When I now see the scars, I see His abundant grace and mercy.

I know for a certainty that He will deal with those involved, but He will do it in His time and in His way…

Life on campus and in the church was not always fun and games. Sometimes it was an absolute nightmare. For many still trapped in various cults it is not over yet.

Three Strikes…You’re Out!

baseball 1When I arrived at my first day of work at the Ambassador College Landscape Department, I was surprised to find that it was in a total state of hostile disarray.

To put an end to the madness and disorganization the college hired a new manager. It was now his job to bring unity and to put an end to the internal disputes caused by the previous manager. Bringing order to the chaos proved to be an unbelievable challenge.

Ellis, the new department manager, walked into one of the biggest organizational screw-ups and calamities imaginable. It was amazing; the productivity level had almost dropped to zero because of the infighting among the employees.

Somehow, this courageous new manager took this group of misfits and rebels, and turned them into a team of hard and productive workers. It was not easy, and it did take time. However, he was a fighter and unwilling to allow the former style of mismanagement to continue; he would not give up! There were times that if he had given up and walked away, no one would have blamed him. He stuck it out and earned the respect and admiration of all the men and women that worked for him (actually, he made us all feel like we were working with him). He even gained the respect of all the other department heads. His style of leadership was both positive and powerful.

How did he accomplish this miraculous change among the employees? For one he instituted several programs to develop a sense of unity and teamwork. One such program was a Monday after work baseball game for the full time men and part-time student workers. Almost all the full time men and some of the students participated in the game on a regular basis. Usually about 40 men out of 42 fulltime employees would show up to play. Sometimes even the wives would be there to cheer their men on as they played rotation baseball. This rotational system assured that everyone, skilled and unskilled alike would get an equal opportunity to participate.

However, one individual, Lance, just did not fit in. He was very reluctant to participate in the game. He had no interest or desire to be a player. He did not care for or understand the game of baseball, (he kept asking, how many points for a touchdown).

He had one sole interest in life and that was his music. He had a passion for playing the violin and he was good. He could make those strings invoke the emotion of laughter; he could even bring a listener to tears because of his great skill. He was remarkable!

As a child, Lance’s mother never allowed him to play sports with other children. As a violinresult, he felt quite uncomfortable at the suggestion of joining the guys after work for baseball. That is probably because, more than anything else he knew he was terribly uncoordinated and clumsy, especially when it came to tasks involving catching, batting, fielding and team synchronization. That is not a criticism of him; he was simply out of his element playing baseball.

It took several months of encouragement, coaxing, and maybe a threat or two along the way before he finally decided to participate in the game. As hard as he tried, and he put a lot of energy into it, he just could not seem to make a connection with the ball. The only thing he was able to do was to strike out or hit an occasional foul tip.

As the weeks passed he became a rather good outfielder with somewhat of an unorthodox way of throwing the ball. Surprisingly, he got the job done.

One Monday afternoon the game was going rather well, the team he was on was one point behind, bases were loaded and there were two outs. It was Lance’s turn to bat. The other team thought they had an easy out and the inning would surely be over. However, what happened next was amazing and totally unexpected…..

His teammates encouraged Lance to relax, keep his eye on the ball, and if he hit it to put his, head down and run like hell for first base. He foul tipped the ball twice. Everyone was anxious to see what the final pitch would bring.

Ron, the pitcher, went into his usual windup sequence, nothing spectacular, but he did have a powerful throw and if you blinked, you would miss seeing the ball. He wound up and let loose of the ball and it came toward the plate at slower than normal speed (a compassionate pitch on his part, sportsmanship at its best).

Everyone was astonished when Lance hit the ball solidly sending it deep into center field baseball 7for a base hit. His jaw dropped and he stood there for a moment in total disbelief. The team began to yell at him to run because he was just standing there. So run he did. He put his head down and began to charge for the base like a mad man with a mission! Anyone getting in his way surely would be dead meat! He ran for all he was worth, you would have thought the devil was after him. The louder we yelled the harder he ran. When the dust had settled, everyone could clearly see where he finally stopped. As he stood up, there was an expression on his face of pride for his accomplishment. Unfortunately, Lance was not at first base! Of all places, he was standing squarely and proudly on the pitcher’s mound! He ran right into Ron, the pitcher, knocking him off his feet and nearly sending him to second base.

baseball 2His team was yelling at him as loud as they could that he was going the wrong way, but the louder they yelled, the harder he ran. Nothing, absolutely nothing was going to stand between him and his moment of glory.

Then the reality of where he stood hit him, as you can imagine, he was truly embarrassed as first baseman reluctantly tagged him out at the pitcher’s mound.

Sadly, he never came out to play baseball again. I wonder if it really would have hurt to have laughed a little less and to encourage him a little more. For months on end, he was the brunt of every joke. It got so bad it boarded on persecution; it was relentless and seemingly endless.

It was like a bunch of chickens in a hen house pecking on the weak until they finally would die. Not that he died, but I think inside it hurt him deeply, it could be seen in his eyes, if only someone would have taken the time to just honestly look.

He eventually left the department for another on campus job. As it turned out, he excelled beyond expectations at his new position. He finally found the moment of glory he was looking for; actually, he found his new peers were willing to accept him for who he was, and not for what they wanted him to be.

No one remembers who won that game. You see that really does not matter today. None will ever forget the humor of the moment, and it was funny. Some will also always remember and ponder, if there been a little more kindness toward Lance it might have made a difference in his returning for another try. After all, the purpose of the game was to teach unity, sportsmanship and teamwork. On that day in particular we desperately needed to show kindness, and compassion; we failed miserably!

Were we truly Christ like? Sadly the answer is no, not for a moment! The college taught that character building at any cost was necessary, and that if we were hurt in the process it was for our own good. After all, they were the watchers over our salvation.

They somehow forgot that Jesus Christ paid the total cost. The only thing left for us was to learn to abide and trust in His love, compassion and mercy; and to demonstrate the same in our lives toward others. The church and college had the opportunity to have an colaps 3impact on the world; they could have made a difference! Instead, they chose the way of judgment, condemnation, and indifference. These major three strikes put them out of the game, permanently! The result; the church is gone, the college was sold and torn down, the empire collapsed internally and it is gone! Only thing that remains is the tearful echo of those brave souls that endured cruel and ungodly treatment.

Jesus welcomes, and always has, all those that are lost, hurting and seeking truth and understanding. We can humbly come to Him, answering the Fathers’ call, the only true source of all healing and insight.

Be still, listen carefully, listen….do you hear His call? He is there waiting with a big smile and a warm embrace…choose wisely for your true and eternal destiny awaits.



Altered Reality

angry 3Summer was just about over, and the start of another college year was just around the corner. There was a great deal of activity around campus as new and old students began to arrive. For John (not his real name), this would be the beginning of his senior year at Ambassador College.

This created a great deal of excitement and eager anticipation for him. For this was the year the college, and church would determine his destiny and service within the organization. Upon graduation later that summer, he would be either ordained into the ministry or he would take a position teaching at the college. Either way his prospects looked bright. This was perhaps the most exciting time of his life.

It was standard procedure for all the incoming and returning students upon arriving on campus to check in at the Registrar’s Office. Here they would receive their class assignments for the next semester, as well as confirmation of their dorm assignment. For him, as well as other single students, it was mandatory that they live on campus. This was not a hardship because the dorms were remodeled old mansions. They reflected the beauty and elegance of an era long since passed. It also provided an environment and atmosphere of quality and excellence for the students to live and study within. 

However, John’s arrival at college would commence with a most unusual and even frightening series of events…

It all started when he arrived too late at the college campus to register. His old car broke down twice, and he ran out of gas once. When he finally arrived on campus, it was almost midnight. That in itself was not a problem for he knew that he could register for wrong doarmhis classes the following day. What was more important now was to find a place to sleep. He had driven for almost two days straight and his brain felt like mush, he was completely exhausted. He already knew his dorm assignment since he had stayed there the previous year. But everything was locked up and he did not, as yet, have a key….but being a very creative student that small obstacle did not deter him. He knew that one window in his dorm, slightly behind a bush, did not lock properly. He simply and very quietly, he did not want to disturb anyone at that late hour, removed the screen, opened the window, crawled in and found an empty bed, took off his clothes and settle in for the night.

Early the next morning he awoke to very faint and distant voices. Although he did not immediately see anyone, he could hear muffled voices in the dorm. Stshowerill groggy from his two-day drive, which seemed like an endurance test, he gathered up his stuff and headed to the bathroom to shower and shave.

Now fully awake and prepared, so he thought, for the day. He opened the bathroom door, to his surprise and astonishment, what greeted him was completely unexpected. With absolute disbelief, he was staring into the irate and hostile eyes of about a dozen extremely angry coed’s. He was shocked with total disbelief that they would dare come into a men’s dorm. He paused for a moment then he started to ask them what they were doing there? Before he could even formulate the question, the situation took a sharp and dangerous turn. shower 3The female students started yelling and screaming and attacking him. They began to throw various objects at him. Reaching him, they began to merciless beat him with anything they could find. Now fearing for his life, he ran with just his shorts and shirt on, for the unsecured window. Before he could dive through the window to safety, someone reached in and violently pulled him through. An officer from the Pasadena police department and one very muscular college security guard grabbed him. They tackled and wrestled him to the ground. There the officer handcuffed him and immediately placed him in the squad car so fast he hardly knew what had happened. He sat in the squad car completely dazed, battered and bruised from the beating the girls gave him. 

He must have been thinking this could not possibly be happening, it must be a nightmare, and I need to wake up. However, it was not, it was for real and he was now in police custody. The officers took him, and placed him in a jail cell, there he sat in his new bright red jail suit. There were numerous charges filed against him. So many that the paperwork looked like a mystery novel. 

He remained in his cell for almost 10 hours. Finally, the police and college officials sorted jailout the bazaar events of the morning. It seems that he actually had been assigned to that dorm before he left for the summer break. However, what he did not know was that during the summer the college housing officials changed the dorm plans; instead of a men’s dorm, they changed it into a woman’s dorm. Had he checked in when he should have this situation would never have taken place. Since he got to the campus too late he had no way of knowing that the dorm assignments had changed, and that he had inadvertently crept into a woman’s dorm.

Later that evening, when the police finally sorted out all the facts, they saw the humor in the big mistake the student made. They decided not to file any charges and released him into the custody of college officials.

Now a little unsettled, and somewhat battered, well actually considerably battered, he  looked like the women beat him with an ugly stick, both eyes were blackened, his nose now has a strange bend, and there were several bruises on his arms, back and legs.

Once back on campus he was too embarrassed to go back to the women’s dorm for his belongings so he asked a friend if he would collect them for him …his friend cautiously used the front entrance at high noon. For by then every student on campus knew you did not mess with these women!

The college locksmith immediately fixed the broken latch on the window to prevent any more unexpected intruders, friendly or otherwise. The security force made regular scheduled visits to the area to be sure this situation could never happen again.

Life on campus was fun, and far from being dull and routine.

Few things are more dangerous than jumping to conclusions or making assumptions. That is what too many Christians do today. With just partial information and inadequate teachings, most followers assume they have it all or worse yet know it all. It is no wonder most Christians live, day to day in uncertainty and even in fear.

This fear is so unnecessary. One of the greatest proclamations Jesus made repeatedly to His followers; do not be afraid, do not worry. If we focus on our daily problems, we will never be free from fear and uncertainty. To be free from fears and doubts, our focus must to be centered on Him; the giver of life, the giver of real hope and security. Nothing less will do! It takes more than just an academic belief, it takes knowing (not just hoping) from the heart, our innermost being that He lives. Equally as important is the understanding that He really cares about us, about you. 

Without these basic beliefs we can find ourselves in a legalistic jail with little hope of release or escape; all the time wondering how we ever got into this living nightmare of self-condemnation. If you are living this spiritual nightmare, perhaps it is time to wake up and get to know the real Savior. He is there waiting, with a big smile on His face to set you free, and to give you the peace, hope and security you long for. Choose wisely.


Now You Love Me, Now You Don’t

student jail 2For some few students at Ambassador College in Pasadena, California, life had some strange and sometimes dangerous twists and turns.

The college as well as the church seemed to be a magnet that drew some very odd personalities.

Without a doubt, many of the incoming freshmen students were highly intelligent. However, there were always those that were socially awkward and inept (I am not being judgmental, but presenting an honest appraisal).

This lack of social graces was primarily due to their Worldwide Church of God upbringing. They were bi-products of the churches strict policy of non-involvement in worldly social activities. Opportunities to become involved with social groups like the Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts was not acceptable to the church. In addition, the church’s ministry discouraged students from getting involved in school activities such as dances; even participation in sports was discouraged. Is it any wonder that church kids grew up in a fantasy world? When reality struck home, they found it difficult to function in the real world.

Most students came to Ambassador College because they had a heart for serving God’s people (at least at first). They wanted to be a part of a college and church that represented the greatest work that God was doing in the end time world. This is what the ministry instructed them, this is what they (wanted to) believe.

Who wouldn’t want to be a part of such a wondrous and wonderful work?….The only problem was that it was not true! Still they came by the thousands.

The following is just one of those awkward and dangerous situations where poor, no, bad judgment stirred up a hornet nest and almost caused an international incident.

In a male dominated church and college, it was important for the men to become the best and most effective speakers and leaders possible. This was an admirable goal. They (the students) believed they were the future of the church and college. They were. They mistakenly thought they were the solution, and the future for all mankind. This in itself was a dangerous delusion.

It was important for every man to develop and fine-tune their speaking skills. Part of the regiment included practicing for hours on end doing vocal exercises, and standing in front of a mirror refining facial expressions with hand and body gestures. This system proved to work well, very well. For by graduation most of the men developed into charismatic leaders and very capable speakers. They developed and fine-tuned all the mechanical skills of speaking.  Although, in all too many cases they lacked the heart and substance that true leaders must have.

Now, one of the requirements for all male students was to take a speech class; nothing unusual here. Its purpose was to develop the whole man, not just his speaking ability. This class included a series of speech assignments. One assignments for the class was to present a speech based upon a personal and ‘unusual experience’. However, one student that lived a very sheltered and uneventful life did not have a single unusual or interesting experience to share. His life to that point in time was flat-out dull and uneventful. He was the epitome of the life of a social misfit, which added to the pressure for him to produce and meet the college’s standard of excellence. As a result, this drove him into a quest. He turned this desperate need for acceptance and perfection by his peers into a twisted, weird, and dangerous direction.

Of all things, he came up with what he thought was an incredible idea for doing a speech. It would be about the legal process and emotional stress of going through a divorce. Now that presented a problem because the speech must be from personal experience. Since he had never been married, let alone divorced, it was a most unlikely topic for the speech. However, being a good and creative AC student he soon came up with what he thought was the perfect solution. Indeed, it was both creative and ingenious. Somehow, and God only knows, he managed to talk a sympathetic and understanding, but very naive co-ed into becoming a participant in his speech project. She was a beautiful and intelligent young woman, a freshman and a bit on the shy side. So when he poured on the charm, she became enthralled with his magnetism. Guided by her immature and irrational emotionalism, she allowed him to talk her into helping him.

It all started one early Monday morning, about 6 AM, the two of them embarked on a journey into the Twilight Zone of a bizarre and wacky adventure. This mystical journey led them to Tijuana, Mexico. There, for the experience, his plan was for them to file for a divorce in a Mexican court. It was a crazy but interesting plan!

The male student was well on his way to getting first hand experience on the divorce proceedings. However, he faced an immediate legal problem. He and this lovely co-ed were not married. That is right; he talked a co-ed into traveling with him into Mexico, a foreign country and once there to file for a divorce. This was just short of insanity. They were about to enter into an absolute nightmare involving lies and fraud, which in Mexico is a capital crime.

It did not take long before the events really heated up and started to get complicated. The two young students found themselves facing an unforeseen disaster in the making. The young woman, realizing what a horrible mistake she was making, burst into tears before the judge. She openly admitted to the pretense and the fraud she was about to enter into. The judge was not a bit sympatric, you might say he was outraged that two stupid Gringos’ would conspire to openly and willingly commit fraud and make a mockery of Mexico’s judicial system. He became agitated which turned into indignant anger.

The students were in trouble, serious trouble! The consequences of their stupidity could easily have resulted in a 5-year sentence in a Mexican prison. Both of them were student jailnow scared, just short of being terrified, and with good reason. What was a seemingly fun project suddenly turned into a very frightening and unimaginably terrifying nightmare! Regardless of their sincerity and stupidity, they were not innocent in the eyes of the Mexican court system. They were in deep doo-doo, up to their eyeballs! Their situation was about to escalate and get worse, much worse!

Once the judge discovered the fraud; in spite of the tearful cries of the duped co-ed, the judge immediately had the two handcuffed and thrown into jail. They were not given an opportunity to post bond; they were not given a trial date. They were given no access to legal counsel, there was no mercy or compassion; their crime was contemptuous.

Fortunately and unbelievably, they were allowed, (actually this was nothing short of a miracle), one phone call. At least the young man still had enough of his wits about him to use that one, three-minute call, to call for help from the college. Within a short time, the information about their plight reached the office of Herbert Armstrong’s administrative team. Once the college verified the student’s situation, they took immediate action to avoid further embarrassment and involvement of the church and college. It was too late, they were now unwillingly involved in a potential international fraudulent scheme.

It was no easy task; it took the legal staff some serious phone calls to the churches powerful connections within the Mexican government. Understandably, no one in the government wanted to get involved in this politically dangerous and charged situation. The legal office of the church, in Mexico City, worked tirelessly to obtain the freeing of the two students that were now facing 5 years of hard time in a Mexican prison. The nightmare just kept getting worse.

student 4After what seemed like endless phone calls, discussions and heated arguments, the church officials were losing the argument and battle for the student’s freedom. The church and its legal staff continued to put some serious pressure on the politically emotional situation.  After almost two weeks of negotiations the church officials flew, on the Herbert’s private jet, to Tijuana, Mexico. After paying an undisclosed serious amount of money in fines, penalties, and excessive administrative expenses, (bribes), they obtained the custody of the two frightened students.

Once back to the safety of the Pasadena campus, the male student now had plenty to talk about regarding his real life experience. He even managed to get the “Most Effective” speech award for his “Unusual Experience”.

He never did make it into the ministry, not even close! Shortly after his return to Pasadena, the Dean of Students summoned him to his office. There he was politely but firmly dismissed from the college and asked to immediately vacate the premises and leave the college campus. The Dean then called for the two security guards that were waiting in the lobby. They immediately escorted the student back to his dorm to pack his belongings; they walked him to his car where he drove off in humiliation and disgrace.

What happened to the young woman? She learned firsthand about stupidity and the cost of her naivety. It was a hard, humiliating and maturing experience for her. She did go on to graduate with honors. Shortly after graduation, she married into the ministerial hierarchy. The church and college sent the two to pastor a congregation in a prominent city….his reward for taking 4 years of abuse (loving correction)….now it was his turn to dish it out to others.

Life on campus at times bordered on insanity, but it was never dull.

Legalism is a death trap designed to keep you captive and in constant turmoil. This is a dangerous and emotionally destructive place to be. In the church, this leads to nothing short of a life of oppression and despair. It robbed the members, or students of their individuality and personality. It derailed their hopes and dreams.

The good news is there is real freedom in and through Christ our Lord. In Him, there is no oppression, humiliation or despair. Now that is really cool!

He did it all, and paid it all so you do not have to live a life of hopelessness, or live under tyranny. When you come to realize and truly understand what and how Christ paid for your freedom, it will leave you speechless, and free with a deep sense of awe and real hope! You will discover, He offers a life of joy and peace today; and a future that is so awesome there are no words that can even come close to describe what is yet ahead.

That should put a big smile on your face and a joyful song in your heart.

Great Balls-O-Fire

ball 1Working for Ambassador College in Pasadena, California proved to have some unusual challenges.

Fridays in particular were always an interesting and difficult day. For both students and employees alike, it was payday. We could all sigh, made it through another week. While the working environment, for the most part, was very nice….the pay was, (not a complaint, just a reality), poor unless you were among the ministerial staff.

Friday was also the day of preparation for the coming Sabbath. All work and business related activities had to cease by sundown. During the summer, it was not a problem because sunset was quite late. However, during the winter months, it was next to impossible because sundown was very close to 4:30 pm.

The workday on Fridays, during the winter, always ended at 4:00 pm, this just gave us 30 minutes to get our banking and shopping done. It was just not enough time. Because of this, we could depend on it being a frantic day, too much to do, not enough time to get it all done before the Sabbath.

The Chief Apostle instructed, no, actually, he demanded that all the employees, as well as church members,  have all work related tasks completed before sundown or God would surly curse and punish us with sickness, disease or severe financial trouble. He was very serious, and strongly advised us to be the same. Fear was a very strong motivator. No one wanted God’s wrath or anger to fall upon them. This made the situation very tense.

No question about it, it was a real hassle, requiring a great deal of organization to get everything done so we could get home, be sitting in a comfortable chair and reading our Bibles before the Sabbath started. No Way! It was noble goal. For those few that were able to accomplish this task, they found this to be an ordeal that led to complete physical and mental exhaustion.

Trying to keep the Law was an emotional fantasy. Obeying the Law was an exercise in futility.

To make matters worse, we did not receive our paychecks until late Friday afternoon, well past the lunch hour. This circumstance forced us to do our banking, and shopping dangerously close to the beginning of the Sabbath.

All the employees at the bottom of the food chain were living, barely living, from paycheck to paycheck. We absolutely needed to cash our checks and go to the store for groceries. It was not a matter of choice but one of survival.

On this one particular late Friday afternoon in December, it seem as though all the college employees, and half of Pasadena converged on the Bank of America to cash their payroll checks. The lines were long and moving very slowly, patience’s were growing short, and tempers were beginning to fray and flare up. We all just wanted to get in and out as quickly as possible, then to the store, and then home to collapse.

At the bank, there were long lines and they moved at a snail’s pace. It almost seems as if time had completely stopped and progress came to an abrupt halt. We were at a standstill, but the clock was still ticking down toward our doom. The Sabbath was now less than 30 minutes away and because of the tension, beads of sweat began to form on our foreheads. We found ourselves trapped in the twilight between madness and insanity, a check cashing frenzy, then it happened……

I am not sure why, but it always seemed there were some parents that were completely inconsiderate of others, they would bring their little kids to the already overcrowded bank. Then turn them loose! Children being what they are, just children, would run throughout the bank getting into mischief, they simply annoyed everyone. Our patience at this late hour was growing short, very short.

One woman was getting extremely impatient not only with the long line, but with her 4-year-old son as well. This little rascal was just bubbling over with energy. He was running up and down the line bumping into people and being a general and irritating nuisance. She kept telling him, to stop and be still. Unfortunately, her requests and even threats he ignored. He was just a mischievous little kid, making the best of his confinement in the bank with all these tall and angry trees, call adults, looking down on him.

His mother’s quiet demeanor was definitely changing, you could see it in her eyes; she was becoming irritated and distressed. In total despair, she finally yelled at him, which drew the attention of the entire bank. This time she yelled with all the authority that only a distressed and angry mother could muster in her voice. “Child be still!!” she bellowed like an angry warrior about to do battle. His playful activities came to a screeching halt. He looked at her for a moment, you could almost read his mind as he was trying to size the situation up, was she really going to do anything to him in this public setting, the obvious conclusion he made was no. So he continued his running and jumping, giggling and laughing…BIG, BIG mistake! By this time, she had finally had enough of the long lines, rude tellers, and one irritating child. She asked the woman behind her if she would be kind enough to hold her place in line while she took care of her boy. The answer, without hesitation was an astounding yes, yes, YES, PLEASE take care of him!

She grabbed this little rascal firmly by the shoulders, held her nose an inch away from his and scolded him severely for being a brat. She walked over to a solid Oak chair and slam-dunked him into it. She waved her authoritative finger inches from his face and told him, “Don’t you dare move ’till I get back!! The little kid was obviously upset and distressed. Tears began to fill his eyes and flow down his little cheeks. There was no comfort from his mommy. As she turned to take her place back in line to the silent cheers of the rest of us, he started to cry, and then he burst into tears.

With tears in his eyes and now streaming down his cheeks, he said as loud as he could in his sobbing little voice, “Mommy! Mommy! You broke my balls!!”……She stopped dead in her tracks her eyes somewhat bulged and her mouth dropped open. All activity in the bank ceased, it became so quiet that you could have heard a pin drop. Everyone was staring at her. Her face now flushed red with embarrassment; she turned back towards her son, and looked at him with astonishment and disbelief. She was completely embarrassed at what he just said. The poor little guy slowly slid off the hard wooden chair, reached into is back pockets. He then pulled out two very badly crushed and mangled ping-pong balls and handed them to her……All at once the entire bank broke into laughter.

Child she said, I love you. She gave him a big hug and kiss to the applause and approval of us all.

Sometimes the comedy campus even went into town, we could witness the hilarious scenes of unexpected humor that would live on for generations to come…..

Our heavenly Father has a great deal more patience with us than our earthly parents could ever have. He smiles and sometimes-even laughs at our stupid antics, and as adults we can pull some good ones! He has made a firm promise, and sealed it with the life of His Son, He will never, ever, not even for a moment leave or forsake us, His children. Now that is something you can take to the bank!

Lewis Boring was there when this drama began to unfold. It took place sometime during the early 1970’s while he was in line to cash his payroll check.

Holely, Holely Was Joe


hole 5 pngLife on the Ambassador College campus was always interesting. Because there was an endless stream of the unusual and strange events, very few days were boring.

It may be hard to define “strange”. The following event was just that, strange from the standpoint that it was completely unexpected, irrational and even bizarre.

On this particular spring morning, the boss gave Joe the assignment for a simple planting project. He was to plant three dozen roses near one of the faculty member’s home. Actually, it was the home of the Chief Apostle of the church and college’s empire. Since he was easily upset if he found something he did not approve; he could go at the blink of an eye, from a smile to a full-blown rage, any crew working near his house needed to tread very carefully.

Working in this area was comparable to working close to a sleeping mad dog, sure did not want to awaken the hateful beast.

I was on my way to my assigned task for the day when I came upon Joe as he was beginning to prepare an area to plant the roses.

Now Joe was a complete marvel and mystery to watch. I never knew anyone that could work so hard at not working, and making the not working harder than the original job. Now if you think that sounds a bit confusing, just read on.

He was a nice enough man. He was kind and considerate, and one of the oldest (55 years old) new hires on the crew. On the surface, he appeared to be a hard worker. Somehow, on this particular project he turned a perfectly good plan a bit sideways. Actually, it was more astounding than strange that he came up with such an ingenious, and a completely unworkable plan. No doubt about it, he was headed for disaster just as fast as he could go, and he was oblivious to what he was about to create.

It would have been far easier for him to catch a fiery snowball in July than to pull off what he was about to do. In many respects, it would have made more sense to catch the fiery snowball, and that is complete nonsense. Just thinking about causes the brain hurt.

His job and task for that day was quite simple; that is why the boss gave him the job.  He was to plant three dozen roses in the designated area. The planting stakes were already in place and clearly marked for the roses. The job was not complicated, dig, plant, fertilize, fill in, and then water. Repeat that thirty-six times; then clean up the job site, and haul off the excess dirt to finish the job.

Sounds simple, it was!

The job was fool proof that is why the boss gave him the job. It was impossible for anyone to screw it up, as long as he followed the instructions that he received. It was so simple that did not require a great deal of skill or technical knowledge. All he had to do was to follow the written instructions and to use all the supplied materials. It could not have been any simpler.

So what was Joe doing in a hole that was more than 4 feet wide and over 3 feet deep?

It became immediately obvious that something was not right. The hole was wide enough and deep enough to plant a good size tree! However, Joe was not planting a tree, just roses…

I should have known better than to ask him….he looked at me as if I were stupid or something. He went on to explain rather than digging 36 holes and having to cart off the excess dirt each time, he was simply digging one hole 4 feet wide and 3 feet deep. He could haul the dirt off all at once and then as he dug the other holes, he planned to throw the excess dirt into the larger hole…amazing, simply amazing! I thanked him for the information and insight, actually, I was thankful I did not have to account or explain to some irate minister what Joe was doing, because it make no rational sense.

I quietly and I might add hastily left before what he was doing was discovered. It would have been plain stupid to try to reason with Joe, or to have waited around for the Chief Apostle himself to come by. It was his daily routine to walk through the campus in the early morning and afternoon on his way to his office and then home. It was inevitable he would discover the mess, and then there would be hell to pay! He was very watchful and proud of HIS campus. Should he find something he did not like, well, you guessed it; everyone was bound to hear about it one way or another. What Joe was about to complete, the Chief Apostle would have absolutely hated…and that is a most dangerous situation.

About four hours later, on the way back to the office; being near that same area of campus where Joe was working, the question came to mind, was he still there and alive on the job?

Being very curious about how his project was coming along, it was amazing; he was still hard at it. He was getting nowhere, at least according to the original plan. When he finished the large hole, he decided that digging the others would be too tiring. Therefore, he placed all the roses in another big hole that he just finished. Now there were two. Fortunately, the second hole was only big enough for all 36 roses. He said since it was almost lunch time, it would be too much trouble to dig the other holes, and besides all the roses clumped together in mass looked good to him. Then he mumbled, no one will even notice the change from the original plan….that was almost true.

The next morning when the Chief Apostle, on his daily walk, happened upon the mess of roses, he stopped dead in his tracks. You could tell, even from a distance that he was not pleased. When he would get angry, his face would flush red and his fat cheeks would flop from side to side, as the anger would build. In a brief moment, he became 300+ lbs of holy terror and he was hot! He burned with almost uncontrollable anger.

I stayed my distance, I wasn’t wearing my asbestos long johns and I did not want to get singed….someone was really going to get reamed for this one.

Watching from a safe distance, I could see him turn in fury and speedily headed to the gardening office, which was close by. He was going to have someone’s head for this! As he turned the corner, he was moving with vigor, he nearly knocked over an old friend of his and a supervisor in the gardening department. That is when the yelling started. The poor supervisor was taking a lot of verbal abuse, (oops, righteous, loving correction). As soon as the Chief cooled down a bit, the supervisor had a bit of inspiration that saved his hide, he told him that what he saw was simply a temporary storage area for the roses. The supervisor went on to tell him that when the project was completed, it would make him proud. He also told him it would make all the neighbors and visitors very envious…no need for additional fertilizer here…when the Chief Apostle left he was actually smiling.

Then the supervisor immediately rounded up several men, they worked all-day and late into the afternoon planting the roses according to the original plan, and cleaning up the mess that Joe left. Of course, they had to haul in more dirt from the opposite end of the campus to fill in Joe’s big hole…but when the project was completed, it looked amazing. Yes, the Chief Apostle checked it out the next day, and it made him smile with arrogance and pride.

Joe? His situation turned out even stranger. You would have thought that the boss would have fired him. That is not what happened. As it turned out the boss gave him a pay raise, a promotion, and a new job. He would now be working on the lawn mowing crew. Why is it not surprising that his new job became one major disaster one after another? You cannot imagine how much damage Joe did with a commercial riding lawn mower, and in less than 20 minutes. What took place is a story and a subject for another time.

Impossible you say, surely this could not have happened….well, it did! That is what made life on campus so interesting. At times, the bizarre seemed to be normal. Not every day was like this, but far too many of them were.

I think all too often Christians live their lives, like Joe, moving from one disaster to another and accomplishing very little. Jesus the Christ, talking to us, said over and over again that, we should not to be afraid and to trust in Him.

Your Christian walk does not need to be one full of fear and uncertainty (or in Joe’s case, total confusion). The real workable plan is complete and fulfilled in Jesus Christ. He is the real deal, He is the only solution to move any person from a disastrous life that is unfulfilling, to living a life that is complete. Sound simple, well it is. Can you simply trust Him? He is worthy! You can and you should place your trust in Him.

Big Stink On Campus

stink 3Working for the Gardening Department at Ambassador College, was not a glamorous job. However, as a young man and inexperienced I knew this job would not be forever. Nevertheless, even a short stay at a job can seem like an eternity, especially when the craziness seemed like it would never end…

The crew I was working with had just finished a beautiful landscape job between two main buildings on campus. For several weeks, the job site was a mess with construction materials and equipment everywhere. It may have looked to the untrained eye as chaos, but it was not. Almost, like it happened over night, it suddenly all came into focus and we were finished. We all stood back to admire another beautiful job well done! The men I worked with took great pride in the jobs and it showed. All the plants, shrubs, and ground cover were place in a most eye-appealing manner.

Several days later, I happened to walk by this area on my way to another location. Now, what is this taking place, and what is going on? It was just a couple of days ago we finished the landscaping. Now the construction crew had just arrived. I was extremely curious about what they were doing there. Since I was familiar with the supervisor, I stopped and asked him what the work order called for. He informed me they were there to put in a sidewalk. I thought to myself, surely not through the new landscaping! Unfortunately, as it turned out, they were there to tear up about 1/3 of the new landscaping to put in a sidewalk.

I must admit when the crew was finished, their workmanship was excellent!

Several days later, we returned and re-landscaped the area, and as we expected, even though they tried, they left quite a mess. There were plants that were twisted and turned in every odd and non-symmetrical direction. Once again, we made it beautiful.

Sad and unfortunate as it was, that is not where it ended. The sidewalk was finished within a couple of days, and the concrete was setting up and was beginning to cure. The color of the concrete was changing from a dull gray to a brilliant white. When, of all things; the plumbing crew arrived on the scene with their jackhammers and a backhoe. They were there to tear up the sidewalk to put in some additional plumbing…..more clean up for us and re-landscaping once again!

I found this chaos very troubling and a waste of tithe payers’ money, and boy did we ever pay! I decided to investigate and discretely ask some questions about operational policies. I was not looking for a fight or to ridicule, I just wanted to know if I could to anything to help solve the problem. The questions turned out to be very embarrassing. I inadvertently stepped on some dangerous and powerful toes. Mind you, it was not intentional, just the naivety of youth. I had opened, foolishly, Pandora’s Box, and what was to follow left me breathless and gasping…

The end result of the inquiry; I found myself with the task of spraying hundreds and hundreds of gallons of liquid fish fertilizer! This was not the deodorized version you would buy at your local garden supply store. This was the real thing, freshly ground and rotting fish guts in a putrefied liquid state, and it was completely un-deodorized. The smell was horrific beyond description! No one wanted to be within a city block of the spraying because of the smell.

I sprayed everything that grows on and around the 40 acres of lawn including bushes, shrubs and trees. Pity the poor student that tried to take a short cut across the lawn (this was against college policy, no one was allowed to walk on the grass, the only exception was the grounds workers); if I was near, they were in serious trouble. Actually, I rather liked moving targets!

It was a nasty job, and someone had to do it. ME AND MY BIG MOUTH, wish I had kept it shut! I do not think you can even begin to imagine the awful, foul smell of rotted fish guts. The smell was so putrid that I actually lost my lunch a couple of times just mixing the stuff, oh well, more fertilizer for the lawns.

I thought to myself, there must be a way to resolve this problem. Then a bit of inspiration came…it just might work. If ministers were so powerful, perhaps they held the key to get me out of this mess. No, I did not ask them for help, I knew better than that. What I did do was simply to spray with vigor and enthusiasm the areas I knew they would be walking. It did not help, they finally reached the breaking point; several of them picked up rocks threw them at me, not to hurt me but to run me off. Undeterred I sprayed more vigorously. I must admit, there were a couple of oopses along the way; I got just a little too close. It is amazing what the horrible, smelly stuff does to a pair of highly polished black leather dress shoes when they walk through the freshly sprayed fertilizer that I over sprayed onto the sidewall.

Seemingly, that was not enough to cause a change in the spraying program. I decided to formulate a new approach. For this new plan to work, timing was of the utmost importance if I was going to pull this off. Therefore, I studied the walking habits, and the class schedules of two of the meanest and most powerful ministers on campus.

I needed to determine if my plan would work well enough for me to justify putting my job at risk. And not just my job; failure would mean being fired and put out of the church, and a loss of my salvation (at least they thought they had that much power, and authority over our lives (at the time so did I)). A miscalculation could cost me everything. Still I felt it was worth the risk.

First, a little bit of background information: The sprayer I used was mounted on a truck. The tank held over 100 gallons of fish fertilizer. Attached to the tank was a hose on a reel. The hose itself wound around it, if completely un-reeled the hose would stretch about 150 feet. However, I never used more than 100 feet at a time because in that last 50 feet the hose had a bubble, about 4 or 5 inches long; the inner core was rupturing, which always had the potential of breaking. Therefore, I kept it contained on the reel where the pressure from the hose around it kept it from bursting. I complained many times, about the problem and asked to have the hose either repaired or replaced.  My boss shelved this concern for the moment, and that was ok. I just wanted them to know there was a potential problem. As it turned out, the denial of repairing the hose was now going to work to my advantage, as you will soon read.

One very hot day in June I decided to put my plan of redemption to work. I sprayed the lawn near where I knew the ministers would be walking that afternoon. Only this time I pulled the hose completely out. This placed me 150 feet from the walkway. I should mention that I parked the truck so the hose had to cross the walkway, and the bubble in the hose was now 5 feet from the edge.

Normally I set the sprayer pressure at about 100 psi. Nevertheless, for the plan to work, I increased the pressure to over 300 psi. As long as I kept spraying, I knew everything would be fine…now here is where it gets interesting. The two ministers were on time, right to the second. Now for the next part of the plan to succeed perfect timing was of the essence. When they were within 20 feet of the hose, I shut the spray nozzle off causing the pressure inside the hose to immediately and rapidly build. They were now about 5 feet from the hose and the bubble. As they approached the hose going across the sidewalk, the bubble reached a point to where it was now close to bursting.

Then it happened. There was a loud pop and the men turned in the direction of the pop. Then there was this weird hissing sound, just like a snake, and fish fertilizer sprayed 10 feet into the air and in every direction catching the men right in the face. They caught the full fury of the spray and it covered the two men head to foot in the foulest smelling liquid imaginable. What followed next was their screams and foul and unholy language that spewed from their mouths. It was almost as foul as the fish fertilizer smelled. I hurried as quickly as I could to shut the sprayer off, well maybe not as fast as I could have.

Did they ever stink!  And their attitude was almost as rank! In many ways it reminded me of the polluted stuff they spewed out at us from the pulpit.

No, I was not fired, they could not prove anything.  It just looked like an unfortunate accident.

Amazingly enough, the fish program was canceled that same after noon, and I was reassigned to a new task to find a better way to keep the campus green. The decree came down; no more fish-fertilizer was used on the campus. Praise the Lord for the authority of the ministry, they took the bait and it got me off the hook.

Actually while the fish fertilizer smelled horrifically bad, nothing is fouler smelling to God than a pompous and arrogant attitude of superiority that all too many ministers exhibited. They always made us feel insecure and doubting our relationship with God.

No minister, no matter how self-important, talented or gifted has the power or authority to take away salvation.

To understand why this is true you need to know the One that does have your salvation in the palm of His hands. Jesus as Savior cannot lie, when He says He will NEVER leave or FORSAKE you, you can trust Him and take Him at His word.

As a Christian, you are safe and secure because salvation does not depend on what you do. Real security is all about what He did at the cross. His death for sins, His burial and His resurrection makes it possible for Him to give us the precious gift of His resurrected and eternal life. Now isn’t that amazingly powerful?!

Faith and Courage

praise 2 It was a warm and sunny morning on the island of Hawaii. There was a gentle breeze coming in from the ocean. It was a picture perfect setting for tranquility and beauty.

The house was located on an island inlet in one of the poorest and oldest neighborhood. However, it had a beautiful view of the ocean and beaches. This made a perfect setting for a new housing development; and it started right next to a well-kept but deteriorating property owned by a widow.

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When the construction on the new house was finished, the widow’s new neighbor moved into his luxurious home. As it turns out, he was a retired CEO, and wealthy.

Even though she was quiet and respected his privacy, it did not take long before he began to resent living next to “That Woman”, as he put it.

It was her daily routine that he had a problem with; every morning she quietly walk to her front porch. Even though she is very poor, she would always, in a meek manor lift her eyes to heaven and give thanks to God for taking care of all her daily needs. She would do so even though life for her was a harsh struggle.

Having, enough food to eat was perhaps her biggest daily need. There were times when she would go without eating because she just did not have enough food. In spite of this, she was always very thankful for what she had.

This angered him that she would openly praise God, (even though she did so in a quiet manner). His anger burned toward her, he would heckle, harass and taunt her every morning. Sometimes he will even throw rocks while cursing her. Undeterred, she would from her heart, every morning give thanks to God.

Months passed and the harassment just never stopped! He would viciously curse her and spit in her direction. The name-calling, the spitting, and the verbal abuse was endless. The neighbor, being an atheist hated God. He took great pride in attempting to intimidate the widow….his efforts were in vain. Her faith and courage was stronger than his resolve to discourage her. She was a fearless and a determined widow who would not stop thanking God.

One morning, as usual, she walks to her front porch. Then she stops abruptly, looks, and her eyes widen with amazement. Slowly tears begin to well up in her eyes and fall gently down her weathered face. There on her porch, to her amazement, were several bags of groceries, they were full and overflowing with wholesome and nutritious food!

Many thoughts raced through her mind, how, when…and most of all who, who would be so kind and so generous? She took a moment to gather her thoughts; without hesitation she lifted her eyes toward heaven and thanked God for taking care of her and her daily needs……

Then it happened….before she could finish, out from the tall bushes her nasty neighbor jumped and landed right in front of her. Now staring at her eye to eye, angrily he told her God did not provide anything for her; he bought the groceries. God had nothing to do with it! He just stood there and glared at her.

A little shocked, as you might well expect, her jaw dropped, she looked at the groceries, then at her neighbor who had a smug look on his face, then once again at the groceries. She smiled, then lifted her eyes toward heaven and very thankfully and emotionally said, “Thank you God for taking care of all my daily needs…and thank you for getting the Devil to pay for it!”

This time, the neighbor’s jaw dropped. Now for the first time he had absolutely nothing to say. He was speechless! That was the last time he ever confronted or taunted her.

Faith and courage when placed in God is a powerful combination. I am sure He smiled that day at the widow and her trust in Him.