Friday, October 26, 2007

Dade County Firefighters

So I just got back from Hawaii. After a thorough evaluation of the sun, the surf and the girls; I feel like I can give an honest opinion about it. I recommend it.

My brother needed to go to his friend's wedding in Maui, so I flew the two of us out there for a week. The wedding was nice, outdoors, and pretty. It was followed by a luau.

It got me thinking, I've been to quite a few weddings in my day, in fact for a while, it seemed I was a professional groomsman. Some of these weddings were fairly memorable, bizarre even. Every wedding has components that are the same: the vows, the jitters, the stress, that one overlooked detail. However, there is one thing that has been unique in my wedding experiences, or person, I should say. I'll call him Jack Havoc.

It was a summer wedding in Texas. It was actually the first time I had been to Texas. If you're going to visit for the first time, July probably shouldn't be your first choice. But I didn't have a choice. No one consulted me on the best time to have their wedding in Texas. As luck would have it, the wedding, which would be a three or four day affair for those of us participating in it, fell over the July 4th weekend.

I flew into the Dallas Fort Worth airport. I was one of the first of the groomsmen to arrive. I was greeted by the groom and his future father-in-law: Jack Havoc. I learned that we would have to wait several hours, since the next groomsman was returning from overseas and would not arrive until then. Havoc decided that a dollar movie might be a good way to pass the time until the next GM arrived. His choice was "Crocodile Dundee goes to L.A." In retrospect, that really should have been the first warning sign. After the movie, we picked up the other GM. He was a friend of mine, and it was good to see him.

The two of us rode in the back seat while Havoc drove us back to the community I'll call Southland, Texas. It was a long drive, so the two of us began to get acquainted with Havoc. He does search and rescue. That's what he does for a living. Whenever there is a natural disaster, he goes overseas (if the disaster if overseas) and conducts search and rescue operations. Obviously this is an admirable venture and we commended him for it. However, Havoc didn't always have his sights set on starting his own search and rescue outfit. For a while, he just wanted to join up with one that was already in progress.

That didn't work out, for reasons far more devious than you can imagine.

Havoc had been down in Florida a few years back, trying to help out on a search and rescue operation. There were other groups there conducting the operation, he was pitching in where he could. The most dominant presence was that of the Dade County Firefighters. So Havoc thought it was his answer to prayer. He didn't need to start his own organization, he could just join up with the Dade County Firefighters. He eagerly began to inquire about enlisting with these fine search and rescuers. That's when he began to realize that something was amiss.

No one could tell him how to join, or give him any specific details of any kind. Everyone was evasive, suspicious even. After all, what search and rescue outfit wouldn't be interested in having the likes of Havoc on their team? Well Havoc is no fool, he began to put the pieces together like a precious mysterious puzzle. That's when he noticed that all of the DCFF carry Glock 9MMs. Which, according to Havoc, is odd. Apparently they're the only search and rescue team in the country that carries Glock 9MMs. Apparently they're the only firefighters in the country that carry Glock 9MMs. It didn't make any sense. To emphasize how little sense it made, he repeated it to us many, many times.

I truly wish that you could hear his sharp, gravelly drawl. He speaks very quickly when he gets excited, and he is always excited when he talks about the DCFF. And from my experience with Havoc, the DCFF are pretty much only thing he ever talks about.

"And that's when I started to realize, they look like DCFF, they act like DCFF, but they're not. They're CIA black ops! Only firefighters in the country that wear Glock 9MMs on their hips. So I started asking questions, and then I started asking more questions. They got nervous, but no one would give me any answers. So I finally told them that I would expose them, that I would bring a whole news crew and everyone else down there the next day and expose them. Cuz I knew what they were, CIA black ops.

So the next day, I rounded up some news crews and brought them down. The whole operation was gone. They had packed up and disappeared like smoke in the wind. Everything…gone. The just vanished in the middle of the night cuz they knew I was coming."

Now, I've had a lot of interesting conversations with a lot of interesting people. I can honestly say, this is one of the very few occasions when I had no idea what to say. Because the only thing you really can say, is "so…you're crazy, huh?" But you don't want to say that to the nice man that is driving the car you are in, whose home you will be sleeping in for the next three days. So we smiled and nodded. I'm good at that.

Surprisingly enough, Jack lives in the middle of the woods. His home was surrounded by grass two and a half feet high. He took us inside and gave us the tour. Since we were the first to arrive, we would have our choice of sleeping arrangements.(This is something you will want to remember, if you ever have to stay with a survivalist, get there early, so you can pick the least uncomfortable place to sleep.) There were two bedrooms, small but sufficient rooms with beds. Then he lead us outside, to a rather spacious deck, with two very comfortable looking hammocks. I have to admit that I was tempted by the hammocks, I've always been a big fan of hammocks, and would have one in my own home if there were room. While I was pondering my extreme fondness of the hammock, I happened to glance up and notice the largest spider I have ever seen. They do say everything is bigger in Texas, but this beast was enormous. And while I'm not afraid of spiders by any means, I'm not really looking to snuggle up with any at night. At that point, I decided to pass on the hammock, and the spider.

He led us back into the living room. I was pleasantly surprised to happen upon the pool table in the living room. Perhaps the next three days wouldn't be that bad. Then I noticed that none of the pool cues had tips on them. Havoc pointed out two rather large, comfy looking, leather recliners that could also be used for sleeping. These also seemed like reasonable options to me. I like large leather recliners, and I can sleep on almost anything. (I actually slept on the floor in EMR for a year. Just me and a sleeping bag.) But I still decided to sleep in one of the rooms, in a bed.

As I settled into my room, two things struck me as odd. The first being that my door didn't have a latch on it. The second being that it was uncomfortably warm in the house. Don't you have to have air conditioning if you live in Texas? As it turns out, none of the doors in the entire house have latches on them, including the bathroom. And Havoc has air conditioning, but he doesn't use it. Since he spends so much time in Venezuela or wherever the hell else he goes, he doesn't want to acclimate to such pleasantries. This is also the reason the hot water heater is turned off.

Some of the other GMs started to trickle in, picking their various places to sleep. Havoc realized that his yard needed some attention if the wedding party was going to be there all week. So he put on his best cut-off jean shorts and started to mow the lawn (if you can call it a lawn, a rather large thicket would be more apt), in all of his shirtless glory. Since the grass was nearly three feet high, this took some time. He had to go over it several times. I don't know if you have ever mowed grass in Texas, in July for several hours, but it tends to induce some serious perspiration. I think Havoc is a sweater anyway, but he was glistening like a hairy roast pig by the time he came in. Those little cutoffs were a few shades darker.

So he stowed the mower, and entered the living room in all of his glistening, dripping beauty. Then he grabbed a powerade and retired to one of the large, comfy, leather recliners. I could hear the leather begin to adhere to his skin. Then he took a nap for two hours. That's when the Macman made a very serious mental note to avoid the large, comfy, leather recliner at all costs.

The bridesmaids were coming over later. We were excited about that. It meant that Havoc might turn the air conditioning on.

We tried to play pool for a while. I'm not a good pool player anyway, so watching me play with tipless cues is just ridiculous. But at least it gave me an excuse. Havoc busied himself making a large barrel of powerade, in preparation for the girls' arrival. One of the other GMs broke one of the hammocks, it turns out he weighed too much. I was glad I didn't take the hammock, because maybe I weigh too much. Then the last GM arrived. We'll call him Dinger. Dinger finally settled on the large, comfy, leather recliner. None of us said a word. I did cringe as I watched him settle in.

The wedding process continued as most do: The bride freaking out, the men getting stuck with silly tasks, like making tiny bags of potpourri, etc.

I knew I was going to have to spearhead any bachelor party activities. Christian bachelor parties are always such an interesting thing to try and plan. Some of them turn out really, really cool. A lot of them turn out really, really lame. I knew we wouldn't be able to do anything grand, but we could at least try to keep it from being completely lame. We discussed different options. I had made friends with a gentleman, who was engaged to one of the bridesmaids, Mike. He is still one of my very good friends. I was in his wedding later. So Mike and I and a few others tried to brainstorm. I got the feeling, that some of the GMs were concerned that I might try to take the bachelor party in a tawdry direction, since I was obviously the one with the least scruples. (Some of them were later taken aback, and confused when I presented the groom with a gift to enhance oral sex. Either they didn't understand how it would work, or they didn't know what oral sex was.)

The bride had presented us with many threats, concerning anything we might physically do to her future husband. It's hard to take those kinds of threats seriously, particularly when they are coming from 110 lb woman, regardless of how fiery her southern temper may be. However, we did rule out anything that would permanently maim the groom, as well as anything that would visibly disfigure him for the ceremony, such as shaving one of his eyebrows off. Something less visible, that was another matter all together. So we began to scheme, every good GM knows that he should try to make the wedding's eve a memorable one for the groom. This should be a time of joy, anticipation, bonding, camaraderie and embarrassment.

We had fireworks. Big ones. It was, after all, Texas. I also suspect that Havoc may have a bunker built under his house, stocked full of a veritable potpourri of weapons, explosives, and various types of armaments. I don't think all of the fireworks we set off that evening were legal, not even in Texas.

After the fireworks, we discussed the possibility of having a large bonfire. Really, what says male bonding like a huge fire? But it was still July in Texas, and as much as I like playing with fire, really none of us would have gone anywhere near it, since we were already a little uncomfortable in our air condition-free arrangements.

Some drama ensued. The bride started freaking out, and the groom wound up spending most of the evening on the phone, trying to calm her down. I don't remember why she was freaking out, but I do remember that it was really stupid. We all thought the same thing, even though none of us were saying it:"…man, this is only the beginning of a really, really, long time." Actually, I probably said it to one of the other GMs. After the groom had pacified his future wife, we gave him our gifts, told him how much he meant to us, the usual GM stuff. By the time we finished with the gooey stuff, it was midnight.

That's when we heard it…

A crazy mechanical scream tore through the woods, a crazy scream that can only be one thing. We stared at each other in disbelief and amazement for a moment, incredulous. Then we all hurried outside to confirm our suspicions. And there was Havoc. It seems Havoc had overheard us when we discuss the possibility of building a bonfire. Well you can't have a bonfire without wood. Where does wood come from? Well trees of course. Which was why he was out in the middle of the yard, wearing a coal mining helmet, to illuminate his handiwork,, going to work with the chainsaw. The tree must have been 75 feet tall. We all just stood on the porch staring at this madman, and his gasoline driven appendage, as he attacked his foe. None of us could speak for a moment. What do you even say about such a spectacle? If it had been anyone other than Havoc, none of us would have believed it. But by this time, we knew the man was capable of almost anything.

We made our way back inside, still a little stunned. A few minutes later, the chainsaw halted, and we listened for the prey to finally fall. Quick steps crossed the porch and Havoc burst into the room:

"She started to turn in the other direction. Didn't expect it. Couldn't finish. You boys should probably move your cars, don't know….a strong wind could finish her off."

Why is it, that when such men apply gender to a nemesis, it is always female?

The GMs that had driven, scrambled out to move their vehicles out of harms way. Havoc proceeded to tie a rope to the tree, to "secure" it. We still had to drive under the tree every time we came or went.

The rest of the week went about as expected: lots of nerves, lots of crying, lots of the drama that comes with every wedding. Plus a little extra drama, just because.

As the week went on, things went as could be expected. The pool cues continued to be cueless, we continued to drink a lot of powerade, Dinger continued to sleep in the large, comfy (tainted), leather chair. Havoc wrangled one of the bridesmaids into watching a disaster video he had taken. Basically it was just hours of flooding….hours. Havoc narrated all of the flooding for her. The poor girl was too polite to pull away.

We learned to deal with the inconsistencies. We figured out how to turn on the hot water heater. We learned how to deal with the heat and the latchless doors. We even learned how to deal with the toilet with the seat that would fall down while trying to take a piss (it's called the derringer hold, it lets you keep one hand free.). And at the end of the day, we at least had a memorable time. From what I understand, Havoc has only gotten crazier.

But weddings are never about the wedding party. And if nothing else, this story should be a reminder, that the reason we go through these types of ridiculous situations (although, hopefully yours won't be quite this ridiculous), is because our friends and their happiness are worth it.

Sigh…Always a groomsman, never a groom.

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Sunday, October 21, 2007

Super Preacher

On October 31st, 1517 Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the church door in Wittenberg. This document was Luther’s bold response to years of oppression by the Catholic Church, gross misconduct, and the sale of indulgences. It is the spark that ignited the Protestant Reformation.

Luther was fighting for what he believed was right, as he is famously quoted as saying, “It is unsafe and dangerous to do anything against one’s conscience. Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise. So help me God. Amen.” He was fighting for key ideas, ideas that continue to shape the Modern Church and Doctrine:

Sola Scriptura- The Bible alone is our ultimate authority.

The Priesthood of all Believers- the equality of all men before God and the Law.

Faith is a gift of God.

These are powerful ideas that rocked the very foundations of established religion. They even contributed to the creation of representative government. They undermined the Catholic Church’s stance that the Church alone could read and interpret Scripture, as well as the Church being the source of Law.

The eventual result, thank God, was greater freedom. A better understanding of Grace and the acknowledgement that all believers have direct access to God through his Son, Jesus. This is the true beauty of the Gospel. The incarnation of Christ and what it means for us as Christians.

As Christians, we have the opportunity to have a relationship with the Divine Creator of the Universe. The Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End, the Lord God Almighty. We could spend our entire lives simply trying to comprehend the magnitude of Who He is, let alone the fact that He is not only willing to have a relationship with us, but that He wants to.

Christianity is the only religion in the world in which the deity pursues us. This is the Gospel.

Since its inception, the Gospel’s primary forum has changed its shape time and time again. From the socialistic early church, based on charity and community, to the Crusades, to the abuses of the Catholic Church in Luther’s time.

Look at the Church today, particularly in the United States. Look at how far we’ve come. We are no longer the hate mongers of the Crusades. We are no longer the petty Corinthians. No, we build cathedrals with hundreds of millions of dollars. We have exciting preachers who dazzle us with untold revelations and miraculous works.

Ten thousand, twenty thousand, even thirty thousand member churches! Television stations, universities, political action committees! The signs, the wonders! Our preachers fill the halls, wall to wall. They bend our minds around the mysteries of Scripture that we could never unveil ourselves.

These men (and women) are attractive, stunning even. They tan, they bleach their teeth, and their wives stay fit and trim (some have their own clothing lines). They are captivating speakers, they have funny stories, sad stories, stories to fit every occasion. They can take us fast, they can take us slowly, they can take us high, only to take us low again. Then it all comes together, and we are amazed.

They heal, they prophecy, they stun. Some don’t even have to lay their hands on you, they can simply touch you with their $5,000 suit, or merely blow in your general direction. The production values are high, the musicians professional and the lights and cameras are right on cue. Surely, great revelation, deep spirituality, and the Holy Spirit fill the room.


Why do “God’s Generals” continue to embarrass us? They are some of the most public of our representatives, the leaders on the frontlines who proclaim the Gospel more loudly than anyone else. Every week tens of thousands of faithful listeners tune in, turn on, and listen raptly to every word they have to share. Their ministries continue to grow, they are always building a larger sanctuary, adding another satellite station, and beginning a new program. They command the attention of so many, they hold such status, they help so many. Right?

Which raises the simple question, why do they continue to fall, these Super Preachers?

“Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 “You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? 17 “So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 “A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. 19 “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 “So then, you will know them by their fruits.
21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’
Matthew 7:15-23

They cheat on their wives.
The commit fraud
They do drugs.
They hire prostitutes.
They steal money.
They bastardize the Scripture in the name of revelation.
They are greedy and covetous.
They breed hatred and condescension against the ignorant sinner.

Every time one of them takes a tumble, the fallout is painful. They have forced themselves so far into the public eye, that everyone is watching them, center stage, as the scandal unfolds. The Church receives another black eye. Thousands lose their faith, and unbelievers become inoculated against ever believing in the Scripture.

It breaks my heart.

The Gospel is only contingent on one man, Jesus Christ.

God calls us to spread the Gospel, not to build larger buildings. He calls us to feed the hungry and minister to the poor, not promise untold riches to the downtrodden if they would simply part with their last dime. That’s what con artists do.

God calls us to be humble, not to build an empire unto ourselves.

You rarely hear about them. The real Generals. That’s because they are too busy carrying the lame to safety, to stop and tell a reporter how much they’ve done for the cause of Christ. I’m talking about the Bill Wilsons of the world, who would rather stay out of the spotlight. Who are more comfortable in a flophouse than they are in a first-class cabin.

It seems that the Body of Christ is experiencing some surgery, that the Almighty is in the process of separating the wheat from the chaff. I thank God for it, and I welcome it.

The next time you begin to declare that something is an attack from the Enemy on God’s Anointed, please consider, that they may not be so anointed after all. God is still sovereign, and no one can touch his truly Anointed unless He allows it.

But we are not blameless. We have come to them, these charlatans with itching ears. We have demanded what we want to hear. The production values, the emotional highs, and the exclusivity of their “special revelations” have fed our egos. They have stroked our pocketbooks and whispered gently in our ears, but we have asked for it.

While I despise these men and the mockery they have made of the Gospel, I am equally angry with those of us who demanded a golden calf. So they built it.

The true Gospel does not need to be made more exciting. It does not need man’s help, and it does not need to be dressed in the finest linens. And that is the real tragedy, that we would be so quick to accept any counterfeit that comes in a shiny box.

Have we forgotten so quickly?

And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ. 2 I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, 3 for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men? 4 For when one says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” are you not mere men?
5 What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one. 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. 7 So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth. 8 Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor. 9 For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.
10 According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it. 11 For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. 14 If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. 15 If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.
I Corinthians 3:1-15

Maybe we haven’t come nearly as far as we would like to think. Have we really been so proud, that we thought the Gospel was adequate, it just needed a little dressing up? We would simply fill in the gaps? We have not evolved the Gospel, we have gilded a precious jewel with garbage and declared it “better.”

The reason we have these “Super Preachers,” is because we have demanded them, like the Isrealites demanding a king. And we should repent.

The Gospel is rarely discovered in a building made of gold glass and bright lights. It’s found in a quiet and dark closet on one’s knees.

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Saturday, October 20, 2007

Other Blogs Concerning the Oral Roberts Scandal

I'm not the only one blogging about this:

The Mo'Kelly Report: Former Oral Roberts University Student Speaks Out

Also you should check out:

They are organizing a virtual protest. They also have the most documents and video concerning the entire fiasco.

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Thursday, October 18, 2007

Christians and Our Love of War Rhetoric

A while back, I penned a few thoughts about one of my favorite authors, Donald Miller. If you've never read any of his work, I recommend him. I realized the other day, that I've never put anything about him on this blog, so I thought I would share it with my GH readers. I think you will see why I appreciate him so much.

So I've been reading and rereading the same books since Christmas. I went to the bookstore intending to perhaps pick up some good books for my family as gifts. And I found some really good books, books that excited me, books that would have made excellent gifts. But I always run into the same dilemma when I go to buy books for people; I worry that they will read some sort of implication into the gift.

If I buy my brother a book about getting closer to God, should he think that I have perceived some sort of problem? If I buy my mother a book on prayer, will she think that I've been timing her morning devotionals….and they are a little shorter than they should be, at least for any real woman of God? Of course, my family is probably not that paranoid, or sensitive, or petty. But since I am prone to being paranoid, sensitive, and petty; it is easy for me to imagine others being so. I can't buy people Christian books, I always feel like I'm handing them a diet book. I might as well just save the $18.95 and tell them that they're fat.

So I bought the books for myself. I always do. And I was right, they have been amazing. I bought one by Brennan Manning, author of the "Ragamuffin Gospel" and one by Donald Miller, author of "Blue Like Jazz." If you haven't read "The Ragamuffin Gospel, " you really are doing yourself a disservice. They should make anyone that wants to call themselves a Christian, read it before they are ever allowed to claim any such thing. I also recommend "Blue Like Jazz," but I like the book after it much better. So much so, that I have decided to share an excerpt.

The following is from Donald Miller's "Searching for God Knows What." It really is worth owning, and hopefully this small portion will encourage you to do so. This portion if from Chapter 12: Morality. This is not the beginning of the chapter, I'm actually picking the text up as Miller is reflecting on a rather frustrating interview with a conservative, Christian talk-show host:

…..To be honest, I think most Christians, and this guy was definitely a Christian, want to love people and obey God but feel they have to wage a culture war. But this isn't the case at all. Remember, we are not elbowing for power in the lifeboat. God's kingdom isn't here on earth. And I believe you will find Jesus in the hearts of even the most militant Christians, moving them to love people and it is only their egos, and the voice of Satan, that cause them to demean the lost. What we must do in these instances is listen to our consciences and allow Scripture to instruct us about morality and methodology, not just morality.

Paul was deceived when he persecuted Christians, thinking he was doing it to serve God, but God went to him, blinded him, and corrected his thinking. After this, Paul loved the people he had previously hated; he began to take the message of forgiveness to Jews and to Gentiles, to male and to female, to pagans and prostitutes. At no point does he waste his time lobbying government for a moral agenda. Nobody in Scripture who knew and followed Jesus wasted their time with any of this; they built the church, they loved people.

Once Paul switched positions, many people tried to kill him for talking about Jesus, but he never lifted a fist; he never declared war. In fact, in Athens, he was so appreciated by pagans who worshipped false idols, they invited him to speak about Jesus in an open forum. In America, this no longer happens. We are in the margins of society and so we have our own radio stations and television stations and bookstores. Our formulaic, propositional, lifeboat-territorial methodology has crippled the kingdom of God We can learn a great deal from the Apostles. Paul would go as far as to compliment the men of Athens, calling them "spiritual men" and quoting their poetry, then telling them the God he knew was better for them, larger, stronger and more alive than any of the stone idols they bowed down to. And many of the people in the audience followed him and had more and more questions. This would not have happened if Paul had labeled them as pagans and attacked them.

A moral message, a message of "us" versus "them," overflowing in war rhetoric, never hindered the early message of grace, of repentance towards dead works and immorality in exchange for a love relationship with Christ. War rhetoric against people is not the methodology, not the sort of communication that came out of the mouth of Jesus or the mouths of any of His followers. In fact, even today, moralists who use war rhetoric will speak of right and wrong, and even some vague and angry god, but never Jesus. Listen closely, and I assure you, they will not talk about Jesus.

In my opinion, if you hate someone because they are different from you, you'd best get on your knees and repent until you can say you love them, until you have gotten your soul right with Christ.

I can't say this clearly enough: if we are preaching morality without Christ, and using war rhetoric to communicate a battle mentality, we are fighting on Satan's side. This battle we are in is a battle against the principalities of darkness, not against people who are different from us. In war, you shoot the enemy, not the hostage.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

My Letter to the Regents

In lieu of the recent scandalous lawsuit, the Board of Regents have invited ORU alumni to share their thoughts on the school. I have chosen to take them up on their offer. The following is a letter I wrote to the Board. If I receive a reply, I will post that as well.

To: Mr. George Pearsons
Chairman of the Board of Regents

Dear Mr. Pearsons and other Regents,

You have invited ORU alumni to offer their opinions on the current situation at the University, particularly with Mr. and Mrs. Roberts. I welcome this opportunity, and pray that you actually take the time to read and consider my thoughts. You have to understand, it is difficult for any alumni to believe that the university cares what they may have to say, since it only expressed disregard for us the entire time we were there.

Please don’t dismiss what I have to say, simply because I may sound like one more bitter student, who didn’t have enough fun while he was there. This is not the case. I am writing today because I care so much about the University and it’s well being. I think you will find that most graduates have nothing but hope for the school, but have no respect for the Roberts family.

None of my fellow students are surprised by any of these recent developments.

I was privileged to attend ORU for six years, and it was a tremendous time in my life. So many of the teachers there had an incredible impact on my life, so many of my fellow students became lifelong friends. It was a very, very worthwhile experience.

I didn’t mind the rules so much. I knew what I was getting into. The regulations of the university aren’t a secret. I had attended Christian schools my entire life; rules and Christ-centered education were not new ideas to me.

However, this is not to say that I wasn’t surprised by what I encountered at the university. The entire six years that I attended the University, I was constantly presented with the idea that the University had no respect for me. That it did not care about me, my opinions, or anything I had to say.

The school would occasionally ask for input, but unfortunately, this seemed more of a tool to pacify the students than to actually create change. I pray that is not the motivation behind your request for our opinions now. There has never been an open dialogue with the school on any topic. Ever. Not in my experience. My six years was filled with frustrating episodes involving the administration buffering the gap between them and the students, with well-meaning “mid-levelers” who didn’t have any actual answers to anything. They could simply listen to any frustration the student might have, and then explain that they “understood why we felt that way.” Over and over again, this was the only response I was ever able to get. After a while, any student realizes that there will never be any actual change,

Did you know that there are entire internet communities dedicated to the frustrations of graduates? I’ve been a member for years. We all found each other, and we lament what the school could be, but what we fear it will never be, because true change is not allowed. Because the types of changes we were looking for, required for the administration to actually respect the students, and we fear that will never happen, not as long as the administration is headed by the Roberts family and their cohorts. We believe the Roberts do not respect us, not because they have met us, evaluated us, or have any just means to do so. They have just decided that they know better than we ever would. We do not respect the Roberts because we have heard the things that come out of their mouths, the silly things, the unbiblical things, the frivolous things, and the downright stupid things. We have seen the way they treat us. This is the basis for our conclusions.

The following are some items that have lessened our respect for the Roberts family, that we experienced while I was a student there, or we all heard, but the University would refuse to address. It was presented over and over again, that God’s Anointed needn’t explain himself. Sometimes he would simply say that God told him, so that we couldn’t question. But if they would have simply talked about some of these things, the University would have been a much healthier place.

1. No one believes Dr. Hultgren’s doctorate is real. We think it is a honorary doctorate that the university gave him, and that he was simply brought in as a prophet to tell us that Richard heard from God. Yet, everyone refers to him as “Doctor Hultgren.” This isn’t the type of thing that raises the credibility of an ACADEMIC institution.
2. Richard got his doctorate from his own university. There are too many rumors that they had to fudge his credits with work at the TV show just for him to get his Bachelor degree. Then he got his doctorate from his own school? Who was grading his papers. Also, no one thinks he wrote his own papers. Would you give RR a bad grade?
3. His doctoral status is exacerbated by his apparent complete lack of actual theological training.

Please allow me to pause to share one of my frustrating experiences related to this:

One day in chapel, Richard and Lindsay were preaching, coming down hard on sin, the way they love to do. Preaching against the world and what not. Then Richard opened his Bible and read from Leviticus, explaining that it meant that tattoos were forbidden by the Bible. He followed it up by explaining that it was directly applicable to our lives today, and if we got tattoos, we were in direct violation of Holy Scripture.

So I went back to my dorm, and read the same passage he quoted. To my surprise, the Very Next Verse commands not to shave the beard or cut the hair.

As I am sure you know, male students are not allowed to have long hair, or grow beards. It was quite the quandary for me, as you can imagine. My choices were to believe the President of my University, the one with his doctorate, that this verse in Leviticus is still directly applicable to my life today, or not. If I chose to believe him, then I was in violation of the Holy Scripture by simply obeying the rules of his university.

We don’t respect the Roberts because they don’t hesitate to say Scripture means something, or God told them something, regardless of how true it is.

I was a student when Lindsay Roberts had her revelation about the word “Yahoo” being Hebrew for “God is able.” Then the little girl died. It’s a sad, sad story, but also significant of the Roberts family, their grasp of Scripture, and how well they hear from the Lord.

4. I was there when Richard Roberts declared that God told him to build a student center. I was there when he told us that it would be done in four or five years. This isn’t simply a bad idea, it’s something he declares that God told him...... GOD. Visit campus, there is a desolate, fenced in memorial that Richard does not hear from God, and that he is a liar. Because there is still nothing there. I think we know how false prophets were treated in the Bible.

5. I was there when Richard explained that God told him to institute a curfew for men. Of course this was after it was too late to withdraw from school and go find one that treated us like adults. Why did God wait so long into the semester to tell Richard this? The strong rumor is that the real reason the men needed a curfew was to avoid the NCAA title 9 violation fines. But as always, there was a never a dialogue about it. We were simply told what God had decided about the matter, and then told to take it up with HIM!

6. I was there when Pastor Schuler was pushed out. Anyone who knows that man, knows the Holy Spirit it on him. I new that was the beginning of the end.

7. The blatant and extreme nepotism demonstrated towards their daughters. Find anyone who was an RA for one of their girls. Or, simply go look at one of the “dorm rooms” outfitted for a member of the Roberts family. I can assure you, my dorm room didn’t look anything like it. But the Roberts family is so disconnected from reality that it does not even occur to them as inappropriate. Of course their daughter gets a really nice private apartment room in her dorm. She’s a Roberts.

The Government departments and the Theology departments have been making progress in a way that made me proud to have ORU on my resume. The Philosophy program was growing, sending undergrads to get their masters. The Gov. dept. was gaining a reputation for turning out some of the most well trained students in the country. And now both departments have been sliced and diced, crippled beyond repair. And once again, I find myself ashamed of my school, and for one last time, feeling very aware that they do not respect the students in any way.

Finally, why is the only university in the world that preaches “seed faith,” nearly 75 MILLION dollars in debt??

It breaks my heart.


The Glass Hammer

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Monday, October 09, 2006

The Night I Called Sexy...

I’ve been wondering when I should post this. Now seems like as good of a time as any. I’m sure most of you that attended ORU with me are already familiar with this story, but I still think it’s worth telling.

My Freshman year of college was an interesting one. It was a developmental time for me.
Moving from Wisconsin, where I had lived all my life, all the way down to Tulsa was a pretty big deal. I had never seen the campus before the day I moved in. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the “unusual” architecture of Oral Roberts University, it’s certainly something to see. The primary materials are gold glass, lots and lots of gold glass, and white concrete. The architect decided to avoid right angles when he designed the campus layout and the buildings. Four of the dorms are round towers. The primary classroom center doesn’t have a right angle in it, they are all 45’s (there are a few inverted right angles). Since the layout of the campus doesn’t have any right angles either, none of the sidewalks lead directly to anywhere. You have to make several turns, no matter where you are going. The campus centers around the “Prayer Tower” which is a 200 ft. tower that could be likened to the Seattle Space Needle, if the Needle had been made out of gold glass and had a torch burning at the top.

I was at a stage in my life where it was very difficult for me to fit in. Not that the other students treated me poorly, I just didn’t really see why anyone would want to be my friend. Things had not gone well at my last high school. Fortunately, I wound up on a dorm wing that was made up of really funny and goofy guys. It was perfect. It really made my transition into college much easier.

That wing was called Shekinah. It was the oldest wing on campus. I believe I moved onto the wing during its 26th year. A lot of wings change names every few years or so, but not us. Shekinah has always been made up of misfits, and we gloried in it. We weren’t cool, but we sure had a lot of fun.

There were several upperclassmen that really made that first year for me. The wing was lead by the “Grand Master of Lore.” The Grand Master upholds all of the wing’s sacred traditions. His name was Skooter. Skooter was finishing up his bachelor’s degree. He was on lucky year number six. Every night at hall meeting, Skooter had special awards that he would hand out to wingmates for the week. You may have heard of this tradition on other wings at ORU, it started with Shekinah. Then there were two Juniors that assisted him: Mark and Geno. Mark was a tall, lanky fellow with a tiny patch of silver hair right on the top of his head. It was quite the contrast from his otherwise black hair. We frequently likened it to a skunk. Geno was Mexican. We always told him that he was the worst Mexican ever; he didn’t speak Spanish, and he couldn’t swim (yes, I know that’s offensive). He barely passed his swimming proficiency test his senior year.

Geno had a record at the school for troublemaking. One year, he and a few other guys went through our entire dorm(EMR, also known as “The Rock” because it’s built like a prison) and stole every shower head. Well, as it turns out, taking the head off of every shower in a seven floor, tri-winged dorm, changes the back pressure in the pipes. It changes it a lot. Some pipes broke. When they came looking for a culprit, Geno was caught rather swiftly. (Here’s a little FYI for you, if you ever steal 85 shower heads, don’t “hide” them in your dorm room.) Fortunately, one of his partners was a baseball player, so he didn’t get kicked out.

Being burned for a past transgression didn’t slow Geno down. We still had fun, some of it on the “dangerous” side. Geno and I used to make a lot of prank calls. He had a speaker phone that we would use, and sometimes the guys would come into the room and just listen to us prank girls. We had several routines worked out. We had a lot of time on our hands back then.

A classic, was to take advantage of the three-way call option that the university had provided us. We would pick two people that we knew didn’t get along; for example, a boyfriend and girlfriend that had just broken up. Then we would call the girl, usually late at night. As soon as she would answer, we would say, “hey, oh no, hold on I’ve got another call.” Then we would use the third party option and switch over and call her ex-boyfriend. As soon as he picked the phone up, we would switch back to the girl’s call.

His phone rang, her phone rang, they both thought that the other called. We would quietly listen to the two confused callers on our speaker phone. You could even say it was the advent of reality entertainment. Sometimes it was a little brutal, but I’m kind of a dick, so it was entertaining. Oftentimes they would never actually figure out what happened.

We would go through the student directory and call freshman girls. They were always fun. We would tell them that Geno couldn’t sleep and that his mother used to sing him to sleep. He really missed home, and he really missed his mother. So, could she please sing him a song? C’mon, just sing the boy a song. Just one song.

Few girls would sing him a song. We would chide them, call them heartless. How could she be serving God and be so heartless at the same time? They would try and pass us off on their roommate. Some would just get pissed. The pissed-off ones would read out of the Bible at us. We usually listened, because it was funny. Entertainment, was after all, the reason we were calling.

When we would run out of routines and ideas, when we had called every freshman with a funny name ( my apologies miss Lovelace, I think we called you many times) in the entire directory several times, we would call words. Every phone number on campus was a four digit extension, since all phones have an alphanumeric keypad we could call four letter words that were humorous, at least to us anyway. That is when the trouble really began.

It was all pretty harmless, nothing obscene. We might call the number 5477, because it spelled “kiss.” Then we would ask the party on the line if they would please just give us a kiss. It was incredibly juvenile, but once again, it was harmless.
We eventually got bored. Our calls nearly ceased all together. “Nearly,” being the key word. Were it “entirely,” we might have found ourselves in a much better situation. However, such is not the case. It had been months since we had made a call. It was late, after hall meeting, and we were all bored. The guys said, “Hey, let’s make a call.” I said, “Ok. Who should we call?” We all gathered around the phone in Geno’s room. I don’t know who suggested it first, but it was unanimous once it was suggested, “sexy, let’s call sexy.” I quickly complied. I dialed 7-3-9-9. It rang, she answered.

“Is sexy there?” I asked.

“Uh, no.” She said.

I hung up. I called back.

“Is sexy there?” I asked.

“Just a minute, I’ll get her.” She said.

“This is sexy!” Said a rather bitter, angry voice, “And I have caller ID. I’ll see you in the Dean of Men’s office tomorrow.”

Before we hung up, she told us our extension just so we knew that she really did have caller ID. We were all confused. How did some chick on campus have caller ID? It was a service that wouldn’t become available on campus for three more years. But obviously she did, because she knew our extension. “Oh, well,” we decided, “some chick isn’t going to go to the Dean of Men over a prank call. It’s not like we were breathing heavy into the phone or anything. Besides, prank calls happen all of the time.” We decided the best thing to do, would be just to forget about it. Yeah, that would solve everything.

So the next day, I bumped into Geno on my way to class. His eyes were wide and his skin was pale, which was unusual for Geno. When he finally spoke, he sounded ill. “Mac, you won’t believe who we called.” I just stared at him. “Who?”

“Lindsay Roberts.”

I was stunned. He had to be wrong. It wasn’t even a possibility. It was statistically impossible for us to have picked up the phone one time, and dialed “SEXY,” one time, and that one time, that same one time, have gotten the wife of the President of our University. “The first lady” as she liked to be called.

This was trouble, and we knew it. If you wanted to hop on the superhighway of getting screwed, fired, expelled, missing, etc., everyone knew that all you had to do was piss of Lindsay.

For the unfamiliar, I should explain about the dear First Lady and current Vice President of Oral Roberts University.

I have never seen Lindsay smile naturally. Actually, she rarely smiles at all; but when she does, it’s this evil Grinch-like smile that makes you very nervous. It seems like she is always just on the other side of some incredible spiritual battle, some attack from Satan. She thinks the most fashionable color you can wear is black, with wear a rather garrish gold rope, or belt or anything else gold colored around her waist. She had a high screeching voice. She would constantly strive for the “shock effect” with her audiences. She liked to play games with words like “hell.”

If your audience was the Oral Roberts student body, shocking them was not a difficult thing. For two years straight, Richard and Lindsay Roberts both, had an odd infatuation with the word, “hell.” They would use it all of the time. “Beat the Hell out, get the Hell out, rip the Hell out. If you’re going through Hell, don’t stop.”

I remember the time when she was cruising on through one of her sermons and she paused to employ one of her famous this-doesn’t-make-sense-but-it-might-shock-you-so-I’m-using-it-anyway analogies. “You may have heard of a little movie called, The Best Little Whore house in Texas, well the best little whore house may be in Texas; but God’s power is still in the church today!” We all just looked at one another in confusion. It was a strange, random, nonsensical thing to say, even for Lindsay.

Lindsay hated “the world,” and would constantly bash it. One of her famous sermons, after the actual word “hell,” was becoming repetitive, even for her, she switched to the very clever, “what in the ‘L’ do you want?” The “L” being the difference between the “Word” and the “World.” It was just silly.

Lindsay wore jewelry. Lots of it. She wore earrings and rings and watches, and bracelets. But her ears were the only thing she had pierced. She would constantly harp on people who were trying to look like “the World.” This meant anyone who looked different than “normal” people was trying to emulate “the World.”

Perhaps we should have been trying to emulate her. She and her sister-in-law Cheryl (pronounced with a very hard CH sound, and don’t you forget it), Miss America 1982, designed clothes for Cheryl’s boutique. Most of the clothes looked like they had found some abandoned clothes warehouse from the 1980's, splashed the garments with glue and thrown them in a dryer full of sequins. Cherlaine’s was the boutique you would want to shop if you wanted to dress in a style I like to call “TBN Eccentricatta.” Its’ very chic.

Lindsay would constantly bash piercings, tattoos, “odd” hair coloring. Usually, if something bothers Lindsay enough, it will eventually turn into one of two things: either a Biblical doctrine, or a new rule at school. Everyone knew she was a force to be reckoned with.

And we had just pissed her off, big time.

There is no way I can list all of the employees and students that have felt Lindsay’s wrath. It is far too long. Athletic center employees, those guys that moved furniture around ORU, TV workers, Bill Schuler, Community Outreach (the request to start a dance outreach was denied one week before Rock the House was unveiled), really anyone that came into contact with her was in danger. We didn’t just come into contact with her, I called her!

The deans started calling everyone in to the offices that had been in the room when I made the call. I met with all of the deans: the Assistant Dean of Men, the Dean of Men, and finally the Dean of Students. They were very stern. There was a lot of staring down involved. We couldn’t even lie, since the very first student called in cracked like an egg.

If you are ever called into the Dean’s Office, there is a very simple formula you must follow: Deny, Deny, Deny. You think because they are “Christians” that they won’t use every device possible to extract the truth from you? If you do, you’re stupid. They will lie, cajole, manipulate, and do anything else they see fit to break you

Several days passed while we sweated. I was there on a full scholarship. That was a lot of money to lose over a 15 second phone call. Know one knew what was going to happen to us.

Two days later, Lindsay happened to be preaching. My freshman year, I still attended most chapels. That was before I started writing my own doctor’s notes. It was also before I had met the lovely, lovely Nurse Sally. God bless that woman.

So there we were, listening to Lindsay ramble on. It was actually the first of two infamous “Yahoo” chapels. For the time being, I won’t expound on the “Yahoo” message, but for those of you that were there, you know how ridiculous and sad it turned out to be. Like most of her sermons, it seemed to drag on forever and we just waited for it to end. Finally she began to wrap things up. I looked at my watch, five more grating minutes to go.

Then she paused, and changed course.

“So I had to change my phone number the other day. Let me tell you, that’s a chore.”

What was she doing? ORU had a rather strict policy against mentioning pranks in chapel because it only encouraged them. But here she was, on NATIONAL television, mentioning it. Not just some prank, but MY prank.

“My phone number was 7399, do you know what that spells?”

Well many wings had heard about it already, so they knew exactly what it spelled. I shuddered as several wings shouted out “SEXY!”

“That’s right, sexy. So then the prank phone calls began. But the other day I caught him. So what do we do with a person like this?”

A person “like this?!” It wasn’t “a person like this.” It was me. I felt a little sick. Everything seemed to slow down.

“Do we boot him? No! I need people like this. Let’s look at what we have here: he’s got excellent phone skills, a great vocabulary, and ingenious mind. I can use him!”

While I was a little relieved to hear that she had no intention of expelling me, I was a little confused by her description of my prank.

When all was said and done, I was fined fifty dollars and had to write a rather groveling letter of apology. I didn’t lose my scholarship, and they never called my parents. To this day, I have not spoken to Lindsay since, nor do I have any idea of how she ever intended to “use” probably the only boy that has ever called her “Sexy.”

Friday, June 09, 2006

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Hey everybody, sorry I haven't posted anything lately. It's going to be another week or so. I'm in London right now. Hopefully I'll have some stories when I get back.
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