Below you will find the not yet completed text of the book that I have been writing ever since I was enabled to use Mary Ragland’s office & library; it still requires a bit of editorial rewriting, and is offered here for comment:
MY LORD JESUS CHRIST
Another Time Publishing – 2008
Table of Contents
Chapter One:The Jesus Prayer
Chapter Two:The Writer
Chapter Three:Using Your Jesus Prayer
Chapter Four:The Continual Prayer Technique
Chapter Five:Have you obtained the Great Prize?
Chapter Six:Sharing the Gospel as a Technique
Chapter Seven:Heal Thyself
Chapter Eight:The Good Book(an outline for this unwritten chapter)
Chapter Nine:This Book(just some notes)
The title of my book is actually a simple prayer. Scholars have argued the existence of a ‘Jesus prayer’ used among the earliest monastics in the same way yogins use their mantras. Such a prayer is thought to have had very few words; some argue for three, but there are no extant mss[manuscripts] which will settle these arguments. For me, as a writer, this short string of only four words stands comfortable and complete as a declarative sentence.
I pray these four simple words as frequently as it is possible to remind myself to do so. I speak those words out loud whenever practicable. Usually I stress the first word, indicating a choice I am consciously making. And then, I endeavor to reinforce the statement with a visual; imagining Him enacting His glorious in-coming. These images vary according to my mood, but are frequently tumultuous, with things(and persons also) falling to destruction all about Him; a cameo of the violent world we live in every day. Perhaps He is breaking into this sinful world just now. Welcome His coming!
Praying continually seems an entirely unattainable goal, but striving for it brings reward; much better benefit than worrying continually, or allowing that little ‘planner’ in your head to spend the entire day rehearsing his/her futile schemes. Allowing these more manageable mental activities their own reign only distracts us from ‘seeing’ a real world that my Lord is continually filling with His love. Find that, and you can begin your end zone celebration:something ‘silly’ you simply must do to notify all the onlookers of what you have victoriously obtained.
If sharing the ‘good news’ with others around you has always been difficult or impossible, I submit that you may not have obtained the great prize; a possession which ultimately inspires others to freely share with those around them just what they have found, and most important, how they have done this. Do not dismiss, out of hand, their claims just because the process they describe seems far too simple to have been efficacious. That simplicity itself is the practical definition of the word Christ in our simple prayer.
Many, who deign to teach from ‘the word,’ like to point out that the twelve disciples, whom Jesus himself had chosen, failed to ‘get it;’ or that they were ‘changed’ only after having received the gift of the Holy Spirit. It was then, after a sea change in their apprehension of the many spiritual things they had heard their teacher’s discourses on, that they ventured out into the world (away from Jerusalem) attempting to spread the word in the prescribed manner they had been taught.
So it occurs to me that, unless this ‘unsaved’ person has asked you into his home, it is hardly time to attempt to describe some mortal threat to his very soul. Also, how weak your efforts must surely be, if you have never apprehended this egregious danger for yourself. Your awareness of this person’s disease will certainly be more tolerable if he knows the curative you offer will work for him.
The Good Book, regardless of which translation you may choose to read, contains any number of fairly simple techniques which are all helpful to the seeker who desires this Great Prize. Though the ultimate nature of that prize may forever remain a mystery, the path that leads one to it is clearly delineated. One need not bother with all the philosophical arguments, any particular exegesis of a scripture, questions of authenticity, or any of that ‘stuff;’ simply seize upon any(or several, or even all) of these simple techniques and give them a try. You’ve probably tried many other ways to make certain improvements; else.., why would you be reading this? Just remember:If a man expects to achieve different results when taking the same actions, then he must be a fool. Try something new!
My book, while a testimony(or end zone celebration), is a lot of other things besides. The act of writing it is a powerful technique that has a therapeutic effect on its author, is an exercise that promises improvement in the next(and all subsequent) books, and a validation of the sometimes questionable idea that I am indeed a writer. It is also portable, which may enable your future efforts at sharing what you have found. Please be warned that it is not advisable to loan someone a book; if you give it, then you will have no disappointed expectations when it is never returned. Replacement copies are probably available.
As a writer, I read a lot of fiction; the newer, the better and first novels are usually impressive, as most publishers are so hesitant to put just any untried author into print. A female character in one I read recently(sorry I do not have the author’s credit) began rambling on the subject of letters, listing as many examples as she was readily able to recall. One was the Great Letter of Saint Macarius. I don’t know exactly why, but I began to search for this apparently great letter; curious beyond the intention of the author to see what the sainted Macarius had said in it. I have yet to identify any part of the writings attributed to him that might be considered a great letter. But it was in the research that ensued, and in a book about him that Don Robert’s bought and gave to me, that I first learned of the Jesus prayer. If you but ask one of these over-educated Methodist preachers to assist you in some research for a book you are writing, there is no telling what sort of response you will get(if you are patient).
I was made the proud owner of my own personal copy of SAINT MACARIUS THE SPIRITBEARER, subtitled:Coptic Texts Relating to Saint Macarius the Great(not the great letter writer). The author(more properly, the translator, for all he wrote was some thirty pages of introduction), Tim Vivian(the Reverend Doctor) lectures in Religious Studies at California State University (Bakersfield), and felt compelled to publish The Sayings of Saint Macarius, The Virtues of Saint Macarius, and The Life of Saint Macarius of Scetis lest he perish amongst the onion fields. He felt that unendurable compulsion after having translated(from French) his Four Desert Fathers(these abba’s were Pambo, Evagrius, Macarius of Egypt or Macarius the Great, and Macarius of Alexandria), which must have, even if only for a little while, offered the immunity to the asphyxia emanating from all those onions.
The three very repetitive parts, that I’ve carefully listed here, just above the Four Desert Fathers, comprise the bulk of Dr. Vivian’s SPIRITBEARER talisman against the overpowering scent threatening to sweep away the freshness he has attempted to bring to the fore(didn’t I just say three?). All the bits of it you find quoted below were taken from the Virtues, and the numbers you will find in brackets there are for these scholarly types to make comparisons to other documents, and can be completely ignored(you may as well try to ignore the unbracketed numbers also; the careful numbering of each saying or ‘virtue’ was of little use in my search for that darned letter). Where the good(smelling) doctor has noted references to scripture, you need not look them up either; references to scripture that I shall make in my notes however, are intended to encourage you to look at the chapters or paragraphs while plodding through my sometimes difficult prose(believe me you’ll enjoy a break).
The back panel of the paperback edition I’ve been given(which was probably written by someone in New York with no fear of onions) says of our Macarius that he was one of the most venerated saints of the Coptic Church. He lived in a monastery, in Egypt, in the fourth century. His very name(Macarius) means, in Greek, blessed; they could have called him the Egyptian with the trendy Greek name. Tim points out in his all-important introduction that our blessed one was born around the year 300 in a small village in the southwestern part of the Nile delta; he probably liked poblanos better than onions. He would have been just a child during the Great Persecution(306-311 A.D.), and in just his teens when Constantine put a stop to it(Edict ofToleration:313 A.D.).
Before withdrawing from ‘the world,’ he drove the camels to desert locations where they were burdened with natron(used to replace minerals which were leached from the soil during flooding in the delta); at that young age he probably thought onions quite fragrant(I’d have hung a necklace about my lead camel’s neck). It was to one of these scarcely travelled wadis that he would return seeking the solitude that was conducive to the prayer life he struggled to maintain. His extreme devotion soon manifested in him a power that drew others to this remote location and prompted frequent interruptions to his continuous praying. One young monk who sought wisdom at his door was sent off to the cemetery where he was to spend an entire day yelling insults at those who slumbered there. He returned having done as instructed and Macarius sent him back to this time heap upon the quiet ones praise for their piety and wisdom. Those in residence at that nearby skull orchard had scarce been affected by the young monk’s imprecations, nor his accolades; no effect could be reported at all. Then came the old man’s wisdom:salvation comes when the acolyte becomes dead like these; take no account of the scorn of others, neither their praise or admiration and he may then be saved.
One of the features of Abba Macarius’s seclusion in the tiny cells he occupied, which was striking to me, was the act of weeping. He said it was a powerful technique which brought many times surprising results(I wonder if he ever tried onions). The ‘Jesus Prayer’ can be used when travelling; they always travelled on foot, and many times were quite alone. I use the technique when walking also; it lightens my burden and chases away the negative thinking which is wont to fill the time you are going with your own ‘imagined’ misery. Let’s take a look at what the wise old monk had to say.
Abba Macarius speaks to Abba Poemen about the Sweetness of Heaven:
13  Abba Poeman said, “I was sitting one time with some brothers beside Abba Macarius. I said to him, ‘My father, what work must a person do in order to acquire life for himself?’
“The old man said to me, ‘I know that when I was a child in my father’s house I used to observe that the old Women and the young people were chewing something in their mouths so that it would sweeten the saliva in their throats and the bad breath of their mouths, sweetening and refreshing their liver and all their innards.[The island of Chios produced the aromatic masticha, which could be used as a kind of chewing gum.] If something fleshly can so sweeten those who chew it and ruminate it, then how much more the food of life, the spring of salvation, the fount of living water, the sweet of all sweets, our Lord Jesus Christ! If the demons hear his glorious name blessed by our mouths, they vanish like smoke. This blessed name, if we persevere in it and ruminate on it, opens up the spirit, the charioteer of the soul and the body, and drives all thoughts of evil out of the immortal soul  and reveals to it heavenly things, especially him who is in heaven, our Lord Jesus Christ, king of kings and lord of lords [1 Tim 6:15, Rev 17:14], who gives heavenly rewards to those who seek him with their whole heart.’[This passage seems to point to an early form of the Jesus Prayer; find Mark N. Swanson’s ‘These Three Words Will Suffice’:The ‘Jesus Prayer’ in Coptic Tradition’]”
“When Abba Poeman heard these things from him about whom Christ bears witness (“The righteous Macarius stands today before my judgment seat”), they threw themselves at his feet with tears, and after he prayed over them, he dismissed them and they gave glory to our Lord Jesus Christ.”
From Tim’s informative introduction, we learn that Macarius, before he was an Abba, became an anchorite(just look it up; do you some good to blow the dust off that dictionary; the Bible comes later), like Saint Anthony and others before him. While Macarius knew of the doings(possibly their sayings as well) of these truly early monastics, we on the other hand have practically nothing on their style of living; nothing remains of it if there were inspired writings as a result of their devotions. So our Saint Macarius gives us our earliest peek at what these fellows were doing, and what they had been able to accomplish. Let’s peek at a bit more of what has been left behind for us.
Abba Macarius Teaches about Ruminating on the Name of Christ:
34 The brother again asked, “What work is best for the ascetic and the abstinent?”
He responded and said to him, “Blessed is the person who will be found tending the blessed name of our Lord Jesus Christ without ceasing and with contrition of heart. Of all the ascetic practices, none is better than this blessed nourishment if you ruminate on it at all times like the sheep:the sheep regurgitates and savors the sweet taste of its cud until it enters the interior of its heart and brings sweetness and good fatness to its intestines and to all its innards. Do you not see how beautiful its cheeks are, filled with the sweet cud  that it ruminates in its mouth? May our Lord Jesus Christ also bless us with his sweet and fat name!”
Abba Macarius Explains the Above Saying:
35 A brother asked Abba Macarius, “Tell me the meaning of this saying, ‘the meditation of my heart is placed before you”[Ps 19:14, 49:3].
The old man said to him, “There is no better meditation than having this saving and blessed name of our Lord Jesus Christ continually within you, as it is written:’Like a swallow twill call and like a dove Twill meditate’ [Is 38:14 (LXX)]. Thus it is with the person who worships God by tending the saving name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
LXX above means the Septuagint, which it appears our good doctor may have translated for us from the Greek. Now we should bear in mind that this Macarius was acclaimed a Saint by everyone that knew of him. There’s a sadness which lies hidden in all the stories Tim has translated here. The young man who sought only to leave the burden of temptation that is ‘the world’ far behind became quite well known far and wide. Many sought him to find the secrets that could bridge the abyss the world imposed between man and God. This humble man, as a result of his ardent and persistent practice had, if you will, powers that astounded many. Skills and abilities that set him apart from other men. What the seeker found was worlds away from what he thought he might have with God when first he set out to seclude himself in that desert. More on the simple prayer that transformed a man, and ultimately our entire world.
Abba Macarius Teaches about Relying upon the Name of Christ:
41  Abba Macarius the Great said, “Concentrate on this name of our Lord Jesus Christ with a contrite heart, the words welling up from your lips and drawing you to them. And do not depict him with an image in your mind but concentrate on calling to him:’Our Lord Jesus, have mercy on me.’ Do these things in peace and you will see the peace of his divinity within you; he will run off the darkness of the passions that dwell within you and he will purify the inner person [2 Cor 4:16, Eph 3:16] just as Adam was pure in paradise. This is the precious name that John the Evangelist pronounced:’Light of the world and unending sweetness, the food of life and the true food” [Jn6:48, 6:55, 8:12].
Abba Macarius Teaches Abba Evagrius to Call upon the Name of Christ:
42 Abba Evagrius says, “I visited Abba Macarius, distressed by my thoughts and the passions of the body. I said to him, ‘My father, tell me a word so I may live.’
“Abba Macarius said to me, ‘Bind the ship’s cable to the mooring anvil and through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ the ship will pass through the diabolical waves and tumults of this murky sea and the deep darkness of this vain world.’
“I said to him, ‘What is the ship? What is  the ship’s cable? What is the mooring anvil?’
“Abba Macarius said to me, ‘The ship is your heart. Guard it.The ship’s cable is your spirit; bind it to our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the mooring anvil that prevails over all the tumults and diabolical waves that fight against the saints. For it is not easy to say with each breath, “Lord Jesus, have mercy on me. I bless you, my Lord Jesus.” If you are distressed by people and the misfortunes of this world, say, “My Lord Jesus, help me.” The fish swallows the waves and will be ensnared in them and will not know it. But when we persevere in the saving name of our Lord Jesus Christ, he, through the things he does for us, will ensnare the Devil by his nostrils [Job 40:26] and we will know our weakness, because our help is in our Lord Jesus Christ” [Ps 124:8].
Once bound to our Lord Jesus Christ, by a cable which must be woven from many tiny strands which all looked so weak when we first employed them, our life cannot help but become very different from any that went before and far greater and more powerful than we ever dared imagine. Tiny strands with the tensile strength of a durable metal, that are often nothing more than a simple 3-word utterance that we know we cannot employ continually, no matter how we try. We might try, at least.
Abba Macarius Recounts a Visit He Made to an Old Man:
44 Abba Macarius said, “I visited an old man who had taken to his bed with an illness, but the old man preferred to say the saving and blessed name of our Lord Jesus Christ. While I asked him about his health he joyfully said to me, ‘While I was persevering in partaking of the sweet food of life of the holy name of our Lord Jesus Christ, I was seized with the sweetness of sleep. I saw in a vision Christ the King like a Nazarite [Num 6:2, Jdg 13:5, Mt 2:23] and he said to me three times, “See that it is I and no one besides me” [Is 45:18, 21-22].’ Afterwards I burned with great joy for what is high and forgot the pain.”
How much time out of each day we spend on a job, that is far too difficult for anyone else to have survived it, and for which we were paid so weakly for having performed said miracle that we must sometimes doubt our own ability to reason, do we spend muttering the name of some Company jerk who only thinks he is all powerful? Now that we have mastered the technique to be employed, isn’t it time we changed brands, and back the guy who is a real honest-to-God creator so that we can muster to ourselves some of that awesome power that the Real Deal is all too willing to share with His help?
I tend to think that half the problem that scholars face, when translating one of these ancient documents(from Coptic in this case), is the half that results from prejudice they bring into it when they assume that a former time was necessarily a more primitive one. The reason Jesus came in the ‘middle of time’ was because the thoroughly ‘modern’ world that he was born into had indeed already made all the achievements man was likely ever to make(at least without a great savior to lead them). Day-to-day subsistence in villages surrounding the Galilee may portray for us a simpler life than we have ever known; but it was a man who came from such a pastoral simplicity that must stand before the most powerful men in a very sophisticated world and tell them that even they were powerless. Is it that we now believe that we do have that power; more power than a King Herod; more power than Pilate wielded in Caesar’s name; more power than Satan himself(who had offered Jesus all the earthly kingdoms; kingdoms he must surely have possessed then, and even now)? The fullness of time is a phrase that should help the scholars to move towards, even if unable to achieve it, that divine perspective that led to Jesus appearing just when(and where) he did.
Also, once we have made our best attempt at appreciating exactly what had been achieved through the world-wide spread of Greek thought and philosophy(flowing along embedded deeply in their language), then next we should re-evaluate the sophistication of the scribes and writers who sought, through employing many tried and true devices, to communicate effectively, correctly and exactly what those achievements were. Then, please consider those very special communicators who became involved with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, received special blessings upon their efforts and the materials that they produced and then delivered across several millennia, to peoples that they knew would be living in the end of time, all the precious instruction they might need to escape destruction and gain a final and meaningful victory over the very forces that control the earthly kingdoms as proxies for an adversary that has already destroyed the souls of those powerful princes. Need I say more?
Some of the things I have just mentioned may seem a bit hazy, downright fanciful or at least extremely unlikely. How much more unlikely it must then seem that the simple repetition of only four(in my case) simple words could bring about any effect in a world run by the powerful princes of modern science. If the use of such a prayer only cleared away the haziness and cancelled out the fancy, that alone would be some efficacious power, but I promise you much more if you will but try this technique, and persist in it until you are able to recognize its effect.
Becoming a writer is a process; a process best begun early on. I think my earliest beginnings involved a childish fascination with an extremely old(already by 1955) typewriter which had been replaced by a sleek looking Royal that belonged to the labor union my father was then a member of. Father allowed us to play on it, and saw that there was paper to put in it. I’m glad my sister did not reduce it to a pile of its constituent parts as she had done with an old telephone(that would probably start quite a bidding war on E-bay if she hadn’t expressed her curiosity in such an extreme manner).
Seeing my father at work on that Royal was probably a key element that sparked my young imagination. I can remember starting to write a novel on the old typewriter, and creating huge piles of discarded papers which had only a few childish lines typed upon them. The title I typed literally thousands of times was The Black Pearl. The inspiration that was trying to manifest itself on those papers sprang from a beautiful production number I had seen performed when Holiday On Ice played at the Municipal Auditorium where father worked.
Father was operating a followspot during these performances, but seeing him do this, by this late date, was sort of old hat for me. Many years later, when I balanced an infant on the stool I sometimes sat on while operating the Super Trooper in the spotlight booth at the Civic Center, I flashed on the high probability that my father had probably held me in just such a fashion; holding me right next to the fascinating scope-like contraption belching smoke and radiating heat; holding me in such a fashion as to be able to grasp with my chubby little uncoordinated hands the controls father used to make the thing follow the performers around the stage.
Yes, I followed in father’s footsteps and became a stagehand(though he wanted something better for me). I pursued this type of work as my vocation(and as a member of a prestigious International Union) for the next forty years; forty long years I spent wandering in circles in a vast, and very ‘dry’ desert. I began that career in 1966; the first week of May, when the Metropolitan Opera’s national tour made its annual stop at the Fabulous Fox Theater in Atlanta, GA. I’d recently turned 16, and was legal to work in the State of Georgia; I was still in high school(graduating in 1968).
After having begun working at the Flamingo Hilton(Las Vegas, NV) in December of 1999, 1 became embroiled in an explosive political situation involving some irregularities in a $130 Million pension fund, and lost a very good position at the Stardust Casino and Hotel as a result of my new role as ‘whistle-blower.’ After struggling to get by on a part-time job I’d found as a busboy where wedding receptions were celebrated most weekends, I found myself with four bags packed and a bus ticket for Atlanta.
I was seriously attempting to begin a second career as a writer. Though I did get some part-time work through the stagehand’s union when I returned, I wrote into my diary a prominent reminder that I was now a writer; no longer a stagehand(I still have those notes I was making). My new-found reputation as muckraking malcontent followed me to Georgia and quickly closed the door on my relying on this type income to get by while writing.
Let me digress just a bit; I’d always been a writer; just nothing much in the way of remunerations to show for it. When still in grammar school, I had written a rather scholarly research paper on Labor Laws(again my father’s influence), and another monograph, complete with color illustrations and antiquated maps, on the Okefenokee Swamp. I wrote a particularly impressive Petrarchan Sonnet for one of my high school girl friends. I’d also produced some poignant term papers while studying Anthropology at college; papers on Neanderthals and Magic spring pleasantly to mind. I suppose nearly everyone could put together for themselves just such a ‘resume’ if pressed to do so. Everyone is a writer at some level.
Years later, in connection with some genealogical research that I undertook, I published, primarily for the DeNise descendants I was corresponding with, some extracts from the many letters I had received which contained valuable genealogical statistics and details; these became the Denise Letters, and were much more effective as a tool in my research than the simple queries . I had initially employed in my correspondence. Eventually this activity led to a Family Reunion in Ohio where some fifty of my correspondents showed up for their ‘first ever’ reunion.
During the 1996 Olympics, 1 had secluded myself in the mountains, and there began writing a series of humorous articles for the small newspapers in my area aimed at the Individual Investor; none of these ever appeared in print, but the exercise was enlightening and the research improved my performance manipulating a small portfolio of individual stocks.
After the terrorist attacks on the eleventh of September in 2001, I was fortunate not to have lost my employment at the Sahara Hotel and Casino, where I continued to run my tiny followspot on The Rat Pack Is Back, while hundreds of Las Vegas stagehands were laid off when their shows suddenly closed. It was this momentous event, and the subsequent financial stress put on my retirement fund, that prompted my involvement in the very sensitive issues which made me unpopular there in the extreme; my boss at the Sahara was a Trustee to that Fund, and he saw that I was laid off as soon as a seemingly unrelated excuse presented itself.
In January of 2002, I began drawing my unemployment benefit, and by that spring, when my health insurance was nearing cancellation, I wrote Life Ain’t A Box Of Chocolates, with an eye to supplementing my unemployment checks. I put all I had learned about the publishing game to work on this project, and quickly self-published my book, got 100 copies printed up at Kinko’s and proceeded with my marketing plan. Publishing is one of those areas that has undergone drastic changes with the advent of PC’s in the home and the growth of the World Wide Web. My clever and witty little book(50 pages printed front and back) gave the slot machine player some valuable tips for improving the results he or she may be getting. Las Vegas was generally unreceptive to the approach I had outlined, but I did sell 50 of those copies to The Gambler’s General Store at a wholesale price between 7 and 8 dollars per copy; that just about recovered the printing cost with nothing for the artist or for his struggling family. An interesting note:I was required by the Unemployment Bureaucracy to claim every dollar received in sales(that amount judiciously and immediately deducted from my benefit amount) without any consideration of my printing cost. Certainly no encouragement to try to provide oneself with an income by writing and publishing a book.
By the time I had given up on the idea of making it in Las Vegas, I was writing some period(1830) stuff and publishing it to a website, belonging to Orson Scott Card, where wannabe writers attempt writing story ‘threads’ together on a bulletin board. I also wrote a particularly ‘dark’ piece about a mass murderer who was blowing up Greyhound buses that he thought would be loaded with paranoid people leaving town in order not to be in the area on the anniversary of the Trade Towers event(September 11, 2005). This story was surreptitiously to serve as a clue to my whereabouts when on the evening of September 10th, I boarded one of those buses heading back east.
The Spirit was moving me out, and I was following. While there were powerful forces already at work encouraging the move, I have never been one to run from a fight. The Spirit was indicating that the fight was already over(at least my role in it). I could see it clearly manifesting itself in my writing. I simply left, with an eye to stopping along the way, in Shawnee, OK, as one of the characters in my ‘dark piece’ was a Shawnee and I thought I could get some help from the tribe there on making him more authentic and removing any offensive ‘white-eyes’ prejudices.
I’d been told, when I purchased my ticket, that Greyhound offered no service in Shawnee. No matter; I’d consider what must be done once I arrived in Oklahoma City. As we crossed the prairie, approaching OK City and running just ahead of a following storm, huge lightning fingers appeared lobe grabbing at our busload of people, as if to forestall our progress. When I arrived at the terminal there, I had in mind interrupting my trip at that point, and seeking other transportation on to Shawnee the next day. When trying to collect my bags I encountered the most uncharacteristic and completely undeserved hostility from everyone there that I was obliged to interact with. I determined that OK City was the last place on earth I wanted to spend any more time in, and pretty much gave up on the idea of stopping in Shawnee.
When the bus on which we would continue our journey finally arrived, it belonged to Jefferson, a small operator that routinely carried all Greyhound’s passengers on the leg that stretched all the way to Memphis. When that bus got to Shawnee, it pulled down off the freeway and proceeded to a small laundromat where passengers were sometimes waiting to board the eastbound bus. I happily informed the driver that this was exactly where I wanted to get off, and he cheerfully helped me unload all my luggage. The Spirit had all these details already worked out; had given me the notion of stopping at such an unlikely destination in the first place.
While I found the Elders I met with at the AST(Absentee Shawnee Tribe) generally unwilling to cooperate(not surprising given my previous experiences with Native Americans), my stay in Shawnee was productive, and provided the restful break in my long trip that I had desired. I got a chance while there to check out the differences in the slot machine games at the Fire Lake Casino, operated there by the Pottawattamie on land adjacent to the AST. Two nights later, I was again travelling eastbound along the same route my three main characters would have taken on their flight from Las Vegas(taking research notes all the while).
Once in Atlanta, as I have already indicated, things grew difficult and I began to quickly run out of money. I ended up sharing a motel room with a friend of mine, who had gotten some financial aid from the Salvation Army that provided us with that room. My friend introduced me to the man who had helped him out; a Sergeant who was East Indian and pastor to a small East Indian congregation that had only recently been reclassified as an International Ministry(probably a wise move as Doraville, GA is very much an international community). Perhaps these were the Indians I should have been seeking.
When Pradeep had a chance to sit down and speak with me about my difficulties, I boldly represented myself to him as a writer. He looked deeply into my eyes upon learning this, as if I had awakened in him some intense curiosity. What he said was that he had prayed to God to send him a writer, as he was in need of one since he was now facing a widening in the scope of his ministry there that was taxing his abilities. I boldly told him that that writer had now arrived, and a beautiful friendship began.
I became the pastor’s unofficial correspondence secretary, writing from a simple outline, all the correspondence he needed for the job he’d been given. I often told him that I was his ghost writer. He objected to the term rather strongly; objections that grew out of his negative experiences with superstition(and with superstitious people) after his conversion, and before leaving India to come to the US. I also became a member of his congregation, and sometimes led the singing at the 1:00 PM meetings on Sundays.
When my stay at the motel ended, I spent all my time at the church, and whenever it was closed I was either on the MARTA train or at the Waffle House down the hill. It was during some of the long nights that I spent ‘in the house,’ drinking coffee (until I could no longer afford to pay for it), that I mostly pursued my writing. Sometimes getting paper to write on was a problem; other times I needed a pen or a pencil.
Pradeep has a website(ourbread.org), and expressed some concern that if it were expanded to include some of my stuff, he might not be able to continue to publish fresh content regularly enough. I thumbed open the Bible one afternoon and wrote a ‘modern’ story inspired directly by what I had found on the page it fell open to. I showed the story to him, and then, only a day later, showed him yet another one produced in the same way. While he was encouraged by this, he has yet to publish any of it; perhaps there were appropriateness issues that I remained unaware of.
There was a fateful(a perfect example of inappropriateness that easily escapes our attention:one led by the Lord need never make referrenee to Fate) night that fell amidst these activities at some point; a night when I became completely exhausted, trooping all my earthly belongings along with me everywhere I went. I had nowhere to go, and even spent several hours sleeping on a golf course; I’d slid as near to under a bush as I could comfortably get and snoozed there while a light rain fell. I’d been walking all over the neighborhood that I grew up in, looking for someone that knew me to impose upon. Finally I gave up and caught the last train back to Doraville. There was no money in my pocket for the Waffle House, so I was headed for the wooded lot next door to the church. Just as I came by the front of the church, I saw the bus.
There was a derelict bus with Salvation Army markings parked alongside the building; its door stood open and its interior was dark; too dark to see if anyone was inside. I stood stock still before the open door, listening intently and wondering if anyone was inside. Then came a voice telling me to jump aboard before I gave them away. I climbed aboard and made myself acceptably comfortable using my bags as cushions. There were a number of homeless men sleeping(or trying to) in the back; I’d taken one of the seats in the front and tried to count how many there were by the things the voices from the rear said in response to my greetings. I was not afraid of them, and soon got some fitful, but badly needed sleep. Most of the men got off the bus around 5:00 AM, as they were seeking work at the day-labor place(just down the hill, back towards the train station).
I experienced an epiphany(not the first one I’d had in the last few weeks) immediately upon being welcomed and accepted aboard that old bus:I was a homeless man. It is hard to express adequately the instant relief from an oppressive burden I experienced when I really realized my homeless condition, and accepted it. I’d spent weeks worrying about where I was going to stay; how I’d get money for food and other necessities. These relentless concerns had their effect and took their toll. Suddenly I was beyond all that; I could really let go and let God.
One night, Pradeep took me over to meet an Indian friend of his in an effort to get me indoors. His friend managed several restaurant kitchens in the area where Indian cuisine was prepared for the customers; this friend had graciously offered to take me into his home and offered the possibility of some employment in those kitchens. We sat on the floor in the unfurnished dining room of his condo, discussing my prospects; it became apparent that the bedrooms were also completely unfurnished and that sleeping arrangements involved makeshift pallets on the carpeted floor. I freaked, but tried to politely express my discontent with this unacceptable solution to my problem. When I realized how completely I had violated some cultural norms specific to these Indians but undecipherable by this simple Georgia boy, I got up and left the building. I waited patiently nearby Pradeep’s car and smoked a half pack of cigarettes; he never came out. I’m not sure if the situation I’d unwittingly created for Pradeep required a very time- consuming social patch, or if there was a ‘Mexican stand-off in progress while they waited for me to come to my senses. At any rate, I finally left there and walked to a nearby Waffle House, as the Gwinnett buses had already quit running for the night.
I settled in at ‘the house’ and commenced to write. The second Bible-inspired story I have already mentioned came from the story of Absalom’s death and I had written it as a Civil War story(from the point of view of the grieving father). I began, on that night, to re-write the selfsame story from the point of view of the youthful soldier who lost his life. There was a gregarious woman ‘manning’ the grill that night, and for most of the time, that passed until the buses were once again running, we were quite alone and the quiet was indeed conducive to my labors. I involved her in the writing process and she would read each bit as it was finished. We would discuss the characters(how she felt about them) and sometimes that would lead to one of us telling some unrelated tale, entertaining or distracting one another. The night(her shift) passed quickly and effortlessly. Whenever she went out to enjoy a smoke, I’d lay down my pen and join her outside; the weather was mild and we enjoyed one another greatly.
All this is leading up to the incredible writer’s experience I encountered on that night:the words I was noting down on my paper were flowing; filling page after page as if arriving from someplace outside myself. I have, from my earliest years of handwriting, always held my pencil(or pen) incorrectly; this thoroughly unbreakable bad habit leads to cramping in my right hand, and on this night was a serious impediment while I was furiously putting down word after poignant word. I even wrote a completely unexpected surprise ending while I sat on that counter stool in the bright beam of inspiration. It was invigorating, and the effects wore off only slowly throughout the following day.
The Spirit was on us both that night, and continued with me as I performed my ghost writing. Pradeep shoved a copy of The War Cry in front of me; he said it would give me a better idea of the style of writing I should be doing. I found the current copy on their literature rack located in the lobby by the receptionist’s window, and was inspired to write a criticism of an article found in it.Some information on Angels turned up in the library across the street, and this inspired a full length article, also intended for The War Cry. I told Pradeep that he should be the one to submit these materials; he did not.
The weekend just prior to Thanksgiving Day, the Red Kettle program commenced, and I became a highly paid ‘bell- ringer.’ I was doing about $300 a day in front of a Kroger in Roswell, but stuck around the offices on the days when there were enough men to cover all their locations without me going out. I wrote some stuff about my experiences, while living on pecans that were dropping from the trees surrounding the church. When the bell-ringers came in, in the evening, we all had Korean food prepared by the ladies in the kitchen there. Their menfolk would be busy accounting for the day’s take. Many times the old men would gather round to watch me eat; urging me to eat more as they had asked me to play Santa Clause to their kids that year, saying, “Korean Santa Clause much fatter than you!”
One day, when I thought the pecans were just about used up, I was impressed to go outside in a driving rain. I was improperly dressed for the weather, but stood out in that storm on the top of that hill and picked up over 50 pecans that had been driven to the ground by ‘Nature’s fury.’ I hardly got wet at all, and the strangeness of the whole experience led to a meditation:How the destruction of ‘The Storm’ might also be creative at the same time; those walking ‘In The Light’ needn’t fear the coming storm, but should embrace the change left by its passing as a new opportunity that wasn’t there before.
At some point during all this frenetic activity, the powers that be made a determination, and the derelict bus suddenly disappeared. Some of the men using it had lost some clothes and other belongings they had stored there. Several days prior, however, I had been impressed to assemble, from some discarded pallets that I insulated with cardboard egg separators from the dumpster at Waffle House, a cozy little shack. In no time there were two more alongside, and I dubbed the growing ‘city’ Hooverville.
The Captain took a group of us to lunch one day, at a Pho restaurant he liked; over the spicy noodles I suggested that the vacant property should be developed into a coin-operated locker facility, so that the many homeless that frequented the area could put down their burdens and better go about the business of finding work and looking after their personal hygene needs. It was here that I learned that there is no word for ‘homeless’ in Korean. Captain Choi seemed to like the idea; said he would pray about it.
Nothing much happened regarding the development of this property, so I joined a Yahoo Group which was the local neighborhood association; that Group soon learned of the ‘plans’ the Salvation Army had for developing the site into a refuge for the homeless. One of that group’s prominent members: he was the Captain on the City Police force, paid the pastors a visit in order to determine what was what. Creative(and inspired) writing had suddenly turned up the heat!
Now when you turn up the heat, to use a cooking metaphor, you should increase it slowly, make sure the ‘food’ is heating evenly and keep your eye on things just in case the heat should be turned back down. None of this was possible in the scheme I had invented, and very soon the heat was causing a ‘boilover.’ City police on patrol at night began spotlighting Hooverville trying to catch someone trespassing. I escaped by the skin on my teeth one night and spent that night with friends far away from Doraville and their police. I was not privy to anything the pastors said to the Captain; nor was I told about any discussions they must have been having amongst themselves.
It was then that my friend(the one who had introduced me to Pradeep) suggested that we might spend the holidays with his folks in Bassett(VA), and even snag a few work calls at Roanoke(also VA) Civic Center. I took a chance that this plan might work Out for the best, and he and I were out of there on the evening of December ninth.
Now, prior to leaving Doraville, I had been writing a serial(posting bits at a time on the internet) set in that location which was based on Revelation Chapter Twelve. The child would be born to one of the ladies cooking at the Waffle House(Mietje, a Belgian girl who was actually pregnant), accompanied by signs in the heavens that astounded my three pastors, and the thousands of faithful who quickly took up residence in the neighborhood’s parks transformed our Police Captain(and the entire city’s force as well) into an indispensable part of the relief efforts being arranged for all the new ‘refugees.’ I had even been impressed to build a chapel on the spot where the baby would be born the following April, and began calling six disciples to help me with the logistics of such a plan.
The two of us arrived in Greensboro(NC) early on the tenth, spent that night in the brother’s apartment in Collinsville(VA) that he had turned into a shrine for Rusty Wallace(NASCAR #2) and showed up at the Civic Center(Roanoke, VA) early on the eleventh, both ready and willing to work as stagehands for setting up the Brad Paisley concert. It was Sunday, and since I would be needed only for the tear-out that night, I walked over to Saint Andrew’s(the very prominent Roman Catholic Church dominating the skyline looking west from the loading dock) and attended Mass there. Adjacent was the old boy’s orphanage where my maternal grandfather had grown up(they are still unwilling to release any records they may have regarding his ancestors).
There was blowing snow off and on throughout that day, and during the load-out later on; nothing sticking anywhere and nobody much noticing(if they were properly dressed). I found my way to the Rescue Mission where I had supper, and told them my friend and I would be returning very late as we had work at the Civic Center. After we got off around three AM, Stone said he was going to drive back over to Martinsville and left me off at the mission with the change of clothes I had brought along. That was the last time I’d be seeing him for a long while!
The Rescue Mission in Roanoke is a privately funded monster that makes the 20,000 regular contributors, who endow its daily operations to the tune of $15.00 per month(do the math), very proud of their accomplishments on behalf of southwest Virginia’s homeless. Staff members there, and the fellows in the residential recovery program as well, fondly announce to those entering the men’s shelter that it is the House of the Lord. However, when I entered that place at nearly four AM(the first time I’d ever been in a shelter), I was very uncomfortable with the situation. They took away all my clothes and put me in a gown. “Everyone else has to do the same thing,” I heard in a very calming and seemingly sympathetic male voice. I was asleep in a snug and clean bed in practically no time. We were aroused at five AM to ready ourselves for a nutritious breakfast. I was instructed in how the bed was to be remade with clean linens, got my clothes and things back finally and then awaited the phone call that meant breakfast would now be served in a ‘day room,’ which resembled a classroom for approximately 70, watching Sports Center on ESPN in a roomful of mostly grateful men I had not yet become acquainted with. Just after breakfast, the lot of us were unceremoniously shuffled back onto the streets at seven AM; the shelter is closed for a proper cleaning until about 4:30 PM.
I found Elmwood Park, and later the Library(Roanoke’s Main Branch). I was in the company of Clarence Stovall, a Virginia man who was new to the shelter, and also unfamiliar with Roanoke as I was. We became good friends; began trying to figure things out together. It was nice to have someone to swap complaints with; starting with complaint #1 :“Where’s the bathroom?”
I began writing a new serial set in Roanoke, with a homeless guy featured in it(just like the Doraville stuff I’d written also had its homeless hero). At first I was able to post that stuff using public computers at the library, but the privilege was temporary, and expired all too quickly. I continued to write stuff about homelessness, but soon pretty much quit writing, as it had failed to impress most of my new compadres.
With colder weather, that public library figured prominently in many of our lives as the most agreeable shelter available to us during the day. I spent from 5 to 7 hours each day that the place was open reading new fiction; that rate computes to just about 100 books per year and for the next two years I could easily be located at ‘my office’ working away at exhausting the city’s supply of popular new books. This was great research for later attempts at writing, and the Appalachian’s unique take on religion seems to have spilled liberally onto whoever was buying all these new titles. There was an uncommon richness to the availability of inspirational stuff at my new day shelter; I became a fixture there and was even featured a little too prominently when a local TV station taped a story on the old things at that branch that should be replaced.
Roanoke is not only unique in the ‘Bible Belt’ aspects of its local culture, but boasts also some 6600 millionaires in residence(an astounding statistic for such a small railroad town). This one thing seemed to be making it difficult to find a church willing to embrace a homeless man. I kept looking about for something that felt comfortable, and on New Year’s Day, very much being led by the Spirit, Clarence and I were fortunate enough to seek refuge at the South Roanoke United Methodist Church. We were not only welcomed there, but expected shortly to become full members participating in the Body of Christ as new and necessary organs thereof! Eureka!
Living at the Rescue Mission entailed daily attendance at evening worship in their accommodating chapel: over 90 local churches await their turns to minister to the homeless men living in the shelter, which works out to about 6 times a year on their appointed nights. There were many fine musical programs, and every brand of preacher with enough confidence to step into a pulpit. Also there were noontime prayers just prior to being served their hospitality lunch(Mon-Fri), and for me at least, there were four bible study hours a week just before supper(on Sun, Mon, Tue & Thur). At SRUMC there was a contemporary service on Sunday mornings prior to Sunday School, or the more traditional service getting out around noon: Clarence and I availed ourselves of all three of these opportunities as well. Between the well-endowed Public Library, the earnest efforts by so many at the Rescue Mission and my new Church Family, I could not have received any more intense training at an accredited seminary in the two years between my arrival in Roanoke and my beginning to write My Lord Jesus Christ.
I, at first, tried to pigeonhole each guy that was regular in the shelter, just as others did; we all were looking forward to the day we would no longer be dependent on the services provided there. Statistics that became apparent during a week-long survey made of all the guys in there, indicated that a fat 50% of them(us) were diagnosed-with varieties of mental illness: another 50%, with significant overlap between these two fat classes, were freely admitting to substance abuse problems(some life threatening). That last group did not include the large group of men who lived upstairs, and were working their way through the residential recovery program which lasts at least 1 year, and can extend even longer in warranted circumstances. I could easily put most of the guys there comfortably into one of these pigeonholes(Drunks/Crack-Heads or Nut Cases),but did not honestly feel that I fit into either category. But we were constantly reminded by caring staff members(usually just after some violent confrontation was broken up) that everyone who, for whatever reason, must depend on the services provided by the Rescue Mission indeed has some kind of problem that is messing up their lives; reminded that we needed to admit to our own shortcomings, avail ourselves of the spiritual counseling surrounding us and most of all, give the other fellow a break as he deals with his problems.
Well, I certainly saw the wisdom in participating earnestly in all the programs that were available to me; probably would have been a regular participant anyway out of sheer boredom(as many of the others appeared sometimes to be). But I was never persuaded to believe that I could somehow be pigeonholed with any of the other ‘residents,’ and therefore continued to ponder(and pray about) my own situation/problem. One of the attitudes I found to be somewhat debilitating in one’s efforts to move on and leave the Rescue Mission for good, is thinking that finding gainful employment(once again in only a few cases) will solve the current problem. For one thing, there is no such animal available to most of them(us), and another aspect is that of them being then pitted in a fierce competition with one another.
I began to see more hope, at least for myself, in devising plans that would get us out of there together; or looking at ways to help someone else achieve his goal in getting along, as valuable and more applicable instruction in solving your own personal problem. I tried to get one of the more artistic residents I was acquainted with to make a drawing that illustrated this sort of strategy; drawing a large circle of homeless men joining hands, and rising(floating) up out of a roofless rescue mission on the ‘wings’ of their prayers.
I developed a sense of this amazing place as my green pasture that I was ‘forced’ to lie down in, because I, like the metaphorical sheep, knew not, when left to my own devices, whereby lay my own best interest. I allowed the time for my own transformation(’waiting upon the Lord’), spent the two years that it took to build solid relationships with the many wonderful people I’d found when I located my new Church Family, and was readily able to recognize the unique opportunity to get out of that pasture when it suddenly presented itself. And now I find myself in a situation that is custom-tailored to further develop my own particular spiritual gifts, and living in the ideal environment to write something truly meaningful. Thank you Jesus!
There remains a question, when it comes to the act of praying, that I cannot find a ready answer for in scripture:Is it more important that God hear our prayer, or can it be just as important that we ourselves hear it also? Since it is techniques I have stressed here, then to utter your prayer out loud may indeed be a technique worthy of some careful examination. When we say the simple words we have chosen for our prayer, where does the sound; all those modulated vibrations we have encoded with meaning; where actually do they go? Having worked in theaters all over the United States, I can attest to the fact that you cannot sometimes force the full range of those sounds produced to travel to all the locations about the auditorium where you may have seated some of the patrons. These are generally referred to by the bona fide experts as acoustic problems. Sound engineers owe their very existence to these problems; but few understand them and even fewer of them have a statistically high rate of overcoming them either effectively or consistently. That’s why we call them ‘pukes.’
However, we have been designed in God’s very image, and should first look at the nature of the system that was ‘built in,’ before attempting to fix what is wrong or deficient in it. The human voice is one of God’s miracles, but not beyond our ability to analyze, and better utilize. Modern pukes seldom seem to have any use for an oscilloscope, but if we look at human speech using such a device, we can quickly learn something about it that may affect our thinking about praying out loud. As we watch the visual representation of the speech we are hearing, of course it is moving around and changing shape because the sound is constantly changing in pitch and volume. But a close examination of the waves being depicted for us on the scope reveals that there are two independent wave forms, both changing and moving around, and with no discernable correspondence between the two. Curious now?
We produce the sound with our vocal chords, and because we can adjust the tension on those ‘strings,’ we see the waveform moving around. The force we apply to the escaping air that vibrates the strings can also be modulated, and this also makes the waveform move around. This part basically corresponds to the speaker diaphragm and the amplifier; parts the experts actually understand. In fact, their design goes another step:you always find a cone has been attached to the diaphragm to amplify the vibrations, and to help direct them. You also see that the sound generator is then placed in a cabinet which affects, and hopefully improves the sound.
All of this technical stuff only accounts for one of those waveforms we were watching. But we saw two separate waves being displayed simultaneously. The second waveform we have observed actually corresponds to that speaker cone and the enclosing speaker cabinet, but that guy’s equipment does not produce a separate wave because it does not change shape. Our voice box is housed in a sort of conical throat, which we can modify in shape while the vibrating air is passing through. Also the mouth, corresponding roughly to the cabinet, is a shape-changing nightmare too complicated to really analyze, but the idea here is that the seperate series of shape changes in the container are producing a new signal which we are ‘listening to’ at the same time we listen to the vocalization, which is also changing while we listen. Other animals have vocalizations, but cannot produce this symphonic orchestration, nor do the have the brains to coordinate all this activity and devise the clever codes we utilize. I know; what about the mynah bird? Mynah birds merely imitate what they hear, and can correctly reproduce human speech because they have two throats and two pairs of vocal chords.
Once the speech is uttered, where then does it naturally tend to go? Students of theater history, or the history of drama, are all made aware of two very important sites that existed in ancient Greece:they are Eleusis and Epidaurus. Eleusis is the sacred place where the mystery religion was practiced; in secret of course. What is important, or elucidating, to the student about this sacred place is the idea that public theater was an innovation that grew out of the dramas seen once only by the initiated. But it is the other ancient site which will elucidate my argument here:Epidaurus was one of the earliest public theaters(actually a magnificent outdoor amphitheater), and has always been considered to be acoustically perfect.
Tourists there are treated to a demonstration of this phenomenon by their guides; they generally will stand at the topmost reach of the seating there, which was carved directly into the white marble on that mountainside in such a way that as they look out on the beautiful blue Aegean Sea, they can hear perfectly clearly the unamplified voice of their guide explaining the phenomenon in all its historical detail. He would be standing at the bottom, where the players would have performed many of the great tragedies that are still played before audiences today; but they could have addressed upwards often thousand onlookers, while modem orpheums seldom seat more than five thousand, and generally rely on electronic amplification to drive the sound throughout those much smaller theaters.
To look at the place, while contemplating the nature of sound, and more particularly the human voice, you would be seeing a smoothly conical shaping carved into the mountainside in steps that accommodated the seated throngs of people. The first important thing to realize, after having fixed the shape of this perfect cone firmly in mind, is that in ancient times(before our Savior’s birth) they were not as primitive as we remain today when it came to understanding much of nature and with special respect to the human art of communication.
Even more ancient peoples than these understood the simple logistics of these acoustical phenomena. First visualize for just one moment, the inverted cone that corresponds to the shape we have just seen carved into this Greek mountainside. Imagine the point converging on the mouths of the players. Now imagine a second cone, this time not inverted, which describes the way the sound of the several voices might naturally descend to hearers gathered around and below them at just the proper angle to hear clearly at any distance. That is a pretty good description of what the sound of our voice naturally tends to do as it travels further from the point at which we made utterance. The precise angle can be represented numerically with a five and a two(5:2); that is, for every five feet of distance, you would need two feet of elevation(in the case of Epidaurus), or downslope of two feet(Mt. Olivet?). So our voice continues to ascend into heaven, at the very same time that it tends to descend deep into the earth.
Let me quickly illustrate the ancientness of this ‘technology’ before adressing this Mount Olivet application. The Great Pyramid at Giza has forever been shrouded in mystery; who were its builders and why was it built? It is presumed to have once been covered with a fine smoothe facing of finished stone, much of which was removed and used to build beautiful edifices all over Arabia. It is also assumed that at one time there was a capstone at the apex which has been destroyed or lost. As a young man I often pondered who were the mysterious cognoscenti who had preserved this super-relic for all this time in some secret repository only some special few might enter and behold its contents(heady stufli)? I came to appreciate later on that the apex was indeed a flat platform from which ‘high’ priests might address great multitudes of people; this explains the disappearance of the capstone and answers the ‘why of its construction. Of course the many pyramids found in the new world were flat on top and stepped so that throngs of’worshippers’ might stand or sit upon its sides at the correct angle to hear clearly. The Tower of Babylon was clearly a case of this type construction too; much being made of the fact that they were all able to understand one another(an age of super- communication).
During the period when I was utilizing the Roanoke City Library each day for research, I had located a fine photograph of Epidaurus in a research volume there. Several days later, while sitting in the park and waiting for the library to open, I made a simple drawing with two fishes laid head-to-tail along one axis, and five barley loaves(small ones the same length as the fishes) making the perpendicular axis. I noticed the relationship could describe a slope. I later compared my drawing to the photo of the amphitheater; at first they did not seem to match. But when I viewed the slope in my drawing by holding the paper at an angle to my eye which corresponded to the angle at which the camera had captured certain features of the carved seating in the photo, I was indeed able to claim a very good match. Question: was the multitude then fed spiritually, when they sat all about the Master on the slope of that mountain, because they could hear his words? It certainly seems to me that the numbers two and five may be significant in more ways than one, since they could be used to describe an acoustically friendly slope.
The Master certainly understood the nature of sound in ways few do today. When the multitude gathered on the shore at Gallilee, he withdrew some distance in a small boat. This enabled them all to hear his words. He was making use of a thermocline that existed in the atmosphere over the water to reflect the sound waves that were his voice in ways they don’t usually act. Many a sound technician has suffered in reputation, when spending all afternoon fine-tuning a PA system for an outdoor concert to be held that night. When the sun goes down and the temperature drops a bit, a thermocline forms that can play havoc with the system’s sound; but it’s too late to make any adjustments during the performance. He should have prayed to his Lord Jesus Christ.
Having been given a voice, we need next to learn more efficient ways to use it to the benefit, first of ourselves[and the family we are responsible for], and then others who may hear[learn from hearing] the things that issue from our mouths in their hearing. This is the tiny rudder that can turn a mighty ship upon the water, and set up a wake that affects other nearby shipping. Each utterance is being recorded in a discrete part of the awesome brain that has facilitated this vocal miracle in the first place. This place is like a file folder into which the file[in this instance a sound file] will be put in order to facilitate future retrieval. That sound file can be associated with other related files; files like the one your brain created for remembering the correct positions, correct duration and correct ordering of the instructions that it had sent to the tongue creating the sounds recorded in that other related file. The more associated files created surrounding some event[an action taken, not a mere thought which can lie in a lonesome file somewhere until completely forgotten], the more easily it can be remembered, or perhaps repeated. The musculature directive file, the facial accompaniment file, the witness recognition file[those faces present at the time of the remembered vocalization], the physical sensation file[where the vibrations felt as the voice vibrated the bones in the head are sorted for remembering], a related semantic content file[where we have stored the meaning intended by all those $2 words we have used], another file where we have recorded carefully the emotional effects stemming from the remembered exchange of ideas along with another half-dozen files where accurate procedural routines that occur sub-consciously whenever one of these vocal miracles has been created are kept handy for comparison or re-use all become associated with the sound file our own hearing has provided.
I think that from this run through of the kinds and number of actual memories created when we have spoken aloud will serve to convince even the most skeptical that indeed there might be, not only a real personal advantage to having prayed our simple Jesus Prayer out loud, but a qualitative difference exists, as well as the more obvious quantitative one. Speaking it aloud can indeed convey through it a power that simply is not evident in a silent prayer that no-one but God can ‘hear.’
Engraving the precious name[the only name that has this power] of your Lord Jesus Christ ‘in your heart’ is what praying continually is all about. How much time do we spend out of each day, thinking about or saying out loud the names of others; others that we feel have been given some power in our lives that we fear, or resent, or simply wish was gone from our seeing and thoughts. Our insipient repetitive vocalization of these very names manifests the power[in our lives alone] that they would otherwise not command; power and authority that we could just as easily assign to the Holy One by repeating His name instead.
I think I’m losing some of my audience just about now; afraid somehow that the simplicity of such an idea may mean that you should look elsewhere for a more sophisticated explanation; one that appeals to your superior intellect. STOP RIGHT THERE! Yes, it is always the self-sufficient ones with all that expensive education that flee from any simplistic definition that may indeed be equally accessible to many who have not enjoyed the benefits that you may feel accompany the fruits of the labor that all that study has provided you. BALONEY!
Each one of us has been ‘touched’ by some simple individual[maybe a relative, a less than desirable co-worker, a neighbor who lives so close by that he/she cannot escape observation, a low-level employee at a store you frequent, a professor that seems clueless, but nevertheless much happier than the ‘serious’ prof.’s that command the respect of all their students, an acquaintance that never quite ‘fit in,’ but somehow wormed his/her way into a special friendship with you that occasionally you must defend[or deny] and last, but not least, that church member who seems less pious than the rest, but seems to speak directly to your heart when you weren’t even aware of its having cried out. Why don’t you use your superior intellect and special abilities to seriously analyze just what it is that makes this person different; unique to the point that all are able to immediately single that person out, and use him/her as the object of some ‘harmless’ ridicule in their casual conversations with others[if you honestly cannot identify with the situations I have described for you here, YOU MAY LEAVE NOW].
The rest of you may benefit from some serious self-examination as regards your attitude in the past towards these others found in your world, who may not be of your world. It can be said that many times, the behavioral traits we find in others that we are particularly annoyed by, are commonly traits we find in our own behavior that perhaps have brought persecution upon us, and that we intensely dislike in ourselves, and that we consciously wish we could change or eliminate altogether. And, these very traits may in fact be the only really good elements in our personalities, and therefore should be nurtured, not discouraged.
Continual prayer, or its approximation at whatever level you may be able to develop[these things take time to affect, and to take effect], will at least take away from the time spent ridiculing others for their ‘shortcomings,’ and more importantly, will take away some of the time you now spend criticizing your own undesirable[by the world] foibles. Under the reduced stress that the preoccupation with your prayers may afford them, those little foibles may indeed blossom into full-fledged attributes that can be appreciated much more as your attitudes and pre-conceptions begin to change or weaken.
If you have been convinced by my arguments in chapter three, that praying out loud might improve the power of your little prayer, you may find yourself lingering where there is peacefulness and solitude, withdrawing from situations where the arguing seems pointless and destructive a lot quicker than has been your custom in the past, and/or setting aside specific times during your daily routine when you feel most comfortable practicing your prayer. As the changes I have promised you begin to manifest themselves more prominently in your ‘new life,’ you will begin to make even more drastic, and previously inconceivable changes to your routines and in your behavior. More beneficial change will begin to manifest ever faster, and with less effort as you progress with the efficient and dutiful application of this one powerful, yet simple technique.
When others, of long acquaintance, begin to notice and comment on the changes they are seeing in you, you will be even more sure that it is the continuous repetition of the name with all power that has effected these dramatic changes in your life, your behavior and your personality. You may even want to share with these others, who are seeing the difference it is making in you, the secret of your success[or would that be carrying things a bit too far?].
Perhaps I should not make any assumptions about my readers being seekers who have not obtained the Great Prize; but, dear reader, you would be correct in assuming that I have yet to obtain any such search-ending prize for myself. Then you may say, “Why should I rely on anything written here; written by one who may never get any closer to ‘seeing’ than I already am without the dubious assistance?” It may prove that the search is what results in a new way of seeing, or you may be able to realize better results than I when you consult some(or all) of the sources I have carefully referrenced. Gurdjieff tells a story of a magus who spent a lifetime looking for an incantation or a formula whereby he could acheive flight. Growing old, he began to set down all the many things he had unearthed in his life-long quest. The book he produced was picked up by a young adept, and in no time at all he was flying about the city like he’d been born doing it. Your results depend in large part on finding techniques that work for you, and enduring in your practice until subtle changes begin to have their effect.
It is probably the process you will perfect; each result effects a change in you, so that the same process then acheives a different result, and so on ad infinitum. In the next chapter I’ll discuss how sharing the results you are getting(or sharing this book, or other writings you have found helpful) is, in itself, but one more technique you may use in your quest. This chapter however, should rightfully be reserved to a rambling discussion on assurances, and on attitudes towards our own status as goal-seeker viz a viz the attitudes of those around us who are so smugly sure that they indeed have already ‘gotten it.’ Jesus is seeking the lost; has absolutely nothing for those whose righteousness has already been perfected.
In my Sunday School class, we are using some materials designed to help those who find it difficult to share the Gospel with others. One of the ladies present remarked that she just has no day-to-day associations with any ‘lost’ people like that; concluding that it just goes to show what a sheltered environment we(Church people) live in. I’m not sure the shock I received upon hearing this has worn off yet.
A man who is very famous in Southwest Virginia, and who in his ministry became intimately involved with ‘sinners,’ literally had to move mountains to effect changes in his parishioners that the Lord sent him to accomplish. He was Bob Childress, and tourists driving the Blue Ridge Parkway can view some of his enduring work from that roadway.
A semi-retired neurologist, named Dr. Don Nolan, who is in my Wesley Class during Sunday School had given me a book about something important that had taken place back where he grew up. If you are wondering just what it is that a neurologist does, might I suggest you read Echo Makers; this book was written by Richard Powers, and his other titles are worth reading as well. The book I received from the Nolan’s that Christmas is a must read:The Man Who Moved a Mountain by Richard C. Davids; Davids spent many days among the Moles, Harrises, Weddles, Kemps, Sutphins and Goads that still live in the hills lying astraddle the Floyd and Carroll County lines where the Parkway now passes through. In researching the life and times of this mountain legend that was Bob Childress, Davids met only friends, for Bob befriended every soul in his parish atop the Buffalo. From other vantage points about the area, Buffalo Mountain looks much like a gigantic humping buffalo’s back[hence its descriptive name].
Bob Childress brought his family to the Buffalo just prior to the onset of the Great Depression; what he found there, in the heart of Appalachia, was an economy that was already severely depressed. There were two main ways to make a little money back then:distill whiskey from the grains they grew there, or sell some of the chestnuts that fell there in abundance each fall [hence its descriptive name]. A blight that eradicated the chestnut trees on those rugged mountains, soon pushed the rest of the inhabitants into the ‘spirits’ commodity market. Even those who refused to participate in its manufacture and distribution had family members who did.
Another facet of the illegal local economy, that Bob Childress was forced to meet head-on, was the gun-totin’ that enforced whatever ‘law’ there was to be found in the place; sherriffs and deputies mostly left the hill folk to look after their own affairs[a very prudent course of inaction]. A good deal of the product was of course being imbibed during its production. Impaired by the consumption of the alcoholic beverage, and armed with the always handy sidearms[rifles & shotguns were also popular, but not as easily carried into a church service], the menfolk loved music and good preaching. Good meant that the words came from the spirit, and an educated preacher was generally distrusted in this regard; many arguments on the subject of good preachin’ were settled by gunplay within sight of the pulpit.
It became Bob’s job, as the local representative of the presbyt, to convince the locals that the Primitive Baptist churches, which dominated up in the hills, lacked something that one of his Bible Schools could provide them with. Thank the Lord Jesus that Bob had a car. It was for this reason that he was tolerated, and occasionally even sought out. His car, and his unceasing care for all the people up on the Buffalo, filled the little Presbyterian churches, built during the period and clad with the natural rock that abounded in the area.
I’ll leave you to discover for yourselves what sorts of involvement Bob Childress was obliged to have with the sin, that was overwhelming the poverty stricken women and children that found an escape due to his lifelong effort to free them; Davids' stories, collected from those who had known Bob Childress, are engaging, and speak volumes that I could never write fast enough to see in print. But, come with me to the stone church he dedicated on the Buffalo in 1929.
I had no clear idea where these stone churches lay; only a general idea that Carroll County was maybe west of Roanoke [west is south if you use 1-81, which I did]. I’d gone to the library, where there was to be some grub offered at a ‘reception’ for a group of artists. While waiting for the food line to dissipate[it was a long one because the hors d'oeuvres were from lsaac’s]. I did a quick bit of research to see what they had on Bob in the Virginia Room. When Laura Wickstead there learned of my plans to visit Buffalo Mountain, she asked if I wanted a map. I declined her offer because I was sure that having one would take all the fun out of it[I prefer talking to real people about things like the legendary Bob Childress and the whereabouts of all those stone churches]. About 7:30 PM, after some dreamy samosa, I went to Sheetz and added $20 worth of mid-grade[they were out of the 87 octane] to what was already less than one fourth of a tankfull. Then out Melrose to Dow Hollow to see if I could find Hillsville[famous for a bloody shoot-out on the Street in front of the courthouse back in the day].
Harry Connick, Jr. was crooning loudly on my stereo[I’d borrowed 7 CD’s from the library before leaving], and after a short delay at K-mart[in Salem; needed some carpet shampoo for my machine], I was zooming down the freeway while admiring the beauty of the fact that 2500 rpm’s was just right to stay at 65 mph in my sixth gear. The mellow sound almost carried me to the rest stop at Radford; instead, I arrived at my short layover[to dig out another pack of cigarettes] with Willie Nelson accompanying an old friend of his named Jackie King. Later, when track seven kicked in, I couldn’t help but smile when Willie sang a simple, but poignant jazz song:”I’m never frownin’, ...or down-in-the-mouth; ...My window faces SOUTH!”
Just past Pulaski, I turned south on Route 100, following signs to Hillsville. I probably passed right by one of those stone churches[I found out later] in the dark. After turning right for Hillsville, I searched for a place to stop for coffee; not wanting to do that at Mickey D’s, I kept going west until I found Shoney’s at the junction of U.S. 58 & 221 with 1-77. It was five minutes to ten, and I had coffee while discussing with the people there, who were cleaning up and closing down the place, my quest for an old stone church. They successfully turned me back east, with a number of ideas about where to look. One older waitress in the place, who at least had the look that inspired confidence in her vague recollections, insisted that the Buffalo Mountain church was ‘over in Floyd.’ My assurances that it was indeed in Carroll County made no impression on her, and when I left Shoney’s, I was following signs for the township of Floyd.
I must have missed an important turn someplace, and by the time I realized there were no more signs for Floyd, I’d travelled some 99 miles and was very nearly out of fuel. I pulled over @Gladesboro Road[a well-lighted market was there] to consult a totally inadequate map of Carroll County I’d copied from the referrence book at the library where I had found photos of several of the old churches; this map seemed to be saying[where are the real people when you need them?] I’d come well east on 58, or Danville Pike; also seemed to be saying that those old churches were probably some distance north of me now; and seemed also to be saying [these are definitely the smallest 3-digit numbers that it is possible to print] that the only road connecting north was two ‘marked’ roads ahead[looks a little like 638; damn, I need new glasses]. At 101 miles from home, I turned left onto Dugspur Road; the intersection is Laurel Fork where there is a Mercantile Company and an old Bank with that name.
Five point eight miles north of Laurel Fork, I came across a sign reading Buffalo Road; low on gas, I turned right onto 628. I started climbing, and watching my tachometer to conserve fuel. Miss Jane Monheit was singing Over The Rainbow; this CD is worth the purchase price just to see the pictures of her!
At midnight, I had punched through to 656[Pineview Road], where another left turn seemed most auspicious. Two point three miles from the point where I had turned onto Buffalo Road, and where the sign posted there tells you that you are leaving Carroll Co. and entering Floyd, there is a road going left named Childress Road. I stopped!
I’d been warned, by the icon for a fuel pump that was lighting up on my instrument cluster, that I should be seeking an outlet that purveyed gasoline soon. No matter; I’d brought along everything that I’d need to stay for church on Sunday. It was Thursday night; I’d even emptied my refrigerator[and freezer] of all the things that would be useful in feeding myself[and perhaps others as well]. I was just curious where I might be when I would be forced to stop.
I quickly executed the left turn, as continuing on in the direction I was going would take me out of Carroll County. I pulled into the lower corner of a large parking area there, where the lighting was adequate to examine my sorry old map while spreading it on the hood of the Jeep. When I turned to open the door. I was confronted by the magnificent edifice of one of Bob’s incredible rock churches. Eureka!
When I bailed out of the vehicle, instead of approaching the church to verify where I was, I looked about to better take in what-all lay about here at the intersection. Across the road that I had been travelling, there was a ‘crowded’ cemetery enclosed in a natural stone wall that matched the work done on the church. I went straight away over to the gate in the rock wall.
The light from the parking lot, which did such a good job of lighting up the wall which enclosed the cemetery, cast deep shadow over most of the headstones that faced the entrance to the cemetery. Just over to the left of the gate[which was padlocked], a
prominent marker stood just tall enough to have the surname carved onto it lit up:CHILDRESS! I returned to the Jeep to dig out a
jacket and my watch cap; now properly dressed, I returned to the wall with a flashlight and with pen and paper.
It was then that I recorded the following three inscriptions from that stone, which stood just over the Floyd County Line [the cemetery splits the line precisely]:
Robert W. Childress Lelia M. Childress Hattie E.Childress
Born January 19, 1890 Born September 24, 1895 Born March 28,1926
Died January 16, 1956 Died July 9, 1983 Died Januaiy 2l, 1950
I then went about inspecting the church building itself; walking all around it to see if there was any angle at which I could capture a picture of it for this book. The lighting was poor, and my flash could not have lit enough of the huge structure to do it any justice. On either side of the main entrance to the narthex, large oval white quartz stones had been placed about ear-high; these were worn smoothe by the gentle caress of those who had entered here many times since the 1929 dedication of this building.
My quest had been gloriously fulfilled; I’d been drawn to this church like a penny to the palm of a Jew. No! I take that back. I was drawn to the resting place of Bob Childress and his family! I wondered what lay down Childress Road, but instead was impressed to continue along 628 into Floyd County[back toward Roanoke]. Just one mile past the cemetery, the road connects with Buffalo Mountain Road. Here I took a right turn[being led by the Holy Spirit, much as I had been the entire night], after noting that at the Floyd County intersection, 628 is called Rock Church Road.
After executing this right turn, my headlights illuminated a field[or meadow], off to my right, where three does paused from their peaceful grazing to note the passing of a ‘spirit man.’ This was the first time during the entire trip that I had seen any wildlife I suddenly realized. I kept count as I proceeded to drive the Jeep until it ran out of fuel; along the road that descended from the back of the Buffalo, and along the Parkway, driving ‘north’ now, back towards Roanoke, I observed 23 does, 4 skunks, 4 opossums, 3 raccoons and 2 cottontails. It was Bob Childress, of course, showing me the incredible natural beauty of the mighty Blue Ridge that he and his family loved so much!
Here, I shall attempt to write in reverse order, the directions to Bob’s home church, if you are coming south along the Blue Ridge Parkway[instead of seeking the ‘back door,’ by the use of the spirit for direction as I had just done]; some minor discrepancies in the mileage numbers I give here may become evident, but the descriptions I include should prevent your getting lost.
Take U.S. Route 221 from Roanoke[not sure at the time of this writing whether the markings will indicate you are driving south or west[sometimes, in the mountains, it makes little difference, as the roadways are confined to the valleys and lay along the streams. because they are walled in on both sides by impenetrable mountain rock]. This is particularly scenic travel[even in the dark of night, as the lighted towns viewed from on high are spectacular], and you will be climbing the whole way[probably behind some annoying truck traffic, depending upon the time of day/day of the week you have chosen for your excursion].
It was down this hill that I returned all the way to Roanoke, on Friday morning when the breath of my Savior blew me into an Exxon station, where I pumped 18.039 gallons of gasoline into the 18-gallon tank that Jeep Wrangler comes equipped with! I recommend returning along this route as a natural means of conserving precious fossil fuels[the 1-81 route going to the Buffalo may also be recommended for that same purpose, but you should find a closer exit than the Hillsvifle one that I chose on Thursday night, unless you would care to seek out the Dinwiddie Presbyterian Church which lays somewhere there along Route 100]. All the way down the switchbacks that are the scenic route back to Roanoke, I was listening to Yo-Yo-Ma’s strings sing about an Appalachian Journey.
Eighteen miles from Roanoke, you can get onto the Parkway, where you proceed ‘south’ to get to the Buffalo. I wish I had before me, a map of the Parkway, but I am relying here solely on the sparse notes taken as I continued north on the parkway that night, wondering just where I would become stranded; OUT OF GAS! “Ye of little faith!”
Thirty-three miles from the entrance to the Blue Ridge Parkway @Route 221, there is a turnout[on your left; it had been on my right] where you can read on a U.S. Forest Service placard[lighted at night] about the Rock Castle Gorge which is 1800 feet below you at that location.
When you proceed 5.4 miles further ‘south’ on the Parkway, take a right turn[exiting the Parkway] onto Shelor Road. Watch out for the Buffalo Mountain Country Store[sorry that I do not have the correct mileage recorded in my notes here; it’s less than 1.7 miles, where I found and recorded the real estate broker’s sign where Lambert Realty is offering some of the Buffalo for sale], where 758 turns right. One point eight miles past the aforementioned realty sign. you will pass Moles Road on your right. Another 1.8 miles past Moles Road, on your left is a road going over to Long Mountain. At this intersection, you will observe a white wooden sign; on the far side is information regarding a website[www.littlefamilyfarm.com] where you can obtain more information regarding rural properties for sale up there by the owners of that property who will finance the interested buyers.
Only eight tenths of a mile from the sign @Long Mountain Road, you will find the Harris Cemetery, and you may be able to buy some hand-crafted art from the owner of a farmhouse while there. You are now only 1.3 miles from the left turn onto Rock Church Road, and one mile further on is the Carroll County Line, and the Buffalo Mountain Presbyterian Church where Bob Childress and his family are buried. I hope you enjoy your trip; have enjoyed taking this trip with me! By my calculations, when standing at this old rock church, you are only 65 miles from Roanoke, via the Parkway/Route 221 access just described.
All along the route that I drove that night, I used my simple prayer many, many times. Other prayers, praises and questions were uttered out loud when I was impressed to do so, but receiving answers and other blessings that were being poured out abundantly depended also on many preparations I had made, and just as well, depended upon many preparations I had purposely neglected to make, as the outcome of my journey ultimately lay with another, higher power. Hence, having everything that I might possibly need in order to stay there in those mountains was key, when running out of fuel might have prompted me otherwise to just pull over and wait for one of the few stores that I found to open up for business.
And it was the journey you see, that informed me; moreso than finding that thing that I had set out to find. And setting out, even though unsure of the direction that thing lay in, was the action that allowed the tecniques illustrated here to come into play. Reading about the techniques our Lord taught to His disciples is an action to be sure, and a necessary first step. But at some point, one has absorbed more than enough instruction to leave off with the reading, and get on with the doing[”Be ye doers of the word!”].
Three of Bob Childress’s four sons followed him into the ministry, and I’m sure that this must have made him very, very proud. A partial quotation of Bob’s remarks on the subject would indicate that all those years toiling away on the Buffalo had allowed the Buffalo to leave its mark on him as well:”...and[Bob] hoped that seminary wouldn’t wring out their spontaneity.”
Techniques can be many and varied; most have worked well, at least for some. Reading about them does not make them work. But reading can be a powerful technique, and writers can especially benefit, assuming they are reading what powerful writers have written. What you read makes all the difference[writer or not], just as what you
say makes such a great difference[”lt is what proceedeth out of the mouth that defileth.”]. Here, in chapter 6, we want to examine this ‘sharing the Gospel’ activity, as if it were any other technique we might use in our own self-improvement; careful NOT to place the utmost importance on the doing of it as somehow necessary to our
salvation, as many, in this area at least, believe.
Sharing the Gospel, first and foremost, does not involve reading from the Bible to another, or giving that person some printed material that they should read for themselves; at least it was not when the Savior was training-up his twelve. For one thing, the New Testament was not yet written. For another, I don’t believe that there
was a time when Jesus advised any of these men to write it. It is however, more than possible that these men wrote the sayings of My Lord Jesus, not just once, but over and over again, as a technique found useful by them to memorize, in order to correctly repeat to others exactly what he had once said to them. Think about this.
Just as the many associated files I described earlier, when I was advising my readers to pray the Jesus prayer aloud, reinforce its power, so too does copying and recopying the words onto a piece of paper. So, you see, those piles of decaying manuscripts found in the caves of Qumran, were probably just the trash that was carried out frequently; probably stored for use as fuel during particularly harsh winters. The point being, and I emphasize, they were NOT intended to convey first century ideas to the people living in the twentieth century! They[and we as well] have better ways of communicating than these scraps of parchment.
Each of you probably has enough experience already to know the incredible power that writing something down on a piece of paper can have. Yes you do! Listen. I make lists; a good nickname for me would be List-Maker. I write them. I read them. I highlight the things I have been able to cross off them. I save them. I reread them. I make
new lists from the items not crossed off the older lists. Because of all this list-making activity, I am a very organized person, and I am a very productive person. But how does it work; really?
Perhaps you will recall some day when you had a number of important items you needed to pick up at the store; perhaps you’d been put in charge of refreshments for a party, or some such project that inspired you to make a nice neat list for later on. Inevitably, when you arrive at said store, you have forgotten to bring the list along with you. You are mad, but not mad enough to drive home just to get the list. You decide to give it a go without the darned thing, and start cruising the aisles in search of all the things you are going to need. When you see something that you would like to put into your cart[perhaps purely on impulse], you remember clearly that the item was not on the list you made. How do you know this?
I know you have probably been in just such a situation many times. Perhaps you searched the entire store hoping to find something else that you did put on the list. More likely, you knew when you had found everything that
had been on that pesky fogotten list, and immediately proceeded to the cashier with complete confidence that you had forgotten nothing. You probably even found the list when you returned home and went over it to see that you had brought everything on it home with you; probably gave yourself a virtual pat on the back for being so incredibly
efficient without having to refer to any chicken-stuff paper list you’d thought you might need. But really; how’d you do it?
Next time this occurs, pay especially close attention to your thought processes while in the store. Here’s what I think you did. You probably closed your eyes, and while wracking your brain for the memory[file], you were easily able to recall the visual file of the completed written list[the one your incredibly powerful brain snapped right
before you put it where you wouldn’t forget it]. You ‘saw’ what was next to the item on your virtual list, and went quickly about the store picking up each ‘next’ item, until you convinced yourself you wouldn’t need to make such a list the next time. How embarrassing, getting caught doing such a ‘childish thing; getting caught having left it behind when you left for the store.
Jesus trained a number of fishermen[well-to-do by my calculations but probably not literate] to become fishers of men. Now this new occupation had some clear advantages over the work they were currently doing[You bring them to Him; He cleans them!]; for one, they were encouraged to travel about the countryside[probably the only
land-travel they’d ever known was at Passover, when they made the trip to Jerusalem with the multitudes]. They were required to interact with ‘strangers,’ and so began to hone their interpersonal skills and improve their communication skills as well. They were taught how, by use of simple stories[simple enough that the details almost
never get themselves confused in the retelling] that were parables, they could address all manner of folk, with many and varied levels of intelligence and education, and these stories would never lose their power to reveal[to the heart] their spiritual content. They were taught to share food with all manner of folk, whether considered unclean by the
Pharisees or not[food sharing is one of the most fundamental social activities, among all people of all times, that to make religious laws that forbid it, well, that is just a recipe for disaster]. They were even taught crowd control methods, for when the people observed them feeding the poor, or getting a demonstration from Jesus that showed them how a person’s belief[or faith] could allow the Father in heaven to heal their sick bodies, crowds just naturally tended to gather ‘round Does any of this seem even remotely like the ‘Gospel sharing’ you[& I] have been putting off because it makes us somehow uncomfortable?
Teachers often comment on the fact that they learn a little each day from their students. You’ve heard it often, but never considered that teaching might be a learning technique that could also work for you. You want to learn more about Jesus’ love; start teaching others what you know[or even just what you think you know] about that love and you will learn more. Teach more; learn more. How complicated is that?
Want to learn more about how tithing can bring riches into your storehouse; teach someone what you heard them saying about it in Sunday School. Can't remember what-all was said; WRITE IT DOWN!
As I have already pointed out(or at least made the attempt to do so], you may be having difficulty sharing the Gospel, or just finding others who are willing to listen, because you have not grasped the rod of iron firmly yet yourself. In that situation, ministering to others has pretty much got to be difficult[at least at first]. But, as you just learned in the last chapter, sharing the ‘bread of life’ can be a powerful technique that will increase your own ‘share’ of it. Stick to the basic stuff you feel you understand well; share that with... with... uh; try sharing some food with someone; that always works[unless you run smack into some kind of anti-social dietary restrictions]. While sharing some food, start the teaching/learning process[between bites; it’s more polite].
The Bible, and the Master’s teachings and sayings are just chock full of simple techniques that are 1)designed for beginners[seekers], and 2)all guaranteed to work. It’s all pretty basically a thousand ways to reduce the tremendous size of your own ego, thereby making a little room in there for Him. Once inside, He will begin cleaning house, ordering your life and making more room in there for the others you will begin to consider[and taking in]. It ain’t all about YOU! But, it is all for you; it brings with it a healing[something each of us needs badly in one way or another]; it brings with it more companions than you ever thought you could keep track of and banishes loneliness forever!
You’ll never be alone. You’ll never be afraid. You’ll never be harmed by the senseless acts of others. You’ll never go wanting for anything that you need. You’ll never face a question that has no answer. And you’ll never go back. But ‘back’ is where you are right now; and a fur-piece from all that stuff I just spelled out as part & parcel of the Great Prize we both seek. In other words, you must spend some time as a seeker; do all the repetitive things involved
with using the many powerful techniques offered to you and to me in the simple teachings of the Master, wait upon the Lord while he is reordering your household and making it a fit place for you[and others] to live. Patience. Perseverance. Positive energy. Positive friends. Positive traction. Your doing now; no longer waiting. Building, not painting. Finding, not searching. Reaching, not gazing.
The changes that will become apparent in you[all too slowly, at first], will become apparent to others as well. They’ll begin to ask about it[now maybe you can share some of their food; all the things you need will be provided]. Don’t be reluctant to talk with someone else about the changes[growth]; don’t be reluctant to mention His name when they want to know how. Go with it; use all the techniques; and keep looking for more. Ask others about
theirs:Share & Teach & Learn. Be Holy; don’t be afraid of it! Don’t just go into your church; go into all the churches. Don't just go into churches; go into bars[?]; into homeless shelters; go into prisons; go into hospitals; get on a bus sometime; open your drapes and see who walks past your dwelling each day; talk to the guy who jumped on the elevator just before the door slid shut; turn off your cellphone for God’s sake; tell the truth when it hurts; give someone your last dollar; be creative, because I know your list will be even longer than mine!
A prominent Minister from this area, during a private discussion she and I were having in her office, offered that being a Christian was about suffering. I told her she was WRONG! Alleviate the suffering; first in yourself, and then in others. It’s exactly what we're made for. It’s Nature’s Way; It's Nature’s Way.
More ink has been spilled over the Scottish insistence on pre-determination than existed in the world during Jesus' lifetime. He spilled none! Writing is a damned poor excuse for living[but I guess someone must do it]; reading about it even poorer. Now you know why I began by talking about your giving this book away. In the little chapel at the Airport in Atlanta, I told a Muslim man who was having difficulty in determining which direction he should face the prayer rug provided for travellers there. I told him the following story:
Two faithful men, who were also teachers, agreed to seclude themselves on the mountaintop that towered there over their city, until one could be convinced by the other that their holy scripture held the answers that both of them sought. They went onto the mountain, one carrying his Bible and the other the Koran. They spoke calmly and without emotion and reasoned between themselves the points that popped into their minds. Neither was convinced, It grew dark, and they built a roaring fire so that they could continue their arguments by firelight. The convincing was taking so long, and the night grew so cold, that before long the entire area had been completely cleared of any burnable brush, and the dwindling fire was no longer keeping them warm enough. They agreed to burn one page from each man’s Holy Book at a time, and to keep their tiny fire alive until the sun warmed things on the mountain and they could safely go down. The inadequate fire quickly consumed all those Holy words, and the dawn was still hours away. The fire eventually blew out in the howling icy wind up there. When the dawn finally broke, the birds on the mountain saw two scantily clad men with long beards hugging one another, praying to Allah & Jesus and conserving their body heat by their friendly embrace. They left as friends, and in the future only discussed their’families; never their Holy Books.
We shared the same embrace there in the airport, and I pointed out the correct direction to Mecca. Some Americans believe that the signers of the U.S.Constitution were led by God, and that this brand of freedom is meant to be enjoyed by every people in the world. There are large populations globally who disagree with that assessment. Can’t we somehow learn how to agree to disagree? WWJD?
working outline for Chapter Eight[to be written-3/18/2008]:
THE GOOD BOOK
l)Who wrote this book?
2)Which book are you using?
3)What about the effects on its meaning/understandability
due to its having been translated from some other
4) What are the most important considerations when
evaluating the King James[English) Version?
5)How did English words sound in 1611?
6)What is Philology[The Sacred Mushroom]?
7) Were the Apostles writers?
8lWho selected[When were they selected?] the
canonical writings? Why?
9)Is the Bible historically correct[reliable)?
10)Are the ‘facts in the Bible verifiable[What about
I I)Were there limitations placed on Jesus the Man?
12) What was Jesus’ ministry?
13)Why was Jesus murdered?
14)Who were the Sanhedrin?
In addition, here are some notes I have already made on Chapter Nine:
NOTES ON CHAPTER NINE:to begin, I wrote two paragraphs with just a working title in mind; I also quickly designed a title page and dated it 2008. Once that tiny bit was completed, I began experimenting with Mary's printer, and using pre-punched lined notebook paper(the holes were reinforced; the paper just what was available), began to play around with a header and various font sizes to get the registration between those blue lines. I also put the title on the machine as a textual screen saver. Over the next several days, I proofed whatever I printed, wrote new paragraphs, added corrections and fine tuned the registration. Still with no idea where the project was taking me, I analysed the few paragraphs I’d completed with an eye to establish an outline. That analysis suggested several more paragraphs, and after having added those, I designed a table of contents page which I would use like an outline. Each chapter corresponded to the ideas(generally paragraphs) expressed in those lines I’d already written, and the completed(for now) portion I referred to in my table as a preface. Now all I have to do is expand on those ideas that flowed so easily when I first began to write them. Needn’t write those chapters in the order they now have in the table, but there are certain advantages to doing it just that way.