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Saturday, November 20, 2010

Executive Order 16661: 7:31 am

I had never been so humiliated and insulted in my life
There were days when my word was law, people did what I said because I knew what I was talking about. I still know what I am talking about; we should never have hired that beat-knick yuppie of a pastor. Ever since we hired that arrogant, sorry I almost forgot who I was, we have had nothing but grief and we have seen nothing but trouble.
Before you pass judgment, you need to understand what I am trying to say and then maybe you will understand the way I felt at the time.

Before Neil came to our church we were averaging a good number of folks and our membership rolls were on a slow, steady incline. This was unusual considering that most churches in our area were suffering severe declines due to a change in the population demographics in our area. However, we managed to assure our members that what was going on outside of our walls, would never penetrate our fortress of safety. We had several people who were law enforcement officers and we encouraged them to carry their guns to the services; we were not going to have any martyrs on our hands. We were not really afraid of that, but we were afraid of the church getting broken into and robbed; thus, we hired some security guards to make rounds at night to ensure the miscreants were not messing around or in the Lord’s house.

It was a wonderful time for the whole congregation; I had never been more proud to serve as the head deacon for our church. I had been made a deacon almost twenty years ago, and I was appointed head deacon a little over a decade ago. It was proud moment for my wife and I, and our three children. My dad was still alive at that point and he came to my selection service; never did I feel more humbled than I did watching my dad congratulate me for my service to God. Our old pastor, Nicholas Bradford, was a personal friend of mine; I have many fine memories of the man who mentored me through some pretty difficult times in life.

At one point in my stint as a deacon, my wife and I had an issue arise in a marriage. We were fighting over the sorrow our oldest child Zachary was giving us. We could not decide what to do and our lack of agreement caused us to become bitter toward one another. I am pretty sure if I had not gone to Pastor Nick for help that our marriage would have come to an end. I remember the day I went in to his office:
He reached out and shook my hand; it was not hard but firm and comforting. I sat down not sure how to begin.

Pastor Nick began for me.

“George, the talk we are about to have does not concern you as a deacon, it does not concern you as even a member of this congregation; it concerns you as a child of God. I am here to help you George, because I love you as a child of God.”

After that, any worries that I had about him making me step down from the deacon board or humiliate me in front of the church were erased. Through the counseling that Pastor Nick gave to my wife and me, we were able to work through our parenting conflict and resolve for it not to affect the bedrock of our marriage; we even reaffirmed our love for one another. It was an amazing time in our lives and transformation that occurred launched me into the head deacon position once Horace Getty, our church’s oldest member and head deacon since the days of Moses, suffered a stroke and had to be hospitalized and then placed in hospice care.

I will forever be grateful to Pastor Nick.

Pastor Nick preached like an old grandfather telling his grandchildren a bed time story. He had a knack for being able to bring peace and calm to any and every situation, to every troubled heart. He spoke often of heaven and how glad he would one day to be there. He spoke of good ole-fashioned family values and how brokenhearted he was that the country was heading in the direction in was heading. He often told us that the best way to survive the changes, even in our own neighborhood, was to huddle together. We were family and Pastor Nick acted like our spiritual father, always admonishing us to love each other and to be available to help a hard working brother or sister in need.

So, considering the strong emphasis on family and solid values, our church drew the upstanding and good people from all over our city into its doors. Those were the days you were greeted with a firm handshake and a polite hello. Men and women dressed in their best Sunday clothes and wore the customary smiles of those eager to fellowship in the house of God. Every once in awhile one the riff raff from the neighborhood and we would politely but firmly direct them to the back of the sanctuary away from the more decent folks. If it were up to me, we would have thrown them out, but Pastor Nick insisted that our doors by open to such folks, so we did what we could to protect everyone from them.
We enjoyed our lovely church with its lovely people; it seemed that we were going to be blessed forever.
But then tragedy struck.

Pastor Nick had a heart attack at home one Wednesday night after bible study. His wife, Kitty, had long since passed away and pastor Nick insisted on being able to live by himself. One of our deacons, Jeff Foxworth, found him on the floor, when he came by to give a dessert him wife had made him the next morning. The coroner estimated that he had been dead since about 9:30 that evening. He was found within a foot of his telephone, one hand outstretched, the other clutching his heart; his KJV Bible lay open on the other side of the couch where he must have been studying. The passage it was opened to?
Revelation 3; eerily highlighted was verse 17:

Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:

We gave Pastor Nick the best funeral a church could afford; countless members stepped up to the pulpit and shared stories of how Pastor Nick had touched their lives. Every moving testimony was a golden tribute to an amazing man; someone we will miss dearly until we see him again, in that golden Heaven he loved to preach about. We said our goodbyes and paid our respects and then put Pastor Nick in the ground. I have never seen such a touching display of church unity and I was confident that the church was more than prepared to choose a successor worthy of his legacy.

I was a fool.

I slammed the door as I entered the house, enraged that I had just been told to leave my own church; the church that I had served in as head deacon for over ten years. I was the one who was overreacting? I was the one who was out of control? They wanted me to trust them after what they did to our church, to mychurch. They were all puppets of that snake charmer, even Kurt; Kurt was the one man whom I thought would have some sense left up in his skull. Kurt was like Pastor Nick’s Timothy; everything he learned about the ministry came from him! What would he say if he knew this was how Kurt Armstrong had decided to repay him? I tell you what he would do; he would run that ungrateful son of witch out town, that’s what he would do. As far as I was concerned, Kurt was a traitor unworthy of the title “pastor,” and he was a coward; the one opportunity he had to succeed and continue Pastor Nick’s legacy he abdicated for change.

Well, change ends today; all of you are about to feel the wrath of Almighty God.

I was through trusting idiots.

“Lindsey! Lindsey!” I roared as I crashed into my house, blood pressure reaching dangerous levels.

“What, dad? I was on the phone with someone. Is everything, ok?”

“NO!” I was letting my anger boil, “No, everything is not ok. I need to talk to your mother; has she gotten back from work yet?”

My wife Vicky worked at the hospital a few blocks down from the house; she often worked nights. She walked to work; otherwise I would have known whether she had returned. I had advised against her walking alone, especially at night, but she assured me that she would be fine and that she needed the exercise. I knew when I could put my foot down; that was not an issue that I wanted to die over. Still, it made me slightly anxious for my wife’s safety and when she was a few minutes late, I would often worried. There was one night when an inmate had broke out of the city jail and was reportedly in the area around the hospital, around the time Vicky was on her way home. I called her and asked her to stay at the hospital until someone could come and get her, but she refused insisting that she had ways of defending herself. While I knew my wife a black belt in jiu-jitsu and could defend her; but even the best defense fails when someone has a gun. I had worried myself senseless right up until the moment she had walked into the door.

“I haven’t heard her come in; I told you I was on the phone. What is going on dad?”
I debated about whether I should inform Lindsey about these things; she was a little too close to Neil’s brats.

Like father like sons.

“Our pastor,” the words wreaked and tasted horrible coming out of my mouth, “has gotten spooked and decided to cancel our church services. Cancel our church services on the very day that the mayor and his family are supposed to make a visit.” I let the words linger in the air, hoping I would have to as little explaining as possible.

“Ok, so the mayor had planned to come today? He can reschedule and come next week.”

My daughter, bless her heart, was such a simpleton.

“No, dear, the mayor is a very punctual man and he has already scheduled visits to other competing churches. If we do not entertain him today we will not ever get to entertain him. He is very interested in our church, for whatever reason, and need him to stay that way.”

“Why is it so important that the mayor come to our church? I mean, you act like something awful will happen to us if he doesn’t.” Lindsey’s questions were becoming more probing and they were making me uncomfortable.

Lindsey had not seen the church’s recent financial statements, another testament to the “blessings” bestowed on us by Neil. When Neil arrived we were way in the black; saving most of our money for a rainy day or if something awful were ever to happen to the church. The first thing that Neil did when he took over was to propose ways to spend it because, “a church that does not use what is entrusted to it, is not living by faith and is not being a church.” So, we spent it all, every last blessed cent, we spent on Neil’s various “community enrichment” programs. Now we were left with nothing and the church’s budget was sailing deeper and deeper into the red. It did not help us any that there was a new crowd joining our church in massive numbers; a significantly poorer and sketchy crowd. Many of these folks did not have more than a part time job and could not support the kind of initiatives we were trying to take on. While we were falling behind in the bills we were just supposed to “trust God and live by faith.”

I am going to trust God and wring your neck.

“Lindsey, our church has been growing a lot lately, and that is good,” but was it really? “However, these folks don’t make as much money as we would like in order to support all of the,” ugh, why must I say this, “wonderful programs and ministries that Neil has started.” I took a breath to recover from the treasonous statement, “Therefore, if the mayor were to start attending our church, he would attract a more influential and,” had to choose the words carefully, “a more willing crowd that would have funds to invest in our church’s many projects.”

I was hoping that this would satisfy her curiosity; I was wrong.

“Wait, dad, so you are telling me that you want the mayor to attend our church because of the money you can get out of him? You want to draw a snootier, affluent crowd to the church because you are more worried about finances than getting the Gospel out?”

Her words knifed me in the heart, but I was not undaunted.

“I want our church back, Lindsey! Don’t you miss the good ole days when church felt more like home than some sort of freak-show circus? Look at the people that..”

“Yeah dad, look at the people; look at the people that Christ gave his life for. Look at the people coming off the streets, out of their drug addictions, escaping prostitution, and who are being set free from demon possession, yeah, dad, look at those people.” Lindsey was getting angry but I pushed forward.

“Yes, that is all great, but where are the morals? Where is the respect? Should we have to worry for our lives every time we go to the parking lot that we’re going to get mugged or killed by some deranged homeless bum? Oh, and fine thing our pastor did by joining this conference of churches; it appears he has made us a target of pranksters as well; probably some of the same people who sit in our…”

“ENOUGH, dad!” Lindsey was shaking now, “Enough! I have heard enough of how you hate the very people God has such a heart for! You’re the head deacon for Christ sake! How can you say these things? Our pastor is trying to protect us and you are more concerned about getting the Mayor’s tithe!”

I would not let my daughter speak to me that way.

“Now you listen here, young lady! You have been spending way too much time with those demon spawn children of Neil’s; they have turned you against me, against your own family! I will not have my daughter questioning my spirituality. I am your spiritual head, not that feral wolf that is ripping apart our church and you will respect me that way! Do I make myself CLEAR?” I had put her in her place, I was sure of it.

“The only thing clear, dad, is that you have no love in your heart; you do not care about the Gospel at all.” with that soft, stinging rebuke, she left me staring at her back as she closed the door to her room.

I did not know what to say; for a minute I just stood there shaken.

Do you understand the Gospel at all George? Do you?

It was a strange sensation; almost like a voice was shouting at me from far, far away. I could not hear what it was saying but it was a sweet and almost pleading sound. Why is it pleading? Why all of this begging; what does it want from me? This was not the first time I encountered the dark siren and its mournful cry; there had been many times, many moments where it stopped me in my tracks and forced me to listen.

You are lost, George, you have no idea where you are going or where you need to go. You’re drifting, George, straight into the abyss.

“No, it cannot be! I know the right way; I exemplify the right way! If it were not for people like me, there would be no right way! Leave me alone foul, tempter…leave me be!”

“George, George dear; are you alright?”

I snapped out of my confusion; out of the trance that had engulfed me.

My wife, Victoria, stood in the door with a look of love and concern. She was in her nurse’s uniform with her satchel strapped across her chest; she was definitely a sight for sore eyes; and a savior from the phantom,

“Oh, uh Victoria, I…well, I uh…”

“George, what is the matter; you’re as pail as my mother’s lace curtains! Here honey, why don’t you sit down?” She made her move toward me but I stopped her with an upturned hand.

“No, I am fine, Victoria. The events of today have just gotten me a little riled up.”

“What events?” Then she looked me worriedly, “George, your blood pressure! Remember what Dr. Smith said…”

“I will be fine, Vicky, really; once I have taken care of that pastor of ours. He has decided to cancel services because of text message! A text message, Victoria!” My temper was rising again, “Not only that, he has turned my own daughter against me! I tell you, Vicky, she has been hanging around those two brats of hisway too much. I have half a mind to make sure she never talks to those two again.” I was once again fuming and I could feel the blood squirting.

“Well, George Sinclair, you would have half a mind if you did something as ridiculous as that! Your daughter is smart enough and spiritual enough to be able to tell when she is getting fed garbage, I mean you should have heard…”

“Wait, did I just here you say that my daughter is more spiritual than I am? I was the one who she defied, openly defied; she just spit into the face of everything this family and our church has held dear! At least we used to before that viper began poisoning people’s minds!” I was enraged then; my own wife had turned against me.

“George, what are you talking about? I am not sure you are making sense…”

“SENSE? I AM MAKING PERFECT SENSE!” my volume went up way too high and Victoria gave me the warning she always gives me when I have gone too far, so I stepped down my tone. “The mayor is supposed to come to the church this morning and because of a threat from some prankster, Neil is cancelling the service! We need the mayor; we need more people like the mayor! We need them to invest in our church or it is going to go under! I would not be surprised if he staged this whole incident just so…”

“George, that is enough.” She did not yell, but I could tell Victoria was getting angry. “I loved Pastor Bradford as much as you did, but he is gone. It is time that you start examining your motives; if Pastor Neil is in the right, then God will let us know; if he is not, then God will let us know. Do you really want to find yourself fighting against God?”

“No, Victoria. I am fighting for God and that is why I am going to get the deacons to get rid of this man once and for all. Not only that, we are going to have church this morning, even if I have to call in the State Police.”

“George, you really should…”

But I had already shut her out; I pushed passed her and headed out the door. Revved up the ignition and peeled out of my driveway, headed for the direction of Daniel Kitting’s house.

I am going to stop that man once and for all; he has played god with our church long enough. It is time to show him who is really on God’s side.



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