“Don’t just be. Become.” JSM

 

 

Chapter Twelve

Church

 

When the door creaked open and a traveler poked a head inside my room, I stuffed the paper back into its pocket. I almost had it fully opened to see the cryptic message and personal incentive Bill kept referring to, but with a shrug I decided to leave it alone.

Instead of forcing it, I allowed it slide from memory as I was prompted to head to the main event with the others in the caravan and my attention was then pulled elsewhere.

It’s safe to say, other than church or a revival, I’ve never seen a gathering like it in my life.

Hear me out, hear me out. I say that with respect.

All my youth was spent in a church. I know the environment quite well. I was born into the church and remained in the church till some later years. My parents help build and establish a place of worship in my state’s capitol in the early 80’s. At its peak attendance we had roughly seventy five to eighty or so in the congregation, and it was a huge part of my life. I attended Wednesday night prayer meetings, had bible studies at home, participated in all the recreational activities, summer getaways with the pastor’s family, I was on the softball team, fundraised with rock-a-thons with the best of them, family picnics and barbeques after Sunday services and I was a youth pastor for a small group at the age of thirteen.

My grandparents were Baptist and attended their place of worship for their entire lives.

After my parents’ divorce when I was seventeen, we were asked to leave the church. Perhaps that’s a story for another day.

Upon our departure my father and I explored everything, everywhere. We bounced from church to church, small to large, and sometimes we stayed for a month or a week (maybe two, to get a good lay of the land), then the following Sunday we’d go across town to check out another location.  Never feeling comfortable with most of the available options.

We transformed into church vagabonds.

“Last one was Methodist.”

“How about this Pentecostal one?”

“Two months ago we were visiting Pentecostal. Presbyterian?”

“Maybe. Let’s look at that Lutheran one down the road too, while we’re making a list.”

“Hey, why not.”

If one were to ask what denomination I happen to be I would probably be along the lines of, Nazapentepresbybapatluthacathamormodist. I’ve seen it all.  Jack of all trades, master of none.

I happen to be accustomed to folks dancing in the aisles, singing long hymnals, speaking in tongues, abiding by the procedures and conventions, rejoicing in the spirit, singing with the small band behind the podium, singing in a full choir, group prayers, group healing sessions and sweaty browed pastors tearing their tie off commanding the devil be gone.

I’ve been witness to fire and brimstone sermons, I’ve watched people fall into the arms of others by a light touch of another’s breath and I’ve attended churches that are silent, soft-spoken and half the time in attendance is spent on knees in prayer. I’ve experienced my fair share of all of that.

And I respect it all.

The seminar was church. I was being taken to church, BizarroTech style.

The music and bass echoed in the halls outside the large gathering place and beside the entrance to the main event room stood multiple bulletin boards with photos of people’s faces attached, their position in BizarroTech and tier level, and just beside the doors were two long tables with additional pamphlets and materials available for further education and casual reading. I swore a Joker smile grew on each face as I walked by the vendors, while keeping in stride with my mentor.

The double doors opened and we crossed the threshold allowing the music to sweep by us into the hall. The moment we entered the darkened area, members of the caravan started clapping to the beat.

The main lights had been switched off and all the attendees were covered in shadows. Two spotlights attached to the back wall crisscrossed their beams over a staging area and illuminated a group of people at the front of the room clapping their hands and bopping to the music, pointing and waving to the others who were sitting close by in the audience. Wide smiles on each face and jewelry glinting in the flashes of white light.

Bright colored dresses for the ladies, reds, golds and lavenders, and each man wore a suit. Onyx black and “sparkly”.

Behind the stage and to either side for better viewing, stood large projector screens.

I followed Bill to my chair at the back of the room and he gestured me to have a seat while he sneaked closer to the front. I nodded my apprehensive agreement and Bill vanished into the shadowed crowd.

The music faded, and the once hidden dancers within the dark lowered themselves slow into their chairs; each wide open eye locked on the stage.

The lights raised from dark to dim and the clapping dropped from high overhead in praise, down to each lap, as the projectors activated and each screen glowed with a different colorful object.

One screen pictured an island surrounded by crystal clear water while the opposite screen showed a plane on a tarmac with smiling happy folks standing on the stairs leading inside the craft. The center screen flashed the faces of a variety of people in quick succession then faded away to become the image of a tropical resort surrounded by palm trees and scantily clad people on a beach. A jewel laden bracelet flashed into view from the side, and the central screen dissolved into the image of a room full of individuals sitting around a large table, having a discussion, with their focus on a white board covered in notes.

The screens continued to flash smiling faces and extravagant items, yachts, homes and villas, fancy things, mansions, clothing, spas and gymnasiums, a horse ranch, rings with their matching necklaces’, rubies and pearls, and the music continued to play in low tones. The central screen revealed a picture of a ladder with an arrow pointing up it to the word SUCCESS. BizarroTech continued to clap, hoot and holler.

A Joker grin smeared across each face.

A tall rotund man stepped onto the center stage and when the spotlights became one on his large frame, his suit glistened and flickered; reflecting small twinkles of golden light around his congregation.

He tapped the microphone attached to the fold of his jacket once, to ensure it was on, and bellowed into it.

“Yes! This is what it’s all about!  Am I right?  Come on!  Get that music back up there! Let’s do this!!” He waved his hand in a broad sweeping gesture across the stage and started clapping and dancing again as the DJ pushed the volume up to its earlier setting. The rest of the room joined him, and the once seated members of the audience jumped back up into dance mode and everyone was clapping along and jamming to the music in the aisles.

My eyes opened wide and stupefied I glanced around me. I felt like a stranger in a strange land.

The big man pulled a handkerchief from an inside pocket and dabbed his sweat covered forehead as the ladies around him moved off to the side of the staging area. The man smiled and echoed his own words.

“Yes. Yes indeed.  This is what it’s all about.  This is it.  Who else is with me today?  Who else knows that this is it!? Come on now! Let’s hear that noise!”

The room erupted into applause and whistling through fingers.

“Who else is with me today? I know who’s with me today… Each and every one of you, that’s who.  You’re here for a reason. Why are we here!?” Big man pointed around the room.

The audience replied in unison, “To change the world!”

“That’s right. To change the world.  How is this possible?  How can we, you and I, change this world?  Let me hear it!”

The members chanted their reply, all in one voice, “Sheer will! Hard work! Devotion!”

“Devotion. That’s right.  Only through devotion and commitment can we make the impossible, possible.”

Hands raised high overhead and clapped a thunderous agreement.

“For those of you who haven’t met me yet, or haven’t attained the impossible, my name is “Gill”, and I’m going to show you how to make your dreams come true. But before that, I need some stories.  Who here has a story? Who’s ready to share?”

Bill stood at the front of the room, activated his salesman smile and snatched a microphone from a stage hand. My mentor turned around to address the audience, locked his eyes with me at the back of the auditorium, and the room fell into a hush. Each head in the room turned towards him.

🙂 Thanks for reading and walking beside me on this adventure. I’m having an absolute blast sharing this with everyone. Feel free to subscribe below in the available area with an email and click “follow me”, and please share TotC with others.  More is on the way 🙂

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