When I was ten years old, my family made a life-changing decision. At the time, we lived in the crazy world of Los Angeles in the mid-seventies. Only people who lived there at that time know what I’m really talking about. For those that were not there, here is a brief description: the real-estate market was out of control, it would be like maybe the tech-bubble of the late 90’s…it was nuts, crime was real bad, the hippies were taking over the platform of public opinion, everyone began to question everything and every institution; and there was an intervention…a HUGE intervention. The Holy Spirit jumped right on into the whole hippy world and took over and set apart many a soul. If this part of the church history is not remembered, then we are missing out on an epic change in the Christian body. The power of the Holy Spirit at that time and place is almost something of legend. I won’t go through the laundry list of famous preachers, pastors, teachers, and leaders that were “born again” in this soup of absolute confusion! My parents were part of what I will call “hippy Christians”. They decided to move my baby sister, my younger brother, and myself to the south. Great! I love San Diego!…No…The South…The Cuntry. This is part of our story from the beginning of when my parents first met God to when we settled in Springfield, Tennessee on a “carpet of many colors”.
This particular time in American history, as you well know, was a very confusing and overwhelming time. When my brother was born, he was very ill from the time he took his first breath. He was a “bubble baby”. I faintly remember putting my hand into a clear glove that was attached to a larger clear tent to touch my little brother. My parents were greatly affected by this. At the time, they both had to work. R- and S- both worked at a hair salon called “All About Hair” with a man named Vidal Sassoon. Life was pretty good for them, but, when my brother was born, life came to a screeching halt. The two of them began their own search…the search for Truth And believe it or not, I remember a lot of this time in my life, (I have to be honest here, my memory is one of the worst in history. I don’t remember the day-to-day details; only parts that are vivid in my mind. That’s not just in my youth, but also in my adult life. I’m wired differently than most. My mother was the same way. We laughed and laughed when we both admitted to each other that we had CRS: Can’t Remember Sh*t.) and my parents tried everything available; and you wouldn’t believe how many options there were in Los Angeles at the time. It is laughable the crazy stuff they tried to find a meaning to life, especially with a new-born son that was so asthmatic that he couldn’t breathe earth’s air. I remember going to some stained glass filled room with about 20 other people and kneeling down with a chain of beads. I remember my dad gently showing me how to wrap the beads around my fingers in such a way that the instructor (holy man?) showing the adults how to do it would be proud. Then the chanting and the rubbing of the beads between our hands in a particular rhythm. Wow, I was good at this! I got the beat, and the beads, and nothing else but an excerpt in my story for you. Nothing worked for them. But one day while my mother was outside the salon smoking a cigarette, a man walked up to her out of nowhere and said to her, “You have a child in the hospital and God wants to heal him”.
According to my mother, she was shocked and then laughed skeptically. The man walked away. She shared with R- the unexpected thing that had happened to her, and he must have been thinking to himself how insane life was treating them. Not much later, the same man approached my mother and repeated the Word he had for her. This time, she wanted to ask some questions. Some will know about this type of guy: back in the day they were called “Charismatics” and they had a lot of strange ways to say the least. Before she could ask any questions, he “laid his hands” on her and blessed her. My mother felt what a lot of Christians have felt: the power of the Holy Spirit. Enraptured and overwhelmed, she quickly found R- (remember, they worked together). After this man, named Hamid, blessed my father, they had no choice but to accommodate this powerful man.
According to my parents, Hamid anointed the tent with oil while saying a prayer to a man named Jesus Christ and asking for the power of the Holy Ghost. My parents were filled with joy the very next day as they took their child home. Almost giddy with the thought that a miracle had been done in their presence, they celebrated with abandon. Hamid invited them to his little commune of Christian brothers in the neighborhood of Green Pastures. My parents gave their life to Christ not long after the service began. How could they refuse such power!? It was tangible, experiential, and spiritual; their hearts were melted with God’s love. I remember that time in my life, for the years that we were there. Praise was nothing less than an out of body experience; and although young, I was not excluded from the experience and workings of the Spirit.
Soon after conversion, my parents changed. My sister was born, and they stopped working at the salon. My father began to “move” real estate. That market was as volatile as it gets! The money was rolling in. My parents gave all their money away in their ministry. They had a children’s Bible study program they ran out of our house (we had moved to Green Pastures). Life was ethereal. It was a high. They were all babes nursing on the breast of the presence of the Holy Ghost. But, I’m sure you can guess what happened next. The presence was becoming harder and harder to “beckon”. The church started putting chairs and pillows behind those that were being “slain in the spirit”, the worship became less and less “filled”, the leaders were praying non-stop for His presence. Now that the church had been birthed, it had to open its eyes, it needed to be fed, and it was still an infant. Growing pains followed: Money ran out, people felt betrayed; some were consumed by the “thorn in their sides”. What happened? Personally, I think the church starved itself, but no matter…because persecution has always been behind the spread of the Gospel. So much of this movement was based on the experiential part of God, they forgot (or never knew) that the Word of God was their bread. Once someone has tasted of “living waters”, you can never be the same. But, Christ is all about spreading the Gospel in and with love, and these I speak of were not evangelical. All Christians need to realize that God is triune; we are given the Holy Spirit as power FOR Christ and ultimately FOR the Father’s glory. It is paramount to embrace all three and not to be fearful of God as He manifests Himself as the Holy Ghost or as The Father… Noone that I know is fearful of Jesus or at least shouldn’t be…yet. But as babes, it became about their magical and secret romance with the Spirit (and there is nothing wrong with this in balance with growth). Why give it away and risk it being diluted and marred? I get it. The problem or the solution, depending on perspective, is that it was time for the babes to begin to walk, to eat bread instead of drinking milk. And everybody walked in a different direction. That’s kind of neat, not tragic.
When we decided to leave the West for the South, my parents really had nothing left but a faith, a house, and three kids. Great, let’s move to the South! They sold our house, payed off their debt, bought a green VW Van (how cliche, I know), and began the long drive to Mississippi without anything but clothes. I was 10 years old when we packed up our life and headed out for the great unknown. I had never been anywhere but Los Angeles and the West opened up like the biggest present under the Christmas tree! The vastness of it, the horizon eternally uniting land and sky, thunderstorms in the Painted Desert, being hot one minute, and stepping onto snow in Flagstaff the next minute, buying polished stones that were like diamonds and rubies to me, watching my Mexican jumping beans for hours on end while my father complained that we might have to push this damn van the rest of the way, the falling asleep to the drone of the engine while sweating myself a blanket. All this in a pilgrimage to somewhere else, the urging for a journey, the way out from the insanity of southern California. My father’s sister lived in Mississippi, and so we began there. With no money left but enough to put gas in the van one more time, we looked for a place to live. I remember us staying with my aunt and uncle and their two kids. Both our cousins were little R-’s and my age, but they talked weird and spoke of things called pollywogs, toads, horses, and milking cows. I was confused, but fascinated. I remember us trying to clean up a house in the middle of the country somewhere: the owner warned of an open well in the yard somewhere probably infested with snakes, the house looked like it had been evacuated in a hurry, there was garbage and tattered furniture everywhere you looked. I remember clearly the rubber fishing worms everywhere, in every color imaginable. I thought they were cool. I also got bored with the all-day affair of cleaning, sweating, listening to my father curse the home over and over again, and eventually got a hanger (yes, a clothes hanger) stuck in my jaw. Apparently, I was performing some type of experiment on myself, and flew into a panic when the hook of the hanger wouldn’t dislodge from my gaping mouth. In the mayhem that ensued, the hanger was removed, I was in trouble, and to heck with this cursed house! I guess the hanger in my mouth was a sign from God. We left Mississippi after only one week.
We moved to Granny’s house; my mother’s grandmother lived in Springfield, Tennessee. My mother’s side of the family had started in the South: descendents of the Cherokee Indians (our early family were part of the Trail of Tears) and a mix of European blood. My mother’s memory of visiting her grandmother, flying from California to Tennessee, throughout her life was sweet to say the least. Granny, as we called her, was a tremendous woman. She was everything you would imagine a southern, Christian woman would be. She was caring, a great cook, the organ player at the church, and filled with love for all. For some reason, she was not racist or prejudice as you might expect: she was truly a loving Christian lady. She lived in middle Tennessee her whole life, married a handsome man named Les when she was 17 years old, and had four daughters who had all long ago moved to either Michigan or California. I remember wonderful family get-togethers where people caravanned down to Springfield from up north (there were a lot of them!..I still can’t remember all the names of aunts, uncles, cousins, and “friends of the family”) to celebrate life and play cards! Boy, those people played cards. They would play into the wee hours of the morning like religion: canasta, poker, pinochle, Tripoli, you name it. The laughter and accusations of cheating rained down on us kids while “sleeping” and we always felt left out. We would sneak out of our bedroom and spy on the debauchery until finally, one by one through the years; we were inducted into the fray of players and cheats. In fact, I learned to play cards before I could ride a bike. Oh what fun! Life in Springfield was great during that time of living with Granny for a while, and then renting a farm house not too far away.
My parents were city-folk, mind you, and full of vigor and enthusiasm for this new lifestyle. We just moved into a farmhouse; so, I guess we farm! First it was plowing, planting and digging; then it was raising chickens, then geese, pheasant, ducks, and even a goat named Billy. We tried to live off of the land. My mother was a city girl, and she just tolerated the scene in some ways. But in other ways it was an unbelievable experience for all of us. We waxed and reminisced later on in life about how genuinely happy we were at that time, even though we had no money to speak of. A true family, working together to live simply and under the Lord’s Grace. And boy, did we work! Holy cow, I remember having to get up before the sun, and feeding the chickens in the snow with a hole in my boot (that’s right, cowboy boots). We repaired the hole with shards of a Cheerios cereal box. Wow! It was cold. Not my greatest memory. Mom just had to be mom, so her interpretation of life on the farm was breeding rare chickens. We had every type of chicken known to the Americas and beyond. Champion bantam roosters of every color imaginable! Mom always had a flare for the accessorizing of any household. One winter was so bad, I had to feed the chickens and pull out of the cages little ice cubes once defined as chicks. There was an incubator in the closet, rats and mice everywhere, hornets, wasps, skinks, frogs, cows in the field from the farmer who rented the place to us, weeping willows, the sound of cicadas every summer, lots of mowing, lots of working in the garden, lots of the picking of blackberries and getting covered with chiggers, kerosene baths to remove said chiggers, the canning in Ball jars of every vegetable and fruit available, the pouring of warm urine in our ears for ear aches (as prescribed by Granny), the slaughter of foul for dinner, the long moonlight walks, the streaking naked through the rain with all participating, the all-weekend games we played called “family fun”, the absolute darkness of night without city light pollution, mosquitoes and the epic battle thereof, stepping in cow patties, spying the deer on the ridge if you got up early enough, the sound of owls at night, and the distant howling of our hound dog who had treed a raccoon and was darn proud of it, the blissful sound of rain on the tin roof of our little farmhouse and the comings-and-goings of many a houseguest.
My parents had a proclivity of taking in any “stray dog”. This is not a bad thing; it was their way of expressing God’s love. Having very little monetary assets, the way they helped out in the world was by providing shelter, camaraderie, and unconditional love. Once, a 19 year-old Christian book salesperson crashed her bike on our gravel road and left 6 months later! Once, one of our friends from Green Pastures with his Asian wife in tow, hitch-hiked from Los Angeles all the way to the backwoods of Springfield. He was struggling with his homosexuality and
the predicament that posed as a Christian. He streaked naked with us during a thunderstorm and laughed so hard he fell to the ground and rolled around in the mud. We all tackled him and bathed him solidly with mud. He looked like an Amazon, tribal warrior when we were done. I’m not sure what he and my parents figured out about his predicament, but he left happy and loved. My dad’s sister, Aunt Pam, lived with us for a long time on and off. She too did hair; her specialty was color, and she was good. At one point, we bragged later on in life, we had 14 people under our tin roof! Not that big a deal, it was a two bedroom, one bath, with maybe 800 square feet total. Oh the sounds that emanated from the bathroom when any of our new guests realized that the hot water lasts for only 5 to 7 minutes and then drops immediately to a temperature best described as brisk. I remember putting a “team” together to accomplish the mission of a lifetime: to build mom a carpet (she hated the cold hardwood floors in the morning and I’m pretty sure that the only time I ever heard her curse was when the combination of walking across the cold hardwood floors to the bathroom, coupled with the arctic temperature of the toilet seat, sent her on such a creative tirade of curse words that you’d think she had scripted them). Well, with no money, how exactly do you build a carpet?
Well it’s like this: strangely enough we were all very distinguished dumpster divers (don’t laugh or judge, it is a skill that requires years to perfect). You have to realize that Springfield didn’t have a homeless problem; there were no parts of that small town that did not receive attention. If you were poor, elderly, or in trouble…the church was there to provide. So, when food expired at the grocery store, all one had to do was to time out the special-op schedule to the daily discard schedule at the grocery store. My parents were unfortunately too proud to ask for help from others (they always wanted folks to know that they had their ducks in a row), so I got drafted to master dumpster-diver! Now, there were a couple of carpet places in town; we could go under the cover of night…there would just have to be scraps of carpet. And so the plan took on a life of its own. One of our first “drive-by’s” saw us “ridin’ dirty” in our monstrous Buick captained by mom with a cigarette hanging out of her mouth looking quite the smooth operator, and almost by divine intervention, we found the foamy underlayment for laying carpet. It wasn’t even in the dumpster, it was beside it! What moron would waste such a pristine roll of multi-colored, pressed foamy stuff? Despite the fact that it was drenched and smelled like urine, we had found a sign! Mission after mission, we would bring home small and large pieces of carpet in a variety of colors, textures, and thicknesses. I would probe the depths of the dumpster to emerge with gloriously unique types of carpet…it was a blast! Mom could sew (one of the few domestic skills she possessed). She sewed every piece we found together, mounted them to the foamy (now clean) base, and nothing was wasted. After a month of special-op, covert, night missions; mom had completed her masterpiece! Any hippie would be beaming with pride. Sewn and laid, there was every color of the rainbow, every shape from triangles to organic cuts, and textures that ranged from thin and flat to full-out shag! She crowned the table that sat in that newly carpeted area with a lava lamp: perfect! It was the talk of the family. We actually hosted the big family reunion a couple of times, and I’m sure it was because of the foretold legend of mom’s textile achievement.
When I look back at the memories we had together, it warms my heart. God has used my past to teach me things in the present…even the horrible memories have profound messages. It always amazes me how the Lord can be so personal and imaginative in His work. This particular part of my childhood taught me some great lessons (very few of which made any sense at the time) and also opened up a personal dialog with my Creator and myself. I have begun to see the tracings of His hand in my history; I have also noticed how the enemy lied to me. So much of my past was once a field of sown seeds of bitterness and regret; but now it produces fruit out of the ashes! The bad memories serve as sign-posts and proof of the enemy as well as endless fountains of wisdom. Who can take a desolated and dark place and make it flow with living water? Christ can. The good memories are to be cherished, especially when you can see His hand all over your life.
The message from the Charismatic carpet you would think would sound something like: “When life gives you lemons…make lemonade” or “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure” or perhaps “When the going gets tough, the tough get going”. But alas, that is not the message. Being part of the joy and adventure with my mom was in and of itself enough of a blessing, but the real profound part for me was the joy it brought my mother. Later in life, my mother had lots of nice things, but none more valuable and precious than that carpet. We made due in some ways, but in others it was an opportunity in disguise: An opportunity to spend some time together, an opportunity to create something from scratch, an opportunity to use what the world had tossed away as the foundation for our joy. For me, the scraps of carpet are the people that the world has tossed to the side, and the carpet represents the body of believers being sewn together into something far exceeding their otherwise useless parts. Each piece is imperfect, but we could mend and cut and fit them together with other odd pieces. So God uses each of us in our own imperfect way to create His bride. It brings Him joy! So as fellow believers, we should always look for what the world has tossed away, and help those people to be part of something very special. Today I embrace my life; I embrace the good times and the bad. Through the grace of Christ’s blood and the power of the Holy Spirit, He has shown me some of the Truth that sits behind the canvas of life. Those memories and lessons learned are my own scraps of carpet, and I know God will make it His masterpiece!
Oh please, my precious friend, let the Lord make sense of your story. Let Him show you how He can make you His prized possession. Let Him show you His power to turn it all around in a way you could never imagine. Revisit your past with Him as your guide and let Him teach you of yourself and make Himself known to you personally. He will right all the wrongs, He will mend your heart, and He will hold onto your heart for eternity. There is no other God but the One that loves you.
God Bless You,