A Strange Day at the Office

In February of that long winter of his second TBI year, Sean told the student employment office he was sick of his factory job, so they found him work downtown in an insurance company on the twenty-fifth floor of the Tribune Tower. This job would be very different—lots of contact with people. People, Sean feared, that would be very different from himself.

On his first day of work, Sean ate early lunch at TBI, then walked out through the arch toward downtown. A group of about ten guys who worked at the Federal Reserve Bank streamed in front of him, talking and yelling as they jogged across the intersections, ignoring the traffic lights, zig-zagging between the stopped cars, hopping over hoods. When they would leave the bank later that afternoon, the bank guards would turn their pockets inside out looking for pennies.

Sean turned left on Illinois Street, then walked down Michigan Avenue toward the Chicago River. He stared up at the Tribune Tower, the giant building shrinking him into insignificance. A steel and concrete monolith built in 1925, its thirty-six stories, soared 462 feet high, above its glass façade. A revolving door opened from the street into the lobby. He passed the coffee counter, found the bank of elevators and told the operator, “Twenty-fifth floor.”

Exiting the elevator, he found the huge First Chicago Insurance office suite where the hiring manager waited. “The bulk of our staff works in this main office” he said, “but you’ll work in the smaller office down the hall.” They walked in to see a manager sitting at a large desk inside the glassed-in corner cubicle. He wore a dark business suit, white shirt and tie, and his umbrella hung on a wooden coat stand. “Sean, this is Mr. Merton,” the manager said. “He’ll introduce you to the others.”

Sean shook Mr. Merton’s hand, who pointed and said, “That’s Duane; he’s our junior underwriter. Marion and Myra over there are our office assistants.” They all nodded and smiled. Mr. Merton never smiled. “Myra here will give you a stack of policies to file. The red-tagged folders are active; the others are expired.” Then he walked back into his cage.

Myra helped Sean learn how to organize the slightly-askew, dog-eared folders that hung in the file drawers. He liked Myra immediately—pretty, bombastic, friendly. She lit up the office. He began organizing the bills, receipts, and records of sprinkler damage that Myra had strewn helter-skelter across his desk. He thought, These wrinkled folders wouldn’t inspire much customer confidence.

Mr. Merton kept a clean and organized space. The few times he emerged from his office he would lean against a desk and deliver pep talks to his minions—“If we get these insurance claims organized and wrapped up it’ll put a real feather in all our caps.”

Privately, Duane told Sean, “He means a feather in his cap.”

Duane, tall and darker-skinned and smelling of cologne and tobacco, slicked his black hair back with a careless hand. When he smoked he sucked in his cheeks, languid eyelids drooping over a clenched smile that revealed confident teeth.

Duane loved to flirt with Marion, a slightly-built Catholic girl who would toss her blond hair and blink her big, hazel eyes. She always looked cute in her see-through blouse and tight skirt. Duan confided to Sean, “I like Marion but she’s Catholic and I’m Lutheran, so I don’t know how we could get together.”

One day Mr. Merton called in sick and put Duane in charge. That would be the day the inmates took over the asylum.

Duane opened his desk drawer and pulled out a bottle. “Myra, get some plastic cups in that drawer over there. Could you pour?” Sean had never tasted alcohol and TBI prohibited students from drinking, but the pressure of the social occasion pushed him to take a sip. He coughed as the strong liquid slid down his throat. Duane laughed, sitting relaxed with his feet up on the desk, cigarette hanging from his lower lip. Marion came over and sat on his lap. Duane pretended to ignore her but Sean could see he loved it. Sean tried concentrating on his filing, but in vain. The atmosphere turned relaxed, a day of freedom from Mr. Merton.

Then Myra went crazy. Dear, bubbly Myra, not quite obese but pleasantly plump, long dark hair, black eyes, plenty of lipstick and red fingernail polish, gregarious, owner of a loud, sultry voice, she radiated Eau de Toilette and always brought her fun with her.

Marion told Duane, “Put some music on your radio.” When the music started, Myra stepped up on her chair, then onto the desk, revealing her high heels, plump legs and sheer hose. She flung her arms above her head, swayed her hips, twirled her short dress, and sang a lusty song, her gold bracelets and Star of David earrings swinging in time. Marion and Duane sang and clapped. For Sean, this was a day to remember.

Then the big boss from the main office walked in.

Silence, hung heads, as all returned to work with tails between legs. No one lost their job but the next day Mr. Merton walked into his tiny cubicle, hung up his black overcoat, scarf, and umbrella and then rallied his troops. “People, I’m surprised at this behavior. It casts a shadow on my leadership. You embarrassed me in front of my own boss.” He droned on—lack of maturity and professionalism, black marks, etc. Plainly, the big boss had reamed him out and charged him with castigating his staff. For his part, Sean thought, It was worth it!

Sean’s two jobs couldn’t have been more different. The pie filling job had numbed him. The insurance job felt equally automaton-like but he found himself liking his officemates and felt like he was learning to navigate the human diversity in the huge city.

With her behavior, could Myra be an observant Jew? Sean didn’t think so. And Duane—suave, worldly-wise, sophisticated—did “Lutheran” mean he was born again? And were Catholic girls allowed to sit on Lutheran men’s laps? Sean’s childhood formation made him critical of people, even church-goers, outside of Fundamentalism. He didn’t think Marion or Duane were real Christians. And how could he share his Christian faith with them if he no longer believed it himself? His atheism was getting more and more complicated, presenting more of a risk for him at TBI. His dread intensified.

Wingspread Ezine November, 2020

“Spreading your wings
in a perplexing world”
November, 2020     

Please forward and share this E-zine with anyone. Thank you.

Contents

  • New story
  • Puzzler of the month
  • Writer’s Corner
  • How to purchase Wingspread: A Memoir of Faith and Flying
  • Wingspread E-zine subscription information

*********************

New story: Thanksgiving at Joseph Dvorak’s

 Down Norbert dorm’s hallway lived Joseph Dvorak—a below-average student, unlucky in love, confident and loud—who sucked Sean out of his introspective shell like a vacuum cleaner. Sean rejoiced that people at TBI treated him as a regular person, one of the boys—a new experience for him. One day in November Joseph met Sean in the hall. “Sean, you wanna come to my house for Thanksgiving dinner?”

“I dunno, Joseph. Are you sure your mom wants me?” He felt apprehensive about dinner with a strange “Eastern European” family. . . .

To read more, click here:  https://jimhurd.com/2020/11/02/thanksgiving-feast-at-joseph-dvoraks/

(*Please leave a comment on the website. Thanks.)

Puzzler of the month:

You walk up to a closed door with three light switches on the wall beside it. The switches control three light bulbs in the room on the other side of the door. Once you open the door, you may never touch the switches again. How can you definitively tell which switch is connected to each of the light bulbs? Answer in next month’s Ezine.

Writers’ Corner

Writer’s tip of the month: Spice up your dialogue with conflict. Examples: “How are you?” “I’m fine, and you?” (Boring . . .) More interesting—“Where have you been?” “None of your business; I don’t want to talk about it.”

Word of the Month:  Gaslighting—making a person question their own memory and intelligence. Example: “Where were you! We agreed to meet on Thursday!” [when actually they had agreed to meet on Tuesday].

 Book of the month: King Lear. William Shakespeare. An aging king sinks into forgetfulness, bitterness and anger, and destroys several people in the process. A great study on parent-child conflict. Be sure to get a version with footnotes to help you with the unfamiliar 16th century English.

Wise Words:

  • I’m always slightly terrified when I exit out of Word and it asks me if I want to save any changes to my ten-page technical report that I swear I did not make any changes to.
  • I keep some people’s phone numbers in my phone just so I know not to answer when they call.
  • I have a hard time deciphering the fine line between boredom and hunger.
  • How many times is it appropriate to say “What?” before you just nod and smile because you still didn’t hear or understand a word they said?
  • I love the sense of camaraderie when an entire line of cars team up to prevent a jerk from cutting in at the front. Stay strong, brothers and sisters!
  • Shirts get dirty. Underwear gets dirty. Pants? Pants never get dirty, and you can wear them forever.
  • Even under ideal conditions people have trouble locating their car keys, finding their cell phone, and pinning the tail on the donkey. But I’d bet everyone can find and push the snooze button from 3 feet away, in about 1.7 seconds, eyes closed, first time, every time.
  • The first testicular guard, the “Cup,” was used in Hockey in 1874 and the first helmet was used in 1974. That means it only took 100 years for men to realize that their brain is also important.

Watch for my upcoming novel: East Into Unbelief (provisional title)

Sean lost his father, his best girlfriend, his life dream, and now his faith. Why is he at Torrey Bible Institute? How can he restructure his life as an atheist? He can’t see it, but grace is coming. . . .

An important new Bible commentary:

Lost stories of the Bible

Buy James P. Hurd’s Wingspread: A Memoir of Faith and Flying.  How childhood (Fundamentalist) faith led to mission bush-piloting in South America—and Barbara. Buy it here:  https://jimhurd.com/home/  (or order it at Barnes and Noble, Amazon, etc.) 

See pics here related to Wingspread: Of Faith and Flying: http://www.pinterest.com/hurd1149/wingspread-of-faith-and-flying/

Follow “james hurd” on Facebook, or “@hurdjp” on Twitter

Subscribe free to this Ezine   Click here https://jimhurd.com/home/  to subscribe to this WINGSPREAD ezine, sent direct to your email inbox, every month. You will receive a free article for subscribing. Please share this URL with interested friends, “like” it on Facebook, retweet on Twitter, etc.

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Thanksgiving Feast at Joseph Dvorak’s

Down Norbert hallway lived Joseph Dvorak. Joseph—a below-average student, unlucky in love, confident and loud—sucked Sean out of his introspective shell like a vacuum cleaner. Sean rejoiced that people at TBI treated him as a regular person, one of the boys—a new experience. One day in November Joseph met Sean in the hall. “Sean, you wanna come to my house for Thanksgiving dinner?”

“I dunno, Joseph. Are you sure your mom wants me?” He felt apprehensive about dinner with a strange “Eastern European” family.

“Sure! She loves having people in. Besides, I want to show you my old car.”

So, on Thanksgiving morning they caught the train at Madison Street Station and headed for New Lennox. The day turned colder. Sean cracked open one of the dirty, wood-framed windows on the train and stared at the city as he heard the train wheels clacking and felt the cool air rushing in. But he had little time to absorb the industrial sounds and smells because soon they were passing fields of snow-glazed corn stubble.

Joseph Dvorak worried about everything, and today he worried out loud, raising his voice over the clatter. “I don’t know if I can make it to the end of the semester. . . . don’t know if I can pass Meacham’s class. . . . I’m not sure what I’ll do when I get out of TBI. . . .  I don’t know if my girlfriend wants to break up . . . .”

Sean didn’t know what to say but he thought, What’s friendship when all’s done but the giving and taking of wounds? So he spoke more out of hope than certainty—“Joseph; you’ll be fine! God has a plan for your life.” Joseph’s scowl turned into a smile.

When the train stopped in New Lennox, they grabbed their overnight bags and jumped off. “Sean, we have to walk a mile down Center Road here to my house.”

Joseph’s home appeared a modest bungalow, with an old flat-tired car slumbering alongside the house. “That’s my baby,” Joseph said, peeling back the tarp to reveal his green, 1945 MG TA. “I just need the time and money to work on it.” Sean stared enviously.

Joseph’s Czech mother dominated the Thanksgiving meal, with its wonderful, homey smells flowing out of her tiny kitchen. They sat down, and Mrs. Dvorak asked Joseph to offer a prayer of thanks. After a couple months of institutional food, the bounty overwhelmed Sean—a perfectly-browned turkey, heaps of mashed potatoes and gravy (Sean’s mother rarely made gravy), cloven slices of cranberry sauce, candied sweet potatoes. Mrs. Dvorak kept saying to him, “Sean, eat!” Music to Sean’s ears—he served himself two extra helpings. After dinner he devoured a big piece of pumpkin chiffon pie topped with two scoops of vanilla ice cream; then she said, “Do you want another piece?” Sean thought, Have I died and gone to heaven?

They spent two wonderful days in the Dvorak home, where Sean slept up in the dormer bedroom. Joseph became a true friend, a friendship that would last more than fifty years.

On the train trip back, the guys talked about future plans. Joseph said, “I’m studying for the ministry, or maybe missions. But I’m worried about Emelia; I don’t know if our engagement’s gonna last.” Sean tried to reassure him.

Back at TBI, Joseph asked Sean, “Wanna walk over to Michigan Avenue and pass out gospel pamphlets?” Fundamentalists felt a holy obligation to tell others the Good News of the gospel. Sean reluctantly agreed and they set out, walking east.

Michigan Avenue! Broad sidewalks and steel-posted street lights with their four-clustered hanging globes. Sean leaned against the frost-silvered stone wall of one of the upscale department stores and stared into a cold display window filled with plastic mannequins clothed with the latest fashions. Up and down Michigan Avenue strolled the Beautiful People—women hatted and high-heeled, displaying sequined sheath dresses, fur wraps and sheer hose; men wearing black wingtip shoes and double-breasted dark suits with handkerchiefs in the breast pockets. Some wore stiff-brimmed, creased-crown Hombergs.

“You know, Joseph, I’ve never bought anything, never even walked into one of these stores.” Like most students, Sean came from a modest economic background. The Depression still lingered in his parents’ minds and commanded frugality. Besides, TBI’s ethos encouraged marshalling energy and resources for Christian evangelism and mission. Sean felt like an alien among the Beautiful People of Michigan Avenue.

And what could an atheist say to people anyway? He gave a passing man a pamphlet and said, “God loves you.”

The man replied, “I doubt it.”

Sean said to himself, I know how you feel!

Joseph told the man, “Don’t doubt God. Our god is a consuming fire.” The man jumped back and stalked off into the distance. Joseph attributed this to the power of God.

Walking back along Chestnut Street, the sharp winter winds blowing off of Lake Michigan pierced their clothing. They passed a brown-skinned man¾sandals, baggy pants, un-pressed shirt, ripped sweater—and handed him a pamphlet. “No leo Inglés,” he said.

Sean told Joseph, “I don’t think he speaks English.” He tried to talk to him in his broken Spanish. “Jose” didn’t trust them at first, but then ended up inviting the guys up to his apartment. Joseph opted to walk back to TBI, but Sean climbed upstairs with Jose to a tiny third-floor room where Jose showed him his Spanish Bible, which they read together. When Joseph prayed for him, Jose mumbled a prayer along with him, then crossed himself.

One night a few weeks later the Norbert Hall guys heard fire sirens, so they poured down the stairs and ran out into the street.

“This one’s close!” Joseph and Fulton were running next to Sean, breathing in the snowy air as they ran toward the blaze.

“Sean—it looks like Jose’s apartment building!”

 Fireman standing on the hook and ladder truck sprayed the upper floors. Firehose water stood freezing on the sidewalks. Sean strained to see Jose’s apartment window—there it was, with smoke pouring out of it. Surely he’d gotten out by now. The flames quickly consumed the wood-frame building, lifting smoke high into the sky. When the heat drove Sean back, he talked to a couple of firemen. “We don’t know much , , , whole building’s destroyed, though.”

The firemen controlled the blaze and the spectators straggled away. The guys walked back to TBI leaving behind the collapsed, charcoaled rafters still glowing with dying embers. Sean was worried. “I hope Jose’s safe. Surely he got out in time.”

The next morning Sean sat in Norbert lounge scanning a small article in the Chicago Tribune. One person died in the Chestnut fire, it said, name of Jose Torres. Sean’s shivered—Jose! He turned to Joseph—“That dear man, far from family and his native home, trying to survive alone in the city, perished in the fire. I wonder what his Catholic faith did for him.”

But then, he thought, what did my faith do for me? I cannot be certain of Jose, or even of myself!

WINGSPREAD Ezine for October, 2020

“Spreading your wings in a perplexing world”
October, 2020                                                             James Hurd    

Please forward this Ezine, and share this Ezine with friends. Thank you.

Contents

New story: “Mission to Mexico”

Puzzler

Writer’s Corner

How to purchase Wingspread: A Memoir of Faith and Flying

Wingspread E-zine subscription information

*********************

New story: Mission to Mexico

Fulton turned to Sean. “K-Kennedy’s a Catholic. Don’t ya’ll know Catholics follow the pope? They w-worship the Virgin, and believe you receive s-salvation by your good works. Anyway, Kennedy’s a D-Democrat” [pronounced like a curse].

Most Fundamentalists distrusted Democrats because they held liberal views on sex and marriage and supported the United Nations, an entity that would create a one-world government headed by the Antichrist himself. Both candidates had prepared well for the debate, but John Kennedy’s Boston accent riveted his audience with well-turned phrases.

After the debates all the TBI people Sean talked to said they would vote for Richard Nixon—a Republican and card-carrying Quaker. Sean told Fulton, “Nixon comes from Yorba Linda, just a few miles from my home. John Kennedy comes from the East. But he’s charismatic, inspiring, young and an excellent debater. I’m voting for Kennedy. . . . .”

To read more, click here:   https://jimhurd.com/2020/10/01/mission-to-mexico/

(*Please leave a comment on the website. Thanks.)

New Challenge for our Ezine readers:

Send in the name of your all-time favorite book (include author and complete title) and state why it is your favorite. I’ll publish some of these in the next Wingspread Ezine.

Answer to last month’s puzzler:

Recall that the challenge was to get a brittle piece of slate installed in an opening in the oak floor of exactly the same size. The wise man used an elegant tool from the kitchen: the ice cube tray from the freezer. He simply placed a few strategic ice cubes on the sub-floor and balanced the slate on top of those. As the ice cubes melted, the slate lowered itself into the hole.

Correct answers: Doug Inwards, Eldon Eddy, Jenell Paris, Sam Palpant, Paul Wilson . . .  Congratulations!

Writers’ Corner

Word of the Month:  Fake news.

This term refers to national news that happens to contradict my own strongly-held opinions. Believing that a report is fake news allows me to discount it, and continue to embrace the gossip and prejudices of people who see the world as I do.

Book of the month: Celtic Daily Prayer. Harper. I’ve used this prayer guide for 20 years. Conceived in the Northumbria community of northern England, it provides Scripture and a reading for each day of the year (two-year cycle), along with sketches of great Celtic Christians and great events of pre-Catholic Christianity in England and Scotland.

Watch for my upcoming novel: EAST INTO UNBELIEF (provisional title)

Sean loseshis father, his best girlfriend, his life dream, and even his faith. Why is he doing now at Torrey Bible Institute? How can he restructure his life as an atheist? He could not perceive it, but grace was coming. . . .

Adult truths:

  1. Sometimes I’ll look down at my watch three consecutive times and still not know what time it is.
  2. Nothing sucks more than that moment during an argument when you realize you’re wrong.

3. I hear proofreading is being abolished . . . Is nothing scared . . .?

4. I totally take back all those times I didn’t want to nap when I was younger.

5. There is great need for a sarcasm font.

6. How on earth are you supposed to fold a fitted sheet?

7. Was learning cursive really necessary?

8. MapQuest really needs to start their directions on #5. I’m pretty sure I know how to get out of my own neighborhood.

9. Obituaries would be a lot more interesting if they told you how the person died.

10.  I can’t remember the last time I wasn’t at least kind of tired.

11. Bad decisions make good stories.

12. You never know when it will strike, but there comes a moment when you know that you just aren’t going to do anything productive for the rest of the day.

Heavenly organization:

Buy James Hurd’s Wingspread: A Memoir of Faith and Flying.

How childhood (Fundamentalist) faith led to mission bush-piloting in South America—and Barbara. Buy it here:  https://jimhurd.com/home/  (or order it at Barnes and Noble, Amazon, etc.) 

See pics here related to Wingspread: Of Faith and Flying: http://www.pinterest.com/hurd1149/wingspread-of-faith-and-flying/

Follow “james hurd” on Facebook, or “@hurdjp” on Twitter

Subscribe free to this Ezine   Click here https://jimhurd.com/home/  to subscribe to this WINGSPREAD ezine, sent direct to your email inbox, every month. You will receive a free article for subscribing. Please share this URL with interested friends, “like” it on Facebook, retweet on Twitter, etc.

If you wish to unsubscribe from this Wingspread Ezine, send an email to hurd@usfamily.net and put in the subject line: “unsubscribe.” (I won’t feel bad, promise!) Thanks.

Mission to Mexico

Before Sean knew it, the calendar said October. He’d turned nineteen that past spring, and he told Fulton, “Wow; next month is the first time I can vote in the national elections.”

Fulton jumped off his top bunk and turned to Sean. “K-Kennedy’s a Catholic. Don’t ya’ll know Catholics follow the pope? They w-worship the Virgin, and believe you receive s-salvation by your good works, Anyway, Kennedy’s a D-Democrat” (pronounced like a curse).

“Well, my parents didn’t talk politics much, although I know Dad usually voted Republican. The last presidential election, Mom told me, ‘Sean, I used to go to the polls to cancel your father’s vote, but with him gone, I wonder if I’ll even vote this year.’”

Fulton Buford said, “T-the deans moved a TV into Norbert Hall lounge so people can watch the K-Kennedy-Nixon debates.” So that evening Sean and Fulton entered the stuffy, packed-out lounge and stood leaning against the wall. Fulton wore his signature keychain—a bulky, silver affair that draped from his belt down into his pants pocket.

Most Fundamentalists distrusted Democrats even more than Catholics because they held liberal views on sex and marriage and supported the United Nations, an entity that would create a one-world government headed by the Antichrist himself. Both candidates had prepared well, but John Kennedy’s Boston accent riveted his audience with well-turned phrases.

After the debates all the people Sean talked to said they would vote for Richard Nixon—a Republican and a card-carrying Quaker. Sean told Fulton, “Nixon comes from Yorba Linda, just a few miles from my home. John Kennedy comes from the East. But he’s charismatic, inspiring, young and an excellent debater. I’m voting for Kennedy.”

Maybe voting for Kennedy would be part of Sean’s little rebellion against Fundamentalism. But he felt torn; he knew no one else who was voting Democrat. In chapel service the day before election day, Dr. Clearson told the students, “If Kennedy gets elected, he’ll honor the Pope more than our nation. And he’ll put little Catholic idols in the White House on the fireplace mantel.”

Sean considered this. He doubted Kennedy would let the Pope overwhelm his loyalty to America. But he couldn’t sleep that night. Idols on the White House mantel!

On November 8, Sean walked into the polling booth and voted for Richard Nixon.

A few days later, Sean and Alex sat at a Sweet Shop table over bowls of ice cream (Alex’s treat—Sean never had extra money to spend). They gazed out at the quad.  “Look, Sean; there goes Greg Weiman. I can’t wait until I go to Mexico with him and his Spread the Light Mission. A lot of people see Greg as an apostle, a modern-day Joshua, who will lead a victorious assault on Mexico. He’s organizing students to pray for the world and for Mexico. He has no money; all he receives he plows into Spread the Light mission. He wears his pajamas under his clothes to give him more time for prayer in the morning.”

Alex also mentioned how Greg told TBI’s president, Dr. Clearson, that he should set an example of poverty and Christian commitment by moving out of his big house and into a tent. Clearson vacillated between showing Greg off as an exemplary student and reigning him in as a wild card.

Greg would tell his Spread the Light people, “Thanks for carrying apples out of the dining hall for Diana.” Sean had seen Greg’s fiancée on campus—glasses, no makeup, Goodwill clothes, buttoned sweater over a nondescript flowered dress and wearing scuffed Oxford shoes. He remembered her long hair pulled into a loose pony tail, radiating unadorned spiritual beauty. She’d graduated from TBI in May and had no job—how she subsisted was a mystery.

“What does she eat besides apples?” Sean asked Alex. “She doesn’t have any money.”

“She lives over at Clark Street Rescue Mission.” It was true. Each morning she would get up to serve coffee, juice and sweet rolls to disheveled, left-behind men, men beaten down and hopeless, the cast-off detritus of the capitalist industrial machine, men vomited up on modernity’s shores and left vacant-eyed and wandering. Diana spread her light over them as an epiphany of hope, sanity and normality, evoking memories of better times. She would circulate, pour coffee and talk with the men. She probably eats all her meals there, Sean thought.

Alex told him, “After breakfast they turn the men out, even in winter. They bed twenty men, and bus the overflow down to Pacific Garden Mission on South State Street. “Greg and Diana have dedicated their lives to Spread the Light mission. I’m going to Mexico with Greg; you should join us.”

“Oh, I don’t know, Alex. I don’t think I’m mission material, except maybe flying mission airplanes.”

“No, really; you should go—see Mexico City, speak a little Spanish.”

Mexico! In spite of growing up in California, Sean had never even set foot in Tijuana. The trip sounded exciting. But Sean felt himself an unlikely recruit, considering his prayerlessness, flagging faith, his dalliance with atheism.

Alex said, “At least come to one of the planning meetings.” So, the next evening, they went to listen to Greg Weiman giving a talk to prospective STL’ers. Weiman talked fiery-eyed about changing the world through literature distribution. When he said literature, the word pulsated like Holy Writ. Literature evoked Spirit-hurled missiles that would strike the guilty heart of the lost. Literature!¾the modern, God-given tool to evangelize the world.

He also talked about self-discipline, strict sexual control—he acted as if girls did not exist. Greg spoke about his own sexual immorality and how God had delivered him from it. Strict control of thoughts and actions. Don’t yield to temptation. Sean knew this was code language for masturbating. He resonated with the challenge of this high morality but knew he could never achieve it.

“If you need clothes,” Greg said, “get them from another STL member; don’t buy them. And don’t go to restaurants.” Sean was pretty good at this. Unlike some other students, Sean rarely went downtown to Pizzeria Uno, and never ate out at other restaurants. He usually shunned the lascivious vending machines near the campus post office. But the dining hall rarely served ice cream, so he would sometimes drop a quarter on an ice cream sandwich, hoping no STL person would see him.

Greg preached frugal living, which included “limit your toothpaste.” That night an STL guy was in the bathroom admiring Sean brushing his teeth. “Wow; I always use more toothpaste than that!” the guy said.

A week later, Greg called an all-night prayer meeting in Norbert Hall lounge for the STL men, and Alex persuaded Sean to go along. George told them to fast all day. (Fasting wasn’t core Fundamentalism but Greg was all for it.) So everybody arrived hungry. Fifteen or twenty guys sat in the dark-paneled room listening to Greg, then they broke up into smaller groups to pray earnestly for revival at TBI (considered in a deficient spiritual state) prayed against disingenuity, backsliding. Prayers also went up for the trip to Mexico, for support funds, for open hearts and minds in Mexico.

After the meeting, Sean reluctantly gave in and told Alex he would go on the Mexico trip.

TBI didn’t charge tuition but Sean needed money to pay his room and board and he needed money for the long trips home to California and back. He’d saved about $1100 during high school packing oranges at the Sunkist Packing House. He grew concerned that he was trusting too much in his savings, so one night after an STL meeting, he went forward and gave Greg a check donating his whole bank account to STL.

But his donation didn’t count toward “prayed-in money.” “Prayed in” meant you asked God for the money and you couldn’t mention it to any friends or relatives. Sean had begun doubting his atheism but his faith still felt small. Did he have enough faith to pray in anything? Departure loomed in three weeks and he felt the pressure.

 After his big donation, Greg told him, “Let’s go to the prayer room and ask God to give you the money you need.” Perhaps Greg was partly motivated by Sean’s huge gift; perhaps he felt obligated to add his major league prayers to Sean’s. At any rate, they went to the prayer room and found it unoccupied.

STL guys customarily prayed on their knees, head on the floor. So Greg and Sean knelt down. “You go first,” Greg said.

“Dear Lord, thank you for Spread the Light and the great literature mission to Mexico. Lord, please move the right people to send in the money I need for going on this trip, because I think it is your will.” He wondered if God heard the prayers of an atheist.

Then Greg prayed a mighty prayer, with much crying out, moaning, sweating, and tearful petitions. “Move, Lord, Mighty God, move. You know Sean’s heart, his passion, his holy desire to go on this, your mission. Vindicate him, Lord, show him your mighty power by bringing in what he needs from your vast storehouse of treasures . . .” And such like. If heaven has gates and windows, Greg forced them all open that night.

After a long hour they walked out. Sean thought, Greg trusts my purpose and passion more than I do. The other guys are more committed than I am. Actually, I have misgivings, not just about the trip but about prayer itself. These passionate prayers have upped the ante. If God doesn’t come through, it’ll be further proof he doesn’t exist. He walked back to his room, troubled.

In the morning Sean walked down to the P.O.’s, twirled the little brass combination dial and peered into the small box. Nothing. Last week his mom had airmailed him some homemade cookies and had slipped in a letter of encouragement, “So proud of you… happy you’re at TBI. Miss you.”

But no letters today and no money for Mexico. Now Christmas was almost here, and just two weeks until the trip. Apparently, God doesn’t want me to go, he thought. Or God doesn’t care. Or doesn’t exist. Sean ground his teeth and felt his stomach knot. He told Alex, “I’m not sure I can go; I don’t have the ‘prayed-in’ money.”

The next week he walked to the P.O. box and peeked through the little window to see a solitary letter. He twirled the brass knob, pulled the letter out, and was disappointed when he saw the Amarillo, Texas address. A letter from his Uncle Jack. It read, “Hello, Sean. Hope the weather’s not too cold in Chicago. Use the enclosed to take friends to a restaurant and have a great time.” Attached was a check for $50. This was a huge amount of money to Sean but, more importantly, Sean could count this as “prayed-in money.” He was going to Mexico!

That evening Sean thanked God for providing his needs. He walked over, knocked on Greg’s door, and turned over the money. He’d cleared the last hurdle for his trip. Of course, he’d violated Uncle Jack’s purpose for the money but this great answer to prayer encouraged him. He hoped this trip would dispel his doubts and increase his faith.

WINGSPREAD E-zine for September, 2020


“Spreading your wings in a perplexing world”

September, 2020                                   James Hurd    

Please forward, share this E-zine with anyone. Thank you.

Contents

  • New story
  • Puzzler of the month
  • Writer’s Corner
  • How to purchase Wingspread: A Memoir of Faith and Flying
  • Wingspread E-zine subscription information

*********************

New story: Cook County Hospital

A forlorn young woman walked toward them as she carried some dirt and a small plant in the chalice of her cupped hands, crying, looking like a poster child for the human condition. Thin and slightly built, she wore open sandals and only a light windbreaker against the cold. “What’s wrong?” Sean asked.

 “God just gave me this gift, the most precious gift in the world—the Tree of Life. [She held up the small plant cradled in her dirty hands.] And now it’s dying.” She raised her supplicant eyes to him. “I don’t know where to plant it, how to water it, how to care for it. The world’s so cruel and I am so sick. If this plant dies, I die with it; the whole world dies. Please help me!” . . .

To read more, click here:   https://jimhurd.com/2020/09/03/cook-county-hospital/

Monthly Puzzler

(provided by Jerry Galloway)

My friend had purchased a piece of slate to put into the floor in the hearth in front of his fireplace. The slate was 3/4 of an inch thick, by 10 inches wide, by 48 inches long, and weighed on the order of 175 pounds. He had cut a hole in the oak floor that was the same size as the piece of slate.

He had to plunk it right there, and get his fingers out of the way as fast as possible!

The depth of the hole was exactly 3/4 of an inch, the same as the slate. And, of course, there was the subfloor underneath. When he put one end of the slate into the hole in the floor, he realized that he would have to drop the other end to get the slate into the hole. He realized that if he dropped the brittle slate, even half an inch, it would break.

Not only that, but it wouldn’t go in the hole, anyway. There was so little clearance that he couldn’t even use that thin fishing line to lower the end of the slate. So he sat there for the longest time, drinking beers and pondering this dilemma.

After his 5th or 6th trip to the kitchen, he returned with something that solved the problem in an elegant fashion.

What did he find there that allowed him to lower the slate into the hole without risk of breaking it?

All who solve this puzzle correctly will have their names posted in this newsletter!

Last week’s Answer: 

Recall, the challenge was to draw something on a paper that would not appear larger under a magnifying glass.

The “other thing” drawn was an angle, drawn with two lines. So, for example, if I drew a thirty-six degree angle, the angle would not be bigger using the magnifying glass.

Buy James Hurd’s Wingspread: A Memoir of Faith and Flying.  How childhood (Fundamentalist) faith led to mission bush-piloting in South America—and Barbara. Buy it here:  https://jimhurd.com/home/  (or order it at Barnes and Noble, Amazon, etc.) 

See pics here related to Wingspread: Of Faith and Flying: http://www.pinterest.com/hurd1149/wingspread-of-faith-and-flying/

Follow “james hurd” on Facebook, or “@hurdjp” on Twitter

Writers’ Corner

Word of the Month:  PARAPROSDOKIANS

Refers to a figure of speech in which the latter part of a sentence or phrase is surprising or unexpected. (Winston Churchill loved these). Here are some examples:

  • Where there’s a will, I want to be in it.
  • The last thing I want to do is hurt you, but it’s still on my list.
  • Since light travels faster than sound, some people appear bright until you hear them speak.
  • If I agreed with you, we’d both be wrong.
  • War does not determine who is right – only who is left.
  • Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
  • They begin the evening news with ‘Good Evening,’ then proceed to tell you why it isn’t.
  • To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism. To steal from many is research.
  • Buses stop in bus stations. Trains stop in train stations. On my desk is a work station.
  • I thought I wanted a career. Turns out I just wanted paychecks.
  • In filling out an application, where it says, ‘In case of emergency, notify:’ I put ‘DOCTOR.’
  • I didn’t say it was your fault, I said I was blaming you.
  • Behind every successful man is his woman. Behind the fall of a successful man is usually another woman.
  • A clear conscience is the sign of a fuzzy memory.
  • You do not need a parachute to skydive. You only need a parachute to skydive more than once.
  • I used to be indecisive. Now I’m not so sure.
  • You’re never too old to learn something stupid.
  • Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be.
  • Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine.
  • Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car.
  • Where there’s a will, there are relatives.

Book of the month: Caribbean by James Michener, 1989. A rich historical-fictional cruise through the kaleidoscope of dozens of Caribbean islands, from Cuba to Barbados, from before the time of Columbus until the 1980s. Sea battles. Notorious characters. Gold, silver, and sugar. Michener traveled three years in the Caribbean and consulted 400 books for this novel. (I know; it’s depressing to think about all that research! ☹)

Watch for my upcoming novel: East Into Unbelief (provisional title). There comes a time to either embrace the faith of your childhood, or walk away from it. Sean McIntosh tried to walk away—and almost succeeded.

Being Jesus’s disciple wasn’t always easy

Subscribe free to this E-zine   Click here https://jimhurd.com/home/  to subscribe to the WINGSPREAD E-magazine, sent direct to your email inbox, every month. You will receive a free article for subscribing. Please share this URL with interested friends, “like” it on Facebook, retweet on Twitter, etc.

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Cook County Hospital

Chicago’s Torrey Bible Institute required each student to do “Practical Christian Work” (PCW).  The height (or depth) of Sean’s PCW experience happened on his only visit to Cook County Hospital.

One day in October five TBI students left TBI’s arch, walked to State Street and disappeared down the stairs to the “L.” A drunk lay face up on the station platform, still as stone, his skin hanging on his bones flaccid and greyish, like a too-large coat on a fasting man. Heedless of the chilly day, he lay insensible as two flies crawled over his scalp. Sean felt guilty stepping around him.

A rising roar and bright light signaled the “L”’s arrival. They boarded the great integrator, filled with people of all social classes, colors and races wanting to get somewhere fast. Sean swayed, holding onto the strap. Not much talking¾people stared straight ahead or read the paper. You couldn’t talk much anyway over the thunder of the train.

All at once the train burst into daylight and rose onto elevated tracks. Sean felt like a bird, looking down on the heads of pedestrians, the tops of cars and busses, and gazing across at the office buildings with their windows framing people working at their desks.

Soon the PCW group disembarked, descended the steel steps and headed toward the hospital, inhaling the diesel exhaust from the busses, keeping their heads down to protect their faces from the Chicago freckles.

A forlorn young woman walked toward them as she carried some dirt and a small plant in the chalice of her cupped hands, crying, looking like a poster child for the human condition. Thin and slightly built, she wore open sandals and only a light windbreaker against the cold. “What’s wrong?” Sean asked.

 “God just gave me this gift, the most precious gift in the world—the Tree of Life. [She held up the small plant cradled in her dirty hands.] And now it’s dying.” She raised her supplicant eyes to him. “I don’t know where to plant it, how to water it, how to care for it. The world’s so cruel and I am so sick. If this plant dies, I die with it; the whole world dies. Please help me!”

Sean stood speechless. Tanya from the PCW team put her arm around the bedraggled girl’s bony shoulders, then turned to whisper to Sean, “She smells of alcohol.” The whole group sympathized, but they had to get to their hospital assignment, so they prayed for her, sat her on a bench hunched and shivering, then walked away. Sean glanced back over his shoulder at her pitiful form, her hands still clutching the Tree of Life.

Cook County Hospital’s Beaux Arts façade featured sweet cherubs and rampant roaring lions anchored by fluted Ionic columns, reminiscent of a magnificent woman past her prime. Known as “Chicago’s Ellis Island,” Cook County embraced all who came, all who otherwise could not afford medical care.

They entered the huge doors and walked across the cracked floor tiles. “Look at those sagging doors,” Sean said to Tanya, “and the paint peeling from the walls.” Bleak, unwashed windows looked out at the great city.

TBI’s Practical Christian Work director had given no orientation—only told them to walk the halls and talk to people. The rooms smelled of urine and rubbing alcohol and overflowed with beds. IV feeds hung down from hooks; oxygen tubes protruded from patients’ noses. A woman moaned and thrashed about. One old man raised his head, crying out. A young boy kept calling “nurse, nurse!” Patients lay on wheeled gurneys lining the hallways. One man had a body cast on, steel rods protruding out of his shins to hold broken bones in place. Harried nurses passed from one patient to the other, their voices echoing through the vast building.  

The PCW director had told them, “Just submerge yourself; do more than get your feet wet. Figure it out yourself. Let God guide you.”

Sean wondered, Why am I here? These desperate people, some terminally ill with no one to talk to. How talk to them? I have enough trouble talking to people I know!

Somehow he got separated from the others and found himself at a cul de sac in front of locked doorsl Then an orderly walked up to a keypad. “Here; I’ll punch you in.” Sean wondered (too late) where the other TBI students were. The doors slammed behind him and he entered purgatory—the mental health ward. Perhaps the hospital staff imagined that these naïve Bible Institute students could distract the patients, entertain them, and relieve the orderlies for a few minutes.

A Negro girl about twelve years old sat at a table and looked up at him. “They say I killed my two kittens. But I loved my little kittens. I don’t know…. They just ate something and died. I took their little bodies out and buried them in the back yard but our dog dug them up and was eating them just as Daddy got home…. He whupped me. Mommy said she’s coming back this afternoon to pick me up. I don’t like it here.” Tremulous, sobbing, she paused coloring in her book and turned to look at her beat-up, dark-faced, doll. “Abigail says Daddy can’t come home anymore because he drinks too much.” Then turning back to Sean, “I love my mommy and daddy. They’re coming to get me.” When Sean tried to touch her, she recoiled.

Raising up from his chair, a shriveled man mistook Sean for his son. “So good to see you, Roger. They treat me terrible here; I’m so glad you’re taking me home!”

A heavy-set woman lay on her bed, just staring up at Sean. He froze. What should I do? he wondered. Read the Bible? Pray? Try to engage her in conversation?

Then the woman yelled, “Turkey, turkey, turkey!” Was she anticipating Thanksgiving?

Another man whispered, “My daughter brought me here with a bad fever. They’re discharging me tomorrow. Some of these people are crazy.”

Another: “God will send fire to consume the whole world. Most of these people are lost souls but I’m saved by the blood of the lamb.”

A middle-aged woman smiled at Sean, then whispered, “I’m a virgin; I’ve kept myself for Christ, but one of the doctors tried to rape me. I screamed and he ran away. Everybody woke up. Nobody believes me, but God protected me.”

The orderly walked up. “A psychiatrist makes rounds…. We keep the dangerous ones in a different ward. Most of these just need medication—they’re not a threat to anybody. Not much we can do. Nobody ever visits them; not even their relatives.” He punched Sean out of the lockup.

Walking into the men’s bathroom, Sean stared at the urinal, trying to control his urge to vomit. He wanted to feel compassion but instead, felt only revulsion. The piety of the mentally ill shocked him. How could Christianity be true if crazy people believed it? he wondered. Where is God in the lives of these troubled people? The sick and injured, bereft of grace, cut off from the love of family and from God. Who cares about these people? Do I even care?

His own lack of compassion, his emotional weakness, guilted him. Kathy would flourish here, he thought. She harbors a huge heart that embraces all kinds of hurting people. But he vowed to himself—I’ll never come back here again.

Shaken, he joined the other TBI students in the entry hall. Some of them enthused about their conversations; others remained silent. A visit to Cook County Hospital gives your faith a reality check, Sean thought. What a failure I was!

WINGSPREAD Ezine for August, 2020


“Spreading your wings in a perplexing world”

August, 2020                                    James P. Hurd    

Please forward this Ezine to anyone. Thank you.

Contents

New story: The Great Debate

Wingspread reader challenge

Puzzler of the month

Writer’s Corner

How to purchase Wingspread: A Memoir of Faith and Flying

Wingspread Ezine subscription information

*********************

New story: The Great Debate

. . . Sean knew that TBI housed speakers on Norbert Hall’s sixth floor, but still he was surprised when he walked into the elevator and almost bumped into a scowling G. Victor McGraw. Sean stood transfixed, feeling like Moses gazing at the burning bush. But this “bush” didn’t say anything, except: “I’m going to first floor,” spoken as if someone had put sand in his toothpaste. In his sixties, gray-haired, furrowed brow, he exuded the demeanor of a man of God. He didn’t look at Sean as they descended, but when they exited the elevator, he broke wind.

Sean had loved to listen to McGraw’s radio messages—“Dear friends, all people on the topside of God’s earth need salvation. . . .” In his TBI chapel talk, he seemed the epitome of charm and grace. Sean wondered which man was the real G. Victor McGraw. . . . To read more, click here: https://jimhurd.com/2020/08/10/the-great-debate/

(*Request: After reading the article, please leave a comment on the website. Thanks.)

New Challenge for our Ezine readers!

Send in the name of one of your all-time favorite books (author and complete title) and one sentence telling why it is your favorite. I’ll publish some of these in the next Wingspread Ezine.

Puzzler of the month:

(From Malcolm Ross McDonald) I will use a fountain pen with black ink and write my signature on a plain, blank paper, anywhere on the paper. Now, I will draw something else on the paper which will be plainly visible.

When you look at my signature through a magnifying glass, you’ll not be surprised to find out that it’s enlarged. But when you look at the other thing, it is NOT enlarged. The question is: What is the other thing? (Answer next week.)

Answer to last week’s puzzler: 

You have a four-ounce glass and a nine-ounce glass. You have an endless supply of water. You can fill or dump either glass. It turns out that it’s possible to measure six ounces of water using just these two glasses. What’s the fewest number of steps in which you can measure six ounces?

First, fill the 9-ounce glass with water.

Next, pour the water from the 9-ounce glass into the 4-ounce glass, until it is full. This leaves 5 ounces in the 9-ounce glass.

Now empty the 4-ounce glass.

Now, fill the 4-ounce glass, using the remaining water from the 9-ounce glass. Once the 4-ounce glass is filled, you’ll be left with just 1-ounce of water in the 9-ounce glass.

Empty the 4-ounce glass of water again.

Transfer the 1-ounce of water from the 9-ounce glass into the 4-ounce glass.

Again, fill the 9-ounce glass with water.

Pour water from the 9-ounce glass into the 4-ounce glass, until the 4-ounce glass is full.

Since the four-ounce glass already has 1-ounce of water in it, it will only take an additional 3-ounces of water. Guess how much that leaves in the 9-ounce glass? You

Writers’ Corner

Author of the Month:  James Albert Michener was born in 1907 and lived for ninety years. His breakout novel, Tales of the South Pacific, later became a motion picture. Some of his other novels: HawaiiThe DriftersCentennialThe SourceThe Fires of SpringChesapeakeCaribbeanCaravansAlaska, and Texas. Many of his books are multigenerational, with long time spans in one geographic area. He donated millions of dollars to Swarthmore College; the University of Texas, Austin; and the Iowa Writers Workshop. A postal stamp was issued in his honor in 2008.

Watch for my upcoming novel: East Into Unbelief (provisional title). Kathleen’s mother raises her in a Fundamentalist hot-house environment. But then, disaster. How can her mother accept Kathleen’s choices? And how can her boyfriend, Sean, ever forgive her?

Words to ponder

Now that we’re into our seventh month of fighting COVID-19, I’ve got some thoughts and questions:

What you’re telling me is that my chance of surviving all this is directly linked to the common sense of others? You’re kidding, right?

So lemme see, there’s no cure for a virus that can be killed by sanitizer and hand soap?

Is it too early to put up the Christmas tree? I’ve run out of things to do.

When this virus thing is over with, I still want some of you to stay away from me.

If these last months have taught us anything, it’s that stupidity travels faster than any virus on the planet.

Wait a second—what you’re telling me is that my chance of surviving all this is directly linked to the common sense of others? You’re kidding, right?

People are scared of getting fined or arrested for congregating in crowds, as if catching a deadly disease and dying a horrible death wasn’t enough of a deterrent.

If you believe all this will end and we will get back to normal just because we reopen everything, raise your hand. Now slap yourself with it.

Another Saturday night in the house and I just realized the trash goes out more often than I do.

Whoever decided a liquor store is more essential than a hair salon is obviously a bald-headed alcoholic.

The spread of Covid-19 is based on two factors: a. How dense the population is and b. How dense the population is.

Did a big load of pajamas so I would have enough clean work clothes for this week.

It may take a village to raise a child, but I swear it’s going to take a whole vineyard to home-school one.

Remember all those times when you wished the weekend would last forever? Well, wish granted. Happy now?

And another gem for our Catholic friends:

Buy James Hurd’s Wingspread: A Memoir of Faith and Flying.  How childhood (Fundamentalist) faith led to mission bush-piloting in South America—and Barbara. Buy it here:  https://jimhurd.com/home/  (or order it at Barnes and Noble, Amazon, etc.) 

See pics here related to Wingspread: Of Faith and Flying: http://www.pinterest.com/hurd1149/wingspread-of-faith-and-flying/

Follow “james hurd” on Facebook, or “@hurdjp” on Twitter

Subscribe free to this Ezine   Click here https://jimhurd.com/home/  to subscribe to WINGSPREAD Ezine, sent direct to your email inbox, usually every month. You will receive a free article for subscribing. Please share this URL with interested friends, “like” it on Facebook, retweet on Twitter, etc.

If you wish to unsubscribe from this Wingspread Ezine, send an email to hurd@usfamily.net and say in the subject line: “unsubscribe.” (I won’t feel bad, promise!) Thanks.

The Great Debate

The next Monday Sean left his dorm room and headed for chapel. Because TBI stood tall as a Fundamentalist breeding ground, chapel drew internationally-known speakers with names such as Olford, Redpath, Barnhouse. (When Barnhouse spoke, he bellowed, being used to preaching before microphones came along.) These speakers not only deepened student faith but modeled good preaching for TBI’s aspiring pastors. Scheduled to give the sermon that day was the famous G. Victor McGraw.

His friend Darrell told Sean, “G. Victor McGraw broadcasts a syndicated radio program all across the nation. He’s spoken several times at Torrey Church. And Dr. Clearson studied under him at Dallas Seminary. He’s huge.” Sean couldn’t wait to hear him.

Sean knew that TBI housed speakers on Norbert Hall’s sixth floor, but still he was surprised when he walked into the elevator and almost bumped into a scowling G. Victor McGraw. Sean stood transfixed, feeling like Moses gazing at the burning bush. But this “bush” didn’t say anything, except: “I’m going to first floor,” spoken as if someone had put sand in his toothpaste. In his sixties, gray-haired, furrowed brow, he exuded the demeanor of a man of God. He didn’t look at Sean as they descended, but when they exited the elevator, he broke wind.

Sean loved to listen to McGraw’s radio messages—“Dear friends, all people on the topside of God’s earth need salvation. . . .” In his TBI chapel talk, he seemed the epitome of charm and grace. Sean wondered which man was the real G. Victor McGraw.

He had another celebrity encounter that fall. Jack Parker served as the popular radio pastor of Los Angeles’ redoubtable Church of the Open Door—the church Kathy had attendedwhen she was at Biola. Parker was almost as well-known as McGraw, and spoke internationally at conferences. On the way to hear Parker, Sean stopped by Smith Hall bathroom and walked up to a urinal, being careful to leave an empty one between himself and the next guy. Out of the corner of his eye he saw—Jack Parker!

He’d shriveled before G. Victor McGraw, but resolved to do better with Parker. He still believed that if he could find the right pastor or theologian, he could silence his biggest doubts, answer his most burning questions, strengthen his faith. He decided to risk it.

“Dr. Parker, I’ve got a question. Is this a bad time?”

Dr. Parker glanced up frowning, then focused on Sean. (Both men continued to pee.)

 “I was wondering, if God knows the destiny of all people even before they’re born, why do we worry about saving people?”

Dr. Parker finished and zipped up. “We cannot know whom God has predestined, but our testimony to them may be part of God’s plan.” Then he washed his hands and walked out.

As he left Sean thought, I really botched that opportunity. Hmmm . . . He didn’t convince me. How can anybody believe people are predestined anyway, that they have no choice in salvation? How would you even “sell” this doctrine to your friends? Fundamentalists were always on the alert for sales tips; evangelization was important. He’d failed many times trying to sell Fundamentalism to others.

He walked over to chapel, initialed the sign-in sheet, entered the large Moody-Sankey auditorium with its seats rising toward the back, and took his seat next to Connie, who wore shorter skirts about one inch shorter than average. Like all men, he had a catholic attraction to women¾generic; not specific. When she slouched, he could see her knees and smell her perfume, perfume like his sister wore. “Hi, Connie. You won’t believe who I just bumped into in the bathroom—Jack Parker! I can’t wait to hear what he says today.” If it got boring, he thought, he could keep awake by looking sideways at Connie’s knees.

It wasn’t just Parker’s preaching about predestination that troubled Sean; it was the doctrine of eternal security (once God “saves” you, you never lose your salvation). These arcane doctrines formed the center of Fundamentalist teaching and had been elevated to a test of one’s faith. He turned to focus on Dr. Parker. Good sermon, but it left Sean with many questions.

Dr. Meacham, Sean’s instructor in his John and Acts class, was a fresh DMin graduate from Dallas Theological Seminary, and a crisp lecturer. He’d organized a class debate on John 15—Resolved: John 15 teaches that a person can lose their salvation. The argument hinged on seeing Christ as the vine, and his followers the branches. Branches that yielded no fruit were “broken off” and thrown into the fire.

Did that mean a person could fall away, lose salvation? Sean wondered. When Meacham asked for volunteer debaters, Sean raised his hand and took the “Opposed” position, along with Jenny, a girl he didn’t know. Two other students took the “Support” position. He spent hours in preparation, consulting commentaries, seeking cross-references. The night before the great debate day he lay tossing on his bed, grinding his teeth—had he prepared enough?

The day of the debate, each of the four students presented their case. Sean’s hands felt clammy. He and Jenny emphasized God’s sovereignty to choose and his faithfulness to keep the branches. Their opponents emphasized the plain-language meaning of the text—clearly, the branches could be broken off and burned, so a person could lose his salvation. Then the class voted. When five students voted for the “Opposed” side and thirty “Support,” Meacham expressed frustration that so many students questioned eternal security. Sean and Jenny had lost.

Sean felt disappointed they hadn’t won, but he guessed why. Even here in a TBI classroom, he’d failed in defending eternal security—probably because he had never even convinced himself it was true. He wondered what Kathy thought about eternal security. He thought a lot about Kathy, but felt guilty that his fantasies, his dreams, centered on Betty. He grew more depressed and confused.

WINGSPREAD Ezine for July, 2020


“Spreading your wings in a perplexing world”

July, 2020                                    James P. Hurd    

Please forward, or share this E-zine with anyone. Thank you.

Contents

  • New story
  • Writer’s Corner
  • Puzzler
  • How to purchase Wingspread: Of Faith and Flying
  • Wingspread Ezine subscription information

*********************

New story: Sean works at the pie-filling plant

Sean McIntosh grew tired earning ninety-nine cents an hour working maintenance at Torrey Bible, so he was happy when Mrs. Thomas in Student Affairs told him, “We have a factory job at $1.25 an hour. You can go over and apply.” So in October of his second year, Sean ate early lunch in the dining hall, then exited the arch and walked toward the “L” to go for his job interview.

Disappearing down the subway stairs at State Street, he heard the roar and clacking of the approaching train. After a ten-minute ride he climbed the stairs to ground level, then turned west, walking away from the office skyscrapers toward the industrial section. The vast city with its timeless old brick factory buildings depressed him. His mother suffered from mild depression; he wondered if that explained why he sometimes felt depressed. Or did he just have fading, flagging faith?

He stopped in front of an ancient brick building with dead-eyed windows (for a Californian, all Chicago buildings seemed ancient) and a stone-linteled door. He entered and walked into the musty hall. . . . To read more, click here:   https://jimhurd.com/2020/07/04/sean-works-at-the-pie-filling-plant/

(*Request: After reading the article, please leave a comment on the website. Thanks.)

How to get lots of attention

Life happens while you’re doing something else. My daughter and I were downtown passing out food amidst the chaos and mess following the George Floyd killing. I lost consciousness and woke up for an ambulance ride and a pacemaker installation. Lots of gratitude for the EMT people, Abbott Hospital, modern technology, and the unnamed “angel” who gave me chest compressions while I was passed out. I feel grace.

Writers’ Corner

Word of the Month:  Tagline vs. Logline? Both are tools to sell your book or novel. But the tagline is short (5-10 words), intended to arrest attention. [“In space, no one can hear you scream.”—Aliens]. In contrast, the logline is longer, usually only one sentence, and answers the question, “What is the plot line?” [“A police chief with a phobia of open water battles a gigantic shark with an appetite for swimmers and boat captains, in spite of a greedy town council who demands that the beach stay open.”—Jaws]. Apart from these, a synopsis is a one-to-three-page telling of the novel.

 Author of the Month:  James Joyce

Born in Dublin in 1882, Joyce is Ireland’s best-known poet. Dubliners is a series of short stories set in some of Dublin’s known neighborhoods. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is partly an autobiographical narrative of a unique life. Ulysses, considered by many as “almost unreadable,” is his most famous novel.

Watch for my upcoming novel: East Into Unbelief. A coming-of-age tale of Californian Sean McIntosh, who, after he loses his father and then loses his girlfriend, Kathleen, travels to Torrey Bible Institute, Chicago to get his life straightened away. But while there, he loses his faith in God and fails in his attempt to become a mission bush pilot. It’s a long road back to joy—and Kathleen.

Words to live by:

  • Don’t irritate old people. The older we get, the less “life in prison” is a deterrent.
  • I’m on two diets. I wasn’t getting enough food on one.
  • Apparently, RSVP’ ing to a wedding invitation “Maybe next time” isn’t the correct response
  • I miss the 90’s when bread was still good for you and no one knew what kale was.
  • I thought getting old would take longer.
  • I told my wife I wanted to be cremated. She made me an appointment for next Tuesday.
  • My wife asked me to take her to one of those restaurants where they make food right in front of you. I took her to Chipotle. That’s when the fight started.
  • Picked up a hitchhiker. He asked if I wasn’t afraid he might be a serial killer? I told him the odds of two serial killers being in the same car were extremely unlikely.

If you wondered why you had to study Latin in school, note, below:

This month’s puzzler

(Credit to Frank Juskolka)

You have a four-ounce glass and a nine-ounce glass. You have an endless supply of water. You can fill or dump either glass. How can you measure exactly six ounces in the fewest number of steps?

 Last month’s puzzler: What thing(s) do all these words share in common?

Assess
Banana
Dresser
Grammar
Potato
Revive
Uneven
Voodoo


Answer:  If you switch the first letter of each word to the end of the word and write it backwards, it is the same word. (You sent in some great partial answers!)

Buy James Hurd’s Wingspread: A Memoir of Faith and Flying.  How childhood (Fundamentalist) faith led to mission bush-piloting in South America—and Barbara. Buy it here:  https://jimhurd.com/home/  (or order it at Barnes and Noble, Amazon, etc.) 

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