In the summer of ’82, I took a job selling cookware door-to-door for the West Bend company. I was attending a cult-like ‘Health & Wealth’ church which taught that God’s children should all prosper and enjoy success in life. But here I was, my body pocked with psoriasis, in a job where I had the greatest market a young college guy could want: young single women! But prospering? Give me a break.
July 4, 1982. Yes, on the first it was the big guy’s 20th birthday and let me say it’s great to be on this side of the river. Overnight, my skin cleared up, I grew a full beard, and I spent three hours singing today and my voice didn’t squeak once. In keeping with tradition, I treated myself to a Birdsell’s chocolate soda. I don’t know what they do that the others don’t, but wow! If they could be bought and put on layaway or could be delivered UPS I’d have them brought to Iowa City by the truckload.
The reason I make a big deal about singing three hours today is that you might say I cut my first album. I’ve been meaning to record a “collections tape” for a long time. Before the Lord turned things around for me I had written 30-odd songs and I thought for sure I’d be rewriting and editing for life. In less than two years, he’s given me as many or more songs and I’ve rewritten and adapted maybe five songs at the most from the old songs. All things have indeed become new.
I really see the doors opening for a music ministry. He’s breaking down in inhibitions and bad vocal cords every time I turn around. I sang three Sundays ago at Maranatha and last Sunday I sang and spoke a bit at Fort Dodge at the good old lighthouse. It’s neat to look back and see growth which is why this summer is the most fun and rewarding I’ve ever had.
July 15, 1982 Thursday. And still his hand is against me. The tally for the week – 50 hours pounding doors, dialing phones, polishing pans, 600+ miles driven, $50 plus in motel bills a broken muffler pipe, 12 demonstrations – and not one sale. I returned from home last week to find an order canceled and I haven’t had a single sale since July 3. I won’t have a paycheck this week. My rent is still unpaid. My sales goal is 31 off the schedule and I have yet to get my first raise.
Praise the Lord.
I spent the week in Maquoketa after an even more worthless week in Iowa City.
Praise the Lord.
There are now exactly 30 days left in the summer. I haven’t even one little sign of God’s favor this summer. But yet I still vow before him that I will work harder these next 30 days than ever before. The Lord can still perform miracles and I still believe him. I will still stay in his word. I will still seek his face in prayer. I will still share the gospel with those I meet. I will still worship him.
Lord, to whom shall I go? You have the words of eternal life. Yet I beg you: Show your face. Lord, reveal yourself. The Bible says “Whither do I go to flee your Spirit,” not “Whither do I go to find your Spirit?” Lord, forget me. For the sake of the many who are praying for me; for the sake of my testimony before Bob and the others; for the sake of your word which says your children prosper and lend but do not borrow, for Jesus’s sake – HELP ME! Lord, stop this! My faith is more than sufficient. I believe you. I trust you. Everything my hands have touched has crumbled. Lord, why? Please, don’t hide from me, Lord, I cannot endure without your favor. I’m tired of being in this wilderness. This separation from you is hell. I’ve repented of my rebellion, my frustration.
August 4, 1982. Keith Green is dead.
I don’t believe there is one other thing that could’ve happened that could have shattered my dreams and doctrines more than that. No, I haven’t fallen away. Despite the fact that my job is crumbling and only a miracle will deliver me now, I must still stand. Only by his grace. I must be stupid or something.
My belief in God’s providential care has vanished when I learned last week that the small plane carrying Keith and 11 other passengers including two of his children crashed after take-off killing everyone. If ever a man was in tune to the voice of the Lord, if ever a man humbled himself before God’s face, if ever a man leaned on the Lord, knowing His joy, it was Keith Green. Only Melody and their newborn daughter were left and it’s impossible to comprehend why it happened, why God allowed their family to be ripped apart, their ministry, perhaps the most effectual of all on earth, to be stymied. I cannot understand.
Somehow it makes me want to fight all the more and slowly I’d like to believe I’m righting myself back up to where I was before.
I must be a fool. But if I don’t sell another pan, if my four tires blowout, if I’m kicked through, and in, and over, I’ll still praise him. I must be a fool.
The significance of this event for me was profound. They say that everyone remembers where they were when JFK was shot. For Christians, the tragic death of Keith Green was on that order. It rocked my world, and though I didn’t see it at the time, this was the moment when the Lord began to free me from the toxic theology of my ‘church’. It took months to break free (and the help of the woman who became my wife), but the journey out began here.
September 15, 1982. Today the summer officially ended. No matter what good I can make out of it, the finishing touches of the summer selling cookware was a reproach to me. The epitaph on Lifetime was “death to my pocketbook”. Not one goal I set out to fulfill for the summer was obtained. 59 sales was a humiliation to have even dared to consider. Obviously, little profit (dollar-wise) was obtained from my toil. My $500 a week is shameful to even look at. I drove 13,000 miles and would’ve made more money at Kmart. The rent is still unpaid. I cannot afford a bike and since miracles seem rather hard to come by these days, my loan will run out long before my second semester. The bad confessions were readily honored. The good confessions must have been shunned. Perhaps when the Lord explains it to me supernaturally, be it vision or a dream, I’ll consider it in a different light. For now, I’ll stop my lying. “Oh yeah, it was a fantastic summer. I learned so much…” Through grit teeth I’ll say such things.
Lord, I confess confusion and it will remain with me indefinitely till you choose to intervene and explain why this all happened. It was a wilderness. I’ve a feeling I’ve digressed. Come to me Lord. No more fronts. I’m broken, exposed, and bloody before you. Make something of my failures.
One of the things I was taught in my ‘church’ was that to receive prosperity and healing you need to make ‘good confessions’ – you need to constantly review in your mind and recite with your lips all the Bible verses that promise success. It’s where the phrase ‘name-it-and-claim-it’ came from. Having a positive mindset and summoning faith with which to face life is one thing – reducing it all down to magical incantations is another. God uses failure as much if not more than success to carve his likeness into our souls. He’s made perfect in our weaknesses. He shines through our brokenness. Our faith is built on the ultimate ‘failure’ – a Cross. But I hadn’t learned these deep truths of the faith yet. How could I have? These were lessons not taught in this church. My psoriasis was a sign that I lacked faith. And my failure to make money that summer was a sign that for some reason I lacked God’s favor. I must not have prayed enough or confessed enough or wasn’t holy enough.
Looking back, I’m rather impressed that young Barry made 59 sales, and that he gave something new and bold a ‘college try’ (while he was in college no less!) That sounds like faith to me.
September 18, 1982. One of the saving graces of this time for me was that – against the will of my ‘church’ – I kept up a variety of connections to Christian friends and ministries outside of their cultic bubble. I was involved in running a youth ministry, I had moved in with 4 friends who were active in Navigators (after actually having moved out of a house run by our ‘church’ – a huge step toward freedom), and I actively supported a campus pro-life group, as described here.
What a busy day. Today was a national day of protest against abortion and in honor of that, concerned citizens from across the state descended on Iowa City to picket the Emma Goldman Clinic. Answered prayer surrounded the occasion. All week we been soaking up the rain in these parts (I even bought an umbrella that brought back memories of playing James Bond with the cloud of gas that comes out and wipes out the band of marauders that jump out of the trees, and… Well, I guess you got a be there). But it cleared off late last night and this morning you could just about see your reflection in the sky.
The informal tally for the affair was pro-life 60, pro-death 9. Because both groups filled the protest on the same day, the city laid ground rules that allowed each group to select 12 people to picket for one hour. But… some brothers spoke with the neighbors bordering the slaughterhouse and were given permission to allow picketers in their yards, I’m quite sure the abortionists were little overwhelmed by it all.
We even had a mobile cart with two large posters hooked up to the back of a car to go with the flow of traffic down Dodge Street. We figured out in a moment of lulled excitement that 105 cars (average of three per car) went by each five minutes so 3,780 cars drove by and an estimated 11,340 people took in the demonstration which is a few seeds of discontent being sowed.
I called the Emma Goldman clinic earlier in the week, under the guise of an impartial reporter, to dig up some background information. They do 25 abortions a week which in God’s eyes is 25 murders a week. The sooner we can run that place out of town, the sooner we can turn our eyes to the University Hospital and then Iowa and then the whole land.
God is given me such a hurt lately to see the church wake up and make a stand for righteousness. How can people just drift from day to day without even lifting a questioning finger or mere sigh of protest?
And to think that abortions have continued unabated for the past 33 years. Do the math.
September 21, 1982. God used quite a few tools in his woodshed to free me from that cultic church – besides my college buddies, he even used baseball. The Church frowned heavily on worldly distractions – like sports. But I had been a die-hard Cardinals fan, and my boys were in a pennant race – the first I had ever enjoyed in my life.
The Cardinals are in first place by 4 ½ games over the Phillies, whom they’re playing tonight. The magic number is down to eight as they’ve won eighth straight. The Birds picked a nice time to streak. It’s not over till it’s over, so no predictions here but the excitement level is beginning to rise.
Boy, I smell. I just had a little work out, nothing big, but enough to break a sweat. It was tough to exercise this summer. I haven’t even swung a racquetball racquet since early summer. I’m really just half the man I used to be.
School this year is starting like a gem. I’m finally getting into the meat of my majors and I’m enjoying it. This semester I’m enrolled in three writing courses: fiction writing, expository writing, and newswriting and reporting.
I haven’t mentioned that I’m out of the dorms this year. No more Burge Hall. (A moment of silence, please.) I’m living in a regular house with a regular address with a regular phone number and my irregular friends. That git himself – brother Tim (it’s three straight years now for us). We don’t have Walt to tie to his bed or Jeff to cast in our next “Deep Freeze” production, or Frank to look up to, but with Doug in the next room over upstairs, Rob and Jeff downstairs, and my pet monkey Fred to constantly protect, it should be fun.
My bed is the old single mattress I used to have on the bunk. That thing is so old you can fold it up and seal it in an envelope. Right next door is a bathroom and tub, not 20 feet from my bed! No more sloshing around in size 13 flipflops, no more floor keys to ensure safety and security. All I need is my towel and me and the only peeping toms around of the squirrels diving around in the trees. 817 Rundell – home.