Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Watching out for Whales

While cleaning out file cabinets I found some of the humor columns I wrote for the local newspaper years ago. I think it was in the late '80's. One really made me laugh so I thought I'd share:

In my own personal vision of heaven, I see the greatest mansion, heaped full of the biggest rewards, sitting on the highest pinnacle, nearest the heart of God. It is populated with church nursery workers, elementary Sunday School teachers, and children's ministers. Eventually each one is released from his or her straight jacket, able to stop babbling incoherently, and free to enjoy the surroundings.

Having learned from reading the story of Jonah, who got swallowed by a whale because he didn't go where God told him to go, I minister to children about twice a year. God seems to understand that's all I can handle because so far I have not had any whales come to gobble me up.

Recently I made on of my semi-annual "insurance against being whale food" endeavors.
Several churches in a nearby community held an all day youth gathering and I was to speak to four different groups for 40 minutes each. The first seminar was a piece of cake and I relaxed and prepared to enjoy the day.

Then I went to the room set aside for 10 - 12 year olds. After ten minutes I had them all seated on the tables. (You notice I wrote 'on' not 'at'.) Before I could start my presentation, a charming bright-eyed lad named Chris spoke out.

"What I want to know is this: We call God 'he' so he's a man, right? Now, what I want to know is, who does he have sex with?"

After explaining the difference between spirits and bodies, I headed back toward my subject. By then 25 minutes had passed. I sat a chair in the midst of us and they all correctly guessed that it was to remind us that Jesus was present. Then I asked how we knew that, when we couldn't see Him.

I was encouraged when Chris said, "I know he's here because I'm here."

"But HOW do you know?" I was delighted that Chris would be quoting from the Bible and proving my point for me.

He answered, very seriously, "Because when I got up this morning, Jesus put a gun to my head and said, 'Come on boy, We're going to that church thing.'"

When the session was nearly over, I said I thought there was something we needed to do before we dismissed. Chris nodded wisely and said, "Yes, I know. Pray ... for me."

Concluding that there was no one present who was adept at casting out demons, I fervently asked the Lord to keep us all out of trouble for the rest of the day, especially Chris, since everyone might not enjoy him as much as God and I did.

At lunch there was much discussion about how to improve the afternoon sessions. Some of Chris' peers suggested hanging him by his feet on a tree at the far side of an empty field. I could tell by the gleam in the eyes of some of the adults in charge that they thought it was a case of "out of the mouths of babes" and I quickly mentioned that often great saints hide for many years behind a facade of youthful folly.

When I left before the evening session, Chris came running up, threw his arms around me and said, "I'm going to miss you." I was deeply touched and flattered until on the drive home it occurred to me that he may have been genuinely afraid for his life without me around to defend him.

What is funny is that now, over 20 years later, one of my greatest joys is that in the last year, we have children in my church and I do a children's message each Sunday. And I'm excited about the "Fun To Be One Club" book series, which are for mid-grade children. I'd forgotten about Chris; I just might have to write him in as a character in one of the books. He would be in his thirties now. And I now pastor a church in that county. I can't remember if I changed his name back then - to protect the guilty. Who knows? He could be a pastor in that same community. Wherever he is I pray for him and all the honest and exuberant children like him, no matter what age they are. I hope he and they and I all escape the whales.