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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Revenge in the Pews

Just this past Sunday afternoon, I got a call from an old friend of mine. He invited me to go out to his church that evening. The both of us had hung out a few nights earlier and it was set then. But he was calling to tell me directions to this church way out in the boondocks of northern Alabama, when jokingly he thought he’d be smart and say something along the lines of, “Seeing how I grew up here and how my dad’s the preacher and I’ve preached here myself…if you come dressed up like you just hopped off a bus, don’t sit beside me when you come in.” Now this was a complete joke, if you knew this character you would completely understand. But that still doesn’t detract the old belief that behind every joke there’s a truth. So it is only natural for me to assume that when he called me the thought ran through his mind of me arriving in torn blue jeans and a ratty tight T-shirt that has the face of Grimace on it and he actually being embarrassed at this ragged stranger waltzing in and claiming to being buddies with the preacher’s son of the congregation who is a very polished preacher himself. I was not annoyed about his apprehension of me coming dressed as a beggar. Maybe I warranted that. But I was a little annoyed that anybody in a church should be bothered that someone shows up underdressed. “I’ll show him.” I thought smirking to myself.

My drive lay stretching on I-20 to get to this Ohatchee Church of Christ in this little, bitty town an hour or so from Birmingham, where I was at that day for my church. The place where I live is midway between Ohatchee and Birmingham. His little speech made me stop at my place for a little preparation. I threw on these old checkered pair of green and white pants. And then one of my prized ruffled shirts…Crimson colored. And to top it all off, I slapped on my forehead, a huge, oversized brown cowboy hat. Now, I was going to saunter inside that church very late, right in the middle of the sermon…I hoped. And then ogle the crowd very strangely and walk very strangely also and plop right down beside my friend and throw my arm around him. That was the plan. And he will wish he never made that comment.

We like to refer to this friend of mine as B.Diddy. B. Diddy was the preacher at my home church in Dothan years ago. He is 33 years old. He was a very dynamic preacher some 3 or 4 years ago. Though, he has left the pulpit. Perhaps becoming burned out? But this I really couldn’t tell you. He belongs to the old school world of preaching maybe not necessarily fire and brimstone but still what would be seen today termed as solid gold proclaiming back when preachers and theologians filled white tents and filled boring commentaries full of very clear, forthright formulas of how to know all one needs to know about God. B. Diddy at a young age inherited this tradition from his father and other preachers of another era. And could shake an audience with his very polished, powerful delivery. He now attends his father’s simple church in his own hometown congregation of Ohatchee Church of Christ.

I got to this church, after churning through a few backroads, noting the shoebox architecture of the building and the cheesy billboard motto for all passerbys to see, who were probably Baptists or Methodists or the Holiness churches from just up the road. The sun wasn’t yet down. I peered through the front entrance before I barged in with my eccentric costume on. I could see B. Diddy’s large head facing the audience. I could hear them all singing, chanting about Beulah land. B. Diddy was leading this small congregation in singing. He was decked out in a tie and a sportsjacket. Embarrassed? There was nothing embarrassing to me about what I was going to do. After all there were probably no people under 50 in there. I was waiting for him to sit down. So I stood outside, propping myself up against the red bricks of the building wondering about the few people that drove by this little highway and what they thought when they saw me. I felt like some birthday telegram performer as though I was going to jump out of a cake or something. Fixing my huge hat over my hair in the glass door, I probably appeared as what a pale Prince would look like if he performed the scarecrow from the Wizard of Oz. After the singing had piped down, I saw B.Diddy walking over to sit down. Now was my moment.

After I crossed the first glass doors into the actual church building, I was into the foyer where the option of 3 doors loomed before me. I saw through the cracks of the middle door that B. Diddy had ambled over to the right side of the auditorium. So it was either through the middle aisle and work my way through a pew getting people to really notice me, or it was the less intrusive way of the far right door closer to where B. Diddy was sitting. I chose, to my dismay, the less rude, more clandestine door. I just wanted to embarrass him a little, not disrupt anything. So I got around to that right door and just as I opened it and was about to enter in and all the stares would begin, I see him jump up from the seat right beside the door and nearly tackle me, pushing us back into the foyer. We both erupted into laughter as we embraced. And our giggles, mine in particularly, started to rise in volume. “Sshhh!” he said. “I knew it. I knew it. I knew the moment I hung up the phone. You were going to get me good.”
All that I could say was, “You know me too well. and Man, and you had to ruin it!”
“Well, you can come in. Just don’t wear the hat.”
He had heard the glass doors shut when I entered and was expecting me at any moment. If I had chosen the other door, I would’ve walked in with cowboy hat before everyone.
I kept my cowboy hat by my side, and the both of us marched into the auditorium. I still got a few stares, though friendly; I was still in my ruffled shirt.
Singing continued. The old swaying swinging. Songs that I couldn’t remember, but probably struck some deep remembrance in my subconscious them being sung when I was a small child. B. Diddy’s father got up and gave the sermon. A nice sermon, simple and congenial with here and there even a rhyme. I think Mr. Dunaway is known all over Alabama for his many rhyming slogans he likes to throw out there.

After most everything was done. B. Diddy got up and introduced me to the entire church. As he was doing so, I thought to get one last stab at him, and before he pointed me out, right at the moment when everyone turns around to glare at the visitor, I lean my head back and pretend as though I am sleeping and then waking up, embarrassed. After commenting on this, B.Diddy asked me to come to the front in my ruffled shirt and checkered pants…that didn’t even match. And he announced to the congregation about my future plans for moving to New Zealand. How I’d live in Russia and made it sound as though I lived in many more countries. He described me to being this fearless and extraordinary apostle, like Paul who goes from shore to shore all for the testimony of the gospel. In short, he made me out to be somebody I wasn’t exactly. Exaggerating things, a bit just like all preachers can do.

Afterwards, the people flocked to me. Asking me about Russia and about this or that. No one commented on my clothes. I really believe that B.Diddy was in part getting me back for my charade. Though, even if he didn’t paint me to be such an extra-ordinary character, I think that they would’ve been just as friendly. I’m always surprised by conservative churches. I think them to be half dead, but then I'm always floored by their hospitality and generosity.

5 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brian--I have had so much fun reading your adventures! I didn't know you were heading for New Zealand...wow! I would go there too---they don't have any spiders or snakes. :-) Brian should have known better than to tell you not to show up and embarass him! LOL I will always remember watching you jump across the tables at the Dothan Mall on the YFC video. :-) Stay safe and spread God's glory! Jan Hildebrand (from Westgate)

9:18 PM  
Anonymous the author said...

Jan,
Thanks for reading. Yeah, I'm leaving for New Zealand in a few weeks. Keep in touch.

8:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Boy do you put your own spin on things, old friend. While I, like likely everyone else who reads this "story" of yours, found it thoroughly entertaining, I feel the need to clear up a few discrepancies. First, perhaps it has been a while since you have been in a "conservative" church, for that is not a word that many would use to describe the Ohatchee congregation. "Moderate" perhaps, "middle-of-the-road", but, in Church of Christ lingo, not "conservative." Second, with around two hundred members, it is not that "small." Thirdly, concerning your description of the happenings at the end of the service, I do recall mentioning the fact that you worked as a missionary in Russia and have gone on mission trips to various places. Unless you have been deceptive in your iternaries, that makes you a traveling "missionary." I also know you well enough to know that you share Jesus, in your own unique way, wherever you go. Perhaps I, as a preacher, did not "exaggerate" as much as you suggested. The main reason for my calling you to the front was to call upon everyone to pray for you, one of my best friends, as you prepare to leave the country to go to the other side of the world. You will be in my prayers and I will do my best to insure that you are in the prayers of everyone in my circle.
This little piece of mine is written, tongue-in-cheek, old friend. You already know that, but I declare it for the sake of those who read who are perhaps unaware of the unique friendship you and I share. I love you, man. Always will. And though I hate the thought of you departing the states yet again, I will miss you and look forward to your safe return. Someday, I trust, you will settle down somewhere near me so that we can continue to have our good clean fun. So far as I can recall, there has not been a dull moment between us since our paths first crossed. Until later...

9:14 PM  
Anonymous the author said...

Word, my brother...I appreciate your clarification and your message of brotherly affection. I can only write down from the experience of the moment. Or from what I percieve to be the case. Your church seemed "conversative" looking at a broad spectrum of all of Christendom. Which, sorry to admit it, even the most liberal of Churches of Christ is included with the "conservative" label in this spectrum. But what can I say, it's a very relative word to toss around. I didn't mean this in the negative sense. Only the characteristic.
And I have thoroughly enjoyed the times that we've spent together as well. There shall be more. So don't worry.

12:02 PM  
Blogger James and Andrea said...

That's hilarious! I can totally see the whole picture. I think he got you back too, but it's nice that everyone made a big deal about you.

Andrea

1:52 PM  

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