I was raised in a house church that is a mystery to many, as it does not call itself by a name. During times of war, it has registered with the government under various names, so that its preachers can be exempted from conscription, but they never called themselves by those names to anyone except government authorities. Most people in North America, who know of their existence, refer to them as "Two by Twos," and some have called them "Go–Preachers", in reference to their interpretation of Matthew 10: 7 and 9 – 11, where the Anointed Lord Jesus sent His disciples out by pairs to preach to the Israelites. Unfortunately, they skip over verse 8, which says, "Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils:"
This sect, or cult, was started in Ireland in 1897 by a Scotsman named William Irvine. He was a former mine boss who joined the Brethren church and went to Ireland as a preacher. There was a great deal of discontent, at that time, with the established churches. As a travelling minister, Irvine heard a lot of grumbling among the church folk when he visited with them. He shared his ideas about how ministry ought to be conducted, which were in tune with their ideals.
Perhaps Irvine would have done all right, if he had just preached about how Jesus died on the cross to save us from our sins, but he got into error when he ventured into other areas. If he ever preached about the grace of God, he dropped that message when he formed his cult. People who preached that salvation is by grace. through receiving Jesus as their Saviour, Irvine derided as "Calvary ranters." This is a very shocking, anti–Christ stance to take towards the Gospel, and it should have caused everyone who considered themself a Christian to abandon his meetings, but his followers were without discernment. Eventually, William Irvine even went so far as to claim to be the Messiah, just as Jesus said in Matthew 24:5, "For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many."
William Irvine was an emotionally–stunted, narrow–minded man who did not rightly divide the Word of Truth, and he really was not fit to be a Bible teacher, but he had a strong, charismatic personality that was attractive to some people, and made many fear to challenge him, if they disagreed with him. Irvine quoted Matthew 10 about how Jesus sent His disciples out in pairs, without luggage, without prepared sermon notes, receiving no salary. Irvine's rants on this Scripture appealed to his listeners, as parishioners were disgruntled with clergymen who had made a professional career out of the Church, rather than having received a call from the Lord to ministry.
Society was transitioning at that time from an agricultural society to an industrial society. It was a time of social unrest. The spread of schools to teach everybody to read opened up worlds of possibility to many. People were not content to stay in meniel roles imposed on them due to a rigid social order of aristocrats, merchants, servants, and peasants. Irvine's ideas offered a way to break out of the lower echelons of the social order, as well as to rebel against the established clergy. His admirers encouraged him to implement his ideas.
So Irvine started his own sect, gathering disciples from the churches that he visited under the auspices of the Brethren Faith Mission. It was a classic case of biting the hand that fed him. He went into the churches as one of their preachers and drew away malcontents in the flock to follow him. He was not making disciples for Jesus. It was as the Apostle Paul said in Acts 20:30, "Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them."
Most of the members of Irvine's cult were not unchurched people whom they evangelized, but members of other churches who were persuaded that William Irvine offered something better. To this very day, new members are mostly drawn from other churches. Many members have been raised in this sect and trained to believe that it is the only true Christian church.
Irvine had two classes of followers: the preachers, who were called "workers", and the other members of the church supported them financially. The terms the Cooneyites use are drawn directly from the Bible. They wrangle much about using the exact words of the King James translation, in the spirit of those whom Paul described in 1 Timothy 6:4.
I heard many vain arguments of that type among my relatives when I was a child. It never occurred to them to look the words up in the original language to obtain a clearer understanding of the Scriptures. If someone used a word that meant the same thing, but was not the exact word used in their English translation, then the other person had to be wrong.
Recently, some workers have said that other churches who follow the Bible are genuine Christian churches, as well, but I cannot help but suspect that they mean other churches who follow the Cooneyite interpretation of the Bible. That could rule out churches that own a church building, and whose women wear make–up, churches that call themselves by any name except Christian, and various other things that other Christians do, that Cooneyites don't, though there is nothing in the Bible that forbids owning a church building, wearing make–up, and so on.
If some Cooneyites allow that other people in other churches are Christian, they are likely to consider themselves a holier class of Christian because of their stringent rules, regardless that, generally, they are greatly lacking in spiritual power. Their zeal seems to mainly be for their style of Christianity, rather than for Jesus Christ Himself. Misplaced zeal is idolatry, which is a sin.
When I was in my teens, I took my brother Jim to church and he prayed to receive Jesus as his Saviour. My uncle picked us up to give us a ride to my foster home afterwards. He was upset that I was leading my brother to a "false church" and vigorously opposed everything I said in reply to his comments. In exasperation, I told him that he was narrow–minded. He leaped on that word like a dog on a june bug, saying, "Do you hear that, Jim? Narrow? Broad is the way that leads to destruction, but narrow is the way that leads to life."
His remark was not appropriate to what I said. Jesus could have said that the Pharisees were narrow–minded because they did not try to reach out to tax–collectors and prostitutes to bring them to salvation. If He had told them so, they would have responded in a similar way as my uncle. I do not entirely blame my uncle that my brother decided a couple of days later that he didn't want to be a Christian, and then went way off the rails, but my uncle contributed towards that by failing to recognize that a relationship with Jesus is much more important than what church a person attends, and not being supportive of my efforts to get my brother to surrender his life to Jesus. This uncle also had a tendency to tell dirty jokes to my brother and I. He wasn't a particularly good Christian example to us.
In the early days of this sect, the workers were called "tramp preachers" by outsiders, in reference to their smelly aroma and grubby appearance. When one travels without luggage, it is hard to be well–groomed. They went from house to house, knocking on doors to preach, but most people were put off by their scruffiness and by their message, which was without power.
This was one of the major differences between how Jesus's disciples conducted ministry, and what Irvine and his followers practiced. In Matthew 10:8, Jesus told His disciples, "Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely you have received, freely give." Doors of hospitality opened more easily to the disciples because they performed miracles, and people were more willing to give gifts of money for their support, and for them to distribute to the poor. Irvine and his workers were not empowered by the Holy Ghost to work miracles. Their faith was not on that level. They did not even believe in the baptism of the Holy Ghost, though the apostle Peter said that God has promised it to all who receive salvation. A gift, no matter how splendid, is of no avail, if it is rejected.
Irvine and his followers merely had a message of how they were following Jesus's commandment to go forth to preach, taking nothing with them, gaining no material advantages from being in ministry. It seemed noble to those who were annoyed with the established churches. The message contained in Jesus's death on the cross and His resurrection from the dead was relegated to being a side issue, merely an accessory by which they Christianize their cult. Their main message is that a person has to be part of their church to be saved.
It was the custom in Israel, during Jesus's day, for religious teachers to travel with minimal luggage, visiting the villages to teach the Law. It was considered a shame among devout Jews to not show them hospitality. Everyone vied to entertain them, and jealousies often arose from this practice, besides much time being wasted that could have been used for teaching. This is why Jesus told His disciples to just stay at one house.
His point in giving them directions to not take anything with them was that He would see to it that they were provided for, just as the teachers of the Law were provided for, though their message was about grace. The Cooneyites carry the wrong message. Their message is about keeping their rules, not about salvation through the grace of God. The preach an Irvinized form of the Law.
The traditions of the Israelites made them amenable to supporting travelling rabbis. It was not the national tradition in Ireland, nor any other country in the world, to open homes to Bible teachers, so the Cooneyite preachers were at a huge disadvantage when they tried to apply the Matthew 10 directive outside of its proper milieu. Some of the workers had nervous breakdowns because they were, either overcome by guilt over not being able to narrowly follow Matthew 10 restrictions, or the hardships were simply too severe when the overseers' directions were followed.
One of Irvine's early followers was a man named Edward Cooney, who left a prosperous merchant life to become a go–preacher. He was the most eloquent of the go–preachers, which is why outsiders started to call them Cooneyites. The Cooneyites established house churches and held conventions for large gatherings of their followers to meet and listen to their preachers for several days. This is still the way they operate.
Sometimes they rented church buildings to hold meetings in, but they did not build their own church buildings. They did not publish literature about what they believed in or how they operated. They never called themselves by any name, because "Jesus did not give His disciples a name." They refer to others in their sect as "the friends". For these reasons, the Cooneyites, or Two by Twos, are not well–known, and are somewhat a mystery to people outside of their cult.
They are a cult in that they hide their origins and exercise mind–control. They say that they are a continuation of the Early Church. Most of them do not even know that their church was formed by a man named William Irvine in 1897. Those within the cult who do know about it, generally do not talk about it. The early workers did not admit to others that Irvine was their leader. They referred to him as just another of the workers, but the reverent way they treated him, according him special privileges, indicated that he was their leader.
William Irvine was a grump. He liked to control people, and he thought he was something pretty special. In spite of his ideals about how preachers should be a humble servant of the Lord, he was a very proud man. He was blunt to the point of being condemning and insulting. On one occasion, he told his audience that they were lepers, and for them to touch him would defile him.
Irvine did not make himself available to the common people who attended his meetings. He sneaked in through a back door, or sometimes a window, to preach, and left the same way, to avoid contact with people who wished to speak to him before or after the meetings.
Granted, there are only 24 hours in a day and one can relate to only so many people before becoming exhausted. Popular speakers need to be protected, to some extent, from becoming over–extended, but it does not sound like Irvine felt obliged to be gracious, if he did not feel like it, once his organization was established. He was top dog and let others know it.
Irvine seemed to take it as his due that the women workers scrubbed his back when he took a bath. The sister workers fought among themselves for that privilege. It may have been fairly common, in those days, for a woman to scrub a man's back in his bath but, regardless of custom, it would have been wise to ask a male worker to do that for him, if required. Besides being more modest, it would have prevented some of the contention among the female workers. I gather that it gratified Irvine's ego to have women fighting with each other to get physically close to him. He had affairs with some of them.
Irvine lied under oath regarding the upkeep of the women workers. When the court inquired how much they were paid, he stated that they were given eight shillings a week. They did not receive that much. The Cooneyites justified his lie because women workers would have otherwise been banned. The intent of the court was to protect those women from neglect, so that they would not be overloaded with hardship. Eight shillings a week was not an inordinate sum that the court specified in an attempt to suppress the Cooneyites; it would have ensured only a minimal standard of provision.
Irvine, eventually, had a falling out with his workers because his ideas were getting crazier and crazier. They booted him out of the fellowship. They had resented him for a long time because he lived at a higher level than the rest of them, as well as because of his insults and high–handed treatment. Irvine went to Jerusalem to live and became more of a crank than ever. He harboured a delusion that he was Elijah, one of the two witnesses spoken of in the book of Revelation. He was champing at the bit, waiting for God to give him the power to call down catastrophes on his enemies. He relished the idea of ruling the world with a rod of iron and calling for famines that would destroy millions of people.
The workers minimized the role that William Irvine had played in starting their sect. He was an embarrassment. They should have considered the possibility that the worm in his head had been right there at the beginning, in his interpretation of Matthew 10, and in how he reduced Jesus's importance in obtaining salvation, and how he cut his followers off from the rest of the Body of Christ.
1 John 3:14 says, "We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loves not his brother abides in death." The Cooneyites did not recognize anyone, but themselves, as being true brethren. They despised and condemned as false, men and women of God who preached a more Biblically accurate message of salvation than what the Cooneyites preach, and they conspired how to steal sheep from Jesus's green pastures of grace, to compel them to graze on the barren, rocky ground of legalism that they had inherited from William Irvine.
For the purpose of exerting control over the members, it did not serve for the workers to admit that the sect had recent origins. It carried more weight for them to say that they were a continuation of the Early Church, though, if that was so, there was a hiatus of almost two thousand years before they supposedly picked up where the Early Church left off. Cooneyite doctrine says that there was no salvation in any other church, which implies that there has been a continuing line of workers with their doctrines from Jesus's day to now. The evidence is to the contrary. Irvine came out of the Brethren church, which was started in 1708, and the Two x Twos do not acknowledge the Brethren church as being on par with themselves. The Cooneyites have none of the power of the Early Church, but they claim its honours and privileges.
A thing that really stands out to me as very contradictory to their assertion that people can be saved only in their church is that they sing hymns written by people who wrote them before their church was formed. How is it that those hymn writers, if they were not genuine Christians because they were not Cooneyites, could express faith in the Anointed Lord Jesus that meets with Cooneyite approval? It would seem that the Cooneyites are a rather uninspired bunch of people, if they cannot write their own hymns. Even if they were to now sing only hymns written by Cooneyites, their borrowing of other people's hymns in the past would still stand against them as a big question about their assertion that they are the only true Christians.
I think that there are very few people among the Cooneyites who are genuine Christians, though they generally are very decent, wholesome people. Most of them do not understand what genuinely constitutes salvation. They have believed "another Gospel", as the apostle Paul mentioned in Galatians 1:9. They have received a doctrine that preaches salvation through works, rather than through receiving Jesus as their Saviour and believing in His grace alone for salvation.
Jesus actually plays a very minor role in the Cooneyite church. They will quote that He said, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No man comes to the Father, but by me." But then they will go on to teach that their way is the Way and their doctrine is the Truth, and that nobody can be saved unless they join themselves to their church and submit to their preachers.
Additionally, nobody really knows if they are going to make it to Heaven, until they stand before God on the Day of Judgment, where they will find out if He thinks they behaved well enough. They regard each other in their fellowship as only "professing" to be a Christian. Nobody really knows if another is a genuine Christian, for only God knows our heart, though Jesus told us that we will know others by their fruit.
Is there fruit among the Cooneyites that points them out as the only true Christians? They live after a fashion of godliness, but they tend to be timid about sharing their faith. Most of the people they talk to already go to church. They already want to live a clean, wholesome life. They are just discontented with the other churches they have attended.
Right enough, there are plenty of dead churches out there, who preach only the letter of the Word and do not have the Spirit to quicken it, but the Cooneyites are just another dead church and their doctrines are more messed up than most of the others. They are not very logical when it comes to thinking about what the Scriptures say. They are not very good at balancing verses with what the Bible says in other verses and understanding things in context.
The Cooneyites are also very insular. Christians in other churches go out to the streets to preach to drug addicts and prostitutes, and into jails and hospitals to minister to complete strangers. I have never heard of a Cooneyite preacher or lay person doing this. If a Cooneyite does so, it is more likely to be at the request of a friend or relative of an inmate or patient. And who has ever heard of a Cooneyite deliberately witnessing to someone whom they know is a warlock or a witch? They don't go after hard–core sinners.
I have not heard of the Cooneyites having ever built schools, hospitals, or orphanages, though Cooneyite missionaries have worked with Christians in other churches on the mission field, who have those type of facilities. Are they really assisting other churches in their work, or are they just piggybacking on what they established? I read that workers had discussions among themselves how they could trick the clergy in other churches, so that they could steal their sheep.
It is absolute arrogance for the Cooneyites to consider themselves the only true Christians, and dismiss the sacrifices that others have made for the cause of Christ, who have not been of their fellowship. Several examples come to mind, such as:
Two Moravian missionaries who sold themselves into slavery so that they could minister to the slaves of Haiti.
Fanny Crosby lived and ministered among the poor and wrote hundreds of hymns (some of which the Cooneyites have probably sung).
Adoniram Judson and his wife aged before their time in missionary work in Burma, Mr. Judson was jailed by the Burmese government for his preaching, his wife voluntarily joined him in jail, and they gave their lives for the Lord.
Bruce Olsen, a Pentecostal, went to Venezuela as a kid of nineteen, without any church support, having only $70.00 in his pocket, and knowing nobody whom he could stay with when he arrived there. He reached the Molitone Indians of Columbia, bringing nearly the whole tribe to Jesus, and introduced modern medicine and education, which saved the Molitones from being destroyed by land–grabbing colonials.
Jackie Pullinger left home at twenty and arrived in Hong Kong with only $20.00, and knowing nobody, to minister in slums that policemen are afraid to enter.
Gladys Aylward went without any church support, travelling alone across the USSR in winter, to minister to orphans in China.
Kay Gordon, another Pentecostal, went to the Arctic to reach the Eskimos and had to spend a winter in a tent. As there was no water available during the summer in the area where she ministered, she washed in grapefruit juice.
There are many, many Christians in other churches who were imprisoned for their faith, or sued, or were denied jobs, harassed in countless ways because they refused to reject the Lord Jesus, and many who were tortured and put to death, remaining faithful to the end. Do the Cooneyites think that these people were just masochists? That they did not truly love the Lord and have a genuine relationship with Him?
I have never heard of Cooneyite preachers having more than moderate success in praying for minor sicknesses, most of which are greatly assisted by modern medicine, whereas I have heard of Christians in other churches praying for, and receiving, cancer cures, blind eyes seeing, the deaf hearing, lepers cleansed, amputated limbs restored, and even the dead being raised, many times without medical intervention.
I don't think that my grandmother heard much about Christians in other churches performing mighty miracles when she joined the Cooneyites. If she did, she probably did not believe the stories were true. I surmise that she was very sour on the established churches.
When I lived with her as a small child, while eating a chicken dinner, my sister and I refused to eat the chicken's tail. Grandma picked it up and started munching on it with relish, saying that the "preacher's nose" was her favourite part. The way she said preacher indicated that she held preachers in great contempt. Grandma did not class the workers in the same category. Only pastors and evangelists in other churches were called preachers; ours were called workers.
Grandma certainly did not consider the full extent of her insult of comparing the Gospel in the mouth of minister outside of her own church to what comes out of a chicken's anus. It had an effect on how I viewed pastors in other churches, and my mother telling me that other churches were false, also had an detrimental effect. For a while, it cut me off from good people who could have helped me, and that would have brought me to Jesus sooner, BEFORE I got involved in harmful activities; it would have saved me some grief.
Perhaps Grandma saw cases where pastors lived too well, in her opinion. I know that one of her older sisters was married to a pastor, though I know nothing that indicates that she disapproved of how her brother–in–law conducted himself.
A lot of people in my mother's family judged my mother when they found out that she wasn't married to my father. She wore a wedding ring and called herself Mrs. Townsend, because she did not want to be scorned by her family; only Grandpa and Grandma knew that she wasn't married to my father. But consider this: they all loved and revered my grandmother, but Grandma was an unwed mother for a while. She's in Heaven now, and it doesn't bother her in the least for her children and grandchildren and greatchildren to know this about her past. She is forgiven of it, and she would like for the rest of her family to stop judging her beloved little girl for the mistakes she made, and being titillated by the scandal, but, rather, to look on her with compassion.
I know that my grandmother conceived her two eldest children with my grandfather out of wedlock, having calculated her wedding day against their births when my brother pointed out the discrepancy. Grandpa married her before the second child was born. This was way back in the 1910's, when it was a great scandal for a woman to be an unwed mother. My grandfather was a couple of years younger than her, but he was a big, strong youth with a forceful personality. Being only in his mid–teens, he possibly thought he was too young to take on the responsibilty of being a husband and a father when the first child was conceived.
My grandmother was a wonderful lady, and it is not my intention to dishonour her memory by mentioning her mistakes, no more than God intended this when He had recorded, in the Bible, the mistakes of great saints such as Abraham and King David, to warn the rest of us away from their errors. He made no secret of the fact that Rahab was a prostitute, before she defected to Israel and put her trust in Him. He forgave her of her past and worked her into the lineage of Jesus! My mother committed fornication, but she has never run a brothel, which is where the Israeli spies hid out when they scouted Jericho. Taverns also functioned as brothels in those days, just as they still do sometimes today, and that is what kind of house Rahab had. Both my mother and my grandmother have been more respectable than that, so, if we would not look down our nose on Rahab for her past, why would we do that to these other two ladies?
I believe that my grandmother is in Heaven, having put her trust in Jesus to save her soul. I mention these things to come to an understanding of how she made the mistake of becoming involved in a cult that hindered her faith in Jesus from becoming more fully developed. I am sure that she is very glad to have the opportunity, through the recounting of her life, to guide people to more fruitful ways to serve God.
Grandpa eventually raised my grandmother (and himself) to respectability through marriage, but before that happened, I would not wonder if church people shunned my grandmother. Perhaps she took a lot of flak from her sister and her pastor husband. On the other hand, they may have been compassionate and supportive, but I am guessing that how my grandmother was treated by church people, when she was an unwed mother, contributed towards her grievances against established churches.
My grandmother wanted to be a decent person. She wanted to go to church, one where she was not judged for mistakes she had made in the past. The Cooneyites had been operating for only a few decades and were desperate to build their membership. They were willing to allow that the Jesus's blood had washed away my grandmother's sins, as long as she joined their church.
I attended one of the Cooneyite conventions after I became a Christian and distinctly heard one of their workers preach that, even if a person has prayed to receive Jesus as their Saviour, it is a lie of the devil to believe that they are saved, if they do not go to their (the Cooneyite) church. The man did not have anything to support this assertion, except his personal belief; there is no Scripture to verify it. His statement is a heresy that is very demeaning to our precious Lord Jesus. The Cooneyite doctrines are geared towards the workers gaining and maintaining control over others. They are not geared towards lifting up the Lord Jesus Christ and glorifying Him.
There is a Scripture that verifies one does not have to belong to a particular fellowship to be approved of God. In Mark 9:38, the Apostle John said to Jesus, "Master, we saw one casting out devils in Your name, and he doesn't follows us: and we forbade him, because he doesn't follow us." Jesus replied, "Forbid him not: for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me. For he that is not against us is on our part."
I do not consider the Cooneyites to be the standard against which all other churches should be measured, as they really do not preach the same Gospel that the Apostles preached, or conduct themselves in the way that Jesus taught His disciples to minister, performing miracles and lifting up His Name. If we do not operate at the same level of faith, we ought to, at least, acknowledge that God wants us to operate in a high level of faith that involves healing the blind, the deaf, the maimed, casting out demons, raising the dead, etc., and work towards developing our faith to that level.
Disagreeing with the Cooneyites does not disqualify one as a true follower of the Anointed Lord Jesus. Even so, I am not against them. I am against their doctrines and religious practices, but as for the Cooneyites, most are very respectable, responsible, and likeable people. They may be a cult, but they are not extremely perverse, like the Children of God or other followers of cult leaders who teach that it is okay to lie or fornicate or commit adultery, under certain circumstances.
The Cooneyites were probably prevented from becoming like that because they ousted their leader before he could gain the sort of power that Moses David had over his followers. Their government, since then, has consisted of a coalition of elder workers.
The poverty of the Cooneyite preachers appealed to my grandmother. By then, workers were packing a suitcase around to keep themselves looking decent, though their meagre wardrobe was virtuously drab. Aha! Taking extra cloaks, I see! That wasn't what Jesus's disciples did, when He sent them throughout Israel.
Some of the workers also got around by bicycle. Again, another transgression on the highway of holiness that they purported to follow. Granted, there were no bicycles in Jesus's day, but He told them to not take walking sticks with them. They were to be totally dependent on Him for EVERYTHING, to not even lean upon a staff, but the Cooneyites could see that it was impractical, at their level of faith, to follow the directives in Matthew 10 to the letter.
Most of the Cooneyite preachers suffered great hardships in pursuing their ministry. Many of them died young because the overseer workers would not give them money for adequate nutrition or medical care. One of the women workers in Canada lost her fingers to frostbite because she had to get around in the winter by horse. In Australia, some of the women suffered injuries when they fell off their bicycles, while travelling on rough roads. There was very little regard given to women in consideration of their physical frailty for the kind of work expected of them.
The overseers in charge lived fairly cushy lives, after having paid their dues in the early years, and they weren't about to give any of those younger workers a break that they hadn't gotten. In my opinion, their withholding of available money to provide support and medical care for those workers who died made the overseeing workers guilty of murder.
A former worker was quoted in The Secret Sect by Doug and Helen Parker, as saying that the overseers were not competent to interpret the scriptures, and he considered that the stand for poverty teaching made by some workers was not credible, but covered the failure to care for needy workers.
This worker had been astonished to learn that, all the time he was suffering greatly from health problems, and had to receive medical care through the charity of the hospital that treated him, the worker in charge of the territory had opened a trust account in the young worker's name. It had money in it that would have more than covered his support and medical expenses. His illness and crippling probably could have been prevented. The overseers had trust accounts in the names of other workers, though they did not tell them about it. It sounds like they were hiding funds from auditors.
I have never heard of a worker abusing donations to the extent of big name preachers in other churches, who own mansions and have private jets. This would be far too extreme for Cooneyites to tolerate from their ministers, considering the Matthew 10 directive that their cult is based on. I read, though, of an overseer who lived with his wife in a nice house and they had a car and a pleasure boat, while other workers he was in charge of travelled for hundreds of miles on Australia's dusty roads by bicycle, took shelter where they could in abandoned shacks, and ate what they could glean from the wayside.
This couple also had younger workers living with them, supposedly being discipled through having opportunity to observe their superior spirituality. In actual fact, they were just unpaid help, doing the cooking and housework, and maintaining the yard and vehicles. They were not required to go out and preach when they were engaged in this service.
I don't have an issue with ministers maintaining a decent style of living, but when an organization promotes itself as being above all other churches because it obeys the Matthew 10 directive, THEN THEY SHOULD OBEY THE MATTHEW 10 DIRECTIVE TO THE LETTER. If they are going to criticize other churches because they don't send their ministers out by pairs, and they own more than one set of clothes, and they own the roof over their head, instead of depending on the hospitality of others, then they shouldn't hypocritically allow some of their own ministers to have a house and own a car. Neither should they con others into thinking that they are doing them a favour to let them work for them at far less than their local employment standards requires employers to pay for domestic services.
The workers did not publicly ask for offerings. They never mentioned financial needs in the services. It was only in private that they pressured those who had the means to make donations. This gave the public impression that the workers were not after money, and that all of their support was freely given by members who considered it a great privilege to have the workers in their homes and pay for their expenses.
The esteem the ordinary members had towards the workers was the pay–off for all the hardships they suffered, including the single, celibate life that most of the workers practiced, and the boring, boring, boring way they dressed, to be an example to the rest of the flock. They were esteemed beyond what they would have been, if they had remained in their secular, middle–class jobs. They were esteemed only by the people in their church, but it was more than what they could have expected, given the station of life that they were born into.
Being a Cooneyite preacher gave these people the opportunity to be clergy, without being educated for it, as was expected in most of the established churches. William Irvine had somewhat of a grievance against educated people, as he was not as educated as some of the clergy he competed against.
It is true that most of Jesus's original twelve disciples were not highly educated. Some of them could not even read. It is true that God still calls some people to ministry who don't know how to read. Having an education is not an absolute requirement from Him. In many cases, having a seminary education is a liability, in matters of faith, because prejudices of some of the teachers poisons their students with unbelief. But in the Cooneyites' case, it is likely out of a sense of inferiority that they cast aspersions on higher education, particularly a theological education.
In my experience, the Coonyite preachers are the most ignorant about what the Bible teaches of any preachers I have ever heard. Perhaps this is because, since leaving that church, I have been privileged to hear many fine preachers who have known the original Greek and Hebrew words for the concepts that they taught. In the Cooneyite churches, about all I ever heard preached was how they were the only true Christians and vastly superior to the other churches, because they conducted church according to the pattern that Jesus laid out in Matthew 10.
They did not realize that He was not setting out a pattern there for all time. It was not the pattern that the Apostles followed later. Sometimes they travelled in groups, sometimes they were on their own, sometimes they travelled with their wives, and sometimes they travelled with luggage. There were also people who stayed put and pastored churches, such as the woman whom John addressed in his second letter.
I recall a particular sermon that I think was rather silly. The worker was so ignorant that they believed that a scrip, which Jesus told the disciples not to take with them, was a script, or a prepared sermon, such as preachers in regular churches used. They were superior to those phony preachers because they had only their Bibles, but is that not script? The disciples did not carry around with them parchment with the Torah written on it, on that occasion. Later, the Apostle Paul referred to some parchments that he wanted Timothy to retrieve for him from Troas. Interestingly, he also had an extra cloak he wanted Timothy to fetch for him. Obviously, he was not following the "pattern" of Matthew 10, that the workers believed was meant to be for all time. Anyway, a scrip isn't script. It was a purse for carrying food in.
I will now relate some personal things about my background, to portray my journey in life from being raised a Cooneyite, then becoming involved in eastern religion, and finally to true salvation in Jesus Christ.
It is not my intention to merely inform others about Cooneyite doctrine and practices. There are other articles on the Internet that do that. The rest of this article describes how God patiently led me from legalism to grace. I don't do everything perfectly, but God loves me anyway, and this is one of the greatest discoveries of my life. My journey describes a progression from confusion and pain to less confusion and pain. I have not "arrived" but, praise God, I have left, as my favourite preacher puts it.
I lived with my grandmother when I was a small child. I remember very little about going to meetings with her, though we attended them in Salmon Arm, BC, in the home of a pleasant, elderly couple named Miller. Aside from attending meetings there, we also visited them one evening and got snowed in. We spent the night there. They pushed two big, burgundy armchairs together to make a bed for me in the living room; Pat was there in the room and probably slept on the couch. My brother Jim, whom we called Harry in those days, very likely got tucked into bed with Grandma in the guest room. I liked my comfy, little bed and the sound of the fire crackling in the fireplace. In the morning, the room was stone cold, as the fire had died out.
It blows my mind that I was born way back in the days when it was common for people, who lived upcountry, to heat their homes with fireplaces, and woodstoves and furnaces that were fueled by coal or sawdust. It makes me feel like I'm a museum of memories of the olden days.
I remember the Miller's home better from when I visited my grandmother for several weeks when I was nine–years–old. I loved the picture they had in their dining room of a Mountie in a bright red coat fighting with a bear, against a misty background of trees. It never bothers me to see mounted animal heads, or antlers, or rugs made of animal skins, as it does some people who have been heavily indoctrinated with the religion of earth worship (under the guise of saving the environment), because I saw plenty of these artefacts in my childhood, as furnishings in the homes of those who lived among the mountains of BC's interior. Being with my grandmother was so happy for me that it colours with a golden glow everything I encountered in her environment.
There was one exception to my happy memories of the Millers' home, which occurred on my holiday when I was nine. It was Sunday morning and I was seated next to my grandmother during the meeting. For the first time, I noticed how old and quavery Grandma's voice was, and I started to think about her dying. I had never taken the idea too seriously before, but it struck me that she was an old lady and not likely to live for much longer.
I jumped up and ran to the bathroom, so that nobody would see me crying. When my cousins asked later why I took off to the bathroom, I replied that I had a sore stomach. I knew better than to say anything about Grandma dying; it was likely to upset everyone, for we all adored her. My cousin Alan teased me about being a wimp because of a sore tummy.
Undoubtedly, it is because my grandmother was such a fine person that, out of respect for her, most of her children chose to remain in the Cooneyite church. She gave birth to twenty–two children, six of which died at birth, including two sets of twins. My mother said that Grandma used to cry about those babies that she lost, but when she was dying, she reasoned that God had taken them because they would have been only in their teens when they lost their mother. It would have made her too sad to think of leaving children behind who still needed to be raised.
Having lots of children was Grandpa's way of obtaining farmhands whom he didn't have to pay. The girls had to work as hard as the boys. Grandma worked in the fields, as well. My grandfather was a very harsh man, and his sons all left home when they were around fifteen years old. My mother said that he used to beat them with logging chains. Grandma stuck with him, so that she could get her kids raised.
When the last of her sons were ready to leave home in their early and mid teens, they packed their things, looked at her, and asked, "Well, are you coming with us?"
Grandma no longer had any reason to stay. Grandpa had a native mistress who gave him yet two more children; the oldest, Shirley, was the same age as me. In the light of this affair, it certainly was very hypocritical of him to rebuff my mother when she became pregnant and went to him for help. Fornication/adultery is as much as sin for a man, as it is for a woman. God did not make laws to govern polygamy because He approves of it. He hates it, just like He hates slavery, but men were determined to marry multiple wives, so God made some rules to protect the women and their children.
Grandma had grounds to divorce Grandpa and remarry, but she probably was completely disenchanted with marriage by then. The Cooneyite prohibition against remarriage, in the case of divorce, was no hardship to her. She went with her boys to take care of them, obtained a legal separation, and lived with them on a little farm in Revelstoke that she later sold to the railroad and made a good profit on. My sister and brother and I also lived with her on that farm when I was two–years–old, and moved with her to Salmon Arm when she sold.
I remember quite a lot about the farm in Revelstoke, but I don't recollect anything about the meetings Grandma took us to at that time. I have one vague memory of attending a convention, or special meeting, in Salmon Arm with my grandmother, where she was standing outside talking with another lady before the lady went away in a cab. Other than that, those meetings did not hold my attention. Whatever they were talking about was way over my head and I must have occupied myself by thinking about other things. It is too bad that there was nothing geared towards small children in the Cooneyite meetings, because I remember a lot from when I was two, and I probably would have remembered things about church, if there had been anything in it to catch my interest.
Then again, maybe not. My sister Pat and I lived with a home with a Catholic couple for a while, before we went to live with Grandma, because our father was Catholic. I don't remember a single thing about that place. It likely had statues, and other interesting things, to look at, but all it left me with was a vague attraction to Catholicism when I was a child. We probably were not there for very long. As soon as my grandmother heard that the foster parents wanted to get us baptized, she made my mother go and get us out of there and bring us to her to look after.
The Cooneyites never have Sunday School. The most they do for the kids is sometimes teach them a little song at the beginning of an evening service, and then have them stand up the following Sunday to sing the song or quote Bible verses. It pleases the adults immensely to hear sweet child voices singing, "Be careful little eyes what you see, for the Father up above is looking down with love, so be careful little children what you see." In other words, we weren't supposed to watch TV or look at dirty books. Those fifteen minutes on a Sunday evening were all the effort that the adults were willing to devote in their services to the children.
In keeping with the Cooneyite attitude towards children, my mother used to tell us that children are meant to be seen and not heard. It made me feel like I was only half a person, not nearly as important as an adult. When Grandma found us underfoot when she was trying to cook, she said, "You little people clear out of here." It thrilled me that she called us people, and her recognition that we were not less than human gave me one more reason to love her. That is not to say that she ever had a conversation with any of us, that I recall, but I was so starved for self–esteem because of my parents' rigid expectations (which I could not meet), that I was grateful for even a drop of recognition that I had as much value as a grown–up.
My grandmother did not talk to us about God very much, but occasionally she would warn us and our young uncles, who still lived at home, against the tricks of the adversary. I wish she had talked to us about spiritual things more, for when she did speak of those things, it stood out to me as something important. The most she ever said to my brother and sisters and me was when I was nine years old, snapping beans with her in the shade beside her house. She told us that, some day, Jesus would return for us on a cloud. I cherish those words as a legacy from my grandmother.
I never heard in the Cooneyite church anything about Jesus returning to Earth on a cloud, or returning at all, for that matter. It was always the same old droning about how their church was the only true Christian church, and prohibitions against make–up, elaborate hair–dos, short skirts, dancing, and other worldly fashions and entertainments. Maybe it was just the workers whom I was exposed to, and there were better preachers in other districts.
The only other spiritual instruction I received in my Grandmother's home was one time when we were watching a television show. It featured a young girl running around a barren landscape wearing only a slip. I think that, theoretically, she was supposed to be naked, but this was the 1950's, after all, and people were never shown naked on television in those days. The girl was followed around everywhere by the devil, pictured in a bodysuit with horns and tail and carrying a pitchfork. He kept confronting her with sophisticated arguments that were way over my head, but to which the girl always made some kind of reply. I don't remember how it ended.
What I do remember, though, is the feeling that my grandmother let my teen–aged uncles watch this show, though it had a girl running around in her slip, because she thought it would do them some good to see how the tempter worked. I think the arguments went over their heads, too. In any case, I am certain that their minds were not on what the actors were saying. Grandma never looked up at the television or at my uncles to gauge their level of interest. She just listened while she knit. I rarely looked at the television. Mostly I stared at the intent expressions on my uncles' faces as, with eyes bugging out, they goggled at that pretty girl. The tempter can be very subtle. I think that Grandma's intentions for letting them watch that show backfired.
It was surprising that my Grandmother had a television, considering how the workers were still preaching against having one right into the 1960's. That was one thing that they were right about; I have to give them that. Grandma probably had one, though, because of the teen uncles.
In other respects, her home was a like a time warp of the 1930's. She cooked on a big, cast iron wood stove, splitting kindling for it. Her toaster was the kind where you folded down the sides to put the bread in, and you had to watch it so that the toast did not burn, as it had no timer.
The pantry was a small room next to the kitchen, lined with shelves, and pleasantly cool and dim on hot summer days. A plain, utilitarian balcony was next to it. Grandma used a wringer washer and leaned out from the balcony to hang her laundry on the clothesline.
The dining room was next to the kitchen. Grandma had a round dining room table, but the most interesting piece of furniture was her treadle sewing machine. I liked to play on the treadle.
There was only bathroom, and it was upstairs. It had a huge tub on legs. I liked to hold my big toe over the drain when the water was running out, to savour the suction on it, and I liked the pleasant thub thub sound that the water made as it disappeared beneath my rosy toe. I always scrambled to the far end of the tub, just before the last of the water ran out, so that I would not get sucked down the drain. God, and the people in Heaven who watch me, must have laughed every time when they saw me do that.
The basement had a dirt floor and a large room full of sawdust for the furnace. When describing the house, as a child, I boasted to friends that it was a three storey house, but the basement wasn't much of a story. It was dim and gloomy and damp.
My grandmother put bloomers on my sister and me, and wool stockings that were held up by little garters pinned to our undershirts. She braided our hair in pigtails. We looked like farm kids. I even had a pair of shoes that were little boots like what Dick, Jane, and Sally wore in the primary readers used in Grade 1 at that time. It was pretty neat to have lived like in the 1930's, though I was born in the 1950's. It suits my love of history.
I was aware, even when I was a toddler, that there was a difference in how my grandmother lived from the rest of the world. I remember her and the uncles taking us to a park in Salmon Arm one beautiful summer day. While the kids splashed around in the public swimming pool, the mothers and grandmothers sat nearby in the shade of the trees, on wooden folding chairs that had been set up for them. It was a lovely way to treat the matrons of the town, and they enjoyed their visiting with each other. My grandmother joined in and I stood behind her a little distance, taking in the scene. Many of the other ladies wore pretty earrings and had rouge on their faces. I was fascinated by how they were different from Grandma.
My grandmother was a beautiful person, because that was what she was inside. She was always beautiful in my mind when I was a child, and she still is, but I was aware that she had a wart on her chin, and long hairs sprouted from it. I saw the ugly ulcer on her leg that she could never get rid of, and had to wear elastic stockings all the time for support. Twenty pregnancies sure did a number on her figure. I remember her telling my sister to lace her corset for her, and Pat's little arms reaching up to perform that service. Grandma could have used a bit of dolling up, but, other than wearing a corset beneath her clothes, she was always too busy to care about conceding to fashion.
She worked from morning until night looking after her three grandchildren and two youngest sons, cleaning house, preparing meals, looking after her animals, killing and preparing chickens for the dinner table, canning, and sewing. Grandma's times of relaxation were rare. I cannot recollect seeing her sitting reading a book or just doing nothing.
She also hostessed children and grandchildren who came to visit; there were lots of other grandkids. We had a great time when the cousins came around. I don't know that Grandma spent much time with them, though. She was kept busy cooking for the crowd, in addition to tending to her other chores. Her attention tended more towards her children, particularly the daughters, whom she would go shopping with when they visited, leaving us in the care of older cousins.
Grandma kept a shotgun under her bed to scare off bears and bad guys. One time, she shot a bear that got into her garden and I found its jawbone under the back porch when I was cleaning the storeroom beneath it, to turn it into a playhouse. I worked hard, sweeping away the cobwebs, clearing away empty jars, and moving cinder blocks into place to pretend that it was a stove. As soon as I finished getting the place redded up, Pat and some cousins came along and took over. I didn't find it particularly fun to have an older sister, but she saved me from becoming the unbearably bossy oldest child.
Grandma's little Maltese dog, Daisy, followed her about. Daisy was very special because she was Grandma's personal pet, and she was a good mouser, too. Because she was special to Grandma, she was special to me, too, and I like to think of her merrily skipping along behind Grandma, her white fleece all fluffy and bright, up there in Heaven.
The days of living with our grandmother were bliss to my older sister Pat, my younger brother Jim, and I. They were the best years of our childhood. It was wonderful to live out in the country on a farm, eating food fresh from the garden, sometimes picking it ourselves and eating peas straight out of the pod, or raspberries right off the bushes.
We had lots of animals to see and various pets. My kittens all ran away because I always flushed them in the toilet, I've been told. I can't remember doing that, but I suppose I was fascinated by how they whirled around in there and mewled piteously. We had bunnies; they stayed in cages, so they were safe from getting impromptu toilet baths. Pat had a white one named Whitey, and I had a black one. Guess what its name was. I thought mine was cuter than Pat's bunny; hers had pink eyes. The uncles teased us to eat the "raisins" in the rabbit hutches, but we didn't fall for that. My brother had one of Daisy's puppies, named "Snowball".
Grandma showed us chicks hatching; it was a wonder. Another time, our uncles woke us up in the night and carried us to the chicken house to see a shipment of chicks that had just arrived. I surmised that chicks were born two ways: they came in eggs and they also came in cardboard boxes that had a compartment for each chick. Grandma and the uncles took great pleasure in their new hen house and seeing their chicks drink from the pans they had prepared and eat the fresh feed. It all smelled so new and wonderful.
Grandma and the uncles were the same way when they painted their dressers with some new–fangled paint that had glitter in it. The way they enjoyed the works of their hands was really endearing.
My uncles were so good to my Grandma. They never gave her any sass and they were willing, hard–working helpers. When one considers what kind of person she was, though, it is not surprising that they revered her so much. I never ever saw her lose her temper or be nasty to anyone. It seemed that everyone she knew thought a lot of her. The neighbour ladies, even the ones who were not Christians, seemed to enjoy helping her out.
There was one lady in particular who had us to her house a lot, a Mrs. Gray who lived a couple doors over. Mrs. Gray used to take the neighbour kids around in her car on Hallowe'en, to keep them safe. She also let me make as much noise as I wanted. Mr. and Mrs. Gray just carried on talking to each other while I stood right next to them in the kitchen and played with a toy squeezebox, which was sort of like an accordion, but simpler. I think that Mr. Gray was an engineer, or something like that; not the kind that drives a train, but is involved in public works. The Grays were a middle–aged couple.
Their daughter Gwen was a favourite playmate. She was a few years older than Pat. Gwen used to stack encyclopaedias to make desks and chairs for Pat and me, then give us paper and brand new pencils that had dark brown and pink stripes. I loved the smell of those new pencils. Gwen would then teach us and she was very serious about it. Pat and I were obedient, attentive students.
I might have learned from Gwen's lessons more than I realized at the time. When I was four, I could read books on my own, if someone had read them to me before. I didn't know the alphabet. I just recognized words that had been read to me because I was able to make the relationship between what the reader was saying and the squiggles on the page. I remember reading a book about abstract art that had animals hidden in the pictures, and the author was asking if I saw this animal or that animal. I loved art, so I thought that the book was fascinating and I understood every word, but I was in my fifties before I realized how young I was when I read that book.
I didn't read very often, so I didn't think about it and nobody realized that I could read. When I went to live with Mom and Dad, it got stuck in my mind that I couldn't read. They probably enthusiastically told me that I would learn to read when I went to school, to prepare me to like school, so I assumed that I would not know how to read until then.
About a year later, I could understand a few words on my own, even if they had never been read to me before, if there was a picture that helped explain the words. I recall seeing a cartoon in a magazine and I knew what the character was saying, but it was only a short sentence. Lots of words on a page did not draw my interest and were beyond my scope.
Kids are much smarter than adults tend to give them credit for. I had a boyfriend whose parents spoke German to each other. The kids could not speak German, but they could understand it because they heard it often enough to figure out what various words meant. They didn't let on to their parents that they knew what they were saying, because they wanted to listen in on their naughty talk, but they couldn't keep themselves from giggling at the dinner table when their mother said to their Dad that she had heard that Mrs. So–and–so was getting plenty of sex from her husband. Their Dad replied that she would, too, if she didn't wear a girdle.
Little ears are attached to alert brains. It is best to not say anything around them, in any language, that isn't fit for kids to hear. I have never been fooled that my grandson, Connor, was totally absorbed in his playing when his mother and I talked to each other. He looked like he cared about nothing else, but I knew he was taking in every word, pretending that he wasn't listening, so that he would not be sent from the room. Awareness of his interest limited what we could say around him. To be on the safe side, adults should assume that all kids are like that.
Pat and Jim were my grandmother's favourites. When I asked my Uncle Paul why my grandmother favoured my brother and sister over me, at first, he denied that this was so. I persisted in my assertion, and he finally admitted it by saying that I was rather "independent". I didn't like to be hugged, and I know that my grandmother thought I was too noisy. I didn't talk much, but I sure could make a racket. I loved to make a joyful noise! My mother said that I was really into clanging pots and pans when I was a baby, and it drove my grandmother up the wall. When Mom fondly called me her little angel, Grandma replied in exasperation, "How can you call that child an angel?!"
But I know that she was amused by my feisty personality, for she used to affectionately call me "Bridget". She also shortened my name from Earlana to Lanny. My uncles called me "Flanagan", which was my father's grandmother's surname. I did not initiate conversations much on my own, but my uncles liked to tease me because they were always amused at my cranky responses. They would point out brown, rubber dolls in the store and say that they were going to buy me one. I always crabbed at them that I didn't want one of them black dolls. I recognized, though, that teasing was their way of showing affection. When they gave me a brown doll for Christmas, I instantly loved her; she was my favourite toy.
Grandma's pet name for my lady–like sister was "Petunia". As for Jim (Harry), Grandma referred to him as her "million dollar boy." In spite of the pet names, Grandma was not mushy. I can't remember her kissing or hugging us, but those nicknames indicated to me that, though she had already raised so many kids, she still had room in her loving heart to feel very affectionate towards the three, little charity cases who landed on her doorstep.
I remember that she thought Jimmy was really clever and she laughed a lot at his mischievious antics. She doted on him the way she had doted on Uncle Paul, her youngest child, when he was little. She used to train Jim's bright golden curls into a row along the middle of his head, like a pablum box baby. When she first got Jimmy, he was just a tiny baby of six months and sickly from malnutrition. Her heart had gone out to him and she looked after him tenderly. He thrived on her affection, and when I recall him from those days, I think of him as "Sunny Jim.", because he usually had a big, happy smile on his face.
I remember Grandma laughing one day and calling to our uncles, "Paul, Charlie, you will never believe what he did." She was standing in the dining room holding her arm, having hurt her hand when she tried to give Jim a spanking. Jimmy, who was three at that time, had run ahead of her and put a book in the back of his pants. She thought it was funny, but she took the book out and carried out her disciplinary intentions.
Pat and I went to live with our mother and stepfather when I was nearly five–years–old. Mom wasn't going to church at that time. She wore lipstick and jewellery, which were forbidden in the Cooneyite church, with the exception of wedding rings, watches, and brooches. If it was not right to wear earrings and necklaces and bracelets, then I don't see why brooches should be allowed. Maybe it was because normally only old ladies wore them, so they were not regarded as sexy.
I liked my Mom's lipstick and thought it was cool that she wore it, but the only way I dared to use it was to paint my doll's fingernails and toenails. I loved Mom's black diamond necklace with the matching ring that my stepfather had given her a few years earlier. The stones were cut marquise. The necklace had five of the stones on a gold chain. When I sneaked into my parents' room to snoop, I always took that necklace out of the case and admired how elegant it looked against my skin. Then I carefully put it back so that nobody would guess that it had been tampered with. Mom stopped wearing lipstick a short time after my sister and brother and I came to live with her, and I never saw her wear her lovely necklace.
Mom was very grateful for her mother's help with us. Mom bore us three older kids out of wedlock, after having gotten trapped in a relationship with my father, who treated her very badly. He was eleven years her senior, an ex–sailor who didn't have a dime in his pocket to pay for his coffee when he met my mother in the restaurant where she worked. He was handsome and charming, and managed to get my mother to pay for his coffee. Then he pursued her until he got her pregnant, because she was young, pretty, clever, strong, hard–working, and conditioned enough from being raised by a harsh father for my father to control her.
My mother was deeply ashamed to live common–law with my Dad, but it was the only way he would support her and her baby. At least, that was what he promised to do, but after he paid the rent, the rest of his paycheque supported his alcohol addiction. Grandpa turned her away when she turned to him for help. He said, "You can't stay around here, looking like that." My father had calculated that my mother's father would react that way, and he would be the only person she could turn to. She was only a teenager, but already a very good housekeeper and she looked after the yard, too. Mom worked to buy the groceries, so that she could feed my sister and me. Dad had it made.
My father refused to marry my mother. He was already legally married and said it would embarrass his wife too much, if he divorced her. This was a slap in the face to my mother, as he had told her that his wife was a prostitute, whom he'd had to lock up before he went to work, so that she would not peddle her wares when he was gone.
When my father was in a bad mood, he tended to get violent. It didn't take much to put him in a bad mood. Dad was terribly jealous. If the paper boy said hello to my mother, but not to him, it put him in a snit. He was Mr. Charm when it suited him, but not at home.
If he wanted sex when Mom was cooking dinner, she had to comply immediately, but when the potatoes burned because he did not give her time to turn the burner off, she got smacked around for burning the potatoes.
My mother confiding personal details about such things was indicative of the dysfunction in our family. In our kind of situation, a parent will choose one of the children for their confidant and to fulfill the peacemaker role. It was me, until I broke out of that unhealthy pattern, and then that role fell onto my sister Lorrie.
A parent's burdens are something that they should share with an adult friend, not with their child. It's too much for a child to handle emotionally, to hear about the personal details of their parent's sex life. Mom didn't go into any heavy detail about what went on between her and my stepfather, but even just minor stuff made me feel like I wanted to gag. Kids might be inquisitive about what other people do in bed, but they don't want to hear about their parents doing stuff like that. It's because we put them on a pedestal; children want to think that their parents are above doing such things.
My mother would have been very hurt, though, if I had shown unwillinglyness to listen to her unburden herself. I could not bear to see a hurt look on her face, because I was trained to cater to her feelings. She didn't do this to us consciously. It was just her belief that children were responsible for how their parents felt and it was their duty to make them happy.
My personality type lent itself to listening to my mother's stories about my father, as INTJs are information people. I wanted to understand the world around me, and I needed information, in order to do that. Why wasn't she with my father anymore? When she told me, I couldn't blame her for leaving him.
When my mother was pregnant with me, my father brought a girlfriend home, and he told Mom to make them some coffee. She shoved the coffee pot back at him and refused; she got away with sassing him because the girlfriend was there. She felt proud of herself for refusing to make the coffee. She should have taken it a step further and left him, rather than putting up with that garbage.
Normally when my mother stood up for herself, it was at the cost of a beating. Dad even tossed her out a first floor window when she was pregnant with Jimmy. Pat remembered that incident. She started to run to the door to go outside to help Mom, but Dad grabbed her by the arm and held her back. As soon as he left the kitchen, she ran outside and knelt beside Mom on the grass, and tried to comfort her. Mom said that it was a miracle that she didn't have a miscarriage.
My Mom was so young; she was pretty much at my Dad's mercy, until one day she had to call a taxi, so that she could haul my Dad home from the bar. That was how she met my stepfather. She escorted my father into the house, while the driver waited, and then he drove her to a friend's house. My stepfather felt sorry to see my Mom hooked up with a man like my Dad, particularly because she wasn't even married to him. They went out on some dates and, in a short time, he rescued her from my father's violent abuse and married her.
There was a period of time before my stepfather married her that my father tried to negotiate a reconcilliation and even obtained a divorce, so that he could marry her. My father could not understand why Mom wanted to leave such a handsome guy as himself. He took Mom out to Essendale to see a psychiatrist because he thought there was something seriously wrong with her. The psychiatrist asked him to leave the room because Dad kept interrupting when the doctor tried to ask Mom questions. He then interviewed my mother. Dad waited for the verdict. The psychiatrist told him that he didn't find anything the matter with my mother, but if he wanted to make some appointments for himself, he would be glad to take him on as a client. Dad left in a rage, leaving my mother stranded without bus fare. The doctor gave her a dollar, so that she could get home.
My father had very messed up thinking. He told me many years later that, as far as he was concerned, he was my mother's husband and my stepfather was the man she lived with. I didn't say anything, but I recollected what my mother said about how my father adamantly refused to marry her and give her respectability in the community. He considered my mother's relationship with my stepfather to be an affair, but there was a much better basis for it than what his relationship with her had been, with its deception and coercion and deprivation. I couldn't believe that he had the cheek to regard himself as my mother's legitimate husband, never mind to actually say it. My stepfather didn't turn out to be a good husband, but in the beginning, he was much, much, much better to my mother than what my father was.
Grandma did not judge my Mom for having children out of wedlock, possibly because she knew what it felt like to be judged for this particular sin. Grandma was very supportive, once she had the means to help my mother after she left Grandpa. Grandma looked after us three kids when my mother left my father, until Grandma felt that my mother's relationship with my stepfather was established well enough for them to have us live with them permanently, instead of only for short visits.
Grandma was very happy about how my stepfather treated my mother. Mom had only shabby clothes to wear when she was with my father, but my stepfather bought her nice clothes and sent her to the hairdresser's. He fed her well and she grew two inches taller. He let my thrifty Mom handle the money, so they were able to buy a nice house on his taxi driver wages. Dad's carpentry improved their houses so that they could make a profit on them. Dad used to affectionately call my mother "Nurt", and she called him "Mutt". Grandma was thrilled that her baby girl's husband called her by a pet name.
My stepfather wasn't a Christian, but he was such an improvement over my father that Grandma wasn't too particular about that. Dad smoked cigarettes and Mom thought it set a poor example for us kids, but she did not say much to him about it. After all, he had not been raised to go to meeting. He was raised Mennonite, which was, apparently, the same as being raised worldly, as all the other churches were false churches. Dad never took any interest in religious things when I was growing up. One time, he went to an evening meeting with us, and ducked outside halfway through because he was craving a smoke. He stayed outside until the meeting ended.
Dad was a steady worker and rarely drank. He realized when he was quite young that it could get out of control, so he tended to steer clear of alcohol. He never got drunk and he didn't beat my mother, so that made him okay with the rest of her family. They did not know how he treated Pat, and Jim, and I after we came to live with them. Even so, he probably treated us a lot better than our natural father would have, if he had raised us.
I have good reason to believe that my father received Jesus as his Saviour before he died, and I am not saying these things about him out of bitterness. They are just plain facts that explain my background.
When us three older kids came to live with my Mom, and also for our sisters Judy's and Lorrie's sake (they had been born while we were living with Grandma), Mom started to feel convicted about giving us some religious training. She let one of the neighbour ladies, who lived behind us in the lane, take us with her to the Lutheran church. I thought it was fun. We went to Sunday School and nice ladies always gave us Kool–Aid and cookies for a snack. They also read stories to us.
By this time, Mom had stopped wearing lipstick and jewellery, though she still did not attend church. I brought one of my colouring pictures home and showed it to Mom. It was of Miriam leading the other women in dance; she was wearing bracelets and earrings. I asked Mom how it could be all right for this godly woman to wear jewellery. Mom said, "Oh, it was okay in those days." My mother said it in a tone that implied that her answer made sense, so my curiosity was satisfied for the moment.
It doesn't make any sense. If God did not object to people wearing jewellery then, why would He object to it now? Even in one of His parables, Jesus mentioned how the prodigal son's father showed his acceptance and love by putting a ring on his son's hand. And, from what I understand, the verses in the New Testament about how women should dress were mistranslated. They don't actually forbid wearing jewellery and gorgeous clothes, but direct women to not be absorbed with their appearance or spend too much money on clothes, and to keep in mind that inner beauty is far more important. A woman can dress herself beautifully, without spending a fortune, and she ought to make the most of what she has. Proverbs 31 recommends it, so that her husband and children are proud of her.
More specifically, the Scriptures regarding how a woman should dress relate to the Middle Eastern custom of women wearing their wealth nearly all the time, in case their husband divorced them, as it was so easy for a man to divorce his wife. All he had to do was say three times that he was divorcing her, and he could drive her out the house, without letting her take anything with her, except what she was wearing. The coins and jewels that a woman wore on her costume was her dowry, with additional gifts from her husband, to ensure that she would have some provision, if she was divorced or became widowed. Men gave money and jewels to their wives to wear because, if they owed money, the law forbade anyone from recovering the debt out of the wife's adornments.
The Scripture about how to dress was intended to direct women to put their trust in God for future provision, rather than in their adornments. It also directed them to develop increasingly better character to decrease the possibility of divorce. Those verses do not forbid the wearing of adornments, if people want to wear them, but it gave the women, at that time, the option of dressing in more comfortable ways. Wearing a lot of money and jewels is heavy and rather hot in Mediterranean climates. Paul's teaching gave women the option of exploring other types of beauty, such as elegant simplicity.
The injunction to dress soberly does not relate to colour choices. It relates to health and modesty. Many Christian women wear high–heeled shoes, and this is not a sensible fashion. They cause back and foot problems, and they tend to hurt. Women would enjoy their socializing after church more, if they didn't have to do it while wearing mini torture chambers on their feet, and the ladies who lead praise and worship would be able to do it with less distraction, if they wore flat shoes. Also, as far as modesty goes, there is greater freedom of movement when women don't have to worry that bending over will expose their bosom or their bottom.
Logically, it can't be a sin to wear bright colours because God made those colours. He even worked some of those colours into the way He fashioned humans, giving some of them bright red or shining gold hair, and eyes that look like sapphires, emeralds, amethysts, turquoises, and aquamarines. Obviously, it does not disturb Him for people to look gorgeous, seeing as some do, even without extra adornment. Why should some people, by nature, look gorgeous, and the rest of us be grudged the means to look as the best as we can, as well?
In the beginning of the world, everyone was beautiful, but the mutation of our DNA has deprived many of us of the beauty that God intended for mankind to have, so, if cosmetics can help us look more attractive, then what's the big deal? If a person is willing to take the time to make up their face, and looks better, rather than worse, for their efforts, then we should be gracious and allow them to indulge their personal taste, without judging them for it. God's issue is with what is in the heart, not with what is on the outside.
The Bible says that a meek and quiet spirit is of great price, but people who do not wear make–up are not necessarily meek. Some are quite proud that they don't wear make–up, even if it means that they go around looking like death warmed over, because they think that it makes them holier than other people. It takes a certain amount of meekness for a person to admit that they need to wear make"up, in order to look attractive.
One day at Sunday School, the teacher asked us to name some sins. I put my hand up right away, but had to wait until after some other kid made a reply. Then the teacher turned to me and gently asked me to name a sin. With my eyes fastened on her bright red lips, I said, "My Mommy says it's a sin to wear lipstick." All us kids watched in silence as our teacher's face expressed the wrestling in her soul, before she finally, with embarrassment, reluctantly replied, "Yes." I admired how she upheld my mother's beliefs, though they made the teacher look like she was a big sinner. I can't remember anything about the rest of the lesson. What did it matter what she had to say about sin, since she had admitted that she was a sinner?
On another day at Sunday School, something puzzling happened. The Sunday School teachers herded us kids towards a cupboard that held white robes with large red bows at the collars. One was tossed over my head and we were was marched into the main sanctuary. I found myself standing on a stage with the other kids, and we were expected to sing songs, but nobody had ever taught me those songs.
I faked it for a while, but then realized that my mouth always made an "O" when the other kids were singing an "A", and vice versa, so I gave up and just watched the congregation, staring at them with round, dark eyes. When the kids were finished singing, all the adults sang "Onward, Christian Soldiers". I loved the rousing, militant sound of it. In later years, the song became even more meaningful to me when I heard of how some Christians in a Communist prison shook their chains to that tune.
I think that Mom realized she was missing out on a "Norman Rockwell opportunity" by not taking her kids to church herself. She wanted our family to look like it had popped out of a glossy magazine like Chatelaine. She whipped up matching outfits for us four girls. They were little, navy suits with Chanel jackets, edged with white piping. Horrid white, nylon gloves, that felt irksome on my hands, and little, white, boater hats finished off the ensembles. I hated the elastic that held the hat on. It always made me feel like I was choking and about to throw up. The boys wore bowties with their white shirts, and suspenders to hold their pants up. The neighbours came to their windows on Sunday morning to watch my mother marching us off to church. It was a picture of the sort that Norman Rockwell often painted for the cover of the Saturday Evening Post.
Mom took us to the Presbyterian church. Ladies in that church wore make–up. Again, I was fascinated by the bright rouge on the older women's cheeks and their earrings. I was interested in the ritual of the collection plate being passed around. I had never sat in on the adult meetings in the Lutheran church. I dropped my nickel in the plate when it was passed, and that felt good, but I did not stay in the meetings for long. I amused myself by fantasizing when laying on the floor beneath the pew. My older sister was bored, so she told my Mom that I was bored and asked Mom if she should take me to the playroom. Mom nodded.
Pat took me to the playroom and abandoned me at the door, flying across the room to play with the toys. This was a wonderful place. It was always more interesting to me to play with other kids' toys. The ladies there were very nice and encouraged me at finger painting. I fell in love with it, having always been of an artistic bent. It was pleasant to go to that church, but we were not with the Presbyterian church for very long.
Mom had a dream that she was at a Cooneyite meeting, and there was a woman who had a lot of little boys. She decided to visit one of the meetings again, and met a lady there who had five boys. The lady was very friendly and invited us to her place for lunch. I remember being astonished, in my girly way, at how the boy who set the table tossed the knives and forks down so casually, without much regard for placing them straight. His mother was tickled by how prim I was. It was so different from her rough and tumble boys.
This couple used to own a restaurant. When they sold the business, they brought the deep fryer to their house and set it up there. When we visited Uncle Bob and Auntie Mae, it was a treat to have french fries. The boys sliced the potatoes in a sturdy slicer, doing one whole potato at a time. After lunch, the boys took us to their room and played table hockey with us. We thought they had cool stuff. I developed a crush on the red–haired, freckle–faced boy who had set the table.
Mom always took us to meeting every Sunday after that. Did God mean for her to go to the meetings or to meet that woman? The lady became my mother's best friend and was a great blessing to our family. It could be that He meant for her to go to the meetings, too, perhaps because it was the only church that my mother would go to with consistency and not gripe about. In spite of its doctrinal errors and mind–control, it was a privilege for us to be raised with a knowledge of the Bible.
Though we now attended Cooneyite meetings, Mom did not mind that I went to the Sunshine Club. The Sunshine Club was held in the home of a Christian lady who lived near my elementary school. One day a week, she opened her home to kids after school, gave us snacks, and told us stories with a felt board. The Sunshine Club was very well attended. I knelt among a crowd of other kids, my little, red lunchbox at my side, and listened attentively to the stories.
I probably went only a couple of times because I recall only two stories, but I loved the atmosphere. I felt that lady's love for kids that she would do this for them, but I may have stopped attending because of the story she told about a missionary's daughter, whose name was Frances; she was called "Fanny" for short.
When the lady got to that part of the story, I sat there paralyzed with fear that the other kids would tease me by calling me Fanny, because it rhymed with my name. In Canada, Fanny is a euphemism for one's backside. Throughout my childhood, if people called me granny or nanny, I didn't care. As long as it was not fanny, I was okay. It never seemed to occur to other kids to call me that. My mother was the only one who attempted to tease me that way, saying one time in a singsong voice, "Lanny panny with the big, fat fanny." I ignored her and pretended to not mind, as I knew that she would pester me with that name, if she knew it bothered me. It worked. She never called me that again because I didn't react.
Dancing was a big no–no, after Mom started taking us to the Cooneyite church. I envied the little girls next door, who took ballet lessons. I wished to have a tutu and ballet shoes. Dancing was one of my gifts and it managed to find expression, regardless of prohibitions against it. One time, when I was around nine or ten, my sister Pat and I danced outside in the back yard to radio music. We were having great time showing off; one of the neighbours watched us from his window. I don't think that his interest was unclean. We were just a couple of little girls enjoying ourselves, though we were feeling quite proud of our dancing ability.
Our stepfather's mother was looking after us, at that time. I think that Mom was visiting relatives out of town. Grandma, who was Mennonite, hauled us into the house, threw us down on a bed, and laid into us with a hanger, because she regarded dancing to be a sin. It was the only time that she ever laid a hand on us, but I bitterly resented her harshness. It did not cure me of wanting to dance.
When I was thirteen, Mom bought me a very colourful dress for my Grade 7 grad. Normally, she really hated my taste for bright colours, but she let me pick out a psychaedelic print dress from the Sears catalogue. It was a tent dress that came down to my knees; the style was too old for a little teen, but I liked that print on it, and Mom was satisfied with the length. She got me dolled up sent me off to my grad.
There was music and dancing. As one who had professed to be a Christian in the Cooneyite meetings, I knew I was obliged to sit out the dances, but I just couldn't do that. Not only did I dance, but I was very forward about asking boys to dance with me. At that age, most of the boys were too shy to ask girls to dance; they huddled in a group at one end of the room, and a lot of them refused to dance, even after they were asked. It was embarrassing and frustrating to keep getting turned down. I think that I ended up dancing by myself sometimes.
Afterwards, I felt guilty about dancing; I knew that my mother wouldn't have approved of it, but what did she think I was going to do at that grad? If she wouldn't have minded, she never told me so. I felt so bad about it, and of my shameless behaviour in asking the boys to dance, instead of waiting for them to ask me, that I never wore that dress again. Mom couldn't understand why I left it hanging in the closet; she lamented about how she had paid all that money for it, but I would never wear it.
When I was fourteen, Mom thought that my name was too childish and tried to change it to Lana, which she figured sounded more glamorous. I liked my name because it was different and Grandma had given it to me. There was never any other kid in my school named Lanny, until I got to Grade 11, and the other kid was a guy. Again I ignored my mother, refusing to talk to her if she called me Lana. She lamented, "Sweetheart, I was the one who named you." Yeah, well, she didn't name me Lana, and it was too late to change the name Grandma gave me, after I had gotten to attached to it. Even though she was controlling, my mother knew when she was fighting a battle that she couldn't win, so she gave up on trying to change my name.
A lot of the people from her church called me Lana, though. This was because they had gotten the name wrong at first, and it just stuck in their mind. Auntie Mae always called me Lana, and I knew, after a few tries, that it was useless to get her to call me Lanny. I liked her too much to pester her about it, and as for other people who got my name wrong, it didn't endear them to me, so I didn't bother with people who couldn't be bothered to get my name right. They never tried to get into a conversation with me anyway. Auntie Mae loved me and talked to me often, and she used to have me spend weekends with her, teaching me to bake. Her boys loved that; they liked all that baking, and devoured it, even if it was burnt.
Mom took us to meeting on Sunday mornings, and Gospel meetings in a rented hall on Sunday evenings, and to Wednesday night Bible study. The house meetings were stiff, formal, and very boring. The adult men wore suits and all the rest were in their Sunday best, except on Wednesday nights.
Everyone was expected to sit straight and still. Jim drove Mom crazy because he jiggled about when he had to sit for a long time. He was a boy, and boys are usually high–energy, especially when they have an outgoing, sanguine temperament like Jim. My brother Johnny has a introverted, laid–back, phlegmatic personality, so being quiet and still wasn't as much of a problem for him.
We sang dull, boring hymns that made me think of funeral music. The dullness of the meetings probably contributed to Jim's restlessness. He would have coped better, if someone took the kids to another room and told us Bible stories on our level. The meetings were not an environment where children felt loved, and made them want to go to church.
Those who "professed" each took a turn reading a verse from the Bible, and then gave their "testimony" in relation to it. This usually consisted of saying that they longed to do what the verse said to do. Nobody exhibited the least bit of what could be described as joy. There was no delight in the things of God; just a sober sense of duty to Him. The elder, usually the person whose home we met in, gave his testimony at the end.
On Sunday mornings, testimony time was followed by sharing the Lord's Supper. Everyone who professed took bread and drank from the cup, wiping it afterwards. Then another prayer was said to end the meeting.
It is hard for kids to sit through that. Snacks for kids to munch on when they are hungry, or colouring to alleviate their boredom, were not permitted them, as they would be distracting to others. We were allowed to suck on candies, though, and we drew pictures to keep ourselves from falling asleep, or to keep ourselves from going crazy. It wasn't too bad, if one had pictures in their Bibles to look at, while the adults droned on.
One time Jim came across a Scripture in Job, where Job said that his breath was corrupt. He pointed it out to Pat and me; we stifled our giggles. My little sisters wrote notes to each other in their Bibles, discussing how much money they expected to get in their allowances and what they intended to buy.
I think I would have an even harder time sitting through a Cooneyite meeting as an adult, knowing now how shallow the level of spirituality and understanding of the Bible is among those people. No one is allowed to say anything that the workers do not approve of. If I were to get up and enthusiastically talk about how good God is, and about wonderful things He is doing in my life, those people would think that I belonged in a mental hospital because they really don't take the Bible seriously.
To the Cooneyites, God is worthy of all praise and honour only in theory, but not in practice. Their hearts do not rejoice with those who rejoice in the Lord. They don't have a clue that one of the major words for praise in the Bible means to spin around and be clamorously foolish.
When the Bible says to do everything in moderation, it does not mean everything in a literal sense. It is referring to earthly pleasures and pursuits. The Bible says in Psalm 68:3, "But let the righteous be glad; let them rejoice before God: yes, let them exceedingly rejoice." Exceeding joyfulness tends to involve loud noise and a lot of movement.
The Cooneyite services are rigidly low–key. I have never heard even a timid "Amen", never mind a hearty one, in a Cooneyite service, in response to anything that is testified or preached, except at the end of a prayer. If a person were to raise their hands in worship while singing the hymns, the gossip would fly about how that person has gone right over the edge as a fanatic and might possibly need psychiatric counselling.
My siblings and I thought of a few other ways to amuse ourselves while the grown–ups went through their rituals. It was always interesting to observe Stanley Lee. He was an elderly man who attended the meetings with his twin brother, Alfred. Alfred worked for Auntie Mae as her "butler". He was just a handyman, though. She needed help with all those boys and, later on, when she took men with mental problems into her home.
Stanley couldn't hold a job, that I know of. He had all sorts of problems, one of which was Tourette's syndrome. He was the only interesting part of the meeting. We used to watch how he kept twisting his neck and wincing. Later at home, we laughed and did imitations of Stanley. It is one of the few things that we had in common with other kids who go to other churches. Kids always zero in on people in the congregation who have idiosyncrasies.
My mother was embarrassed at the idea of anyone being distracted by something her kids were doing, so she came down rather hard on Jim. Parents need to put their children's needs and feelings above other people's, though. Our children should be far more important to us than other people, and more important than what other people think of us as parents. The Cooneyites subscribed to the "spare the rod and spoil the child" rule, but sometimes it is attention that a child needs; not discipline.
Mom was caught between a rock and a hard place, in that regards. When she tried to give Jim attention, he was so scared because he wasn't used to it, that he would kind of go into shock, and do something destructive to test her to see if she really loved him. Getting affection from Mom was such a strange feeling to him. Mom would flip out when he did something mindless. She didn't know what to do about his behaviour. What Jim needed was for her to keep on being sweet to him, until he got used to it.
I hate to think what Mom would have done, if she had my grandson Connor for a kid. Connor went with me to a regular church, where he was allowed to play with toys and colour pictures, while the meeting was going on, but he was nine–years–old before he ever sat quietly for five minutes in church.
I had to quit wearing high heels to church, because I needed to be able to chase after him when he took off across the front of the sanctuary during the service. That was embarrassing, though other people there told me to not worry about it. One time, I had to sit at the back of the church, forcibly holding him on my lap while he kicked and yelled during the song service. It wasn't that he minded going to church, but that he had to sit still for a little bit. He just wanted to run, run, run. He loved the nursery, he loved Sunday School, and he loved visiting with people afterwards. When it was time to leave, he always threw a fit because he didn't want to leave.
My mother did not know how good she had it that her kid only jiggled his foot during the meeting. She wasn't the only one who was like that, though. One my cousins remarked to his Mom how hard a kid in their meeting had it. He said that when the child made a move, the parents looked at him like they wanted to cut his throat. My auntie hushed him. Kids who went to meetings were never allowed to say anything negative about the meetings. We were not even allowed to think that there was anything wrong with them, so it surprised me that my cousin dared to be so candid.
It was hard on the nerves to have to go to the Gospel meetings in the evenings, after having sat through a morning service. Instruments were never played in the house meetings, but someone always played the piano in the hall. I got the impression that there was something sinful about other musical instruments. Maybe some people who went to meeting played a guitar, for fun times at home, but I never heard them play one in church. Auntie Mae's boys played the drums in their teens, but they liked rock and roll and weren't interested in going to church when they hit their teens. My cousins learned to play the accordion. That was one of the more acceptable instruments. If the prevailing culture thought it was dorky, then it was okay with the Cooneyites. Here's a confession. I enjoy accordion music. Let's polka!
There was a lady in the evening meetings who annoyed me. She was a soprano, and really did have a lovely voice, but she was so impressed with how high she could hit some notes, she did not give a thought to how it affected other people. I frequently had the misfortune to be sitting right in front of her. It hurt my ear drums when she sang.
It never occurred to me to sit somewhere else. That simply was not done. When you went to those meetings, you stayed put where your family was sitting. If someone had gone and stood at the back of the hall, they would have been considered really weird, although in the Early Church, people just sat anywhere in a room where they could see and hear the speaker, unless it was too crowded and they had to listen through a window. The Cooneyite services are very regimented.
I never complained to my mother that this lady's singing hurt my ears. I don't think she would have been sympathetic. I did complain about Jim's singing, though. He sat next to me in meeting and he couldn't carry a tune. I was furious because it was agony to listen to him, and I vowed I would never sit next to him in meeting again. Poor Jimmy. He can sing well enough, if he gets started on the right note, but the singing was never any great shakes in those house meetings, probably because there was no musical accompaniment. Mom didn't know what I was so worked up about. She couldn't carry a tune, so she had no idea how terrible she and Jim sounded when they sang.
Yes, I know that God looks on the heart and He enjoys our praise, no matter how bad a person sounds when they sing. I didn't know that then. I was only a kid. But I suspect that a lot of people's hearts were not in the singing. Mainly, it was just a form that they followed.
We all made our decision to "profess". The usual ages for kids who are raised in that church to make a public confession of faith is between ten and twelve years old, before they hit puberty. It probably relates more to pleasing the adults, than of genuine faith in what is preached about what belonging to that church can do for one. Of course, nobody wants to go to Hell, so if doing this saves them from it, it's all to the good. You don't actually say anything, you don't go to the front of the church, and nobody prays with you. You just stand up in your place when the workers call, after the sermon, for people to make a decision. Eventually, the person gets immersed in water to put the seal on their decision. This usually happens during a summer convention in a lake or river.
I was twelve when I professed. I used to think I did it when I was ten, but I recollect that we lived on the acreage at that time. We moved there when I was going into Grade 7. It was a lovely summer day when we went to the special meeting, which was held all day on a Sunday in a high school in Burnaby. We had lunch with the other people. The fellowship times were always good, with the adults visiting each other, while kids ran about playing with friends whom they usually only saw at meetings.
I remember drawing a lot during the preaching. To look at me, one would never guess that I was paying any attention to what was being preached, but I was listening to every word. I particularly remember the worker saying that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and that nobody comes to the Father, except through Him. Also, that He said He never changes. This is used to support their method of sending their workers out in pairs with only a suitcase of clothes.
What the Bible is referring to, when it says that Jesus never changes, is His character, not His methods. Methods change with circumstances. For instance, the apostle Paul said that he became all things to all men, so that he could save some. Around Jews, he followed Jewish customs that did not conflict with God's commandments; around Gentiles, he adopted their customs, if they did not conflict with God's commandments.
Methods also change if religiosity needs to be broken. God sent John the Baptist out into ministry wearing camel skins and eating locusts and honey. John the Baptist was a Nazarite, so he never drank wine, or even ate a grape or raisin, and he never cut his hair. When Jesus came along, He wore nice clothes and attended dinners, ate a variety of foods and drank a moderate amount of wine. He was criticized for this because He did not fit the Israeli ideal of what a prophet should be like.
Even John the Baptist, when he heard the reports of how Jesus ate good food and drank wine (though in moderation), he began to doubt that his godly, carpenter cousin really was the One whom God had shown him was the Messiah. He sent his followers to challenge Jesus about His "indulgence" in "luxury." Why wasn't He fasting more often and hanging out in the wilderness, always making the people come to Him, instead of obligingly going to the people?
Jesus turned from John's disciples and demonstrated that He is the Messiah through the miracles He performed, and then instructed them to tell John what they had seen, and warn him that "Blessed is he who is not offended in me." In other words, let God do the directing; don't try to impose our notions of what is holy on Him, or on others who belong to Him.
The workers talked about Jesus dying on the cross and sang hymns about it, but it was understood that looking to Him as your Saviour only did you any good if you were a part of their church. They talked about turning your back on the world and following Jesus. I didn't want to go to Hell, and it was expected of me to eventually profess, so I stood up to make my decision.
Kids in those meetings don't know much about the world and what they are giving up, and their parents wouldn't let them be worldly anyway. It started to dawn on me, a year later, how tough it was to be a part of that church, when I started to want to wear make–up.
On that day, though, I happily received congratulations. When we returned home, it was still bright and sunny. I noticed that our new ducklings had lost their twist ties that I had wrapped around their legs. Each one was a different colour, so that we could tell which duckling belonged to whom. I followed the trail of twist ties and found the ducklings near the chicken coop, with our cat stalking them. We got home that day just in time. Those ducks were probably more saved than what I was.
Though the way the workers preached, and the way I understood their message, did not save my soul, I think my decision marked me in God's eyes as a soul who was interested in being saved. I wanted to be good, but it was so impossible. I didn't know how to do it. I was certain that fighting with my brothers and sisters was not pleasing to God. I remember making a resolution that I would not fight with them. I pondered waiting until my birthday, when it seemed it would be good to make a fresh start. But then I had doubts and said to my mother, "Mom, if a person was going to be good, it would not be a good thing to wait until their birthday, would it? They could get hit by a car and die before then." She agreed.
The old getting hit by a car and dying before making a decision to follow Jesus gambit was a regular standby that the workers used when they gave the invitation to make a decision. They also used to sing a song that went, "Time is fleeting, flowers are falling; Life will soon be past. Pause and ponder where thou goest; time is fleeting fast." It sure was gloomy, though the sentiments are true.
I decided that I would not wait to embark on being perfect. Ten minutes later, I had already blown it, squabbling with the siblings, as usual. When I was a kid, I was sure that I was going to end up in Hell.
I was equally sure that my mother would go to Heaven. She frustrated me no end, sometimes, and she was not always a great example of what she preached, but I put on her on a pedestal. She contributed to my idolatry by telling me about how she had sacrificed to feed my sister and I when we were little. Our Dad used to spend all the grocery money on alcohol, so Mom worked as a waitress to support us. She got only one meal a day, when she was at work, and fainted a couple of times on the street due to hunger. When you have stuff like that drummed into you, it's no wonder that a kid thinks their mother is perfect, even if at the back of their mind, they know she is not.
One night, I had a startling thought as I lay in bed. I did a lot of thinking at night, because I was something of an insomniac. My mind was too active sometimes to let me sleep. I thought, "Though I know this is impossible, what if I was good enough to go to Heaven, and my mother, though this is equally impossible, was going to go to Hell? Would I take her place in Hell, so that she could go to Heaven?" I urgently decided that, yes, I would go to Hell in her place. I could not bear the thought of my mother suffering torment.
Later, I understood that Jesus took her place on the cross and went to Hell for her, so that she would not have to go there. I did not have to do it, but when one considers that this is the way we should love others, we should be willing to put up with anything for the sake of leading them to salvation. It is the way that the apostle Paul felt about the Jews.
I can't say that I have achieved any great success in being sacrificial like that for my mother. People think we are a lot alike, but that is only because, being a natural mimic, I tended to imitate her mannerisms. Our actual personalities and values are so different that we get on each other's nerves, if we are together for more than just a few hours. I love her, but I always feel that in order for her to like me, I would have to become someone else.
I know my mother loves me, though. She gave me a precious compliment one time when I brought my grandchildren to visit her. She observed how I dote on them and heard about all the interesting stuff we do together. Then Connor decided to tease his little brother. He sat beside me on the couch and put his arms around me. Turning to little Jake with a grin, he said, "My grandma." That brought Jake to the other side of me in quick order, and the tug–of–war started, each one insisting that I was their grandma. Jake was three and Connor was nine at the time. Then Jake ended it by pointing at my mother and saying sharply to Connor, "Your grandma!" Connor and Mom and I burst out laughing. As we were getting ready to leave and I was bubbling away about how handsome my little guys are, my mother said to me, "Lanny, you're a good grandma." A person is never too old to appreciate affirmation from their parents.
I don't think that I thought about God very much when I was a child, but my siblings think I am the spiritual one in the family. It is their excuse to not think about spiritual things, particularly anything pertaining to the Bible. I supposedly have a natural bent for it.
I would think that, if I did, I would have thought about God a lot more often outside of church, and started thinking about Him when I was a lot younger. I have heard about other people becoming aware of Him when they were little tots playing in their sandbox.
I never thought about Him at all, until I was around eight or nine, and only when I was in desperate need, such as when Dad caught me reading at night when I was supposed to be asleep. When he went away to fetch a stick to thrash me with, I desperately prayed to God that he wouldn't, but he did anyway.
As far as I knew, I deserved to be spanked, and God thought so, too. I didn't think that God cared about me all that much, and, consequently, He did not enter into my thoughts very much. He always seemed to take Mom's and Dad's side. They had that verse to back them up about how we were supposed to obey them, and the other one about how sparing the rod spoils the child. I was more careful, after that, when I read books at night.
I did think deep and hard about God one night, though, when I was in bed. I tried to imagine what He looks like. He was probably a giant and looked very old, with a long, white beard. I had heard Him described in those terms, when other kids talked about what they thought God was like. I could not imagine Him any other way, but a picture came into my mind.
I was sitting on His big hand, right after having a bath. I smelled sweet, having had the usual dusting of Johnson's baby powder, and I was wearing a flannel nightie that tied at the back. This was the kind of nightie my grandmother used to put on us. They were horrible things. We never wore underwear to bed, and I always woke up later in the night with that stupid nightgown wrapped around my neck, and my body naked and cold because I had kicked off the covers. Those gowns were such pointless things.
In this inner vision, though, it was okay to be wearing that nightgown. It took me back to a time of innocence, when I had lived with my grandmother. God was showing me a picture of salvation, of being bathed and clean, smelling sweet and feeling safe. That was the feeling I had, as I thought of God being big and strong, and holding me in His hand.
I prayed to God only two other times in my childhood, where the prayer was real. Our mother taught us to pray, "Now I lay me down to sleep; I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake; I pray the Lord my soul to take." That prayer always scared me. I never would have thought about dying in my sleep, if it had not been for that prayer. It was a ritual that was expected of us; otherwise, I would have rather never learned it. How is a kid supposed to relax and go to sleep when the last thing they think of when they go to bed is about dying in their sleep?
How about teaching this one: "Now I lay me down to sleep; I pray the Lord my soul to cuddle. And thank You, Lord, that You love your sheep, even if we get in a muddle." That is a comforting thought to go to sleep on.
The second time I ever prayed a real prayer was when my little brother Johnny sold his pet cat to an uncle. I loved that cat! My parents conditioned me to accept, without protest, everything that they decided, so I never said anything to them about how alarmed I was when my uncle offered to buy the cat for a dollar, and Johnny agreed to it, and Mom and Dad let him do it.
They did not consider, for even a moment, that other kids in the family had developed an attachment to the cat. The cat belonged to Johnny; he had a right to sell it. My parents were amused by the proceedings; nothing else was on their minds. Wise parents would have offered to pay Johnny a dollar, so that, from then, on it was the family cat. I was never taught to negotiate, so I just went downstairs to my room and sobbed my heart out, kneeling beside my bed, begging God to not let Johnny sell Whiskers.
Jimmy heard me and came into the room, with a worried look on his face, asking if there was anything he could do to help me. I sobbed and shook my head no, saying desperately that nobody could help me. I didn't expect God to care about my heartache. I just prayed because my anguish drove me to it.
Johnny sold the cat, but a month later, my uncle returned him, after deciding that he was too busy to pay enough attention to a cat. I did not recognize God's hand in it. Johnny, the little mercenary (he was four at the time), crowed about having got the cat for nothing, making a dollar off of selling it, and then getting the cat back.
The only other time I prayed was when my mother announced that, if any of her daughters "got in trouble", meaning pregnant outside of marriage, she would take a gun and shoot them. I was terrified that my mother would shoot me some day. I was twelve years old and still wasn't sure about how people got pregnant, even after seeing certain films at school.
Whatever it was that people did when they were physically intimate with each other, I didn't have any intention of participating in that kind of behaviour outside of marriage, but sometimes people get carried away when they are kissing. Why else would there be all the hoopla about sex, and such heavy warnings from my mother about dire consequences, if we did what she did when she was younger? Sex must be fun, or adults wouldn't be so worked up about their kids messing around with it.
My mother did not want us to suffer like she did because of the mistakes she made, but I sure suffered that night, tossing and turning in my bed, in agony of mind. I kept seeing my mother pointing a gun at me. Finally, in desperation, I cried out in my heart, "Oh, God, help me!" (That has always been my best prayer!) Suddenly, a thought came to my mind, "That sure was a stupid thing to say." I thought, "Yeah, that was a stupid thing for my mother to say, and I am going to tell her so." Then I instantly fell asleep and slept like a log all night.
The next morning, as soon as I came downstairs, I delivered my message. Mom was preparing breakfast in the kitchen. I reminded her of what she said, and then told her that it was a stupid thing to say. She simply said that she agreed, and she never said it again after that. My mind was now totally at ease, but I did not recognize that God had answered my prayer. I was actually pretty thick when it came to recognizing His intervention in my life.
On a subconscious level, though, I always believed in Him, and I wondered about what Heaven was like. One day, I read a Superman comic where Jimmy Olsen fell in love with a Miss Universe contestant who was from a country he had never heard of. She was actually from another planet. He married her and agreed to go to her planet to live with her. When they got there, she turned into a little, yellow blob, as this was her natural form, and she eagerly invited Jimmy to take on the form of her people, as well. Oh faithless, shallow Jimmy; he turned around and hopped on the spaceship right away, heading back to Earth, leaving his new bride behind. The story made a point about how beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
That really got me thinking. What if we didn't even look human when we got to Heaven? Would I want to go there, if I wasn't going to look human anymore? I didn't hear anything about Heaven from the workers. Their main topic was about how they were the only true church. I didn't read the Bible, except to grab it Sunday morning before church, find a verse that fit the testimony formula, and use it to give my testimony during the meeting. This was the way all the kids in my family went about it. It never dawned on me to read the Bible to find out what it said about Heaven. I had no notion that the book of Revelation talks about it; the workers never preached on any text in that book. I would not have been aware that the book of Revelation existed, if it was not listed in the index of my Bible.
I figured I would ask Mom; it seemed like she knew everything. I asked her when she was walking by in the kitchen, "Mom, when we get to Heaven, will we be little, yellow blobs?" She smacked me on the head and told me to not be so stupid, and that, if I talked like that, people would think I had mental problems. End of conversation. It was the practically the end of having any kind of conversation with my mother, nipped in the bud when I was just starting to get interested in talking to her.
This is where our personalities differ a lot. My mother is of the kind of temperament that thinks her way of thinking is the only right way to think. She is a choleric. When learning about temperaments years later, I read that choleric mothers are really good at taking care of their children's physical needs, but leave their emotional needs largely untouched. Most of them don't even know that their children have emotional needs. That summed up my mother.
I, on the other hand, being much more phlegmatic, would be really intrigued, if a child asked me a question like that, and I would want to know what prompted it. I would ask, and it would be perfectly reasonable to me that a child would wonder about such a thing, after having read a story that makes a point about beauty being in the eye of the beholder. I would welcome the opportunity to talk to the child about Heaven and plant some seeds of truth in their heart that someday might bloom into a love for the Lord.
My mother, however, just heard an off–the–wall question and dismissed it, after having cautioned me to not talk about such things. All I learned was to not talk about them to her. When I wondered what the Holy Ghost is a short time later, I thought of asking her and then thought, "Nah. She wouldn't know."
She was really embarrassed the following year at convention, when the workers asked for people to stand up who wanted to recommit their lives to the Lord, and I stood up. I guess she wondered what I had been up to, that I needed to recommit to the Lord, and what her friends were wondering about my activities. I had been smoking cigarettes and wearing lipstick on the sly, and I felt really bad about it.
It was dusk when we left the meeting tent. As soon as we were out of sight of other people, except for my siblings, my mother slapped me on the head and angrily asked why I had not told her that I needed to recommit my life to the Lord. I think that her slap answered her question, as well as how she responded before when I asked her about what we would look like in Heaven.
For all that she made us go to meeting, my mother really wasn't a very spiritual person. I think she went back to meetings out of respect for her mother, and also because she felt that raising us in church was a decent way to raise kids. At home, she didn't always practice what her church preached.
She let us watch TV, including awful stuff like horror shows that featured demons and witchcraft. That sure wasn't good for our young minds. It gave me nightmares. Worse, it gave my other siblings a taste for that kind of entertainment. My sister Judy laughed, as she said how she loved to be scared when watching those shows. A lot of people feel that way, but I don't think that they would feel the same way if they went to Hell, and saw those things for real, and could never get away from them.
My mother also let us watch shows that had sexual content. Most of the time, it was nothing more than kissing, but that was enough to fire up our young minds in a direction that she did not want it to go. The thing with the gun, remember? None of us six children went to our marriage beds as virgins, even in spite of the strong prohibition in our early youth that society and our church urged on us. The sixties had come along, by the time we were in our teens, and what we saw played out before us on television about flower children, had more influence than what our mother preached at us.
Mom also taught us to not swear. That is a really good thing, but when she was angry, she forgot to set a good example. It was nothing too out there, but it really offended me when she used crude words. We were not supposed to even say stupid or shut up, but she used those words a lot when she was disappointed with our mental abilities, and the other ones when she was pushed to her limits. When we were by ourselves, us kids used words that were a lot worse, but we knew we were just kids, and I expected much more of an adult.
Also, I was a very sensitive child with a vivid imagination. Those words were not just words to me. When my mother said them, I saw those things in my mind in a very literal way, so it really, really bugged me, though it might not have as much of an effect on other kids, particularly if they hear those words used in their home all the time and think it is okay to use them.
There was dysfunction our home, but our lifestyle was much more wholesome than the average family's, and I am very thankful for the good things that were in my childhood. Porn was never brought into our home. If my stepfather looked at that stuff, he left it under his car seat, where my older sister found it when she was cleaning the car and brought it to show Jim and me. It was just naughty stories; no nude pictures. I saw that kind of thing laying around in a home where I babysat, but not in my own, and I was grateful to my parents for trying to protect our innocence.
My older sister had a very lively curiosity about sex. Being older than the rest of us, she arrived at an interest in it before we started to be very curious about such things. Her curiosity awakened my curiosity. She had hordes of friends with older siblings whom she could ask, if we did not know the meaning of a word. The older siblings must have been protective of the younger ones. When one girl asked her older brother about how babies are made, he said that the man clubs the woman on the head and drags her off some place. Of course, we knew he was only funning. When I was a kid, a lot of cartoons about cavemen showed them doing this.
Those magazines under Dad's car seat told us more about sex than my sister's friends ever did. But what horrible stories they were, about bikers attacking people in isolated roadside restaurants, and people having one–night stands with strangers. Dad was a worldly guy who didn't go to church, so we were not surprised that he read stories like that.
There is a lot to be said for the way the environment of my mother's church protected us from being overly exposed to such coarseness. If there was naughty stuff going on at the summer conventions, and there probably was, I was never aware of it. Going into our teens, it was a place for us to meet boys, but, in my experience, the encounters were nothing more than a pack of girls walking around gawking at the boys, and trying to look cool, while a younger sister (me), giggled and tittered, embarrassing the other girls. I did it to embarrass them. I wanted the boys to think that it was silly of the older girls to have crushes on them, though I had plenty of crushes myself. I was too young for the boys to notice me, though.
My sister and her friends did not want me hanging around with them. Rejection is never fun. I dragged myself off to visit Auntie Mae in her camper. She was such a good friend. She took one look at my dejected face and said sympathetically, "Aw, did that Pat and Valerie ditch you again?" I nodded. Pat was always saying to her friend Valerie, "Let's ditch Lanny."
I had a good long visit with Auntie Mae, but in the end, it did not go well. I tried to explain to her a problem I had with avoiding saying embarrassing things, like how when you are talking to a fat person, and you don't want to say anything about fat. Auntie Mae was rather fat. Fat and jolly, and I loved her to bits, but there I was demonstrating the very thing that troubled me about my mouth. She looked at me solemnly and said, "Lanny, you're mean." Our conversation fizzled out.
She must have forgiven me, though, because she still wanted me to marry into her family after that, and have me for a daughter. She always wished she'd had a daughter and would have loved to have any of my mother's girls marry her boys. She thought we were so cute with our dainty, fussy manners. Dainty and fussy compared to her boys, that is. She didn't drill them about manners. She said all she cared about was that the food got into them, not how it got in.
Except for the preaching, I thought convention was fun. The ones I attended were held on a farm. There were two large barns for the women. The men had an encampment of canvas tents in another area, and there were tents set up for families. There was also a large area to park camping vehicles.
The women's barns were furnished with bunks and straw ticks for mattresses. Everyone brought yummy snacks with them and shared them around. We visited a lot, until the lights were turned out. I think that happened around ten o'clock. Then a few of us younger girls whispered to each other, until we got tired and fell asleep.
In the early years, there were outhouses and a curtained off area in the barn where a chamber pot was located, if anyone had to use a washroom during the night. Eventually, a nice, modern bathroom were erected not far from the barns. That was a location where one could look closely at the girls' faces under bright light to see if they were wearing make–up, and sometimes you might actually see a girl subtly applying make–up to her face. Then the gossip would fly. "Did you know that so–and–so is wearing mascara?" What a scandal!
The Cooneyites particularly target women in their dress code. The men are not compelled to look like oddities in the outside world. In the sixties and seventies when long hair was in fashion, the men stood out a bit because they kept their hair short, but so did a lot of guys in the business world. Cooneyite men aren't compelled to wear their pants to come only to their ankles, which would make them look as frumpy as the women.
They aren't compelled to wear beards, which would make them look old–fashioned. No, they are allowed to look normal. It really isn't fair. I think that, as long as they prohibit women from wearing make–up and jewellery, and from wearing their hair short, the men should be compelled to wear untrimmed beards and some kind of dorky hat all the time, even when they go to work. I cast my vote for one like what Hoss Cartright wore on Bonanza, or a pork pie hat like Jughead wore in the Archie cartoons.
My cousin Carol Jean and her friend Barbie, or maybe her name was Marlene, must have used make–up. They were too cute to look that way naturally. Carol had gorgeous red hair and Barbie/Marlene was a brunette who had one green eye and one blue eye. She looked fabulous. They were about six years older than me. My sister and I went to visit them in the other barn where they were staying. Carol seemed to be quite full of herself, sitting on her mattress in a very stylish suit. She had her hair done in a bun on her head, encircled with a pretty, gold ornament that looked like a coronet.
I was jealous of how sophisticated she looked and how sure of herself she seemed to be. I blurted out, "What's that thing you got on your head? Is it fake?" I really didn't think it was, but I wanted to cut her down. She tattled on me to my mother, furiously complaining about how much I had embarrassed her by pointing out that she was wearing a hair piece. Mom laughed her head off when she told me about it. She probably thought Carol took herself too seriously. I felt smug that I had gotten to Carol. As I said before, sometimes I was not a very nice kid.
Predictably, I spent a lot of time by myself at convention that year when I was twelve years old. It gave me time to think. I fancied that I would like to be a worker. It seemed like an easy job. All they had to do was get up in front of people and talk about how theirs was the only true church, and say a few other things that were in the Bible. For this, people were willing to support them. They got to travel to foreign countries. I didn't like the bit about not getting married and having children, but you can't have everything.
There was a small cabin for mothers to stay in with their babies. I loved visiting the baby house because I loved babies. The babies didn't like me, though, and that was very discouraging. I guess I wasn't holding them properly; they could tell that I was a novice. However, I enjoyed just getting to look at their cute, little faces and listening to the moms talk to each other. The adults were always civilized and nice at meetings. If they gossipped, it was in their homes, just between a couple of friends.
They surely must have gossipped, for I heard Mom speak about young engaged couples who "had" to get married. Nothing more than that was said, except for what restrictions the workers put on them regarding their participation in the meetings. We liked all the young couples, whether they had to get married or not. It was surprising to me to learn of these indiscretions, for the young people always seemed so tame and proper. The girls dressed dowdy enough to please any of the workers, except for the fancy hair–dos that the older girls commonly wore.
The old women, in their forties onward, wore their hair three decades out of date. It was a hairstyle going back to the 1930's and 40's, where a string is tied around the lower part of the head and the hair rolled into it, forming a roll around the head. Nowadays, that style seems to have faded out among the Cooneyites, and the older women in the sect can be recognized by their early 1960's puffy hairstyles that they wore when they were young, and lack of make–up. When I was a kid, one of the workers preached against these worldly hair styles, saying that they were rebellion against the Lord. All of the girls ignored him and kept on teasing their hair into elaborate, fancy buns.
I can't say that I blame them. It was enough that women were not allowed to wear make–up, no matter how badly the barn needed paint. They had to wear long skirts below their knees when other girls their age were wearing mini skirts and hot pants (fancy shorts). They weren't allowed to wear jewellery. They weren't allowed to do a lot of things that many other girls their age took for granted, even those who went to other churches.
My eyes were round when I saw girls in the meeting who flouted the conventions. There was one in particular, who was really beautiful. She looked like a 1960's model, with her dark, teased hair, make–up, stylish clothes, and long, painted nails. The langourous way she moved, like a sleek and sleepy cat, indicated that she knew she looked good.
She was engaged to a very handsome, young man, one of the sons of a family who held meetings in their home. We went to their meeting for a while. I saw this girl only in the evening meetings. If it wasn't for the fact that her fiancé was so gorgeous, and his family wanted them to attend, I don't think she would have bothered going to them. She didn't look interested in the preaching. She was more into draping herself around her boyfriend, her glamorous nails on display as her hand rested on his broad shoulder. I don't think that he wanted to attend the meetings either, but did it out of respect for his parents. If he was gung–ho about meetings, then what was he doing with a babe like that? There was no way that she was ever going to dress like a frump.
When I went to one of the evening meetings when I was seventeen, this time wearing make–up, a bunch of little kids in the row in front turned around and stared at me for the whole meeting. It felt uncomfortable, but I could understand their fascination.
When we went to convention, I loved to wait on tables. The food tent was set up with a lot of long tables, with benches attached to them, and sawdust on the ground. The young girls, twelve and upward, set the food on the tables and served beverages. Some girls were younger. They didn't carry the coffee pots and tea pots. The young guys took care of the dishwashing, loading them into an industrial dishwasher.
The meals were soooo good. In the morning, the wholesome smell of Red River porridge wafted up from serving bowls. There were also scrambled eggs and toast and sausages, and other things. We ate well. Lunch and dinner was even better. Mealtimes were the most fun part of convention. The food was yummy and everybody visited at the tables.
If a girl had a crush on a guy, she might be able to spot what table he was sitting at and serve that table. For my part, I was too shy to talk to any boys I liked, but it would have been fine with me just to pour him a cup of coffee. Kids around ten and older were allowed to sit with their friends in the meetings, so we were able to position ourselves in the row behind or in front of a boy we liked. That actually added a bit of excitement to the preaching sessions that would have otherwise put me to sleep. I stopped going to the conventions, though, before I got really interested in boys and became someone who could attract their interest.
The workers stayed in little huts. They were there for both conventions, that were held a week apart. The huts were cozy, compared to the barns and tents that the regular people stayed in. Some of the cottages were bigger and various tasks were performed there. I visited one of them and saw the workers pressing clothes for the older workers, using an industrial press with rollers. This was when I noticed that the lady worker had a superior air, as if she knew that she was better than us lesser mortals. It seemed like they lived in another world apart from the rest of us, a Cooneyite kind of Mount Olympus. I felt awed.
The women workers I knew best were very nice ladies. We called them auntie whatever their name was. My favourite was Grace Websdale. She was a quiet, tiny, grey–haired lady who wore glasses. When I felt guilty about my sinful doings, I hunted her down at convention and confessed to her. She made no comment, which I was very glad of. She just listened and encouraged me to serve the Lord.
I don't think she was shocked to learn that I had been smoking cigarettes when I went berry picking earlier in the summer, and wearing silver lipstick. My sister had a little sample tube of it that she shared with me, probably so that I wouldn't rat to Mom on her for wearing make–up, if I was guilty of it, too; not because she was inclined to be generous with me. I didn't tell Auntie Grace about sharing dirty jokes with other kids. I felt bad about that, as well, but I didn't want Auntie Grace to think too poorly of me.
I don't recommend that anyone sends their kids berry picking without adult supervision. Kids get up to all sorts of trouble out in those berry fields. At least, Pat and Jim and I did, though nobody caught us. Our parents just wondered that we didn't pick more berries and earn more money than what we did. When it rained, we found a cosy barn to hang out in with the other kids, where we all smoked cigarettes and told dirty jokes. On sunny days, we sat under shady trees for more of the same.
And then there were the outhouse antics. Pat was annoyed that I had attempted to witness to other kids at school. I tried it once. It did not go over well. I was met with blank stares when I tried to tell a friend about how the church I went to was the only true church. It must have gotten around what I said to her, because when we walked by a field, we were teased by some kids who had been in my older sister's class. We were wearing our grubbies for picking berries in. A girl named Rita grinned at Pat and me and drawled, "Hey, are them your Sunday go–to–meetin' clothes?" Pat angrily muttered to me, "Why did you have to tell them about meetings?"
Those kids locked me in the outhouse. It was awful. I practically suffocated from holding my breath, the outhouse being rather smelly and stuffy. Finally, a couple of teen–aged boys came along and noticed that the hook was in the ring on the other side of the door. One of them exclaimed, "Hey, someone is locked in there!" They opened the door and I ducked my head as I ran past them, my face burning with embarrassment. Why did it have to be older guys who came along, and not an adult or just some other kid?
Pat knew how much it bothered me that those kids had locked me in the outhouse. To be nasty, she did it to me, too. But, at least, she did it only once. I have heard it said that sibling rivalry is the worst between two sisters who are a year and a half apart. Pat and I sure proved that to be true in our teens. You would have never known that we were very affectionate with each other when we were toddlers, when my big sister thought of me as her real live dolly.
After a couple of summers of sending us berry picking, Mom and Dad knew it was a bust, even if it kept us three older kids out of their hair for part of the day. They stopped making us go.
Pat carried on with her escapades when we went to Vancouver to stay with her friend Valerie for a week. By this time, we had gone to convention, and I had decided to become a worker. As Pat and Valerie were always ditching me, I had even taken my Bible to a hill where I could be alone and read it, and ponder my future. Mostly, I just pondered my future, imagining with it would be like, as I reclined on the grass in my dark green, long–skirted dress that came to my shins.
I became quite full of myself about how holy I was, going off alone to read my Bible, instead of joining the packs of girls who roamed the convention grounds, making eyes at the boys. Pat immediately recognized my conceit and decided that I needed to be pulled down a few pegs. She and Valerie mocked me for not wearing bobby socks, in an attempt to pretend that I was wearing stockings. This was defeated by the fact that my mother thought I was too young to shave my legs. Pat and Valerie made rude comments about hairy my legs were.
There was not a lot of good feeling between us when they were forced to hang out with me at Valerie's house. Valerie was a wild type of girl and she hated her stepmother, Bella. Her mother had died several years earlier. I became Bella's informant.
My impression of Valerie's mother was that she was very sweet and gentle. I remember her daughters weeping at her funeral and the oldest being criticized behind her back for how much she had carried on, crying out and reaching towards her mother's casket. That was very much in keeping with the Cooneyite tendency to rigidly keep emotions under control, including enthusiasm for God. No matter how much a girl loved her mother, and was going to miss her, displays of emotion were considered unseemly.
Pat was a very pretty and rather worldly girl. She wore make–up, kept her black, curly hair cut short, and had long, painted nails. The ladies at the funeral thought that Pat had been an undutiful daughter because she was worldly. If a daughter wanted to be a blessing to her mother, and not a worry, then she ought to go to their church and follow their rules. No point in crying, and pretending that she had cared about her, now that her mother was gone. Those women were kind of heartless with their comment about Pat's sobbing.
Pat also compared very unfavourably to the middle daughter. Verna was so nice that women thought she would be an ideal daughter–in–law. I loved Verna; she loved kids. Pat seemed to think only about guys, but she was never mean to kids. When my sister and I helped out at the bakery where Pat and Verna worked, Pat didn't talk to us, but she never objected to Verna sending us home with loads of day–old doughnuts.
My mother not only disapproved of people displaying strong emotions in public, but in private, as well. In my family, it was forbidden to be either too sad or too happy, and we were never, never, never allowed to be angry, or even mildly displeased, with our parents.
Valerie must have felt it was disloyal of her father to remarry. Also, Bella had a forceful personality. It clashed with Valerie's forceful personality. Bella suffered from being compared to Valerie's idealized, saintly mother.
Valerie led us around her neighbourhood. We stopped at a gas station, so that Pat and Valerie could apply "make–up" using oil pastels. I had used them before, too, playing around with making up my face, but just now I was still in "holy mode", so I did not participate. Instead, after they ditched me (yet again!), I went for walk with Bella and had a private talk with her about how Pat and Valerie had been smoking cigarettes and using oil pastels for make–up. Bella thanked me in a dignfied way for telling her this information about her stepdaughter. I felt rather virtuous about having made Valerie's parents more aware of her wildness, so they could curb it before it go too out of hand.
I didn't tell my parents about my sister's antics. I figured that would be too much trouble for any kid. Pat already had a fairly hard time at home. At lot was expected of her because she was the oldest. Also, it was normal for a girl her age to be interested in boys, but my parents tended to over–react about that kind of stuff. When they carried on about her meeting a boy in the park, when she was visiting our cousin Linda, it just made her more determined to flirt. Our little brother Johnny was with her at the time and he ratted her out.
Well, I didn't tell my parents about my sister's antics, with one exception. I felt really guilty about smoking cigarettes, which I was still doing, even after confessing to Auntie Grace, and had to unburden myself to my mother, regardless of how she was going to react. I didn't mean to fink on Pat and Jim. It was just my habit to tell all the details in my mind when I related a story. I went to Mom and confessed to her, "Mom, Pat and Jimmy and I have been smoking cigarettes out behind the chicken house." She looked at me steadily and said, "Okay, I want you to go tell Pat and Jimmy to come here." Man, did they get into trouble!
The only trouble that I got into was with Pat and Jim. They didn't trust me after that. They called me a ratfink. It worked out for the best. They got into all sorts of mischief that they excluded me from, because they were afraid I would tattle. I am glad that I wasn't in on any of the stuff they got into trouble for. Not being trusted is sometimes not a bad thing.
Troubles were brewing in our family. My stepfather picked on us three older kids. Jim got it the worst, but Pat was a close second. I was Dad's favourite of us three, so I didn't get it so bad, but it was bad enough. Dad felt like he was too much out of control when we hit our teens and no longer believed that he knew more than we did. Having independent ideas that differed from his own resulted in a lot of contention between us, with ugly behaviour and talk on both sides.
Pat ran away from home when she was visiting Valerie in Vancouver. She was going to head off for California with a guy, but Valerie wanted to go with them. Her parents phoned our parents to tell them that Pat and Valerie were missing. Having Valerie along was not going to work out for Pat's boyfriend, so he talked them both into going back to Valerie's house.
I thank God that Valerie was so stubborn about wanting to go with them, because I don't think Pat was aware of how much trouble she could get into. She was just excited about the thought of going to California and being with a cute guy, besides being desperate to get away from the misery of being around Dad. Rudi, or Baedro, as he was also called, was Dutch, in his twenties, and dealt drugs in a small way. Mom and Dad went to Vancouver and brought Pat home.
Pat ended up going to live with another Cooneyite family as a foster child. It sounded like she had it made. They let her listen to Beatles records. We weren't allowed to listen to worldly music in our home, but we played it on the radio when Mom and Dad were gone, and danced to it, too. Pat used to drive the rest of us kids crazy because she would learn the lyrics to a song and sing it over and over. I particularly remember her singing a song about Lady Godiva, and begging her stop singing it. I liked the song, until I heard Pat singing it so much that I couldn't get it out of my head.
Things got worse between our stepfather and Jim and I, after Pat was gone. Dad now had only two kids to vent his ill–temper on. Jimmy and I always stayed behind in the library after school to delay going home. We tried to time it so that we didn't get there until after Dad left for work; he drove taxi on the afternoon shift and got home around 5:30 a.m.. We always miscalculated and got home just as he was pulling out of the driveway. He rapped out a list of chores for us to do. It was always a relief when he drove away. Weekends were pure misery because Dad got Saturday and Sunday off.
Mom had to go upcountry to visit her relatives for some reason, leaving us to cope on our own for a week or two. While she was gone, the furnace broke down and the weather was cold, as it was autumn. Dad took our youngest brother and two younger sisters to his mother's place in Chilliwack, so that they would be warm. Jim and I were left at home to fend for ourselves, until Dad could arrange to get the furnace fixed. Our uncle stopped by to see how we were doing and found us huddled together on the stairs, weeping bitterly because Dad didn't love us.
Our uncle was so sympathetic that we sensed it was a good time to try find out what our real last name was and our father's nationality. My Mom told me all sorts of horrible, rotten stuff about my father, but she would never tell us these other things. It drove us crazy, wondering about our roots. Every time Mom and Dad left us three older ones alone in the house, we would be all over the place looking for documents that could tell us what we wanted to know. My uncle told us that our father was Irish (but he was more English). Then he felt bad about telling us stuff that he knew Mom didn't want us to know, so he told us some lies and made silly jokes, in the hope, I suppose, that we would not realize that he had given something away.
My uncle took Jim and I home to Vancouver, where he shared a shabby apartment with his ex–brother–in–law and the ex–brother–in–law's girlfriend. It was a strange experience for me. I disliked the city and always felt uneasy in worldly homes; they seemed so sordid, compared to my Mom's home, which was always so bright and organized and clean. Even if worldly homes were bright and organized and clean, my own home had a lighter, more wholesome atmosphere. My uncle gave us supper, then tucked Jim and I into the pull–out bed he made up for us in the living room, gave us a pile of chocolate bars, and let us watch horror movies late into the night. Was it any wonder that he was our favourite uncle?
A neon sign glowed outside the window, and I found it depressing. Having lived in the country, among mountains and green forests, and in the suburbs with green lawns and gardens, I hated the noise of the traffic and to be closed in by concrete and pavement. The movies we watched were depressing, and it was depressing to be under the same roof as a couple who were living in sin. But it was nice to be warm, and it was good of my uncle to try to cheer us up.
When I was fifteen, I begged my school counsellor to put my brother and I in a foster home, but she did not do anything about it, until Mom finally decided that we would be better off somewhere else after Dad made a huge kafuffle about me eating a little bit of left–over corn, instead of putting it into the fridge after dinner. He got the whole house in an uproar.
Mom wanted to know why I was crying. I told her that Dad had hit me. She asked Lorrie if this was so. Lorrie was sitting next to me where we were doing some artwork together. She timidly said that she didn't know. Mom got after Dad. He continued to carry on with his nattering. All the kids were crying. Judy put her coat on and headed down the road; she couldn't take it anymore. Mom yelled at her to come back, and she dragged herself back in tears. Mom scolded her, asking if she wanted to get her father put in jail. Thank God that Judy did something that ended the fight. The next morning, my mother lay on the couch with a terrible headache, looking like death. Before I left for school, she told me to ask my counsellor to put Jim and me in a foster home. Finally! Yay!
Once she gave the word, my counsellor had us in a foster home in a day. My counsellor probably thought that I had been exaggerating how bad things were. I hadn't told her the half of it, and I was fed up with it all. Dad had never wanted to look after Pat and Jim and me in the first place. He liked us when we came for short visits, and he would send big boxes of clothes to Grandma for us, but six kids was more than he could handle. I give him credit for having supported us for as long as he did. It is hard for most young men to take on three kids that aren't their own.
Our new home was culture shock, but it had the kind of culture that we longed for. The Cooneyite church and my parents' perfectionism and strictness were stifling. Pat soon joined us, ostensively because she wanted to be with her brother and sister, and there was room for her. Really, though, I think she just wanted a home where there were fewer restrictions.
These people were not religious. They claimed to be United church, but that was as far as their religion went. They never even made it out to church at Easter or Christmas. Right away, my foster mother sat me down and said that I could smoke cigarettes, if I wanted to. I was going to receive more allowance than what my parents gave me, but it was still rather limited. I thought, "Why would I waste my money on cigarettes? I'd rather buy make–up!" I was so glad that I was now allowed to wear it. Besides, smoking made me afraid of getting cancer and I never inhaled. Pat used to pester me about how stupid she thought I looked because I did not inhale. I suppose I did. I kept blowing out, trying to get all the smoke out.
Other than smoking Port cigars a couple of times to show off, I never smoked again after that. Instead, I bought make–up and got up before the rest of the family to put my face on. Teen–aged boys lived in this foster home, and I was definitely starting to be more interested in boys.
So interested, in fact, that I embarrassed myself within the first few days that I was there. One of my foster brothers was a tall, cute, blond Norwegian named Reggie. I was talking to him, and meant to say something about a version of something, but the word kept coming out as virgin. I kept saying it over and over, trying to get the right word. I could hear the right word in my brain, but the wrong word kept coming out of my mouth. I wondered, "What is wrong with me? Why do I keep saying that?" Reggie grinned and I gave up on trying find the word I meant to say. Talk about a Freudian slip!
Reggie never took an interest in me. Why would he, when my sister Pat was around? She had a figure that the guys were crazy about and packs of them chased after her. The way she dressed contributed to that, but she was not interested in going all the way. She read me a dirty letter that some guy sent to her. She was absolutely disgusted and thought he was a pig. She wrote one back and kept telling him in her letter what a creep he was. I was not impressed with her writing skills. I thought the letter was repetitive; telling him just once that he was a puke would have been enough.
There were always scads of boys around. Reggie was an extrovert and popular at school with the greaser set. Maybe part of the attraction was that he lived in a foster home that frequently took in teen–aged girls. A red–headed kid across the street soon became my boyfriend. Bobbie hung around with my foster brother and his friends; they were all interested in cars, so they worked on them together and partied together.
Bobbie was skinny, but good–looking. We spent a lot of time together necking in the den. My foster sister Jennifer, who was Pat's age, called it "the sin bin". We all spent too much time in there with our boyfriends. Maybe our foster parents let us do it because it kept us out of their hair, or maybe they figured it was pointless to complain because we would not listen to them anyway. They were right about that. My foster mom walked on Bobby and me one day, and complained to the rest of the family that we had been so close when she went in there, she could not have fit a cigarette paper between us. Nobody else cared. All the teens in the family were the same way with their girlfriends and boyfriends.
My foster mother talked about how Bobby had a mouth like the Grand Canyon, to warn me that anything I did with him was bound to get around. That gave me pause, but only for a moment. It just seemed to be the nature of the young males of the species to boast, and if I let that stop me, I would never have any fun.
It was really difficult for my mother that she had lost control over how her kids were being raised, but she showed some wisdom. The first time she saw me wearing make–up was when she was picking Pat and Jim and me up from school. I was halfway into the car when I suddenly realized that I had forgotten to wash my face off before Mom came to get us. I was wearing mascara and heavy brown eye–liner; I winced, figuring that I was about to get my head chewed off. Mom looked startled and then said, "Why, honey, your eyes – look like stars!"
Whew! What a relief it was to know that my mother wasn't going to lecture me about make–up. Compliments on our appearance was the way she decided to go. Auntie Mae teased her one time about how short Pat's miniskirts were, saying with a smirk, "Guess who I saw the other day, walking down the road with her friend, and guess whose skirt was the shortest?" Mom replied, "I would guess it was my little girl's. After all, she has the prettiest legs!" Auntie Mae felt ashamed at my mother's reply and apologized. I don't think anyone complained to my Mom, after that, about how wordly we were becoming. There was no point; she would just stick up for us.
Mom tried to build some bridges, so that she would not lose contact with us. That first Christmas in our foster home, she gave me a beautiful pantsuit in my favourite colour – lavender! She also gave me a couple of necklaces. Jewellery! Nothing told me more than this that my mother really did love me, if she would buy me something that her church said was wrong. After all, it wasn't like there really is anything wrong with jewellery. If she had bought me cigarettes, that would have told me that she hated me, because they are destructive, but things that helped me look pretty, without being slutty, were okay.
Unfortunately, because she had not studied anything about Christianity versus paganism, Mom didn't realize that the peace symbol on one of the necklaces is a symbol of the antichrist. For those who don't know, the Roman emperor Nero, who was a sun worshipper, designed the broken cross within a circle as a statement that sun worship was going to swallow up Christianity. It is a symbol of being in league with satan, as well as a false promise of peace for the world. Mom had never heard of the antichrist before, and would not have had the faintest idea what a person was talking about, if they had pointed that out to her. She just thought of the peace symbol as a fad that the kids were wearing; she wanted to make me happy.
I never knew what the peace symbol meant, until a Catholic girl at my senior high school saw me wearing the necklace and said it was a symbol of the antichrist. I didn't have any idea what she was talking about, and I didn't ask because I didn't want to get into a discussion about religion. My mother's church had given me enough of all the religion I ever wanted to know about; Christian religion, that is.
The people who went to meetings did have good times, though they were very tame. When they had a party, they called them "get–togethers," because parties had too worldly of a connotation, except for when speaking of children's birthday parties or a Halloween party for kids. My mother let us trick or treat and go to costume parties, have Easter baskets with all the fertility symbols of eggs, chicks, and bunnies, and everything else relating to the pagan holidays that Christians accept by tradition. They never preached against this in her church, that I know of.
At these Cooneyite get–togethers, the big entertainment was playing table games. We liked to play "spoons", which is where a pile of spoons is left in the centre of the table, and when someone has the right cards in their hand, they grab a spoon. Then everyone else makes a grab for a spoon, and the one who doesn't get one has to leave the game. It was pretty lively and we laughed a lot when we played that one. We usually played it at Auntie Mae's house.
When I was six years old, I embarrassed my mother horribly. We were at one these nice, civilized Cooneyite parties and I took to hanging out around the young, engaged couples. I told them a bunch of jokes and they all laughed. Feeling encouraged, I then trotted out my bathroom humour jokes, having run out of clean jokes. They laughed at those, too, though now they looked uncomfortable.
I was on a roll, though, and couldn't stop. After all, they were still laughing and nobody told me that I shouldn't tell those jokes. I knew I shouldn't tell them, but usually kids need an adult to tell them to stop. My mother accidentally dropped a pen on the floor and it rolled under the couch. She got down on her hands and knees to fetch the pen. I giggled and made a comment about the size of her posterior. From a small child's point of view, it was sizable, but really, she was a very attractive lady with a nice figure. Mom suddenly became aware of the things I was saying in that corner of the room, but she didn't say anything. She just blushed and went back to her conversation, but I think she now had one ear trained on me.
On the way home, I was tucked in the back seat of the car between my sister Pat and a lady whom my mother disliked because she was very gossippy, and she suspected that this lady frequently said unkind things about her. Flush with my imagined success as a comedian, I started asking the lady if she knew what Thought did. She said she didn't, so I informed her, and other jokes of that nature that my stepfather and I thought were hilarious. I trotted out my entire repertoire of dirty jokes, and even repeated some of them twice. Next to me, Pat was thinking, "Oh boy, is she going to get it when we get home!"
Surprisingly, my mother never spanked me for my misbehaviour at that party. She ranted at me plenty, though, and said she would never, ever take me anywhere again. Dad got it worse. I remember him walking around the house with his hand on his hip and a hunted, worried look on his face, while trying to get away from Mom. She followed him into every room, shaking her finger and ranting, "What did you mean by telling Lanny all those jokes? I don't want you to ever tell her any of those kind of jokes again!" She knew who was most to blame. Dad still told us those jokes, though, and I was relieved when Mom took me with her to the next "get–together".
Another embarrassing incident was when Mom had some of her friends over to celebrate my birthday party. What kind of party was that for me, when only one other kid shows up and all the rest are adults? My birthday was just an excuse to have her friends over. We made the most of the other kid, though, chasing all around the house like hooligans, and the adults never said a thing. They were too into their own conversation around the dining room table.
Us kids eventually intruded there. I had heard a funny joke at school, something about a candy bar. I did not completely understand it. I thought it was funny enough the way I understood it, so I asked one of the men, Auntie Mae's brother, and very jolly like her, if he had heard of the fight in the candy store. Smiling, he said no, and asked what about it. I delivered the punch line and his face went beet red. I stood there looking up at him, puzzled that he was embarrassed. It was an awkward moment, but I didn't get in trouble with Mom for it. She realized that I did not fully understand the joke and explained it to me later.
There are good things about the Cooneyite lifestyle, but it was the boyfriend situation that decided me to not go to my mother's church anymore. I went to meeting only once, after moving into my first foster home. I guess I went because it was a habit, and Mom expected it of me. But Bobby had given me a big hickie on my neck that I could not cover up, and I felt ashamed at the deep, sorrowful looks the people at the meeting directed at each other when they saw it. I knew they felt sorry for my Mom that I was going astray.
Arleigh's sad look convicted me the most. Arleigh was a tall, handsome man ten years my senior. When he found out that my birthday was on the same day as his, he always teased me after that about being my twin. I would look way, way up at him and think, "I sure don't mind being his twin!" He was married by now, but his gentle teasing had lingered in my heart like sunbeams, and his opinion was particularly important to me.
I didn't want to go to church anymore and face those sad looks that highlighted my tarnished virtue. I didn't want to think about people telling my mother how concerned they were for me. I didn't want to give up dating and wearing make–up. The latter was my only hope of attracting guys who were cute enough to interest me. My face looks very bland without make–up. When I was thirteen, I had promised myself that I would never marry a guy from my Mom's church, because I did not want to spend the rest of my life looking like a frump.
Not everybody who sticks to the Cooneyite dress code looks like a frump. Some people can carry it off because they still have a sense of style, while staying within the parameters, and they don't wear their hair too goofy. Also some people look better without make–up than with it. I am not one of those people. Unless I exercised some ingenuity with cosmetics and clothes, even when I was young and slim, I didn't look very impressive.
Later when I became a Christian and got married, I don't think my youthful indiscretions were forgiven. I ran into that man I told the candy bar joke to. We were in a restaurant, and I pointed out my husband to him. He stared at me in astonishment and exclaimed, "How did you ever manage to get such a handsome guy?" It was downright insulting how he said that. Why wouldn't a handsome man want to marry me? I was slender, pretty, intelligent, and, in those days, my ex–husband thought I was a lot of fun. We were always joking and laughing together. Tsk, tsk. Having heard some gossip (I would hate to think it was because of the joke I told him when I was eight), the man thought I was a hopeless slut who would never change, and no worthy man would ever want, particularly as I had not returned to the Cooneyites to demonstrate that I wanted to change.
The beginning of change came later when I was seventeen–years–old, but when I was fifteen, I wanted nothing to do with anything that was going to hinder me from having fun. I had to justify turning my back on God for better reasons than wanting to wear make–up and date. Books in my mother's house gave me the excuse I was looking for. My uncle had been given a pile of musty, old books and he dumped them off on my mother. My mother never had time to read, but she always encouraged us kids to read. She figured it would help us do better in school, and she also bought into the worldly concept that kids should read what they want, up to a point. We weren't supposed to read porn.
There were some things in the books I got from the school library and the adult section at the public library that, if my mother had known what was in them, I am sure that she would have objected to me reading them. One of the books that I got from my junior high school library was about how the world would be, if the Nazis had won World War II. It painted a very grim picture, and among its pages were descriptions of the main character's lust for a woman who was a sadist. She kept erotic pictures of torture and murder in her bathroom, and it was shocking to my young mind to read such things. That book was not at all suitable for anyone to read, never mind young teenagers. It had no business being in the school library.
Mom never monitored our reading, though. She never looked into the books that I brought home from the library, nor the ones that my uncle gave her, which my brother Jim and I devoured so voraciously.
One of the books was very occult. It dealt with reincarnation and past life regression, after the main character rebelled against God when she was a little girl, swearing at Him to declare her defiance, to see if He is real. Since He did not strike her dead on the spot, she concluded that He did not exist. Then she went her own way, getting into bad stuff, as she felt that she did not have to account for what she did.
That book triggered a mild interest in Eastern religion. I read about Hindu beliefs in a book that I saw in the school library. The Beatles were making Eastern religion popular, and the fashions of the flower children were inspired by India.
This all came to mind when I wanted to find justification to not go to meetings anymore. One night, as I lay in bed, I started to think that maybe the God of the Bible wasn't real, and neither was Heaven or Hell. I reasoned that maybe how one thought they would exist after they died became real for them. If they thought that they were good enough to go to Heaven, they would experience it, or if they thought that they deserved to go to Hell, they would experience that instead.
Maybe if people believed in reincarnation, that was what they would experience. I thought that a person could form their own reality with their mind. I don't remember anyone telling me that, but it was a concept that I was open to. It suited me to believe in reincarnation. Who cared if they were born into the next life as a frog, or as someone else? What mattered to me was getting to do what I wanted to do in this life, within reason. I didn't want to do anything that would get me put in jail. I just wanted to look pretty, and smooch with Bobby, and dance, and not feel guilty about it.
I reasoned that the Bible was written by people who wanted to control others to conform to their idea of what was right. I did not know the Bible well enough to see that it wasn't just about do's and don'ts, but also about justice and mercy. I did not recall that the worst controllers ban it in their countries, because it interferes with the enslavement of their people.
No, I just focussed on things that I wanted to do, that the Bible apparently said was wrong (according to how the Cooneyites interpret it). If the Bible was concocted by men, rather than divinely inspired, then guilt wasn't real. It was just a conditioned response due to one's upbringing. The thought came to me that since sin was not real, and the devil is not real, then there would be nothing wrong with getting down on my knees, lifting my hands, and saying, "I praise you, oh Satan."
My soul recoiled in shock and horror. I thought, "No, that's just too evil!" I wanted to do some sinning and not feel guilty about it, but that would be going too far. It was interesting that, though I wanted to ditch Christian morality, I knew that evil is real, that it is not just a concept. At the back of my mind, I knew that satan had inspired the thought to worship him, but I attributed my other thoughts to entirely my own reasoning.
Because of the grace of God working in my life, to keep me from getting in way, way over my head, I never took much of an interest in witchcraft. I read a couple books about it, but all they did was convince me more than ever that witchcraft is too creepy and sordid.
That night was a turning point in my life. From then on out, I stopped going to church and just wanted to party. I was wild by Christian standards, but my friends and acquaintances were much wilder. I was shy, so I was mostly a spectator. I tried drinking a few times, but only half a bottle of beer or half a glass of wine made me feel odd. I felt like I had been hit up and down my back, which was probably an allergic reaction, and alerted me that alcohol was not good for me. Besides that, I didn't want to become an alcoholic and give people grief like my father did. Most of the time, I didn't touch the stuff.
I got drunk only once when I was sixteen, and made such a fool of myself swearing my head off. I used to swear a lot in those days, when I was with my peers, who used the same kind of language, but that time I got drunk, I swore so much that I was appalled. I did not like the feeling of not being in control of my mental faculties. For that reason, I didn't mess around very much with drugs either.
Probably the only time I ever took enough drugs to feel a real buzz was that one time I got drunk. On other occasions, I toked a little hash or marijuana, and then psyched myself into thinking that I was high. It didn't take much to get me high that time; just a few tokes on a joint that was laced with cocaine and one and half bottles of beer. If that was all it took to make me act like a fool, I figured I had better stay away from drugs and alcohol.
Later, when my husband talked me into going to bars with him, I sometimes drank Irish coffees, but two were enough to satisfy me. Eventually, as a Christian, I decided to not drink alcohol at all, not because the Bible forbids doing so (which it doesn't), but because, if a person never drinks alcohol, then there is never any danger that they will become an alcoholic.
I lasted only a year in my first foster home. I did not get into any kind of trouble with the law, as some of the other foster kids did, but my foster parents found things about me to criticize, and I resented it. Because of the lifestyle I was raised in, I looked down on these worldly folks. They kept naughty magazines in the house, used crude language, and let the older kids smoke and drink and hold necking sessions in the den. My parents had said that we were not allowed to date until we were sixteen. Even then, I think Dad would not have allowed it until we were eighteen.
I could not fathom why these people, who had such low morals for adults (in my opinion), were not happy with me just the way I was. They talked about my attitude. I did not understand why they should be so up in arms about an intangible. Was I not allowed to think my own thoughts and to have my dislikes? What was up with this? I was a goody–two–shoes when I moved in, and it was their fault that I wasn't one anymore, to my way of thinking at the time.
The thing that actually got me booted out was a problem with one of their daughters. She was infatuated with a guy who had no real interest in her, except to touch her for loans. To keep the money coming, he sometimes pretended romantic interest in her, but he thought my sister was prettier. The other girl got really jealous. Her parents became soured towards my sister, on their daughter's behalf. Pat was defamed and kicked out of the house. I got mixed up in it, naturally taking my sister's side in the conflict. I thought the guy was a smarmy, little twit. When a fifteen–year–old views a guy that way, it's usually because he is really appalling. It was a mystery to me what that girl saw in him. I could understand him thinking that my sister was a hot babe, though.
Without Pat around to vent on, the girl then turned on me, yelling at me one day, saying terrible things about Pat. I tried to stick up for Pat, and I called her the name that she called my sister. That made her more furious. She pushed me inch by inch all the way down the stairs and cornered me at the front door, yelling in my face. It never even entered my head to push her back. Experience with my sister had taught me that I was likely to get pulverized in a physical fight. Wanting to say something really insulting to this girl to make her back off, I told her that her breath smelled like her feet.
What could she say? Even her own family noted that wearing boots made her feet smell really bad. She got a look on her face that said, "I give up on trying to talk to this cretin." She turned away from me without another word, and went and told her parents how rude I was to her. I don't think she said anything about what she said about my sister and how she pushed me down the stairs.
When I ran into this girl four years later, she was courteous and friendly to me, and it was evident that her taste in men had vastly improved. She introduced her husband, a tall, very handsome man who seemed really sweet and gentle. I was a Christian by then, so I was happy for her that she had found someone who seemed to be a hundred times better than the guy who used to break her heart. When she had a gorgeous husband like that, who seemed to like her a lot, she didn't have to be jealous of other girls anymore.
The day that I had the fight with her, though, her parents were upset that I had insulted their darling. The foster mother had a talk with me. Actually, she talked at me. She never asked me why I had been rude to her daughter, and I did not feel that there was any point in explaining it. They disliked my sister and felt justified in running her down. They would not understand why I stuck up for her.
They had forbidden me before to spend time with Pat, as they felt she was a bad influence on me. Actually, they were right about that, because the way she had been mistreated turned her into quite a rebel. If they had not forbidden me to hang out with Pat, I would probably would not have wanted to spend time with her. We didn't get along very well, but she was my sister. Who were they to try to keep me from my sister?
I resented that nothing I could say would have satisfied them, as an explanation for why I insulted their daughter. I got back at my foster mother by sneering at her and refusing to talk. She told the family afterwards that I had looked at her like she was a worm on a board. She phoned Social Services to put me in another foster home.
The social worker who drove me over to the new place was not my regular social worker. She was a former missionary named Mrs. Rogers. She tried to witness to me, but I just cut down every attempt, and blabbered about my own philosophies. Between that and what the foster parents told her, she did not think much of me, but I am sure that she prayed for me nonetheless.
Three years later when she heard someone mention my name, she exclaimed, "You can't mean the same Lanny Townsend that I know! The Lanny Townsend I know was so wild!" The lady she was speaking to confirmed that I was the same Lanny Townsend, who now lived with her and her husband and looked after their baby when they were at work. She said that I had gotten saved, was very different now, and I had changed a lot in the short time that I lived with them.
Even after only a couple of years, my friends told me that they couldn't believe that I used to hang around with bikers. That was where hanging around with Pat led me. She met them when she was hitchhiking and moved in with a biker. I met her friends and had a few boyfriends among them, but I didn't get deeply involved with the gang. After a few months, I realized that I was playing with danger, so I started to take an interest in tamer guys.
I am sure that my upbringing helped me make rapid progress, after I became a Christian. I didn't have to learn everything from scratch about how to behave decently. After I got saved, everything that I had learned before about the Bible flooded back into my mind. I had been saved only a few months when I was talking to a friend, who met me before I was saved, and he was astonished that I knew the story about David and Goliath. When he first met me, he didn't think that I had any knowledge of the Bible, and he was shocked to learn that I had been raised in a Christian home.
The new home that Mrs. Rogers took me to was with a younger couple, and I thought they were pretty cool. They looked square and their home was clean and tidy and looked conventional, but they were hippies at heart, smoked hash and weed, and were into Eastern religion. My friends at school were envious that I had such "cool" foster parents. The dad smoked pot in front of me, the mom smoked hash with me and the other foster daughter, and they let us run around with our friends to an extent that I was satisfied with, not making any attempt to find out what kind of stuff my friends were into. Fortunately, I was in that home for only a month. They decided to move to Quadra Island and did not want to take me with them.
That was certainly of the Lord. Mrs. Rogers' prayers must have been involved. My next foster home was with a Pentecostal lady. This woman got on my nerves. She wanted to talk about God, invited me to church, and she was just plain irritating. I didn't like the way she looked, or the way she talked, or the way she walked. The only right thing she did, as far as I was concerned, was let me come and go as I pleased, asking no questions.
I was very irked when the lady inquired about being my foster parent, though she had advertised only for board and room. I didn't want anyone to act as my parent, but God knew how to get me to keep my mouth shut when it was arranged. One of the places my second foster mother and I had looked at was owned by a married couple who looked so much alike that they could have been mistaken as siblings. Unfortunately, they were both huge, bloated, pale, white–haired people with Mongoloid eyes; they looked like Yeti. They stared at me dumbly with blank, gloomy faces, and I got the impression that they were perpetually depressed. They gave me the creeps. I would have been afraid to fall asleep in their house.
Pickings were slim, and we had to get a new place arranged for me because my foster parents were moving soon. I decided that I could do worse than to live with a religious freak who wanted to do a good Christian deed by becoming a foster mother. It did not turn out as bad as I thought it would.
That first night when I was out late and sneaked into the house around 4 a.m., the stairs creaked when I was tiptoeing up them. Pauline was still awake, listening for me, I guess. She asked from her room, "Lanny, honey, is that you?" I said it was and waited for the roof to cave in. I had my answers ready. All I had been doing was visiting some guy in his apartment, just talking about politics and religion. Nothing else happened, so my conscience was easy, but I knew that adults had hang–ups about curfews.
All Pauline said was, "Oh." I waited a minute for her to start in on me, but she said nothing else. I thought gleefully, "That's it? She isn't going to chew my head off? Yay hay! This is Teen Heaven!"
Pauline soon stopped leaving the door unlocked, but I was not deterred. I discovered that, when I got home late, I could slide the dining room window open and carefully step over the little cabinet beneath it, so that I didn't knock over the ornaments. I never told Pauline how easy it was to get into the house, and she never asked me how I got in when the doors were all locked. Maybe she thought I got home earlier, when my foster sister was still awake, or maybe she knew how I got in, and wanted me to be able to get in, as long as I didn't tell anyone about the window, which I didn't.
Within a few days of moving in with Pauline and Carol, I met a man named Larry Anderson. He was a manager at the Hamilton Harvey store near by. Larry was an old bachelor who longed for home cooking. He was that desperate that he was willing to eat Pauline's food, and even pay her for it. Pauline was a terrible cook. Divorced after only four years of marriage, she worked to support her daughter, while one of her sisters raised Carol for the first part of her childhood. Pauline loved her career as a clerk for a judge, whom she enormously respected. She never learned to be a good cook.
The first meal I had in her home was appalling. Pauline cooked roast chicken and served instant mashed potatoes with it. The instructions said to add water, but Pauline added milk, figuring that would make the potatoes richer. It made them too thick. Then she took the roaster pan full of grease and said, "Here, honey, this is sort of like a gravy." She poured grease all over those awful instant mashed potatoes before I could form a protest in my mind. When she moved over to Carol's plate, Carol screamed and covered her food with her hands. Carol was spared the worst of it, but I had a job choking down that meal, feeling it would be impolite to not eat it.
That meal convinced me to not care about how Pauline felt about me not eating her food. It was the last time I ever ate anything that Pauline cooked, except for blueberry pie, though it had big chunks of sugar in it. She put large pearl tapioca in her blueberry pies to absorb the juice. They were very chewy. I like chewy stuff. Maybe that is why I am not a very good cook either. I like the rubbery part of jello at the bottom of the bowl. If I like something well enough, I don't care if it is not what a good cook considers the right taste and texture for a recipe. My daughter says, "Mom will eat anything, as long as it is edible." I get picky only when I am paying someone to cook for me. Then I expect it to be done right.
It was not true that I would eat anything when I was a teen. Pauline's cooking was too much of a challenge, but she tried hard to buy food that I would eat. If she found out that I liked something, she would buy a whole case of it. Then I would lose interest. It was overload. Too much availability cheapened its value. Besides that, I couldn't possibly eat a whole box of bananas before they rotted.
I was a skinny girl who liked to stay skinny. I lived on ice cream sundaes, but not enough to put on weight. I had a lot of colds because my immunity was low, due to poor nutrition. When I used to look in the mirror, though I weighed only 115 lbs., I got depressed because I saw fat that I thought I needed to lose. Actually, they were pretty curves and my weight was just right for my height and bone structure, but I had anorexia and it advanced to the point where I could not see myself objectively anymore. Eventually I went down to 100 lbs. because I backslid after I became a Christian, and guilt turned me into a nervous wreck. At that time, I thought that the bumps on either side of my mouth were an indication that I needed to lose weight. I had those bumps because my cheeks were so hollow.
I was skinny, but I had pretty legs and tended to be busty. I wanted to stay skinny, and it wasn't too hard because my stepfather had convinced me that eating is ugly. He used to gripe about how much food us three older kids ate. All three of us were skinny, so we probably had only normal teenage appetites, but he used to scrape some of our food off our plates onto our little sister Judy's plate. Then she had way more than she could eat, and she felt horribly embarrassed, and sorry for us that our Dad treated us that way. It never occurred to him when he was mean to us that he was hurting his own children. We weren't his flesh and blood, but we were their flesh and blood, and they loved us.
I wish I could say that he changed, but he mellowed only a bit over time, and I think it was because he didn't have to look after kids anymore. A girl I know, whom my Dad did not hardly know at all, said that he told her, "Just because your boyfriend's fat, it doesn't mean that you have to be fat, too." I burst out laughing because it was such a typical thing for him to say. I told her to not take it to heart. That was just the way his nature. He was very picky about people's looks and very forward about speaking his thoughts aloud.
The only person who ever managed to get him to not blurt out rude things that were on his mind was my youngest brother's wife because, when she finally had enough of it, she started telling him off when he was rude, no matter who else was around. He was a character and we all knew what he was like, so we just laughed it off. Some people thought he was rather entertaining, but it sure wasn't funny sometimes when I was a kid to be raised by such a character.
I did find it amusing, though, when Dad told me about his antics in court, after getting a ticket for speeding. He broke the speed limit plenty of times, but didn't get caught very often, and when he did, he fought the ticket. I suppose he had some ridiculous arguments that he put before the judge, so ridiculous that the judge was amused. Dad didn't tell me exactly what he said, but I picked up that impression from him. He laughed as he told me how the judge let him off, and then said, "Now get out of here and behave yourself." Ha ha! He said that another man who had been in the court got on the elevator with him, after that, looked at him like he could walk on water, and asked for advice about how to get out of speeding tickets.
Dad was a mixture of charm and grumpiness. I loved his charm, but his grumpiness kept me away from him. I could take only so much of listening to him criticize other people for minor stuff, and his propensity for stirring up trouble made me nervous. One time, I asked him if he was Jewish, because I'd had a dream that his ancestors were Jewish. He said that he didn't know, but he had always wondered about that, because his nose was so big. I was surprised that he thought his nose was big. I always thought it was cute. I never made any remarks at all about his nose, but he went and told Judy, Lorrie, and Johnny that I told him that he had a big nose. When that came back to me, I figured, "I better stay away from him, because who knows how he will twist my words and set my brother and sisters against me?" It was very weird to deal with someone whose brain did tricks like that on them.
I wanted to visit him, though, when he was dying of cancer. I asked Lorrie to ask Dad if he wanted me to visit him, but he kept saying no. He knew that I would talk to him about Jesus. He got talked to about Jesus, anyway. His brother Freddy read to him from the Bible, and my sister Lorrie read the Bible to him, too.
God is so amazingly gracious. Lorrie lost her son through a drug overdose and it drove her to seek the Lord. Johnny collapsed in the Whalley Ball Park in Surrey, right across the street from where I attended church later. I worked for Prayer Canada as the secretary a few years after that, as well, and learned that Becky Ferguson, the woman who was our Prayer Post Leader for Surrey, cut out the article about Johnny's death, and brought the clipping to the prayer meeting that she attended at her church. She asked the other ladies to pray about this man's family. Wow!
I met one of the ladies who attended the prayer meeting, and she told me about how they had prayed for Johnny's family, because the Lord had put that newspaper story on the other lady's heart. Ruth was blown away to find out that I was Johnny's aunt, and thrilled to hear that Johnny's mother had gotten saved. She was also thrilled that she got to meet Lorrie, when Lorrie came to her house, one time, to pick me up to give me a ride home.
I got a job with Prayer Canada after that, and got to know Becky a bit, and came to like her very much, before I found out that she was the woman who had brought my family to the attention of that prayer group. It is so amazing how God makes connections.
I was so excited that my sister was now a Christian, and I wanted to share with her the wonderful things from the Bible that God had taught me, that she wasn't to learn in her Cooneyite church. She told me that I was going too fast for her; she couldn't assimilate it. She needed to learn some basics first. Also, it annoyed her that I thought that her church was backwards, and she resisted every effort I made to encourage her to find a church where she could learn more about the Bible and how to operate in the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Lorrie has the gift of prophecy, and she wasn't going to develop that gift in Mom's church. Those people would probably think she was a witch.
Lorrie genuinely received Jesus as her Saviour, but she insisted on going to the Cooneyite church, due to the conditioning that she received in childhood. She realized that I was a Christian, though I didn't go to her church, or approve of it as a place where she was likely to grow very much in faith. I made sure that she understood that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life; that it is through Him that we are saved, not because of which church we attend.
I couldn't recommend a specific church for her to attend. The one I was attending was messed up, but I went there for a while because I had hopes for it. It would have blown Lorrie's mind to see the shenanigans that went on there. It was an outreach to people who had some serious problems, though not everybody who went there had big problems. Ruth, for instance, was an elderly lady who had been a Christian for a long time, and she had also been a good friend of my mother–in–law. She often hosted the church in her home for dinner; it was a small church.
One time when I was a at church, a burley, blond man approached me to tell me about some terrifying dreams he'd had. I had spoken to him before. He hung around street missions for the free meals, I guess. He was into native magic, and he had been impressed that I didn't take offense when he said some negative things about Christianity to me. I just tried to make him feel welcome, so that was why he decided to tell me about his apocalyptic dreams, asking me to tell the pastor about them. He believed that, in three months, the world was going was going to be hit with a plague that would kill off most of the population.
The Bible says to not pay heed to divination, as it is an abomination. I started to tell him that his prophecy was false, when a friend interrupted. She is a soft–hearted soul, who had good intentions, but her concern about his feelings being hurt was misplaced. This man needed to know that he shouldn't be messing around with witchcraft, and that satan had him deceived. I told my friend to stay out of this, and she immediately backed off, but a young man, who thought I was being too stern, butted in. It was just like the devil to stir up all this stuff, to prevent losing one of his dupes.
I firmly told the young man to stay out of this; he didn't know what this was about. He took offense. He was very surprised to hear me speak sternly to him, as I had always been very gentle and sympathetic to him before. He had some issues, and he is now with the Lord, having died suddenly of a brain tumour, which we did not know about at that time.
He backed off long enough for me to say what I needed to say to that other man, but then he approached me a few minutes later and pretty much demanded an apology. I told him again that he had involved himself in something that was none of his business. Immature people think that Christians should never speak sternly to others, that it is unloving. They forget that Jesus was pretty stern when He overturned the moneychangers' tables in the Temple and drove their animals out with a whip.
Anyway, the young man got quite angry and overturned a few things himself, throwing chairs around. I was astounded to see such behaviour in church. He then stomped away, and I told the pastor what that was about. He was annoyed at the kid for interfering when I was dealing with someone who practiced witchcraft, and then behaved like that afterwards.
I voiced my concern to my other friend, who had interferred, but meekly backed off, about what that man who was into native magic must think of how our friend behaved. She said, "Oh, he hangs out at the missions and is used to seeing that kind of thing." Right enough, when I spoke to him again, he didn't seem bothered by it. As I left the meeting room, I ran into a friend in the hall and said to him with a laugh, "Well, at least one thing is for sure; you can't say that our church is boring!" He laughed and agreed.
I have invited Lorrie to my church once, but saw pretty quickly that she wouldn't be able to handle that kind of stuff, as she was used to things being really low–key and civilized. The most ruckus that ever happened in Mom's church was that someone would stand up and start to protest the teaching, and quickly be escorted out of the building before they got one or two sentences out of their mouth.
My Mom couldn't handle the kind of churches I attended either. One time, she agreed to go to church with me, but on the way there, my car started acting up. I attended a lively church in New Westminster. I decided to not risk going over the bridge when I wasn't sure if my car would make it. Instead, I took her to a Full Gospel church nearby. I thought it was pretty tame, but my mother was shocked. She said it was wild.
I laughed to myself, as I thought, "Well, it's a good thing that I didn't take her to my church then, because she probably would have crawled under her chair when I got up to dance." If my mother was astounded to see people raise their hands to praise the Lord, she sure wasn't ready to see people praise the Lord in the dance, especially if it was her daughter. She would not have known that my pastors encouraged me in that ministry, and that most of the people in my church loved to see me dance. She would have thought that I lost my mind and that everyone there thought I was a weirdo.
As far as I know, Lorrie is the only one in my immediate family whom God has worked with in supernatural ways, so far, before they got saved. She had a prophetic dream that my brother Johnny slipped at work, and his foot went through the floor, and was cut off by the machinery beneath the floor. When she told him about it, his face went white, and he told her that had nearly happened the day before, but he was able to pull his foot out of the way just in time.
Another time, she dreamed that Dad had a heart attack and died. Dad had heart troubles and he got a pacemaker put in, which kept him alive for many more years. God was showing her what would have happened to Dad and Johnny, if it wasn't for Him preventing those things.
One day, when I was visiting her, she offered to give me a ride to church. I gladly accepted, but she was quite slow at getting ready and it was late when we left. It took half an hour to get from her place to Whalley, but we arrived there in half that time. I hadn't noticed anything unusual, at first, because I was busy talking about something that I was excited about, but when I realized where we were, I mentioned to Lorrie that we had gotten there unusually soon. She said, "Well, the traffic has been pretty light, but, yes, it is strange to be here so soon."
I then told her about how the Bible speaks about people being translated in the Spirit from one place to another. She said, "Something like that happened to me when Johnny was a year old. I was visiting Pat and Johnny was crawling around by the kitchen door, while I was sitting at the table. Then after a few minutes, I heard cars honking and, when I looked out the window, I saw Johnny at the end of the driveway by the road. I don't know how it happened, but suddenly, I was at the end of the driveway, picking him up. When I got back to the house, I asked Pat if she had seen me leave, and she said she hadn't."
Wow! I was a Christian, but this was the first time I had ever experienced translation. And here was Lorrie, not even knowing the Lord, but He took her from inside the house to the driveway, to save Johnny's life. It was a great comfort to me, to reflect on how many times God had saved Johnny's life, and confirmed that He had allowed Johnny to die from a drug overdose, because it was time to end his suffering on Earth. I believe that my nephew is in Heaven, as he was mentally retarded, and the Kingdom of Heaven is open to little children.
Another time that God used the supernatural gift of prophecy that He gave my sister was when she was working as a cook at a pub. Her husband's sister worked with her, and suddenly, my sister went into a trance. She saw Johnny on a roller coaster with her husband, and Johnny's mouth was opened in a scream. Her own face reflected the terror that she saw on Johnny's face. Lorrie's sister–in–law asked Lorrie what was wrong, and she said that she saw a vision where Terry had taken Johnny to a carnival, and had insisted on taking him on a roller coaster ride, though Johnny didn't want to go on it.
As soon as Terry arrived to pick Lorrie up from work, his sister rushed at him and said, "Terry, did you take Johnny to a carnival and make him go on a roller coaster ride?" Terry's face turned white. He had taken Johnny to a carnival that day, and had tried to get Johnny to go on the roller coaster, but Johnny kept refusing. After that, he was afraid of Lorrie, and often gave her cautious looks. He needed to be afraid of acting like too much of a jerk to Johnny. Knowing that Lorrie would know, if he got way too out of line, probably kept him from seriously harming my nephew. God was looking after that kid.
He didn't stop looking after him, though Johnny died so tragically. I told Lorrie about an inner vision I had in church, where I saw Johnny jumping up and down in Heaven, with his hands raised high, praising the Lord, because he could hardly believe it that he had gone to Heaven. He had thought he was going to go to Hell. Lorrie said, "Yes, I had a dream about him when I was on holiday. He was excited and flitting around the kitchen, happy as a butterfly." The dream was a great comfort to her heart.
Lorrie was equipped to minister to Dad as he was dying. I had a dream three weeks before his death, where I asked him if he would let me pray for him, and he said yes, and then I cast a lot of demons out of him. I believe that my intercession when I was asleep prepared Dad to receive what Lorrie did for him on his last day. She read to him from the book of Revelation, and then she read the story of the thief on the cross who received Jesus as his Saviour the day he died. She said, "Dad, you can do that, too. I know that you can't speak, but God can hear you, if you pray to Him in your heart. Tell Him that you're sorry for your sins, and call on Him in the Name of Jesus to save your soul."
I had great peace, after the dream where I cast demons out of him, and my peace doubled when Lorrie told me about what she said to Dad. It was so absolutely the Gospel, with no conditions attached about the Cooneyite church. He was too weak to go to church, but some people would have had felt it necessary to have a worker there to pray with them, else they wouldn't believe that the person really was saved.
I received another inner vision, where my stepfather was on the outskirts of Heaven, in Paradise, as he wasn't ready, yet, to enter the City where the glory of God is more intense. He was running around and laughing for joy, hardly able to believe that he had made it to Heaven at the last minute.
I have reason to believe that my father got saved on his deathbed, and it makes me feel very happy to think of my father and my stepfather being together in Heaven, good friends now, though they hated each other before. All the people up there are brothers and sisters in Christ, but I believe that my father and my stepfather are as close as if they had been brothers on Earth, and that they now love each other's children as if they were their own, and eagerly watch us, and are anxious for the day when we will come Home to them.
Currently, as far as I know, Lorrie isn't attending the Cooneyite church anymore. I see that she is wearing make–up and has dyed her hair again, and she tells me that she has a boyfriend. It seems to me that she has hardened her heart against God, though there really is nothing wrong with wearing make–up or dyeing one's hair, except for health issues, nor is there anything wrong with having a boyfriend, if he is a Christian and they both have marriage in mind. Otherwise, what is the point of Christians having boyfriends or girlfriends, instead of being just friends?
The boyfriend is the biggest tip–off that Lorrie is behaving contrary to how she believes she ought to behave. After she became a Christian, Lorrie gave up her relationship with Bill, whom she lived with for seventeen years. I told her that Christians are supposed to avoid even the appearance of evil, and she shouldn't be living with Bill, seeing as she wasn't married to him. She agreed and eventually transitioned out of that situation, after teaching Bill how to cook and to keep track of his expenses.
She cared about Bill a lot, but she felt that she had no right to marry again, as she was divorced, first from Johnny's father, and then from Terry. The Cooneyite church teaches that people shouldn't remarry while the former spouse is alive. I tried to tell her that, if Bill became a Christian, it would be all right for them to marry, as neither of her husbands had been faithful to her, but she wouldn't listen to me. She took the verses I gave her and asked the workers about them, and accepted their ill–informed teaching on the matter.
Regardless of their firm stance on divorce, I figured that the workers were soft–peddling with her, and that they would start to come down on her hard and heavy, once they felt confident that she was committed to being one of them. Her smoking habit was one of the things that they would be sure to go after, eventually. I don't know if that is what happened, or if she just finally found their meetings too boring. She doesn't want to talk to me about God, but I know that He hasn't given up on her.
When I lived with my foster mother, Pauline, she used to rent a room in her basement. I was horrified when she rented it out to a man whom I had met when I was about twelve. He used to own a corner store near where Auntie Mae lived, and was a large, overweight man who wore glasses that made his eyes look very large. When he removed his glasses, he didn't look any better. The pigment around his eyes was reddish and made them look like they had been scratched.
One time when Pat and I went to Auntie Mae's house for the weekend, we stopped off at this man's store. I had a quarter and I bought a cheap, little necklace with it. It had brown, coppery–looking beads. Pat tried to latch it for me, but was having trouble with the catch. The man said, "Here, let me do that for you. I like little girls." The way he said it sounded really smarmy, like he was a child molester. My skin crawled, but I had been trained to never resist an adult's will, so I let the man hook my necklace for me. Pat was so creeped out by how the man spoke that she thought afterwards that she had bought the necklace, and the man had touched her, instead of me.
I felt so guilty about disobeying my mother and her church by buying a necklace that I regarded it as a kind of justice that this man had interfered. Within a day or two, I threw the necklace away, but the memory of that man was not so easily discarded. I was astounded when he showed up at Pauline's house and she took him in as a boarder. I thought Pauline was incredibly obtuse to not get any bad vibes off of him. Her daughter Carol did not have any history with him, but she thought he was creepy, too.
Pauline got along quite well with this man. She was lonely and liked his company at her dinner table, and he was German, like her. He also professed to be a Christian, but he was into some weird stuff. I picked up a religious magazine he had left in the kitchen. It was called The Plain Truth and it had an article in it that said that black people are inferior to white people. It apologized to black Christians, if that hurt their feelings, saying that it was just simply a fact. After I read that article, I referred to Pauline's boarder as "Nazi Norman" when speaking of him to Carol and her friends. He gave her friends the creeps, too.
I read on the Internet that The Plain Truth was published by the Worldwide Church of God, and the Wikipedia described the magazine's teaching as mainstream Christianity. It most certainly is not! The Worldwide Church of God is a cult that mainstream Christianity strongly disapproves of. For most of us, they are pretty much on par with how we regard Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons.
My mother was really clueless about cults. One time when we were going some place, and I mentioned that the Jehovah Witnesses were a cult, she got on my case about judging people. This was when she was attending other churches, as the Cooneyites had rejected her for getting remarried. I explained that there are three kinds of judging. There is despising people, which is wrong, and condemning people to Hell is wrong also, but the Bible teaches us to be discerning. That is the kind of judging that is correct. How else can we be wary of wolves in sheep's clothing, if we can not discern who is a wolf, or if we can not discern false teaching?
Before I became a Christian, I despised Nazi Norman (his real name was not Norman), but he never tried anything with us girls, in spite of our fears. Carol and I studiously ignored him, and if he had come near us, he would have been met with glares.
He knew we did not like him, but I think he thought he might get some action out of Pauline. He came upstairs one night, after she had gone to bed and all the lights were off. He got no farther than her doorway when she saw him standing there and totally freaked out. When he saw that she seriously was not interested in having anyone in her bed, he made a lame pretense of wanting to ask her about something. Pauline played along with that and talked to him a bit, and then he toddled off to his own room downstairs. She let him stay on as a boarder, as he did not venture any further attempts to get into her bed.
Larry Anderson, who used to pay Pauline to cook lunch and dinner for him, was a very nice man. He used to come to the house before Pauline took Nazi Norman in as a boarder. Though Larry was an old guy, I still found him interesting. He was not attractive–looking. He looked like a typical guy in his sixties; he was balding, overweight, and had a florid complexion and a large nose, but he had loving, gentle heart.
He would have been a father to me, if I had let him. I was attracted to guys in their thirties when I was a teenager, because I craved a father's love. One of them even said to me, "You don't really want a boyfriend; what you really want is a Dad." I admitted that it was true. Larry would have been a really wholesome influence, a kind and gentle mentor, but I must have sensed that, if I spent more time around him, I would soon become a Christian, and that did not agree with my idea of how to get the most out of life.
If I could go back into time and do things differently, I would spend much more time getting to know Larry better. I can't do that, though, so it is a good thing that I can look forward to seeing him in Heaven and spending time with him there.
Larry was a Christian who operated in words of knowledge that was part of his mercy gift, though he would not have given it that name. He called it empathy. He said that he could feel what other people were feeling, even if they were on the other side of a wall. The first time I met him, he playfully gave the back of my neck a squeeze. I cringed, but did not say anything. I didn't have to. He was stunned at the wave of bitterness and resentment that washed over him from me, and he wondered, "What happened to that girl to make her feel that way?"
I never told him why I felt so much resentment towards men, but I appreciated that, though initially I rejected him, he cared about me anyway. We connected when Larry started to tell Pauline and I about the strange church he was raised in, and I realized that he used to go to meetings. I couldn't believe it. He was a Christian who went to another church now, and he came out of the meetings? I had never heard of anyone who was raised in that church going to another church. I knew that some people, myself included, were totally put off by church and just went all worldly.
I told Larry that I was raised in that church, too. He couldn't believe it. I was so worldly that he could not fathom that I had had any Christian upbringing, never mind that kind of upbringing. However, he was soon convinced that I had been raised in meetings when I named off some of the workers. He knew them, too. Nobody would ever know them outside of that church because it is so insular.
My amazement that Larry had escaped from that church grew as he told me the story of his life. He had been in the army during the war, he had been on the army's official baseball team and probably could have gone professional. He sowed some wild oats in his youth, but this was cut short when he was in a terrible car accident with his girlfriend. He drove a hot, little, red convertible in those days. One day, he slid into the back of a big semi trailer when it stopped abruptly, and his girlfriend's head was sheared off.
Larry was in bad shape, too. His face was sliced up, in addition to other serious injuries. The paramedics thought he was dead. As they were carrying him on a stretcher to the morgue, he became conscious for a moment and moved his hand, so they took him to the hospital, instead. When he became conscious again, it was to overhear the doctor telling a nurse that he did not think Larry would make it.
Larry, obviously, did survive the accident. He said that when he was in the hospital, Jesus appeared to him as a bright light against the wall, and He talked to him and He healed him. Larry gave his heart to the Lord, and I think he said that he was released from the hospital only a week later. His healing was miraculous. He said that, when the doctors stitched his face together, they were not very careful about it, because they thought he was going to die. He had big wads of skin standing up, as big as his thumbnail. Yet there was no obvious sign of his face ever having been ripped up, though he never had any plastic surgery. He said, if I looked closely, I would be able to see faint scars. I stood with my eyes a few inches from his face and had to squint in order to see them. Indeed, there was a faint pattern of red lines all over his face that showed where it had been torn.
I was astounded. How could it be that a man who had been raised in my church had received such a miracle? I never heard of such things happening among the Cooneyites. My impression was that they believed that obvious miracles like that were only for the Early Church, to give it a jump start, but now we were to just believe that Jesus is the Saviour simply because the Bible says so. All we could expect in life was what we could accomplish, using the natural abilities that God gave us. Sometimes God would answer our prayers, if we had enough faith, but it wouldn't be anything as spectacular as what Larry told me about.
No wonder Larry didn't go back to that church. Who would want such a tepid imitation of Christianity after having encountered the real Jesus? The one who, as the Cooneyites say, never changes. He healed back then, and He still heals now. He cast out demons back then, and He still casts them out now. The Cooneyites rely entirely on modern psychology to explain those occurrences in the Bible. They really don't believe what the Bible has to say about such things.
Strangely, they believe that there is a devil, but they seem to think that he does everything himself. If someone is tempted, they are tempted by the devil. They don't seem to consider the possibility that they are tempted by a demon of lust, or a demon of avarice, or a demon of rage. It must be a kind of pride. Satan can be in only one place at time. What would make them feel that they are such a threat to the devil that he would give them personal attention?
The only Christian I have heard of this happening to was Smith Wigglesworth. Smith used to travel around the world preaching and blessing others with Jesus's healing and delivering power, resulting in many, many wonderful miracles, including instant deliverance from addictions. He encouraged a faith–filled curate to pray for the restoration of his feet, which had been amputated. The curate took Smith's advice to heart, went out the next day to buy a pair of shoes, and when he set his wooden pegs into them, flesh formed and produced feet. Smith also prayed for dead people who were raised back to life. Early one morning while he was asleep, he heard a racket in his bedroom. He woke up and saw the devil standing there. Then he said sourly, "Oh, it's just you," and went back to sleep. And that was the end of it.
The Cooneyites, in general, are full of unbelief. Maybe they think that, when Jesus talked about demons, He was just putting things in terms that people of that day could understand, not having the benefit of modern psychology to explain mental problems. I would think that would make Him a liar, though. He stated very clearly that when an unclean spirit is cast out of a person, it goes looking for a dry place, and after a while, it comes back to see if its former house is still available.
After a person has demons cast out, if they have not sincerely repented of their unforgiveness towards the hurts that made them bitter towards God, and gave demons a chance to get into them, and filled up those vacated places in their soul with wholesome spiritual activity, their soul is still hospitable towards demons. Jesus said that the demon will then go and get seven demons that are worse and they will enter into that person to bring them into even deeper bondage, since they were not grateful enough for the grace that set them free to make sure that they stayed free.
That doesn't sound like psychology to me, but rather an instruction about spiritual warfare. Satan persuaded one third of the angels in Heaven to join him when he rebelled against God. He doesn't do all the work of destroying people's souls himself, while the rest of them sit around twiddling their thumbs. Psychology has some value, but satan and his crowd use it to conceal their existence. An enemy is more deadly, if he can stay hidden and convince his victims that it is something else that is attacking them.
I was not ready to give my heart to the Lord after hearing Larry's powerful testimony. I wanted to have my fun. It was a seed planted about how it would be okay with God for me to attend a different church, but it was going to take another year before it bloomed.
One day, I got frustrated with my fears. I wanted to go into Vancouver. I had never been there on my own before. I had never had the confidence to go into the big city on my own. How would I find my way around? I finally reasoned, how lost could I get? I would be somewhere in the world. For some reason, that made sense to me. It really wasn't too far away from Surrey on the map.
I used to get around by hitch–hiking and it wasn't difficult to get into Vancouver. A lot of people were travelling in that direction. I was a shy girl, though. Though I hitchhiked, I wasn't the sort of person, in those days, who would go up to a total stranger on the street and start talking to them to be friendly. When I got into Gastown, which is a quaint, 19th century part of the city, it was just to look around. I had no money to go into a restaurant or a store, so looking around didn't take very long. I found myself walking behind a drunk guy who was weaving sideways on the sidewalk. That was when I decided to leave before I got into trouble.
Now here was a problem. How was I going to get home? What direction was Surrey? I spotted some Salvation Army people and thought, "You can always trust a religious fanatic." A Christian religious fanatic, that is. I had never heard of any other kind of religious fanatics who were wholesome and trustworthy. It was odd how I despised and trusted Christians at the same time.
I went up to one of the officers and asked if they knew of anyone who was driving out to Surrey. The lady directed me to an elderly man in uniform who was going to New Westminster. That was great. I knew my way home from New Westminster. The man gave me a ride and tried to talk to me about God. I just steamrollered over everything he said, spouting my own philosophies. He gave up, but I think he probably prayed for me.
Pauline wanted me to go to her church. I always refused. My mother called all other churches "false churches". She cut me off from other adults who could have helped me. How could I respect anything that church people told me, if they were deluded about their beliefs? I thought of all other churches as one big lump of people who all believed the same thing. To me, there wasn't anything different between Catholics, Lutherans, Presbyterians, and Pentecostals, or any other church, except possibly my grandfather's church.
My stepfather's father belonged to a little cult that had their own community across from my elementary school. A family with two daughters, the pastor, my grandfather, and two other men lived in their commune. I don't think that anyone else belonged to their sect. All the homes were connected by wooden sidewalks, and there was a high, solid, white wall around the property. They had outhouses, believing it not proper to have toilets in their homes. They followed the dietary laws of the Old Testament.
Grandpa's house was a two–room, unpainted cabin with bare wooden floors. There was no plaster or insulation on the walls inside. I don't know how he survived the cold during the winter, but he was a German who had immigrated to Canada from the Ukraine and used to live in Saskatchewan. The winters in those places must have toughened him up.
Though my grandfather's beliefs were peculiar, even more than the Cooneyites, he was a sweet, old man. My stepfather's mother was a Tartar and he took after her, but his Dad was Grandma's total opposite. Grandpa was gentle and quiet and sensitive. He used to be a school teacher when he lived in the Ukraine. When he talked, I couldn't understand most of what he said because he had no teeth. He always brought us candy and I could tell from the sparkle in his eyes that he liked kids. My mother told me that he used to tell my stepfather that he was too hard on us older kids, but Dad wouldn't listen to him.
Many a time, Grandpa bicycled to our place, his grey beard flowing down over his long johns that he wore even during summer, with a pair of old trousers held up by suspenders. The next door neighbour kids were jealous that he brought us candy. They complained to their parents, "How come Santa Claus always goes to their house and never comes to our house?"
The kids in my school felt sorry for the two, young girls who lived in the commune. The girls in my family thought we we had it tough with the Cooneyite dress code, but Mary and Helen had it even tougher. Those girls lived in the 19th century behind those white walls. Their parents made the older one wear skirts down to her ankles, and the younger one wore skirts down to her shins. They never wore shorts or bathing suits or slacks. The older girl looked beautiful, though, because she had a pretty face and thick, long, long brown hair that she always wore down. Both of them were sweet girls. We heard that Mary later rebelled against her parents and took to wearing short skirts. We couldn't blame her for that and I figured that Helen would go that route, too.
The Cooneyite dress code was right in tune with how my stepfather thought women should dress. Pat and I used to get around it by rolling the waists of our skirts up to make them shorter for school. When I was fourteen, Mom made me a lovely, royal purple skirt that was just above my knees. I was so happy with it and told her so. She then looked at and said with a sigh, "Well, I'll have to take the hem down because Dad will never approve of it." Mom let the hem down to below my knees and I wore that dowdy skirt only once, as I moved out soon afterwards. Sewing it was a complete waste of her time and money. My foster mother took me shopping and picked out some really cute minidresses for me to wear.
My stepfather liked my mother's Cooneyite way of dressing because he was terribly jealous when other men looked at her. One day, they came home from visiting a realtor and he was harping on her that she had let her skirt ride up above her knees to try to attract the realtor's attention. It was ridiculous. My mother never, ever did stuff like that. In my entire childhood, I never saw her flirt with another man. If her skirt rode up to reveal her knee, it was accidental. I gathered that the realtor gave off some vibes that he thought she was pretty. As he was such a jealous, controlling man, it was no wonder that Dad was okay with Mom going to a church that had such a strict dress code, even if he was not interested in going to church himself.
Dad was also acutely aware of how boys were likely to perceive us girls. He didn't just pick on Pat and me; he was just as cautious about Judy and Lorrie wearing tight sweaters and letting boys get too close to them. This is probably because one of his brothers had a girlfriend at a very young age, whom he played around with. She was a very pretty girl and Dad always despised her for how vain she was about her looks and for her loose ways in her youth. He made disparaging comments, many years later, about how she had dressed like a normal twelve–year–girl in knee socks, but let his brother do what he liked with her. I suspect that he was jealous of his brother.
Perhaps it is because of control issues that Cooneyite men like their women to play down their looks. In this way, they are similar to Moslems who hide their wives under clothes that cover everything but their eyes, and the sect of Jews whose wives shave their heads to make them less attractive to other men, and therefore (theoretically) less likely to commit adultery. Their wives wear huge, outlandish wigs during the day. The downside of that for the husbands is that they have to go to bed with a bald–headed lady, but maybe the buzz those men get from their false sense of superiority to women, and the right their cult gives them to oppress their wife, makes up for what she lacks in attractiveness.
I took Industrial Power in high school because I wanted to know what the men in my life were talking about, as their main interest was cars and motorcycles. Skirts were not practical for my activities, nor did I have money to buy them. I had almost no skirts, short or otherwise, when I lived with Pauline. Either I outgrew my nice clothes, or Pat trashed them when she borrowed them.
She was hard on clothes. I had a white beach dress that looked smashing on me. After Pat borrowed it and washed it, it just looked smashed; I told her to keep it. The next time I saw it, it was in even worse condition. She had tried to dye it black; it turned out vegetable matter grey and had only button left. I ended up with only a couple pair of jeans and a few tops in my wardrobe.
One time, my mother gave me a box of clothes to give to Pat. It was really insensitive of her to ask a young girl to give clothes to her older sister, as sibling rivalry is usually pretty strong between sisters of our age difference, and it was especially insensitive to ask it of me, because I had so few clothes myself. But Mom tested my character, like she was God, too holy to have any character flaws herself. I felt like she despised me, when I did not live up to her expectations. Her words of reproof were very hard.
It was never anything really serious that I did wrong, but Mom acted like it was. A lot of times, she didn't understand me, and ascribed error where it was not warranted, like when we went shopping. She would tell me to show her what I liked. I'm artistic and had an eye for colour and design, so I always pointed to the prettiest thing I saw. Mom would look at the price tag and smack me on the head, saying, "Oh, trust you to pick the most expensive thing in here!" I didn't look at the price tag first. It was too far away for me to see, anyway. I think that she was frustrated that she couldn't afford to get me what I wanted, and she thought that I had expensive taste because I was a snob. She wanted to nip that in the bud. I never was a snob about what my clothes cost, though. I only cared about them being pretty. I was afraid of getting hit again, so, in desperation, I would point to something on the sales rack, just anything, even if it was really bland, and she would be satisfied because it cost only a couple of dollars, then complain later that I never wore those dresses.
Because of the way my mother treated me, I never saw anything wrong with testing people's character, until I heard a story about a missionary who went to the Philippines, and left her purse on her seat in church while she responded to an altar call. When she returned to her seat, she discovered that someone had stolen $100.00 from her purse. She was shocked that someone, who was supposed to be a Christian, would so such a thing. When she voiced her outrage to other people in the church, they were shocked and said, "Sister, how could you tempt people like that?" They explained to her that most of the people in the church were desperately poor, and that it was too much for most of them to resist taking that money, when so much of it was just sitting, easily available, and it could pay their rent.
After I pondered that story, I decided that, if I was going to do something for someone that they wanted me to do, I told them about it right away, so that they wouldn't have to wonder and worry. If I invited someone to a restaurant, whom I knew did not have money, I told them right away that I would pay for it, so that they could say yes to having a nice time out. I told good news right away, in regards to other things, as well, rather than testing to see if people deserved the blessing I had planned. It's just nasty to play God with people. All I needed was to know that God wanted me to do it.
When Mom dropped that box of clothes off for Pat, I saw a cute, little, green velvet jacket in the lot. I felt angry, frustrated, and jealous that my mother was so concerned for my sister, but apparently couldn't care less if I had nice clothes to wear. She had given me an ugly brown and beige plaid skirt and vest, and that was all for the past year. The lavender pant suit had just been a flash in the pan.I wasn't a Christian, so I filched the green jacket without a qualm. I'd had enough of these games that my mother liked to play with me. When Pat learned that I was supposed to give that jacket to her, she ripped it off my back, but, by that time, the elbows were worn almost bare and I was pretty satisfied that I had gotten to wear it for several months.
My best friend was really into fashion and eventually became a model. Janet took me into hand one day and dressed me up for school. She loaned me a black velvet mini–dress and black pantyhose, applied make–up to my face, and clipped pearly grey button earrings to my ears. My new look created quite a stir at school. It was a novelty for the kids to see me in anything other than jeans. My automotive teacher relegated me to the tool room to hand out tools. He said that he didn't want me to get my dress dirty. I think he was also concerned that it would be too distracting to the rest of the class if I bent to look under the hood of a car.
When I got home, one of Carol's friends said, "Oh, Lanny, I saw you at school today looking like a princess. You looked so pretty, I cried." Wow! I wished I could look like that every day, but I was so into hanging out with my friends that I didn't want to get a part–time job that would have given me the money to buy nice clothes. Besides that, my automotive teacher had made it clear that I wouldn't get to participate in class, if I wore a skirt.
I attended a bridal shower in the British Properties for Pauline's niece. It was held in the nicest house I had ever been in. This house had two full dining rooms with chandeliers and the fireplace in the living room stretched across the whole wall. The carpet was a plush, pale beige. The hostess was very gracious, even to an awkward, little teen in an ugly, brown plaid skirt.
Pauline paid my way to go to her niece's wedding at the Sheraton. She was desperate to put me in contact with other Christian people, so that I would see that Christians are nice people and that they have fun. They were nice, but their fun was too tame for me. There was no dancing at the wedding. I was sitting in front of the band, who were playing Christian songs. There was no alcohol served. The veal was dry and the rest of the meal insipid. I was a typical, grumpy teen and I wondered why I had let myself be talked into this. I thought I was going to die of boredom.
Though I was so restless and discontent, I did appreciate that my foster mother tried to do something nice for me. It was a deposit of love in my heart. It was not in my currency, but I knew she was trying to make an effort to reach out to me.
Pauline used to rant that I was so ungrateful. By the expression on my face, I am sure that it looked like I wasn't paying attention to a word she said, but her words used to ring through my mind at odd times. I eventually felt convicted that I was rather ungrateful and afterwards made more of an effort to thank people when they did things for me. When I had to deal with that look on my son's face, I remembered my youth and knew better than to assume that he wasn't listening. When he shrugged away my hugs, I knew better than to assume that he did not appreciate my attempts to show him affection.
It irked me no end one day when I heard Pauline say, "Oh, praise the Lord." It came out in a kind of breathey way, that I thought was totally fake. I could not imagine why people would say that, unless they were trying to show others how spiritual they were, but everything has its place. She was at home, not at church. I thought that church was the only decent place to say such things.
Pauline, on the other hand, was freaked out by my religious observances. I had gotten initiated into Transcendental Meditation. There was no way that Pauline would sign a consent form for me to take those lessons, so I asked my social worker and she signed for it, no questions asked.
I hitchhiked to Port Moody for my first lesson, and got a lesson about how stupid it is to sit between two guys when hitchhiking. Yes, I know that hitchiking itself is stupid, but it was the only way I had to get around. Nobody else in my life was interested in the same things that I was interested in, so I went everywhere on my own. The driver asked me where I was going. I told him that I was going to a place on St. Johns where I was going to learn how to do Transcendental Meditation.
Within minutes, their hands were all over me and I was fighting those guys off, talking a mile a minute about TM, trying to distract them. The driver was obviously the leader. The fellow on my right was silent and moody. The driver said that he knew the guy who owned the home where they taught TM. He said he had gone to school with him and he spoke derisively of how the guy's big ambition back then was to be a car salesman. Then he said that he figured they would let me go, seeing as I was a Christian. That made me mad and I was about to protest that I wasn't a Christian, when something said inside my head, "Lanny, for once in your life, shut up and don't be so stupid!"
They let me go. The quiet guy didn't look too happy about it. I was so glad to have escaped. I did not recognize God's hand in it, though His signature was there. After all, they let me go because they thought I was a Christian. God must have put that thought in the driver's head, because he didn't get it from what I was talking about. I happily went on my way, thinking, "It's karma! I am doing something good by learning how to do TM, so the universe is being good back to me!" As my favourite preacher says, "How dumb can you get and still breathe?" God was showing me mercy, not rewarding me for goodness.
The teachers were deceptive. They said that TM was a scientific method of relaxation, that it was not a religious activity. They said that it did not conflict with Christian beliefs. Ha! It wasn't until I was initiated into it that I found out why they wanted me to bring fruit, flowers, and a clean, white handkerchief.
The guru had an altar set up on a dresser, with a photograph of an East Indian man. He swore me to secrecy about the ceremony, saying that this man had been a great teacher, and we were only honouring him, not worshipping him, but other people would not understand. He was right about that. They couldn't have sneaked it into the schools, if parents had known about the things that initiates aren't supposed to tell.
The guru offered the fruit and flowers, adding rice and burning incense, as well. When people are honoured publicly (and not worshipped), nobody kneels in front of them and burns incense and makes offerings. Then he told me my mantra, which I was never supposed to tell anyone. I learned later that it was the name of a Hindu deity.
Pauline was dismayed that I was bringing demon spirits into her house. She said that I was allowed to meditate only in my own room, but when she wasn't home, I did it in other rooms in the house. She came home one day when I was meditating in the dining room and sharply told me to go to my room.
I was annoyed that she was annoyed. I did not recognize that she was entitled to practice her beliefs in her own home, the way she saw fit, and place limits on what other people did in her home that went contrary to what she considered spiritually safe. After I got involved with TM, I was so much a part of the world that I didn't even know that there was anything wrong with the mean things that I said about Christians. The gurus talked about love in an affectatious, Buddha–esque kind of way, but TM sure didn't have the effect of making me more loving. It directed me to go inside of myself and centre on my Self, which just made me more selfish.
I used to imagine walking haughtily into Pauline's church and leaving in the middle of the sermon to show all those Christians how I held their beliefs in contempt. Little did I know it, but they would have felt sorry for me and probably offer up a lot of prayers on my behalf. Maybe that was what the demon who was assigned to my life to destroy it was afraid of because, when I was in that rebellious mindset, I could never get around to going to her church.
Something peculiar was happening in my senior high school. There must have been a revival happening at that time. Kids all around me were talking about church. They called to each other across the classrooms. They talked about it to other kids in the library. The most peculiar thing about it was that these were popular kids. I liked them, though I didn't hang out with them.
I listened in on some of the conversations and they puzzled me. One girl told a guy about what a good time she'd had in church the night before, and how one little, old lady had been staggering around drunk. I thought in shock, "What kind of church is this?" I pictured in my mind an old lady holding a bottle of alcohol in a paper bag inside her coat. I lived with a Pentecostal lady, but knew absolutely nothing about the baptism of the Holy Spirit. I had never heard of it before.
Another time, when we were sitting on the front lawn of the school, one of my friends asked my foster sister what speaking in tongues is. I never heard of that before either. Carol replied hesitantly that they are angel's tongues. I shrugged it off. It was just something that was a part of her religion, as mysterious to me as anything else that churches other than my mother's practiced.
Kids talking to other kids about the God of the Bible did not compute with what I thought how those churches comported themselves. My stepfather's cousin used to send us Christian books written for kids. I remembered that the stories were about kids getting up the courage to tell others about Jesus. One little girl had deep regrets when she did not tell her little friend about how to get saved, and the little friend died later that day from eating poison berries. It did not occur to me that a big flaw in the story was the idea that a child would go to Hell, because I was always afraid when I was a youngster that, if I died, I would go to Hell.
It seemed reasonable that it was hard to witness to others because one was likely to feel embarrassed. That was how I felt when I did it that one time, after reading those stories. But here were all these kids in my school, eagerly talking about God, and not showing any kind of discomfort about it.
One my friends had it in for one Christian guy in particular. He wanted to be a pastor, and Donna used to gripe about what a joke she thought he was, and yell catcalls at him from the bleachers when we watched the boys playing sports in the gym. He just ignored her and went on holding his meetings in the school, attempting to interest the other kids in the Christian God.
I never let anyone tell me about God. One girl attempted it, when I interrupted a conversation she was having in the library. I resented the look of lively interest she turned on me and sharply told her that all Christians are hypocrites. I didn't actually know enough Christians to know if this was true. It was only something I heard other people say. It shut the girl up, leaving her with a sad look on her face, but I didn't care. I was itching to say it to someone else. Just let them try to "witness" to me.
Shortly after that, I sat on the front steps of the school next to a girl named Lexie, whom I knew was a Christian. I waited for Lexie to try to witness to me, so I could act snotty to her. She didn't say anything. It was perplexing and frustrating. I kept waiting for her to speak, but she was absorbed in her thoughts. Then I started to get hungry for her to speak to me about God. I didn't feel like fighting anymore. She still didn't speak, but it is probably just as well. I think that my ugly nature would have asserted itself again and I would have said some mean things to her.
After I became a Christian, I met Lexie's older sister and Carlie was very kind when I badly needed some kindness. She disapproved of how my boyfriend treated me. When he visited the house where she lived with a group of girls, he left me sitting in the car while he was inside flirting with the other girls. Carlie had gone for a walk on the beach with her friends. On her way back, she noticed me sitting in the car. After inquiring of my boyfriend what I was doing out there, she and a gang of girls ran out of the house, ignored my protest that I wanted to stay in the car, and gleefully dragged me into the house to visit with them. Carlie was very kind and hospitable, offering to make a mocha for me, which I gladly accepted. At a coffee house, she was again very kind when she saw how my boyfriend ignored me. He was all over the room, gabbing with girls. Carlie gave him the cold shoulder. He remarked later with an amused tone, "Ha! I wonder what she's so miffed about." It didn't twink on him that he had been acting like a jerk.
I did not realize that my noticing all this talk about God and having opportunity to ask the kids at school about God was His answer to a prayer I had sent out to Him a few months before. Teen Heaven really isn't a very happy place. Teens need people in their lives who will get a bit tough with them when they go astray. Pauline never said anything to me, if I decided to stay home instead of go to school. She needed to dig a bit in regards to my sister's lifestyle to determine if she was an appropriate person for me to hang out with, instead of letting me go there anytime and stay for as long as I wanted. Pat withdrew from her unwholesome friends a short time after that and sought healthier relationships, but at the time, it was not a good situation to be with her. When I stayed out with friends into the wee hours of the morning, I needed my foster mother to be asking, "Young lady, where have you been? What do you think you're doing, staying out so late?"
Perhaps she realized that I would not take too well to being called to account for how I was spending my time, and if she really pushed it, not letting go until she got the answers, I would have ended up moving out of her place and in with some rotten guy who wanted to take advantage of me. I could have gotten myself into big trouble, considering the kind of guys I knew. But she didn't have to go that far. She could have at least asked the questions to show that she cared, even if she got some snarly answers back. Pauline tended to avoid conflict, though.
I figured that she didn't ask because she really didn't care, that she had me in her home for the money she got from Social Services. But really, considering the snotty attitude she got from me, she earned every penny of it and more.
My mother wasn't very involved in my life. She was busy tending to her acreage, keeping house, dancing attendance on Dad, looking after the three younger kids, and cleaning offices at night. If she were to phone me, I probably would not have wanted to talk to her. I had my own life and she had all those Christian hang–ups; she might have lectured me. Kids don't care that there are only 24 hours in a day, and that parents get depressed when they feel rejected by their kids. All they care about is what they feel their parent's duties are to them. My mother rarely ever called me and I rarely ever went to see her.
So there I was one day, feeling very rejected myself, because nobody was giving me a hard time and telling me that I could not do whatever I pleased. As long as I was not in their face about the naughty stuff I got into, and not getting arrested for anything, they didn't want to know what I was up to. Pauline had greater responsibilities towards her own daughter.
Carol was a handful for her Mom when she was in her teens. She had been happy living with her aunt and her cousins in Montana, and resented it when her Mom pulled her out of there when she retired, and brought her to BC to live. To her, it was like losing her mother and father and brothers and sisters. I could relate to that. My sister and brother and I felt the same way about having to leave Grandma. Poor little Jim was only four at the time, and my mother was a stranger to him. He stood at the window watching Grandma walk away, crying, "Mama, Mama!" Mom was shocked to realize that he didn't know she was his mother, and she wasn't geared towards knowing how to handle the situation. This made his separation from Grandma even more traumatic.
Pauline was devoted to her only child and she was fairly lenient with her. I never heard her get on Carol's case about chores; it wouldn't have done any good anyway. Carol was very strong–willed, but fortunately, she was also a fairly decent kid. She went astray from her Christian training, but not in any extreme way. She had good sense and wanted to be a success in life. Pauline was good about buying Carol fashionable clothes and other things that made her happy, and letting her go out to have fun with her friends, but her mannerisms and religion got on Carol's nerves.
Pauline pushed Christian morals and she played guilt trips, telling Carol how she had suffered such a long labour when she gave birth to her. Pauline never dated and she was always trying to get Carol and me to realize that it was playing with fire to mess around with boys. Carol snapped at her one day that she would think that her mother was a virgin, if it wasn't for the fact of her birth. Pauline laughed; she took it as a huge compliment. I used to think that Pauline was ridiculously innocent and knew nothing of life. She knew more about LIFE than what I did; I was sipping at death.
When Carol got home late, Pauline wanted to know where she had been and why she smelled like beer. Carol insisted that someone had accidentally spilled it on her. When Pauline found cigarettes in Carol's dresser drawer, Carol swore up and down that they weren't hers. I was astounded at her gall at being caught red–handed and still denying it. If it was me, I would have figured "game over", but Carol knew her Mom would not be able to get anywhere with her, if she did not admit to her crimes. Carol's room always looked like a bomb had hit it. It bothered me so much that I cleaned it up for her once, and Pauline was thrilled. After that, she tried to offer me money to clean Carol's room again, but it was such a huge job that I always turned her down. I tended to be sullen and stand–offish, but I was such a quiet kid, and I kept my room neat and clean because I liked it that way, so Pauline figured she would let well enough alone.
I was so alone. I was so lonely that I wanted to die. I thought about doing myself in, but what was going to happen to me afterwards? I knew it was totally illogical to suppose that I would simply cease to exist. It just is not possible that a creature as complex as a human could ever cease to exist. What would be the point of them having all their thoughts, their passions, their ideals and dreams, if they some day just simply sank into unconsciousness and merged into nothingness? There had to be a purpose in life, a divine misson to fulfill, if only a person chose to accept it.
The purpose of life could not be what I was making of mine, hungering for love and looking in all the wrong places for it. I was too needy for my boyfriends, all over them, desperate for the affection I didn't get from my parents, besides being an annoying, little fluff brain in other ways. I was certain they would lose interest in me, so I made a point of starting up another relationship before the current one ended, to avoid being alone. That tended to tick the current boyfriends off, but it didn't matter to me. I was so desperate to have a boyfriend that I wasn't too choosey about them, so I did not consider any of my boyfriends at that time to be a real loss, if they didn't want to see me anymore. Before I became a Christian, I had only two boyfriends who were really cute. One was Bobby, though he was annoyingly immature. Will was younger and more wholesome than the other guys, and he wasn't immature, but he was not sure enough of himself to impress me for longer than just a few weeks.
Being around a guy made me forget my loneliness for a while, but it did not cure it. I was using them, and I knew they were using me. I did not feel that anyone loved me.
Mom had given up on trying to reach out to me. She actually didn't try for very long. Later, she said that she felt embarrassed because of how my first foster mother and the social workers talked down to her, so she backed off of trying to stay in contact with us. She didn't have that problem with Pauline, though. Mom and I never argued; I just didn't hardly ever go visit her. I was angry that she didn't fight to keep Pat and Jim and me with her. To my way of thinking, fighting consisted of getting counselling to find out where she was missing it as a parent. I don't think it ever occurred to her in those days that she ought to get counselling.
She had a lot of stress in her life from my stepfather. He rescued her from my father, and she knocked herself out trying to repay him for it, and also for taking on her kids when Grandma said she couldn't look after us anymore. Dad played her like a fish. He knew how to manipulate Mom's perfectionist tendencies to guilt her, or annoy her, into doing what he wanted.
She probably repaid him ten times over for what he did for her. If it was not for my mother's thrift and hard work in the home, he would not have been able to own property when he had six kids to support. He might not have been able to do it with only three. He went grocery shopping once and Mom laughed at how he spent money he had not intended to spend, and Judy and Lorrie could get him to buy them stuff, if he was along when they went into a store. Who could deny two sweet, little, blonde girls with pleading faces? Mom could, most of the time. I doubt that they put her to the test very much; they knew Dad was the soft touch. Dad realized that, if he wanted to own a house, it was wise to leave the shopping up to Mom.
Mom probably didn't feel that she could handle any more than what she was already doing. Pauline had me in her home, just for the money, I thought. The school counsellors were kindly, but they did not count. They were getting paid to be nice and to listen to my sob stories. It did not occur to me that there were easier ways for them to earn money and more of it.
I wanted my misery to end, but I was not sure that death would end it. I really didn't believe in reincarnation. It was a ridiculous theory. People had so–called past life regression because they wanted to believe in it, not because it was really so that they had lived before. After I became a Christian, I understood why they could speak other languages and know so many details about the past. When they submitted to hypnotism, they opened themselves to a demon that had inhabited someone in the past and could show them those details and temporarily give them that person's linguistic abilities and other knowledge. They made it real to the "regressing" person, so that they could draw them more tightly into deception.
By the time I reached my crisis, I had already rejected the reincarnation theory and was more inclined to believe that when a person died, they would go straight to nirvana. God was in all, and all is in God. Our energy would be absorbed in a great ball of light where all was bliss and love. It kind of bothered me that I would no longer have a separate identity, but I figured it beat going to Hell.
When it came right down to it, though, all I could see ahead of me was an eternity of hanging in limbo, alone in darkness. What would be the point of killing myself, if I locked myself into a situation where I would always be lonely and my suffering never ended?
I did not know where to turn, except to cry out within my heart, "Oh, God, help me!" Who was I crying out to? The God of the Bible! The One who the Bible says is the Creator of all, and the Judge of souls. A thought came to me, rife with annoyance, "Why are you crying out to that God? You don't believe in him!" The protest in my thoughts made me feel cranky. I pushed it away, saying within myself, "I don't care! It makes me feel better!" I then was finished with my moping and got up, and left the room, giving no more thought to what I had just prayed, but God heard my S.O.S., and He didn't forget it.
He sure tried to get my attention, but I was so stuck–up that I wouldn't listen to the girls at school who tried to witness to me. I could have saved myself a lot of grief, if I had. Seeing that I would not listen to a girl, God let a guy come into my life who could catch my attention. He had a lot of problems, but that was the kind of guy who attracted me in those days. He also had a lot of personality and I was intrigued by his confidence.
This guy dressed however he liked, and he didn't care what anyone thought of his taste in clothes. He was six foot four inches (I liked really tall back in those days), slim, but broad–shouldered, and he had long hair, which I thought was cool. There were a lot of guys who were better–looking, but if they had short hair, I thought they were square and (most of the time) wanted nothing to do with them. A guy with short hair had to be really handsome before I would take notice.
He and his cousin picked my sister and I up on the beach. I noticed that Mr. Tall and Cute was zeroing in on my sister, which meant I would be stuck with the quiet guy with short hair. I wasn't going to let that happen. I did something very uncharacteristic for me; I fought for what I wanted. I told Mr. Westy that my sister was married. Well, she was always saying that, as far as she was concerned, the guy she lived with was her husband and she wasn't interested in anyone else.
Westy backed off of Pat and turned his attention to me, as soon as he heard that she was married. Pat and I were playing Frisbee with Westy and his cousin when I discovered that this cool guy with the nice tan and sunglasses was a Christian. I cut my foot on some glass, and when we went around to the trunk of his car to get band–aids, I saw Jesus stickers on the bumper. Thinking I could intimidate him into giving up that nonsense, which would get in the way of going where I wanted to go with him, I asked incredulously, "Are you a Jesus freak?" He stuck his chin up in the air and, looking down from his lofty height, said, "Yes, I am. Have you got a problem with that?"
I suddenly decided that, no, I didn't have a problem with that. It was cool. He was a spiritual guy and I was a spiritual person, though my spirituality expressed itself in TM. We should go together really well.
He didn't think so. We started dating and he talked to me about Jesus, but it all went over my head. I can't remember a single thing he said, until God opened my eyes to see. Until then, Westy would drone lugubriously that it could never work out between us, because what communion hath light with darkness? It sure annoyed me when he talked like that, quoting the Bible as to why we could not get married. I would look up to the ceiling of my bedroom at home while bawling my eyes out, and cry out in my thoughts, "Why can't he just love me as I am? Why do I have to change?" It was odd how I looked up when I lamented. Who was I talking to?
God opened my understanding after I had dated this guy a few weeks. Westy was talking to me about what the Book of Revelation says about the Beast and the Mark of the Beast. I had never heard of this stuff before. The workers never talked about it, though it is in the Bible. I could see that everything this young man was telling me was true. The things that are prophesied in Revelation really are happening in the world. He mentioned that, if I were to look in the phone book, I would see that the government prefix was 666. I realized that Transcendental Meditation is a snare, and I decided then and there that I would not do it anymore.
As soon as I made that decision, a revelation hit me that the God of the Bible is real. He may not be very well understood because people tend to filter the Bible through flaws in their upbringing, but He is real, and He is the Father, and He loves us. I was awed that, though He is so mighty and enormous, He condescended to reveal to muddled, little me that He is real and reach out to me in love.
I was not ready just then to surrender my soul to Him, in spite of this revelation. I wanted to have fun. My idea of fun was a party. I was more interested in watching people make fools of themselves, rather than doing anything that drew attention to me. The days of enjoying board games were long gone.
Westy took me horseback riding, to show me that a person could have fun without getting into sin. It really was fun, but I still wasn't convinced that there were enough non–sinful activities in the world to keep me interested in being a Christian and not long for what I had given up. And by the way, were any of those things better than sex? I didn't think that anything could beat that.
The following evening, God made it clear to me that the devil is real, too, and that he was after my soul, as he is everybody else's, so that he can drag as many humans down into the Lake of Fire with him as will let him deceive them. I realized that only God could save me from satan, so I ran to Him. My boyfriend was thrilled to lead me into a prayer of salvation in his car.
After we prayed, he said that I had to make a public confession of faith in the Lord Jesus for my salvation to stick. He quoted a verse about how if we confess Him before men, He will confess us before His Father and the holy angels, but if we deny Him before men, He will deny that we belong to Him when God makes inquiry about our eligibility for Heaven.
Opportunity to answer an altar call in a church arose a couple days later. We attended a meeting in a Pentecostal church. I was afraid throughout the service, wondering if my Mom's church was right, that all other churches were false churches. There really is nothing in the Bible to support their claim, but I didn't know the Bible very well. When the invitation was given, I decided to ignore my doubts. As soon as I started walking down the aisle, all them vanished. I knew I was doing the right thing.
I started to attend that church and a couple of other Pentecostal churches. My boyfriend was a church hopper, but it was okay. It gave me opportunity to make friends that I would not have had, if I had gone to only one church. The one where I answered the altar call, though, was my main church and the one that I went to steadily, after a while.
I never questioned anything that my boyfriend explained to me about the Pentecostal style of worship and the gifts of the Spirit. Why would I? My Mom and her church knew nothing about who the Holy Ghost is and how He manifests Himself through the gifts of the Spirit, but this guy was raised in a Pentecostal church that knew all sorts of things about the Holy Ghost. Besides, it was all right there in the Bible. I had never heard anyone talk before about the second chapter of Acts. The workers were pretty much stuck in a few verses in Matthew 10. It was too bad that they ignored verse 8. Acts 2 could tell them how to get to Matthew 10:8.
I knew my Mom was going to give me a hard time about going to a church other than her own. Four months later, I felt ready to tell her what was going on my life. I phoned her and told her about how I had gotten saved and was now going to church. She listened in silence. When I was finished, she said bluntly, "Well, Lanny, I am sorry to say that you are damned to Hell because you are going to a false church." As I expected, it didn't bother me when she said that, because I knew that God would not let me be tempted into abandoning my faith in what Jesus did for me on the cross.
Jesus, or Jesus, as I knew Him then, made the difference to my confidence in what I believed. The Cooneyites preached that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, but it was just lip service. They didn't really believe that. He was just a kind of accessory to them.
What I picked up from being raised Cooneyite is that the Cooneyites don't really believe that Jesus is God, though the Bible records several times that He said He is God. They believe He is God's Son in the same sense as human beings. A human child takes characteristics from its parents, but the child is not an extension of the parents. The child is a separate individual. The Cooneyites seem to think of Jesus as a separate individual from the Father.
Jesus took some physical characteristics from His mother and is separate from her, but He is not separate from God. He is actually a human expression of God. When He manifested Himself in a physical way before His incarnation as Jesus of Nazareth, He was God operating in a physical, immortal form. As Melchizedek, we are told that He was without mother or father, without beginning or end of days. As the Captain of the Host who came to Joshua before he led the people against Jericho, He did not forbid Joshua to bow down and worship Him, as an ordinary angel would have. In these appearances, He was God, and He was the Son in the sense of being visible.
Though God was in a physical form on those occasions, His body could not be put to death, which was required in order for Him to make Himself the ransom for our souls, so He conceived a mortal body through the Holy Ghost within a chosen Israelite virgin with pure DNA, who was of King David's lineage. Jesus was the Son in the sense that He came out from God, but He was always God, working in unity with Himself, for God is Love, and harmony and unity are characteristics of Love. This is why there are three aspects of God, all folding together continuously, demonstrating unity, harmony, trust, and submission.
Because the Cooneyites generally do not understand that Jesus is God, they don't put as high a value on Him as they ought to. They do not believe that He is God come in the flesh to bring salvation to whoever will receive it. Confessing that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh means that one acknowledges that Jesus of Nazareth is God who has come to save Mankind, for the Name Jesus means Jehovah saves or makes free, and the Name Christ refers to Him being the Seed promised to Eve who would be anointed by God to redeem Mankind. Summed up in that confession is the acknowledgement that, through Jesus, God gave His own blood as a ransom for us upon the cross, and that He raised Jesus from the dead, which enables Jesus to indwell and empower us with victory over sin and all its curses.
Should an angel of God appear to us with a message from God, that angel will never be offended if we stop him to ask him if he believes that God came to Earth in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, lived a sinless life, died on the cross to ransom the souls of men, and has been raised from the dead. No indeed. The angels of God rejoice when people obey God, including when they obey this injunction to test spirits to see if they truly are of God. And angel of God will not hesitate to make it crystal clear that he believes that Jesus is God come in the flesh to redeem Mankind.
Cooneyite preachers said that they were Jesus Christ come in the flesh. The redeemed are His Body, and we are supposed to let Him work through us, but some of the workers did not understand what the verse meant. I say "some" to give the benefit of the doubt that not all of them are inept at understanding what the Bible means in this regard, but I personally doubt if any of them understand it. Their interpretation of that verse gives evidence of the antichrist spirit of this cult, according to 1 John 4:1 – 3, "Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesses not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof you have heard that it should come; and even now already is in the world."
William Irvine demonstrated his lack of understanding of these verses when he stated that Christians might possibly go to other worlds and do the work of the Saviour for them, as Jesus did for us. I surmise that he meant at some point in Eternity, after Christians have received glorified bodies. One of the major reasons God sent Jesus to die on the cross was to demonstrate the Creator's love for us. Some think of God as one who plays games, trifling with our lives as if we were pieces on a chess board. The fact that He came Himself to redeem us negates that idea. As much as He hates sin, He endured having all the sins of Mankind heaped onto Him and took our punishment for them.
Only the Creator can effect a full salvation – not a created being. The Bible says that not even His holy angels are pure in His sight. Besides that, dying Himself for us is how He demonstrates how passionately He loves us.
I don't think that William Irvine premeditated his wickedness. He was probably a product of flawed parenting that predisposed him towards flawed teaching in the churches he attended, that he did not really understand what constitutes salvation and how to obtain it. He thought that he could get himself saved through his own efforts, which is pride, and his pride led him deeper and deeper into delusion to such an extent that his former associates were embarassed for him. On Mount Carmel, he declared that he was the Messiah.
The Cooneyites believe that their way of having church and their way of interpreting the Bible is what constitutes salvation. They say that imitating Jesus's life is how one gets saved, and they think that they imitate Jesus better than others who claim Him as their Saviour. Their doctrine is all works–oriented, with no real understanding of God's grace.
The Bible says that the workers are evil. Yes, it does. In Philippians 3:2 & 3, it says, "Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision. For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh." The phrase "evil workers" encompasses more than the Cooneyite workers, but they have made themselves qualified for the warning against them, for they put their confidence in their own works, feeling that they are superior to other Christians because of how they conduct their services and how they dress when, really, it is character, not ritual or rules, that distinguishes how spiritually mature a person is in relation to another.
Love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith in God's goodness and power (and willingness to go out on a limb for Him in ways that require a very pure faith to see great things manifested), meekness (which is teachableness, not self–abasement), self–control (including controlling one's temper, not just refraining from addictive substances and looking at porn, or thinking pornographic thoughts), courage, generosity, etc., are the kind of fruit that God looks for. Deliberately dressing in a way that makes a person look dorky or drab is not humble; it feeds pride and self–righteousness.
Jesus said that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. It doesn't matter how closely a person's church follows the Bible, or how upstanding a member they are, unless the person has genuinely looked to Jesus to forgive their sins and save their soul, putting their trust in what He did for them on the cross. Jesus paid the penalty for our sins. We deserved to hang on that cross, but He took our place. (Yes, Mr. Irvine, I am a Calvary ranter.) The power that raised Jesus from the dead has the power to free us from the power of sin, so that we won't sin anymore.
Of course, nobody stops sinning just like that. Salvation of the spirit is instant, but the salvation of the soul is progressive. Jesus makes our spirit come alive and joins with it, when we genuinely receive Him as our Saviour, and His holiness that is in our spirit then has to infiltrate into our soul. As we abide in God's presence and get to know His Word, our minds are renewed to God's standards of holiness, and changes are worked in our lives.
I could not bear to read the Bible before I got saved. I thought it was incredibly boring. Afterwards, I was so hungry for it and could read it for a long time. Pauline's sister Sandy smiled and patted my head when she saw me kneeling on the couch, greedily drinking in my Bible. What a difference between the snotty kid who got annoyed at any attempt to turn her from destruction and the one who was eager to tell anyone who would listen about how Jesus had saved her. I had never cared before what Pauline's Christian cronies thought, but it now felt good to have Sandy's approval.
Pauline was soooo happy when I told her that I had gotten saved. She said she had been praying for me. I thought, "Wow! If she prayed for me, then she must love me." I thought that prayer was so boring that only someone who loved you a lot would do it on your behalf. The way I had been taught to pray was boring, but just talking to God isn't.
God was starting to melt my stony heart and give me a heart of flesh. I had gotten so far away from Him that I hardly knew the difference between right and wrong anymore. I had been saved about a couple of weeks when I needed money to go somewhere with my boyfriend. I thought nothing of rummaging through the pockets of the coats that were hanging in the closet to look for coins, though they were Carol's and Pauline's coats. I crowed with delight when I found a handful of change. My boyfriend didn't say anything about how it was wrong to take other people's money. I think he was tired of paying the whole shot when he took me out, because he never balked at other times to criticize me or to set me straight. I would not have gone into anyone's purses to take their money, but I thought that forgotten change in a coat pocket was fair game.
A few weeks later, it occurred to me that I should not do that, because it is stealing. Eventually, Pauline mentioned it to me. She had overheard and she thought she had a ten dollar bill in her coat pocket. It ate away at her until she finally brought it up. I knew I had not found any paper money, not even a dollar, but if she thought I had taken ten dollars from her, for the sake of peace, I gave her ten dollars. After all, I had stolen something from her, even if it was actually just a couple of dollars.
I felt convicted also about borrowing Carol's stuff without asking her. I had been using her little pots of lip gloss, keeping them in my room. One day, I just had to put them back. It didn't matter that she was home from school, asleep in her bedroom because she had cramps. I could not wait another minute. I tried to sneak in and put the glosses back without waking her, but her rotten, little poodle that was sleeping on her bed woke up and barked her head off. Carol woke up, saw what I was doing, and dropped back off to sleep. She never mentioned it to me. I think that Carol recognized and appreciated that I didn't want to use her stuff without asking anymore.
Though she hated going to church and liked to party, Carol understood about salvation. One time I heard her yakking with her friends about a girl they knew who was such a total slut that, when she went camping with a group of young people, she had sex with a guy in front of everybody who was there. We all thought that was appalling. A few months later, Carol said to her friends, "Guess who got saved?" It was astounding to us that anybody that wicked would decide to become a Christian. I understood, though, from Carol's tone of voice that something had changed in that girl's life. As far as God was concerned, her past no longer existed.
Pauline drove Carol crazy talking about me. Pauline was so thrilled that I had gotten saved that she told everybody about it, and for years afterwards talked about how I had gotten saved when I lived in her home. As far as I know, I was the only foster child or tenant who was converted while living with her. It made her feel that she had been useful to the Lord, but Carol felt that her mother was drawing a comparison between us – Lanny, who had gotten saved, and Carol, who still didn't want to go to church and was continuing to do her worldly stuff.
When I was involved in TM, it freaked me out sometimes. I saw creepy things when I closed my eyes. I asked my guru why that was. He smiled benevolently and, with an air of wisdom, replied that I was just releasing stress. I don't think so. TM increased my stress. I became scared to close my eyes. I fell asleep only when I was too tired to keep my eyes open anymore, which was usually around 5 a.m.. I always slept with a light on. After I became a Christian, this torment did not go away right away. I slept with my Bible on my pillow and tried to pray, but I was still very fearful.
Finally, one night I was so scared that I asked Pauline if I could sleep with her. Pauline had been a Christian for a lot longer than me, and she could pray to keep the ghouls away. Normally I always kept some physical distance between us, so she knew that if I was asking to get in the same bed with her, it meant that I was desperately afraid.
Pauline let me climb in with her and I was finally able to get to sleep. She phoned her pastor in the morning to ask him to visit me that day. He sat down with me in the living room and said he had asked the Lord which verses to share. There were four of them, and they were so perfect! They were just what I needed. One of them talked about how God had justified me, so I did not have to feel condemnation any more, and that where it said that God had glorified me meant that He saw me as already perfect.
The pastor also used the analogy of a train. He said that faith is like the engine, experience is like a box car, and joy is like the caboose. He said that satan tries to sneak up on us and steal our joy, and then he tries to steal our experience, and after that, he tries to steal our faith. We have to make sure that we keep those pieces of the train in their proper places because experience can't move the train, and joy can't move the train. He cautioned me to not be led by my feelings, but by my faith.
That was very valuable advice. Maybe it struck me so deeply because I am an INTJ, and INTJ's are inclined to be rational and logical, rather than emotional. I think this is because INTJ's are so sensitive that they get hurt deeply, and they realize that, for their survival, they have to let logic take over. They know that emotions can be deceiving and destructive. When I was younger, I was a big mess because I was so emotional. I didn't show it on the outside, but there sure was a lot of turmoil on the inside. I found it very calming to get the Word of God into me, so that I had weapons to fight with when the enemy came to try to steal my joy and my experience in the Lord.
The young man who led me to the Lord, though he did well in sharing the Gospel with me and taking me to Spirit–filled churches, had serious problems. He was very popular with women, but he actually hated them. He had some grievances against important women in his life that he took out on other females. He liked to get girls hooked on him and then break their hearts because his had been broken. Somehow, we were all to blame for what a few others had done to him.
I brought my new boyfriend to my Mom's house to meet my family. My little brother Johnny detested him. Judy and Lorrie were kind of neutral. They had liked Will. When they met Will, they stared at him across the dinner table and kept thinking about how they could hardly wait to be old enough to date. Westy was taller, but not as good–looking as Will. Will's personality was also lower key, which went over a lot better with them; my family is not inclined to like flashy, talkative people, but Mom was kindly and hospitable to Westy, for the sake of building a bridge to me.
That ended pretty quick. When I was showing my boyfriend family photos, he recognized an uncle as someone he had worked with. Later he told me how cautious my uncle was when talking about the Lord, as if he felt he had to whisper about Him behind a closed door. When Westy initiated a conversation with him about God, he wanted to talk to Westy, in case he could convince him to come to meetings, but he didn't want the other guys he worked with to hear what he was saying. My mother mentioned my boyfriend to my uncle, as someone she had recently met. He said, "Oh, yeah. I sure feel sorry for that young guy. His wife left him." Mom did not tell him that he was dating me.
Oh man, was she mad that I was going out with a married guy. He was twenty–one, having gotten married when he was only eighteen. His wife left him for another man. Technically, he was the injured party, though when I got to know him better, I could see reasons why his wife left him. Even if he had been innocent of wrong in his marriage, my Mom would not have cared. In her church, divorced people are not allowed to remarry, unless their former spouse dies, even if the spouse committed adultery.
My stepfather blamed my Mom that my uncle, whose wife ran off with another man, didn't get remarried. He was a Cooneyite, and Mom, apparently, was urgent upon him that the Bible said he was not allowed to remarry. Actually, it doesn't. A person whose spouse commits adultery has grounds for divorce and is permitted to remarry. If there was ever a man who should have remarried, it was that one. It seemed to me that he thought about sex almost constantly, even to the point of telling dirty jokes to his young niece and nephew (me and Jim), when were in our teens, and making comments to us about women's figures. That poor guy. I don't think that he ever went to bed with a woman, after his wife left him. He lived the rest of his life single, and probably celibate, working hard to pay other people to look after his kids, who were housed in two different places. With expenses like that, he could not amass enough money to buy a really nice place to live in and provide for a comfortable retirement, as he might have, if his conscience had allowed him to marry a nice lady and bring his family into one shelter.
Mom was on my case, now. She phoned Pauline and asked her what she meant by allowing me to date a married man. It was a novel thought to Pauline to forbid me anything that was not directly related to her house. Great. Before when I was sleeping with guys who were thugs, my mother never asked me about my business, and now she was sticking her nose in it. She surely must have known that I was doing that, as I hung around with my sister Pat alot, and Mom had visited Pat in the home she shared with a wild and woolley guy who drank a lot and did drugs, and wasn't particular about keeping the law. She saw a naughty poster in Pat's bedroom, but made no comment about it, nor did she hustle our younger siblings out of there right away so that they could not stare at it.
When a person has a kid who has gone that far astray, there isn't any point in criticizing them when one knows that they are likely to get sworn at and kicked out of the house if they do, but I resented that my mother had been a lot nicer to Pat and I when we were way off the rails, and now was giving me a hard time because she figured I was obliged to take it in order to show the superiority of my type of Christianity. My mother did not speak to me kindly, trying to gently convince me of the error of my ways; she was imperious and judgmental, speaking harsh and blunt because she was angry that I preferred to attend other churches. Where was her gratitude that I was now living a much more wholesome and safer lifestyle, though it still wasn't all that it should be?
After Mom gave her an earful, Pauline finally felt guilty about not setting rules for me, and she said that my boyfriend wasn't allowed in the house. She was disappointed and embarrassed. He had such a lively, charming personality that she had really liked him and was happy that I had a Christian boyfriend. She was embarrassed to find out that most Christians would not approve of him, and his life wasn't much of a good witness to unbelievers.
I think Mom was actually quite happy to discover that this person who had led me to join a "false" church had something wrong with him, besides disapproving of how he dressed. After she found out that he was still married, she felt free to rant on and on about how he looked like clown who had lost his circus. He dressed like a pseudo cowboy; a cowboy hat and cowboy boots were always part of his costume in those days, when he wasn't working on a construction site or dressed down to a pair of cut–offs to get a tan. Westy enjoyed a wide variety of bright colours and floral patterns on his shirts, which he sometimes paired with differing types of stripes on his vest and trousers, all of which contrasted markedly with a leopard print Australian bush hat that he sometimes wore.
Seriously, he looked like a pimp and the kids at my school thought he sold drugs. I was now a Christian, but guys my age were still too afraid to ask me out because of who I was dating. When a friend remarked on how odd my boyfriend looked, I defended him by saying, "Well, he's colour blind!", which was true, but I don't think it would have made any difference, if he hadn't been. She retorted, "Is he pattern blind, too?" There was nothing I could say to that, though I did not like to hear my "beloved" criticized.
One time when he was looking at a garish green vest and matching pants made from a velvety material, which had been marked down (go figure), the salesman looked at me in glee, thinking that I shared his opinion that my boyfriend had horrible taste. Admittedly, that suit was horrible and I was hoping he would not buy it, but I glared at the salesman to demonstrate that I did not appreciate him mocking my boyfriend. His face immediately assumed a more respectful expression.
I was relieved that the trousers were too short for Westy's long legs and decided him against buying the suit, though he sometimes wore pants that were too short. When I asked him why he sometimes wore short pants, he blithely replied, "It keeps me humble," turning his fashion flaws into a virtue. If that was what he was after, he should have bought the green suit and worn it all the time. Not only the shortness of the pants would have kept him humble, but that horrid shade of green, the feminine texture of the fabric, and the out–dated mod style would have given him all the humiliation a person could ever hope for.
Later when I was married, I told my husband about how my mother used to say that my ex–boyfriend looked like a clown who had lost his circus, and I told him about some of the combos I saw him wear. When we joined a new church, the assistant pastor interviewed us to find out more about our background. When I told him about the guy who led me to the Lord, he said that he used to go to their church. Then he frowned and said, "Didn't he use to belong to a carnival?"
My husband's eyes bugged out and he said, "When Lanny told me before about what her mother used to say about him, I thought she was exaggerating." He thought that Mom was exaggerating, and that I had been exaggerating, too, as I eventually agreed with my mother on this point. I looked at my husband in amazement that he sometimes thought I lied to him, but had never said anything about it. He did say, though, that he didn't believe me when I told him that there had been a woman in the meetings I attended who did not know she was pregnant until just before she gave birth. He thought that was impossible, but now there is a TV series about women whom this has happened to. Anyway, the guy who led me to the Lord was in construction, worked hard and did his job well; because of this, he earned a lot of money and could afford flashy cars and clothes. He just liked to dress like a peacock; he didn't have to do it as part of his job.
Interestingly, a guidance counsellor at my school tried to give me a hard time about having become a Christian. My friend Janet, whom I used to boast to about my escapades, had relayed them to this counsellor, whom I did not meet until I returned to school in the fall after having become a Christian during the summer of 1972. Even knowing about the kind of guys I was hanging out with, instead of going to school, this counsellor made no attempt to get me back into school and out of harm's way.
She was really choked, though, when Janet told her that I had become a Christian. She asked me about it when I went to her for course counselling, and she exploded when I told her about Westy's part in my conversion. She said she had been raised a Christian and she hated it. She said that she considered Jesus to have been right about how He lived and what He taught, but considered the Disciples and the apostle Paul to have turned those teachings into something that they were not supposed to be.
I knew she was wrong, so her opinion did not upset me. Obviously she had some issues with her parents that she had not gotten worked out, yet. She reminded me of my sister Pat. The church we were raised in was incidental. What really bothered my sister was how my parents treated her, though my mother professed to be a Christian. Because of her resentment towards Mom, all of Christianity had to be wrong, since Mom had fallen so short of being a perfect Christian.
The counsellor scowled wrathfully as she puffed on her cigarette and declared that she would love to meet my boyfriend and rake him over the coals. I doubted that she could intimidate him or out–talk him; he would have loved the challenge, considering it a set of laurels to be persecuted for his faith. When I told him what she said, as I expected, he laughed and said to bring her on. Westy was only 21, but not at all intimidated by middle–aged ladies; his confidence in himself was one of the major things that attracted me to him.
My Mom was right that I shouldn't have been dating that man. He was still legally married, and it looked bad for me to be going out with him. There were a lot of other reasons why I shouldn't have been dating him, as well. After a year of heartache, I finally gave up on him and then turned my attention to my responsibilities towards my parents.
Soon after I received Jesus as my Saviour, I felt convicted that I needed to forgive my stepfather for the things I was holding against him. My resentment towards men who were old enough to be my father instantly disappeared, and I started to remember again the good things Dad had done for me when I was a young child. I remembered the compliments he used to give me, and how clever and funny he thought I was, and all the times we had laughed together before I got into my teens. I considered that perhaps my attitude towards my parents had contributed towards the conflict that I had with them, and maybe I should move back with my parents to give it another go.
Mom and Dad agreed to let me stay with them. Dad said I had to get a job and pay board and room. I got a job at Reitman's and Dad charged me only $40.00 a month for board and room, which was really cheap even in those days. It was very kind of Dad to go easy on me in that regard.
My parents said that I was allowed to go to church only once a week, because Dad had a cousin who was a religious fanatic, and she ended up having a nervous breakdown and going into a mental hospital. Right. He would never have thought of that, if Mom had not been putting it into his head that there was something wrong about me wanting to go to what she considered a false church. Dad wasn't brought up to think that there was something wrong with going to church. If Mom had not been against me going to a church that wasn't Cooneyite, Dad probably would have been a lot nicer to me. I think he would encouraged me to go to church and regarded me as his little pet again.
They considered me to be a fanatic. I guess my parents could not conceive that church can be really fun. I needed the preaching and appreciated it because it made a lot more sense than any other preaching I had ever heard, but I also had loads of friends. A lot of young people went to my church. I was really shy and would have never talked to them on my own, but they swarmed around me and drew me into their fellowship. They usually went out to a restaurant after church, and someone always invited me along and paid so that I could go with them. They were kind and giving, not into themselves like most of the kids I met in the Cooneyite circles. The songs in my church were lively and cheerful. I was turned on to Jesus because I was excited to know that, through Him, my sins were forgiven and that I had a new life. These things were not my parents' experiences with church, so they could not understand why I actually liked to go to church.
I opted for Sunday mornings because, that way, I could stay after church for choir practice and get to spend more time with my friends. Mom and Dad didn't know any difference about how long the morning service lasted, and I was still going to church only once a week.
My little brother gave me a hard time about wearing make–up. He was around eleven years old, and well groomed in the Cooneyite prejudices. He ragged on me in the bathroom one time when I was putting on my face, asking me cheekily, "Why are you wearing make–up, Lanny? God didn't put make–up on you. You weren't born with it." I asked him, "Why are you wearing clothes, Johnny? You weren't born with clothes."
Johnny ran out of the bathroom, looking very frustrated. Mom said that he went and got his Bible and looked up something in Genesis about Adam and Eve, and said to her, "Uh huh! It says right there that God clothed them." He didn't say anything to me about it, though. I think he was afraid that I would come up with a reply that he couldn't refute.
My reasoning is that when God made the first people, they were absolutely beautiful. They had gorgeous clear skin and thick, shining hair, sparkling eyes, and looked fabulous in every way. The human race has fallen a long ways since then. Our genes have gotten messed up and make–up helps supply a little bit of what Nature has lost in its ability to impart to women the beauty that God intended them to have.
I read the Song of Solomon and see both a literal and a spiritual application to it. The spiritual application is really exciting, but I don't overlook the literal application. I see there a woman whose husband thinks she is a gorgeous. And she was gorgeous. I believe that the woman it was written to was Abishag, the most beautiful woman in Israel in her youth, because the Bible makes a point of mentioning that David did not have sex with her. This means that Solomon, who inherited his father's harem, was free to take her into his bed. He could not touch the other ladies because his father had sex with them (the Bible says that incest is an abomination to God), but Solomon was expected to support his father's harem. Abishag was still a virgin when David died, so Solomon was free to take her into his own harem.
I think that Solomon fell in love with her when he saw her ministering to his father when he was dying, and his anxiety about whether or not his father would avail himself of his prerogatives heightened Solomon's appreciation for her. What else could make a king who had a hundreds of women in his harem single out one of them for such special attention as to write this poem with her, describing their love? The poem identifies her as a commoner who was forced to work hard in her family's vineyard. I gather that her brothers were jealous of the attention their mother paid her, figured that because of her beauty she was inclined to be vain, and therefore needed to be humbled by hard work. Though Abishag was just a commoner, Solomon actually took Abishag as a wife and made her a queen, instead of just keeping her as a concubine.
Solomon describes his beloved's teeth as white and even, her hair as thick, wavy, and flowing, her lips as rosy, her complexion flawless, and her eyes so large and luminous that they ravished his heart. He noticed how beautiful her jewellery looked against her skin, enhancing her already prodigious loveliness. What woman would not love to look like that? Most of us don't look even passably pretty, without some help. Why hold it against a woman for trying to improve her looks with cosmetics when, even in the Bible, godly women were praised for their physical beauty and how they dressed, including the jewellery they wore? It is what a woman does with her beauty that indicates what her character is, not the act of wearing make–up and fancy clothes.
Fortunately, most men seem to accept the use of cosmetics to improve the way women look. In my case, my stepfather used to complain about how pasty–faced I was, and he was right. There is no hint of pink in my skin. My eyes seem to disappear, unless I enhance them with cosmetics. Nobody would have ever given me a second look, if I hadn't worn make–up, except for desperate guys who I didn't want. My husband used to beg me to put some make–up on when I walked around the house without it.
Before I married him, I insisted on washing my face to show him what I looked like, so that he would know what he really was getting. He frowned and said slowly, "Well, you're not ugly …" I laughed; I appreciated his honesty. I already knew that I wasn't a perfect 10, and I didn't want to marry a liar, so I didn't mind that he told me the truth. I could not blame him after I married him for wanting me to look pretty, but it gets tedious to have to put make–up on every day and never get a break from it.
My little sisters were fourteen and fifteen when I moved back in with my parents. I tried to talk to them about God, but they weren't interested. They didn't want to go to church, though they still had to because Mom made them. Who knows how their lives might have gone, if my parents had let me invite them to my church where the message of the Gospel was clearer than in the Cooneyite meetings? Mom's dreaded fears came true, and the youngest was pregnant at fifteen, and the other one at eighteen.
Judy's marriage worked out very well, but the young man Lorrie took up with had severe problems that were passed on to their son. She had a really hard time as a single mother, working in a shake and shingle mill to support her child. The strain on her back ruined her health, and she had to deal with her son's mental issues, until he died of a drug overdose when he was thirty–four. If she had waited until marriage, she would have had more time to realize that her boyfriend had some serious liabilities and avoided a lot of heartache.
We would not have had our Johnny, though; we loved him, in spite of his problems. I feel the same way about my kids that my sister feels about her son. If I was smarter in my youth, I would not have married the man I married. He was an alcoholic and a controller; the clues were there before I married him, but for the sake of the children I had, I would not want to go back in time to undo that mistake. I just chalk it up to a lesson learned and hope to not make the same mistake again.
When I lived again with my parents, Dad occasionally gave me a hard time about being a Christian in other ways than just restricting how often I was allowed to go to church. He behaved as if he bought into Mom's belief that her church was the best, though he didn't want to go there himself. I think he liked to have an excuse to pick on me. Sometimes he could be really nice, but he also liked to act like a jerk just for the heck of it. If I asked permission for something, he was more likely to say no, simply because it was in his power to say no, not because I wanted to do something that was unreasonable.
I sneaked off one evening to attend a Bible study and Dad ran out the house to stop me. I was already in the car, though, and he saw all my friends looking at him in astonishment. He turned around and went into the house, but afterwards when he was ragging on me about going to church, he sneered and said something very nasty about my "religion."
What did he know about my religion? He didn't know what I believed because he was never open to what I had to say about it. He had never gone to my church. He didn't know any of my friends. He just decided to believe whatever Mom told him, which was decidedly prejudiced in favour of Cooneyism.
Mom tried to get me fixed up with a Cooneyite. My uncle brought a young man he had met at church. They knew I would not go for some regular Cooneyite guy, so they trotted out the best to use as bait to get me back into the meetings. I have to say, Errol was an interesting guy. He was a professional photographer who told us about his adventure in Switzerland where he had been in a cable car in the Alps when one of the cables snapped. He had to hang onto a metal bar in the car, so that he wouldn't be crushed among the people in the bottom of the car, while waiting for helicopter rescue. The rescuers wanted Errol to leave his cameras behind, but he refused because they were his livelihood. He managed to climb up the rope ladder with them hanging all around his neck.
Errol managed to get some good shots of the cable car. He ended up in Luxomberg a few hours later. While sitting on a park bench, a big limo drove up and he was asked if he had gotten shots of the accident. He said he had, so the person in the limo, who worked for a newspaper, paid Errol $1000.00 for his photos. It was a excellent score. I enjoyed listening to his stories, but I never said a word to him the whole evening. I knew what Mom and my uncle were up to.
Even if he had an interesting job and adventures, I couldn't work up an interest in going out with a guy who was going to insist on me looking like a dog for the rest of my life. Like I said, I promised myself five years before, that I would NEVER marry a Cooneyite. My uncle's matchmaking was a wasted effort.
Just because he went to church, it was no guarantee that Errol was a genuine Christian. He was not in a good church for learning about the grace of God, which is essential to salvation, for salvation is a gift, not a reward that can be earned. The Bible cautions Christians to not be unequally yoked to unbelievers. Not only that, it is wise for Christians to be of similar faith. Pairing a Spirit–filled Christian who is expressive in worship with another Christian who doesn't believe that the gifts of the Spirit are for this day and age, would be like yoking a kangeroo to an elephant. That's going to be one unhappy kangeroo, if they can't jump around, and one very annoyed elephant. The elephant is likely to squelch the kangeroo's enthusiasm, until it is either as plodding as the elephant, or completely squished under foot.
In addition to how my parents gave me a hard time about going to a non–Cooneyite church, it was not long before I remembered that there had been really good reasons why I left home when I was fifteen. Dad was recycling the old behaviours. Mom was a lot better, but she was being a pain about me going to church. I prayed that my parents would kick me out. I did not feel that, in good conscience, I could leave on my own, seeing as I felt that God had prompted me to return home and submit to my parents.
Thankfully, my prayer was soon answered. Mom came downstairs when I had been there for only a month and sanctimoniously told me that I had to leave because Dad felt I was a bad influence on my little sisters, having attempted to talk to them about God. I thought, "Yeah, right. Blame Dad. He doesn't care about church. You've been nattering at him because you don't want to me to go to any church but your own."
It was bewildering as to how I could honour my parents, as the Bible instructs, when my parents were so frustrating. I figured that in my natural father's case, he had done nothing to deserve respect from me, but God told me one day, "Lanny, I didn't say to honour your parents when they deserve it; I just told you to honour your parents." Okay, well that settled it that I had to honour my parents, but what did God mean by it? If I pretended that my parents didn't make mistakes, then I was going to be messed up forever. I had to sort out what they did wrong from what they did right, so that I didn't repeat their wrong behaviours with my children. Some of the stuff they did wrong was obvious, but some of it was subtle. Even a subtle error in navigation can end up taking a person way off course.
This conundrum troubled me for many years, until I finally figured out that honouring one's parents does not mean that we gloss over their mistakes. I think it means that we acknowledge all their good ideas and all the right things they did, in spite of their wrongs.
I knew my natural father had weaknesses and it was not safe for me to be around him. I had to look away as if I didn't know him when I saw him in public because, if I had greeted him, he would have created a public disturbance. He loved drama when he could manipulate things to make it look like he had been wronged. I was sure that he would start ranting at me for using his last name (though it is on my birth certificate), and say that I was not really his daughter, but the product of my mother being unfaithful to him. He had said that before, in spite of also telling me that I was the splitting image of his mother. I couldn't talk to him for the last ten years of his life. He was hostile towards me because after he said some evil things to me of an incestuous nature, I told him he was sick in the head and needed counselling. But I loved him and I gave him gifts through my stepmother, who did not tell him they were from me.
What can I say about him that acknowledges the good? Not much. I didn't get to know him very well. I heard from other people that he was charming, but he didn't show that side around me. He was very intelligent. He loved to fly and used to fly charter flights; I am told that he was good at it. I was surprised to learn from my stepmother that he liked kids. That was when I figured out that he didn't like his own because he didn't like himself. He saw us as extensions of him, rather than as separate people. Also, he was afraid to love us because he was afraid to lose us. His mother died in childbirth when he was a little boy and the pain was so dreadful that he closed his heart off, so that he would never hurt like that again. He ran from God all his life until right at the end, when he finally decided to make his peace with Him. I'll get to see him in Heaven and we will have a great times together there. Praise the Lord!
Looking to the Bible as an example of not being in denial about people's mistakes, even if they are really good people in many respects, we can see that God left us a record of how Samson's parents failed him. They supported him when they knew he was doing something wrong. Eli rebuked his children when they did wrong, but he didn't do anything to restrain them. These were good people who died in faith, but God gave us a record of how they failed as parents.
David was a great man of faith, but he indulged his children too much. David also failed as a parent because he gave in to his pride and lust by keeping a harem. He had too many wives and too many kids to give them the attention they needed.
We have a record of how Isaac and Jacob messed up as parents because of favouritism. Jacob also should have said no to marrying those concubines. He had more kids and wives than he could give enough attention to. The less wives a man has, the more time he has for his children.
Jonathan was a great man of faith, and he honoured his father, but he knew his father had weaknesses and he took measures to protect David from his father's spite. He didn't pretend that his father was a nice guy and look the other way.
Solomon rebuked his mother publicly when she tried to get Abishag married off to Adonijah. She recognized that Solomon was so in love with Abishag that Abishag was likely to have greater influence with him than what she had. Her selfish desire to control her son overcame her concern for his happiness and security.
If Adonijah married Abishag, it would give him claim to the throne because Abishag was part of David's harem. Marrying a deceased king's wife or concubine gave one a claim to their throne on the basis of the one flesh principle, even if the marriage to the former king had not been consummated. I guess it is assumed that, if the king had lived longer, it would have been. Gaining claim to a king's throne that way is why Ishbosheth was upset over Abner having an affair with Saul's concubine. Abner went off in a huff because that had not been his intention; he was simply in love with Rizpah.
It was in Solomon's heart to honour his mother. Before she opened her mouth and put her foot in it, he had been making quite a fuss over her, but people needed to know that he would not put his throne in danger for anyone, including his mother. For good measure, he made Abishag a queen, partly so that his mother would know to not try to mess with her again. God let us see those people's errors, so that we would learn from them.
The way our parents treat us forms our perception of God. If our parents are harsh, then we get the impression that God is mean and is just waiting for a chance to club us when we step out of line. When we read the Bible, we see it through the filter of how our parents represented God to us in the way they raised us. There are clues in the Bible that love is at the heart of everything God does, even when He judges, but we will miss those clues when resentment towards our parents block us from seeing them.
We may not be aware of resentment towards our parents, if our parents behaved sometimes in ways that were so noble or kind that we feel guilty thinking or saying anything critical about them. Frequently parents let their children down in ways that they can't help. A person may know it and excuse them mentally, but not emotionally. Because logic tells us that they had a good reason, we feel it would be petty to complain, but the truth is that there was a need in us that was not met, and we are still pining for that need to be met, and resenting the parent who was supposed to supply that need.
I think that happened in my mother's family. Their father's transgressions were obvious. Being good people, the children worked at forgiving their father and showed him respect. But what about their mother? At least one of the children complained about her, and received a sharp rebuke from my mother, who said that there were fifteen other children who did not feel that way. She really can't speak for anybody but herself, though others might agree with her, and she shouldn't have condemned her sister for not feeling the same way that she does.
I pointed out to my mother that people have different temperaments and see things in different ways. That gave her pause. Privately, I also considered the fact that this was an older sister who said this, and she had the opportunity to see my grandmother in her younger years, before she developed the degree of character that she had when she was older, after having spent more time in the Word and in prayer.
I lived with my grandmother. She was a wonderful lady, but I saw and heard some things that demonstrated that she was not perfect. It was too weird to me that my mother could never think of a single thing wrong in relation to her mother, except for her disappointment that Grandma did not insist that she continue with her schooling when Mom said she wanted to quit. It sounded to me like there was some denial going on there.
My mother had a lot to be grateful to my grandmother for, because of how she helped with her children. In her eyes, that made up for not getting enough of her mother's attention when she was a little girl. In her family, Grandma raised the older kids, who looked after the middle kids, and the middle kids looked after the little kids, because Grandma worked outside on the farm so much. Mom was one of the little kids. One of the middle kids babysat her and resented it, so that was not a good thing for a little kid, though they were good friends later in life. One of her older sisters was a surrogate mother to her. Her relationship with this sister was typical of the kind of love/hate relationships that daughters have with their mothers. I have never believed that my mother's needs for her mother's attention were satisfied, because she idolized her, and because of how she behaved towards her children.
If there was anything that drove her buggy, it was when Jimmy acted out because he needed attention. My mother thought that Grandma had spoiled him, and that this was why he wanted attention so much. Grandma didn't spoil him. She loved him, but he got spanked when he misbehaved. She had more time for him, though, than what she'd had for my mother. Mom resented giving Jim attention because her needs for attention from her mother had not been met. She couldn't give what she didn't have, and she had not learned to draw from God to make up her deficits.
I suspect that my mother's siblings felt cheated of their mother's attention, as well, though, intellectually, they all understood that Grandma could not give them the attention they would have loved to have. She had too many kids to be able to do that, and a very demanding husband.
God desires truth in the inward parts. When we stop being in denial about our secret bitterness, then our eyes can see more clearly what is in God's Word. We can see His love and mercy and believe more easily that He really does forgive our sins and wants to bless us, in spite of our ongoing weaknesses and failures. He is not a harsh, demanding God who wants to impose a lot of rules on us. He actually has only two rules: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and mind, and strength, and love your neighbour as yourself. Love not only motivates us to do what is right, but it also makes it easy to be kind and giving towards others. Hang–ups from childhood distort many people's view of God and how they interpret His word, including a lot of Christians in every church, not just among the Cooneyites.
One example of how people think that God is demanding is the way they interpret the Scriptures about how women should dress, and they are not willing to dig into the original Greek to see what it really says, in case it does not say what they think it does. For instance, God doesn't mind if a woman cuts her hair. All that matters is that a woman's hair is her glory. Some women's hair looks much better short, when it is nicely styled.
It might be more practical for women to wear their hair short due to climate, or their job, or illness, or due to the type of hair that they have. If an African woman wears her hair long, she has to sit for hours and hours to have it braided, as it gets too matted to wear loose, though the way the Bible is translated into English, it appears to say that women should not be concerned with braiding their hair. If an African woman with long hair wears it up, it has so much body that her hairstyle would be huge, and moving around while working would make a mess of it. If she has long hair that is not braided, it is likely to be so bushy that it will block of the view of people sitting behind her in church. Braided hair on an African woman looks great, whereas wearing it cut really short does not fulfill it as being her glory, but some black women don't have the time to sit for hours to get their hair braided, or they can't afford to pay a hair dresser to do it.
This Scripture about braiding hair simply means that women should not put so much focus on their hair that it hinders them from attending to spiritual matters, not that they should not keep it looking nice. A good number of Christian women use the time they spend with their hairdressers to witness to them, and when I have sat in on braiding sessions with African women, we have discussed all sorts of important, spiritual matters, as the women I kept company with were very intelligent and godly.
God's word says that a woman has power over her own head. The same goes for a man who wants to wear his hair long. That part of the verse about power on a woman's head was not translated correctly; it reflects the prejudices of men who wanted to keep women subjugated to males. God's Word to Women by Katharine Bushnell can shed more light on how the King James translation was twisted in some places to deny women their equality with men. Personally, I don't agree with every example Sister Bushnell used to support egalitarian marriage and ministry, but she did bring forth enough that was valid to make her case.
The whole point of Paul asking if nature itself teaches that it is a shame for a man to wear his hair long is that nature doesn't teach this. It should read "Does nature teach that it is a shame?", not "Does it not teach that it is a shame for a man to have long hair?" Lions have shaggy manes. Other males of some species have longer fur than the females. In some species of birds, the males have longer and fancier plumage than the females. I can't actually think of an animal species where the female looks fancier than the male. The lesson I think we can draw from this is that, if a man wants a woman to marry him, he ought to try to impress her and invite her admiration, rather than try to appeal to her sense of pity.
Women, don't marry a guy you feel sorry for; it's just asking for trouble. I know the Bible says that it is not good for a man to be alone, but take a look at why he is alone. Is it because he's a flake? Or because he is shiftless? Or because he can't be bothered to make an effort to look good for a woman? Or he hates himself because he has some serious problems and thinks that he isn't worth it to be married? If he is alone because he is waiting for a fine woman whose personality suits him, and he is the kind of person a woman with healthy self–esteem would want to marry, then go ahead and relieve him of his loneliness by marrying him.
The only reason why hair was an issue in Paul's day was because it was the custom for harlots to go around with their heads uncovered or shaved in the city where his letter was addressed, but in cultures where a certain hairstyle it is not considered a sign of sexual availability, Paul said that how a woman wears her hair should not be of concern to us. That is just one example of a verse that people have gotten all tied up in knots over, making much more of a deal out it than what Paul ever intended it to be.
I found it helpful when others whose emotions had been healed shared their journey to wholeness, which included talking about mistakes their parents made. The Bible says to comfort others with the comfort wherewith God has comforted us. When a lady named Jan Frank talked about her childhood, and how God turned the way she had been horribly abused into a door of hope, the door of hope opened wider for me. I thank God that my parents were a lot better to us than what hers were, but hurt is hurt, even if it is not as bad as some other people's hurt, and it needs to be healed.
It really helps when other people come into our lives who can be surrogate mothers and fathers to us, if only for a little while. It helps fill up the emptiness in our hearts that needs a mother's and a father's love. The fact is, it always takes more than our natural mother and father to fill up that emptiness, because they are only human and cannot possibly be all the mother and father we need. Only God can do that. Sometimes He chooses to do it through human vessels, and sometimes He imparts that love to us directly.
It helps a lot when we stop resenting that it was someone other than our natural parents who gave us love that we expected from them. After all, everybody has their particular strengths and weaknesses. My mother was really good at providing for us physically. It is her talent. Meeting her children's emotional needs would be much, much harder for her than what it is for someone who is geared that way. She put so much energy into housekeeping and sewing and cooking that she didn't have energy left to give us the kind of attention we craved. She expressed her love in the way that she could do it best.
My mother was not as tough on us as her father was on his children. Our reverence for God can probably be measured by how kind we are those who are the weakest, such as children. Grandma's influence instilled more of a reverence for God in my mother than what her father had.
I am glad to say, though, that my Grandpa mellowed a lot as he grew older. I sensed that he was grateful that his children visited him in his old age and were civil to him, because he knew he did not deserve it, and that it was because of Grandma's godly influence that they were like that. All I ever saw him be was a kindly, hospitable, old man. Most people are a mess when they are young. It's only a permanent shame when they don't learn from their mistakes.
So, going back to live with my parents did not go as well as I hoped it would, and my friends felt sorry for me because my parents kicked me out. They saw for themselves what my parents' attitude was about me going to church. One of my friends helped me get a job as a nanny, so that I would have a place to stay. My parents weren't all that bad, though. They weren't scary; just annoying. I was better off than my friend Gail.
Gail's father used to beat her up because she was a Christian. When she was practicing witchcraft and doing drugs, he never gave her hard time, but when she started going to church, it made him really mad. I think that this was because when she was into that other stuff, he felt superior to her. When she stopped doing it and went to church, it stirred up his feelings of inferiority.
Gail used to sneak out of school at lunch time to take communion with the office staff in our church, which was right next door. She was not allowed to go to church, but she couldn't obey her father because she would have starved spiritually. One night when she was late getting home from church, her father was waiting for her behind his truck with a golf club in his hands. He probably would have put Gail in the hospital, if not outright beaten her to death, if her mother had not gone out there and persuaded him to put the golf club down and come back into the house. She married the first guy who asked her, who was not a believer, to get away from her contentious, violent father.
Mom and Dad moved to Alberta a year after I had tried living with them. I think that Dad wanted to get Mom away from us older kids once and for all. His attitude towards me mellowed, though, and Mom rethought some things. When I was twenty, I received a letter from my Mom saying that she and Dad were proud of me for choices I had made. Soon afterwards, my mother divorced my stepfather.
Dad moved back to BC. Mom stayed in Edmonton and married someone else. I did not see Dad very often. He liked to do his own thing and told even Judy and Lorrie to go home when a show that he wanted to watch on TV is about to start. Normally, I just saw him at family get–to–gethers; sometimes he gave me a ride home. It was a blessing when he remarked how clean my house was, or that my stencilling on my cupboards looked like wallpaper.
Dad drove other family members crazy with his criticisms because he was such a perfectionist and his hobby was carpentry. My brother–in–law made a lot of improvements to his house, and when he proudly tried to show Dad what he had done, Dad would look at the ceiling and remark that it wasn't level. John wasn't to blame for that and he would have had to pull his house down to make it level. I couldn't fathom why Dad was so picky with other people, who had their own houses, and there I was in my dinky, little basement suites drawing compliments. Maybe it was because he saw how little I had after my divorce, but I managed to improve my living conditions with a bit of artwork.
I worried about my stepfather's soul. From time to time, he visited various churches, and he told me about black man who witnessed to him when he was in a restaurant, so that gave me hope, but he didn't seem interested in wanting to get saved. He certainly didn't want to hear anything from me about it, except when his brother Abe was dying, I told him what to say to Abe, when he visited him in the hospital, to help him get saved. I noted the look on Dad's face when I mentioned about being judged for sins. A look of fear passed over his features, and I knew that he was thinking of his own sins. I don't know if Dad told Abe about calling on the Lord to save his soul, but I hope so.
I didn't want my Dad to be judged for his sins. The Lord showed me a vision that gave me compassion for him and aided my prayers. In my vision, my stepfather had died, but he did not know that he was dead. He was standing in a desolate place and wondering how he had gotten there. The whole scene was in dull browns. He was on a dusty dirt path, with a weedy plain to the left, and scrub bushes to the right. Demons hid behind the bushes, watching him and snickering. Dad could hear them, and I could see the fear on his face. He started walking on the path, growing more and more fearful as he proceeded. The demons were toying with him, relishing the moment when they would leap from their hiding places and terrify him, to take him down to Hell.
I reflected soberly on what I had seen. It seemed that demons liked to play games with people when they died, to heighten their terror. Everyone who had rejected Jesus Christ as their Saviour did not experience the same thing, at first, when they died. It would take some people a while to realize that they were dead. Regardless of the bad things he had done in his life, including his offenses against Pat and Jim and me, I did not want my stepfather to be tormented by demons for even a moment, never mind forever.
God is gracious. Dad received Jesus as his Saviour before he died. When my sister Lorrie told me that he was in the hospital, dying of cancer, I asked her to ask him if he would let me visit him. Each time Lorrie asked, Dad always said no, but it was encouraging to hear that his brother Freddie read Scriptures to him when he visited him. Dad complained about it to Lorrie, but she would gently tell him that Freddie did this because he cared about him.
Lorrie had received Jesus as her Saviour by then, after the death of her son. She attended a Cooneyite fellowship, and I had talked to her about the Lord to make sure that she understood that salvation is through faith in Jesus Christ alone, not in the church one attends I was relieved to find that Lorrie understood this. I think that my talking about it so much helped her get that part, but she felt that the best church to go to was Mom's. I wished that she would go to a church that had a better understanding of the Bible, and that it would be even better if it was a church that operated in the gifts of the Spirit, but she wasn't ready for that.
I could tell that the Cooneyites were being gentle with her, not being sure of how committed she was to their church. I figured that would change after she had been among them for a year. They would probably start pressuring her to conform more to their standards, once they felt that she was under their control, and that wouldn't go down very well with her. A lot of people think that Lorrie is a kitten who they can push around, and she is very gentle by nature, but she got pushed around so much when she was younger, that she became determined that nobody was going to do that to her anymore. I figured that theh Cooneyites were in for surprise.
She was faithfully attending church, though, at the time that Dad was dying. He wanted to be cured; he was afraid to die. Lorrie was on hand to read the Bible to him and she sat by his bed praying many times.
Three weeks before Dad died, I had a dream about him. He was in a prison hospital, and I was visiting him. He looked like Aaron Browns when he was six years old; I used to babysit Aaron. I think that the Lord showed him to me this way because of my affection for Aaron, and to remind me that my stepfather, emotionally, was just a child. But he looked like a child only on the outside; on the inside, he was a sinner who had offended people.
I said to Dad, "You want to live, don't you?" He said he did. I asked him if he would let me pray for him. He nodded, so I put my hand on his belly and started casting demons out of him left, right, and centre, rebuking them in the Name of Jesus and praying in tongues. This went on for a few minutes, until they were out. Dad lay under my hand, flattened, like a tire that all the air has leaked out of. I kept my hand on his belly and prayed in tongues for him until his form filled out again to look normal.
He was now a happy, little boy, inside out. But I worried for him. His memory had been erased of all his sins, but other people remembered. They still hated him, and I was worried that they would say nasty things to Dad, and he would have no idea what they were talking about. He would wonder why they were being so mean to him. He wasn't like he used to be, where he pretended that he didn't remember what he had done, so that he could get away with taking digs at me, but actually knew very well what he was doing.
I was very happy that he was set free from his bondages. I talked about getting together some cleaning supplies to go to his place and clean it up, but then suddenly I realized something and said, "But you can't live there anymore. That place is for seniors, and you're a little boy." I wondered who would take Dad in to live with them.
It ended up that it would be me and Jesus, who was represented in the dream as my fiance. Dad got out of his bed and followed me to another part of the hospital, which was a very clean and orderly facility. Against the wall was a set of bunkbeds, and I told Dad that I had a set like that in my home. He got excited and said, "Oh boy! Can I sleep in the top bunk?" I laughed and said he could. He ran over to the bed and climbed up to the top bunk. Then I had a thought. I didn't want to be picking up after him all the time; he was going to have to pitch in and do some chores. I said enthusiastically, "And you will get to make your own bed! It will be like building a castle!" Dad thought that was a pretty neat idea.
I awoke from my dream and rejoiced. I felt so full of peace. I knew that I didn't have to worry about my Dad anymore. Lorrie confirmed this when she told me later that, on Dad's last day, she read to him from the book of Revelation, and then she read to him about the thief on the cross who repented of his sins and was saved. She leaned over and said to Dad, "Dad, you can be saved, too, like that thief on the cross. I know that you can't speak, but if you say it in your heart, God will hear. Tell Him that you're sorry for your sins and call on Him to save you in the Name of Jesus."
I am certain that my stepfather did this. My intercession for him in my dream got rid of the demons that had made him such an unpleasant person to be around, and that were hindering him from receiving salvation. His soul was ready for it, and Lorrie reading to him from Revelation probably changed his mind about sticking around here. The Earth was going to go through some heavy–duty social and economic upheavals; he probably figured that he might as well go to Heaven, instead of hoping any more to be healed.
After he died, I saw him again in an inner vision. He was on the outskirts of Heaven, running around on a very green lawn, and laughing because he couldn't believe it that he had actually made it. Whew! That was close, not getting saved until the very last moment. Not everybody gets that chance. Some have hardened their hearts so much that the Holy Ghost doesn't offer them the gift of repentance anymore, and they can live on for many years, before they die, without ever being given the chance again.
What a miracle it was that Lorrie came to the Lord in time to lead Dad to salvation. She is much gentler and softer than me, and she was Dad's flesh and blood, which enabled her to get close enough to him to minister the Gospel to him when he was dying. He was willing to listen to someone whom he loved. It's pretty neat, though, that now he is perfect and loves perfectly, which means that he loves Pat and Jim and me as much as he loves his other kids, and fondly watches all of us from Heaven's galleries.
My mother was out of favour with the Cooneyites for a while. A Cooneyite lady smugly told me that, if my mother remarried, she wouldn't be allowed to come back to meeting. Somewhere along the way, they must have changed that rule because she goes to their meetings again. Perhaps they have welcomed her back to the fold because she is separated from her husband, which they take as evidence that she repented of remarrying when her former husband was still living. I am sure she is sorry she married her second husband, but not because of that. She was undoubtedly happy for the financial advantages the marriage gave her, and she says that her husband has been good to her financially even since their separation, but there were some personal things between them that drove them apart. If not for those things, they would still be together, and my mother would still be ostracized from Cooneyite fellowship, though my first stepfather gave her Biblical grounds to divorce him and marry again.
My mother attended Alliance churches for a few years when she was with my second stepfather. While away from the Cooneyite influence, she gave me a book that had been passed on to her by one of her brothers. It was The Secret Sect, which was written by former workers. Previously, when I asked where her church had been in the last two thousand years, she snootily told me that it was a continuation of the Early Church. I figured it ought to be much bigger, if it had been around that long, but I said nothing. A few years later, she presented this book to me, knowing I would be interested in reading it. I respected her more when she finally admitted that the Cooneyites had not been around for very long at all.
The book confirmed all my childhood impressions about Cooneyite doctrines and practices. Additionally, I learned that the workers didn't have such easy jobs. The book told about a couple of workers who had a falling out about doctrine with the other workers. One of them was Edward Cooney, and he objected to the senior workers living better than the junior workers. A woman worker visited the home where he was staying and steered the host family into tossing him and his companion out into the snow. They did not have the means to go anywhere else. Their hosts they realized that they were being too harsh, so they let them spend the night in their shed, but without any blankets. The workers had to stay awake all night and huddle together to keep from freezing to death.
When Joe Kerr, one of the workers in South Africa was excommunicated because he acknowledged that there were genuine Christians outside of their sect, the overseers sent people who had loaned furniture to him to retrieve their property, leaving him and his companion only the floor to sleep on. It was hard to get work because he was not trained for a profession and unskilled labour was mostly handled by the natives. He managed to earn some money, but still he starved and went blind from malnutrition.
It was a scandal how unloving these professing Christians were when people who were at their mercy differed with their doctrine. The way my Mom treated me because I went to a different church was nothing compared to what some others have suffered from leaving that church, totally cut off from their family and former friends. I am glad that I left so young that it was no wrench to leave them behind. Most of them were my mother's friends; not my own personal friends. I found a very supportive social system in the friends I made in my new church when I came to the Lord.
I stayed with Auntie Mae in my late teens, after I became a Christian. She always was kind. Eventually, after her husband died, she left the Cooneyites and went to the Worldwide Church of God, which rather distressed me because it is another cult. When I lived with her, one of my friends, a girl from my church who discipled me, took me shopping because I sorely needed good clothes for church. I had been showing up in jeans that had paint on them because they were all that I had to wear. Bonnie bought me a pair of black corduroy slacks and a pink sweater. When I got home to Auntie Mae's house, she looked at the clothes and said of my friend, "That is what I consider a true Christian."
I can't say that I agree that good works indicate that a person is a genuine Christian. Sincerely repenting of one's sins and putting faith in Jesus as our Saviour has to come first, but out of gratitude for salvation, good works should surely follow. I think that my grandmother was a genuine Christian. When she died, it was with a smile on her face and she said she felt Jesus coming for her. When my mother told me this, it greatly comforted my heart to know that my Grandma is in Heaven.
Many years later, I met a South African couple in my church who had been raised Cooneyite. Again, I was astonished, for it is so rare for Cooneyites to go to another church. Even if they stray off into the world, many of them maintain the conviction that the Cooneyites are the real deal for getting to Heaven. One of my sisters told me that she figured that she thought Mom's church was the only true church, and when she is very old (I surmise she meant when she didn't care any more about looking pretty), she would go back to that church. I thought, "If you care about looking pretty now, you will always care about looking pretty, and you will never think it is time to be a Cooneyite again, unless you are on your death bed."
It really is a shame that the Cooneyites make such a big deal about how their members dress. God looks on the heart. That is what He judges. He saves people who live in the jungle and run around stark naked. He sometimes lets them do that for several months or several years before He convicts them that they ought to wear some clothes. It could be that He thinks their tendency to kill their enemies and eat them is a more urgent issue than their nudity.
In our culture, it could be that God is more focussed on issues about honesty or getting people to stop fornicating than how they are dressed. One time my mother berated me for wearing slacks to church. This was when she went to the Alliance church and was willing to allow that it was okay for me to go to church where I liked. She said I was not honouring God to be dressed that way. Usually, I dressed like I was going to a party when I went to church, but that day, I was going to work in the nursery. Slacks were fine for sitting on the floor with babies and having them spit up on me.
It was at that church that I met Ann and Stafford, the ex–Cooneyites from South Africa. Stafford had suffered from a brain aneurysm that rendered him blind and paralyzed. The doctors thought it was a miracle that he was not dead, but they gave Ann no hope that he would recover from his disabilities. She had five children to raise, and a man flat on his back whom she had to take care of like he was a baby. She got frustrated and said to the Lord, "You gave me this man, but what good is he?" God healed Stafford. He was able to go back to work and help his wife raise their family.
I said to Ann, "But how could you believe for a miracle like that, considering how you were raised?" She said, "Oh, I think that the Cooneyites who read the Bible for themselves, instead of only relying on what the workers tell them, come to a true faith." She could be right. It helps me to not worry so much about my Cooneyite relatives and the nice people I met in that church when I was a child.
I see those who are saved among the Cooneyites as members of the Body of Christ, comparable to a finger that has a string tightly tied around it, and it is turning black and dying because they have cut themselves off from the rest of the Body of Christ. Neither do they hold the Lord Jesus as their Head. Their head is the phantom of a man whose name most have never heard of, an ignorant, bitter man with a perverted image of God, who twisted Scripture to conform it to his prejudices and grievances. They need to dethrone William Irvine and give Jesus back His rightful place as the Saviour.
It is not a church that saves a person. It is a Man who is also God, who took in His body the punishment for our sins, so that we could be reconciled to the Father. Even a person who doesn't go to church at all can still be saved, if they have turned away from their sins and turned to Jesus, looking to Him for forgiveness, receiving His blood to wash away their sins.
It is probably better for them to go to church, if they can find a church where they can grow. There are still problems in other churches, just as there was in Irvine's day. But even with their problems, people in those churches were able to lead others to salvation, build each other up in faith, and do good works that glorified God. Many of them did much more for the Kingdom of God than the Cooneyite churches that Irvine raised up.
A couple of the women workers officiated at my nephew's funeral last year. The message was actually good, better than any that I remembered from my childhood. Of course, a funeral is not an appropriate place to be telling folks that the Cooneyites are the only genuine Christian church, so it was necessary to go to other texts. Also, as a Christian who is more acquainted with the truths of the Bible, I have a deeper appreciation for references made to verses in it, and as a person who loves her family, I was grateful for anything said that might possibly get my siblings to think more seriously about God.
The ladies were tactful in remaining ambiguous about whether my nephew went to Heaven or not, saying that it is in God's hands. I believe he is, in spite of what his lifestyle was, because he was mentally retarded. Jesus said that little children enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. When Johnny was tested, his mental level was gauged to be around seven–years–old. I think it might actually have been higher than that, but not much.
When I talk to Cooneyites about the Lord, they are polite and acknowledge that I am speaking truth when I make references to things that the Bible says, but do they think that I am really saved? I doubt it, but God knows the truth of the matter and His opinion of whether or not I am saved is the one that counts.
My nephew's death drew his mother into looking into eternal things. She has been reading the Bible and attending Cooneyite meetings since then. The workers are going easy on her because she is not fully committed to their sect. They have told her that they believe that people in other churches can be saved, too, if they do things the way they are "supposed" to, meaning in tune with how the Cooneyites interpret the Bible.
She argues with me that Jesus sent His disciples out in pairs, thinking that there is something vitally significant in this. It is good idea to have a buddy system in ministry, but there are plenty of instances in the Bible where God sent His servants out alone, such as when He sent Jonah to Ninevah, Elijah to Mount Carmel, etc., and Paul knocked around by himself in Athens for a while, waiting for the rest of his party to join him. My sister's single–minded focus on this point is just the old programming from our childhood kicking in.
The Cooneyite programming has such a hold that even my brother Jim goes to meetings with my mother sometimes, which is really odd, considering some of the terrible things he has said about the Bible and his opinions of the saints whose lives are recorded therein. On the one hand, he says he admires Jesus and approves of at least some of His teaching, but on the other hand, he despises the Old Testament saints who were the Lord's ancestors and put their faith in Him as their Messiah. My guess is that Jim goes to meetings with my mother to make her happy, to give her hope for his soul.
Maybe it would make my mother happier if I went to meetings, too, but it is not my responsibility to make my mother happy. She is responsible for how she chooses to respond to what life dishes out, and if she is put out because God led me into serving Him as a Pentecostal, rather than to remain in the Cooneyite church, it's her problem. I think she does know that I truly know the Lord, though, even if she does not accept that the baptism of the Holy Spirit, speaking in tongues, and the other gifts of the Spirit are ordained of God to bring the Church to perfection, which most certainly has not been accomplished yet. When my mother attended the Alliance church, she read books by Charles Swindoll, which probably contributed towards giving her a clearer understanding of salvation.
One of the sad things about my mother's attachment to this church is that it submerges her personality. My mother is an extrovert. She loves to be the centre of attention and there is no reason why she shouldn't have it, as long as she lets others have their share of the spotlight, too. She likes to laugh and have fun. When she was not going to church, she liked to party with my siblings and cut up. I don't approve of how my family partied and the example my mother was setting for us at that time of her life, but she never got drunk. I could see more of my mother's real personality coming out when she was not trying to fit in with the Cooneyites. She was quite a bit nicer, not so judgmental, rigid, and critical.
God made my mother to be an extrovert. It is part of His plan for her life to be outgoing and bubbly, but she is not that way when she is around Cooneyites. They don't approve of individualism and extroversion. Their notion of holiness is to be drab and quiet. When I was a child, the only time I ever saw my mother nervous was in those meetings, though there was only a handful of people present. Without fail, every time she stood to give her testimony, her legs trembled until she finished speaking and sat down. At other times, she was not afraid to speak, but those meetings tend to expect some kind of performance from people, rather than to be times where brothers and sisters in Christ are simply sharing their hearts with each other.
It did no harm for my mother to wear a little make–up and some jewellery. My mother was a pretty woman and she looked even better when she dolled herself up that way. When my mother had sparkle in how she dressed, she had more sparkle in her personality. I gather that she felt better about herself when she looked more glamorous. My grandma recognized this about my mother and empathized with it, permitting her to be photographed wearing a necklace when she was fifteen. When my mother saw that photo of herself, her face lit up and she said how she had loved the silk blouse she wore in it, enthusing about how it had shimmered and looked brown from one angle, and green from another. I doubt that my mother was ever totally happy when she felt compelled to play down her looks, though as she approaches her eighties, she possibly does not care so much about them. When a person has arthritis, getting dressed is painful and there is a tendency towards keeping grooming simple.
A lady in a church I attended is acquainted with the Cooneyites. She attended their meetings and made some observations about them. She made particular mention of a woman worker who, while addressing an evening meeting in a hall, spoke of how exciting it was to serve Jesus. She said the name Jesus is a hissing way with a large, fake smile.
I knew exactly what she was talking about. I heard the workers talk that way in my childhood but, like this woman, I was never convinced that they actually found it exciting to be workers in that church, unless they were worried about where their next meal was coming from, or if they would have a roof over their head that night. In foreign countries where they are breaking new ground, this is probably the case, but that is not the kind of excitement that most people are attracted to.
The workers, however, feel obliged to try to convince others that they think that serving Jesus (according to their idea of how to do it) is exciting, as if he can be experienced this way only by workers, because they are more committed to serving Him than those who choose to remain in the secular world. I think that workers probably struggle a lot with loneliness and depression, if they aren't a big honcho who has a lot of control in that church, and that they don't find all that much comfort in their Bibles because they have a very distorted picture of a stern God, and of a masochistic Jesus, and only a faint acquaintance with the Holy Ghost.
That lady in my church urged me to write about my experiences in the Cooneyite church, as there are very few people who have been inside of it who have written about it. In her discussions with workers, she asked a couple of them if they believed that only the people in their own church are saved. One of them surprised his companion by saying, "I think there has to be people in other churches who are saved." How long that guy will last in the Cooneyite church holding that belief is anyone's guess.
My longing is to see revival among the Cooneyites. I would like for the deception to come off, the Blood of Jesus be received as the only way to become righteous, and for the Holy Spirit to flow into that branch of His Body and make life come into it. They need to acknowledge that there are genuine Christians in other churches who are not Cooneyites and never will be. It would be something to see Cooneyite meetings where they play other instruments besides the piano, and maybe have a few of them all playing at the same time. It would be refreshing to hear Cooneyites singing songs of joy that exalt the Lord, and Cooneyites praising Him in the dance, the way the Bible instructs us to praise Him.
Most importantly, it would be wonderful if the Cooneyites got their doctrine straightened out and preached the true Gospel, instead of preaching this "other" gospel, which really isn't good news at all. Paul said in his letter to the Galatians that if one tries to keep the Law, they are guilty of breaking the whole Law, because it is impossible to keep the Law. If one messes up in even just one little part of the Law when they are trying to keep the Law, they bring on themselves all the curses that relate to breaking the Law.
It would be wonderful if Cooneyites got deeper into the Bible, referring to Strong's Concordance to begin to do studies on the original Greek and Hebrew words. There are other sources for deeper word studies.
If the Cooneyites want to keep on dressing the way they dress, there is no harm in it, as long as they don't impose it on other people as a standard of righteousness and forbid people who don't follow the dress code from testifying in their meetings. It is too bad when kids run from a church because its rules about such inconsequential things are so rigid.
If the hierarchy refuses to conform to the Word of God, insisting on twisting Scripture to serve their ends, people would be better off leaving and finding a place of fellowship where the teaching is more in line with the Bible. A person can still be a Christian, even if they stay, but they will be a stunted one.
Salvation is not in going to particular church, and dressing a certain way. God sees into hearts and knows if people are relying on what they consider to be good works to get them into Heaven, or if they recognize their sinful condition, have truly repented, and put their faith in Jesus's righteousness alone.
Galatians 6:14 says, "But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world." Any organization that teaches that keeping rules can make them worthy to go to Heaven is the world, even if it is a pseudo–Christian church, and even if they call themselves Baptist, or Pentecostal, or no name at all. Salvation is a gift, given by God's grace through the Anointed Lord Jesus. When He is allowed to sit on the throne of our heart, everything is okay, because He is Love. When love rules a heart, one doesn't have to worry about rules. They will just do naturally what pleases God.
Copyright © 2011, Lanny Townsend
Page modified by Lanny Townsend on October 5, 2011
Scripture references on this website are closely paraphrased from e–Sword's King James Bible.