Let’s Back Up for just a Moment
I had put in one year of college as soon as I graduated high school in 1969. After that freshman year, I decided to take the next year off and visit my brother, TM, in Brooklyn, New York. He had recently left our home church, where he had been Brother Mac’s Assistant Pastor, and answered God’s call to join David Wilkerson’s street ministry - Teen Challenge. Wilkerson’s outreach to the “gangs” of New York had been spotlighted in his hugely popular book (later a movie) ‘The Cross and the Switchblade’.
TM and I were raised in the Southern California beach city of Ventura. Ventura was founded as a Mission Outpost in 1782, by Padre Junipero Serra, and christened San Buenaventura (Saint of the Good Winds). Ventura became one of southern California’s “surf cities” in the 1960s, and is now known as part of the Gold Coast. Why in hell would my brother leave such a bucolic setting and drag his wife and baby daughter 3,000 miles away to the mean streets of New York? All I can say is this - we were so brainwashed, deluded and emotion-based in our relationship with Jesus that we really, truly believed that God spoke to us, via His Spirit. We “sensed” His guidance through impressions, feelings, and occasionally by prophetic words. God had spoken, TM had listened, and off they went.
During this visit to New York my draft notice from the U.S. Army appeared in the mail box back in Ventura. Since I had dis-enrolled from College after my freshman year, I had lost my 1F student deferment and was now 1A and being summoned to the induction center in Los Angeles to be sworn into military service! This was actually the first real, life-shattering event that had me questioning God. I felt that I was on a mission for Jesus, working with my godly brother in the ripe harvest fields of New York. Why would God rip that away and send me into a war on the other side of the world? As you know, this may have been the first real challenge to my faith, but most certainly not the last – as previous chapters have documented.
Fast Forward - Books, Mini-Skirts and Braless Flirts
Fresh out of the Army I returned to Ventura College with renewed vigor and dedication. I decided to major in Fine Arts, in pursuit of becoming a Minister of Music in service to the King of Kings, my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I was so happy to be home from Viet Nam, back in the comfort of my home church, and at peace with my newly confirmed “calling” to Music Ministry.
Ventura College had changed quite drastically since 1970. Now, just 3 years later, mini-skirts were still in style (Yipee!), but a new “fad” had been added to College campuses – the coeds had gone braless! Oh my sweet Jesus! This new, anti-establishment, fashion-statement became a daily challenge to my spirituality! The scriptures warned – “if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out” - and I must admit, that verse rang in my ears at almost every turn as I ambled my way from class to class.
This titillating (pun intended) challenge to my sanctified eyes was most obvious during honor choir, where I stood in extremely close proximity to several lovely young maidens who were as “perky” in their anatomies as they were in their personalities! Although many of these young lovelies were “hippie chicks” and claimed to be oblivious to their effect on us tenors who shared an arranged space with the altos (most hippie chicks were altos), many others were more than aware of what was happening, and made a “point” of standing with perfect posture, which always seemed to face my direction! Oh, dear Lord! The most difficult of these intimate encounters came whenever a one-on-one conversation ensued. Flirting seemed to be the language of choice for these 18 and 19 year old vixens, and who was I to deny their right to communicate!
It was during this time that I was dating girls from the church and desperately fighting to remain a virgin! In 1974 I received my degree from Ventura College and began working full-time at the church. Since TM had left, Brother Mac had gone through a couple of Assistant Pastors and ended up splitting that position in two. I filled one of those spots as the groundskeeper/youth leader/music minister; while Brother Earl assisted with the older members of the congregation, and shared in preaching duties. I could focus my life (and my eyes) fully upon Jesus, and didn’t have to eschew braless temptation any longer. There was NO chance of ever seeing an un-harnessed bosom at the Oak View Full Gospel Lighthouse, and even less chance of seeing a mini-skirt. That is until that fateful Sunday evening when the long-legged goddess from Chapter 10 floated into our church, and descended upon my life.
The Test of Time
Of course I instantly began asking questions - who was she; where did she come from; was she single; who invited her? I eventually was led to Sister Freda, who evidently had the “low-down” on this heavenly creature, and once again my hopes were dashed - she was married! Not only married, but her husband was in prison and she was patiently awaiting his release. She had been invited to church by one of our newer members who knew her through other connections. She was not from the Assembly of God down the road. She was not looking for a husband. She was hurting and coming out of a horrible situation; looking for acceptance and healing.
OK, I was good with that. Any time a wandering soul seeks refuge in Jesus we should be ready and willing to help. Of course she would be welcome and receive ministry. But, Oh! the disappointment for young Pastor Dan!! “God, why do you keep toying with me? Why do I always seem to miss or misinterpret your leading? Will I ever get to where I can discern the will of God?”
I can’t describe the crushing blow Sister Freda’s message hit me with. I was in full time service to my Lord and Savior, Jesus. I served in chaste and patient obedience to God and Brother Mac. All of my friends had picked a mate from our church’s pool of plain-faced, Pentecostal plumplings, and were already spawning forth the fruit of their loins. Most of our eligible bachelorettes had finished up puberty and gotten hitched while I was in the Army. Now, this seemingly miraculous answer to my daily supplication – this vision of loveliness - had evaporated with the indignation of (dare I say it?) a fart in church!
God Doeth Speak with Forked Tongue
My former girlfriend, Megan (see earlier chapters) had been dating other guys and had recently become available again. “Was God giving me another chance with her?” I mused. There was another gal that grew up with me in the church. She had backslidden and married a “sinner”. Recently, she had reappeared; divorced, re-dedicated to God, and making advances toward me. There was also the daughter of my mom’s best friend, who was quite a bit younger than me, and apart from her rather over-abundant bosoms, was very odd looking. My mom and her mom were scheming to get us together but, I just wasn’t interested. “Please, please Lord, don’t let it be her!” I think I talked God out of that one!
Then one day I was talking to one of the gals who ran the church daycare. She had befriended “Venus with the long legs” (Joyce), and asked me what I thought of her. I told her that I thought she was beautiful, incredible…sensational! “Well, why don’t you ask her out?” asked Brenda. “Are you Crazy?” I retorted with as much self-righteous indignation as I could muster. “She’s married and waiting for her husband to get out of prison!” Brenda looked at me like I had 666 tattooed across my forehead. “Where did you ever hear that?” she queried. I told her the source of the story, and added, “Who was I to question it?”
Brenda laughed and laughed. “You can’t believe anything that woman says!” she exclaimed. “Don’t you know she is a pathological liar?” I didn’t know this, but was slightly ecstatic at this new revelation! I would have to talk to Brother Mac, later, about Sis Freda’s lying lips, right now I had to hear more about my Angel…err, I mean, Sister Joyce. Brenda reassured me that if I were to ask her, she would most definitely go out with me. I found out later that Brenda was white-lying a bit in her match-making exuberance.
This was too much too fast. I was confused yet excited. I was relieved yet hesitant. What was I to do? Now, after a year of celibate dedication and pious honoring of my vow (see chapter 9), I was suddenly thrust into a choice of extreme magnitude! Megan wanted to get back together (which I was seriously considering and praying about), and now the heaven-sent, miracle girl was back on the market.
“God, do you know what you are doing?” I screamed inside my head.
I decided to fly back to New York and visit TM. He had recently left Teen Challenge and was “pioneering” a new church in a wealthy bedroom community, just north of Manhattan Island. His church was beginning to grow and he had purchased a large home; big enough for little brother to come and stay as long as he wished. Surely time with TM would pay off. He and his wife would provide solid and unbiased counsel to me. Maybe I would just move to New York. I would indeed stay back there if I met “the one” in TM’s congregation. My God was always full of surprises…who knew what may come from this visit?
Alas, there were no females of dating age in the New York church. It was mostly young couples with little children, and a few older folks. I spent my time praying and talking with my sister-in-law about the choices awaiting me back in California. I decided to go back home and see how I “felt” when I laid eyes upon Megan. If I felt the “witness of the Spirit” I would know that she was the one.
All of my friends had picked a mate from our church’s pool of plain-faced, Pentecostal plumplings, and were already spawning forth the fruit of their loins. Most of our eligible bachelorettes had finished up puberty and gotten hitched while I was in the Army. I remember the moment that I first saw Megan upon my return. The youth group was having a picnic and I saw her from a distance. She did not see me looking at her. I stared at her and prayed intently. “Is she the one, Lord?” I beseeched. There was no witness in my heart. I felt slightly repulsed by her countenance. This was strange, because I had always found her adorable – everyone did. That was enough for me. I headed straight for Brenda and asked her to set up a group date in which Joyce and I would both be invited. Brenda was positively jubilant! She assured me that this was God’s will, and that she had already told Joyce as much.
The next Sunday night, after church, we all headed to our favorite restaurant. I was decked out in my red checkered pants, white turtle-neck sweater, and burgundy, platform shoes (hey, don’t forget, it was the 70’s). Joyce had been undergoing “sanctification” and had exchanged her miniskirts for the obligatory “granny dresses” that were very popular with Pentecostals during this era. She was still smokin hot!! And of course, I was rockin the threads! Hallelujah! What could possibly go wrong!?
Aside: I found out much later that she thought I was hideous in that outfit, but she had been assured that this was indeed God’s will, and that Danny was the “catch of the church”. She felt a bit trapped, but what could she do? It was God’s will!
I thought the date went OK, except for the fact that I locked my keys in the car and had to pick my own lock, with a coat hanger, before I could escort her home. Brenda assured me that Joyce wanted me to continue asking her out, so I didn’t waste any time. Richard & Patty Roberts – Oral Roberts son and his wife – were coming to a nearby town for a special concert the following Saturday night. This was perfect, gospel music being performed in a large, dark theatre. Since we were not allowed to go to movies, this was tailor made for a Pentecostal date.
All I remember about that concert was this: somewhere in the middle of it, I worked up the courage to take her hand…and she didn’t resist! We clamped fingers together in a sweaty death grip until I was sure her hand was numb (mine was), but, I wasn’t letting go!
On the drive home, she sat close to me. I remember she smelled marvelous, and was radiant in the amber glow of my dashboard light. I mulled over in my mind what my next step would be. I had vowed a vow unto the Lord, one year earlier that I would not kiss another woman until He brought me “the one”. “Is she the one, Lord? Is tonight the night?”
By the time I drove up her driveway and parked the car, I had my answer. I turned off the engine, placed my arm around her feminine waistline, and pulled her close to me. She welcomed my feeble advance with a tender smile that seemed to say, “Go ahead, it’s alright…yes, I am the one.” Our lips met in a warm and intimate union. We lingered for several minutes and allowed ourselves to connect in a way that young lovers do. No words passed our lips, but volumes were communicated. I was instantly - totally in Love! My vow was at an end, and a new vow was sealed.
The feeling was overpowering! It was better than being filled with the Holy Spirit! I was overcome with emotion and the most wonderful feeling of relief. God had answered my cries for a wife. He had sent me the “blessing of a Lifetime” and she was even now locked in my tearful embrace. “Thank you Lord! Praise be the name of the Lord, for He is surely the provider of all good gifts to His faithful servant!”
It was as though I had entered a heavenly realm and been given permission to take an Angel home with me. She seemed to float alongside me in a fluorescent glow as I walked her to the door and gently kissed her goodnight. Yes, she was an angel…and lo, she has proven to be my angel for the ensuing 40 years…amen and amen!
This chapter is dedicated to my sweet and longsuffering wife, Joyce. Also, Kudos to gleabealyth, my dear friend and enforcer of promises! LOL! I told him that if he would finish and post his Extimony, I would write Chapter 11 of ‘Screwed Up, Beyond Belief’ – Here it is buddy! Thanks for the kick in the arse!
Next Time – Chapter 12: Beginnings