Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Now like All Christians I will be Happy, Healthy & Prosperous

Besides my job and my church work and the youth ministry and also playing in a church league softball league, I had gone back to college in the evenings of 1977. Apparently I didn't think I had enough on my plate.
At Temple University I majored in Sociology, but when I registered at Camden County College as a student I went in another direction, computers. I had a course in COBOL programming and another in Systems Analysis. The latter was to become very handy to me in the near future and one of the most useful tools I ever gained from education. I never actually got to apply COBOL anywhere; although a call went out for such programmers when they panicked over Y2K. The programming language I did learn and use regularly at Welded Tube and later at Wilmington Trust was RPG II (Report Program Generator).  (Eventually I also picked up Basic and HTML or HyperText Markup Language.)
I also took Accounting Principles I and II. I had an A average overall, but it was hardly surprising, I had been doing accounting in the real world for several years by then. Everything we were being taught, I had already done, but on a more complex and larger level.
But like several other things, the miraculous birth of my daughter, Laurel, complicated things.
Lois and I had given up our involvement in the youth ministry due to her pregnancy. Obviously having to remain in bed for term made it impossible to continue. Having a baby added to the responsibilities at home.

Now that I was a Born Again Christian, my life should become incredibly easy, right?  Saved Christians are assured to be happy, healthy and prosperous are they not?  We have a big invisible shield,  just like Colgate Toothpaste, to protect us from the woes of this world, isn't that so? Did not Jesus say in John 10:10 that He came so we could have the abundant life? Didn’t Paul tell us in 2 Corinthians 8:9 that Jesus “though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich”?  Didn’t Jesus also say, in John 14:14, “You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it?” Isn't God like the Fairy Godmother in Cinderella?
At the time I accepted Christ as my Savior, Prosperity Preaching was very much in favor with some radio and TV “evangelists” (I use quotes because the term evangelists is being used pretty loosely here.)   A lot of people fell victims to these false prophets and send their savings and money they couldn’t spare  to receive prayer handkerchiefs or miraculous vials of water, and the false idea that if they gave a dollar to a Leroy Jenkins or some other charlatan that they would magically receive a $100 or a $1,000 or even more riches.
The only ones really prospering were people like Reverend Ike (pictured right), who distorted the Word of God to fill his coffers with millions of dollars. The so-called Reverend Ike died of a stroke at age 74 in 2009.

Sad to say, Leroy Jenkins is still at it despite being in his eighties, even after being convicted and sentenced to 12 years in prison for assaulting two men and plotting arson to two homes; despite his arrest in 1994 on grand theft (charges were dropped after he agreed to pay restitution.) He married a 77-year-old widow three weeks after her husband died in 2001. She had just won $6 million dollars in the Ohio lottery. The marriage was annulled by the courts on the basis the women was incompetent and incapable of knowing what she was doing at the time. In 2003 the Ohio Department of Agriculture found his cure-all “miracle water” contained coliform bacteria. He was at least fined $200 for not having a license to sell water.

These so-called preachers cherry-picked verses from the Bible that suited their deception without including the context. They overlooked the fact that it is hard to find true people of God within the Bible or out who didn’t suffer for their faith. Being faithful followers of Christ certainly led to easy street and the prosperous life for the Apostles, now didn’t it? Jesus, who was closer to God than any of us, because he was God, was born in a borrowed stable and buried in a borrowed grave. He never had a big Galilean Estate or a luxury chariot to tool about in.

On the 18th of March some of the ladies of the church threw a baby shower for Lois.  No one had given her any during the pregnancy because of fear she would lose another. The joy of gifting an expectant mother with baby needs would turn to deep sorrow if the child was lost. The mother would not want to see what could have been represented in the gifts that would never know the child.
Lois’ longtime friends also gave her a shower at Mary Lou’s Bryn Mawr home on April 9.
This was a rare baby shower where one of the guests of horror is the baby.
Then two weeks after these parties came a scare. Laurel began gasping and struggling for breath. It would be a real concern in any baby, but Laurel was a premmie as well, and her lung growth had been a concern with the doctors. Before she was born, during that tense week when we thought we were going to lose an eighth child, the doctors had approached us with their concerns. They wanted to use a then experimental drug in hopes it would strength her lungs. The drug was called steroids. It had certainly appeared to do the trick since she had come out into the world howling. Now we were facing a new threat to her breathing.
After seeing the pediatrician, we were sent to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, where Laurel was admitted with suspected Whooping Cough (Pertussis). The hospital provided sleeping arrangements for a parent to be with the child during the stay and Lois remained with Laurel the two nights she was being treated. She had been admitted on April 25 and came home on the 28th, now fine and dandy.
On Mother’s Day, my dad gave us money to have dinner at the Black Angus, then one of our favorite restaurants. It was a fairly upscale place located in Ludwig’s Corner, not far from the horse show grounds. Lois was an adventurous eater, but I was pretty predictable. I think I had the same meal every time we went there: Two Whiskey Sours on the sweet side, a fruit cup with orange sherbet, a house salad with blue cheese dressing, a medium filet mignon with onion ring, mashed potatoes and gravy, fried eggplant and some kind of pie for desert. I no longer drink alcohol and I cannot eat such a large meal anymore. Frankly, I can’t afford filet mignon these days.
I gave my mother a framed 8x10 photo of four generations of family women, my mother, grandmother, wife and daughter. That did not cost anywhere near as much as our dinner, but to them it was a more valued gift.

Laurel was dedicated on June 25. Laurel Hill Bible, as a Fundamentalist church, did not believe in infant baptism. Such a practice is not Scriptural. Baptism is an acknowledgement of your acceptation of Christ as your savior, a symbolic burial and resurrecting into a second birth, and so must be done with complete understanding of what you are engaging in, and a baby cannot understand this nor accept Jesus of their own will. Therefore, what substituted as a Christening was a dedication on the parent’s part to raise their child in the faith.
My parents, Lois’ father and my friend, Victor Ernest along with his wife Marsha attended. Victor also brought his mother and cousin, who were currently visiting him from their home, and his birthplace, of Saint Lucia in the Caribbean Sea. Although the Island was then under the United Kingdom, it had bounced back and forth between French and British colonization for centuries. (A year later, in 1979, it would become an independent state.) Victor had a distinct accent of Saint Lucian Creole French, although Lois always swore he sounded like the Muppet Elmo.
Since the end of the slave trade, the African population has become the majority on the island. A small minority of the population are Indian (from India). Victor was part Indian and part African. By the mid-1970s he had become my best friend.
On July 8 something happened that became a life-changing event for my dad. He was changing a tire on his truck when the locking ring exploded. It flew at him and he threw an arm up, which the rim hit and then careened off a far distance into a nearby field. The blow shattered his arm and they took him to Coatesville Hospital. This was his first stay in a hospital in his life and the first time he realized he was mortal. He said if he hadn’t got his arm in the way that rim would have probably taken his head clean off. He had seen that happen to a trucker one time. My father had always saw himself as John Wayne, something bigger than life; now he realized he was human after all.

The arm was in bad shape with multiple fractures. It had to be pieced back together like a puzzle and put together with rods. The resulting scar would run pretty much the length of his arm. We visited him in the hospital, where he wasn’t happy, several times over that month. On August 10 my mom took him to a doctor in West Chester to remove the stitches. My father was a tough man, but they had to get smelling salts to keep him from fainting during the removal. His arm was placed in a sling. It wasn’t until August 16 that he was able to drive again, when he drove himself to a clam bake at The Gap. He wasn’t able to work until mid-September when he began escorting drivers hauling oversized loads locally.

On Halloween 1978 we surprised my parents on Halloween by showing up in costume. But the Devil’s Holiday was a warning to this Christian boy that Satan was still about and our lives began to take a turn toward troubles. So much for the lie that being a Born Again Christian guaranteed you’d be happy, healthy and prosperous, and safe from any harm.

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