All right, God

Beautiful blue sky with sunI was eighteen years old, a soldier at Ft. Rucker, Alabama, and a somewhat regular attendee of the First Baptist Church of Ozark. There was a Sunday evening service for young people called BTU, or Baptist Training Union, and I enjoyed the meetings because I was the same age as the local youth who attended . . . (read: high school girls).

The BTU program was run by the pastor himself, and I also enjoyed the intellectual challenge of the lessons. But . . . I was someone who asked questions. . . . a lot of questions. And I wasn’t perceptive enough to notice when I was getting on someone’s nerves.

“How would you describe God?” I asked.  

“God is love.”

“Is God an individual entity?”

“God is love.” 

“Can you be more specific? Is He some form of conscious energy?”

“God is love.”

“I know He isn’t some guy wearing a long white robe and a beard. There has to be some universally accepted concept, doesn’t there? What would that be?”

My questions became more pointed, and more irritating, and I totally failed to see what was happening to the pastor. Suddenly he stood up, and his face, red with anger, he pointed to the door and screamed at me, with spittle spraying from his lips.

“Get out! Get out of my church right now! And don’t come back until you are right with Gawd!”

I left, and I stayed out of church . . . any church . . . for the next twenty years. I was away from church, but not away from my belief . . . a prayer was always a part of my pre-flight. Then, while I was in Vietnam, I wrote an article that appeared in newspapers in both Sikeston, MO, and Jackson, MS.

“Please quit sending Kool-Aid,” I begged. “It’s getting where every lister bag, and every water cooler is filled with Kool-Aid and I’m sick of it. If you want to send something, send books.”

The books came . . . by the thousands . . . and they were distributed all over country . . .but I kept several for my personal library.
One of the books I kept, I discovered as I was shelving them, was a Book of Common Prayer. I had no idea why I kept that book . . . I wasn’t aware of having held it back, even though I had personally selected every book I retained. I started to throw it away, but couldn’t bring myself to actually destroy it, so I put it in a pile of books that I would send out with the next batch.

The next batch arrived, and I sent them out, along with all the books I had set aside. But two days later, after all the books were gone from the shelf of the “cull” books…one remained. It was the Book of Common Prayer. How did it get there? I specifically remembered selecting it to be sent off . . . why was it still here?

When it came time to return home, I trimmed the books I was going to take with me down to no more than five . . .which I very carefully selected: The Caine Mutiny, From Here To Eternity, Catch -22, The Godfather, and The Carpetbaggers. I left the remaining books for the company library . . . which I had built.

When I got home, I unpacked my B-4 bag and found the five books I had very carefully selected: The Caine Mutiny, From Here to Eternity, Catch 22, The Godfather, and . . . wait a minute . . .the Carpetbaggers wasn’t there. Instead, I found THE BOOK OF COMMON PRAYER.
“What is this?” I asked aloud, now totally puzzled by the continuing survival of what at the time, I thought was a Roman Catholic Prayer Book. I was unaware that the Episcopal Church also used a prayer book.

Somewhat later I left the army, and I was divorced at about the same time. I also left Newport News, and after a bit of “hippy-style” traveling around in a converted van, wound up in Phoenix, AZ. Again, I travelled light, but . . . again, though not consciously aware of making the choice…THAT BOOK WOUND UP IN PHOENIX WITH ME!

In Phoenix, I was invited by a friend to attend the Episcopal Church. It was my first time inside a church in almost 20 years . . . and I found that I enjoyed it. Then…as I looked at the prayer book (if I say it was a 1928 Book of Common Prayer, my Episcopal friends will understand) I realized . . . THAT BOOK THAT HAD BEEN ACCOMPANYING ME FOR THE LAST THREE YEARS… WAS THE EPISCOPAL BOOK OF COMMON PRAYER.

All right, God, be you Conscious Energy, Unversal Order, a Specific Entity, or, as the Baptist pastor told me so many years ago….Love… I GET THE MESSAGE! I joined the Episcopal church, but more importantly, I rejoined the body of the faithful . . . of all worshiping Christians and Jews, and for over forty years now have found comfort and solace in that communion. And, even though we no longer use the 1928 prayer book….I’m sure you can understand why that particular book continues to occupy a very special place in my library.

Newsletter Subscribe

Latest Posts