A Tale of Two Women

When I was in Colorado, I took the opportunity to practice talking to women whenever I could, just to get in the habit of learning how to socialize with people in public.  Being an introvert, this does not come naturally to me, and my dialogue is often stilted and forced when I’m out of my comfort zone.  But I wanted to try anyway.

My first opportunity presented itself when I stopped by Whole Foods to pick up groceries for the cabin.  I came across one girl working in the store, pretended like I was lost and that I was looking for the coffee blends section (which I had already passed twice.)  She smiled this bright, yet shy smile, and off we went.  We talked for about 20 minutes, about the weather, mountains, coffee, etc. and for a moment I felt like a natural extrovert.  It’s how I in fact discovered the chocolate mint coffee blend that has now become a new favorite of mine.

At the end of the trip I was waiting for my flight and spotted another girl on her iPad (instant geek turn-on) sitting at the same gate.  Modestly dressed too, like she had just gotten out of church (a traditional one, not the one where the congregation dresses like they’re going to a rave.)  There was an empty seat next to her, as well as a free wall socket to plug my own gadgets in.  I nodded at her before sitting down and proceeded to plug my iPad in for charging.  Then made of show of frowning as if it it still wasn’t being charged (it was.)

“Excuse me, are you having any trouble charging your iPad?”

She looked at me for a moment, and without a word went right back to her iPad, surfing images on Pinterest.

Hmmmmmm, did she hear me?  It is pretty loud in the terminal here…

Since we were both at the same gate it was apparent that we were taking the same flight to New York.  So I tried again:  “Are you visiting New York or returning?  I’m just returning from a vacation here myself.”

She glanced over at me again, then STOOD UP, gathered up all her things… and walked right out of the terminal.   She didn’t return again until the boarding started.

????????????????????????????

I’m amazed at the contrast between Airport Girl and Whole Foods Girl.  Same approach, just trying to break the ice and make friendly conversation, with completely opposite results.  In one sense I’m heartened by meeting a Whole Foods Girl type, but in another sense I get thoroughly depressed knowing there are a LOT more Airport Girls than there are Whole Foods Girls.   You have to understand, it’s very difficult for me to talk to people in public, because I have to expend an enormous amount of energy to hear what they’re saying in order to engage in a constructive dialogue.  By sheer math alone, I would encounter more Airport Girls than Whole Foods Girls, with the experiences leaving me so drained of energy and despondent that I wouldn’t have the resolve left to talk to anyone else, even if the very next girl I wind up talking to could be the Whole Foods one.

And you know what, I get it.  Airport Girl probably had no desire to talk to anyone and just wanted to be left alone.  I’m sure there are plenty of women who would like to be able to go out in public and do their thing without being badgered all day by men.  What I don’t like is how some of them may go to their friends or write on their blogs,  ‘This totally creepy guy approached me at the airport today.  I’m so SICK of all these creepy guys bothering me every day.  WHERE HAVE ALL THE NICE MEN GONE?”

Uh huh.  I guess there’s this unspoken rule of conduct where men can only approach women in the proper setting, like bars, clubs, raves, etc..  You know, all those places that I avoid like God’s plague on earth because of the hook-up culture contained therein (and because of the jet engine level noises.)  If I approach women in public, it’s not because I’m creepy, it’s because my opportunities for befriending women are severely limited.

And here’s another thing:  these aren’t creepy guys that are approaching you in public.  There are men YOU ARE NOT ATTRACTED TO approaching you.  Because I can guarantee that if Airport Girl had found me immensely attractive, I would have been able to sit on her lap and cop a feel while she giggled uncontrollably with glee.  All sins would have been forgiven.

Anyway, it seems like there are two things I could do: find a way to brush off the toxic encounters of Airport Girls, knowing that encounters with Whole Foods Girls are worth the aggravation, or, go Galt and simply withdraw from society altogether.  I’m sorely tempted to do the later, but as long as I continue to believe Whole Foods Girls are still out there, I’ll probably keep trying.  As long as they exist, they really are worth the aggravation.

Why I will probably never attend church services again

Updated: 6/14/2018

Before leaving Colorado I decided to attend Sunday service at Springs Church, headed by Gary Wilkerson, who is the son of the famous David Wilkerson.  David Wilkerson was one of the few Christian voices I truly trusted before he passed away, but I believed his son was equally as passionate and would continue giving out the red meat of the Word that I was looking for.

I have to say, I’m so incredibly disappointed in Gary Wilkerson. He’s nothing like his father at all, in fact you’d be more likely to think he was the son of Rick Warren than he is of David Wilkerson. There’s nothing about his church or method of preaching that resembles Times Square Church in New York at all. All of it seems to be influenced by the typical “seeker-sensitive” mentality that has plagued most Christian churches today.

I walked into the former auto mall that housed the church to find a few booths here and there, one offering plant sales, another offering coffee, and a few more offering signups for community outreaches and the like.  At least I think they did, as I wasn’t really paying attention.

I continued inside the auditorium and sat down just as the contemporary worship music began, led by a group of teenagers basking in the ambiance of glowing lights and smoke (there may or may not have been a smoke machine.)  Instead of feeling compelled to worship, I kept getting the urge to find a cigarette lighter and lift it over my head.

Rock on, Jesus!
Rock on, Jesus!

Maybe I’m getting old, but I didn’t like the idea of following the lead of teenagers with a worshiping style that was so obviously designed to cater to their generation (while ignoring everyone else.)  Ah well.  With worship a bust, I sat back to pretty much observe how the rest of the service would play out.

After the loop of songs ended, a woman got on stage and started talking about community circles (an updated spin on cell groups common to large churches.)  She was the “communities pastor,” and while she was talking the only thing that sprang to my mind was wondering whether her skirt was too short or her legs too long. I’m typically used to seeing more modest attire in church, so this was another disappointment.

Anyway, she says a prayer, gets off stage, and the jumbo-tron comes to life, with a bouncy looking youth pastor (yet another woman) reminding the congregation of a few events that would be taking place in the next few weeks, and don’t forget about the youth group meeting every Thursday night too!  (She says, in an especially blonde sounding voice.)  Apparently everyone’s a pastor here, and half of them are women.  Awesome.

Finally the sermon began, and I was disappointed to see it wasn’t Gary Wilkerson giving the sermon, but some jeans sporting guy I didn’t know from Adam.  Because of my hearing difficulties I could barely follow along, but what little I did hear sounded like cotton candy fluff to me.  Something about beautiful stories and hidden stories and not to share every detail of your life to the world, or some such thing.  It might have a been a good sermon really, to be fair, but a combination of fatigue in trying to follow what he was saying, along with the urge to get out of there finally had me tuning out before long.

After the sermon was over and the service concluded, people RAN to their own little social circles to yak it up, and I took a few minutes to continue sitting back to watch people as they clumped together into cliques, with the thought that this was all very much starting to look like high school to me.

The social barriers here were beyond silly.  I wanted to consider this church (or any church I visited really) as my extended family, and within that family I would not only find true believers to fellowship with, but also eventually meet the girl I could someday call my wife.  After all, it’s not like I’m gonna find a devout Christian girl sitting in a hotel bar (except possibly by divine intervention.)

The one saving grace was the men’s prayer group I attended a few days before, where it was much easier to break the ice and talk directly to others as well as making prayer requests.  Sad that despite this being a church of over 1,000 members, only 3 MEN showed up for this weekly meeting.  Figures.

As small as it was, their prayers on my behalf were still enough to give me the good news I was hoping for regarding a close friend of mine.  It occurred to me that I’d be better off bypassing the usual Sunday services altogether, and just showing up for the smaller meetings instead, whether it was a men’s prayer group or a “communities” circle, or an outreach ministry, or whatever.

That’s probably wishful thinking though, as I rather suspect if I had stuck around on a regular basis, I’d be banging heads before long, questioning the structure of the church, the hierarchy, the endless splintering of small community circles that I think actually hurts the church body more than helps it, the improper exegesis of Scripture, the corporate worship style that shamelessly panders to the youth, the fact that women should not be taking on pastoral titles or most other leadership roles, and on and on.  There are elements about modern churches today that have become so predictable in tone and format that any Christian today who watches this parody is probably going to understand exactly why it’s so hilarious (and sad at the same time.)

I can’t be a part of that, and if I tried, I would still feel the disconnect, the ovewhelming sense that I don’t really belong.  For now, the wilderness will continue to be my home.

Update: I tried to give this church a few more tries since then. At my last encounter with their men’s prayer group, I conveyed my concerns with one of the pastors of the church, and he said every church has its culture, and wished me good luck in finding one with a culture that was more palatable for me. That comment angered me so much: I thought Jesus was supposed to be our culture? This idolatrous emphasis on culture rather than God is precisely what perpetuates all this segregation and cliques in churches today, making it impossible for people of diverse backgrounds to all be ONE in Christ. His whole thinking was wrong, and I could see he was saying in Christian-ese Speak not to bother coming back again. What a shame.

How I almost died in Colorado

One of the things I wanted to do was seek out an old mine for a longtime reader of mine, an ancient mine located deep in the mountains of Colorado that had once belonged to her grandpappy.  It was located right off the tiny town of Silver Plume, and because I was covering the area as part of my tour to explore the popular ski destinations west of Denver, I decided to challenge myself with this mountain hike, beginning at roughly 9,400 feet above sea level.  Piece of cake!

Silver Plume, taken from hiking trail
A good day for a hike.

The trail itself was straightforward enough, although eventually I had to go off the beaten path and climb/crawl up about 100 feet more off a steep incline to find the entrance to the mine.  I’m not sure how I managed it without a walking stick, but I did.

Relics of Payrock Mine, overseeing the town of Silver Plume.
Relics of Payrock Mine, overseeing the town of Silver Plume.

After taking a few shots of the area, it was time to hoof it back down.  Only amateur hiker that I am, I hadn’t realized that I was going the wrong way, and I’m wondering to myself why this incline was so much more steeper and less steady than I remembered when I crawled up here, and wow there sure are a lot of loose rocks here-  *SLIPS*

Down I went, falling flat on my back and racing down over loose debris like a sledder without his sled.  I grabbed hold of a dead tree bark, which of course broke, then grabbed another dead bark, which finally arrested the slide.   I lifted my head up to see nothing but 300 feet of airspace and certain death in front of me.  If I had fallen forward instead of on my back, well… let’s just say that probably wouldn’t have ended well.  I remembered thinking, “If my mother saw what I was doing right now she’d be very upset.”

I finally got smart again and stopped frantically trying to scale back up the incline, which was only loosening up the dirt even more, and instead dug my heels in to get better footing, while slowly feeling my way around for rocks and tree barks that were firmly wedged into the incline.  I very gingerly made my way back up, until I saw the footprints of where I had originally come up, cursing to myself over how easily I could have avoided this fiasco and snaked quickly back down if I had just retraced my flipping footsteps.

foot prints near Payrock Mine
You can see the footprints where I originally arrived at the mine. #%@^!!

Still, I made it, black and blues all over, but with the satisfaction that even as a hiking novice, I still successfully scaled halfway up a mountain at nearly 10,000 feet and discovered the ancient mine I was looking for.  Who’s your daddy?

Mission accomplished, I settled into my Nissan Versa rental, downed like 20 pills of ibuprofen to dull the pain, and soon celebrated with hot cocoa at Starbucks after a drive through Keystone and into the heart of Dillon.  All in all, a good day.

Losing a Shepherd

Pastor David Wilkerson SmilesI originally wrote this in 2011, but posting it again here to honor David Wilkerson’s memory on the anniversary of his death.

Taking a break from my normal blogging after receiving the heartbreaking news that my favorite pastor, David Wilkerson has passed away.  He died in a fatal car accident 85 miles outside of Dallas.

David Wilkerson’s ministry was the inspiration behind the book and subsequent movie, The Cross and the Switchblade many years ago, but I knew him more for his more recent works and Times Square Church Pulpit series newsletters, written sermons I’d receive every three weeks by mail. These newsletters did more to feed my soul than any church ever could.

In a time when we have used car salesmen like Rick Warren teaching fluff and polluting the gospel into a marketing campaign, Wilkerson was one of the precious few who told the hard truth, about the need for repentance, about turning away from sin, about trusting in God for all things, and that suffering and afflictions were in reality a large part of the Christian walk, despite what prosperity teachers might otherwise tell you.

I could count on one hand the voices in modern day Christendom that I could trust explicitly, and now one of those voices is gone.  It’s despairing to consider the loss of somebody who’s had such a profound impact on my life, and I wonder, what do we do now?  Who can I trust to feed me the word of God wholly and uncompromised in Pastor Wilkerson’s stead?

Indeed, many of the stalwarts in Christianity that I’ve grown to admire all my life are now in their twilight years, and I fear to think of what will happen once they pass on.  We seem to be fast approaching a time when there will be no left to preach and teach the true gospel of Christ.

My prayers are with Wilkerson’s family, and for the speedy recovery of David Wilkerson’s wife.  May God grant them much needed peace during this time of grief, and take comfort in knowing that he is now in the company of prophets and angels.