I knew I had to repent.
I needed to talk to Jesus, but I didn't want to talk to him at the First Baptist Church. The women's prayer circle kept a full time monitor outside the preacher's office door so they could put your name on the prayer list before you even had a chance to say a prayer for yourself first. The sight of me going in to visit with Preacher Bob could set off the automatic phone call system to summon the prayer circle together for an emergency prayer meeting. No, I needed to repent in a church whose members weren't also in the Tuesday Morning Bridge Club.
The Washed in the Blood of the Lamb Church was located on the outskirts of town in an old convenience store. The gas pumps outside the church had been converted into colorful crosses which flashed lights and changed colors in rhythm to the tune, "The Old Rugged Cross." As I entered the church I noticed that what had once been the beer coolers were now stocked with row after row of chilled bottled water aptly named Holier Than Thou Spring Water. The area of the store which once featured nuts, chips and motor oil was now filled with folding chairs set up for the congregation. I counted seven chairs and breathed a big sigh of relief at the thought of repenting before such a small group.
Dr. Marvin Miracle considered himself anointed by the hand of God. Although he got his honorary doctorate of divinity from the Juarez Divinity College and Boarding House, he got his power to heal straight from the Lord. He was the man. He could save me from Bobby Lee. He could save me from Cooter and Barbara Sue. He could save me from myself. He could do all of this without the judging eyes of the First Baptist Church Women's Prayer Circle.
I had just sat down in my gently used folding chair when the lights dimmed and the music started. Dr. Marvin Miracle entered the room from what used to be the adult magazine section of the store. His voice startled me as he belted out "The only one who could ever reach me..." and the handful of parishioners answered in song with " was the son of a preacher man." Back and forth they went.
"The only boy who could ever teach me..."
"Was the son of a preacher man."
I knew I was in the right place. Any church who liked Dusty Springfield was bound to like me. I jumped to my feet and joined right in.
"Yes he was, he was, oooh, yes he was."
As Dr. Marvin Miracle walked by me, he took my hand and led me to the front of the church. I could feel the healing power surge through his hand to mine. The congregation fell silent as Dr. Miracle spoke to me.
"Why did God bring you here tonight?"
"I need to repent."
"The only one who could ever reach me," he began singing again.
"Was the son of a preacher man," the rabid followers chimed in.
Dr. Marvin Miracle took me by the shoulders and dramatically turned me to face him. "Do you need to repent?" he shouted.
"Yes!" I shouted back.
"Do you want to go to Haven?" he yelled enthusiastically.
"Where?" I asked meekly.
"Haven," he shouted. "Do you want to go to Haven?"
I looked around the room at all the arms outstretched to Heaven or Haven according to Dr. Marvin Miracle. I wasn't sure of the correct pronunciation. I just knew I didn't want to go to Hell.
"Yes, I want to go to Haven!" I shouted.
With tears streaming down his face, Dr. Marvin Miracle laid his special hands upon my head. I felt that I had been blessed. I felt that I belonged in this place. I finally felt at peace.
Then it happened.
Dr. Marvin Miracle asked me to get on my knees in prayer. Although I knew I was going to have trouble getting back up with that bum knee I got in the state volleyball tournament, I followed his request. His special hands were still on my head as he lifted his voice to Haven.
"If you want to go to Haven, you must submit," he shouted.
"Whoa. What did you say? I must what?"
"You must submit! A woman should learn in quietness and full submission," he yelled.
I knew I needed help to get up from my kneeling position with my bum knee, but there wasn't time to think of a graceful exit. I reached up and grabbed Dr. Marvin Miracle's necktie and yanked really hard. It worked. I stood up like a cripple who had been cured. I was up and out of there in no time. I grabbed a fist full of bottled water on the way out of the door and didn't even bother to put any money in the offering plate.
I took a big swig of Holier Than Thou and decided that I would just take my chances with Cooter.