Once, many years ago, I remember being in a San Antonio hotel bar and conversing with an older man who claimed to be beholden of holy powers, extraordinary visions, and able to see the future and to change the present.
I was in town for business for one day and night, then back to Dallas. My project was in Eagle Pass, Texas, a forgetful border town full of crime and drug cartels. My superintendent carried a sidearm and counted the minutes until the Lowes store was completed.
I was drinking an almost flat beer, and the fellow seated next to me was somewhere around his second or fourth round of expensive neat scotch. The bartender had removed it from the top shelf with a stool and a set of tongs and dusted the bottle before she poured it; it was obviously an expensive vintage from merry old Scotland. She gave him less than a full shot, but he didn’t notice, maybe didn’t care. Four drinks of scotch would significantly affect my speaking ability, but not his. Without introduction, he started a conversation.
He was a credible orator with a mellifluous voice like a hypnotist, an NPR radio host, or a con man might use. He was the main speaker of a soiree that would gather in the hotel’s small ballroom within the hour and was well on his way to being a drunken hot mess, but who am I to warn him off. This could be his method before speaking; fire water gives the weak courage to make a fool of themselves.
In our conversation, the words preacher and minister came up a few times, as did divinity school and exorcisms. Billy Graham was a fishing buddy; he had lunch with the Pope and was a regular guest on late-night radio shows. I assumed he was a man of God, but with the amount of alcohol he had consumed, it was questionable. Jesus and his disciples drank wine, but this guy was a certified sot.
Middle-aged men in lightweight suits and women in colorful summer dresses floated through the bar on their way to the ballroom. A few stopped to pick up a white wine or a cocktail. I was his captive for a while longer; being the only empty seat at the bar, I had claimed it as mine. The man and his story came with the territory.
This balding, pudgy, bespectacled fellow reminded me of Mr. Toad of the children’s books. I christened him “Toady.” He was convinced and said to be believed by thousands that if you think about a situation hard enough and long, you can change the physical nature of that situation to your advantage by creating an ectoplasmic event, changing the outcome of nature or God’s will. I asked him if that meant returning the deceased or healing the lame and sick? He had yet produced no one from their final rest, but he and his believers had cured a few people of minor illnesses. They were so close to returning the departed; it could happen any day now. I listened for a while longer, bought him another round of house scotch, and formed an opinion that his belief was the spoutings of a mad-hatter conferee, a half-assed self-educated preacher that believed his own self-absorbed rantings. He wouldn’t admit to being a Believer or even a papered man of God, but he knew how to captivate and emulate as one did. He was a beggar of alms from the poor fools who believed in him. He didn’t possess the stature or the hair to be a TV preacher, so this was his gig. He was good at his trade. As I unseated to leave, “Toady” grabbed my arm and said,
” I beg of you to try my method; believe in the power of the mind.”
“No thanks,” I replied, ” I only believe in the power of God and the Holy Spirit; anything more than that is new-age crap.”
That said, I moved on to a table to eat supper and left him to his fifth scotch and his followers awaiting in the ballroom.
I have been watching videos of Pastor Greg Laurie, the now older man who played a significant part in the Jesus Revolution in the late sixties. One particular video addressed the right and wrong way to pray and repentance. Watching the video reminded me of the encounter with a fellow in the hotel bar.
I can stare at the cedar trees in my backyard for twenty-four hours straight without blinking and drink Irish Whiskey until I see holy visions, but my prayers, repentance, wishes, and yes, some begging will not bring my son back to this earth, death is final, and there is no return.
5 Replies to “Prayers, Repentance, Wishes and Begging”
Good read, great characterization. Not myself [anymore] religious, I nonetheless don’t deny others freedom to explore their wisdoms and that of their Supremes. My internal arguments and conversations will perhaps persists until it is too late to realize any singular truth.
(1) “He was a credible orator with a mellifluous voice like a hypnotist, an NPR radio host, or a con man might use.” Three men walk into a bar…
(2) When it comes to rising from the grave, JC believed that we should leave no stone unturned.
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Jesus was the one that was chosen to rise from the grave. In my short life of 73 years, and my parents and their parents, they have never known any kin or friend to do such. That is my point. I hope to go where my son is, but will not likely come back here. Three men walk into a bar…ha, that is the way the good ones always start. I was more than kind in describing the fellow, it could have been quite nasty, but I kept it SFW.
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There’s a much better place to go if we are willing to put our faith in God. If we follow and obey, and are truly sincere in Him, we will have everlasting life, free of pain and sorrow. I am still a work in progress, but I want some of that.