And to think it all began with The Church Without Pants

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Stand Ups, Stand Ups for Jesus

I remember when preaching the gospel used to be as simple as shouting to everyone, "Have you heard the word of the Lord?" as we drove up and down the main drag in our part of the city.

Part of the fun was that we'd found one of those huge orange traffic cones abandoned down the hill from where our stretch of freeway was being extended. They obviously didn't need it anymore. We weren't exactly sure what we needed it for either, so we began modifying it. We began by cutting the heavy rubber anchor off the bottom. Then, just in case they changed their minds and decided they really did need it we further modified it by curling the cone in on itself so the orange was on the inside and the clean white innards were on the outside.

Little did we know when we discovered this new toy that it would become an instrument of God and eventually become known as the "Cone of Evangemism."

With our new prize we'd take turns doing the Lord's work by riding shot-gun in Kenny's Plymouth shouting the good news through our Cal Trans bullhorn to everyone on the streets. People at bus stops, drive throughs and in movie theater lines were our favorite evangemizing targets.

"Have you heard the word of the Lord? Sinners can be saved ... "

[wait for it]

"... or redeemed for valuable coupons!"

Can you hear us laughing? BWAH HA HA HAHA

We also liked following behind people who plastered "Honk if you love Jesus" bumper stickers on their cars. Because, who doesn't love Jesus?






And my Uncle Les' little Renault had an amazingly loud horn. Even Jesus lovers who were busy minding their own business would get into it. They'd suddenly jump up from their yard work and ecstatically wave their arms and shout at us while we were sharing the love with our bumper stickered buddies. So, realizing how much they must love Jesus we blasted the Renault's horns repeatedly for them, too.


God, we were so clever.

Some nights we got ourselves laughing so hard we didn't need anything else to get high. It was a vicious cycle. And very inexpensive. We'd be laughing at something someone said, then we'd do something, like fart, and it would be funny, so we'd laugh ... With each cycle it got louder and easier. When it took hold of us there was no way we could ever "maintain." As soon as anyone made a sound of any kind it would start all over. It was amazing and it was totally contagious. Even our dour friend "Grim Jim" (a relative of Eor) would be in tears. It was the Laughing Buzz.

One night when we were majorly afflicted with the Laughing Buzz we pulled up to one of our drive throughs backward and ordered a pizza. "Heavy on the Secret Sauce!" we added. BWAHAHA HA AH HA HA ... HA!

I'm pretty sure they called the police.

No problem, though. We'd outsmart them all by switching cars and piling the four of us into my two seater Fiat. Our escape route usually took us up the hill toward the freeway. There, some of the residential streets would peter out into narrow dirt trails that were blocked from automobile access by cables strung between concrete posts.

Again, no problem. No cables or narrow trails could stop us! Just lift the cable, scoot the Fiat underneath and we'd enter that remote world between the city lights and a wilderness infested with snakes, skunks and a few coyotes.

Some of the trails ran underneath the freeway into little canyons in the hills where we could access secret tunnels carved deep into the hillside. We had no idea who made them, or the whens or the whys, but we had plenty of time to create our own versions of the living histories surrounding their origins. But that's another story ...

Other trails ran right up to the freeway. There was nothing quite like the freeway sights while on a Laughing Buzz after a night of evangemizing the theater crowd and ordering pizzas at the drive through. The lights of speeding traffic flickering through the railings were hypnotic. The combination of hypnotic lighting together with a full on Laughing Buzz meant only thing ... It's time for Stand Ups.

That's what we called 'em. It was our own "12 Steps to God" program.

Step 1: (You really think I'm going to tell you how to do this?)
Step 2-9: Repeat Step 1
Step 10: Repeat Step 1 while performing a valsalva maneuver.
Step 11: Lose consciousness
Step 12: Wake up hungry and wondering where we were and how we got there.

It was the opposite of a "head rush."

But all that ended when I got "saved."

It wasn't a street preacher with a bullhorn that got me. It was a girl. But that's another story...

Needless to say, my friends were a little put out by this and I'm sure they would've traded me in for a coupon because to them, I just wasn't very fun to have around anymore.

I must admit that at the time I made the decision to join the "saved" crowd I was also worried about not having fun anymore. Although many from among the "saved" at our school went directly from their youth group meetings to hang at the same parties and do the most of the same things my friends and I would be doing, my primitive thought patterns did not make room for the possibility that I could be "saved" and still indulge in Saturday night grope-fests or any of the other many miscreant activities my wastrel friends and I craved. It meant that there would now be a seemingly endless list of self-satisfying, pleasurable and borderline criminal experiences that I would be missing out on. Forever.

And the list of things I could do seemed quite narrow. On the "Safe List" were things like "Little House on the Prairie," tennis, singing sappy songs and reading the Bible.

This was going to be hard. I hated singing sappy songs (still do) and I could never bring myself to watch "Little House" (still won't) so I was confined to tennis and the Bible.

Tennis wasn't a terribly transformative activity but it certainly was safe, though, as I was separated from the girl by 78 feet and a net. I was an embarrassingly bad tennis player back then so when I started playing my Uncle Les (who didn't like to hear that a girl was beating me) would load me up in his Renault with a bunch of tennis balls and take me to the park. Sometimes he'd let me drive and I could honk at Jesus lovers. The lessons were late at night and usually involved me dodging his wicked sliced serve. But the girl never knew I had a coach and she was amazed at my progress. Even from 78 feet I could see her smile and mouth "Wow!" when I made an incredible shot. She had blue eyes, her short tennis skirt magnificantized her long legs, and her long blond hair pulled back in a pony tail would sail luxuriously around the court. (Damn that net!)

But the Bible, that was something else.

I'd read it a little for Saturday School at the Temple, mostly stories from Genesis and about Moses, and then again when I heard scratching in my closet after I saw The Exorcist. At that time I started in Genesis again and I remember being really impressed with how much sleeping around they did. Not only that, but they were rewarded by being immortalized in the Scriptures. But other than that the Bible was not really part of my life. And I'd never even seen a New Testament until the girl came along ...

Just to make it clear, my getting saved wasn't totally about the girl. Reading the stories of the life of Jesus was incredibly compelling. My reaction each time I finished the Book of John was pretty much the same, "What? There's no more? I want to read more! OK, so Jesus said and did so many things that if they were written down the whole world wouldn't be able to contain the book, but you could've written a little more, couldn't you?" Even my primitive mind detected that Jesus was wise, sarcastic, and he lived fearlessly. He also saw more in people than they saw in themselves. I read through the four gospels over and over and over again.

I wanted to be like him and if that made me a Christian, so be it.

Ultimately, the promise of heaven and the threat of hell were not huge factors in my decision. I wasn't totally convinced that I wanted either to exist, at least in the traditional forms of fiery furnace or streets of gold. Not that I'd complain if I made it to heaven but, and I think this has something to do with being Jewish (and a teenager), I just couldn't relate to or comprehend that my death was the only reason I was ever alive. But even in my unsurety, I was confident that if I lived my life as Jesus lived, when everything was said and done, I would have lived a good life. Even if I had "nothing" to look forward to after I died, I would have lived a good life. So I said the prayer (that compulsory prayer that every real born again Christian is required to pray - it's right out of the Bible ... somewhere) and was converted.

As far as following in the way of Jesus I think I have the sarcastic part down and I'm getting better at seeing more in people than they see in themselves. Although I'm sure Jesus is pleased that I don't honk that annoying Renault horn at people with bumper stickers anymore, I'm pretty sure I've let him down a time or two. But even though I often think I would've been more successful at being a self-absorbed pleasure seeker than I have been as a Jesus follower, I guess part of my faith is that I still believe Jesus sees more in me than I see in myself.

And as for that endless list of pleasures I'd given up? I have no regrets. In fact, I've found so many others I have a hard time even remembering what was on that list now.


  1. "Stand Ups" is what we called the little routine we'd use to intentionally deprive our brains of blood in order to knock ourselves out. This is an example of the kind of ideas our primitive brains generated in order to ensure they remained primitive.

  2. I was never much into Valhalla Manures or Saturday night grape-feasts or any of that sort of stuff. I was always to chicken to puke/spill my grape juice all over somebody's parents new carpet.

    Even towel paper won't get that out.

    I will admit that those people did seem to have all the fun.

  3. I like your stories. I always feel like you digress a lot, but then you totally hit me with a, "I totally just spun it around to where we started!" move.

  4. TOWEL PAPER! (for the record I just choked on my cranberry juice)

    Anyway, I was thinking about how this post, and you giving up all your honking, dirty punk ways makes me think a lot about the discussion that was had at Not Church about "Roll Away Your Stone." The part about bridges having been burnt, but that's the way that grace works. Sounds to me like you probably helped my boys write their song, I guess.

    And, it also reminds me of a comment you made about two or so years ago on a bunch of questions when my husband jacked my comp.


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