Speak To Me of Tongues

I woke up this morning thinking about the church I grew up in. Boy were there a lot of crazies there. I think it still exists. I'd link it, but you all would make fun of me. This church was absolutely huge in the eighties. It was a non-denominational church called Eagles Nest. My dad was an administrative pastor and was over the children's ministry, marriage ministry, and the women's ministry. I think. He may have been over other stuff too. I used to have to stay for both services, all my siblings and I. We lived an hour or more away and had little money so we only had a hatchback back in the days and all of us (all seven) had to pile in it. It was a very uncomfortable drive because my sister and I would sit in the trunk. We also had to sit a certain way in the trunk in order to fit. Our heads could not really peek out to see out the window, so we just ducked down some and talked the whole way there. The worst part of the whole thing was getting out. I am certain we looked like all the clowns getting out of the little car. Some people would comment. I was just so embarrassed. Eventually we got a big nasty van the church gave us, but that is another story.

The people at the church were very interesting. They were filled with the Spirit, you know, so they did weird things during praise and worship. I remember people slithering and quaking, gyrating, jumping up and down, etc. One guy looked like Orville Redenbacher and he would always sit on the right side of the pews. During worship he would get so excited that he literally would "pop" (he would jump as high as he could and clap his hands once) and so he definitely won the name. A couple of ladies in the front would have tambourines that had ribbons on them a number of feet long. They would lift the tambourines up as high as they could and sing at the top of their lungs---except they did not sing what everyone else was singing. They sang some horrible "AHHHHHHH!!!!!!!" in unison and you could hear them clear from the back. They were like, the tambourine power twins. I could literally go on forever, the craziness does not stop.

Like I said before, we all had to stay for both services. The first service I would sit in my own Sunday school class, and the second service I would either help out with the toddler's class or sit in the service. The toddler's class is where I learned to change raunchy diapers, and the service is where I viewed all the unruly adults. What is really crazy is we were sort of on our own. I would see my dad here and there---and my mom, but they were always shifting in and out---doing something churchy. After both services we typically were in the kitchen, so hungry that we would eat scraps of donuts but not hungry enough to eat the typical Sunday school fare of graham crackers and apple juice. I sat and drank coffee and got tortured from any adult that happened to catch me. They always said that it would "stunt my growth." I got sick of that. Once in awhile we had some quarters and would buy a snickers at the church store. Adults would torture us about that too: "Did you know that sugar is the second cousin to cocaine?" Give me a break. We would sit in that kitchen or wander around the massive parking lot aimlessly while my parents were in the pastor's lounge casting out demons or praying for someone to speak in tongues. Someone was always possessed.

Sunday school was the most interesting. I always had the most interesting teachers. One was a lady that wore TBN pins and had gold teeth. She spent one particular class pressing on our bellies with one hand and pressing on our heads with the other, speaking in tongues as loud as she could. We all felt quite a bit of pressure because we knew she was trying to get us filled with the Spirit. I hate being the center of any attention, so when she started doing it to me I just gibbered some stuff right away to get her off my back. I remember particularly one Sunday when she made us repeat back to her that if we "died tonight" we would "go to hell." Everyone just did what she said. They repeated after her and everything. Finally when she got to me I refused to repeat her words.

"Now, Rachel, repeat after me...'if I die tonight, I will go to hell.'"

"But I am not going to hell," I protested.

"Why yes you are. If you died tonight you would go to hell," she continued. "Now repeat after me..."


"Why can't you just repeat it?"

"Because I am not going to hell."
I could tell she was getting angry. She started to give me more grief about it until finally I could take it no longer.

"Fine!" I said in a loud voice. "I'll go to hell then!"

"Now that's more like it," she said.

I just waited until I got home and told my dad (who was over the children's ministry, remember?). That was the last time she taught the kids, let me tell you that.

After her we got a weird single guy named Dennis. He wore glasses and plaid shirts and jeans. When we would sing songs he would lift his arms up in praise and he always had sweat spots under his arms. He loved to make us do art work (probably because he was incredibly inarticulate). His goal was to get drawings of every Bible story (of the OT) that we studied up on the walls enough to cover them. This was something that I did enjoy because I was particularly good at drawing and so everyone made me do the really hard parts to draw. Around that time Julio, I am assuming an autistic kid, started coming to class. He was ridiculously energetic. I remember Dennis would have his hands full with him and he would get sick of it.
"Plant it, Julio!" He would yell when things got hot.
The best thing to make Julio do would be to make him draw. He was amazing. The biggest problem was to get him to actually want to draw the Old Testament stories. We mainly had to suffer through listening to him talk about the weird things he was drawing, like Stevie Nicks. I had no idea who Stevie Nicks was back then. I just remember this kid sitting with papers drawing these elaborate drawings of Stevie Nicks in utter peril.
"This is my drawing of Stevie Nicks about to be eaten by alligators!" He would spit out. I would look at the drawing. There was definitely a woman, gagged, and tied to a chair on a plank about to be eaten by the alligators with open mouths, below. She always had a frightened look on her face and some sweat jumping off her brow. So that was Stevie Nicks. I had no idea. He could not explain it to me either. I thought he hated Stevie Nicks. He drew her dangling over a pit of fire, about to fall off a building, you name it. He drew it. Class after class he had a new one that he was excited about.

So, if Stevie mysteriously dies in the future by some guy named Julio, I knew him.

Did I mention that this church was in Southern California? That explains it a little better.

1 comment:

Des said...

PLEASE WRITE MORE abut growing up in this church! It is a rich and fascinating story. Having attended a few snake handleings as a child and going to a Born Again church with my "Spirit Filled" aunt as a teenager, I want to hear more, more, more!
I think you are the one with a book in you - a cross between Running With Scissors and The Exorcist.