Monday, July 17, 2017

God Rescued Me from the Whale of Traditional Church

I have written (much) earlier that I grew up in a good church. It was a traditional church. We loved Jesus, we praised him and tried to serve him. We prayed fervently, but particularly, about healing, we didn't expect anything from God. Healing was for doctors. Certainly, we didn't believe that the Charismatic Gifts weren't for today; they disappeared after the Apostolic Age. We (I) was comfortable with this belief -- I thought. But there was something missing in my relationship with God -- he just wasn't real to me.

Worship at my home church was almost micro-managed. We would start on time, end on time and everything would happen on time -- no interruptions. One Sunday, as usual, I was seated in the choir loft. Our biggest chore, other than singing, was to look awake and interested in what was happening. Well, on this particular Sunday, we were awake and interested. Early in the service, Mr. X, got up from his seat and walked to the foyer. He was clutching his chest. As he got to the foyer, he lay down on a couch (there were windows to the foyer, so we could see everything.) One of the ushers quietly entered the sanctuary and got Dr. Y. The service went on -- most people didn't notice anything. Dr. Y looked at Mr. X and shook his head. During the sermon, the undertakers arrived and took possession of the body of Mr. X and left. The sermon continued, followed by all 150 verses (yes, I am exaggerating; it just seemed that long) of Just as I am and then, finally there was the benediction. At this time, before dismissing the congregation, the pastor said, "During the service, Mr. X expired and his body is now at the Z funeral home." No prayer, no seeking healing, because nothing could stop the service. I don't mean to mock my church. It was a good church, but this is just the way it was; a Super Traditional Church.

Linda and I moved to San Diego, along with our infant son, Ricky. I had attended both First Baptist Church of San Diego and First Presbyterian Church of San Diego, while I was single. I assumed that this is where we would worship. But my long time friends, John and Paula Pletcher had other plans for us. They wanted us to attend the First Baptist Church of Chula Vista. But, they also warned us that the pastor, Ken Pagard(sp) was a Charismatic, "you know -- He speaks in tongues." Well, I had been in those kind of churches before -- story another time -- and I wasn't going back to one of those churches again. John and Paula were patient and gracious. They started by taking us to a party with people our own age. We liked them, so we began to attend church. No one started rolling in the aisles or screaming -- they just worshipped the Lord. Ken was a wonderful Bible teacher and there was just something about him. I was hooked. A few years later when the gifts of the Spirit manifested in the service, I was not offended. Linda and I still had not experienced this -- but we were opened. We had been rescued from the traditional church.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Finally! We Finally got Married

As my last few postings have indicated, I didn't move very fast in the courtship arena. From first date (Dec. 1960) until marriage (July 24, 1965) was almost 5 years. During that 5 years, I had been in Westpac three times, Panama once and numerous local operations. Of course I had also been in Norfolk VA for the year prior to our marriage. We had known each other since I was 10 and she was 5. We had dated for almost 5 years. Wow, they must have really known each other. Wrong! After the wedding it was, "Who is that woman?" Of course she was saying, "Who is that man?"

When I went to Norfolk in July of 1964, I reported to the USS Mahnomen County (LST 912) as Executive Officer. Shortly after reporting, I learned that the ship had been chosen to be a test and evaluation platform for a new class of LSTs to be built with a completely new concept. LSTs were essentially floating box cars about 300 feet long that could carry a load of tanks (or other vehicles, even about 1000 tons of cargo.) The original LST had a shallow draft in the bow which enabled the ship to run up on a beach, open her bow doors, discharge her cargo, retract and head back to sea. The new concept was for two massive derricks to be installed on the main deck to deploy a 75 ton ramp out onto the beach. The tests were successful -- a new class of 20 ships was built in the 70s using this concept. I will discuss this in some later posts, the only issue related to our marriage is that these tests were very important to the Navy and even necessitated a postponement to the wedding (three weeks before it was to take place) and caused me to be very busy after the wedding. Here is a picture of the ship when we were involved in the final tests.

We were engaged during the Christmas season of 1964. I then returned to Norfolk to continue my work on the ship. We finally were able to set the date for our wedding, so I flew home to Bellflower a week before the ceremony. This was a busy week. We had to do all of the normal things, get a license, blood tests, get fitted for tuxedo etc. But, the Pastor wanted us to have some marriage counseling also. This was pretty easy since the counseling was composed of watching three little film strips: Sex, Child rearing and Money. I was insulted -- but, what were my alternatives. I was 28 years old and had been a Zoology major in college. Sex! Really! Well there was a lot I could have learned, but that film strip wasn't going to do it. We didn't have any children, so that was a worthless exercise. Finally, money (actually I could have learned a lot here), Linda was a bank teller and I had been on my own financially for 10 years. The thing I really learned from this exercise was that pre-marital counseling was important enough to do something meaningful. This came in handy when I became a pastor. No Filmstrips!

The wedding was going to be a fairly large affair, so we all got together for the rehearsal in Friday night, July 23rd. The rehearsal went well, so we went to my mother's house for a small buffet dinner. Nothing fancy and didn't cost much. I recommend it. Here is a picture of the wedding party. 

Saturday, our Wedding Day dawned bright and cheery -- but I was completely panicked! What was I doing. You can't imagine how much I feared making a commitment like this. My parents and my grandparents had both been divorced. I saw from observing my parents' divorce that this wasn't pleasant. I didn't want to repeat this, but thought it inevitable. Then my best man, John Pletcher came over and we went out and played golf. I calmed down -- and we did it. The ceremony went well except that my best man dropped the rings and they clattered down the aisle. Oh well, there should be at least one thing that goes wrong. I will finish the marriage weekend in the next posting. Meanwhile here are the rest of our wedding pictures:

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Our Courtship -- Conclusion

I am so sorry that it has been so long since I have written. I apologize to any readers out there -- but I need to apologize to myself also -- I really have a lot that I want to say, but discipline is a problem. Anyway, here goes: Linda and I finally make the commitment.

As I mentioned in the last posting, I left for Norfolk, VA; by myself. Linda did leave me a crumb of hope though. The morning I was to leave, I stopped by her house and she gave me a box of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies. She had me there; I knew she cared. I put gas in the car in Bellflower and left my gas credit card there. I had plenty of money to eat and stay at motels along the way (because I could charge my gas.) But, when I found out that I had no credit card, the situation changed. I did stay in a motel in Las Vegas the first night. I thought that I might still be alright.

The second day, I wanted to make it to Denver. I did, but something was wrong with the car. I can't remember exactly what happened, but I had to get the car repaired in Denver. There went all my spare money. I was holding my breath that I could get gas all the way across. I had already decided that I would stop at my Aunt's house in Cincinnati, so I drove non-stop to her house -- about 26 hours. She helped me out so that I could get to Norfolk.

Linda and I continued to correspond and I even called her once in a while. Then, in September we had a conversation something like this:

She -- "Did you mean what you asked me when you were here?"
Me -- " I don't know, what do you mean?"
She -- "Well, you asked me. . . ?" 
Me -- "When I asked you to marry me?" 
She -- "Yes, that is what I mean." 
Me -- "Of course I meant it."\ 
She -- "The answer is yes."

Wow, she wanted to marry me! We made arrangements for me to go home for Christmas. While there we got a ring and we were officially engaged. We were to be married in July of 1965. I must interject here that I have done a lot of premarital counseling. I wouldn't advise this couple to go through with it. Think of it. After early January, 1964, I saw here briefly in June of 1964, was with here for two weeks in December of 1964 and then didn't see her until the week before our wedding in July, 1965. To make matters worse (remember Linda had never been away from home), we were married on Saturday, spent Sunday with the family, flew to Norfolk on Monday and I went to sea on Tuesday. More about the wedding and subsequent turmoil next time. 

PS. I hope it the next addition will follow quicker than this one. 

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Our Courtship -- Part Three

Writing about my courtship with Linda is almost as tedious and slow as the real thing. I apologize for my laxity in writing. I know that I don't have a huge readership, but I apologize nevertheless -- and I especially apologize to myself. Linda and I have had a fairly tough year; mainly because of some of her health issues. I would like to report that she is doing very well. I am getting organized, so perhaps I can finish this story.

In my first posting about our courtship, I said that I would fill you in on something that changed the whole dynamic. Our dating history was quite spotty. I was stationed in San Diego and went to Bellflower whenever I had a free weekend. I always came with the idea of dating Linda, but there was the problem of my mother who just loved Linda -- and Linda's mother. "I hope you are going out with that sweet Linda Carper." That ended it, I would call someone else; a rebellious son. But we did continue. We would date a little and spend time with each other at church functions. I was already sure that she was the one, but I didn't want her to know it. I had commitment issues. Everything changed in the fall of 1963 just before I was leaving for deployment to the Western Pacific. I had extended my active duty in the Navy in order to make just one more cruise (at that time, I didn't really have any intention of making the Navy my career.) Linda and I were parked on Sunday night, just prior to my departure. She told me that she had no desire to continue in our relationship in the way it was going. I sputtered a little, but did tell her that I would like to change. And I did.

I began to write her regularly and talked of our future together, but I was still cautious. I signed every letter with Your friend, Richard H Hensgen. After all, I didn't want her to get the wrong idea! Then I made the fatal mistake of sending her a book from the US Naval Institute, "Welcome Aboard." This was a book for new Naval Officer wives. Unfortunately, it was written in the 1930s and was seriously out of date. My desire was for her to realize that I was serious, but, she read the book -- big mistake. She read the chapter dealing with the husband away on deployment. It went something like this:

It is inevitable when your husband is alone on a long deployment that he will be lonely. You will hear of his dining and dancing with beautiful, exotic women. Don't worry, this is perfectly natural. Just continue to trust him and keep to your normal routine. You should never be seen in the company of another man. Make sure that you are seen every week at church. Then welcome him home with joy and happiness.

Linda reacted quite badly at this. How bad? Well, I started my deployment in January, 1964. This was to be my last deployment in the Navy, but then the Navy threw out some bait and I was hooked. A message came in offering "high performing" Lieutenants Junior Grade to volunteer to be Executive Officers aboard some newly recommissioned LSTs. This sounded good to me, so I volunteered, was accepted and extended for two more years on active duty. I was accepted in June and had to report to my new LST, the Mahnomen County, in Norfolk, VA in late July. So, I flew home from the Western Pacific in order to spend a little time at home -- and spend some time with Linda. We had a good time and, shortly before I had to leave, I proposed. I was confident -- of course she would marry me! But she said, "I don't think so." Whoa! I didn't see that coming. I was disappointed and left for Norfolk, chastened and dejected. 

Well, we are almost there in our courtship -- I will finish next time. 

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Our Courtship -- Part Two

.I almost forgot in the first part that the Navy also put one more distraction in the way of our continued slow, but almost constant move toward real courtship. In October, 1962, the Cuban Missile Crisis intervened. It was Sunday, Oct. 20 when I was returning to San Diego after a weekend in Bellflower that I really became aware of the problem. Oh, I had read the papers and new that something was up, but this Sunday changed everything.

After church on that Sunday, I started south on along Interstate 5 (still not complete all the way south). As I passed El Toro Marine Base, I noticed that there was a long convoy of Marine vehicles heading into the base from the south -- presumably from Camp Pendleton. As I continued toward San Diego, the convoys became more and more frequent, it was like one big convoy from Camp Pendleton to El Toro. I may be a little slow, but it occurred to me that maybe something was up. Then I passed Camp Pendleton, in Oceanside and now I saw convoy after convoy ahead of me heading to San Diego. Now I was really concerned.

When I arrived on the ship, no one seemed too concerned, it didn't affect us.  JFK was scheduled to speak on Tuesday. When the speech began,. most of the officers were there and we were really anxious to hear what he had to say. After stating all of the facts, the President said something like this, "After reviewing all of the fact, I have come to the conclusion that our only option is to declare. . ." My heart stopped, I thought he was declaring war on Russia. Well, he almost did, but the words that completed the sentence was "a Naval Quarantine." This was bad enough. But, it didn't directly concern us. We had were already loaded with practice ammunition for exercises. We were scheduled for some minor repairs and then some local operations. We watched television, talked for a while and went to bed.

My room mate, Ltjg Bill Rich, was the Communications Officer. We were surprised by the Petty Officer on Watch when he entered our stateroom at 0130 and said, "Mr Rich, we just received an important message that there is a meeting for all Communication Officers to meet on the First Fleet Flagship at 0300 (3 AM). This was really out of the ordinary. Bill came back about the time I was getting up. I asked him what was happening and he responded that we had been assigned to a Task Force which would consisting of the Amphibious Vessels loaded with Marines en route to invade Cuba and escort vessels (including us) to protect them as the traveled to the Panama Canal. We would be leaving on the following Saturday -- but don't talk about this is all Secret at the moment. 

I have never seen anything like San Diego that week. Ships were moving back and forth to North Island and back to the Naval Station 24 hours a day. We were unloading practice ammo and loading a "war load" throughout the night. Everyone could see that something major was happening. But, no one really knew what and when. The Captain informed the officers that we would leave on Saturday, but we were told that it was so sensitive that we couldn't inform our wives or anyone else that we were leaving. The crew wasn't informed at all. I'm not sure that Linda really believes me, but I wanted to call her -- but I didn't. 

Finally Saturday arrived. We were scheduled (before everything changed) to go alongside a pier for some minor repairs (we were tied to a buoy in the middle of the bay). We let loose of the buoy and began to steam out of the harbor. Since I was the Engineer Officer, I was down in Engine Room One -- you can't see where you are going down there. One of my men said, "Seems like a long time to get to the pier. I hope we hurry because I parked in a two hour zone." A lot of stories like this. Some wives even packed up and moved back to there parents (not that morning -- but as time went on.) Finally, the Captain's voice came over the 1MC and announced, "We are leaving for an undisclosed destination and will be gone for an undisclosed amount of time. I'm sorry, but that is all the information that I can disclose." 

That first night, around mid-night, the alarm sounded that we had an unidentified sonar contact. "Set the Sonar Attack Team." It wasn't 10 minutes later than the General Alarm sounded, "No General Quarters, General Quarters, all hands man your battle stations." Our hearts were pounding what is happening. Then the announcement continued, "Fire! Fire!" I hit the main deck and it look like the entire after portion of the ship was on fire. As I had not been relieved as the Damage Control Office, I stooped at Damage Control Central. The first report, "Fire in the uptakes, We are abandoning the Forward Fire (Boiler) Room." Second Report, "We are abandoning the Forward Engine Room." Then, lastly, "The magazines are heating up, so we are preparing to flood them." What on earth was happening? Well, it was a big scare, but it turned out to not to be serious. We cleaned things up and the rest of the voyage was just slow and tedious. We never discovered what the unidentified contact was -- certainly not an enemy submarine.

As we were en route to Panama the situation had resolved. Kruschev had blinked. The crisis was over. It was the closes that I had been to a real war. This was also one more thing that slowed down my pursuit of the pretty Linda Carper. I think that we would have been a lot further along, if this hadn't happened. 

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Our Courtship -- Part One

As I mentioned in my previous posting, I was not really a fast worker. In spite of the glacial pace of our courtship, I think we both knew very early on that she/me was the one. I will also add that a mitigating factor was a highly demanding Navy that was not conducive to my slow pace of courting.

Our first date was in December of 1960. Our next date was in the Summer of 1962. Oh, we saw each other at church -- we sat together -- went together to after church gatherings, but even these were scattered because of the Navy. What took so long? Well, I need to make a side track into what was going on in the Navy side of my life.

After our first date in December, 1960, I returned to Newport RI to complete Naval Officer Candidate school. I graduated on April 3, 1961 with the rank of Ensign, USNR. I was given leave and returned home for a few days. I know I saw Linda, but nothing really happened. Toward the end of April, I reported to San Francisco for transportation to Westpac (Western Pacific) to report to the USS Ingersoll (DD652). I flew into Clark AFB in the Philippines, went by bus to Subic Bay only to find out the ship was at sea. I was sent to a Navy Tanker for a few days in the hope that there would be a rendezvous with the Ingersoll. Finally after three days, we met the task group.

The task group was led by the USS Bennington (CVS 20) and the destroyers of Destroyer Division 212 which included the Ingersoll. It was determined that the Tanker would refuel the Bennington, but not the destroyers. How was I to get to the Ingersoll? Well, I was transferred by high-line to the carrier and spent the night there. The high-line is something like a zip line between two ships in the middle of the ocean, about 100 feet apart and traveling at about 12 knots (15mph). The ships are rolling back and forth, so the line is pulled high above the water one moment and then the rider (me) is almost in the water the next minute, not quite a thrill ride -- but it does have its moments. One difference between this and a zip line is that the high-line is considerably slower. I had to stay on the carrier that night.

The next morning, the carrier commenced refueling the destroyers and I got to enjoy another high-line trip, but this time to my new home. I'll never forget the first words of welcome as I arrived on the ship: "Get the Bleep, Bleep out of here. You are just in the way." I had no idea what to do or where to go, but I did get out of the way. I soon began to find my way around and felt at home. We were in Westpac until June when we returned to San Diego. At this time, I wasn't writing Linda, so we really had  very little contact since December. Certainly now, since I'm home, I am ready to spend some time with Linda, right? Wrong!

The ship wanted me trained in my new job as Damage Control Assistant, which was one of the major jobs in the Engineering Dept. of the ship. So, shortly after our return to San Diego, I went to Treasure Island which is located in the middle of San Francisco Bay. I was there all Summer. I still wasn't corresponding with Linda -- remember, no cell phone, no computers -- only snail mail.

Finally it is the Fall of 1961 and we began to see each other fairly regularly on the weekends when I could get away long enough to travel to Bellflower. We didn't do anything official, but we were talking. I might add that one of the other impediments to our romance was my mother. My mother loved Linda and Linda's mother. I would arrive home and my mom would say, "I certainly hope that you go out with that nice Linda Carper." I would immediately call up another girl and go out with her. I was a little rebellious and, perhaps it was the fact that I agreed with my mother that Linda was nice -- I just wasn't sure that I wanted to get too involved with a nice girl at that point.

But even this stage in our relationship didn't last too long, because by October, we were preparing for another Westpac cruise. We were actually to leave in January, but we had a lot of training to do before then. I will skip my travelogue about the cruise and just say that we were gone from January through July of 1962. Linda and I still weren't writing.

After our return, we went back to our pattern of seeing one another until the end of the year. It was either December or January that we went on our Second Date -- it really was our First Date. We went to Hollywood to see Lawrence of Arabia. I think it was playing at the Egyptian Theater. We began the date with dinner at a real nice restaurant in China Town. I had a great time. It really was special. Now, after two full years, we were finally dating -- don't get too excited. I was still pretty slow -- we weren't seen everywhere as a couple -- but, it was a start. Next time I let you know what changed the situation.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

How did I meet my Wife?

That's easy! I have know her since I was ten years old! Not so fast -- the story is a little more complicated than that. Let me start at the beginning. We moved to Bellflower when I was ten year s old -- almost 11. The whole family started attending the First Baptist Church after I was baptized. One of the girls that I met in my Sunday school class was Eleanor Carper who had two other sisters (but they were just little kids!) I did meet the little kids also because my mother made friends with Eleanor's mother, Zelma. Thus, I became acquainted with both Linda and Donna, although I certainly didn't notice them much at the time.

Eleanor became a close friend during high school. She was a year younger than I but we were in several classes together at school and we were both in the honor society. But, as with most of my friendships, it was the church that really kept the friendship alive. We were both leaders in the youth groups, both in Jr. High and Sr. High. We actually dated a couple of times -- but I think that we both knew that we were just good friends and that was good enough. Our friendship continued in our college years, even though she went to (ugh!) USC. I had to attend an opera for Music Appreciation class and Eleanor went with me. My vocal teacher wanted me to learn to pronounce French for my singing -- she was quite proficient in French -- but even with her tutoring -- I didn't get French! All during those years, I was aware of her little sisters, but awareness was all there was -- after all I was a mature college man! (I should probably also add that I was a proud UCLA man.)

Then I joined the Navy! I still considered myself a friend of Eleanor. I remember running into Eleanor in San Francisco in the Summer of 1961. We had dinner together -- but by then I had begun to notice that little Linda was growing up. It happened when I came home for Christmas leave from Naval Officer Candidate School. The week after Christmas, one of my friends, Richard Serafini, said that he and his girl friend were going to Big Bear for the day and maybe I would like to make it a double date. He also mentioned that he and his girl friend thought it would be nice if I went with Linda Carper. OK -- sounds alright with me. Wow was I surprised. She certainly had grown up! I really enjoined the day. I have to add that, as much as I enjoined being with her, I don't move fast. This was December, 1960 and we didn't get married until July, 1965. Commitment didn't come easy for me -- but something happened on that one day. I think I knew even then that she was the one.

To be Continued!