It was a warm Sunday afternoon; birds could be heard chirping near my open bedroom window. Robins, finches and the occasional sparrow liked to perch on the television antenna that was bracketed to the outside wall over the garage. I remember a few years before my father died I spent one weekend with him twisting and turning the aerial back and forth just so that he could get TBN on channel 57. Sadly, when that didn't work, he ended up using aluminum foil wrapped around a set of “Rabbit Ears” perched on the back of our 27” Zenith television set.
This day, I was quietly playing church on the hardwood floor of my bedroom. My sister had left a few dolls in my bedroom from the day before. I proceeded to line them up in a half-semicircle. It was to be a small, but attentive congregation. Even though one doll had no clothes on, I promised that she would be accepted anyway. I reached to my left for the portable cassette player and plugged in the small plastic microphone. I then threaded it through the bottom of my shirt and out the top so that it could be used as a lavalier.
I cued the cassette tape just past my last sermon from the previous week. Then I simultaneously pressed the play and record buttons. I began to sing “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound. . .” The dolls raised their hands as they began to sing along. “That saved a wretch like me. . . .” Then after a rousing rendition of “Jesus Loves Me” the dolls opened their Bibles to the book of Joel. It was my favorite book because I was named after it. Quietly anticipating what I had prepared, the dolls enthusiastically listened to my every word. At the end of the sermon, the naked barbie gave her life to Jesus. All of the other dolls celebrated and eventually left my bedroom in search of roast beef and baked potatoes--the traditional Sunday feast.
Years later, I walked across the graduation stage before thousands of admiring eyes. A proud graduate of World Harvest Bible College and a lay leader in my church. A few years after that, my new wife and I had sold everything we owned excluding a few dishes and my growing library of theological textbooks. I carefully placed all our possessions into a small U-Haul trailer that was towed behind a green 1995 Dodge Intrepid. We were going to drive the 2,000 miles from Columbus, Ohio to Las Vegas, Nevada. I was going to be a pastor. I was going to be someone important. I was going to change lives.
I stood before a small group of people in the clubhouse of my apartment community, my Bible opened to the text I was to read that Sunday. I was a Pastor. It would only be a matter of time before there would be enough members to rent the empty storefront space next to the Lucky’s on Tropicana Blvd. After that, we would build our own church building. TV cameras and a Sunday morning program on the local FOX affiliate. Soon after, I would make a name for my self as the one who preached the sin out of Sin City. Suddenly, our building would be too small and we would need to build again. Somewhere near Henderson so that the entire Las Vegas valley could attend.
As gambling revenues declined the big casinos on the strip one by one would close. The whole world tuning in as I stood before thousands my Bible opened to the appropriate scripture for the occasion.
THREE. . . . .
TWO . . . .
ONE . . . . .
I pressed the large red button that had been affixed to my marble podium and with a thundering explosion the iconic Stratosphere tower came falling to the ground. A testament to the city transformed. I was going to be a pastor. I had always wanted to be a pastor. Since I was a small boy playing with my sisters dolls. I wanted to be like him, he was my father in proxy.