Thursday, March 31, 2011

Chapter 12: Salvation

For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.
--From the Gospel of Luke

Chapter 12: Salvation

I found my focus midway through chapel and after more caffeine and food for lunch, I was ready to go until my lunch settled and it was getting difficult to pay attention during Dr. Kreider’s theology class. I actually enjoyed his class and was slightly annoyed that I wasn’t able to fully engage. Dr. Kreider was one of those professors that made me always guess as to where he stood. Sometimes I felt him the most liberal guy on the planet, other days he made me look liberal.
The one thing that I liked about his class is that he really didn’t care if you surfed the internet while he talked. Most days, I would go online and verify all the random facts that he would call out and inwardly would argue with him. Usually I’d find Wikipedia verified his claims. I know Wikipedia isn’t the end-all-be-all of understanding, but at least it agreed with everything that I knew.
As I was checking up on Dr. Kreider’s facts, emails from Don started popping up.

Wed 11/14/2007 11:11 AM

Hey thanks for your attitude last night. You’re a one man show, and for some reason you’re tripping me out with your talk of life never being the same again after attending your church—and meeting you. Well you didn’t say that last part, but it was definitely inferred. What the hell, Chris?  Fine. You may win.  I’m tired and exhausted and over emotional and I don’t know why.

Wed 11/14/2007 11:55 AM
You wrote in some of your rants last night, “You will know God, but your entire world is about to unravel. Sorry, wish it could be better.” Sorry? That’s what you have to say, after putting your guilt/fear trip on me? I cried when I went home. I was sad and confused. I prayed. I won’t go into details with you. At the moment, I’m waiting to hear from McGregor first. He’s the guy who has been with me since the beginning. I do want to discuss some details with you about being a Christian.

Wed 11/14/2007 12:32 PM

Wed 11/14/2007 12:58 PM
Are Christians just not available except by appointment only? I can call any drug dealer, hustler or sex master in town on a moment’s notice—but you guys are invisible. I guess you just have to be a club member. I’ve reread all the notes that were passed last night. Some had merit and I’m paying attention.

This torture thing of Don had affected him so much he was emailing me every thirty minutes from work. He reminded me of a teenager so in angst about a first date that he had to call and check to make sure he was doing everything right. Something must have really riveted his soul. But whatever it was, I was getting annoyed that he felt that all of the Christians on the planet needed to drop everything and come right to him in his crisis.

From: Chris Plekenpol
Sent: Wednesday, November 14, 2007 2:59 PM
To: Don Dent
Subject: Re:

For crying out loud, I love you man. Drug dealers and sex hustlers want something from you. I want to give something to you. Just like sex hustlers and drug dealers have multiple customers, so do I.  Sharing the Gospel is what my life is about. I also am working on a Master’s Degree from the Harvard of Seminaries.
Give me some grace and let's set up a time to meet. Right now I am working at the seminary. Tonight I am going to mentor that 17 year old kid again. Can you do lunch tomorrow? I’m totally excited about getting to know you. Thanks for the patience at my inability to be all things and available at all times. You are a blessing and an answer to prayer. I am so excited to see what God is going to do in your life. You are special. You are chosen, and I am glad that I can be the supporting cast to watch God make you his.
In Him,

Don wrote me back thirty minutes later.
Wednesday, November 14, 2007 3:29 PM

Hi, thanks Chris, I too enjoy knowing you. Why? I have no idea, just masochistic tendencies I guess. I have the gym tomorrow afternoon, but anything can be rescheduled.  I’m going to talk with McGregor later today he too is usually unavailable. I know you’re studying and I don’t want to be intrusive, I just don’t know any Christians besides you, McGregor and Scott Michael. I actually in a way trust you.  God help me, I prayed last night to your God—really I did.  So you want to call me later and set up a time to meet? You can leave a voice mail if I don’t answer or send an email. I don’t text. That’s for you young guys.
I went to the library after class and continued studying Greek and preparing different papers which I had to complete. Don blew up my cell phone with calls. He left a voicemail that I promised myself I would check later, but for the time being I had to focus.
The great thing about the library is that there is free internet. The bad thing about the library is there is free internet. A couple hours into my time there, Don shot me another email.

Wed 11/14/2007 6:11 PM
Chris, last night when I arrived home from dinner with McGregor after the James class and after all the notes you so rudely wrote me, I recalled them and the conversations we’d recently had. I know I have barely known you for a month, but you have made a huge impact in my life. I prayed last night to your God, for him to be my God. For him to accept my apologies for what I have done wrong and that I was tired of all the questioning and bull****. I asked his forgiveness and asked to follow him wherever that may lead. I know I’m not saying this correctly, I’m only speaking as I know how, I told him I was sorry he died for me and that I didn’t think I was worthy of it, but for that act I respected him. I thought, ‘****, how can I as an out-gay activist possibly be my own enemy.’
I went to McGregor’s office and personally told him so I’m only telling you too. I don’t care who you tell or what you do with the info. You two, had the most impact in my life. It’s odd that I’ve only known you a few weeks, yet we are so comfortable.  I’m old enough to be your father, so I can say that I’m proud of you.

I sat in the library not sure if I should weep openly or do a dance or what. There was nobody in the library that I could really tell. It was so bizarre. The emails—the talks—Don. The Holy Spirit came and did his thing. That’s all I could figure. God used my prayer to save Don—or something. I thought about his gayness and if God might change that. Getting Don to church was a miracle in itself. God please change him.
Before I could respond to Don, he sent me another email.

Wed 11/14/2007 6:19 PM
Now, I hopefully will still get your abrasiveness but just about other things. You can help me learn Christian—IF YOU WANT.

From: Chris Plekenpol []
Sent: Wednesday, November 14, 2007 8:15 PM
To: Don Dent
Subject: Re: thanks
In the depths of my soul there is no greater joy. You know it is moments like this that I get all excited and jumpy. Not that that really is much different from my normal visage. God is doing amazing things in you. It’s almost scary. I am so honored to have some small part in this whole thing. It’s quite the amazing story. God is good. 
 Would you like to meet tomorrow for lunch? Also, would you mind sharing what you did at the bible study on Monday night? I know, Scott, the runner guy who doesn't believe nor can he understand anything would probably benefit a lot from what you have to say.
I love you man. I am so glad and happy that you are now going to be in heaven. I am also excited to see how God uses the rest of your life! Praise God from whom all blessings flow!
 This is good. This is very good.
in Him,

After another hour of trying to study, I decided to leave. Excitement bubbled within as I contemplated Don. I picked up my cell phone as I got into my Saturn.
“Hey Chris, so glad you called.”
“Don, I can’t believe it, congratulations! What happened?”
“Well, I told you in the email and the voice mail that I left earlier. Did you listen to it?”
“No, as soon as I got in the car, I called you.”
“I’m really surprised at your and McGregor’s enthusiasm. It’s a shock to me that you consider me a big deal or the situation in general. I know it’s something for me personally but to think that you two guys who I actually respect are excited amazes me and baffles me.”
“Yeah. I am fired up. Tell me, Don, what exactly did you pray last night?”
“Well, I just want make sure you understand what you did.”
“McGregor asked me the same thing. Why are you guys hung up on my prayer. Is there something specific I had to pray?”
“No, just tell me what you prayed.”
“I apologized. I told him I was sorry for my life and sorry that he wasted any of his life by dying for me. I felt so guilty, or full of remorse. I couldn’t believe that He would die for me, Chris. It still chokes me up a little.”
“I still don’t understand what is so wow about it.”
“Yeah Don, it’s just that—I don’t know—I didn’t expect it.”
“Yeah well it happened. I can’t believe I am one of you people now. Listen Chris, I need to go. I can’t do lunch tomorrow, but would love to have coffee with you and McGregor tomorrow evening.”
“Ok just tell me where.”
“I will call McGregor tomorrow and let you know.”

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

chapter 11: Torture

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.
--From James’ Letter to the Twelve Tribes Scattered Among the Nations  

Chapter 11: Torture

After the Bible Study ended I had to leave, but I felt a burden to pray for Don.
“Hey Don, I gotta roll, but I need to pray for you.”
Don didn’t move, so I took that as acquiescence.
“Dear God,” I started. “Please reveal yourself to Don. I know that he is confused and that he is in need of a savior. Father, make it so clear to Don tonight that you love him. Help him to see that he is a sinner. Show him that you went to the cross for his sins and Lord, please send your Holy Spirit to him. Don’t let him sleep tonight without giving his life to you. In Jesus Name, Amen.”
Don looked at me blankly. I wondered if that two sentence prayer had any affect. I loved to pray those kinds of prayers over prisoners whenever I did jail ministry. Sometimes they would lie awake all night and just be desperate for God. I don’t know why I’m always surprised that God answers prayer, but it is kind of funny to think that God would answer my prayer for one guy to make him stay awake all night to ready him for salvation.
 “Hey Don, I gotta go,” I said turning to leave.
“What, you’re just gonna leave? What the **** did you just do?”
“I’ll explain later. I got a kid to mentor and a Greek paper to knock out.”
“Who’s the kid?”
“His name is Kevin, and he is 17 and ironically struggles with homosexuality. I am trying to point him towards Jesus.”
“Struggle? Why would he struggle?”
“We’ll talk later on that, Don. Gotta jet.”

I walked out the door and headed for my Saturn. I put Don out of my mind for the moment and focused on spending time with a 17 year old that I mentored. I had mentored him when he was 12 and 13 while living in Georgia. His mother had moved to Dallas and now we were reunited at 17. His mom had made me his Godfather. I didn’t really know what that meant, but I guessed I was the one responsible for his growth in Christ.
I also had a Romans paper to knock out. Romans Five. Sin entered the world through one man and death came to all men through one man Adam. Judgment followed that one sin and condemnation came to all. It looked pretty bad for mankind, but then came grace through Jesus who provided righteousness and salvation to all. If I think about it too long, it could bring tears to my eyes. I really believe it. This is why I loved to spend time with Don. I wanted him to see salvation. I didn’t deserve the gift, but when I got it, I wanted nothing else.
I spent time with Kevin and then finished my paper real late. My alarm woke me and that desire to tell mom, “I need five more minutes,” came over me, only it had been 12 years since I could last do that. I made it to class, Wednesday morning, groggy with a need to keep my eyes open, so coffee in hand I connected to the internet and downloaded my email.

Tue 11/13/2007 11:28 PM
CHRIS, I don’t even know how to express what I feel towards you , Its revulsion , mixed with arghhh, You make a mockery of everything decent, You’re soooo arghhh! If I had my torture equipment I would take out all my anxiety over you on some poor soul.  NOW, ABOUT THAT PRAYER THING YOU ATTEMPTED tonight. Did you pray for me, and if so, what was it? Do I have a right to know or am I being rude? This is new conversation for me, unchartered waters. McGregor and I went to dinner afterwards, like we do, and you were definitely a topic of conversation.
The pathetic thing was that Chris actually backed YOU over me!!! DAMN BOTH OF YOU! I DON’T KNOW WHEN I’VE ACTUALLY HAD SUCH AN EMOTIONAL EVENING! TONIGHT I WANTED TO CRY! Have you seen a grown man cry? It’s not pretty, that’s what all the issues did to me this evening. I explained my life to McGregor in terms I’ve never used. He already knew a lot of my life, but tonight I put things together spiritually and saw where and how I came to believe as I do. I don’t think there’s any way out. I’d like in all honesty to be like you—well, like you believe—I respect you.
Damn, you’re insane, you know? We have only known each other a few weeks and yet we have this incredible camaraderie, is that normal for you? Do you have several friends like me? How did the mentoring go this evening? I would be glad to be supportive of that kid—Even if it was just telling you my experiences to tell him. I’m exhausted and way too fragile to keep typing.
Good night.

I sat and stared at the email trying to piece together Don’s fragmented mind. I wondered what had transpired last night that he would have had such an emotional evening. I guess he had paid attention to the prayer. He wasn’t a Christian yet, at least that is what it appeared to me. God was definitely doing something. Dr. Toussaint in one of our chapels told us that whenever a person is asking questions about God and faith that is the Holy Spirit working on them. Well it seemed the Holy Spirit was torturing Don. That was never my intent—well maybe it was—it was definitely cool to see him squirm under the power of the Gospel as I squirmed at his stories of being gay.
God give me wisdom here I prayed, trying to focus on the lecture.

Dating: Is the silver bullet a myth?

No, it is not a myth. If you are in a fish bowl environment which most Christian circles are, then you will have to deal with the silver bullet. I know many will scream and say it isn't true, but reality will soon cause you to face your fears.

The silver bullet is you get one shot at bagging the right guy or girl in any fishbowl. Once you start officially dating a person then you are now labeled as that person's. This doesn't make it right, it just makes it true.

Now the problem with the silver bullet it creates a lot of guys never committing to anyone. And why would you? Once you have stepped over the line of interest to more than one girl, you will be labeled a player. It takes about a year of no public contact to start to erode the perception that the binding of two has been loosed in the fishbowl. Even a simple siting of two people the same vicinity or facebook post may cause all to view you as still with your silver bullet mate.

Now the silver bullet does prevent a guy from outwardly advancing on multiple women. Oh sure you can think of several guys like that, but that just proves the point. You avoid that guy or simply think, he's not serious. That creates a problem for myriad man and he must go out of the public eye to do his work which can make him dangerous.

Ladies, here's why, if you have ever received a text from a guy you just recently met that has no real content, but is just looking to chat on text, you can be rest assured there are three other girls getting the same text. A great question to ask is...who else did you send that text to?

More ramblings to follow. I'd love to know your thoughts on the silver bullet.

Chapter 10: Freak

Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick
--From the Gospel of Luke

Chapter 10: Freak

The next morning I woke up bleary eyed. I threw on a polo, a pair of khakis and made my way to my Bible Exposition Class. I couldn’t help but connecting to the internet and downloading my email—multi-tasking keeps me awake. I received a message from Don. I smirked to myself when I looked at the time stamp.

Tue 11/13/2007 12:55 AM
Chris, thanks for a lively evening. Nothing like sharing coffee with a schizophrenic homeless guy and two relatively cool Christians and a clean/sober drug addict, gay ex-hustler (who is old enough to be your father). What the hell? It was cool and surreal. I hope the generalized, more sterile answers to your inquiries don’t stop you from sharing yours beliefs, I enjoyed the group. The amount of people was unnerving just as the Tuesday night group is. I’m not comfortable with the crowd and to be honest it’s scary to feel alone or like a freak.
That’s kind of how I felt tonight, talking with “ya’ll.” You had prayed for an opening to the gay community, and here I am. How obvious is that?  My life irritated you, if you want to be around us you need to be able to accept where we come from. It may be graphic, but I cut out all intimate information. I’ve listened to straight guys be graphic all my life I don’t back away and go, “Ewwww stop.” You still both grimaced.
 I knew I was not one of you, I knew whatever I said I could NEVER FIT IN. All I have ever wanted was acceptance. I won’t get graphic, but there are some things in my life that are not vanilla, most of my life isn’t vanilla and it would shock most regular gay guys so am I a freak? I don’t know. I never intended to bring up my sexuality, I never thought it was a motive in my quest, I still don’t, but now that the Pandora’s box has been opened—I can’t close the lid.
I will still maintain my privacy until you can handle more info, I’ll answer any question honestly, but I didn’t know how to share my experiences in a way that wouldn’t make you think I was a freak, I don’t know if I want to be a freak. I just want to watch and learn from you guys about how your life is working. You have sex issues—everyone does. It’s no big deal. I realize you never met anyone like me, but I am not special within my peers. I never want to say things just for the shock value—although I definitely could.
 My past is just that—a past. It’s what made me the person I am today. I think, to know someone, you need to understand the road they took to arrive where they are. I’m willing to know as much of your life as you are comfortable with, I ask only the same of you. I WAS AMUSED/DISMAYED THAT YOU HARD CORE MILITARY TYPES, WOULD BE SQUEMISH ABOUT TWO GUYS HAVING SEX.  I respect you. I would like to earn your respect.

For a moment I was worried someone in class might see that I had an email from a gay man talking about having sex, but all listened to the professor, played solitaire, or a combination of both. I contemplated my next move with Don. He showed interest, and I wondered if I could push him toward the Gospel—hard. I smiled at that. God was working in Don’s life and there was no escape for Don. A part of me felt sorry for Don as I realized all that was about to change and the emotional strain God might have in store for him. Another part of me tingled with excitement about another front row seat into the mystery that is the Lord changing lives.
I wrote Don back briefly and told him I wanted to talk and that I would definitely see him tonight for the final James Bible Study at Fellowship Church. I then tried to focus on Dr. Bramer for the remainder of the lesson. In between classes I walked outside as a breeze blew red, yellow, and brown leaves into a small whirlwind around me. I called Don.
“This is Don.”
“Don, this is Chris.”
“Well, great to hear from you. I received your email.”
“Great, what did you think?”
“I don’t know that I am a route to my gay brothers. Chris, I won’t put them in emotional danger. You have no idea what we have endured at the hands of you Christians over the years. But if I begin to trust you, I’ll be comfortable with you and that would make you a friend—I don’t mind introducing a friend to other friends—but not a preacher.”
“That’s fair, Don. I just want to be your friend.”
“Well, I’ll be honest, I did feel like the circus freak show after I left. It was too much. I haven’t been in a vulnerable setting in decades—probably should be more often.”
“Yeah, me too.”
“I was in the hot seat. But you didn’t know that, I mean, how could you? The only familiar things there last night were the knives and fork, dishes, and the building. Both of your backgrounds, goals, and conversation—it was all foreign. Although, that homeless guy may have been familiar to you, not personally, just the type.”
“Don, last night was definitely different. You’ve got to remember, I have never met anyone like you with your history. I mean most guys I know talk about how we want wives and kids and to make it. Sn’M doesn’t even factor into conversation,” I said.
“You’ll be a good family man, Chris, one day soon,” Don said and paused. “You reacted differently to my talk of sex. I’ve listened to straight guy’s big tit talk, and various other things. I just accepted them as normal, but when I brought up sex with men, you both freaked.”
“Don, that’s slightly different. But I’ll be frank and candid with you. It’s only fair I guess. Is it normal in the gay community to just start talking about sex like that?”
“I admit my life isn’t normal, even within the gay community. Sn’M scares a lot of people. I’m pretty mellowed to it all after being around 30 years. There’s not much I haven’t participated in. Voyeurism has always bored me.”
“I need to participate,” Don reiterated.
“Well, I think God has something he wants you to participate in. I think he wants your soul and whatever God wants, he gets. I don’t think it is a coincidence that you want to talk to Christians all of a sudden. I think God is wooing you somehow. And once God starts working in your life, He is kind of like a freight train that can’t be stopped. He is going to get a hold of you.”
Don laughed out loud. “You think that I may become like one of you?”
“It’s possible, God can do anything.”
“Oh ****! Chris that’s funny. That I might become one of you and start telling people about Jesus! That my friend—will never happen. I will never be as assertive as you. But then who the hell could be?”
“Then why all the God talk?”
“I’m not saying I can’t change or I wouldn’t be taking your time and mine with this quest. But there is one thing I do know; I will never be spiritually obnoxious. It will always be a private matter.”
“Am I spiritually obnoxious?”
“Well you did have to use a wheelbarrow to bring in that huge family bible of yours into Starbucks.”
“It’s not that big, Don.”
“Bull****. That was the biggest Bible I’ve ever seen. It might as well have been a stretch hummer. You are a crazy Christian. I’ve talked with you. I like you. I’m okay being myself around you. But you are so off the wall, I can’t describe you.”
“Dammit, you’re overwhelming and overbearing, generous and friendly and a good communicator. You have integrity, at least so far. You listen and watch and your enthusiasm for life is infectious. I see an insecurity about something, but your cockiness is covering something.”
“Oh yeah, what’s that?” I said smiling into the phone.
“I’m not an archeologist, you can do your own digging, but you are real, and I enjoy that. But I will say there is something about you that drives me stark raving mad.”
“Um, thanks.”
“Hey Chris, I need to get back to the shop, I look forward to seeing you tonight. I thought I was more a sadist than a masochist, but I guess it all equals out in the end.”
“Okay Don, I look forward to seeing you too.”
We hung up the phone and I realized that I had walked half a block down the street totally engaged in the conversation. I looked at my watch and realized I only had a minute before I had to be seated in class for Dr. Hoehner’s Romans’ lecture.

That night during the James class, I wondered if McGregor might get upset at the two kids that wouldn’t shut up and were disruptive. I started to write notes to Don so that he wouldn’t whisper in my ear his questions.
Don scribbled on a piece of paper, All this class is, is just treating people right, why do I need a God for that?
I wrote back, Then why are you here?
Don scratched back, **** if I know.
I then wrote, Don, I want to tell you to run away from this place as fast as you can. You have your happy little life in the gay ghetto where everything runs like clockwork and everything is peaceful. You can avoid us Christians pretty easily except for the weirdos who scream at you and tell you that you are going to hell on Saturday nights. Sorry about that by the way, my brothers in Christ mean well, they just suck at communicating—anyway God has got you. There is nothing you can do. He is like a freight train and you either get on board or get run over. There really is no other choice. He has chosen you.
I knew when I wrote that I was on the verge of speaking for God and may have been a bit heretical. But as someone who really believes that once God reveals himself to you, your only decision is to follow him, and seeing the evidence of God in his life, I knew it to be only a matter of time, before Don came to the striking realization that everything he knew was about to change. I wondered if Don knew that to, as the note he passed back to me was written in extremely large letters.
* * * *  Y O U !
It was almost poetic.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Chapter 9: Background

They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity—for “people are slaves to whatever has mastered them.”
--From Peter’s Second Letter to the Churches

Chapter 9: Background

“So Don, tell me about your family growing up,” I inquired.
“I am from a family of crazy people,” Don started. “My parents divorced when I was eleven. My mother reared my sister and me here in Dallas. She is one of you people: a devout evangelical Christian. But back then she was really off the wall backwoods underground Christian who believed in Bible and healing, women being submissive, and taking us to strange camps in the woods where revivals would last all weekend. There would be screaming and loud praying. I was scared to death all the time. We lived in the inner city and were poor but not broke. We always had clean ironed clothes and went to private Christian schools. Mother somehow got us scholarships. We were the poorest kids in very affluent schools. Some schools were more theology based, some were college prep, but all were Christian.”
“Hold on Don,” I said. “You said you didn’t know what sin was, but now you’re saying you went to Christian schools. Where’s the disconnect?”
“I can regurgitate the words, but that doesn’t mean it makes sense to me. I don’t understand your God and why he is so hung up on this thing of sin—Like who cares.”
“Okay, go on with your story. Just wanted more clarity,” I said.
 “My life was surrounded and engulfed by this theology. I knew nothing different. That was my adolescence. Prior to my parents’ divorce we lived in a small town 35 miles south of Dallas. My father’s family was rural. My father worked along with my 5 uncles for my grandfather—He had a trucking company.” Don took a long sip of coffee as Scott Michael and I finished our chicken fajita salad and Brazilian burger.
“Hauling cotton in the 40s, 50s, and 60s made him pretty rich,” Don continued. “He was the big fish in a small pond.  Having rich grandparents was nice—it was the only thing normal, since the kids in school were rich. My neighborhood kids were poor and mostly Mexican. I didn’t fit in—anywhere. My father was the oldest son of 7 children. For a wedding gift my grandparents built mother and daddy a garage apartment behind their home to be close to them and the trucks. I felt very happy. I looked up to the truck drivers and my uncles were teenagers—James Dean, Marlon Brando types.
“I became fascinated with Levis, boots, and dirty greased guys back then.” Don continued and I tried not to flinch or make a face. “We had a farm—about 400 acres. Daddy would take me out there. I’d watch him drive his tractor and bulldozer around. It was nice.” Don paused again and drank his coffee.
“The only bad memory I have of my father was a beating he gave me for not eating my vegetables, he locked me in the bathroom, took off his belt and whipped me. I screamed and it seemed to last forever. Mother was in the hallway outside the door banging on it, and begging him to stop.” He paused sipped his coffee and looked past me. “I haven’t told anyone that story.”
For a moment I wondered why Don trusted Scott Michael and me so much. I mean we just met the guy and had supposedly been the enemy to him as the Christian evangelicals and now he felt comfortable to share his whole life.
Don continued, “After high school I moved back to that town and lived with my grandparents while I went to a local college. I still did the church thing, but not an evangelical church. It was more of a social church, all the prominent people attended. My grandparents, being prominent, gave me clout. I liked that and used it, too.
“I started drinking during college and went to a couple of different colleges before quitting. Continuing my education in drinking and debauchery was more fun. This was mid-1970s. Disco was invented and it was brand new, Chris. I loved the lights and music—and drugs. I, at that time, was still a virgin—I think. I may have had sex with a second or third cousin, but he was drunk and so was I—I can’t remember.
“Mid to late 70s until early 81 my life spiraled downward into a drug and dungeon filled world of sex parties. I was young, hot and extremely easy. I was the typical party boy. I loved the attention of these older guys in their 30s and early 40s. Now remember this was pre-AIDS. There were no consequences.  Life was all hallucinogens: acid, LSD, PCP, pot, mushrooms, Quaaludes, and valiums, I came out of the closet and started hustling in the sleazy, greasy leather bars in San Francisco and Dallas.
“By coincidence, back in Dallas, I ran into a girl that I had dated as a security blanket in high school. She had always had a crush on me and I liked her, and her family. We ran into each other became roommates for a while. It had been about 8 years since I had last seen her. We’d been close then and it was easy to be close again. One day, she asked me out of the blue, ‘Don, why didn’t you ever ask me to marry you?’
“I responded without thinking, ‘Fine, why don’t you marry me?’
“The next second she was on the phone with her mother and then within five minutes they were on the phone with Neiman’s for Wedding Dresses and Silver patterns. It all spiraled out of control. I just stayed drunk not knowing who to talk to or how to stop a bride, her mother and the inertia of a Park Cities Wedding. In my lucid moments, I convinced myself that to get married was to do something acceptable and responsible with my life. I didn’t know responsibility—it was a disaster.”
“Wow, where did you get married?” I asked.
“We had a huge formal wedding at Highland Park Methodist Church, they were a socially prominent family with people coming from the resort towns in the East coast. After a year of planning, picking silver and china patterns, dress fabrics from Neiman Marcus, all the bells and whistles. It snowballed, and I was too drunk and confused to stop it. After that wedding we went to Florida for our honeymoon. I remember the wedding night, she was a virgin and I definitely was not. I couldn’t have sex—it just didn’t happen. I lay on top of her and thought, ‘if there were a hell, it would be like this.’”
I glanced at Scott Michael and he looked down.
“She was beautiful, large breasts, long blonde hair, most guys would’ve loved to be in my place.”
“Did you consummate the marriage?” I asked.
“No,” Don smiled. “I did consummate the concierge. I gave some pathetic excuse of being too drunk, and passed out. The next morning on the way to the pool, the concierge and I made eye contact. He led me to an empty hotel room and we had the only sex of my honeymoon. I then went to the beach, became very sunburned, and used that for an excuse for no sex the rest of the trip—yeah it was weird.
“I fortunately wasn’t going to run out of vodka.”
“Did you get divorced or what happened?” Scott Michael asked.
“We had the marriage annulled. My mother in law came into the apartment and found me and a bartender from a leather bar, nude on the bed with a can of Crisco and a paddle. I didn’t even know his name and proper introductions were a moot point by that time.”
I couldn’t help but laugh. “That is crazy, Don.”
“It was—my marriage was over and my life was ****. I didn’t know what to do with myself. I met a rich older man and he became my sugar daddy. I had everything that a young gay guy could ever want outwardly. I had the perfect life. Cars, restaurants, hotels, drugs, and clothes. He had a penthouse in a luxury high-rise. I kept an apartment on a lower level. In private I was being tortured. I never knew when the abuse would stop.”
“What do you mean abuse?”
“I was his slave. He would hit me just randomly, just to show his power over me. He would loan me other men to have sex. He would talk to me like I was a piece of ****. I remember him throwing a glass ashtray at me. He barely missed, I couldn’t help but think if that would have hit me, I would have been severely hurt.”
“How did you get out of that?” I asked.
“I was 26 and during my time with him, I started going to AA. I got a phone call one day a little over two years into our relationship. I’ll never forget it. I had my foot in some guy’s…” Don continued the story and I cut off the visuals as he described the most bizarre and disgusting thing that I am sure would have made the average gay man quiver. I couldn’t imagine how Don had the capacity to do such twisted things with another person. Don continued.
“Someone from the hospital called and told me that Bill was dying and I needed to get there.”
“I don’t even know what to say to that,” I said.
“Bill’s death freed me in a sense. He had reinstated the manners and civility of my childhood. I was socially acceptable and now, a much higher class hooker and I promised myself I would never sell myself that I would never be owned by anyone. I might sell myself, but I would never be owned. My trade was primarily Sn’M.”
“What do you mean by Sn’M?” Scott Michael queried.
Sadomasochism,” I said.
I was good at it. Eventually AIDS and maturity took a heavy toll on my life. The extreme loss of so many people, friends in such short time was overwhelming. Sn’M prostitution, and my AA group were the only things I knew, I found a real job, had a real lover and he died. Then I met the man I’m with today. I love him and he loves me. We have built a good life—almost 18 years now and we own a home and a business.”
“The Vintage Clothing shop,” I said.
“That’s right,” Don said.
“Hey guys, I think I need to jet. I actually have to work tomorrow,” Scott Michael said.
“Well, I guess we will have to hang out again and hear more of your story, Don,” I said.
“You two can’t handle it, every time I mention having sex with a guy, your faces get sour,” Don responded.
“Don, we wouldn’t want to get graphic about heterosexual sex if that makes you feel better, I mean I think we get the point when you mention Crisco,” I said.
We paid Seema and tipped her well and headed to our cars. On the way home I wondered what I could expect with Don. We gave awkward hugs to Don and Scott Michael and I walked to our vehicles.
“I don’t know what to think,” Scott Michael said playing with his keys. “AIDS, family disowning him, drugs, male prostitution.  Shivers went up my spine as he talked about that. This little man has been tormented through so much of his life. I can’t get that out of my head. Good God, Chris, I mean, I’m glad for the opportunity to share part of his life with this lost soul, but I’m still skeptical that this will really amount to anything.
“I don’t know either, bro. I’ll see you.”
I didn’t know if I wanted to get to know his world. What would it cost me in terms of reputation? I mean those stories alone are things that you could never repeat among Christians or civilized people. It was too—dark.
But then, I wondered—is that what the tax collectors and prostitutes talked about when Jesus hung around them. No wonder the Pharisees were a bit perturbed. They might have overheard what Jesus was allowing to be said in front of him and thought he was condoning their behavior.
I wish Matthew, Mark, Luke or John would have written down what Jesus was talking about inside the tax collector’s house. I wish when Jesus hung out with sinners there was a reality TV camera following him around and watching him change the world right before anyone’s eyes.
How and why did they change? I think that is the thing as I sat in that coffee shop I just kept thinking about. What made anyone fall in love with Jesus. Was it the miracles? Or was it that he listened? I mean he really listened to people. He heard them. I wondered if I had enough Spirit in me to cause people to change just by hanging out with them. I did believe that the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead lived in me. I did. That is how Rob had come to Christ—not by being argued into it, but by recognizing the power that lived in me.
If Jesus could stomach it and extend grace and love, what choice did we as Christians have but to do the same thing?

Chapter 8: Dinner

Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
--From the Gospel of Luke

Chapter 8: Dinner

Café Brazil was crowded as always. I smiled at Seema as she pointed us to a four top by the coffee bar. She then came by and took our orders. Don looked at me and asked, “You guys don’t pray before you eat do you?”
“What?” I asked.
“Pray, you don’t pray before you eat do you? I hate that. It gives me the “heebie jeebies.”
“We sure do and since you’re here with us, you gotta join.” I smiled.
“The hell I will.”
True to his word, when the food came and Scott Michael and I went to pray Don got up and went to the bathroom. When he came back, he smiled and said, “Now that is one thing you will never get me to do. Whenever I see Christians praying I can’t help but think that it is all a big show. I mean why do you do that?”
“I want to thank God for the food.” I said.
“Can’t you do that without praying out loud and bowing over your food?” Don asked.
“Yeah, I guess so.”
“Then please do that when you’re with me, or at least warn me before you pray so I can excuse myself.”
“Fair enough.”
“So Don, tell us about yourself,” Scott Michael said.
“Well, what the hell do you want to know?” Don replied.
“Well, we don’t know that many homosexuals for one,” I said.
“That’s okay, I don’t know many straight guys,” Don said and smiled.
“Well what made you homosexual?” I asked.
“I don’t know if anything made me gay. And please say gay, not homosexual, homosexual sounds—so scientific—I have been gay ever since I could remember. I always wanted to be with men and never women. I was just born that way.”
I thought about reminding Don that no one had ever proven scientifically that there is such thing as a gay gene, but I left it alone.
“You know we actually prayed for a way into the gay community. Kind of cool that you popped into our lives.”
“Why the hell would you pray that?”
“Well, for the past couple months our Bible study has been ministering to a homeless homosexual guy. He lived with me for a bit, but after a stint with drugs and not wanting to leave that life, we had to kick him out.”
“What, you asked a homeless man to live with you?”
“Yeah, well, I wanted to get him on his feet.”
“Why the hell would you do that?” asked Don.
“Cause the Bible tells us to love the poor. They are made in God’s image. If you ever want to go down to the Day Resource Center and feed the homeless, let me know.”
A man with a white tight trimmed beard looked over at us as if he was a part of the conversation. “You know about the DRC?”
“Yeah, I know about the DRC,” I said looking at the man who sounded articulate as if a cultivated business man relaxing late at night at Café Brazil in his jeans and denim shirt.
“You try the First Methodist Church downtown, they have some good chow there.”
“I know that church, it is the one that says, “I am traditional, I am spiritual, I am First Methodist or something like that?”
“That’s the one,” the man smiled. “I can usually get seconds and thirds there if I save my belly up to eat.”
I then realized that this gentleman was homeless. I laughed to myself as I wouldn’t have normally misjudged a homeless guy for a business man, but I guess I hadn’t looked too closely.
He had a red pigment to his pale skin, which Scott Michael pointed out to me later. He had deemed the man an alcoholic and possibly demon possessed. I wasn’t so sure. But I could feel my demeanor change. My patience for his talking waned.
I was sure that Don was watching us interact with this “dreg of society,” I felt like I had to be on my best behavior.  I did not want to come across as not authentic—I mean, how could I be telling Don about the love of Jesus Christ and on the other hand spit in the face of a guy that needs Him and more.
“You want to know what’s really going on down there?”
“What do you mean?” I said smiling and wondering if this might be another conspiracy that I was going to get the inside scoop on. It seemed that every homeless guy had the inside scoop on every conspiracy from the mayor to the president. I wondered for a moment if I should get the secret service on standby. The man stirred his coffee and then stuck the spoon in my face to make a point.
“Listen, the Dallas City Council is corrupt. I know people and let me tell you, they are really trying to take advantage of us poor folk. Want to move us right out of town. They’re going to see to it that they get rid of us. We need to unite.”
Don looked on in awkward wonder at what was transpiring before his eyes. I nodded at the man and told him I would get back to him on that, but right now really wasn’t a good time for uniting. He made a face and went back to stirring his coffee.
Scott Michael pulled out his iPhone and put it in Don’s face.
“Don do you ever listen to Christian music?”
“No, why would I? Are they any good?”
 “Sure, listen.” Scott Michael pulled out a set of head phones and let Don listen to Chris Tomlin.
“It’s okay.”
Scott Michael gave him another song and Don listened intently.
“It’s okay. Who is that?”
“Demon Hunter.”
Don nodded, and then asked, “I know this is a long shot and I know there is probably no way you have heard of this band, but my cousin plays in a band and I was wondering if you heard of it,” Don said.
“What’s your cousin’s name?” I asked.
“Jack Parker,” Don said, “I guess he’s my cousin-in-law. He married my cousin, Jana. He plays in a band called—****—what’s the name of it—Chowder Band—Dave Chowder or something like that.”
“David Crowder Band?” Scott Michael and I asked in unison.
“Yeah, you’ve heard of them?” Don asked shocked.
“Don, they’re like one of the most famous bands in the Christian world,” Scott Michael’s voice pitched high.
“Really? I always gave them vintage clothes, cause I couldn’t figure out how they would survive. They always gave me their CDs, but I never really listened to them. I’ll have to see if I can find their CDs.”
Scott Michael and I sat back in our chairs and just stared at Don. After regaining my composure, I decided this would be a good time to find out a little more about Don’s background.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Chapter 7: SPF7

You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me
--From the Gospel of John

Chapter 7: SPF7

From: "Don Dent"
To: "'Chris Plekenpol'"
Sun 11/11/2007 10:41 PM

Chris, good evening. Thanks again for last evening--walking outside was so cool. In Dallas, I rarely walk anywhere even around the block, I have spent lots of time in Boston where I walked everywhere. It’s therapeutic and easy talking. The conversations flowed and I wasn’t embarrassed to be in the company of Christians. Normally I don’t give a damn what people think. It’s odd to me I’d care about my image considering my background as a hustler/prostitute, addict, and things I’m not ready to divulge, all the sordid things I am okay with, but being seen with Christians, well that’s just too much. Weird isn’t it?
  I want to say something I’ve never had the inclination or the desire to say—ever. I’m PROUD OF YOU—for your military service. I can’t believe I’m saying that, had I never read your book, I would not have understood the day-to-day horrors of responsibility you had.
I am beginning to know you.  IT MAY NEVER COME OUT OF MY MOUTH AGAIN—I AM PROUD OF YOU and THANKYOU—from the core of my being. I’ll try my best to be there tomorrow. I do need to know how long this lasts. I do have home responsibilities.
My number is 214-XXX-XXXX.

I smiled as I read Don’s email the next morning. I wasn’t sure what he meant by the hustler/prostitute comment, but I figured I’d find out soon enough. My hunch on his gayness was on target. How God was going to work in this, I had no idea, but it was clear he was up to something. Here’s a guy who would rather be shot and killed than be seen in a conservative evangelical church and now he’s enjoying hearing the Gospel. Weird. God help me with this guy. I wanted the right words to say. I had invited him to my Monday night Bible Study and prayed he might accept—and oddly enough he had.

I arrived early and set up the small room in Dallas Seminary’s coffee shop, used by the President and its board to make decisions for the school. They called the room, the “President’s Room” and pictures of DTS alumni, Andy Stanley, Chuck Swindoll, Tony Evans, Tommy Nelson stared at me from their positions on the wall. I considered them superstars for their ability to clearly make the Word of God come alive. I wanted to do that one day.
My gaze left my heroes and moves to the men filing in. Bill Davison, one of the founders of this little Bible Study Group walked in. Bill’s life had been filled with hard times, hard women and hard language. He made me laugh. I loved the way the Holy Spirit was in the process of refining him. He had no qualms with being where he was, yet he was anxious for more community.
Back-slap hugs were exchanged among the men and I looked up when Don “fell” in the room. Evidently he had paused contemplating his entrance, Scott Michael who was standing behind him seeing his wavering decided to help him make his decision.  Scott Michael put his boot on his backside and gave him a hearty push.  Don stumbled in, uttering a string of profanity and looking utterly shocked.  All gave Don their quick attention.
 Don wore some camouflage military pants that he might as well have stolen from my closet where I keep my old uniforms. He had a black couple-decade old, worn leather jacket and a pair of ratty army boots. He took off his jacket revealing a black, Harley t-shirt with the sleeves torn off that read, “put your ass on some class.”
I laughed to myself as Don started barking at Scott Michael in good humored fun.  Scott Michael just smiled back at him and laughed, “Try putting your ass on that classy seminary seat instead”.
At this Bible study I set up two projectors. One projected the Bible and the other projected an excel spreadsheet that we wrote our observations, interpretations, and applications: Basic Methodical Bible Study Methods.
“Men, this is Don, he is a friend of mine from Fellowship and I’m sure several of you have seen him at church. Don, this is SPF7, which stands for Safe Place to Fall at 7pm. Anything you say here that you want to stay here, will stay here. We open up about anything and everything.”
Don looked around excited and agitated and unsure. I smiled at him trying to let him know he was welcome.
We opened to the book of Matthew and I had the men break into groups of two to analyze this Gospel. Brit Carpenter, a fellow DTS student, and a man that had walked through the trials and tribulations of reaching other men for the cause of Christ with me partnered with Don. This was intentional as I knew that Brit would gravitate towards Don.
After about 20 minutes I asked the men to report on their observations. Some read from their Bible’s notes and attached their opinions to them. At first Don was silent and stared at each speaker fascinated at their statements. At one point, Don spoke up.
“Why are you quoting General MacArthur?”
“General MacArthur?” I asked.
“Yeah, Scott Michael just quoted Douglass MacArthur as an authority on the Bible. I could see asking MacArthur about what he thought about Truman or the best way to attack the Korean Peninsula, but what does that have to do with Matthew chapter 8?”
“Not Douglass MacArthur,” I laughed. “John MacArthur—he’s a Pastor.”
The men laughed and Don joined in spite of himself and put his hands in the air and smiled.
“What am I supposed to think? How the hell was I supposed to know there was a John MacArthur? The only MacArthur I know was a General.”
The Bible study continued for another hour, the men sharing their lives, and continuing to be real. Guys shared everything from needing freedom from lust, to needing God to come through with a job. Other guys needed help in their marriage. The prayer requests puzzled Don.
“I don’t know what you could pray for me about,” he paused. “You can pray for my shop. I own a vintage clothing store and we need to move buildings. Please pray for that.”
And we did. We then walked out of the room and headed for the parking lot. Bill pulled me aside as he was walking to his truck. “You know Don’s gay and probably HIV+?”
“Yeah,” I said.
“Just makin’ sure,” Bill said as he walked away. “I like him, he is a good addition to the freak show we’ve already accumulated.”
I watched Bill walk off and turned around to see Scott Michael and Don exiting the building.
“Hey you guys want to go to Café Brazil?” I asked.
“Sure,” Scott Michael smiled.
Don looked at his watch for a moment and then said, “Okay, I guess I could do that.”