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 CafĂ© 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.”

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