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Geezer Up (Part 9)

Jane

Jacob Cohen (J.C.) Bates and his wife, Shira, waited for me in their BMW outside San Francisco International Airport in the passenger arrival zone. I noticed J.C. packed on twenty extra pounds to his five-foot seven-inch frame, but it did not detract from his rugged good looks. Shira stood a couple of inches taller than him, but the difference seemed even greater because of her model-like figure. Both were Messianic believers and servants of Yeshua the Messiah.

“Shalom, Jane,” said J.C., jumping out of the car and greeting me with a hug and a kiss. “Here, let me put your suitcase in the trunk.”

“Thanks and shalom to you, J.C.,” I said, handing him my black suitcase.

“Even though this may not be the best of times for you,” said Shira, standing outside the BMW’s passenger door, and also hugging and kissing me, “I was so excited to see you again that I went out and spent J.C.’s money on this new black sweater. But as usual, you win the fashion prize with your blond hair, Levi jacket, and khaki slacks. You look fabulous.”

Her gracious words should have reddened my face, but instead, I broke down and wept. Shira hugged me even tighter.

“God will turn your mourning into dancing,” she whispered.

“I sure hope so.”

“Let’s keep moving,” shouted a TSA agent, walking toward J.C.’s car. He pointed at us with a black baton to emphasize his point.

We obeyed and took off for their home.

 

If you have ever wondered what type of home three million dollars would purchase in San Francisco, J.C. and Shira’s condo on the fourth floor of a prestigious address in Nob Hill would be the answer. Twenty-three hundred square feet, three bedrooms, two baths, hardwood floors, gourmet kitchen, dining room, large family room, and captivating views of Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge through floor to ceiling windows. The furniture and decorations looked like they had been selected by a top Bay area interior decorator.

Shira served a tossed salad with grilled chicken for dinner, but I only moved the food around on my plate without eating much. As soon as possible, I excused myself and headed for the guest bedroom. There I unpacked, hung up my clothes in the closet, and sat down on the bed without changing out of my traveling clothes. Somehow, I closed my eyes and dozed off.

Then, I had a terrifying vision.

In it, I stood before the Judgment Seat of Christ. I wasn’t alone because hundreds of other believers stood there in numerous rows, waiting for the Judge − Jesus − to appear in front of us. I watched Him off to my left walking down my row with a torch in His right hand. He stopped in front of each believer, looked down, and lit piles of what looked like grass and sticks at the feet of each person with His torch. The piles burst into flames. Then, the piles quickly burnt out to reveal gold, silver, precious stones, or nothing but scorch marks on the ground. Those who had precious metals and stones bowed down and worshipped the Lord. Those who had scorch marks wailed and screamed like they were in hell, even though they were in heaven.

I looked down at my feet and saw a puny pile. I knew this small heap represented all of my works done on earth for the Lord. Not much for a whole lifetime, I thought. A holy fear enveloped me.

I turned and looked at the person next to me and realized it was a successful Christian businessman, whom I greatly admired. He was an elder at Jedidiah Smith Community Church, Sunday School teacher, weekend street evangelist, and well-known benefactor. The newspapers were always reporting on his philanthropy and works.

I watched Judge Jesus bend over and light the businessman’s pile with His torch. The pile quickly burnt out to reveal nothing but scorch marks on the ground. The businessman fell to the ground and wailed at the top of his lungs. His screams echoed through my mind.

Oh no, I thought. If this businessman’s life did not please the Lord, how will mine be any better?

The Lord stood in front of me.

I looked into His eyes and knew His love was not on trial, but mine was at that moment. He bent over, ready to touch my puny pile with His torch.

“Lord, give me a second chance,” I pleaded.

He looked at me without straightening up. His torch remained close to my pile. “And what would you do differently?”

“I will serve you night and day without complaining. If need be, I will crawl across San Francisco on streets filled with broken glass to be Your ambassador. I will gladly carry cups of cold water to people and minister to them as Your servant.”

He straightened up and looked me squarely in the eyes. His love melted every hindrance in my heart. “Remember to do your works to please Me, not to please others like the businessman did during his life. He received his reward on earth. Go and be My servant.”

I woke up and immediately slipped off the bed onto my knees. I worshipped the Judge, King, and Lover of my soul − my Lord Jesus.

(Continued in Part 10…if you’re interested, the full series to date may be seen here.) 

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Geezer Up (Part 8)

Jane

Because of my standby reservation, I was the last person to board the Virgin Airline’s Airbus A320. One hundred and forty-five other passengers walked ahead of me to their seats. I looked at my boarding pass − Row 24 Seat B − and tried to look over shoulders and heads for my seat, but my five feet three inches of stature hindered my efforts. I eventually arrived there, lifted my black suitcase into the overhead storage compartment, and squeezed past the outside passenger’s long legs into the seat.

The young sailor with a shaved head in Seat A by the window looked up from his iPad and nodded at me. The lanky man to my right, sitting by the aisle in Seat C, paid no attention and opened his iPad, connecting to the Internet through Virgin’s free WiFi service. Both put headphones on as soon as the plane taxied toward the runway.

I reached down and pulled a Michael Connelly paperback novel out of my purse, but the Harry Bosch story failed to hold my interest for long. My mind kept wandering back over Dylan’s and my off-the-beaten-path spiritual journey.

It all began when Dylan walked out of Jedidiah Smith Community Church on that first Sunday in June three years earlier when the new pastor preached his first sermon. Dylan explained that he couldn’t listen to another sermon while he ignored the Lord’s voice telling him to branch off into a different type of church ministry. That different type of church ended up being a home church, which we called Last Chance. Two senior couples joined us in the new venture: Phil and Faye Strawmeier and Vinnie and Gracie Nguyen. Both couples had been our closest friends for years. Others joined our house church so that the original assembly now numbered eighteen people.

But it was Pamela Walter’s words to Dylan and me just before she died which stirred Dylan’s heart. “The Lord wants the Last Chance groups, like yours, to spread all along the West Coast, from San Diego to Seattle. He wants to use senior citizens as His last chance army to touch millions of people −” she said.

Dylan interrupted her and explained we didn’t know how to do something like that.

I still remember her words: “Shush! Of course, you don’t, but He knows how to do it. Fast and pray and He will show you.”

Then, she died.

Dylan focused his life on obeying Pamela’s prophetic words to us from that moment forward. He fasted, prayed, studied the word, and continually sought the Lord on what we needed to do. His seeking led to three new groups being started: one in Hemet, Lake Elsinore, and Corona.

I went along with whatever Dylan wanted, not because I heard the Lord’s voice for myself or even felt impressed to do so. I just trusted that Dylan heard the Lord’s voice and followed him. Maybe I caved in too easily rather than seeking the Lord on my own.

But when Dylan said he felt the Lord wanted us to plant Last Chance home churches in San Francisco, I was shocked and nervous. As he spoke his vision to me, I comforted myself by figuring it would be years before we reached the Bay area. Yet, two days later, he received an invitation to speak at a Business Men’s Fellowship luncheon in China Town. He left a week later, hoping doors would open for Last Chance groups in San Francisco.

I watched him leave and waved at him, but in my heart, I prayed nothing special would happen. I hoped it would be a nice trip for Dylan but nothing more. Nothing more at all.

Maybe you think I’m selfish and maybe I am. But I am seventy-three years old and so is Dylan. I want to get off this spiritual merry-go-round and enjoy life again. Do some traveling to Branson, Lake Tahoe, Las Vegas, and even Paris or London. I want to enjoy our sunset years without worrying about jail or confrontations. Why not? We deserve it, don’t we?

(Continued in Part 9…if you’re interested, the full series to date may be seen here.) 

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Geezer Up (Part 7)

Jane

“Hi Jane, I’ve been expecting your call,” said J. C. as he answered my phone call.

“Hi, I figured you would.”

“You probably want to know what happened?”

“Right! Dylan said that it was no big deal, but he’s the master of understatement. So, fill in the gaps between hate crime, no big deal, and a broken nose.

J. C. laughed.

“Well, as you know Dylan spoke and gave his testimony at our businessmen’s noontime luncheon down in China town. There were about thirty men there. All enjoyed his words and I’d say it was a great success.

J. C. was the owner of Bates Properties, a commercial real estate firm in San Francisco. His success caused him to seek ways on how he could give back to the city he loved. He ended up being involved in Business Men’s Fellowship and became the chapter president.

“After the luncheon, I was driving him to Mission Terrace to spend some time together before I dropped him off at the airport. We were heading down Market Street, past the Castro District, when we saw a Pride parade. He asked to stop and watch. I pulled over and walked across the street with him.”

“So far,” I said, “everything seems okay.”

“Yeah, nothing happened until Dylan stepped off the curb and began preaching in a loud voice, ‘Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.'”

J. C. paused for a moment.

“Then everything happened at once. A couple of guys pushed and shoved him. Another hit him in the face, knocking his glasses off. He fell to the ground and quite a few kicked him. Two police officers came over and inquired what was happening. A man said that Dylan was preaching hate. One officer asked Dylan what he was doing and he replied he was preaching the Gospel of the kingdom of God. They cuffed him and threw into a police cruiser and took him off to jail.”

“That’s all my sweet hubby did.”

“Yep and he even forgave the crowd before he was ushered away.”

We talked a few minutes more. J. C. offered to pick me up at the airport and wanted me stay in his home with his wife and him.

I agreed to his offers, but I still had an unanswered question gnawing at me.

(Continued in Part 8…if you’re interested, the full series to date may be seen here.) 

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Geezer Up (Part 6)

Jane

My wife, Jane, can best explain what was going through her mind from the time of my phone call until the arraignment:

The first thought to cross my mind when Dylan phoned was to give him a big piece of my mind. We had planned our forty-sixth anniversary trip to Tahoe for months and even paid a nonrefundable deposit on a five-bedroom home on the beach. Our three children, their mates, and our eight grandchildren were going to be there, too. All of us in one home on the lake for seven days. It was a dream vacation and how many more of these could we expect to have in the years ahead? I could have chewed nails when I hung up, especially after him saying that it was no big deal!

I slammed the phone down and screamed.

That’s when the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart, “Quit acting like a baby. Call the lawyer. Get on a plane and fly to San Francisco. Dylan needs you.”

I fell to my knees and wept.

“Forgive me, Lord.”

But without missing a beat, I jumped up, phoned Jacob, our lawyer, and made standby reservations for a flight on Virgin Airlines out of San Diego International Airport to San Francisco. My flight’s departure was scheduled for 5:15 a.m., which gave me just enough time to pack and make the sixty-mile drive from Temecula to the airport.

Bluetooth allowed me to make four important phone calls on my trip. The first three were to our children, telling them about Dylan’s situation. The words “hate crime” never ricocheted off my tongue, but instead I termed it a slight misunderstanding, one that a lawyer could easily handle. We would see them on Saturday and have a big laugh over Dylan’s latest faith escapade. The three had questions, but I pooh-poohed their fears with a couple of quick Bible verses.

When I finished calling the three, I looked down at the speedometer. Ninety miles per hour! Jane Matthews: beloved wife, caring mother, doting grandmother, and committed believer of Jesus was acting like Mario Andretti at the Indianapolis Five Hundred, passing everyone in sight. I tapped on the brakes and slowed down to seventy-five miles per hour. A police car with a radar gun sat at the next exit.

“Thank you Jesus,” I muttered.

Then, I phoned J.C. Bates. Someone needed to fill me in on the details about Dylan’s arrest and J. C. was the man who could do just that.

(Continued in Part 6…if you’re interested, the full series to date may be seen here.) 

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Geezer Up (Part 5)

Dylan

The heavy-set bailiff with a booming voice announced, “The People of San Francisco against Dylan Matthews.”

Almost with a snap of a finger, I stood to the right of Artie Chin while a junior prosecutor stood on the other side of Chin. Judge Ester Strong sat directly in front of us. The sixty or so year-old judge looked down at the file in front of her and then over at me. A slight smile crossed her lips for a nano-second before she resumed her judicial posture.

Back and forth legalese-filled salvos from the prosecutor and my lawyer ended up with Chin saying, “My client enters a not-guilty plea.”

“I’m inclined to allow Mr. Matthews to be released on his own recognizance, without bail, but I do want to ask him a couple of questions,” said Judge Strong, leaning forward and staring into my eyes. “What will you do if I set you free this morning? Will you go back to Temecula and return for your preliminary hearing in two weeks?”

Three possible answers crossed my mind at that moment: forty-sixth anniversary trip to Tahoe, playing with grandchildren, or enjoying a few rounds of golf with my buddies. All would have pleased the judge so I could have walked out the door into the sunlight once again, but they all evaporated into nothingness. What came out of my mouth caused a reaction much like dropping a live grenade into the courtroom.

“I will walk out the door and go directly to the Castro District and preach the gospel of Jesus Christ to that community. They deserve to be set free from the kingdom of darkness by the love of Jesus.”

Judge Strong stood up and pointed a finger at me. Her judicial mask slipped off her face, revealing her inner feelings.

“Mr. Matthews, you have no right to impose your self-righteous religious beliefs on our gay and lesbian communities. I will make sure your bigoted beliefs cost you dearly by setting your bail at one hundred thousand dollars and remanding you to our county jail. What do you think of that, Mr. Matthews?” she proclaimed loud enough for everyone in the building to hear her.

I shrugged.

“I shall not pay one dime nor allow anyone to raise money to set me free nor will I eat another bite of food until I am set free from this jail. Whether I walk out the door or am carried out in a casket is up to the Lord, I shall trust Him to set me free,” I replied.

“Well, we’ll see about your so-called God and how your arrogance holds up two weeks from now at your preliminary hearing. Next case.”

My lawyer escorted me back to the small holding pen.

“Maybe you would have answered differently if I would have warned you ahead of time that Judge Strong is a lesbian and staunch leader in the LGBT movement,” he whispered.

I laughed.

“Probably not.”

Then, a voice cut my heart.

“Dylan, Dylan, I love you…”

I turned to see Jane waving at me. She looked great in her yellow dress, one of my favorites, but all I could do was nod my head and wonder about what she was thinking.

(Continued in Part 6…if you’re interested, the full series to date may be seen here.) 

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Geezer Up (Part 4)

Dylan

If someone would have asked me, “What do you want for your last meal?” It would not have been soggy cornflakes, warm milk, and awful coffee, which I ate for breakfast that morning. Sugar helped me endure the blitzkrieg against my taste buds, but my stomach demanded calories to halt its rumbling sounds. At the time, it was a dismal meal, but in the days ahead, I looked back on it as a pleasant repast. It’s funny how hunger can distort one’s memories.

Forty-five minutes later, the jailer stood in front of the holding cell with a clipboard in his hand. “Listen up men,” he said, looking down. “Ramos, Soto, Delgado, Valdez, Trujillo, and Matthews − you are in the first group to be taken to the courtroom. Your arraignments will begin at 9 a.m. If you have a lawyer, he will meet you there. If you don’t, a court appointed lawyer will handle your arraignment.”

He spun around and walked away.

I did my best to wash my face and clean up in the sink, but there was no mirror to help me in this task. I looked at the others in the holding cell and figured I looked better than some and worse than others. Oh well, I thought, this is as good as it gets for me today.

 

Two deputies guarded us as we walked over to the courtroom’s small holding cell. I sat down with the five homies on a metal bench and faced the empty courtroom. The clock on the back wall read − 8:34.

“Matthews.”

I looked up and saw a man wearing a dark suit and white shirt standing in front of the cell. He had short black hair and seemed to be of Chinese or Korean heritage. He motioned for me to come near him.

“I’m Artie Chin. Your lawyer, Jacob, referred me to you,” he whispered.

“Thanks,” I replied.

“You are charged with a hate crime for preaching to gays. This is a new law by the San Francisco City Council and went into effect three weeks ago on June 1st. The good news for you is that you are the worst possible test case for this law −”

“Why?”

He blew out a deep breath.

“You’re a retired seventy-one year old man, not an ordained preacher, have no ministry, and have no history of preaching or writing against gays. They’re after bigger fish than you.”

“Okay, what do you think I should do?”

“I’m sure you will be released on personal recognizance. No bail required. You will have to promise to show up in court in a couple of weeks, but I think I can get the charges dropped altogether. The judge may ask some questions, but probably not. You should be a free man in about sixty minutes.”

His words would have encouraged me if the Holy Spirit had not spoken to me a few hours earlier. I prepared myself for bad news.

(Continued in Part 5…if you’re interested, the full series to date may be seen here.) 

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Geezer Up (Part 3)

Dylan

The afternoon turned into evening and the evening into night. The only change was the fourteen people that joined us in the holding cell. The newcomers forced me to make a decision between sitting with murderers or with vomiting drunks and strung-out druggies. I chose the five MS-13 homies and behaved myself.

Do you remember how bad school lunches tasted when you were in first grade? Dry bread, chalky-tasting peanut butter sandwiches, and soggy potato chips served with stewed prunes and a dollop of day-old whipped cream. All of it ladled out on a yellow compartment tray.

Well, let me tell you, my first bite into the peanut butter sandwich made me yearn for the good old days of first grade. I gagged and spit up a mouthful into a napkin.

“Hey, old white man, about three in the morning, you’ll be wishing you ate this garbage,” said the youth with the teardrops tattooed under his eyes.

I shook my head and offered my tray to him. He took it and consumed both his and mine. I admired how he and his friends adapted to their situations without so much as a single complaint. I supposed being in jail was just a normal part of their lives.

But the smell!

Nineteen guys in a ten by twenty room with vomit, diarrhea, normal toilet usage, and BO swirling around us without a fan to alleviate the stench. My poor stomach tried its best to unload itself, but somehow everything remained below deck. Steady as she goes, I thought to myself in a moment of humor, which quickly passed

And sleeping!

If I leaned back, my back hurt because of the iron bars, but leaning forward moved my nose closer to the vomit and diarrhea on the floor. I compromised by slouching down like an old sweater midway between both positions. I dozed a little here and there throughout the night, but around 3 a.m., I had a vision.

In it, I was seated high above the city of San Francisco, maybe in the heavenly places looking down on the city. I heard the Holy Spirit speak to my heart, “I am going to use your time in jail as an opportunity to take on the spirit of depravity, which is the main principality governing San Francisco. Be bold and allow me to speak through you. I will give you more than enough grace for this experience.”

I then fell into a deep sleep, comforted by the gift of faith which enveloped me like a warm quilt.

(Continued in Part 4…if you’re interested, the full series to date may be seen here.) 

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