Thursday, December 27, 2012

Smith & Cain

In its article on Chuck Smith, the Wikipedia makes the odd claim that "In the late 1950s, Smith was the campaign manager and worship director for healing evangelist Paul Cain." Now this "factoid" gets cut and pasted, often verbatim, into many other places on the Internet. The discernment bloggers have especially latched onto it for the purpose of blackwashing pastor Chuck Smith through guilt by association, since Paul Cain is a very disreputable person, in their view.

However, Wikipedia provides no citation as to the source of this information, which may or may not be true. Smith says absolutely nothing about it is his autobiography, nor does it seem to fit into the timeline of events. So I have long suspected the connection might be just another one of those non-factual "factoids" which the Internet has propagated everywhere, far and wide.

I have often wondered about who exactly originated this story about a supposed connection between Chuck Smith and Paul Cain, so recently I did a little investigating. As far as I can track it down, the ultimate source for this story is none other than Paul Cain himself. But this brings up an interesting question. The discernment bloggers fancy themselves to be very discerning, and they disesteem Paul Cain as tainted and unsavory. So why do they believe everything he says?

One source I have been able to find is a sermon supposedly preached by Paul Cain on Sep 26th, 2004, at Rick Joyner's Morningstar Church, and later transcribed by Pam Clark. In this sermon, Cain apparently talks about the Jesus Movement, which occurred roughly from 1967 to 1972, and he says, "I remember at the height of it, I was ministering with Chuck Smith in San Bernardino, where thousands, maybe a million people got baptized in the Pacific Ocean." What he says here is entirely nonsensical. For one thing, San Bernardino is an inland city and is nowhere near the Pacific Ocean, and the city was definitely not the focal point of what was happening then. Furthermore, it puts Smith and Cain together during the height of the Jesus Movement, which almost certainly cannot be the case. It also puts Chuck Smith in San Bernardino, which is wrong since his church is located in Costa Mesa, in Orange county. Was Cain lying? Or could it be that mental deterioration has garbled and confused things? I really don't know. But his account here simply cannot be correct.

The second source is a short video on YouTube where Cain is being interviewed by a person off camera. This video is cut off mid-sentence at about 2 minutes and 33 seconds, and apparently it was excerpted from a longer recording.¹ The sound quality is not that good, and Cain talks in a rambling manner, and seldom looks directly at the camera. It is difficult to make out what he is saying, so I am giving this my best shot. In the video, Cain asserts that Smith was the "supply pastor"² for the First Foursquare Church in Phoenix, Arizona; and around that time, Cain started holding revivalist services in a sports arena in Phoenix. It was during those services that Smith served as his "worship leader" and then later became his "campaign manager." Cain says about Smith that "he even owns up to this and talks about this on tape," although Cain provides no details about this tape recording, such as when or where it was made. At the very least, Cain might be confused about the location. For according to Smith's own autobiography, he pastored a Foursquare church in Prescott for a short time, and then later another one in Tucson for about two and a half years. After that, Smith returned to California. He says nothing about ever residing or pastoring in Phoenix,³ nor does he ever mention anything about Paul Cain or working for him as his "campaign manager and worship director" during services in an arena in Phoenix. It does seem pretty clear to me that Cain is not saying that Smith ever worked on some kind of a permanent basis as someone traveling with him on the revivalist circuit. Cain does mention that he and Smith would go fishing together on Lake Roosevelt — "He's a wonderful fishing buddy." Yes, there is a lake Roosevelt lying about 50 miles east of Phoenix. But who knows if the tape that Cain mentions actually exists?

At this point in my investigation, all I can say is that Cain's account here looks doubtful to me, particularly since I haven't been able to locate any corroborating evidence that ties him to Smith. It would be decisive if a tape turned up in which Smith talks about working with Cain in Arizona, or if some of the people who went to those services in Phoenix came forward and testified. So far the one possible piece of evidence I have dug up comes from the newspaper archive of the Phoenix Arizona Republic, dated May 19th, 1956, where Paul Cain is advertised as returning to conduct revival meetings on May 20th through 23rd at Sciot's Auditorium on 3720 N. Central in Phoenix. (The auditorium is no longer there.) The newspaper advertisement gives no indication that Chuck Smith was involved, but it is also possible that this may not be the event that Cain had in mind during the YouTube interview. The article does show that Cain had been operating in Phoenix on at least one occasion. That much is true. Another instance of Cain ministering in Arizona occurs in Tucson, which was advertised in the Tucson Daily Citizen on July 4th in 1953. It was a "city wide salvation & healing campaign" at the "Big Gospel Tent" located on "South Sixth at Benson Highway." This event was sponsored by "The First Assembly of God, pastor L.G. Gilmore." Again, nowhere is Smith mentioned. However, the biggest problem with all of this is that by 1953, as best as I can make out, Smith had already returned to California with his family.

It's hard to say what's going on here. It's entirely possible that Cain is engaging in name-dropping, with the purpose of using Smith's glamorous reputation as wax to burnish his own faded stock. It is also possible that he might be remembering an actual acquaintanceship he once had with Chuck Smith, which occurred many years ago somewhere in Arizona. But as we have seen in the sermon above, Cain's memory regarding these matters may not be reliable. Whatever the reason, age or numerous health problems and so forth, his recollections might have gotten jumbled and blurred. Let every matter be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. Therefore, I think the supposed connection between Smith and Cain rests on very shaky grounds, especially when it all boils down to just the testimony of one person.

But no matter, thanks to the Wikipedia, this tenuous tale is now indelible and will be accepted as gospel-truth by thousands and thousands of people without the least hesitation.


¹ This video has been posted in numerous places at different times, apparently by different people, and it is not entirely clear to me where it actually originated. The YouTube URL that I had was to an upload by a discernment blogger, who was probably bubbling over with glee that he had found what he considered to be culpatory and damning evidence against Smith. That URL recently became inaccessible. However, a different person apparently has reposted the same video to a different URL on YouTube, which I have substituted here. The video was filmed in a darkened room, and the scene suggests to me that Cain might have been sitting in a restaurant where the lighting is kept dim, located in the interior of a shopping mall. This is a somewhat odd setting for conducting an interview, and there remains the possibility that it might have been filmed stealthily without Cain's knowledge. It cuts off just as Cain was about to say something about Chuck Smith Jr., the son of pastor Smith. So evidently this video has been excerpted from something longer, which I haven't yet been able to locate. Besides the answering the question of who created it to begin with, it would have been interesting to track down the original full length video to find out what else Cain talked about. In any case, the video remains problematic because of the lack of supporting evidence, especially since it cannot be taken for granted that Cain's recollections are entirely accurate. Notice that while he is talking, somebody walks by in the hallway in the background at the 2:26 mark.

² As far as I can determine, the term "supply pastor" refers to someone on an approved roster who can be called upon to serve as a locum minister, filling in temporarily for someone else.

³ Smith does say that his sister-in-law, Louise Webster, had moved to Phoenix in the 1930s and founded the First Foursquare Church of Phoenix, where she continued to serve for more than thirty-five years.

Monday, September 03, 2012

National Empty Chair Day

The chair is empty

Saturday, August 25, 2012

St. Alison Kaylee

Alison Kaylee, who was she? Few people know that she became a nun at an Orthodox convent near the coast of Oregon. For many years, some Orthodox xtians considered her worthy of veneration since she was noted for her kindness and charity. She once was known as Kaylee Alison, but she later reversed the order of her name when she entered the convent. Saint Alison Kaylee was the first woman from the Columbia Pacific to be canonized by the Orthodox church in America. Her special feast day is April 4th, the day she died.

In one of the rooms of the Stephanie Inn in Tolovana hangs this painting depicting a serene lady who many have mistakenly supposed was Kaylee Alison. But my careful research has proven that Jean Elizabeth is actually the lady depicted here. Jean was Kaylee's older sister who died with her husband in the terrible shipwreck of the SS Valencia that occurred near the coast of Vancouver Island. But the story goes that Jean Elizabeth and Kaylee Alison looked very much alike, though Jean had a much lighter color of hair. Kaylee dearly loved her older sister Jean.

As the story goes, some time after her sister's passing, while walking on the beach with her friends — this was the Oregon coast near Tolovana — Alison looked out at the ocean waves and the sun light glistening on the foamy water. She saw a most marvelous vision that caused her to be frozen and transfixed. Her friends didn't know what was happening to her, as she seemed to just stand there on the sand staring out at the sea.

She saw two angels, dressed in sparkling white, their beards were long and golden, and they hovered with their feet just above the waves and the sun drenched water. Between them, they were holding a dark wooden cross, and on that cross Alison could see a vision of the Lord crucified and hanging there. He looked up at her, wearing the thorny crown, and said "love me, Alison, for I greatly loved you." Alison distinctly heard this and fell on her knees in the sand astonished. Her friends saw her doing this but only heard the rushing of the waves. Alison was never the same after this. She decided she would love Him who greatly loved her and bore such suffering for her sake to free her from her sins.

In another room is a picture of two women at the beach, dressed in antique white in a manner as was common back before World War I. One of them was Kaylee Alison, whose face was uncovered to the sun. Her hair was a dark brunette, made lighter by the downward glance of the sun. The other lady in a shadow beneath a broad hat was her mother Stephanie, the founder of the Stephanie Inn. At the time, Kaylee Alison was engaged to be married to an up and coming lawyer, a young man who had his law practice in Astoria. Kaylee was devout, as was her mother Stephanie, and the young man, Jamison by name, was nominally a Catholic. At that time, the Orthodox living along the Oregon coast were small in numbers. However, Kaylee's father wanted her to have a secure future by marrying a lawyer. Kaylee did have a fancy for Jamison, a handsome Irishman, but she didn't feel any special love for him, although she wanted to please her family who considered him solid and dependable. Furthermore, her family said, Jamison promised that he would convert to Orthodoxy. Kaylee was also solid and often businesslike in her dealings with others. She didn't subscribe to foolish notions of romance and "love conquers all," and the other kinds of nonsense being spread by the suffragettes and progressives.

But everything changed that day when she had the astonishing vision on the beach. She knew who was truely worthy of her devotion. This was a difficult thing for her family to accept at first. But her mother Stephanie was convinced that the vision was real, and she finally convinced Kaylee's father to allow their daughter to enter a convent. Poor Jamison had to choose another bride from elsewhere.

This is the lighthouse not far from the beach where St. Alison saw her vision. After her untimely death, which happened in the year 1918 during the influenza pandemic, people would make pilgrimages to this place. There have been reports that miraculous healings have happened here, which people attributed to the intercession of St. Alison. Because of these many miracles of healing, the Orthodox church was compelled to acknowledge the efficacy of St. Alison's intervention, which is why she was canonized so quickly. Not far from the lighthouse, the Orthodox church purchased a small plot of land near the beach. On that land, the Chapel of St. Alison Kaylee was built and consecrated, where visiting pilgrims could rest themselves or escape the inclement weather, which happens often on the coast of Oregon.

This is the Chapel of St. Alison Kaylee the Miracle Worker, as she became to be known because of the astonishing miracles of healing that were granted. Normally, the church is cautious about the subject of miracles. Only after careful investigation and testimony does the church proclaim reports of the miraculous as worthy of belief. St. Alison was always modest during her life, and never boastful. In the convent where she lived, she performed her chores without complaint, and she prayed with the other sisters as typical. Because she was modest, there is nothing to be astonished at that her chapel was also small and modest, situated on a hillside a short distance from the beach.

It has been rumored that St. Alison wrote a short book, or possibly a journal, during her years in the convent, and some reports have it that the book was entitled "The Little Flowers." Unfortunately, shortly after her death, the metropolitan ordered the convent to be relocated, and in the ensuing shuffle, some of her personal effects might have gotten lost; or possibly, the sisters sold it at a yard sale, not realizing how just how valuable it might be. In any case, it is difficult to guess what the book was about, assuming it still exists. Maybe it was about the botany of plants along the Oregon coast? At this point, the book has yet to be found, although I have been making a diligent effort to find it.

I never had a chance to meet Alison Kaylee. She lived many years ago. But I have heard that besides her life of self-sacrifice, sanctity, and love of others, she is also remembered for her kindness towards animals, especially seagulls and other ocean fowl. The pilgrims to the chapel say that a seagull always harbors himself near the entrance to the chapel, with the hope that similar kindness will be extended to him in the form of a morsel or two. Over time, the seagull, somehow or another, for reasons unknown, acquired the name "Floyd." This picture shows Floyd standing vigilance at the stone walkway in front of the entrance to the chapel. It was very rainy that day.

Now I have heard it said that Jamison's first name was actually Floyd. And other stories have it that Jamison, after losing Kaylee Alison, never recovered from the loss and died in grief, and somehow the seagull is the forlorn soul of Floyd Jamison still hanging around her chapel in the hope of getting back his stolen fiancée — hence, the name "Floyd" for the pertinacious seagull. However, I think these stories are quite fanciful, and as far as my investigations can determine, Jamison left Astoria shortly afterwards to take part in gold prospecting, either in the Klondike or Alaska. Beyond that, I have not been able to track down any further record of his whereabouts.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

I, Lonnie

Lonnie Frisbee in Poway CA, 1990
A Book Review
Title: Not by Might, Nor by Power
Subtitle: The Jesus Revolution
Author: Lonnie Frisbee, with Roger Sachs

How does somebody write a posthumous autobiography?

Well, one way might be like something out of The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, where the ghost of sea captain Daniel Gregg comes back and dictates his memoirs to Mrs. Muir, who publishes them as a best seller.

I don't think anything like that happened here. No necromancy was involved. No Ouija boards were used. The ghost of Lonnie Frisbee wasn't interviewed by Roger Sachs during a séance in his kitchen. Speaking of Lonnie, Roger Sachs does say this in the book's introduction:
He died in the midst of controversy and disgrace. However, during the last three years of his life, he was compelled to tell his own story.

…I had the privilege of being a close friend. Lonnie asked me to help tell his story. I was more than willing and honored. I am not a professional writer, but together we audio-taped, filmed, and documented his life for most of those last three years.
Lonnie Frisbee died on March 12, 1993, so the last three years to which Sachs refers must be the time frame of 1991 through 1993. The biggest question I have is why did it take so long to publish this book? All that Sachs has to say is:
Pray for us because as Lonnie said "It's like the devil himself has put everything concerning Lonnie on his hit list." There has been much resistance to getting the true story from Lonnie's personal perspective out there. I can attest to that.
Sachs does not elaborate on what form the "resistance" took. I don't mean to complain, because I do in fact very much appreciate the book; nonetheless, for the last nineteen years that Sachs has sat on the sources that he had, the Devil has been diligently weaving, like a busy spider, his own tangled narratives about Lonnie Frisbee. After reading it, I feel like the book is about nineteen years too late.

The Ersatz Internet Lonnie vs. The Flesh and Blood Lonnie
Because what in effect we have today are two Lonnie Frisbees. One is the flesh and blood person named Lonnie Frisbee who died in comparative obscurity and whose moldering body now lies in the grave, returning to the dust from which it came. His grave is located in the Crystal Cathedral Memorial Gardens in Garden Grove, California. The other is the mythic icon that still trudges along on the Internet, like a long-haired virtualized revenant, forever immutable as the Hippie Preacher — or the "gay" Hippie Preacher, depending on what your specific political objectives might be or what propaganda points you're trying to score. In actual life, the living, breathing Lonnie didn't stay a hippie, for he lived many years after the events of the late 1960s and early 1970s, the heyday of the "Jesus Freaks" and Calvary Chapel and Vineyard. But his later years have disappeared into the mists. Today, even the term "hippie" itself has become a burned-over caricature. Yet all that is left in everyone's memory is this shrunken and cold ember, a one-dimensional caricature, an icon which gets deployed by people for their various purposes, financial, political, or otherwise.

What fascinates me is how the mythic icon still exerts a fascination on some people after all these years. There are people who want to dig up Lonnie's "prophetic mantle" again. They want to leverage the icon. But most of all, they want to make the icon profitable.

Voice From The Grave
In any case, Lonnie finally now has a chance to bypass the icon still lurching around on the Internet, and to speak for himself from the grave, as it were. How many people will listen now is another matter altogether.

The story of his life is told in the first person throughout the book. In several places, the speaker will refer to "this book." So I would guess that Sachs already had available materials that Lonnie himself had previously written out. In other places, the speaker sounds as if he were preaching, giving a personal testimony. These portions might have been transcribed from tapes or videos where Lonnie was speaking to an audience. It is difficult to know for certain, and unfortunately, we have no explanations from Sachs regarding the editorial process that he used in selecting and organizing his materials. There are a few places in the book where some names might have been misspelled. My guess would be that Sachs pretty much transcribed verbatim what Lonnie had to say without trying to correct him. Overall, the writing style is colloquial, enthusiastic, and unrefined. For punctuation, em dashes abound everywhere, which seem to indicate pauses in speaking. Although the style gave me the feeling of sincerity and liveliness, I would not describe it as "polished." But preaching and writing can be two different things, and Lonnie was most of all a preacher.

Although I was a contemporary of his, being just a couple of years younger and living in Southern California, I never once met Lonnie Frisbee. And I never heard him preach, other than watching a video of him speaking at a service in Tom Stipe's church in Denver, which was filmed years ago. Yet his book was of personal interest to me because through Lonnie's preaching in Riverside, California, my wife came to the faith in Christ. So in a way, I do owe him for something I have, although I somehow missed him — we were like two ships passing each other unaware in the night. I was living in Riverside at the time.

Mixing Water and Oil
Now back in February, I read Chuck Smith's autobiography. If there is one main impression that book had left me, it was how conventional Chuck Smith really is. I am not necessarily saying this is a bad thing, but rather that I think Smith would fit with little difficulty in nearly any setting that represents typical evangelical Xnty in this country. He could just as easily have been the pastor of a very staid Southern Baptist church, one of those with a more Dispensationalist outlook. Or he could have been a prudent but humdrum businessman who owned and operated a successful retail corporation, but who was no more remarkable than most other businessmen. There is hardly anything cutting-edge or revolutionary about Chuck Smith, and it is difficult for me to understand why there are people who hate him so much. I think they must be motivated by the envy that despises other people's success or blessings.

On the other hand, after reading Lonnie's autobiography, I can say that it is hard for me to imagine any person being more unlike Chuck Smith than Lonnie Frisbee. There was absolutely nothing conventional about Lonnie; he was a risk taker, mercurial, adventurous, and exuberant. He had a sense of humor that could laugh at himself. And his book turned out to be the most interesting I think I have read in a long time. But it now seems even more remarkable to me that Chuck and Lonnie could ever have worked together for the amount of time that they did. Given the right emulsifiers, oil and water can sometimes mix, although I think that Chuck would have been very mistaken if he ever had it in his mind to somehow "domesticate" Lonnie and turn him into your typical youth pastor. That was never going to happen.

Now I would like to point out several things:
The Wikipedia Meat Grinder
When it comes to biography, much of the time the Wikipedia is a concoction of half-truths, distortions, misinformation, and outright lies, especially if the biography is being used for political and propaganda purposes. As an example of misinformation, let me cite where, speaking of Lonnie, the Wikipedia says:
He quit the art academy and moved to Novato, California, to set up a commune and later reconnected with his former girlfriend Connie whom he then married. The community was soon dubbed The House of Acts after the community of early Christians in the Acts of the Apostles.
This is inaccurate and gives the false impression that Lonnie originated the commune in Novato. In fact, Lonnie did not "set up" the commune in Novato at all. If we look at page 53, Lonnie says he was invited by Ted Wise and others to join their already existing operation. Also, in recounting this incident, Lonnie curiously misspells Ted Wise's name as "Ted Weiss." Now according to Randall Balmer's Encyclopedia of Evangelicalism (page 634), it was Ted Wise and three other families who started the House of Acts, which lasted for around 18 months. On the other hand, also on page 53, Lonnie does appear to take credit for naming the farmhouse in Novato "The House of Acts." However, straightening out Wikipedia would be a futile task, and I wouldn't attempt it. Wikipedia makes a hash of things, and then freezes it in place. There is not much that can be done about that, but it does brings me to another point.

Lonnie's Testimony and Taquitz Canyon
How did Lonnie view his relationship with Christ? Here I got my first surprise in reading his autobiography, because what Lonnie had to say about this matter is more complicated and differs from the dominant narrative out there. On page 27, Lonnie names his grandmother Naomi and her church as being very influential in his life. Listen to what Lonnie has to say about it:
One day they brought me to a little puppet show. It was in a Union Hall on Chapman Avenue in Orange, California. For the first time in my life, I really heard the Gospel story. I heard how Jesus died for me and give His life on the cross — so that I could have eternal life. Suddenly, I understood that, and went forward to the stage area at this little marionette puppet show. I got down on my knees and accepted Christ into my heart. I was eight years old, and can take you to the very spot, in the very same building where it happened. I was born from above by the supernatural resurrection power of God. It was absolutely the greatest miracle anyone can experience no matter what age they are!
Oddly enough, years ago, I once served as a Sunday School puppeteer. Now after this section, Lonnie goes how to explain how in his young teenage years he started drifting away from God and ended up deep in the Orange county drug culture. If we look at pages 49 through 51, a turning point early in the book — or maybe a "returning" point — Lonnie describes happened to him up in Taquitz canyon, near Palm Springs. I'll just let him speak for himself:
In spite of the many highs, I was still troubled. I felt a destiny surrounding me, but was at the same time confused about life and death. Who really knows the truth? I remembered from my church background that Jesus claimed to be the truth. I had definitely felt the presence of God when I asked Christ into my life as a child. I also felt his presence, at the summer camps, but it was pretty bold for Jesus to say things like — "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." …I was definitely confused, but very open, and honestly seeking. I would wonder — "how does it all fit?"

One day I was up in the canyon again by myself. It was a real hike back into the local Palm Springs mountains. There is a beautiful stream, and waterfalls along the way, and it is such a cool place. I finally arrived at one of my favorite spots. I took off all my clothes, and literally screamed up to heaven — "Jesus, if you are really real — reveal yourself to me!"

Suddenly, the whole atmosphere began to change around me. It began to tingle, and shimmer, and glow. I thought — "Ahaaaaa Ahaaaw! I don't even want to be here!"

I was scared, and shocked, and positive it was not an LSD flashback. I didn't hear an audible voice, but knew that I was in the presence of God Almighty. Then I saw a radiant vision clear as crystal. I saw thousands and thousands of young people at the ocean, lined up in huge crowds along the coast — and they were going out into the water being baptized. I could see it! I knew instantly that Jesus was real — and that He was calling me to follow him. As the Lord lifted up my eyes I saw a harvest field of people. They were like a huge wheat field. I saw in the vision thousands and thousands of people in the valley of decision.

The power of the Holy Spirit surrounded me from within and from without. Then I saw a light from heaven come down, and ordain me — and I could hear Him say: "Go in my name for I have touched your lips with a coal of fire that burns ever before the presence of God. Proclaim to the people that I am coming soon."

It was the most radical moment of my life. At eighteen years old God was calling me to serve Him. It blew my mind — but I was definitely saying — "Yes Lord!"

I came off that mountain a different person. I still didn't have all the answers — but I knew for sure that Jesus was real. He had responded to my desperate cry. I had an instant revelation of my calling.…
This is a remarkable story, but what I am trying to point out is that Lonnie viewed what happened as being a revelation of his calling as an evangelist and that it was something entirely connected to his experience he already had as a child in a church setting.

Sweating Through His Shirt
Further on, there in chapter 7 on pages 66 to 71, Lonnie adds this regarding his relationship with God. The setting is a Foursquare church in Fullerton where a visiting evangelist had come to preach:
…He was just carrying on, with a white hanky in his hand. He was sweating profusely, and continually whipping [sic] his face with the hanky. He was just — you know — even hard for a hippie non-conformist to say — unruly. I have never seen a Pentecostal preacher strut his stuff on the platform like that before.

When I finally walked forward, the man slapped his hand on my forehead, and was screaming, and shouting — "Wooo! Thank you Jesus! Thank You Jesus!" The volume was way over the top, and way past acceptable. He was not only sweating, but he was sweating through his shirt. His shirt was soaking wet. But when he laid his hands on my head — heaven came down! It wasn't a light fluffy experience. It was heavy oil — it was a heavy oil experience. The power of the Holy Spirit started coming through him as an instrument of ministry, and the power of God filled my whole body with about ten thousand volts of electricity.

…The Holy Spirit and I — were off to the races. Racing to reach as many people as possible with the time that I do have. The power of God never rested on me like that before! After that initial experience in the church, I had many infillings of the Holy Spirit, and my communication with Jesus became stronger.
I can't give the whole incident here. Hopefully, without running afoul of copyright laws, I have given enough to convey a little of the flavor of Lonnie's style of communicating. We can see that Lonnie was very serious about what mattered to him — what mattered the most to him was the Gospel. He could also be very humorous, even a little crude. But what I am trying to point out is that Lonnie did not consider his "Taquitz vision" as being the single and only defining aspect of his relationship with God. In fact his view of his relationship with God was also formed by what had happened to him in church settings. This surprised me, although it really should not have. God does use His Church to accomplish his purposes, believe it or not. If some people thought that Lonnie was purely a "hippie rebel" who rejected the Church as an enemy, they would be very mistaken.

Knocked Off His Horse
As I have said, Lonnie was more a preacher, a very bold one, and not a writer. Lonnie talks about many things is his book, some that are surprising, some that are strange, some that are funny, and some that are very heartbreaking to read. Roger Sachs has promised that a second volume in Lonnie's autobiography is forthcoming.¹ Let us hope it doesn't take another twenty years to get here.

There are many more items I would have liked to mention. But I will conclude with pointing out how Lonnie described his encounter with the teenage Greg Laurie, which occurs on pages 124 through 126. The setting is an open air meeting, which took place on a lawn at Harbor High School in Orange county, around the year 1971, on an especially hot day in southern California:
…Our group was on the lawn area, and I was preaching the Gospel like Peter on the day of Pentecost. The believers were standing all around and I stood in the midst. I began to open my mouth and the anointing of God was on me — I'm telling you!

In the back ground I could hear someone saying things like — "So you think that you know it all huh?"

Little railing accusations from a brat came flying at me. He said rude things, and began to mock openly. —He was making my train of thought get off, because he was railing disrespectful blasphemous things.

And so the Lord said, "Stretch forth thy hand and with the authority I've placed on your life — bring him down."

So I did exactly what the Lord said. I stretched forth my hand, and used the authority that God put in my words, and I turned everything that he was saying around on him in divine judgment. He fell on the ground powerless. Before everyone God struck him with the power and presence of God. The young student, Greg Laurie, was saved that day, and God also baptized him with the Holy Spirit.

It was dramatic. Subsequently, God raised him up to be a pastor at the age of nineteen years old.…
Lonnie then goes on to speak very favorably about Greg and his ministry. Back in California, up until 1993 when I left to move to Idaho, I had attended Greg's Harvest church for around fifteen years. So naturally I found Lonnie's account of Greg's conversion, where he was knocked off his horse so to speak, to be a bit amusing, yet because of it, I can say that I have something else that I owe to Lonnie's ministry, although in more indirect way.

The Kingdom of God
In a little less than 200 pages, his book covered other matters besides what I pointed out above, such as several encounters with demon possessed people, his time in Florida, why his marriage finally came apart, and the mission trips overseas, which includes an unusual story about some Russian soldiers he met, just to name a few. To comment on everything would require writing book of its own. But this is just a book review. I can say that Lonnie's autobiography has its rough edges, and could have used much better editing, but it was very much worth reading.

The last chapter is titled "Bregetta." In it Lonnie talked about being in Washington, the year being 1978, and seeing in the home of an assistant pastor a book containing paintings by a Swedish artist whose name according to Lonnie is "Bregetta." That year was a difficult point in his life when he was thinking of quitting the ministry, but he believed that God had used one particular painting to tell him that "you will never be out of the ministry no matter what." Later in 1978, he met the artist herself in Jerusalem, at the Garden Tomb: "…to my complete surprise, there was Bregetta sitting in the tomb dressed in a World War II red cross nurses uniform." And then years later, in 1990, Lonnie encounters the same painting again during another missionary trip to Sweden. Since he referred to his first seeing the painting as being fifteen years ago, I strongly suspect that this final chapter must have been written in the year 1993, the year that Lonnie passed away, which ironically would be the year that he finally left the ministry, so to speak. I believe that the artist "Bregetta" is almost certainly Birgitta Yavari-Ilan. Lonnie described the painting as "a full spread glorious painting of Jesus with his arms stretched out, and me, Lonnie Frisbee, painted in the bosom of Christ speaking at a microphone." I believe I have tracked down the painting to which Lonnie referred, and I believe the book that Lonnie picked up was titled "Forsake Not Your Heart." In the painting we see three figures in the bosom of Christ: a red-haired woman holding a white dove, a young blonde girl praying, and Lonnie preaching at a microphone. Christ himself, whose eyes are smiling, is dressed in red and purple, and his head is surrounded by dark green palm leaves.

The words written on Lonnie's grave marker are "For the Kingdom of God … righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit." It is sad that he is gone.

Somewhere in the Kingdom of God, Lonnie Frisbee still lives on as a person known only to the saints and angels, although the humanity he once had remains mostly unknown here on Earth. Even the "Calvary Chapel movement," which he helped to launch, has relegated him to being a minor historical footnote. We might think this is a sad outcome to his life, but perhaps it is not, at least not in God's view of things. Pastor Chuck Smith will soon join John Wimber and Lonnie Frisbee in that Kingdom — maybe even sooner than what most people would like to anticipate.² Who knows? I hope that over there they are all reconciled with each other. Maybe Chuck and John will finally agree that both tacos and hamburgers go good together. And maybe Lonnie will say, "Welcome, Chuck. By the way, not everybody is cut out to be a standard youth pastor. I wasn't. But it doesn't matter now."


¹ Apparently, there has been an unexplained delay. This second book hasn't been published yet, and it's been over three years since.

[Update 2016 Dec 31] Please see this review of the second book in the series, which finally came out in October of 2016. The subtitle is The Great Commission.

² Chuck passed away in the early morning of October 3rd, 2013.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Carpet & Chairs

Not long ago, I was reading pastor Chuck Smith's autobiography entitled "Chuck Smith, A Memoir of Grace, as told to Chuck Smith Jr." The book is not that lengthy, and it has turned out to be very interesting on several levels. Recently, Smith publicly announced that he has been diagnosed with lung cancer. So he is facing a very serious challenge.†

But in connection with his book, what I want to mention here is a particular urban legend that has been around through the years, and which still might get circulated on the Internet in some form. This concerns the reasons why Smith decided many years ago to leave the Foursquare denomination, in which he had been a minister since graduating from LIFE Bible college around 1945.

I have heard various versions regarding what happened. But in my neck of the woods, the legend went something like this: At the Foursquare church where Chuck was pastor, he decided to have the carpet replaced with something of another color. The church board objected to this, and being miffed by their opposition Chuck decided to exit the Foursquare denomination. Another variation had the dispute being about the color of the upholstery in the pews. And still another said that the disagreement concerned the arrangement of some chairs in the sanctuary.

However, in his autobiography, Smith explains in some detail, especially in chapter six, the various reasons for his increasing disenchantment with the Foursquare denomination and where its leadership was taking things at the time, all of which eventually led to Smith deciding to pursue an independent course in a non-denominational setting. It turns out that the reasons he gave in his autobiography had totally nothing to do with the carpets, upholstery, or chairs.

In chapter eight, there is a mention of the disagreement about chair arrangement, but the actual context there had absolutely nothing to do with the Foursquare denomination. For by the time of that particular incident, Smith had already left that denomination. But Smith does talk about this incident as one of the reasons why he decided to leave the particular non-denominational church in Corona, California, which he was pastoring at the time, and to move on, eventually ending up in Costa Mesa. I recommend the book, if anything because it clears up this particular detail about events.

So it turns out that the actual situation wasn't at all how the urban myths have portrayed it. And there have been other more sinister variations of the story. In fact, by googling the Internet, you are guaranteed to dredge up a mishmash of absurdities, distortions, and outright lies being circulated nowadays about Chuck Smith. But that goes without saying, for this situation applies equally to nearly any personality who might have been in the public eye for some reason. The Internet is a great tool for propagating myths and legends and falsifications about people, living or dead.

For just one example, please see John Derbyshire's interesting article "Wiki Wars" about his personal experience dealing with Wikipedia. As he succinctly puts it, "Ninety percent of what you read about people in the public prints and forums is malicious lies. Any adult who does not know that should stop reading and take up fishing."

On another point, recently in one news item about Chuck's cancer diagnosis, the reporter calls him the "the father of the Jesus People Revolution in Southern California." I personally think the word "father" is a bit of an exaggeration on the reporter's part, as if Chuck had originated events entirely by himself. That Chuck guided them in a major way is indisputable. Perhaps it would be more accurate to describe him as "one of the many helmsmen." Chuck's autobiography didn't provide as many details as I would have liked about what happened during that time period. But the primary intent of his autobiography was to explain how the various events in his life prior to that had gone into preparing him for what was to come.


† [Update] Chuck passed away in the early morning of October 3rd, 2013.