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John Fischer stirs readers to embrace full-strength Christianity and enjoy a deeper, more dynamic faith in Jesus. Caffeinated ...
John Fischer stirs readers to embrace full-strength Christianity and enjoy a deeper, more dynamic faith in Jesus. Caffeinated Christians are people who have been broken and aren't afraid to show it. Sometimes the facade of the perfect, decaf life is more appealing, but if you're looking for a faith that's real, a faith that gets your blood pumping and gives you the kick you need to wake up every day, caffeinated Christianity is the answer.
Caffeinated Christianity is invigorating, extreme, and a little edgy. It's truly loving, truly believing, and living your life without restraint-a life that's "over the top with Jesus." If this is your desire, you're not alone; wake up to full-strength faith with Him.
|2||Baseball for One||9|
|3||Room at the Klatch||17|
|4||Frances in Paradise||29|
|5||Starbucks and Jesus||35|
|8||Trouble with Regular||59|
|9||The End of Witnessing||71|
|10||Me and the Ax Murderer||81|
|11||Just the Security Guy||87|
|12||Don't Dream It's Over||93|
|14||From Steeples to St. Arbucks||111|
|15||Message in a Bottle||117|
|16||Roses on Wednesday||123|
|17||Love Is a Rose||137|
|18||Michael Douglas and Me||153|
|19||Form Follows (Dys)Function||159|
I was born dead. This may not entirely account for my subsequent passion for coffee, but it may have something to do with it. I was the last of three children-a kind of afterthought-and I was prayed over to get here, or at least that's how my mother used to tell the story. I'm sure she embellished it quite a bit over the course of the thousands of times it was told, making me a sort of legend in my own mind. The story never got beyond the walls of my house-it wasn't that big of a story-but it's certain that if you ever visited my home when I was growing up, you would have heard about it within fifteen minutes of walking in the door.
It's the story of how I was born. I, of course, don't remember anything firsthand, but the legend goes that when I was delivered I wasn't breathing. That part was actually anticipated due to complications in my mother's pregnancy. In fact, the doctor had presumed one of us would not make it through the birthing experience. Since my mother was breathing fine at the moment of my birth, that wasn't good news for me. Believing I didn't have much of a chance, they put me aside and tended to my mother. That was when the doctor's wife started praying. (The doctor and his wife and my parents were best friends. They used to sing gospel songs in the kitchen while they did the dishes together. I often fell asleep listening to those songs.)
Sometime during her prayer I started blowing bubbles. It was a miracle, and I was considered the miracle baby. I'm still breathing today; my mother is not, but that doesn't have anything to do with my being born. I know that because she went on breathing for fifty years after that. My mother was a very dynamic lady, although she was a little taken with my birth story. She kept telling it because it was her story, and she was so happy that God had answered prayer. After hearing the story over and over, however, I began to think I was special, which meant that more was going to be expected of me someday. "God's going to use you for something big," my mother used to tell me.
I wish she hadn't told me that. I wish my mother had made me face the fact that I wasn't more special than anyone else. "Special" would have been fine as long as it was just something in the family-special to her and my dad, the people everyone should be special to-not a kind of "special" that made me think I was set apart from the rest of the pack.
But my mother kept the story going as a continual reminder: I was alive because God had big plans for me. Unfortunately, I took this the wrong way and became obnoxious, arrogant, and overbearing (my childhood friends told me this later in life). Things were never my fault. I was never wrong. I had answers for everything. And if others had a problem with me, it was only because they hadn't grasped how special I was yet.
* * *
The doctor and his wife were named Hugh and Frances. Frances was a demure, petite woman who somehow managed to birth five boys, all breathing. Our families were very close; we did everything together until I was about eight or nine and they moved away.
In addition to their home in San Marino, California, Frances and Hugh had a cabin in the mountains and acreage on ranch land somewhere near Lake Elsinore, where one summer we all put up a World War II Quonset hut (an odd metal building with a semicylindrical corrugated tin roof that was left over from the war). So it was trips to Lake Arrowhead for skiing in the winter and Lake Elsinore for hiking and murdering birds in the summer.
At least that's what I remember most about the ranch. That was where I shot my first bird with a BB gun-a little orange wren I winged while out "hunting" with Danny, my best friend among the brothers, and Hubert, the next oldest. When the bird fell, Hubert picked up the struggling creature and choked it to death with his fingers, despite my protests. I had to watch while the bird's eyes twitched and a drop of blood fell from its beak. Aiming at it, hitting it with a BB, and watching it flop out of a tree were fun. Watching it being choked to death was not fun at all. I brought the dead bird home that night in an empty milk carton and tried to get it to breathe. I even prayed over it like Frances had done over me, but I didn't get the same result. I had blown bubbles; the wren blew blood.
I always thought Hubert was a bully. He was older than Danny and me, and I never liked it when he hung out with us. Danny was older than me, too, but only by five months. He was small and slight like his mother, and he always used to say, "You may be bigger than me, John, but you'll never, ever be older than me." Over time, he has proven to be right about that.
I think Hubert got his bullying nature from his dad, who had a rough exterior. He rarely smiled, even when he was happy. Once five of us kids were jammed into the backseat of Hugh's Cadillac coming down the mountains when he got really mad at us for making too much noise. He turned around and yelled at us to shut up or he would pull over and leave us all on the side of the road. The ensuing shock silenced all of us in the backseat until he cleared his throat and spit out the window. If Hugh was trying to impress us with his tough-guy persona, it would have helped if the window had been rolled down. Five kids immediately froze in the backseat. For an instant the universe stopped as the green, stringy blob slowly oozed down the window. It was useless. The dam inevitably broke, sending us howling with laughter. We laughed until the car shook. It was one time I actually remember Hugh allowing a little smile to creep across his face.
I think I could have used a little more exposure to Hugh. I don't think he ever bought my birth story as being very different from any other birth. There's a way of looking at births that makes them all miracles, and he'd certainly seen a lot of them. To him, I wasn't that special-just another kid he had helped bring into the world.
* * *
I have always had a thing for Saturday Night Live's Church Lady. Not that I liked her or anything, just that I fully understood her. Especially her use of the word special. It was cathartic for me to watch someone on national TV make a big deal of being special-even when portrayed as a mockery of fundamentalism. I must not be the only one with this problem, I would tell myself. Why would Dana Carvey have picked this one thing to mock about conservative Christians if it wasn't something obvious to him and to his audience? "Well, isn't that special?" was the Church Lady's favorite phrase. Apparently Christians have made a lot of people feel what I made my friends feel when I was growing up-that I was too good for them.
Years later as a husband and father, I was getting counsel from a psychologist when we delved into this whole idea of being special. I told him my mother's birth story-somewhat surprised that he hadn't heard it before, since he went to the same church my parents attended. When I got to the part about Frances praying and my bubble-blowing, he moved up to the edge of his chair, his face animated.
"John, do you know what that means?" he asked, full of anticipation. I didn't respond only because I knew what was coming next. He was going to say it meant I was special and God was expecting big things from me. So I stared at him, waiting for the obvious and wondering what he could possibly be so excited about.
"That means God wanted you to live!"
I sat there in stunned silence.
"That's it?" I finally said. "That's all?"
"Well, that's a pretty big deal," he said. So that was it all along. God wanted me alive and breathing. He wanted me. I am alive, not because of what I did, or was going to do, or how I got here. I am alive, period, and suddenly that alone became a pretty big deal.
I could have kissed the psychologist. As it was, I rushed out of that session and called my wife. I couldn't even wait to get home to tell her.
"Guess what? God wants me to live! Isn't that great?" In my imagination I embraced every person I passed in the hallway and on the way to my car. I suddenly felt connected with everyone I saw. They must be pretty special. God wanted them to live too.
Excerpted from CONFESSIONS OF A CAFFEINATED CHRISTIAN by JOHN FISCHER Copyright © 2005 by John Fischer. Excerpted by permission.
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