June 21st was the summer solstice, the longest day of the year. It was also Father’s Day, and all through the night leading up to it, after attending my first bonfire ceremony at Tower 7, my brain was buzzing like a bee-hive. Something had changed in me. A miracle had occurred. I praised God and wept tears of gratitude. At once I saw the solutions to problems that had plagued me for years. I knew exactly what to do and wasted no time getting to work on it.
Right before the seizure that had transported me to the Middle Plane, I’d been up all night writing a story about the COVID pandemic, my unexpected evacuation from Vietnam, and the mental, emotional, and spiritual breakdown that had ensued. Now I sat down to write Part 2, the happy ending, where I meet the Holy Ghost Tribe and get delivered from a lifelong chemical dependency.
I also had a picture of my Great-Grandpa, my Grandpa, my Dad, and myself as a young boy, that I posted on facebook as a Father’s Day Tribute, saying that these men would all be smiling down from heaven if they could see the way that God was working in my life.
My Dad’s side of the family were all Danish immigrants who’d come over in the early nineteenth century to homestead South Dakota. My Great-Grandpa had been a farmer, who I remembered as a soft-spoken man, who often dressed in overalls, and had large hands.
His son, my Grandpa, had been a twin, who’d worked his way up from telephone lineman to telephone executive during the Great Depression. He and my Grandma had settled in Lincoln, Nebraska, and he’d died of a massive heart attack soon after turning sixty.
My Dad was a bit of a dreamer, a poet who’d become a preacher. His calling had taken us all over during my childhood, from Hawaii, to Minnesota, back to Hawaii, to Iowa, to North Dakota, and finally to California. Once they reached California, my family never moved again, but I was seventeen at that point, and it was a way of life I would never recover from. Until now. I’d been a blind wanderer on the road of life, but things were about to change. I could feel it.
At the gathering that morning I was eager to share my testimony. I talked as if I had twenty years of recovery under my belt, instead of just a week, during which time I was still detoxing. My transformation from hungry ghost to awakened ghost now seemed as miraculous to me as Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus, and I nearly broke into the opening refrain of Amazing Grace as I brought my emotional share to a tearful conclusion.
Five years earlier, my Dad had had his own moment of divine intervention, when largely confined to an armchair in the living room after a stroke, Jesus, and a recently deceased friend of his from a homeless ministry, had appeared to him with an urgent mission. They needed him to launch a Great Revival, beginning by taking the homeless off the streets and training them to go out and evangelize the world. He had it all figured out, where the training camps would be, at Newport Dunes in Newport Beach, and the alternative currency that they would use.
When my Dad shared his great vision with us, at the 50th anniversary party we were throwing for him and my Mom, at Newport Dunes, it was hardly received with the same enthusiasm with which he delivered it. Frankly, we were all concerned, very concerned. When the doctors at Hoag Hospital heard the same story, they were concerned as well, and temporarily placed him in a psychiatric unit until they could run some tests. There, he contacted pneumonia and died a month later, without anyone ever believing in the Great Revival, or his role in it, as the only man God could entrust with, what possibly might have been, the largest evangelical outreach in the history of the church.
After my Dad’s memorial service, we dug a hole in the backyard, placed his ashes in it, and then planted a plum tree. That plum tree became a modern-day parable, because for two years it was just a stick, no branches, no leaves, no sign of growth at all, just a dry stick. The third year it finally sprouted some branches, buds, and small leaves. In the fourth year, the miracle occurred. It brought forth little white flowers and a single plum.
Because it was Father’s Day, my sister brought two of her daughters over, and we walked to Lake Park, socially distancing and wearing masks, of course. By now I was all revved up, going on and on about the events of the past week. God had saved my life, I told anyone who would listen. I was that plum tree. I was that dry stick. All these years I thought I was alive, but I was actually dead inside. Now look. Look at the miracle. Look at the change. Look at the flowers. Look at the fruit. Hallelujah! Praise the Lord!
After my sister and nieces left, their true thoughts, perhaps mercifully, concealed behind their face masks, I called my brother in Santa Monica to share the Good News with him. Then I called my brother in Anaheim Hills, wondering if he was aware that God Saves!!!
Later that afternoon I wrote a 5,000-word epistle, expounding on the parable of the plum tree, and emailed it to all my living relatives. Then I went into the house to talk to my Mom.
A few hours later, as she was lying down in bed, and I was standing in her doorway, still chattering away, she asked me if I thought I was manic.
Manic? Was I manic? Of course, I was manic. I was babbling away like a brook on amphetamines. Did that mean nothing I was saying was true? Not necessarily, but I was definitely manic.