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Frederick Christopher Bouter

© Frederick Christopher Bouter

Dear reader! Let me tell you the story of three very interesting people and of a few of their acquaintances. I had the honor of observing their lives during the course of a number of years. They are so interesting because on the one hand they are always entangled with each other and even embroiled in the occasional ruckus. But on the other hand they cannot seem to do without each other. And in this they complement one another. They are a living witness to the fact that the human being is and always will be very intriguing, even a sort of mystery. A mystery to and for each other and even to and for him- or herself.

The reader might attempt to sort it all out, as also I, in humbleness and at times with the necessary difficulty, have undertaken to do. Beware! For thou shalt enter a world of contradictions. But the will to carry through to the end will hopefully lead thee to the rainbows of a reasonably integrated self!



John MacNutt had prepared for his calling for years. Now the time had arrived, finally. He was about to go onto the streets of the slums of Los Angeles, at least one of them. He had attended bible school for four years to make himself ready for evangelizing the less privileged. He had rehearsed his plans a dozen times, but had come to the conclusion that it would be best to leave things in the hands of the Lord. That would also make him spontaneous and natural, he hoped. With all the devotion he could muster he prayed that the Lord would guide him as he set sail in a world largely unknown to himself.

He opened the door of his modest apartment, slowly and thoughtfully walked down the steps and took a right on 'Sunset Boulevard'. There was nothing sunny about it. Garbage and debris lined the sidewalks, but John hardly noticed it. A local character was leaning against a telephone pole, smoking a cigarette.

    'You're new here, ain't ya?'

    'Yes. How do you figure that?' John replied.

    ''cause I saw yer bringing in your stuff yesterday.'

    'Yep, that's correct. You live here yourself, I take it then.'

    'Yes.' John estimated the man about close to his forties. The stubble stood out on his cheeks and chin and he certainly could use a change of clothes.

    'My name is John MacNutt,' and he extended his hand.

    'I go by Arthur,' accepting the handshake with some hesitation.

    'Please to meet you. How about a coffee over there? I would like to get acquainted and catch some of the news on the local scene here.' Arthur stroked his beard, looked away and then slowly accepted. They walked over to a simple diner. On the window pane it said 'Dining Room'. A generously obese lady was serving a table, at which a few guests were eating a cheap meal. They happened to be the only visitors, regulars apparently for they were behaving in a rather familiar way. They looked for a few seconds at John and Arthur, but paid no further attention to them. The lady came over to their table and John noticed her heavy make-up. She had done her best to offset her obesity by her dressing style.

'What can I do for you, sirs? Hi, Arthur,' she added.

'For me a coffee and donut, and for Arthur . . .,' and he waited, while looking at Arthur.

'For me the same,' said Arthur.

'Comin' up,' the lady replied and she went about her business.

John was wondering what approach to take. Would he say immediately that he was an evangelist, or would he simply try to socialize? Arthur decided the outcome.

    'What do you do for a living, Mr. MacNutt?'

    'I happen to be an evangelist. And please, call me John.'

Arthur grinned and observed: 'Not too many people are gonna take your message seriously here, John. The kids prob'ly never heard the word evangelist. I know, for there used to be a church around here.'

    'O yes? So what happened to that church?'

    'The ol' pastor died and the few people that remained decided that they could not afford to go on. There is not much religion to be found around here. People just live by their own rules.'

    'Do you still happen to know any of these church people?' And an idea formed instantly in his mind. Maybe he could organize some kind of open house for the local population.

    'No. I attended services a couple of times, but was never asked to visit with them.' John nodded simply.

    'And what do you do for a living?' Arthur was silent for a while, looking through the window as if he were taking in a far away picture.

    'I don't have a steady job. My back is often killing me. Right now I'm on the dole, as they used to call it. So what church do you represent as an evangelist?'

    'Let me first say this. I am not here to win souls for any particular church. My purpose is to spread the good news about the Lord Jesus Christ. He died for this world and anybody that accepts His sacrifice is forgiven and can experience healing.'

    'You're Pentecostal then.'

    'Yes. How do you gather that?'

    'You use the word healing.'

    'Yes. But I'm a moderate. I do not believe that one can claim riches and every good thing in the Lord's name. Often God works in mysterious ways through sickness and setbacks. When I say healing, I refer in the first place to spiritual health.'

    'He certainly works mysteriously. Who can figure this world out with all its misery everywhere? Even when one is rich there are often all kinds of relationship troubles. It's the ol' problem of whether there is any reason to the rhyme.'

    'Reason to the rhyme?' John was glad to have met this talkative fellow, but lost his train of thought. Also he could not help but think that there was something peculiar about the man, but he failed to define it.

    'Yep; what is the grand purpose of life? Have you never heard this expression, or the philosophical question, rhetorical really: "If all the galaxies have come to a frozen halt and their machinery have failed, do you think there will be a greater thinking thing that gives a damn?" My, where do I get all the words from? You seem to have touched me somehow!'

   'That sounds rather cynical. The purpose of our lives is that we are meant to praise God for evermore. Heaven will be one long feast of adoration.'

   'I'm afraid I can't share your enthusiasm.'

    'That is because you need to be lifted up above the sorrow of life. When one contemplates Christ one can do that.'

    'What is it about Jesus that attracts you religious folks so much? Granted that he was an extraordinary man, he was still only human.'

    'He is the perfect human and God the Son at the same time. Him is given all power upon earth and in heaven. He is the Name above every name.'

    'What's in a name? Shakespeare asked, probably wondering what the human personality is.'

    'In this Name there is everything. It sums up all God's riches. In Him are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.' Seeing and feeling John's fervor, Arthur exclaimed:

    'Wow, you almost sound high!'

    'Not through drugs, mind you. Drugs are linked to sorcery in the Bible. In Revelation, the last book of the Bible, the word for sorcery is pharmacy, probably meaning mind altering substances.' At that Arthur became totally silent, even expressionless. Then he started smoking a cigarette. John felt the difficulty of the moment. Wanting to avoid a deadlock, he observed.

    'But you seem a well-educated man!'

    'I know a thing or two,' said Arthur, coming out of his stupor. 'I used to be a college major in philosophy, but trouble over a girl triggered a devastating process in me. I was on alcohol for years and even tried cocaine. I still smoke the occasional marijuana cigarette.' Silence fell again. John broke it.

    'So how did you get out of this?'

    'It took a long struggle, a battle of life and death. AA helped me with it as well. I owe a lot to those volunteers.' Regaining his composure, Arthur said:

    'But let me put the following question to you. You do not mind drinking coffee. Let's call that a heart warmer. It certainly is not a mind altering drug. But so there are a host of substances. Thanks God I am off the cocaine.'

    'Amen to that!' John interrupted.

    'My question is, where must one draw the line. The bible is not against alcohol either, Jesus himself changed water into wine.'

    'That is true. I do not drink myself, but I see no reason against a social drink. But I catch your drift. You mean that there must be somewhere a fine line that one can overstep. This calls for the wise art of living. But can I offer you another coffee?'

    'Certainly, I got practically all afternoon. And you do not seem to be in any rush yourself. Excuse me.' And while Arthur absented himself to the bathroom, John ordered two more coffees. The lady brought them and John said cheerfully:

    'The weather is nice today isn't it, ma'am?'

    'It usually is here, sir. You are not from around here?'

    'That's correct. I am from Memphis Tennessee, but I live here now.'

    'O, you are from Elvis's place. I love his music. This house music I don't like. Every weekend it is the same thing next doors. The teenagers dance till deep into the night.' Arthur returned and she went back with a friendly nod.

John asked himself how to continue the conversation. He was glad to have some rapprochement, but realized all of a sudden that it would be hard to get people like Arthur interested or re-interested in the gospel. Also the fear crept up on him again that his enthusiasm for the Bible might be experienced as overweening preachiness. And he prayed quickly that God would help him to set also examples and not just to be a preacher and when preaching, to do so tactfully.

    'You are a very religious man, John,' Arthur said, picking up from where they had stopped. 'I respect that in a way. Religious people are often very well-meaning people. Too bad you will be considered a do-gooder around these places.'

   'What's wrong with that?' John asked.

    'In my opinion there is nothing wrong with it. But here in L.A. it is very much a matter of cutting out your own piece of the pie. People do not go for your kind of line.'

    'But that is what makes us egoists and careless maniacs that forget about a whole lot of things such as true love, sharing and the like.'

    'There I must agree. That is why I kind of feel left out of the picture myself.'

    'Do you mind if I ask why?'

    'Not at all. For example take the fact that on the one hand there is welfare, but no or hardly no work integration for people like me. Then there is Medicare. I have seen it happen that the police threw a blanket over a wounded drifter and in the night he died. In Canada at least they would have paid the hospital bill. This could happen to me as well! And then they will say that it was only a junkie.'

    'Yes, these are important issues that won't be solved overnight. Therefore the message of the gospel is such a real one. What a Friend we have in Jesus is not merely idle talk.'

    'I sense that to some extent, but why all the growling, snarling and killing even by both nature and man? Why does God allow all kinds of trouble?'

    'We live in a fallen world, mind you. A world that once will be judged for its actions. But God calls out individuals like yourself and maybe particularly like yourself to be saved from a hell bound racket, to put it that way.' Arthur grinned a little at that and repeated hardly audibly 'hell bound racket'. John went on:

    'The Bible doesn't state for nothing that the Lord has elected the weak of this earth. The wise and strong do not see what the truth is all about. God has hidden it from their eyes.

   'The message of the cross is foolishness to them.'

    'Well, I will seriously reconsider the ol' tidings of the cross, after having run into you. But I have to go now. I just now remember that I have to make a call about some part-time job. Bye now.'

    'Good-bye and success with job hunting!' replied John. He ordered another coffee, sat musing over things past, present and future and then went outside again after having praised the lady for her delicious coffee and donuts.

John walked passed a few blocks and then saw an elaborate drawing on a run-down apartment block. 'Now, why would somebody make such detailed graffiti?' he muttered to himself, without paying further attention to it. Little did he realize that it was the work of a local Hispanic gang that had staked out that turf. It featured a few gang bangers dressed down in sagging pants with sunglasses and dog faces. It showed a challenge--y-que putos-but John's knowledge of Spanish did not include the word puto. Hardly had he rounded the corner when he noticed a Latino, who addressed him.

    'De donde eres?'

John tried to explain in his best Spanish that he was from Memphis and was now living in the neighborhood. Again he simply could not know that the phrase de donde eres did not simply mean where he was from. It was pregnant with meaning. In fact it was a direct challenge in the sense of 'What gang do you belong to?'

Luckily for him the guy was in a patient mood and had understood that John's mother tongue was actually English.

    'You do not belong to the 'vigils' then?'

    'I have no idea who they are,' John replied.

    'You are really a stranger then?'


    'Good. I have something nice for you.' And he hollered up the stairs: 'Maria!' A scantily dressed Hispanic girl of about fourteen came down right away. It was then that John became rather uncomfortable and he sent up an ejaculatory prayer.

    'Sorry, but I am not into this kind of thing,' he said looking as apologetic as he could.

    'You do not like her full shapes?' the guy replied.

    'It isn't that.'

    'You go for boys maybe?'

    'Not at all!' The Latino gang banger became impatient now.

    'Just what kind of a guy are you anyways?'

    'I am just trying to mind my own business, man. There is no need to get upset.'

    'You get the hell out-a-here, then!' And the guy showed the holster of his magnum, stuck in his pants. John turned around immediately, without looking up or down. A few streets further he dared to think. 'My, that guy surely was packing with that piece!' And even that was a line from a book he remembered.

With every step he took John regained himself, particularly because he was praying. 'This place is infested with gangs, Lord!' 'Please, guide me in your way through gangland!' 'Please, help me to reach some of these people, victims of circumstances, but also choosers of evil in those circumstances.' 'Life is certainly complicated, o God! The one moment you talk to a thinker, the other moment to a pimp or gang master. People are so different. Yet You love them all!' And so he went on musing for a few streets. After a while he started paying attention to the surroundings again. So he noticed that coming back towards where Sunset Boulevard must be, the houses were better kept. Some had even nice looking gardens. The apartment complexes were well painted, or had clean bricks. He also observed that there was a school with an adjacent park. He decided to take a stroll through it. Teenagers were leaving the school, apparently a high-school and some of them were chatting in the park, feeding their leftover sandwiches to the ducks, or just hanging around. The clock on the main building counted about four hours. John sat down on a bench and took it all in. 'Who cares about their eternal souls? It is hard enough to educate them, to get them to speak English, let alone to teach them about you, o Lord!' 'Indeed we live in a secular age, post-Christian, even postmodern.' For a minute John wondered whether the school board would permit him to speak at the school, or perhaps teach a voluntary class in religion. 'Maybe I should talk to the principal.' A girl of about sixteen walked by and John accosted her.

    'Can I please ask you a question,' he said, getting up from the bench.

    'Sure. What do you want to know?' The girl wore jeans, Nike sneakers, and sported a leather jacket. She had medium long blonde hair.

    'I wonder whether at your school they teach any religion.'

    'Yep, they do. Are you interested?' She was also chewing gum.

    'Yes, that is to say I would like to teach myself.'

    'You would have to ask the principal, but she is into meditation and Buddhism herself. They do allow all kinds of viewpoints, though. People from different streams get a chance to talk about their beliefs.'

    'Thank you.'

    'You're welcome.'

Our young evangelist now decided to see the head of the school. He found his way to the principal's office and was led in by the secretary on the promise that it would only take a minute.

    'There is a Mr. MacNutt here to see you,' the secretary said. 'Something about religious class.'

    'Simone Dupont, please to meet you,' the principal said. John was somehow taken aback by her. She seemed awfully sure about herself. She wore a long skirt, had short brown hair and gave an overall impression of having panache. John noticed that she wore no make-up of any kind.

    'What can I do for you, Mr.MacNutt?'

    'Well, I just learned from one of your students that you also offer religious classes in this school. I understand that various speakers state their views.'

    'That is correct, but we are booked solid for the year.'

John felt his courage sagging, but did not give up without an effort. 'In case one of the speakers are hindered for any reason, would you consider me?'

    'What are your credentials, Mr. MacNutt?'

    'I am a graduate of Wickliffe Bible College and would represent the let's say more traditional viewpoint.'

    'That one is well taken care of by the local priest.'

John had the tendency to turn around away from these terse and to the point remarks.

    'One more question. Is religion a voluntary subject in this school?'

    'Of course it is an elective, Mr.MacNutt. We have no desire to force anything on our students.' John nodded sheepishly and gave up.

    'Thank you for your time, Mrs..Dupont.'

    'You are very welcome, Mr.MacNutt.' And the school ma'am closed a book of some kind and put on her coat, making herself ready to leave the office.

    'Must be some kind of feminist,' John grumbled in himself as he left the school building. 'I have my fill of this day as it is written: Unto the day sufficeth the evil thereof.' And John headed home. But then he realized that he did not know the way home. The park was empty; nobody he could ask. Coming out of the park he saw a gas station. 'Good, I'll ask there. I must get more acquainted with this neighborhood.' At the station an attendant was filling up a car with unleaded gasoline.

    'Hi, can you tell me the shortest way to 'Sunset Boulevard'?'

    'Sure can. You bear left over there,' and the attendant pointed to the right of the gas station. 'on the opposite side. Then the second road on your right. That's it.'

    'Thanks,' John replied.

    'No problem,' the attendant said cheerfully.

John could feel his stomach demanding a refuel. 'I'm gonna make myself a hearty good meal of macaroni,' he said to himself. As he turned around the corner into 'Sunset Boulevard' he saw a banner across the street from one tree to another. 'Keep Sunset Boulevard smiling,' it said. Pickup trucks were hauling off garbage and debris. Arriving at number eleven, his apartment building, he noticed the difference. Everything breathed as it were so much cleaner. He recognized one of the workers, carrying in a broom, as one of his neighbors.

    'What is going on, neighbor?'

    'We are tidying up the street. It looks like the town garbage haulers will be on strike for a long time to come. Some of the guys are gonna dump the refuse right in front of city hall,' the neighbor said chuckling. 'They are sick and tired of being the victims of an age long dispute. Also the owners of the apartment buildings have stuck their heads together to get the entire block painted by a local contractor. So we renters will get our money's worth after all.'

    'Well, that's a good thing then,' John replied.

    'Sure is,' the neighbor added. Apparently he had something else on his mind, but decided to keep it in; or he simply was waiting for more of a reaction on John's part, and then he went inside with a mere 'See-ya.' John looked the apartment building up and down. 'It could use some paint,' he said to himself. He noticed it had four levels and a nice gable of intricate woodwork. Also the iron railings alongside the steps at the front were of intricate design. But they were well painted. The wooden plate over the entrance said in clear white letters: Rushmore Manor. On the right door two ones were painted. 'Eleven, fools' number,' John said. 'Now why do I only now observe this building with some attention? I am not usually a stickler for details.' He shrugged his shoulders and went inside as well.

Inside he checked the mailbox not expecting any mail so soon. He took out a flyer and a letter. 'Mom wrote! So soon!' He opened the door of his apartment, sank down in his armchair and quickly read the letter. 'John, we want you to know that your dad and I support you in this work for the Lord, even though the congregation was less enthusiastic. We pray daily for you and hope that God will bless the gospel as it is preached by one of His most devout students.' John smiled and nodded. Upon reading this encouraging letter he went about and cooked himself his 'hearty good meal.' He gobbled it down with a soda as he was a quick eater.

After eating his first supper in his new apartment he read for half an hour in the Bible and doing so he completely regained his strength. Then he went on his knees in front of his armchair and prayed. 'Lord, as I am about to go knocking from door to door, I beseech you to guide me in what I am to say to people answering the door.' With that he went outside. He singled out a nearby street, the one with the tidy lawns. Coming up to the first house, he rang the doorbell. A man in his fifties answered the ring.

    'What can I do for you?' eyeing suspiciously at the bible in John's right hand.

    'I wonder whether you read the Bible and whether you have any questions about it?'

    'I am not interested in a conversation. This isn't the bible belt. If I need to know anything I'll go to the library. Bye.' And he closed the door. At the next door he repeated the same question.

    'Are you a Jehovah's witness?'

    'No ma'am.'

    'A Mormon?'

    'No, I'm just an evangelist trying to point out to people the timeless wisdom of the Book of books.'

    'Not to me you won't. My son is a vet of the Gulf war and his first baby is totally misformed. Is that fair? When you die, that's it, all over.'

    'That is very terrible indeed, ma'am, but let me share some verses with you.'

    'No, I don't think so, bye-bye.' And she also closed the door.

At the third door he was sent away because they hadn't finished supper yet. At the fourth door there was no answer at all. At the fifth door there was an answer after a long time.

    'What do you want?' a bearded Hasidic Jew said. He wore long curly locks dangling in front of his ears.

    'I wonder whether you have read the New Testament and whether you have any questions about it?' said John, rephrasing the question. It was silent for a minute and then the Hasid sneered almost undetectably.

    'It was the so-called Christians that killed six million of our people.'

    'You are partly right there,' John answered. 'It was a nominally Christian nation that did this. However were they really Christians?' John asked with the emphasis on Christians. The sneer was repeated more detectably.

    'Our people have been persecuted by Christians since the beginning of Christianity. Either they proselytized us or they suppressed us with few exceptions. It all culminated in WW II. I do not think it is any different with you.'

    'I am not here to reach out to you for personal reasons, sir,' John observed. 'But I hope that the Holy Spirit will show you that Christ is the only efficacious sacrifice that can cleanse us from our sins. God does not take delight in the sacrifices of bulls and goats,'

    'But in a contrite heart,' the Jew finished. 'I know all that and I practice it too.'

    'I do not doubt that, sir. But no matter how religious a person is there is but One Name by which one can be saved. One cannot save oneself by being religious, howsoever humble one could possibly be. Isaiah chapter fifty-three shows you as a Jew the true Messiah.'

    'That chapter is a difficult passage for us indeed, I'll admit that readily.'

    'Then you know that Isaiah predicted that through His stripes we are healed and that He was crushed because of our iniquities.'

    'I know all that and I have concluded that the people of Israel is pictured here as a servant of God.'

    'Sorry, sir, but that would mean that Israel died for the rest of the world. Nobody takes that seriously.' And all of a sudden the stately Hassid started crying, weeping like a little child. John did not know how to react.

    'Let me alone now, please,' the Jew said and he closed the door slowly. John was very impressed and prayed, deciding that he would revisit this man. At the next house a young man answered the door. John asked:

    'Do you read the Bible by any chance.'

    'I've read in it, yes. Particularly the song of songs. We're just married, you know.'

    'Good, but have you ever wondered where you will spend eternity?'

    'Sure, everybody thinks about these things, but nobody ever came back.'

    'O yes. Christ Jesus, for instance, came back.'

    'That's what you say.'

    'It's what the witnesses say that saw Him after the resurrection.'

    'How can I know that? Seeing is believing.'

    'So you are demanding that God give you personally additional proof, after He has given so much proof already?'

    'Well, I don't know. I'm only young, what do I know?'

    'I'm glad you show humbleness. Let me invite you for a weekly Bible study at my home. You can make an hour a week available can't you? You can try it once at least.'

    'Yes, why not,' the young man answered friendly. 'My wife may be interested more than I am. Her parents are Baptists.'

    'Good. Here is my card. Please show up next week Wednesday evening at seven thirty at my place.'

    'Will do,' he said. John went on to the next door. No answer at first. After some time a kind of hippy answered. The man was covered by tattoos. John plied his trade.

    'Now let me ask you,' the hippy started, 'where was your God when the two towers of the WTC collapsed and thousands of innocent people were crushed to smithereens!? I can't find a God anywhere.' John hesitated to answer, but after some time said:

   'I agree with you that something like that is experienced as so awfully meaningless that one might doubt just about anything. But what did you do personally to get over it?'

    'I smoked a joint and kept turning the telly off and then on again, out of sheer disbelief. The next day I took off to the beach and found some rest watching the waves and the ocean.'

    'You see, my friend, the grandeur of God's creation quieted you down in a world where the most awful crimes are committed. The Bible teaches us that creation is a witness to God's divinity and power.'

    'That's a question of belief, Mr. what's-y'r-name?'

    'Please, call me John.'

    'John, who is going to tell me that your God made everything?'

    'Not in the first place my God, but the God of the Bible.'

    'Why not Allah of the Koran?'

    'The difference between Christianity and all other religions, including Judaism and Islam, is that in Christianity one is saved freely by Christ. In the other religions, all of them, you have to work yourself up to salvation. But God is so holy that one single sin is enough to spoil all your good deeds. That is why Christ died on the cross, also for you!' The 'hippy' fell silent and then observed:

    'You seem to know your stuff! I might even start reading the bible again!'

    'You do that!'

    'Yes, I think I will. But excuse me now, I was about to prepare my supper. See-ya!'

    'See you too and a promise is a promise!'

    'O.K.' and the 'hippy' went into the house with a smile.

At nine o'clock John called it quits and went home. Returning at Rushmore Manor he saw a bag lady had installed herself in the corner of the steps and the building. Seeing John she reaches out and holds up a cup for donations in front of her. John gives her a couple of bucks.

    'Do you know the significance behind the smile of the Mona Lisa, sir?' the bag lady asks.

    'I have no idea,' replies John.

    'She smiles because she realizes that she is happily expecting.'

    'Are you drunk by any chance?' John asks, seeing the head of a wine bottle stuck from one of the bags.

    'Not at all, sir. I just wanted to tell you a beautiful thought. It's a feeling only women can have, a very special feeling, you know.' John did not know what to say for a few seconds, but then he took charge of the situation.

    'You know, the Bible says that the man is out of the woman, even though the woman is there because of the man.'

    'Yes, it's a man's world; I know. We women are called to serve. I did all that and then my husband kicked me out for a young girl.'

    'That's awful!' replies John.

    'I am trying to save money to get back to my family in Maine. It's too bad you can't get welfare without an address here.'

    'Is that so? I'm willing to give you mine.'

    'That is very kind of you, sir.' And John gives her his card.

    'Tomorrow I will go to the welfare department with this address, thank you. Apparently there are still kind people in this world.'

    'Give thanks to God, ma'am,' and John goes inside.

Reaching the third storey, John is about to enter his apartment. At that moment the door of the adjacent apartment opened and a woman in her sixties addresses him.

    'Can you kindly help me to move my table around, sir?'

    'Certainly!' responds John and coming over they shake hands and exchange the normal formalities. Entering her abode the first thing he notices is an enormous portrait of the president. Looking around he observes all kinds of political paraphernalia.

    'You must like the president, ma'am.'

    'I certainly do. I helped him in the local campaign and I am very proud of that. God bless America!'

    'Amen to that, ma'am!' And John ends up assisting her in moving around most of her furniture. For when they had moved the dining table, she found that the other things were out of place. Having finished after three quarters of an hour, the neighbor offers John a coffee.

    'So, are you a republican or a democrat, Mr. MacNutt?'

   'I do not like to discuss politics, ma'am.'

    'I'm sorry.'

    'Don't be sorry. I'll tell you; I consider myself on the one hand a-political and--'

    'What does that mean?' she interrupts.

    'A-political, you mean?'


    'It means non-political.'


    'I mean that I do not like to involve myself in politics. And on the other hand I consider politics too complicated to understand and even more so for the fact that it seems to be impossible to be fair to everyone.'

    'You're a thinker, neighbor!'

    'Well, a little bit maybe. I am afraid America, and any other country for that matter, cannot solve its problems. Daniel, the prophet from the Bible, warned his king against forgetting about the poor and unfortunate. Before him prophets of old preached against the mistreatment of the poor, and of widows and orphans.'

    'My, you are a thinker. My husband and I never could live the good life. He worked hard all his life, but even the union double-crossed him when his back went.' They talk a bit more and at ten thirty John returns to his own apartment, leaving a contented neighbor who was able to conveniently forget for an hour that her husband had spent too much money on booze and on the tracks, and who would never realize that the union had abandoned her husband, because he had never learned to take sides.

John sat down with a cup of coffee from the percolator he owned since his student days. He mulled over the facts of the day, while looking around his living room. There was the sturdy dining table with four chairs, the grandfather's clock, but most of all the sitting area, large enough to seat a dozen people close to the windows. 'Lord, bring them in!' he whispered. And he prayed for most of the people he had met that day, particularly for the Latino gang master and the stately Hassid. Before turning into bed, John usually did his readings, often till deep into the night. This night he studied a book that was devoted to the spiritual meanings of the six days of Creation. They were said to represent six consecutive stages of growth in the Christian, beginning with conversion when God's light commences to shine in a person's heart. John finished the book at two thirty a.m., brushed his teeth and kneeled down in front of his bed. In this way he always commended his loved ones to the throne of grace.

When he lay in bed he suddenly experienced inspiration, turned on the bed light and wrote with some difficulty the following poem.


There once was darkness in my soul.

My heart was far from being whole.

But God His Spirit was at work,

And marvel wrought despite the murk.

Yes, lost I was in all my gloom.

Awaited me a damning doom.

But God said: 'Let there now be light!'

And so He clothed me all in white.

Two natures now in me do strive.

The one brings death, the other life.

My war is not 'gainst blood and flesh,

With armies upon high I clash.

The dry did then appear in time,

Containing treasures gold and lime,

Yes, trees and plants that bore their fruit.

And I grew slowly from the root.

O Sun so righteous, shine in me,

And like the moon reflect you free!

And though this vale bring me no joy,

At least increase my weight in troy.

In higher spheres may I soar,

As God increases blessings more.

As butter curded from the milk,

So pain now weaves a dress of silk.

At last it's Christ Who reigns in me.

At last I'm more than ever free.

Transformed from glory unto more,

I'm changed a Christian to the core.

HALLELUJAH! It was then that sleep found a happy John.

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