From religious shackles to spiritual freedom
One of my friends, on whom I had a crush, ran a ministry on an old farm—naturally referred to as “The Farm”—in north Biloxi, Mississippi. He was affiliated with Agape Ministries of Winter Park, Florida. The ministers from Winter Park came to “The Farm” soon after I had recuperated from double pneumonia.
One of the ministers from Florida, Dad Taylor, made me an offer I could not refuse—return to Florida to work at Agape Ministries as a secretary. They would provide me with $100 a month and room and board. Since my heart desire was to serve God, I jumped on the offer.
The $100 a month would cover my debts... a business college loan and a hospital bill from the stay with pneumonia. There would not be much for pocket change but that was okay, Agape was a faith ministry. And I was about to be on my way to live by faith.
In my dad’s book anyone who considered themselves to be ministers outside of a mainstream denominational church, were sure to be charlatans. Nevertheless, when God has a plan He gets His way. My parents were not thrilled with my leaving, but they nevertheless gave me their blessing.
David, the Taylor’s oldest son, came out of the house as we got out of the car. It never occurred to me that Dad Taylor’s son would be a hippie. He looked tough, with hair past his ears, but he was kind to me. Mom Taylor greeted me with open arms, though she probably had no say so on my invading her home. But then there was Chuck, the other son. I got the feeling he did not like me. But that was okay because I did not like him, standing there with his long blond hair flowing down to his shoulders.
I was overwhelmed and numb... and all tied up with my belief that any man with hair past his ears was surely on his way to hell. And that was not my only belief that was assaulted during my stay at Agape. How I got all tied up with religious beliefs that had no scriptural foundation, I do not know, because I had virtually no religious background.
But I was full of mean beliefs that inhabit the heart and make it ugly. God knew just what to do to rid me of the shackles that bound my soul, shackles which would eventually keep me from being able to live.
Girls that came off the street who needed a place to sleep for a night or two, shared my bedroom and my double bed since it was the only bed in the room. It was not easy for me knowing a girl with a venereal disease was sharing my bed. In my mind simple association would surely put me at risk. But during the night as we talked, I discovered to my surprise that these girls, some of them prostitutes, had the same hopes and dreams that I did. We were the same in heart, though not in experience.
This little goody-two-shoes got worked over. Drug addicted hippies and prostitutes turned Jesus People became my treasured friends. And as for long hair on men—today a man with a pony tail turns my head.
A medical doctor in Florida told me “Don’t wheeze. If you start to wheeze and it does not stop, call me.” I listened and never again got pneumonia. Such a simple instruction in prevention. Why had no one told me?
I still got respiratory infections, but not pneumonia. And I had to contend with bouts of pleurisy in the chest walls. It would keep me down for a week at a time, in excruciating pain every time I took a breath. Many times as I lay on the bed in pain, I asked my Father God if I would still love Him if I was well. And I asked Him if He would like to find out the answer to that question by making me well.
Probably the most important “talk” Dad Taylor and I had was when he admonished me about my emotional wrestling against my physical limitations. He taught me to work with my limitations instead of against them, that I could do anything I wanted to do within the limitations. I had no choice but to live with my lot in life. It was a hard thing for me to come to grips with in my mind. So very hard. But I succeeded.