Thursday night I spoke at a rally in Honolulu. The organizers were actually “the World Can’t Wait,” which is a left wing-ish type of movement directing efforts at impeaching Bush and speaking against the conservative kind of agenda his administration follows. I had seen this crowd before, and I love to hear what they have to offer. I won’t go into my own views just yet, but I do sympathize with some of their views. Anyway, we didn’t go up until after dark, it was me, the Iraq Veterans Against the War (“IVAW”) Hawaii chapter director, and two other guys. The chapter president led in with the broad idea behind IVAW and introduced us and our individual circumstances. The second guy to speak had experience in Afghanistan and spoke about pharmaceutical companies’ involvement in drug seizing out there. The third guy went next and didn’t have anything prepared, but he spoke very openly from his heart in appreciation for everyone supporting guys like us, who had had seen their own fair share of war and didn’t want any part of it any longer. The other three were not shy about their views or the passion with which they hold them. I was a little more restrained (in vigor and in language, which is not to say that their use of explicatives was unwarranted), though my message was no less heartfelt.
I opened up with a little history about myself and then pretty much read from the page I had with me. I was pretty nervous about sharing such a religiously oriented message to groups that I had seen passing out flyers saying “Keep God out of my uterus,” and other such stuff. A friend was video taping me, so I got to watch my nervous fidgeting myself; it was pretty comical. I finished what I had written and we were stepping off the stage when I was tapped on the shoulder by an individual beside the stage. I turned to greet him, since I offered my time and prayer for anyone who wished to meet with me. When I looked into his eyes, something didn’t exude the usual welcoming warmth I have seen with others who have been sympathetic to me in the past.
He asked me outright, “Hey you’re still in the army?” I assured him that I was. With that, he launched into an aggressive campaign to insist that I be ashamed of myself. When I realized his purpose, I successfully suppressed the instinct to respond in kind. Instead, I stuck my hands in my pockets and decided to listen to what he had to offer. Unfortunately, he brought very little to the table. His very basic message was that I, as well as everyone who spoke with me, had signed a contract and we were to now serve the military unquestioningly with seemingly blind obedience. I had heard this before, so I was accustomed to the argument (that is a very forgiving way to describe his verbal and physical tactics). The guy actually poked me in the chest a few times while he was going on with everything. The IVAW guy heard what he had begun with me and decided to step in, returning the guys’ aggressiveness, though without the poking.
They argued about it a bit and I was grabbed by another guy and asked to pray with him. This new guy had actually been discouraging Poker and reminding us all that the reason we were here was to promote peace. This new guy, who I’ll call New Ager, thanked me for going up there and speaking my mind, and said he wanted to take me up on my offer to pray with him for peace. So I did, including the ongoing tirade behind us. When I wrapped it up, we talked about the Mayan calendar and he did me the great service of letting me know when Jesus was going to return. You ready for this? December 12th 20012, which he rounded off to 2013 or so. I guess this is a pretty widespread belief; a bunch of guys corrected him when he initially said 2013. So I guess I better get all my business in order by then. Anyway, he introduced himself as Metatron, who in Christian tradition was Enoch – who entered heaven without suffering death and was made by God into an enormous angel responsible for keeping tabs on everyone’s sins (he was a great accountant), and his name is in the running for one of the two witnesses who will prophesy at Jerusalem in the last days. I didn’t tell him all this. He was happy just being a prophet for the last days, if that title is appropriate.
My friend who video taped for me witnessed with me and offered New Ager something before went back to proclaiming the last day on earth as 2013. After the dispute settled down, we all went to dinner. I was still in my COWARD t-shirt from Washington DC. We were just across the street from the rally, and a few people who had also been there came up and thanked us for sharing. So things kind of came around eventually.
Friday I went to a Pennylane and Olivia concert down the street from my house in Hale’iwa, both are local bands that play great Christian music. I didn’t have anyone to go with, and I had skated for a few hours beforehand, so I found something to sit on near the back of the gym to rest my feet and be a wallflower. The concert went really well, and the two bands that played right before them were really good, so I have a few new bands to search for on Myspace. Olivia finally came on, and they had one of the best sets I had ever seen, which isn’t saying much considering how many concerts I have been to. Olivia is gaining a huge fan base worldwide; they played at Hillsong Church in Australia among other large venues. They have been touring for a long time and this was their homecoming concert. It was obvious how happy they were to be home, and how much home meant to them. The place they were playing was actually where my old church meets on Sundays, the church I was going to in the early stages of my CO application. The place is just a small gym off the main street in the sleepy surf town of Hale’iwa. Coming from such a huge place like Hillsong must have been a change. Anyway, partway through one of their first songs, I remembered the song that was playing when I was converted on the bus going to California back in April. The song that played was “Heaven,” and I immediately thought how great it would be to hear that song played live after attaching such great significance to it. I actually prayed about it, I really quickly and simply asked God that they might play it somewhere in their set.
When the song they were singing wrapped up, the lead singer, Reed, said “ok, we’re going to slow it down a bit…” What song was next on their set list? Sure enough, Reed told the audience how the next song had great meaning to him and if anyone wanted to hear more about it to see one of them after the concert was over. Then they launched into “Heaven,” much to my surprise. I felt like hearing that song was almost a capstone on all that had been going on for the last six months. Like going out of the military was the conclusion of all the drama and trials I had been through, and God was assuring me that I was entering a new season of my life. During the course of the song, I couldn’t even listen to most of it, I was in thankful prayer to God for everything that I had been put through and for the person it was making me. It was a mirror of the experience in April; like two fancy bookends meeting and making a cute little image together, each unique but complimenting one another to make a single figure.
After that song, a girl came up to me. She looked vaguely familiar, but I couldn’t place why. She came up to me and yelled in my ear (I still couldn’t quite hear her over the band), “were you at that rally yesterday?” I told her I was, and recognized where I had seen her. She was speaking to someone in our group as the Poker was ranting on at me. She told me she thought it took a lot of courage to do what we did, and she said she had seen Poker getting pissed and was surprised how I reacted. I think she said something about how she would have reacted more like the IVAW guy had, with a little more retributive anger. Before she returned to her group of friends, she thanked me for going up there and being a little different from the rest of the guys who spoke.
During “Heaven,” I felt led to hear from the band why that song was significant to them and hopefully be able to share my own reason for its significance. I am really shy usually, so it was gonna be interesting trying to find one of them away from the crowds enough to approach them. Once the concert was over, I decided to plop down on a bench and see how God would work it out. Eventually, an older woman came up to me and started some small talk. It started with ‘how did you like the concert,’ or something. After some more chit chat, I come to find out that she is the mother of one of the guitarists. Also, the name of the band, Olivia, was used to commemorate her daughter who was a still born many years ago. Olivia is the guitarist’s unborn sister, and the band used the name to remember her. I was really moved when I heard that. I shared with the mother, Roxanne, what has been going on with the Army and Israel and everything (I actually got it down to less than 10 minutes!), and she offered to call her son over, saying the band members would probably like to hear more. She got up and walked off and the seat next to me opened up.
I saw Reed, the lead singer, slowly making his way through the crowd toward the bench I was sitting on. Sure enough, he sat down next to me, chatting with fans the whole time. He offered his hand and introduced himself. I figured Roxanne had sent him over, but wasn’t sure.
We got to talking, and I asked about the song and why it had special meaning to him. He said it was written at a time when he was spiritually lost, kind of in a low and trying to pick himself back up. I told him the significance it had to me and where I was in my life when I heard it. We laughed about how the times that it had reached us were similar. We went on to talk about a bunch of things, like finding one’s place and how often God usually uses you right where you’re at in life. We also talked about why God used war to shape His people in the Old Testament, and how when we were both converted it was accompanied by this thirst for understanding scripture not based on what other people claimed but to really read it and find out firsthand what it said. I felt bad for keeping him from adoring fans, so I promised to email him all the web stuff I had and offered again my gratitude for taking the time to delve a little deeper into stuff with me for awhile. With that I took off and took the long way home to reflect on everything that had been going on for the last several days, the moon was full and the night was warm so I met God on the beach for a bit too…