Friday, January 28, 2005

Phillip of the Fountain Pen

I met a strange guy in the Starbucks in St. Joseph.

I went into town on an errand and finished up by kicking back with a nonfat half-caf. I had done a little journal-writing time and was settling down to read Abp. Averky Taushev's book on the Apocalypse when a young man came and stood at my table. He had a pad of paper on a clipboard, and he wrote in neat handwriting:
Greetings sister,

May I sit?

I immediately gestured him to the chair in front of me, more out of awkwardness than anything. He's deaf? He's soliciting? He's a deaf evangelist solicitor? Good grief, what a girl goes through for a decent cup of coffee in this town.

He set to writing again, which gave me a little chance to observe him. Early twenties with a beard ... but, y'know, not weird-looking. Not hippie-esque, nor severely buttoned-down. No particular garb or uniform. Not dirty and not obsessively clean. No piercings or tattoos visible. So, what ...?

He wrote with his blue fountain pen:
My name is Phillip. I saw you writing. I see Grace handling the written Word + so came. Do you know what thing it is to write?

Too much information, not enough sense. And he apparently heard my name from the barrista calling it out. Curse the worldly vanity that brings a person to a place where they announce your name to give you your coffee. But let's see what of this we can work with here. "Are you deaf?" I asked, motioning to my ear. "Can you speak?"
He half-smiled and wrote: I can speak.
Okay, now we know that. But ... "I don't understand," I said, pointing to his previous message. He wrote some more:
To write, do you know what it is to write? That is a good practice. The Word is God. John 1.1.
All righty. "I'm reading about the Apocalypse," I said, pointing to my book. They may have seemed like a disjointed reply, but (a) I had a feeling that wouldn't be a problem to him, and (b) if the next question was going to be something about where I was on my Walk with The Lord, I wanted to indicate my high level of spiritual advancement so he could leave me the heck alone. I read books, buddy. Besides, I didn't care much for the whole weird "what it is to write" topic. His answer wasn't much help.
If the world ended would we know it?
Well, um, yeah we would. But I can't say that. So I said, "That depends on the world." Whatever that means.
Matthew 24:3 The apostles ask Jesus for a sign for His coming + the end of the world. Why would they ask this, do you supose?

"Probably because they wanted a sign? Why don't you speak?"
Because I know what it is to write. This is the daily bread + the flesh of Jesus Christ. Here I measure my Lord between us in holy fellowship.
If it were holy fellowship, my coffee wouldn't be getting cold. "Fellowship? But not by talking?"
The bread is the writing + the speaking is the wine. Both are found @ Table. Yet if man drink + not have bread in his stomach is he not drunken?
Did you ever notice how crazy people make you think you're crazy? Writing is bread and talking is wine and if you speak without writing you'll get drunk. What? I decided to carry on by writing my responses as well. Here's our "conversation":
[me] Isn't it difficult to do this? Don't you ever speak to people?

I do speak yes. Yet is was not the speaking that opened a way to you. You wrote + this is God. The Word is @ one right hand, this is the manifestation of the Lord.
Note to self: journal-writing in the St. Jo Starbucks -- bad idea. Let's change the subject.
I like to write, yes. Are you a Christian?

Not I but you have said, + if you call me a Christian then I shall glorify the Name of Jesus Christ in this name. What does Christian mean but one "acting like Christ?"

Weird response. Who's surprised? But meanwhile, I had figured out how to ask him something I really wanted to know without antagonizing him.
Do you have peace, or are you in turmoil? (I ask because some people who set ascetic practices for themselves are in turmoil.)
I could have said neutral things and gotten out of there, or just said nothing at all and left. But I thought, "No, he's not way-crazy, he's ... middlin'-crazy. And lost. And weird. No one is going to talk to him. Is there a way to get real information to him? Does he know he's lost?"
No, this is my peace. My seeking is in the Lord. In Him do I rest, yet take up my cross + follow Him. This is the faith that lead Abram out of the nations, the faith that gave the law to Moses, how David ruled his Kingdom + how the apostles fellowshipped w/ each other. This is my practice of faith, active + living.

I don't want to sound naive, but I was impressed with that answer. It could've been said by a fool-for-Christ. Still, it was troubling to think that this person with his strange mentality was going at the Scriptures without a paddle ... without a spiritual guide.
Do you have any church or place where you study and pray with others?

What is the church? What does the Bible say of it? When Paul writes an assembly, does he not write the city? In Revelation, John writes to the angel over a city! Here we are, on the ground of St. Joseph we are even now in service. Do you want to pray, sister?
Oh dear.
No, thank you, though I respect what you've said. I'm Orthodox -- though we know that God is everywhere, yet to me that is His best expression on earth.

But speaking of earthly matters, I have to go. My dog is outside, and she's getting cold.

True enough. Can't have a cold dog. Nosirree.
Blessed be Grace in the Name of Jesus Christ. Peace be w/ you.

And God bless you, Phillip.

I was a little relieved that he had no problem with me going. I asked if I could take our written conversation and as he got it together, he wrote a last message that I didn't read till I got in the car.
The communion lives!

I mulled all this over all the way home, and I still can't quite make heads or tails out of it. No doubt most people would have walked out. Part of the reason I didn't was self-indulgence. I've been intrigued with people's mental shifting sands, with the mental place where reality recedes without you realizing it. But also, I think I hung in there just to say that one word to him -- Orthodox. It's my way of leaving a hint. Go find out about this place. See if your studies and your world make sense there.

I don't mean to sound so Ortho-centric. A person just goes with what they know. I had my confused stage in college. I wasn't at Phillip's level, but I was in a bad way. And I was born again and had a Bible, by Jiminy, so I was constantly finding out wonderful things that no one else had ever found out and needing to separate myself more and more from other people. It's called prelest -- you think you're getting better and better when you're actually getting worse and worse. I don't know where it would've ended if the Orthodox Church hadn't come to the rescue. (Almost literally, but that's something for another post.)

The communion does live.


Blogger Elizabeth said...

I will add Philip to my prayers.
Many God bless him, and lead him to the Truth.
And may God bless you for your kindness to him.
I imagine many people would have turned away from him.....

January 28, 2005 at 10:43 PM  
Blogger Grace said...

Thank goodness somebody knows what to do. I haven't been sure exactly how to phrase my prayer. Lord have mercy on those who are lost? I've known some people that are in those deep waters, and they're never aware of their peril. God's mercy, I suppose, working with human folly.

January 29, 2005 at 12:03 PM  
Blogger Karl Thienes said...


What a fascinating encounter. I, too, usualy try and weasel the word "Orthodox" into conversations...there are so many people around us who, if they could open their eyes and hearts long enough to look into it, would be transfigured by the Church's grace.

January 30, 2005 at 1:07 PM  
Blogger The Parson said...

Splendid post, Grace. Yes, the Communion does live. And you are right in thinking that some places are special in a way that others aren't. I think those places are called 'church'.

While I'm at it, pray for my dear friend Carissa, who is Orthodox but is suffering from a dire crisis of faith and has left the church. My comfort is in the knowledge that the church doesn't leave her.

January 30, 2005 at 7:37 PM  
Blogger Grace said...

I'm sorry to hear about your friend. Goodness knows it happens, in this church and others. And for some reason, I seem to know quite a few people who are going through something like this.

I'll add her name to my prayer list. Keep me posted on how she's doing.

January 30, 2005 at 8:47 PM  
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October 2, 2005 at 5:40 AM  
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October 19, 2005 at 8:38 PM  

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