~~ Ch. 13 ~~
“You know, there’s a lot of verses about the sins of the fathers being visited upon their children,” John Smith said to himself outloud. “I would imagine that such Scriptures apply also to brothers, right?”
Taking out Bubba Delvaney was important, Smith thought to himself. But what other family members merit my expertise? He asked himself, “I think that Bubba had a brother, right?” I wonder where I might find him.
[New chapters in our story will be posted in July. Comments welcome!]
~~ Ch. 12 ~~
Faithful Bible College’s cafeteria would never make the cover of Martha Stewart’s “The 50 Most Attractive College Dining Halls in the States,” but the meals prepared by Sissie Borden were delicious. Students often had to be asked to leave the cafeteria when it was closing because they could have seconds or thirds and the atmosphere was perfect for meeting in small groups and talking about their classes.
The other perk in the dining hall was that there was no separate faculty dining area. The teachers at FBC would eat with the students to discuss course assignments, questions about life, or just to shoot the breeze.
On every annual review of FBC’s facilities students always gave the highest marks to Miss Borden’s menus and especially the faculty regularly being available for conversation.
Although most of the tables were designed to seat 6-8 diners, there were several smaller tables in the corners of the dining hall for more private conversations.
Hornby entered the cafeteria and immediately noticed Michael Delganey sitting by himself at one of the smaller tables.
“Mind if I join you?”, Hornby asked.
“Of course, Professor Hornby. I’d be honored!” Michael stood up as Hornby took his seat.
“Michael,” Dr. Hornby said, “do you mind telling me a bit about your family and your background?”
“Well, sir, it’s kind of complicated. My family is originally from the Chicago area, but we moved away years ago.”
“Why did your family move away from Chicago?”, Hornby asked.
“It’s a bit embarrassing, but it was well known that the Delvaney family (that was our last name before . . . well, I believe I shared that with you already) were, shall we say, major players in the criminal world of Chicago. My father had nothing to do with his brother or his cousins. In fact, my Dad had shared the gospel with each of them — and was scoffed at for believing ‘all that stuff.’”
“Did you lose all contact with your family when you moved away?”, Hornby asked.
“Pretty much. I did, however, have a favorite uncle. We called him ‘Uncle Bubba.’ He was a huge man, but very gentle and friendly. When I was small he gave me horsey-back rides when he came to visit.”
“You say ‘he was.’ Is Bubba still around?”
Michael’s eyes filled with tears. “No, he passed away about a year ago. I miss him terribly. He used to take me for a ride in his beautiful Lexus.”
Hornby cautiously said, “Do you mind telling me how he died, Michael?”
“Well, sir, he was being charged with some very serious crimes. There were rumors that some key witnesses had gone missing. It appears that after celebrating being found innocent in court, he just drove off a cliff!”
“Drove off a cliff? Why would he do such a thing?”
Michael looked down. “I don’t know, Sir. The police have no explanation. There was no evidence that another car was involved or that he skidded to avoid a deer or anything like that. And I know my uncle. He would not have committed suicide!”
“Michael, I’m so sorry for your loss,” Hornby said.
“But, Dr. Hornby, that’s not the worst of it!”
“What do you mean, Michael?”
“I mean, if my uncle died without a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, he is lost forever!” Michael burst into tears, not caring if any other students saw him crying in the cafeteria.
Hornby tried to comfort Michael, but felt quite inept in his attempt. “Michael, I will be praying that the Lord will give you comfort. Please drop by my office anytime that you want to talk.”
“I will, Sir. And thank you for listening.”
As Hornby left the cafeteria, he thought to himself, I wonder why more of us don’t have that kind of love for those we care about who die without being in Jesus. Hornby also thought about how he would love to find out exactly why Bubba drove over that cliff.
~~ Ch. 11 ~~
“Intro to Theology 101” was one of Hornby’s favorite classes to teach. It gave him a chance to survey the ten major areas of Christian doctrine and, hopefully, to whet the appetite of his students for all things theological.
“Today, students,” Dr. Hornby said, “we’re going to deal with a very difficult subject. The subject is what happens to those who die without a saving knowledge of Jesus.”
“Dr. Hornby?” one young lady raised her hand. “Are you talking about . . .” (she blushed when she said the next word) “. . . hell?”
“Yes, as a matter of fact, I am.” Hornby could see on the faces of the 30 or so students in the class that he had their undivided attention. “Many people who claim to be Christians have abandoned the idea of eternal, conscious punishment, but I want to show that the Bible actually teaches that ‘the wicked’ — those who die without Christ — will be separated from God and His people forever and will undergo everlasting punishment.”
“But my pastor taught us that all will eventually get to heaven!” one student in the back said. “In fact, he said that God is too loving to send anyone to hell and man isn’t sinful enough to merit eternal punishment.”
“That’s a very common view,” Dr. Hornby replied. It’s usually called universalism, but it’s not what the Bible teaches.” Hornby went on to show several clear Scriptures which indicated that there will be a final separation of those in Christ from those who did not trust Him as their Savior.
“I’ve had some Seventh-Day Adventist friends who told me that those who die without Christ will eventually be annihilated, put out of existence, by God,” another student stated. “In fact, they told me that God shouldn’t be seen as a cosmic torturer!”
“That’s a view known as conditionalism or annihilationism,” Hornby said. “In fact, one of the best known Evangelical leaders, John R.W. Stott, was a conditionalist. But, again, that’s not what the Bible teaches. Hornby pointed out a number of Scriptures which indicate that “the wicked” will undergo eternal, conscious punishment.
“Perhaps there will be numerous opportunities to trust Christ after death?”, asked a student named Michael Delganey. “Must we really believe that God’s grace toward the lost will end at death? Didn’t Jesus preach to the dead when He descended to hell between His death and His resurrection?”
Hornby thought for a moment. “You’ve asked a great question. Michael, is it? Some have thought that Christ’s so-called descent into hell is explained to us in I Peter 3. This view is sometimes called ‘the post-mortem conversion’ view.” Hornby went on to show that I Peter 3 is really talking about Jesus preaching through Noah to the unbelievers of Noah’s day. And that Jesus did not offer a second or third or fourth chance for salvation to people after their deaths.
“But, Dr. Hornby,” MIchael responded. “Do you really believe that those who die without believing in Jesus will be eternally condemned and never, ever have a chance to get right with God? Really?”
Hornby could see that Michael’s question was more than merely academic. “I believe that we should grieve for those who have died without Christ, but for them it is too late. That’s why the Bible puts such an emphasis on sharing our faith with people now. On earth. Before they die.”
Michael’s head was down on his desk. After Hornby finished his lecture — and assigned twenty Scriptures for the students to look up for their next session of Intro to Theology — he went over to Michael to talk with him.
“Michael,” Dr. Hornby said, “I know this is a disturbing topic. Could there even be a more disturbing topic than this one? Are you thinking about someone you care about who has died without trusting Jesus?”
Michael’s eyes filled with tears. “Yes, Dr. Hornby! My uncle. I don’t have any reason to believe that he died believing in Jesus! And now he is lost . . . forever!”
Hornby pulled up a desk next to Michael and wished he had his Ellie with him. She would know what to do. She would put her arm around Michael and just let him cry. All Hornby could do was ask him, “Would you want to tell me a bit about your uncle, Michael?”
“Well, sir, you need to know that my last name was changed a couple of years ago.”
“Changed?” Dr. Hornby responded.
“Yessir. Our last name used to be ‘Delvaney.’ My father changed our last name because of the Delvaney mob. My uncle was their leader, Bubba Delvaney,and he died last year in a car accident.”
“I just love my ‘calling’,” John Smith said to himself. “I get to do God’s work and fulfill my destiny!”
As he sat in his hotel room, Smith was thoroughly relishing the news reports of Delvaney’s death. He thought to himself how much he enjoyed the hours of research and preparation — which were always followed by a perfect execution. He rehearsed his work out-loud as he reviewed the car “accident” he caused.
“First, I had to study the wasp, its scientific name being Vespula vulgaris. I learned that the wasp’s venom is as powerful as a rattlesnake’s.
“I remember overhearing some of Delvaney’s men in a bar talking about how their boss — a man feared by all — was deathly afraid of only one thing — wasps! They laughed as they remembered how he had jumped straight up at a family meeting when he thought a wasp was flying near his head. He explained his action by telling the story of when, as a child on his tenth birthday, he had had a wasp nest fall behind his sweatshirt as he climbed his favorite tree. He had gotten stung about 25 times and almost died.
“I love it!”, Smith said. “Delvaney didn’t get stung even once this time!” Smith gushed as he recalled the medical examiner’s findings. “Just the thought of a wasp in his car was enough to do him in!” Smith laughed out loud as he reflected on his perfect plan.
He had read up on wasps and learned that a captured wasp could be put to sleep with just a small amount of carbon dioxide. “And when Delvaney opened that small box with the card on top saying ‘Congratulations!’, he didn’t realize that the chocolate truffles were hiding a sleeping wasp! Shortly after the box was opened, the air woke up the wasp and the rest is, as they say, history!”
Smith picked up his Bible and began to read some of his favorite passages. He read verses from Numbers 35 about a man appointed by God.
As he read, Smith reviewed the details of “the avenger of blood.” God decreed that six Levite cities were to be “cities of refuge” to which a killer of someone might flee and await trial before the assembly. If that person had committed murder (striking a person with an iron object, a stone, or a wooden object), “the avenger of blood shall put the murderer to death; when the avenger comes upon the murderer, the avenger shall put the murderer to death” (Num. 35:19). God commanded execution by the avenger for someone who out of enmity hits another with their fist and they die.
However, Smith continued to read, the avenger of blood can’t execute someone who pushes another or throws something at them unintentionally or, without seeing them, drops a stone on them, and they die. No harm was intended and, after a trial before the assembly, the accused must go back to the city of refuge and stay there until the death of the high priest.
Smith finished his reading of Numbers 35 by noting that if the accused ever goes outside the limits of the city of refuge to which they fled and the avenger of blood finds them outside the city, the avenger of blood may kill the accused without being guilty of murder.
“I prefer my work to be quiet and private, unlike the Old Testament’s avenger of blood,” Smith said to himself. “I wonder what my next assignment might be.”
Mrs. Scarlett O’Leary was Faithful Bible College’s librarian — and she took her job very seriously. Although she was always ready to help the students, especially in learning good research methods, she was a stickler for returning checked-out books on time. She would not hesitate to charge a student — or a faculty member, for that matter — ten cents per day for any books not returned when due.
One of her hobbies was collecting librarians’ curses. Her favorite was from the monastery of San Pedro, Barcelona, which reads:
“For him that stealeth a book from this library,
let it change into a serpent in his hand & rend him. Let him be struck with palsy, & all his members blasted.
Let him languish in pain crying aloud for mercy,
& let there be no surcease to his agony till he sink to dissolution.
Let bookworms gnaw his entrails in token of the Worm that dieth not,
& when at last he goeth to his final punishment,
let the flames of hell consume him forever & aye.”
She had several others framed and hung on her office wall. One was by Hugh, the abbot of Lobbes Abbey in Germany, who noticed in 1049 that a number of the monastery’s books were missing. So he wrote on the last page of his catalogue:
“All those who do not books return
Are thieves, not borrowers, and earn
The punishment Justice demands;
Their sacrificial loss of hands,
May God, therefore, as witness see
That it be done unswervingly.”
Two others were framed and publicly displayed on Mrs. O’Leary’s office wall. One was by a gentle Eleanor Worcester, who in 1440 wrote,
“This book is mine
And I it lost, and you it find,
I pray you heartily to be so kind,
That you will take a little pain,
To see my book brought home again.”
With tongue-in-cheek, her absolute favorite curse was by the Parisian scribe Simon Vostre who completed a Book of Hours in 1502 with the lines
“Whoever steals this Book of Prayer
May he be ripped apart by swine,
His heart be splintered, this I swear,
And his body dragged along the Rhine.”
Contrary to the impression these curses gave of Mrs. O’Leary’s personality, she was nevertheless a sweet widow who had her sights set resolutely on none other than Dr. Theophilus Hornby. Mrs. O’Leary’s husband had passed away about the same time as Mrs. Hornby, but she had finished her grieving her late husband’s passing in record time.
Whenever Hornby came into the library, Mrs. O’Leary would drop what she was doing, would unceremoniously shove aside any student worker who would dare move toward assisting Dr. Hornby, and would whisper in her best, throaty, librarian voice, “Theo, how may I help you today?”
Hornby, although he was immensely observant in his Bible studies, was quite naive regarding Mrs. O’Leary’s intentions. But the students knew, and did not hesitate to share with one another her latest efforts to turn Hornby’s head her direction. Those students whose student work responsibilities put them on library detail would try to set up Dr. Hornby and Mrs. O’Leary by asking him some arcane question in class whose answer could only be found out by visiting FBC’s stacks. And then the real observing would begin.
FBC had a monthly dessert get together at which the faculty could share about their recent writing projects or ministry opportunities, and, after appropriate cake or pie, the evening concluded with a time of prayer.
On this Friday evening Hornby had volunteered to read an original poem he had written while teaching his “Theological Methods and Issues” class.
The dean of the school, Dr. Sean Miller, opened the monthly meeting with prayer. “Tonight,” he said, “we have as our special treat an original poem by our own Dr. Theophilus Hornby. Dr. Hornby.”
The other faculty and staff clapped profusely, knowing that Hornby’s contribution to the evening’s festivities would be worth listening to.
“Friends,” Hornby began, “as some of you know, my ‘Theological Methods and Issues’ class can be a real challenge sometimes. Some students do unthinkable things to participles, like dangle them, and even maliciously split infinitives!”
The group laughed, but Hornby continued. “A few of our students think that research is stringing together a bunch of quotes from hard-to-understand experts, sometimes failing to cite the original sources. Very few of our charges intentionally plagiarize, but this situation inspired me to pen the following parody of a famous poem, entitled ‘Footprints in the Sand.”
The group all got quiet as they waited for Hornby to read his poem. “This poem is called ‘Footnotes in the Surf.’”
He then read his poem:
FOOTNOTES IN THE SURF
One night I dreamed a dream
Of a research assignment — and I began to scheme
How to finish and get a great grade
But that wouldn’t happen without some aid.
As I strolled on the beach thinking what I could do
It occurred to me that I could pursue
Not serious study but a quick treasure hunt
Into the works of others, an oft-used stunt
By lazy students who didn’t care
Whose words they used, or ideas to share
Without attribution, without any guilt
And so I competed the research paper “I” built.
After turning it in and receiving it back
I was given an “A” — and that’s a fact!
But then that night as I lay on my bed
I had a dream, a nightmare instead
And the Lord spoke to me what was undoubtedly true.
“My son — that’s not your work. Others have carried you!”
“Oh, Theo. That was tremendous!”, Mrs. O’Leary gushed as the meeting came to an end and everybody began heading home.
“You know, Theo, I happen to have some homemade apple cider and freshly-baked shortbread cookies waiting in my kitchen at home.”
Mrs. O’Leary had heard that those two items were at the top of Hornby’s list of most desirable comfort foods. But he was tired and said to Mrs. O’Leary, “Thank you, Mrs. O. But can I take a raincheck?”
“A raincheck? Theo — you can call me Scarlett — there’s not a cloud in the sky. And you’ve already collected five rainchecks from me!”
At that precise moment in his personal history as a man, it dawned on Hornby — could it possibly be — that Mrs. O’Leary was hitting on him?! Man, he said to himself, have I been naive or what?
He stumbled on his words as he made his escape. “Mrs. O’Leary, I mean Scarlett, it just occurred to me that I have several books overdue that I had better turn in to the library tomorrow! I’ll drop them off sometime in the morning.”
“Oh, Theo. Don’t worry about overdue books. I think you and I are a bit overdue, if you catch my meaning!”
Hornby could feel himself blushing as he grabbed his coat and jumped in his car.
When he got home, Luther climbed up on his lap, instinctively sensing something was upsetting Hornby. “Luther,” Hornby said, “I sure miss my Ellie.” Luther thought he said “jelly,” and thought how good a jelly biscuit would be about right now.
When Hornby got home, he opened the front door and called out, “Luther, I’m home! Got the dishes done from last night?”
He knew very well that the dirty dishes would still be in the sink and Luther would stumble out of the bedroom, leaving a warm, round indentation at the foot of Hornby’s bed.
But Luther loved doing figure 8’s around Hornby’s legs and his deep purring was his way of saying, “I’m so glad you’re home. Can we watch ‘Columbo’ tonight? And might we have an encore of that tv dinner which we enjoyed last night?”
As much as he appreciated Luther’s company, Hornby really missed his long discussions with Ellie. They could talk about anything, often finishing each other’s sentences. At their 50th wedding anniversary celebration, one of their friends described the Hornbys by saying, “Even their minds seem to be holding hands!”
Eleanor had had a distinguished career, first as a high school guidance counselor, then as head of the guidance department. She seemed to have that motherly or grandmotherly appearance that drew students with struggles to her like a magnet. Even though her primary job as a counselor was to help students select courses or make good decisions about which college to attend, much of her time was spent in listening to and providing wisdom to countless young men and women who needed “just a few minutes, Mrs. H?”
When she retired a year before her death, Mrs. Hornby had impacted literally thousands of young people on such critical issues as sexual purity; personality styles; parental respect; academic excellence; the pitfalls of popular culture; the importance of being an active member of a solid, local church; etc. After she left, the administration realized that it needed to hire two people to take her place: one as head of the guidance department and another as a confidante and counselor.
Her death left a lot of holes, and not just in my heart, thought Hornby, as he plopped into his recliner with Luther jumping up to lie next to him. “Luther,” Hornby said out loud, “please don’t take this the wrong way, but you’re a pretty poor substitute for my Ellie. I’d sure love to have her back. If only I could have my wish . . .”
Luther perked up when he heard the word “wish.” Hmmm. He thought to himself. “Wish” sounds like “fish” — and I haven’t had any tuna in a long time!
“Got you something special for dinner tonight,” Hornby said to Luther. “It’s that new Seven Seas Hungry Man Seafood Platter,” he said. “Here — it will take me just a few minutes to microwave it.”
Luther licked his lips and thought, I’ll bet we watch “Columbo” tonight. As long as I get the leftovers!
“I wonder what’s on the ‘Classics’ TV channel?”, Hornby asked as he took the dinner out of the microwave. “Doesn’t that smell delicious, Luther?”
Monday afternoon was Hornby’s day to go grocery shopping. His diet included more than tv dinners, but his level of absent-mindedness seemed to be increasing as the years rolled on. He would lose track of time, forget what he came to buy, or get caught up in a conversation about theology.
He was fond of saying, “Theology is not boring. Theologians are boring!” He tried his best to keep his lectures and class discussions relevant and practical and, well, interesting. He remembered his old friend Daryl Busby, a former colleague at a small Bible college in Canada, saying, “Surely it must be a sin to bore God’s people with God’s Word!”
Hornby was always ready to discuss doctrinal matters, because good doctrine, he believed, was solidly based in truth. And the truth will set you free, he thought to himself.
He remembered going grocery shopping one Monday afternoon when he met his plumber friend John Ensel who had also lost his wife to cancer. “Theo,” John said, “got your list?”
“List? Oh, my. Nope. Forgot it again!”, Hornby answered.
“Well, that’s okay, my friend. Somedays without my Mary I find it hard to put one foot in front of the other. But we must, you know?”
“Yeah, I know,” Hornby answered. “I know she’s with the Lord, and her pain is gone, and she’s probably so enamored with the Lord Jesus that she hardly even thinks about me down here.”
“I’m not so sure about that, Theo,” Ensel responded. But what do I know? I’m just a humble plumber, DR. Hornby!”
Hornby and Ensel loved poking fun at each other, especially about their different levels of education. “I’m not so sure how truly humble you are, John. I know that you’re probably more widely read in theology than I am — and I teach this stuff!”
“Theo, you know that I just fix water problems, flooded basements, and clogged toilets. I’m just a small fish in God’s pond.”
“John, you remind me of something said by John Gardner, who was the Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare under President Lyndon Johnson. Gardner said, ‘The society which scorns excellence in plumbing as a humble activity and tolerates shoddiness in philosophy because it is an exalted activity will have neither good plumbing nor good philosophy: neither its pipes nor its theories will hold water.’”
Hornby and Ensel laughed and laughed at that quote, and for the next hour, they discussed the finer points of God’s omnipresence, the state of believers who were already in heaven, and whether or not those saints paid attention to what was going on down here on earth. Neither was aware that their discussion was taking place in Aisle 7, Feminine Hygiene and Incontinence Aids.
~~ Ch. 5 ~~
Detective Lance Ryland couldn’t understand how Delvaney, whose blood alcohol level was below .08, could have simply driven his Lexus over a cliff. “It just doesn’t make a lick of sense,” he said outloud to himself. “Unless he was swerving to avoid a deer or something, one might think he purposely did himself in!”
A routine autopsy was done on Delvaney’s body. Dr. Michael Stumpf was straightforward in his report. No detectible injuries pre-mortem. No evidence of a stroke or a brain abnormality. Injuries consistent with a major car accident. Nothing unusual about the victim’s death.
“What a fascinating read,” John Smith thought to himself. He had hacked into the coroner’s website and the post-mortem report on Delvaney. “Thankfully, they think it was an accident,” he muttered. “Not true at all. Nor was this a murder or a suicide. It was a justifiable homicide. An execution. A judgment. A biblical judgment.”
“Hey, Boss! You really think Bubba offed himself?!”, asked Butch Milano, one of Mike Slaughter’s “associates.” Slaughter controlled most of the illegal drug enterprise and all of the prostitution rings in Chicago.
“No way, Butch,” Milano said.
“Boss, Delvaney was just acquitted. He walks out of the restaurant after celebrating and then drives off a cliff. No skid marks. No evidence of another car banging into him.”
“I know. I know. I think someone was after him. Who were his enemies? Track down his cell phone records. Did he call anybody before he croaked? Nobody just found ‘not guilty’ drives himself off a cliff!”
~~ Ch. 4 ~~
Faithful Bible College was founded in 1941 by the Reverend Lawrence W. Clemons, an associate evangelist of D.L. Moody. FBC had only recently celebrated its 75th anniversary.
The school rightfully prided itself on its commitment to the authority of the Bible, the relevance of the Christian gospel, and the need to train young people in the skills they would require to serve Jesus in a post-Christian, and frequently anti-Christian, society.
I’ve never seen such a dedicated faculty, thought Dean Sean Miller to himself. They’re not only excellent teachers, but they are paid so much less than they could earn at a secular university.
“Good morning, Dean Miller,” said Bible professor Dr. Hornby.
“And a good morning to you too,” responded Miller. “What classes do you have today, Theo?”
Dr. Miller knew full well that Hornby had two classes today — “Intro to Theology” and “Discipleship 101.”
Hornby smiled and said, “Don’t worry, Sean, I probably won’t forget which class I’m teaching!”
This bit of repartee came from an incident a few months ago when Hornby began his class lecturing on the Hebrew grammar used in the Dead Sea Scrolls to a freshman class in Church History. After a few minutes, a young coed raised her hand and said, “Uh, Dr. Hornby, will we need to know this for our midterm in, uh, church history next week?”, Hornby turned scarlet and put aside his Old Testament lecture notebook.
“Hmmm. Sorry about that, students! I guess my old age is catching up with me.”
The students laughed, and looked at him with deep affection. They knew how much he cared about them and how hard he worked to make his lectures not only interesting, but practical. He had only missed one week of classes after his beloved Eleanor had passed away from breast cancer.
Faithful Bible College’s classes were almost done for the Spring semester. The student body numbered only about 150, so it was fairly easy for the nine members of the faculty to learn almost all of the students’ names.
Although every student had to major in Bible, there were several minors at FBC that students could pursue. Dr. Rick Nation was the department chair of political science and math minors. Mrs. Gertrude Kominsky was in charge of the English and American Literature minors. Dr. Mortimer Sandover supervised several adjunct teachers in the Business Administration program. Dr. Warren Peace oversaw historical studies and Dr. Hornby was the head of the Bible/Theology studies.
All the teachers were committed Evangelical Christians and their camaraderie was, to Hornby, one of the best parts of teaching at FBC. Each could have made more money teaching elsewhere, but FBC, though small, challenged their trust in the Lord to provide for the school and gave them great freedom in administering their various programs.
Hornby enjoyed the bantering, the give-and-take, between the faculty members. All seemed to relish teasing each other, some playing practical jokes, others poking fun at each other’s foibles. Although it was never said, they simply loved each other and their role in the ministry of training a new generation of church leaders at FBC.
“Say, Mortimer,” Rick Nation said one day in the faculty lounge.
“You run our Business Administration program, right?”
“You know that I do, Dr. Nation. Why do you ask?”
“Well, Mort, I heard that you bounced a check at the local Seven-Eleven last Friday! You’d think the head of the Business Administration department would know how much money he had in his personal checking account!” Nation laughed, partly because Sandover had done the exact same thing the month before.
“Yep, I sure did,” Sandover blushed as he began walking out of the faculty lounge. “But I heard that you actually misquoted Jesus the other day in your political science class.”
“What? Never! What did you hear?”
“I heard you said that ‘Jesus was a friend of Republicans and sinners,’ misquoting Matthew 11. You really meant Democrats, right?” Mort laughed as he asked his question. Everyone knew that Nation was a committed member of the Democratic party, even though it sometimes presented a real challenge to his Christian convictions.
The students quickly picked up on the good natured teasing of the faculty, and weren’t reluctant to follow their example. Hornby thought back to one Monday morning as he got to school for his 8 am “Intro to Theology” class. He went into his classroom, placed his hat on his desk, then went to make himself a cup of tea in his office. He got a bit side-tracked and finally returned to the classroom by 8:12. No students. Everyone had left. They had assumed that class was cancelled. Hornby sent the class what was to him a strongly-worded email which read, “When my hat is on my desk, I am in the classroom and class is not CANCELLED!”
The next Monday Hornby got to the classroom a bit early, put his hat on his desk, then went to his office to make tea. He got back to the classroom at about five minutes after 8, only to find no students there, but 32 hats each nicely placed squarely on the students’ desks.
Hornby laughed and laughed about that prank, remembering that he had pulled exactly the same stunt when he had been a student, earning the nickname “the Mad Hatter.” “I guess what goes around comes around,” he said to himself.
Hornby unlocked his office door on the second floor of the classroom building, sequentially turning on the five lamps in his office, his small waterfall planter, and his ancient cassette player. He hated the fluorescent overhead lights and almost never used them. Even though cassettes were an outdated medium, he had accumulated quite a collection over the years, his two favorites being B.B. King’s “Greatest Hits” and the album “Chicago’s Number One Singles.” Hornby loved going to thrift stores and adding to his treasury for about a dime a cassette.
He looked around his office, once again purposing in his mind to get rid of the three boxes which had been on his floor for almost a year. I’ve got too many books and not enough room for them, he thought. He was gradually going through his collection and selling or giving away books to students to assist them in beginning their own libraries.
One shelf held multiple copies of the four books he himself had written over the last few years. Their titles included, “Anyone Searching for the Real Jesus?”, a challenge to the so-called historical search for Jesus which often seemed to be nothing more than a liberal effort to discount the reliability of the four gospels. Hornby also had his autobiographical account of his trip to Turkey ten years before to search for Noah’s ark, entitled “Where’s the Ark Parked?” What a waste of time that trip was, he thought outloud, although he was fairly pleased with the title.
His third book was a memoir of his life with Ellie, including his daily journal of the last few months of her battle with cancer. “I Was Made to Love Her” was more than a Stevie Wonder song to Hornby. His latest book, written about a year ago, was a literary lark which he thoroughly enjoyed writing. Entitled “Calvin Had a Cat,” the purposed author was John Calvin’s cat Ulrich and its life with the famed Reformer. Hornby was fairly proud of this last book, for there was a lot of theology and history included in the “memories” of the Frenchman’s feline. He had promised himself that any student who came to his office and commented on the books he had written would be given his or her choice of one of them for free.
Hornby worked hard to make his office a comfortable place for students to come and ask their questions, talk about their struggles, or just hang out. He had a large plaid couch on the right side as one entered the office, then his desk against the back windows, and then his small refrigerator and microwave. His office furnishings were completed by a year-old Lazyboy recliner FBC’s board had purchased for him to honor his thirty years of teaching Bible and theology. It’s not quite as comfortable as mine at home, he thought to himself, but I have been known to catch a few z’s there before or after class.
His refrigerator was stocked with a pint of Half ‘n half, a canister of Starbucks bold coffee, two six-packs of RC cola, and a package of MoonPies. Hornby had enjoyed an RC cola and a MoonPie (which consisted of a large marshmallow squished between two large chocolaty round cookies) as a child. A perfectly balanced lunch, he laughed to himself. He thought it his mission to share that dual treat with any student who came to visit, and more than a few had left with more energy than when they had come!
Down his hall, past the men’s and ladies’ bathrooms, was the faculty lounge. Someone early in FBC’s history had fought against its creation. Apparently one of the board members, when the building was in the planning stages, had said, “We don’t need a faculty lounge! The last thing our teachers should be doing is standing around drinking a bunch of coffee and shooting the breeze!”
Fortunately, that board member was outvoted and the lounge was created out of two spare offices with the wall between the rooms removed. A local furniture store had donated large leather couches, four overstuffed chairs, and beautiful hardwood coffee tables which displayed the faculty’s recent publications. Oh, and the board person who objected to the lounge? He visited the lounge several times during the semester, observing how the teachers encouraged one another, prayed for each other, and brainstormed together about projects that would help FBC in its mission. He was convinced and showed his “conversion” by purchasing a top-of-the-line coffee machine and a year’s supply of gourmet coffees and teas.
Hornby knew that the nine faculty could easily stay in their own offices getting ready for their classes, but the lounge drew them into a fellowship and community that no number of faculty meetings could ever create. And each was expected to spend at least a few minutes in the lounge after the school’s daily chapel was over and before lunch. A teacher who was seen little in the lounge would be followed up by his or her colleagues to make sure things were going well. This was another perk of teaching at FBC.
Our latest book, Unlike Jesus: Let’s Stop Unfriending the World is a call to becoming a friend of sinners like the Lord Jesus was! You can order this through Amazon or directly from me (send $10 [which includes shipping] to my address).
Dr. Larry Dixon
117 Norse Way
Columbia, SC 29229 Cell: 803-201-9745