the church Lee Graham built
Wednesday before Easter, 2012
I had a really hard time falling asleep night before last, and then I had a really hard time staying asleep. That usually means something big is headed in. Finally, I was told in a dream to treat this as “mother’s day.” I woke up, alert. I knew I was not going back to sleep.
I got up, looked at the time: 3:30 a.m. Groan. In my cosmology code, 3 is the sacred number for the Holy Spirit, the mother side of God.
I went to my laptop and …
Lee Graham started St. Luke’s Episcopal church in Crestline Heights, south of Birmingham, perhaps when I was 10 or maybe 11. His portrait is found in the “He Was a Parish Priest” chapter of A Few Remarkable(Birmingham) People I Have Known at goodmorningbirmingham.com.
Raised Baptist, which she terminally resented, my mother discovered Lee and his new little church in the old farm house where the Crestline library later would be built. She really liked what Lee had to say, and eventually told my father, if he did not get more involved with Mt. Brook Baptist Church, she was going to leave the Baptist church and join Lee’s church, and take her three children with her. Before finding Lee, my mother seldom attended church.
My father did not get more involved in Mt. Brook Baptist, and my mother indeed joined Lee’s church and took her three children with her. Then all hell broke loose, from her parents, from my father’s parents, from the Mt. Brook Baptist minister, from the Southside Baptist church minister, which my mother’s and my father’s parents attended. Both of my grandfathers were deacons there. My mother and my father had grown up at Southside Baptist.
To her credit, my mother stood her ground. Not to her credit, the subtext was she was trying even then to divorce my father and her parents, and this was the best way she could come up with do it. It would be many years before I understood that.
The hell my mother was catching, and my father asking me at a Sunday dinner at our home what Lee Graham’s sermon was about that morning, and I didn’t know, catapulted my mother to prove she had done the right thing, by using me to prove it. She forced me through Confirmation at age twelve, with plenty of help from Lee Graham, and with some help from his curate, Ben Smith, whom I liked a lot more than Lee.
I had really liked the Sunday School class at Mt. Brook Baptist. It was just boys and a man, who kept us interested and sometimes we went places together. I did not like church services at Mt. Brook Baptist, and was not made to attend them.
At St. Luke’s, I never saw a Sunday School class. I was made to sit through droll, repetitive services, and Lee’ Graham’s long sermons, which I spaced out by imagining I was fishing or hunting somewhere. I had a great imagination back then, used it to escape stuff I didn’t like. That’s why I didn’t know what Lee’s sermon was about.
By that time, St. Luke’s was in the Steeple Arts building on Church Street. My younger brother Major, our younger sister and I were christened there. Then began my apparently still very Baptist mother doing pretty much the same thing to me that her Puritan Baptist parents had done to her with their religion. She crammed hers down my throat.
By the time I entered Vanderbilt, I did not care to attend church, although I have to give McCallie School in Chattanooga credit for that, too. It was owned and run by Presbyterian fanatics, who believed they were of The Elect and made us attend chapel services twice a day during the week, once on Saturday, and once on Sunday. And we had to attend church on Sunday. Nearly every chapel service was a revival.
The surviving founder, James Park McCallie, told us in Bible class, we had to take two semesters of Bible, that he and his wife of sixty years had only had sex three times, twice to have children, once for pleasure, and he had regretted the third time ever since.
My mother and my father’s marriage was not working, but the times were not favorable for divorce. I think my mother fell for Lee Graham, but knowing him, straight arrow, he was devoted to his wife. However, I think maybe he was used to show my mother what she needed to see, to give her a chance to do something about it.
My father had been her mother’s pick of the litter. When one time she did get a lawyer about starting a divorce action, her mother told her, “If you divorce Sloan, it will kill me!” That, my mother told me, was why she called off the divorce. I was in college then.
Before that, my mother told me the reason my father dropped out of Princeton to marry her was because she wrote to him and said she was going to marry the first man who would have her, to get her away from her parents. Puritans, she often told me, they had made her feel evil just for being a girl. Hovered over her, kept her on a real tight leash.
She told me, when she was fifteen, she started smoking two packs of Pall Malls a day, to rebel against her parents. Her attending doctor probably thought that was what caused the lung cancer, which by the time it was discovered had spread to other organs and into her brain. What really caused the cancer was her inability to free herself from her parents, especially from her mother, whom I loved dearly, and my grandfather Major, too.
My mother told me enough to let me know she was sexually inhibited.
She told me of driving to St. Luke’s one week day. She passed a man she knew and they stopped their cars to chat. He then shocked her by trying to pick her up and go to a motel. She declined, said she was going on to St. Luke’s, to work on the altar. He said that could not be much fun. She said, no, but it was satisfying.
Many years later, I thought if she had gone with him to the motel, it might have saved her life. But she was really hung up with Puritan values, and she was married in her soul to St. Luke’s, which probably was more about Lee Graham, than it was about Jesus and God, who I believe sent that man who tried to pick her up, to help her. She did not tell me the man’s name.
Around 1990, I understood my mother dying of cancer was a subconscious divorce from my father and from both of her parents. She was around forty-five. It was early winter, during my second year in law school at Alabama.
She did not die well. She was furious. Shut out all of her friends, of whom there were many. Forbid me to tell anyone of her cancer, who did not already know. Finally, my beloved Cha, my real mother, cornered me in the kitchen and made me tell her what was wrong with “Miss Nelle.” No way I could not tell Cha. Her portrait is found in the “She Worked Behind the Scenes” chapter of A Few Remarkable(Birmingham) People I Have Known.
Toward the end, I had a chance to go duck hunting in Kentucky with a friend from Vanderbilt, and a friend of his from Memphis, which is where Dianne was from. I called my father about my mother’s condition. He said he would ask her doctor. He called back to say for me to go on the duck hunt, it would be a while longer before she died.
I went on the hunt, and it was miserable, and we went to Memphis after hunting just one day. My wife, Dianne, had gone to Memphis already. She was very close to my mother. The next morning, my father called to say mom had passed away.
I drove to Birmingham right away, Dianne wanted to stay in Memphis and come to Birmingham later. I tried to grieve en route, but nothing came. From my parents’ home, I drove to Tuscaloosa in my mother’s Cadillac, to get a suit for the graveside service.
My father sent his airplane to bring Lee up to Birmingham to preside over the graveside service at Elmwood Cemetery. After completing his remarks, Lee came to the family and started down the line speaking to each of us. I was numb. I wanted to cry, but could not. I was looking down when Lee got to where I sat in the line, and he passed me by without saying anything.
My mother had very much wanted me to be an acoloyte, and I had very much wanted not to do it.
It would be decades before I understood what I had done to my sister, my mother had done to me in my crib. I learned of that when the angels took me though the healing of it in the fall of 1998, which was terrifying and lasted about six weeks.
During that time, I attended St. Luke’s because my God-given mate during that season of my life attended St. Luke’s. She had left the Baptist Church, her parents’ church, because it was too severe and judgmental to suit her. John Claypool was St. Luke’s rector then. He had left the Baptist Church for the same reason, and was why my mate had joined St. Luke’s.
I met my mate at St. Luke’s in June 1998, although I had known her in passing maybe 20 years before. She later told me God had told her a man was being sent to her who would put God first, her second. She frequently told me God was telling her to stay with me, despite her and many other people’s reservations (understatement) about me. She witnessed the angels heal me of being molested by my mother. The healing un-nerved her. It un-nerved me.
John Claypool and I became friends. Met about once a week in his office and talked about stuff I doubt ever made it out of his office on his account. We finally fell out when he and the rest of the clergy, and the Vestry, put a full court press on the congregation at a church service, using Jesus’ teaching about being “a generous giver, good measure pressed down” to pry more tithing to St. Luke’s out of the congregation.
I told my mate Lee Graham had hated to preach on tithing, did it only once a year when the Episcopal Diocese made him do it. I said what John Claypool and St. Luke’s should do instead of leaning on the congregation to give more money, was ask God why not enough donations were coming in to pay all the expenses? She agreed, was really upset with what had happened at the church service. Not upset enough, though, to walk away and attend church services with me in Mother Nature.
John Claypool did not take part, but another minister at St. Luke’s tried very hard to get my mate to shuck me. He told her I was crazy, and worse.
The Sunday school classes we attended got pretty interesting when I chimed in. Some members were intrigued, others reacted. The administration office was not pleased to learn I did not believe physical buildings had anything to do with the church under which Jesus made Peter the cornerstone in the Gospels. Funny, how things sometimes circle back around.
Maybe a year after my sister and I went around about the memorial she did at St. Luke’s for my son, without telling me of it, she sent me a letter through the family lawyer, who simply passed it along to me unopened. She wanted to know if I had been sent to McCallie because I had molested her? A topic she and I had discussed a few times, at my initiation, without any seeming effect on her. She kept making light of it, and I kept telling her it was really serious and she should seek professional help.
I replied, she had nothing to do with my going to McCallie. I was doing poorly at Ramsay High School. My father showed me the letter he had received from McCallie, where he had attended high school, saying they could not turn a deaf ear to his plea. I said it was for the best, for I needed to get out of our home, and I did much better academically at McCallie, and that led to my going to Vanderbilt, instead of probably to Alabama, for undergraduate school, where I would have done poorly most likely. Did pretty good at Vanderbilt, and had mostly a great time, and met Dianne there.
In prior years, I had cautioned Sis about not repeating at St. Luke’s what her mother had done, using it to escape dealing head-on with her troubles, and forcing it onto her children. It was a delicate topic, and I never felt I made any headway.
I told most of the above to Sis in my reply to her letter.
I said what I had done to her had caused me many troubles later, which I probably would live out my days with. I said karma is like that, as we sow, we reap.
I said Jesus was molested by his mother in his youth, and that explained why he was so rough with her in the Gospels. It also explained why she prevailed over him at the wedding to make more wine, the first miracle he reportedly made. And that led to Jesus making more miracles, which later proved to be a serious distraction in Christendom, away from his teachings and way of living.
I said, when the young Jesus finally told his father what Mary had done, Joseph’s heart failed him and he collapsed and died in Jesus’ arms, and that is why there are no further reports of Joseph in the Gospels after Jesus was around twelve,
I sent my letter, which was several handwritten pages, via the family lawyer, with whom I had gone to law school at Alabama, and then to tax law school there. When next the lawyer and I spoke the phone, which we did from time to time, he said Sis had asked him to tell me what I wrote to her had helped her.
This raving today certainly seems like something Jesus would generate, to get everything out in the bright light. Although, it might have gone very differently for Christendom, if he had made sure what his mother did to him was recorded in history. For something like that left buried caused terrible trouble in the collective psyche of Christendom.
As is, you have to read between the lines in the Gospels, to see it:
“Woe be to anyone who harms a hair on the head of one of these little ones.”
“Who is my mother, who are my brothers? My mother and my brothers are those who do the will of God.”
Jesus said the latter after being apprised his mother and brothers had come to where he was teaching, that they had sent word in they wanted to see him. He did not get up and go to see what his mother and his brothers wanted. It was unheard of for a Jewish man to do that, and to say what he said about his mother on that occasion, and to treat her the way he treated her in the Gospels. It did not honor his mother so that his days might be long.
I never wept over my mother’s passing. I felt nothing at her graveside service. I still feel nothing, but pity.
She bludgeoned my father into marrying her. She caved in all her life to her parents. She had more friends than anyone I ever knew. Her children’s friends were her friends. They loved her. Were shocked when she died. She shut them all out.
She was furious she was dying, furious at herself for never having lived.
Major, who had mistreated her all of his life, was torn up by her passing. As was my father. He came home from work each evening and wept, for weeks.
My father was memorialized at Mt. Brook Baptist, and his ashes were spread around there. To my knowledge, my sister did not memorialize him at St. Luke’s.
My last will and testament provides my remains will be cremated and my ashes spread in several parts of the Florida Keys. I hope my sister will respect that, if I predecease her. I owe her a lot, but not to be memorialized in our mother’s church, which proved to be her undoing, instead of her salvation.
I do not see that St. Luke’s has helped my sister, either. Maybe Lee Graham should have named it something else, as Luke is said to have been a physician.
On a parallel front, received this yesterday from Robert Krutko, who, along with his family, were treated by Key West about like the Jewish leaders treated Jesus before Pontius Pilate. I told Robert in a dream a few months back that he might be Key West’s Jesus.
‘World’s Tallest Treehouse’ Grew From a Divine Vision
We’ve seen some pretty cool tree houses in our time but this one definitely tops them. It’s 10 stories high, 10,000 square feet, took 11 years to build and was, well, commissioned by God.
Devout builder, landscape architect and ordained minister Horace Burgess, ofCrossville, Tenn., says he (much like the biblical figure Noah) was asked by the Lord himself to build the sprawling wooden home in which he now lives.
“I was praying one day, and the Lord said, ‘If you build me a treehouse, I’ll see you never run out of material,’” Burgess told The Sun
, of his divine revelation in 1993. “It’s God’s treehouse.”
Whether you’re a believer or not, the fact remains that Burgess’ treehouse is likely the world’s tallest, standing at a staggering 97 feet high. What’s even more impressive is that the towering structure is supported by just six trees, with a live, 80-foot-tall white oak, 12 feet in diameter, at its base. The home was built entirely from wood and recycled materials and apparently, Burgess used only 258,000 nails to put everything together.
In short, it’s an architectural feat, especially considering that the treehouse also boasts a space for worship (see below right) featuring pews, an altar and even a choir loft. Throw in an indoor basketball court, spiral staircases, and countless rooms, walkways and balconies, and you have yourself one very tall, very wooden masterpiece.
“The treehouse is incredibly impressive,” says photographer Tim Whetton, who took the now-viral treehouse pictures in mid-March. “This house is every kid’s dream.”
Unsurprisingly, Burgess isn’t the only one living out their childhood fantasy. With a push toward finding eco-friendly and cost-effective housing alternatives, much like the pre-fab home, treehouses are becoming a hot real estate trend. And it’s not hard to see why: unlike a traditional brick-and-mortar home, a treehouse can be built from wood and inexpensive reclaimed supplies. In fact, thanks to his thrifty use of recycled materials, Burgess only spent $12,000 building his entire home.
But before you jump on the bandwagon, keep in mind that it took Burgess over a decade to build — and a lot of assistance from friends and family.
“God used my hands to put every piece in place, but I had a lot of help,” admitted the 56-year-old.
Thanks, seems a bit over done to me, but what do I know? Maybe will dream about it. Maybe more later to report.
As I wrote that, I was thinking of the movie, “Brother Son, Sister Moon,” in which young Francis of Assisi, shortly after coming out of a killer dark night of the soul, had a vision of Jesus, who told him, “Francis, help me repair my church.”
Francis soon realized he was no longer able to fit into his wealthy merchant father’s world, and he stripped naked in the town square and gave his clothes to the local priest and walked out of town, into the countryside. He found an old broken down abandoned stone church and started rebuilding it one stone at a time. As time passed, he attracted followers. As more time passed, some of his childhood friends joined him. Eventually, his new church had stripped the town’s church of its congregants. Soldiers were sent to burn it down. Distraught, Francis went with two of his disciples to Rome, to ask the Pope what he was doing wrong?
The royal entourage in their fine clothes and plumage, surrounding the Pope, were offended by Frances and his two beggar disciples with dirty bare feet, dressed in coarse tunics. They were far more offended, however, when Francis was seized to quote the passage out of the Gospels, “Why do you take thought for your life, or what you will eat or drink, or what you will wear. Consider the birds of the air … and the lilies of the field …” The Pope, however, played by the same actor who played Obi Wan Kenobi in “Star Wars”, was smitten by Francis. Came down off his throne to meet with him. Then, was seized to bless Francis. Then, was seized to bow down and kiss Francis’ feet …
Lee Graham realized not long after the new, very large St. Luke’s on Montrose Road was completed, that a line had been crossed. When he decided to leave St. Luke’s, he told my mother his work there was finished. He took a small parish church outside of Tallahassee, where I understand he still lives. A Few Remarkable(Birmingham) People I Have Known, tells more about this minister I came to respect as I grew older.
I wondered if the tree house the man said God told him to build was a like the church Francis of Assisi was asked by Jesus to repair? Francis did not understand what had been asked of him. He was asked to help Jesus repair the church under which Peter was the foundation stone. By the time Francis passed over, the first person in recorded Christendom’s history to experience the Stigmata, the open bleeding wounds Jesus suffered on the cross, he had gone a long ways toward helping Jesus repair his church. To the point, many of Francis’ followers believed he was Jesus returned, but Francis denied it.
I wondered if the tree house the man said God told him to build was to restore the Tree of Life? Or a ladder to heaven? In all events, I figured he didn’t have a Tree Commission to deal with.
I also wondered if the Italian Catholic friend who sent this joke, then sent it to the Pope, as I suggested? If you think Jesus did not split his sides over this joke, you never knew him or Mary Magdalene.
What part of your body goes to heaven first??
The nun teaching Sunday school was speaking to her class one morning and she asked the question, ‘When you die and go to Heaven, which part of your body goes first?’
Suzy raised her hand and said, ‘I think it’s your hands.’
‘Why do you think it’s your hands, Suzy?’
Suzy replied: ‘Because when you pray, you hold your hands together in front of you and God just takes your hands first.’
‘What a wonderful answer!’, the nun said.
Little Johnny raised his hand and said, ‘Sister, I think it’s your feet.’
The nun looked at him with the strangest look on her face.
‘Now, Johnny, why do you think it would be your feet?’
Johnny said: ‘Well, I walked into Mom and Dad’s bedroom the other night. Mom had her legs straight up in the air and she was saying: ‘Oh God! I’m coming!’ If Dad hadn’t pinned her down, we’d have lost her.”
The Nun fainted!
The correct answer is, none of your body goes to heaven, but all the rest of you leaves for some place, and where that is, you learn when you get there –