Sunday, September 17, 2006

The Coffee Talk Companion: "Day by Day."

The Coffee Talk Companion is an ongoing feature in which we dissect and discuss former Facts of Life star Lisa Whelchel's online journal entries.

This week Lisa talks more about growing up Christian. Yeah. And it's long. Like, longer than usual. We don't blame you if you give up midway. Or, you can do what we're going to do: drink anytime you don't understand what the fuck she's talking about. (Cursing so early? Yeah, we did it. Filthy mouth is so the new Friday.)

After our little break last week I am ready to resume our mini-series chronicling the churches God has used to shape and mold my life. Unless you are joining me this Monday morning for our first “cup of Coffee Talk” together, then you will recall that in the first installment of this series I talked about being saved and raised in the Baptist Church from the age of ten to sixteen.

Ah! Well, it would have been nice if Lisa had clarified last week that this Church crap was going to be a miniseries (no hyphen required) rather than a movie of the week. But there we go again expecting Lisa to make sense. When willst we learn?

Oh, and if this your first "cup of Coffee Talk," TURN BACK, O MAN!

Let me pick it up from there. I got the part of “Blair” when I was sixteen and for the first year of filming I had a tutor on the set and did my schoolwork with the rest of the girls. My mother heard about a Christian school in Ft. Worth that provided schoolwork in packets that could be completed without actually attending the classes. Perfect!

And just as we open our big mouth to say one should not expect Lisa to make sense, she goes and writes a paragraph that actually sheds light on her psyche. Nicely played.

My mom enrolled me in this school, Liberty Christian Academy, and I finished my sophomore year of high school on the set in California. (I didn’t realize it until years later but the curriculum was, and still is, a homeschool curriculum. So, I guess I was homeschooled before homeschooling was cool.)

Dear Lisa,

Homeschooling is not cool.

5,000,000 socially retarded American children

P.S. Help us.

When “The Facts of Life” was picked up for the second season, I reenrolled for my junior year. Soon after, the actors’ union, Screen Actor’s Guild, went on strike. Since I wasn’t allowed to cross the picket line to work, I went back home to Texas and actually started attending the classes at the school.

These were some of the best days of my life. I got to be a real teenager, go to football games, pizza parties, and most importantly, my high school youth group. (I’ll talk more about that later.)



Because I was home for an extended period of time, I asked the principal if I could double up on the packets, do two years in one, and graduate by May. This eventually enabled me to work all day on the set without having to go to the “school trailer” for three hours every day.

Ew. A little Christ-y suck-up. The worst flavor. Which reminds us, we totally doubled up on Splenda packets this morning, and we totally have a cancer headache. Sucks.

OK. Back to Lisa. Ugh.

The union strike ended up lasting six months! I got to spend the longest amount of time at home since I was 12-years-old. I am so thankful to God for those high school memories I was able to enjoy.

We must admit here that Lisa and we have something in common: we both have six months worth of high school memories. But for us it's because the alcohol has burned away the other 3.5-years' worth. Thank God for Stoli. (We even capitalized God for you here, Lisa. That's how grateful we are. For the Stoli.)

Because I was enrolled in the school, and attending the classes everyday, I was required to attend chapel every Thursday morning in the non-denominational church next-door.

During one particular chapel service I remember the pastor ended his sermon with these words, “So, if you want more of the Holy Spirit operating in your life, come down to the altar.” I must not have been paying attention to the message but these words grabbed me. Of course I want more! I’ve been desperate for Jesus since I was a little girl. To this day, it is very difficult for me to pass up a trip to the altar. God is always working on something in my life.

Sounds like God was working on a Christian edition of The Price Is Right. (Oh, by the way, for a little extra fun, because, at this point, you'll need it (Jesus, we just out-comma-ed Whelchel), insert any chain restaurant's name at the end of "It is very difficult for me to pass up a trip to the altar.")

So, I got up out of my seat and headed to the front of the sanctuary. The pastor laid his hands on me and prayed for me to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit and I immediately began to praise the Lord like I never had before. I was so excited. I felt so full of Jesus! I couldn’t wait to get home and tell everyone about what happened to me today in chapel.

We were hoping for Plinko, but we'll have to do with Lisa being manhandled by a priest. Hey, maybe she looked like a boy. (Clergy-molesting-boy joke? Yeah, we did it. 2004 is so the new 2006.)

Oh, and can we make a request? Enough of the getting filled up with Jesus, Lisa. Enough. We just started drinking, and we're already throwing it up.

Oops. I didn’t really understand about the different denomination thing. I thought everybody was Baptist. My friends and relatives soon informed me that I had probably been inducted into a cult. Now I was really confused. It didn’t feel like a cult. I had been worshiping Jesus there every Thursday morning for weeks. I didn’t know what to do.

Drink the Kool-Aid! Drink the Kool-Aid!

So, I made an appointment with the pastor of the church for counseling.

That's like making an appointment with a CPA for a mammogram. In our opinion, of course.

He showed me a few scriptures in the Bible like, Acts 2:17, 2:38-39 and 8:16.

Can someone please tell me how I had been reading my Bible every night for six years and I don’t remember ever reading about this stuff?!

We can! We can! You read the Readers Digest version of the Bible on silent retreats with dogs and phone calls.

That was so easy.

It made perfect sense to me and, for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out what the big deal was all about! To me, it seemed to take more work to unexplain the baptism in the Holy Spirit than to simply take God at His Word.

Could someone explain what that sentence just meant? And then unexplain it. You can find us in the corner of the room. We're the one with the bottle attached to our face.

Obviously, this was the first huge thing I learned while attending this church called, “Christian Center.” The second life-shaping influence this church had on my life was sending me out in ministry. My youth pastor, Paul Tedesco, saw the Lord’s hand on my life, my passion for evangelism, and the platform I was given and he invested in my life in a profound way.

Oh, god. We completely finished the bottle of vodka on that paragraph. Fuck. We haven't been booze shopping in a few weeks. Well, certainly we're not going to press on without something.

Unfortunately it's come to this.

Hello, vermouth.

The first thing he did was teach me how to share my testimony in an engaging way. He asked me to bring my photo albums from home. We looked through them and he choose a couple dozen pictures from my childhood, through the “New Mickey Mouse Club” years and up to the current “The Facts of Life” days.

He helped me put together a slide show to accompany my testimony and then he asked the church to allow me to speak during the service one Sunday night.

Damn you, Paul Tedesco! Do you see what you created? Well, besides "When Daddy Fell off the Roof," for which we're totally thankful.

I was awful but I was hooked. From there, Paul became my booking agent and he found places for me to speak all over America. For the next many years, my ministry grew. I would work five days a week on the set and then I would travel to churches to speak, primarily to youth, on the weekends.

Wow. It looks like Lisa took some of the Facts of Life season 7 wardrobe on her weekend speaking engagements.

After speaking to hundreds of youth groups I realized that music was really the language of teenagers. One day I got the brilliant idea to record an album. I couldn’t really sing that well, but that didn’t stop me.

Of course it didn't. She can't really write that well, either, and look what what's being hurled in our direction, week after week after week after week. It never stops. Never stops. Help us. Heeeeeeeeeeelp us.


I called up the head of a Christian record company and asked for an appointment.

During that meeting I shared my vision. My desire was to put all of the messages that I was desperate to share with young people to music and “sing” my talk. I guess he knew that he could fix anything in the recording studio and he jumped on the idea.

We think "fix anything" is a little gratuitous here. After all, the record was released.

I hired a vocal coach, met with songwriters, even wrote a song myself, and recorded an album. From that point, I continued traveling the country but now it was with a band, or at least some really good tracks I could groove to.

"Some really good tracks I could groove to!" Oh, shit. That's totally the "good" in "you take the good, you take the bad." The "bad" is the rest, obviously.

And, yes, you may take a drink.

So, unfortunately there's no copy available on eBay right now, so you won't be able to groove to any of Lisa's tracks anytime soon. However, we have a suggestion if you're desperate: find a cat, jab a rusty fork in one of his eyes, and occasionally shriek words like "salvation, "golden," and "storm" over the ruckus.

It wasn’t until writing this journal entry, and thinking through the influences this church had on my life and ministry, that I saw something significant I had never realized before this moment. Acts 1:8 says, "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

We totally met two lesbians named Judea and Samaria this weekend. That's so weird. What's even weirder is that they really didn't mind when we jabbed a rusty fork into their cat's eye and shrieked words like "salvation, "golden," and "storm" over the ruckus. Of course, they were thinking through the influences from the 13 Sidecars they'd had at Henrietta Hudson's. You know, rumor has it they use gasoline in them there.

That is how it happened for me, too. While attending this little non-denominational school, I went to a chapel service at the church, prayed to receive a fresh infilling of the Holy Spirit in power, and was sent out in ministry as a witness for Jesus all over America.

If your particular church affiliation doesn’t believe in a separate infilling, in addition to the indwelling of the Spirit upon salvation, please don’t send me an email.

We totally just sent her an email to ask her what the Christ "infilling" and "indwelling" mean.

And, please, please, don’t stop being my friend. I have tons of friends – all of them obviously full of the Holy Spirit, and yet many of us believe just a little bit differently, in this area and even others. That’s okay. At the core, there is no question. We believe that Jesus is the Son of God, who died and rose again that we might have forgiveness of sins and life eternally and abundantly.

And we believe that vermouth doesn't taste so bad after that paragraph. So there.

So, let’s agree not to get tripped up on this, often divisive issue. I’m simply sharing my story.

OK. The bottle of vermouth is gone. We're going to share our story and tell you we're not afraid to drink the Listerine. Look at what we're dealing with here.

And there is still more to this story.

OK, we're done with the Listerine. Any suggestions?

Perhaps, one of the most important things I learned while attending this church was the importance of community, especially a strong youth group during the critical teenage years.

Other than the Nancy, Kim, and Mindy, I really didn’t have many friends in California.

Poor Nancy, Kim and Mindy. And California.

All of my best friends lived in Texas and were in my church youth group. Surrounding myself with Christian friends certainly spared me from going down some paths I might have regretted later.

What about the paths you've forced us to go down and later regret? Huh? Lady?

Now that I have three teenagers of my own, I can’t thank God enough for the gift of growing up in a strong, relevant, growing, exciting, fun youth group. My heart always revolved around Jesus, but this church enabled my whole life to revolve around Him, as well.

We once ate at one of those revolving restaurants. Highly overrated.

The impact this youth group had on my life was the driving force behind the church we are attending today. (A Baptist church again, by the way.) When we moved to Texas, Steve and I determined that, in choosing a church home, the most important thing was to find a strong youth group our three junior high kids wouldn’t want to miss every week. I’ll share more of the particulars in that story in a future journal entry. I still have two more churches to share with you before then.

We think it's safe to say that after reading that paragraph, we hate religion more than ever. Readers, please forgive us if our next few posts become less and less intelligible and more and more, well, inebriated. It's just that we barely made it through this one. We kind of feel like we've been beaten up by a tornado and forced to watch America's Funniest Home Videos while hanging upside down from a giant strychnine lollipop.

Wow! This was a long one.

No shit.

Thanks for sticking with me til the bottom of the page.

Don't thank us, Lisa. Thank Astor Wines and Spirits.

I’m sure having a good time reliving my life. I hope I’m not boring you. If not, join me next time when I tell you about the church I attended after high school. I can’t wait.

That was just high school???????? Oh, lordy, lordy, lordy, we're totally going to Costco for alcohol. This is clearly going to be rough. We suggest you do the same, too. And don't worry about not being a member. Just jab a rusty fork into the eye of guy at the door while shrieking words "salvation, "golden," and "storm" over the ruckus. (Another freakin' callback? Yeah, we did it. Callbacks are so the new original material.)

Well. Then. Until next time, godspeed.


Blogger Addison said...

Isn't it marvelous that the Lord saw fit to put the words "homo" and "milk" behind Lisa's head in that last picture?

September 18, 2006  
Anonymous Lori said...

I HAVE to stop reading these when I'm surrounded by people at work...

Another fine job, Nervy.

September 18, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ha ha...homo milk.

September 18, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We totally just sent her an email to ask her what the Christ "infilling" and "indwelling" mean.

But you didn't ask her if there was a different Christian spelling for "seperate"?

September 18, 2006  
Anonymous Emily said...

"Soon after, the actors’ union, Screen Actor’s Guild, went on strike."

After vomiting, with my mouth, the one I drink with, I cried.

We all know what SAG is. Quit stating the obvious. It's worse than the commas.

September 20, 2006  

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