Monday, September 25, 2006

The Coffee Talk Companion: "Who Killed Lisa Whelchel?"

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.

And "it" continues...

As I was reflecting on the season of my life attending Vineyard Christian Fellowship I was surprised at how little I can remember from these days. It looks like this journal entry is going to be much shorter than the rest in this series.

Which we'll soon find out is not true. It's just "shorter" than last week which means it's not short.

I couldn’t even find many pictures from this time in my life. Weird.


How we do love a good Whelchel "weird." It's been a few months since we got one. So, because we care, welcome back, "weird." We missed you and all the mysteries you so closely guard. You mischievous vixen.

(Oh, and we'll soon find out the "couldn't find pictures" isn't true, either. Of course.)

The years I’m referring to would typically be considered the college-age years, although I didn’t attend college.

We'll just call them the "age years," then.

Oh, and we have an formula that should help with the rest of however many fucking Coffee Talk Companions we churn out in our lifetime:

Homeschool + no college = blatant misuse of commas, hyphens, semicolons, nouns etc.

Things become clearer each week. It's like Twin Peaks. Only more horrifying.

After I turned 18, I was truly on my own completely. No more guardians, I only saw my family when I visited Texas, and my Nanny only accompanied me on trips. (She was my favorite traveling companion!)

(Ours, too! We especially like it when she brought Renee Taylor and Yetta along.)

So, as I’m writing, think of me between the ages of 18 – 22.


I still attended the “Christian Center” church in Texas when I was home but the majority of the time I attended the West Los Angeles Vineyard Christian Fellowship. We met in the local high school and Kenn Gulliksen was the pastor. Although, over the years, Jim Kermath and John Odean were also my pastors.

In our opinion, the Jim Kermath years were the best.

They really signaled a change in the style of sermon. Whereas a Gulliksen sermon was basically to-the-point, it more or less lacked that Kermathian sense of urgency. Kermath really knew how to relate the sermon to your life effectively and honestly. A Kermath sermon was immediate, relevant, and even, dare we say, not without humor. Gulliksen did the job; Kermath honed it.

Don't even get us started on the Odean era.

I guess the most profound influence “The Vineyard” had on my life was in the area of worship. Up until this point, I had been staunched in a solid foundation of hymns. (For which I am eternally grateful.) At the same time, it was like a fresh breeze from the ocean blew in to that high school auditorium each Sunday morning during the worship service.

By the way, the operative words in that paragraph are "influence" and "blew."

I thoroughly enjoyed singing the praise songs. The lyrics were simple, but not simplistic.

That was Kermath's doing. He was a gem, really.


They encompassed deep truths in a very approachable way. For the first time, there was a real sense of personal connection with the Lord as I sang.


I really felt like I was singing to Him, telling Him how much I loved Him, and reminding myself of His greatness and faithfulness.

Kermath, Kermath and Kermath.

There was a real “Emmanuel,” “God With Us,” kind of manifestation that happened because of this new worship style. I understood what it meant when the Bible said that God inhabits that praises of His people. It really felt like He was there in our midst. Now, I know that it isn’t all about feelings, but it sure is nice when it is!

Interesting. Because right now, there's a real "enough already," "please don't use quotation marks when you mean to use hyphens" kind of manifestation happening because of this previous paragraph. It's decidedly un-Kermathian.

This was during the early 80’s, fresh on the heels of the whole Southern California “Jesus Movement.” There was great enthusiasm and excitement in the young people, and this church was FULL of young people. Aside from leading me into a delicious dimension of personal praise, I would have to say that the people were the second greatest impact on my life from this church.

Unfortunately this is where Odean comes into the picture.

We didn't want to talk about it, but there's a reason this "Jesus Movement" (we're about to have another kind of movement if these quotation marks don't stop) caused the church to be FULL of young people. You know, we're loath to imply there's a second meaning to "leading me into a delicious dimension of personal praise," but, because this was at the height of the Odean years, we feel it would be irresponsible of us not to, well, say something.

My friends were my life. I didn’t fly home to Texas as often during these years. I worked all day but my life revolved around my friends from this church. I am so grateful for these on-fire, down-to-earth, in-love-with-God, friends. They were truly my family and support structure during some awkward years.

Yeah, we imagine the whole "Odeal" as it came it be known was pretty awkward. Weird, even. We feel for Lisa, here. We're glad she had friends to help her through this time, even if they were on fire.

As I reflect some more, I also remember that it was during this time, at this church, that I witnessed the power of Christian counseling. One of my friends, Pam Rice, was an “inner healing” Christian counselor.

(We'd just like to point out that Lisa does, in fact, use quotation marks correctly here to point out something that exists as words but not in actuality. Which is interesting in a paradoxical way, as the method by which Lisa learned this usage, homeschool, is consistently referred to as "homeschool" and not ""homeschool."")

I sat in on many of her group sessions and learned so much about the importance of having a Christian counselor. What a loss for people who go to secular counselors and can’t take advantage of prayer and discernment and spiritual warfare and supernatural forgiveness and definitive emotional healing from The Healer.

Oh. Oh. Oh, them's fighting words there, Whelchel. Yes, we understand there was difficult fallout from the "Odeal," and we're glad you got through it with The Healer. But if it were not for our secular counselor and our secular medication and a lot of secular "holy water," we'd probably still be blaming ourself for the deferment of our dreams rather than pinning the blame on mom, dad, Hebrew school and nachos.

Oh, and just so you know, Lisa, we call our guy THE HEALER. Uh huh. We said it.

Actually, for the longest time I thought I was going to grow up and be a Christian counselor after the show went off the air.

Fortunately, she became a Christian know-it-all, which is much better than a Christian counselor.

Alas, we can put together the final equation:

(Homeschool + no college) x Kermath + 3("Odeal") + Christian "inner healing" = Blatant misuse of commas, hyphens, semicolons, nouns + 500(Know-it-allness)

That brings me to the last major influence I can remember from this church.

And that brings us to the last major influence from the gin and Fresca we've been enjoying while writing this. Good night, Topeka!

I personally witnessed the power of God in healing, both physically and emotionally, time and time again. The Vineyard operated under the assumption that God is still a miracle-working God and He is alive and well and moving in power today. The years I spent in this church built a strong foundation of faith to pray big prayers to a big God and believe that He can answer them.

We feel it's important to note that after the Odean years, the Vineyard became an orphanage for sexually abused children. Well, not technically. Just theoretically. (And if you don't believe us, check the Wikipedia entry on it. (Just wait a few hours, please. We haven't had time to create it yet.))

I wish I had more pictures to share of this time in my life. I guess I was too young to appreciate the importance of documenting today for the future.

Well, it sure seems like you're fucking making up for it now, Lisa. Jesus.

At this age I was too busy just living for today – and enjoying every minute of it, as long as I was with my friends.

The moral of this week's entry, then, is that you really need to take the good lemons with the bad lemons and create some kind of lemonade. Sorry, "lemonade." Stir in some "inner healing" and some "Jesus Movement," and you've got yourself quite a "delicious dimension of personal praise" to enjoy in your "Vineyard." And it all can be summed up in one word:



Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm fairly certain that no one had to lead her into an inner dimension of personal praise. She was obviously born into it and to this day remains.

September 25, 2006  
Anonymous Tom in Chicago said...

I always learn so much from you every week. This week's major lesson:

Gin + Fresca = Delicious

Is that with a twist or not?

You never cease to crack me up:
"Things become clearer each week. It's like Twin Peaks. Only more horrifying."

AND a gratuitous picture of The Nanny Named Fran.

Love it!
Love you!

September 26, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with tom. best blog EVER. don't you just love how she brags to all and sundry about all the stuff she gets comped ( 40 foot Rv's, and free trips on tacky religious themed cruises) yet sends her offspring door to door to beg for money to go to jesus camp?

love it too, love you too


October 21, 2006  

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