Vernacular - the everyday words of vern streeter

The price of “Gold!”

I hate to travel…on airplanes.  I used to like it…25 years ago.  I felt important and valuable.  It was kinda fun.  And it went pretty smooth.  Now I hate it.  I hate it for all the reasons most people do: expensive tickets, have to pay for bags and fight for overhead space, TSA, delays, waiting, grumpy people, tight seating (and someone always reclines their seatback in front of me), lines, lots of lines, and finally rental car companies.     

I have terrible luck with rental car companies.  The cars are usually fine, it’s the getting of the car that I have such trouble.  I don’t do lines well.  Partly because I am generally impatient (so that’s my problem) but also because it bugs me when I am standing in a line because the rental car company doesn’t care that I am standing in a line wasting my day and being late to my destination, but mostly because my spine is jacked up and it hurts to stand.  So when I am waiting and standing, and standing and waiting, and in pain, and it is happening because they are understaffed and don’t care, and I don’t like to travel anyway and I have already had myriad bad experiences just getting to the line of other dissatisfied travelers at the rental car counter, well its enough to cause a guy to lose his salvation.     

Now, I like saving a buck like the next guy.  And it is ingrained in me because I grew up under significant frugality, and I married a woman who loves a bargain more than me, so there is some pressure to perform.  However, my discontent with one bad rental car counter after another persuaded me to do something radical.  I became a (gasp) Hertz Number 1 Club Gold Card member!  It’s more expensive.  I won’t get a bargain.  But the idea is that I get off the plane, get to the rental car area, bypass ALL lines, see my name on a board (I’m important), walk right to my car, get in and drive away.  It’s travel nirvana for a guy like me.     

So a couple years ago, I went on my first trip as a Hertz Number 1 Club Gold Card member.  I got to the rental car area.  I saw the Hertz sign, written in luscious gold and welcoming me to rental car luxury and bliss, bypassed all the suckers standing in line, sashayed out to the board where my name will be emblazoned in gold telling me which spacious slot my chariot is parked and, what??, no name.  I went back inside and to my dismay stood in an eternal snaking line.  When I got to the counter and told them my name the guy says, “You’re a Hertz Number 1 Club Gold Card member?  Why are you standing in line?"  I said, “Because I love lines.  No, because my name is not glistening in gold out on the reader board.”  He tapped further, and said “Oh yeah, that can’t happen until you check in here the first time.  From now you can go right to your car.”     

I thought that was dumb.  But off I went.  Next trip: same thing!  My name was not on the board.  Another glitch.  Next trip: no name.  Next trip: no name.  Ridiculous.  But I was unaware of any options.  I just pleaded with Hertz to get it right every time I reserved a car.  Next trip: Bam!  There was my name radiating yellow wonder.  Okay, they got me figured out.  From now on, I’m the man.  But then, this trip:    

Same setting: uncomfortable, stressful travel.  But at least, I’m thinking, I’m a Hertz Number 1 Club Gold Card member.  I’ll slide into my ride and leave this airport behind.  I get out to the reader board with my lovely wife dutifully in tow, my manhood and leadership on the line, and there is my name on the board!  I’m two for two.  Hertz has got me figured out.  It’s good to be Gold!  The space number is actually a long walk, and it’s stinkin’ hot, but that’s okay, I’m going to my car.  I get to the space and…it’s empty.  My name is there in blazing gold above the space, but all that is in the space is space.  There is no car.  I didn’t laugh.  I walked back in and STOOD IN LINE.  And got rebuked by the ONE employee for standing in the wrong spot.  After an eternity I sidled up to the counter and, like Jesus, explained my situation.  She shrugged, tapped, muttered, tapped, shrugged, tapped, asked questions, shrugged, tapped, left, returned, tapped, and sent me to another space.  This space was twice as far.  As a matter of fact it was 3 spaces from being the absolute farthest space possible from the Hertz counter.  Did I mention it was amazon hot??

Have you ever cussed while praying?  It’s one thing to cuss.  It’s another to cuss while talking to God.  But that’s what I did.  I don’t make a practice of this.  The last thing Evangelical Christianity needs another “cussing pastor” but on this day, I prayed and cussed. 

Finally we made it the equator where the car was parked.  There it was in all its glory.  A white Chevy Impala.  I opened the door to get the key out of the ignition and open the trunk…and THERE WAS NO KEY!!  Blood vessels starting bursting.  I threw my hands up, whirled like a dervish, and made caveman noises.  Ramie knows what to do in these circumstances, which is nothing.  Just sorta disappear.     

All of a sudden this guy shows up, in a uniform, no gold on him.  He was a cop!  He asked, “Is there a problem?”  I took a deep breath and said, with considerable passion, “I paid the money and became a Hertz Number One Club Gold Card member because I hate to travel and I have terrible luck with rental car companies and hate standing in lines and I just want to get my car but the first space I went to had my name but no car and then I stood in a line and a rude lady rebuked me for standing in the wrong spot and I finally got another car assignment all the way out here in yet another humid time zone and when I looked in the car there was no freaking key in it and…”  He raised his arms and made a peace sign looking like Richard Nixon getting into the helicopter after he resigned and then starting waving me down like Wayne and Garth (but without the “we’re not worthy”) until I stopped sputtering and he said, much to my surprise, “I have your key, right here” and starting fumbling in his pocket for it.  I looked at him dumbfounded and then he said, “I am a K9 officer and we were using this car to train our drug dogs.”  It was then that I asked him if he had any drugs I could take.  Anything.   

He didn’t, or wouldn’t, but handed me my key and implored me to not blame Hertz.  But of course I still do. 

Driving away in muggy silence I looked straight ahead and said to my now timid wife, “Someday this will be funny, but it isn’t yet.”  She just nodded…and handed me a joint.    

Anyway, GREAT meeting today with Pastor Kevin of 12 Stone Church.  He has a nice car.  


Posted by at 11:20 AM | 1 comments

Fun Required! :)

One of our four core values at Harvest Church is apologetically “Fun Required.”  And yesterday was fun.  The church staff has, incumbent on them, the responsibility to live out our core values – Word Centered, Community Focused, Growth Expected, Fun Required.  We are to be leaders in all four areas.  So on occasion, in order to practice what we preach, the staff gets together for a “fun required” event.  Yesterday it was a BBQ in the park and folfing (Frisbee Golf for those of you in Rio Linda).  We ate amazing food enthusiastically prepared by Abby’s Catering.  And then we divided up into teams (unfairly assembled teams I might add – which did not diminish the fun) of 3 or 4 and played a round of folf.  Most of us had never really played.  But it was a beautiful day, we had brand new Frisbees with our logo on them, we got a little exercise, we learned a new game, and we laughed and talked and people got to know each other better.  Somebody won, but nobody really cares.  We had fun.  And God was honored because we were actually obeying his command to recreate, celebrate, feast, be filled with joy, and have fun.    

Stodgy, somber Christians have some serious explaining to do as they dishonor God’s repeated commands to recreate, throw parties, and have fun.  In the Bible God actually got mad at His people when they rebelliously ignored his injunctions and instructions to participate in feasts, festivals, and fun.  I’ve been carefully reading Nehemiah while on sabbatical.  Nehemiah was leading a restoration of Jerusalem.  The people had been exiled because of their rebellion and rejection of God and His ways – including ignoring the commands to have several major festivals/feasts every year.  Now God was restoring the city, and the culture, with a spiritual return to Him and a physical return to Jerusalem.  After they rebuilt the walls and put the gates in place, Ezra the priest opened up the dusty Bible and began to read to all the people in a great assembly.  The people were blown away.  They had neglected and forgotten the words of the Lord.  And had not obeyed his commands to do things like tithe, keep the Sabbath, and party!  When this was revealed, they were convicted of their sin and began to weep.  Nehemiah put a quick stop to that however.  He said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks…do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength (8:10).”  And so they did.  And then the next day they learned about the Feast of Tabernacles – a weeklong camping trip and party – and they immediately threw that one together and enjoyed a week of fun.  Then as a part of their repentance, they, among other things, apologized for not having enough fun.  God’s blessing and favor returned to Jerusalem – in part because the people started honoring God by having fun.    

The Christian life is a life of joy, even (especially) in the face of trial and difficulty.  At the minimum, which is really a maximum, Christians are to celebrate the joy of our salvation.  In repentance David once prayed, “Restore to me the joy of your salvation (Ps. 51:2).”  Maybe you need to repent and throw a party.  In my church and even in my family we are taking fun so seriously we are budgeting money for it – which is EXACTLY what God expected the Israelites to do in order to have the fun He required.  (And in Nehemiah there is a provision for also giving food and drink to those who have nothing prepared).  This summer Ramie and I have set aside some money to have fun as a family – but the focus is we will have fun in reverence of God with focus on His commands and his blessings and His promises. I challenge you to do the same – and invite others into your party.     

I’ll be your priest: “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks…this day is sacred to our Lord…celebrate with great joy!”    


Posted by at 10:52 AM | 1 comments

The Article the Billings Gazette Wouldn't Publish!

Note: A few months ago the Billings Gazette announced a contest for readers to send in their favorite Metra memory to commemorate the grand re-opening of our tornado damaged civic center.  I immediately thought of my own favorite Metra memory and banged it out on the computer and submitted it for consideration.  I felt it had a good shot of winning but also conceded that if my Metra memory was not considered worthy of a prize, it wouldn't be because it isn't a meaningful and entertaining memory, it would be because it chronicles such a deliciously devious idea that the officials would not publish it out of concerns for a repeat performance.  Alas, I did not win.  But hey, it's my memory and if the Gazette won't publish it, at least my blog will!  Here it is:

In 1984 the Senior/West boys basketball rivalry was at its height.  The games had to be played at the Metra because so many fans were in attendance.  I was a junior at West and was caught up in the frenzy like everyone else.  My buddies and I got a brilliant idea to show our school spirit and creatively contribute to the friendly but incendiary rivalry. 

One of our friends was a tennis player.  We went to her garage and commandeered a few hundred tennis balls.  We took Sharpie permanent markers and wrote a variety of sayings, quips, and insults on every single tennis ball.  It was the usual fare: “West is Best,”  “Senior S-cks,” etc. along with an occasional “greeting” to some of our friends that went to Senior.             

We distributed the tennis balls into several garbage bags and each of us snuck a bag into the Metra under our coats (it was winter and we wore bulky coats so the very capable Metra staff wouldn’t notice!). We told nobody and stashed them under our seats until the opportune moment.             

Our majorettes, the pride of our school, were performing that night so we waited until their characteristically mesmerizing performance (complete with patented jump splits) was concluded.  Just as they finished marching off the floor, and just before the teams returned for the 2nd half, we pulled out our bags of tennis balls and began distributing them to our pleasantly surprised and eager fans.  They were more than happy to join our little prank.  In less than a minute everybody on our side had at least one tennis ball.  And then it began…and it was awesome.  A volley of tennis balls erupted from the West High student section and arced across the Metra toward our unsuspecting rivals.  It was a yellow rainbow of beauty.            

They say the brain of a 17-year-old boy is not fully developed.  Mine wasn’t even close.  It never dawned on me in all our planning and scheming and executing what would happen after the tennis balls landed in the Senior High Student section.  But it’s ridiculously obvious now.  They came back…in a rush!  And the war was on.  The Metra looked like a giant popcorn popper.  I just stood back and laughed and marveled at our handiwork.             

The principles, deans, Sheriffs, Metra staff and security, and P.A. announcer had a different reaction.  They strenuously called for a cease-fire and eventually quelled the uprising.  But we were sure proud of ourselves and delighted with our contribution to a longstanding rivalry.            

Oh, and as one would figure, the whole thing got traced back to me and I was rightfully suspended from school for three days – presumably to consider why my brain wasn’t fully developed.

Posted by at 9:52 AM | 0 comments
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  • Reconciling Yourself to the Fact of Sin Friday Jun 24, 2011 - 12:00 AM
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About Me

Prior to starting Harvest Church in October 2000, Lead Pastor Vern Streeter served as a Youth Pastor for ten years at Harvest's "Mother" church, Faith Evangelical in Billings. Vern takes few things lightly and is very passionate about teaching the Bible and seeing people come to know Jesus as a result. More...

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