Conversatio Divina

Part 6 of 19

Tornadoes and TV Preachers

Curt Cloninger

I’ve been flipping through the channels at night, late. I haven’t been sleeping too well lately. I guess it’s the tornado that came through. You know, changing perceptions of what’s nailed down.

Several nights we didn’t have power. And I woke up in the middle of the night, scared, trying to make sense of it, thinking, praying. There’s nothing like a natural disaster to make you do the “Dorothy and Toto” thing. You know, sit up late, in the dark, and rethink what’s solid, where home is . . . flying monkeys. The whole bit.

Yeah, well, after a few days, they got the power back on, and the cable—which is amazing, because it took ’em three weeks to come out and install the cable in the first place. Anyway, the first night I got my cable back, I woke up in the middle of the night, and I didn’t sit and think, or pray. I started flipping through channels. And for some reason, I zoned in on a TV preacher. He had really big hair. When I tuned in, he was just getting wound up, saying that he had “prayed that tornado away from his Temple of Praise out on Highway 9!” Of course, he didn’t say anything about the tornado hitting the trailer park three counties over on Highway 251. Yeah, well … no Temple there, I guess. I think this was the same TV preacher who said Jesus wants everybody to drive a Cadillac. (I always thought only Mary Kay could get you one of those.) This guy said Jesus is on hold, waiting to make everybody “healthy and wealthy! All you need is to claim it!”

Well, he was good for laugh. But I don’t think I’ll bank on the words he was putting in Jesus’ mouth. I mean, a tree fell on my old Toyota during the tornado. If it had been a Cadillac, it would’ve been just as squashed.

You know what I’d love to hear? I’d love to flip to a TV preacher some night and hear him say, “OK, here’s the deal. Jesus is the Big Kahuna. He calls all the shots. And Jesus wants you to follow him. And he’s not gonna make you rich, and he’s not gonna make you famous. In fact, it’s gonna cost you everything you’ve got. But Jesus wants you to follow him. That’s it.” I’d love to hear some TV preacher say that. But I’m not holding my breath. I think it would probably cut into donations.

I’ve been trying to follow Jesus since I was a kid. I walked down an aisle in a church when I was twelve years old. I opened up my hands, and I said, “Here I am, Jesus. Here I am.” I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I just knew I wanted him, and he wanted me. Before long, I started understanding the hard stuff. And I’ll tell you the truth: it scared me. Bad. SurrenderDying…All that stuff. It’s scary, giving up, giving it all up. It’s scary.

As I’ve gotten older, it hasn’t gotten much less frightening. “Jesus wants everything. Everything.” That’s enough to keep you up nights. The other night, when the wind blew through, I thought he might just be coming for it all right then. But I’ll tell you something: underneath all the anxiety about surrender, I think I’m learning I can trust him. Jesus. I mean, he’s not out to make life hell. Quite the opposite.

So, maybe tonight, when I wake up at three o’clock, I won’t flip through the channels. Maybe, I’ll just open up my hands and say, “Here I am, Jesus. Here I am.” Maybe I’ll do that.


Curt Cloninger is a Christian and a professional actor and writer. He uses his comic and dramatic skills to present theatrical entertainment that moves people to see and feel the good news of God in fresh and creative ways. For more than twenty years, Curt has performed thousands of times on college campuses, for churches, in theaters, and for conferences all over North America. While his form of “spiritual direction” is nontraditional, it can leave images that linger in the soul for decades. What follow is an excerpt from one of his stage performances.